VoC: 3 dos and 3 don’ts

Recently I went to a Pearson test centre to do an exam. The experience was positive and smooth. More importantly, I passed the exam.

Coming out of the exam I was given a paper, that among exam details had a QR code and asked to provide feedback. I used it to access the survey and provided my feedback.

‪A couple of days later, I got an email asking for my feedback again. Given that I had already submitted the earlier survey, I thought it was an “honest mistake” and ignored it.

One ‪week later, I got another email asking for my feedback. ‬This time I could not avoid a feeling of hassle, and thinking I was being spammed – when I had already (gladly) submitted my feedback.

Looking into the survey invitation emails in more detail, I realised that first one came from the address customerservice@pearson.com while the second one came from marketing@ocrm2.pearson.com.

But there was more. Looking into the survey links, I realised the departments were also using different systems. One of the links was feedback.pearsonvue.com while the other one was surveymonkey.com

Leveraging my experience in this area, of helping companies use technology to enable their CX and VoC programs, allow me to make 6 comments.

  1. It is really good that Pearson is reaching out to their customers, keen to hear about their experiences;
  2. It is really good that Pearson is doing it at different touch-points, particularly after the Moment of Truth – the exam;
  3. It is really good that Pearson is offering different entry points (e.g. QR code, email), making it convenient for the customer;
  4. It would be advisable for Pearson to have a holistic Voice-of-Customer program, that brings together all departments, avoiding silos;
  5. It would be advisable for Pearson to use a single technology platform for collecting and analysing customer feedback, providing clearer insight and avoiding overhead;
  6. It would be advisable for Pearson to create frequency and recency workflow rules, to avoid over-surveying and hassling customers;

Include Expectations in Customer Journey Mapping

A while back, in my blog post You don’t buy customer loyalty… You earn it I mentioned that Expectations are a crucial in customer experience. There is some science behind this…

Expectations are so critical because they are fundamental to how the brain works. The dopamine neurons in our brain that are responsible for regulating our emotions work by generating patterns based on experience: they trigger emotions based on predictions. When everything goes according to our predictions these dopamine neurons fire up and we experience pleasurable positive emotions. However, if our expectations turn out to be wrong, the neurons stop firing and we feel upset.”

Matt Watkinson, The Ten Principles of Great Customer Experiences

Customer Experience gurus and research says that, at a brand level, companies normally use one of two ways to set customer expectations: by intent or by accuracy.

John Lewis (well-known UK retail giant) uses the first (i.e. intent), setting an expectation in their strapline: “Never Knowingly Undersold”. Others prefer to use the latter (i.e. accuracy): “Next day delivery”.

Regardless of the tactic, companies need to make sure expectations are met (if not exceeded). And that it happens at all levels and in all interactions.

“Expectations cascade from the top down. What we expect from the brand applies to the product or service, then to every little interactions. To provide a great experience, we need to see the customer experience as one long journey, and a continuous process of setting and meeting expectations.”

Matt Watkinson, The Ten Principles of Great Customer Experiences

It’s not enough to create a strapline or brand promise. To ensure the delivery of a great customer experience, it’s necessary to map customer expectations at all stages and steps of the customer journey.

Below is an incomplete example that I created for a B2B (Business-to-Business) company, which sells services.

(Note: In this case I was using a spreadsheet to document the customer journey mapping exercise. Contact me or comment post if you want me to share the template. However, there are other tools available, including CJM software)

The leftmost column has the stages and steps of the customer journey. The expectations are in the central yellow columns. In this example I only covered the beginning of the journey (from Awareness to Purchase), and only completed expectations at the Purchase stage.

Example Customer Journey Map, documented in a spreadsheet (open image in new tab/window to augment)

It is important to map not only the Customer Expectation but also the Reality (I suggest this is researched or confirmed, with customers or front-line staff). It would also help mapping the expectation that you (as a company) want to set at each stage.

Meeting customer expectations will make sure your customers experience the “pleasurable positive emotions” that leave memorable moments – which is exactly what drives customer loyalty and repeated business.

Apathy. Policy. Churn

Back in December 2019 I decided to buy, as a Christmas present, two tickets to see Guns N’ Roses (a band from our youth in 80s and 90s) at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, on the 30th May 2020.

With the Covid-19 pandemic striking the UK early March, it was obvious that the concert was not going to happen, but I waited for Viagogo to contact. Two weeks before the concert date Viagogo sent an email informing that the concert had “been postponed” and that they would contact “as soon as the new event date” got announced.

A few weeks later, and given the pandemic developments, everyone knew that the concert was not going to happen in the foreseeable future, so I contacted Viagogo. An agent told me that “no refunds could take place until the event organiser cancelled the concert“, and as far as they were concerned, it was going to be rescheduled.

It’s been 3 months since the concert date. It’s clear that no Government will allow thousands of people into a stadium any time soon in 2020, and most likely not even in 2021 – unless a miracle brings a vaccine and the capacity to provide it to millions of people in a matter of weeks.

So I contacted Viagogo again, asking for a refund. The agent told me that “the event organiser has not cancelled the concert, and until then Viagogo cannot provide refunds“.

I said that surely Viagogo and the even organiser knew that concerts were not going to happen anytime soon, to which she replied “as I said sir, the event organiser has not cancelled the concert, and until then Viagogo cannot provide refunds.

I then asked for how long could the event organiser have the event pending, to which she replied “that is outside of our control. The event organiser has not cancelled the concert, and until then Viagogo cannot provide refunds, it’s on our Terms & Conditions.

I tried to reason with her and said that customers (who are going through difficult times – some even financially, and to whom £375 would make a huge difference) would surely appreciate if Viagogo showed some empathy and refunded them for a product they bought but could not enjoy, to which she replied “I understand, but the event organiser has not cancelled the concert, and until then Viagogo cannot provide refunds“.

At that point I was finding it amazing how she kept repeating the same thing over and over again, without any regard for our conversation – it was like talking to a machine. I decided to empathise with her, and said that even though I appreciated she had her hands tied by a policy, a script and a system, I would welcome a route to talk to somebody that could help me.

For about 5 minutes (and yes, it was starting to become uncomfortable for both of us), she kept disregarding my plea, referring to the T&Cs, saying she could not do a thing, and repeating “the event organiser has not cancelled the concert, and until then Viagogo cannot provide refunds.

I had to insist and make an effort for her to stay on the phone (at this point she was clearly trying to end the call), but finally, reluctantly, and almost in whispering tone she said I could “complaint via email to customerservice@orders.viagogo.com“.

I wonder if the founder and CEO of Viagogo, Eric H. Baker, who studied business at Harvard University and Stanford University, was taught to treat customers like this. Maybe the UK authorities were right (and I should have listened to them) when they said…

  • May 2018, BBC News reported that the UK Government’s digital minister advised that consumers should not use Viagogo;
  • August 2018, UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) took Viagogo to the High Court for breaking the law;
  • January 2019, UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said Eric Baker risked jail over failure to properly protect customers.

It is in situations of crisis that we see which are the companies, and who are the executives, that really value and look after their customers. I’m sure that coming out of this situation, many customers (including me) will never go back and do business with Viagogo.

Enabling B2B global customer support

In the CX community this is not news. When it comes to Customer Experience, our expectations are set by the interactions we have with companies like Amazon and Apple (companies on the B2C – Business to Consumer market).

When at work, dealing with other companies (in B2B – Business to Business scenarios), we also expect the same level of service, the same smooth and simple Customer Experiences, the same innovation and type of engagement.

I’m lucky to work with companies in both spaces. One of the B2B companies I work with is Sandvik – a global high-tech and engineering company founded in Sweden in 1862, with 40,000 employees and presence in 160 countries.

My team at Capventis had the pleasure to work with their Global Technical Support Team (for Mobile Mining & Rock Technology), enabling Zendesk – and it’s Support, Chat, Talk, Guide products – to allow them to provide seamless, effortless, convenient omni-channel support to their customers.

The video above shows Sandvik introducing the new Digital Helpdesk in a mission “To provide world leading customer service through a remote 24-hour technical support desk

Note: Sandvik are specialist in “Tools and systems for industrial metal-cutting; Equipment and tools, service and technical solutions for the mining and construction industries; Advanced stainless steels and special alloys as well as products for industrial heating“.

“Fast-Forward” on Retail Experience


The COVID-19 pandemic will have a “fast-forward” effect on certain things, namely in the way we shop with retailers. The transformation was already in progress, but will now happen faster than expected.

Many consumers, particularly in the biggest cities, already shop mostly online and have orders delivered by retailers at home – groceries, clothing, electronics, furniture, etc. The pandemic forced most consumers to do the same.

Some consumers suddenly realised that you can actually do shopping online, having the same offering. Others realised how secure and comfortable it is. Others even noticed how effortless and seamless it can be.

On the retailers side, those who thought it would be hard, and procrastinated their journey to be on-line, finally adopted technology, subscribed to e-commerce platforms (like Shopify) and are now in a much better position to compete.

Opening an online operation, allowing consumers to buy from “distance” also required a customer service setup. Again, many retailers accelerated the adoption of multi-channel customer interaction technology (like Zendesk).

The way we shop, will surely change for good. Going forward, consumers will shop much more online (accelerating the trend of the last decade) and only go to brick & mortar shops when the need exceeds “shopping”.

What I mean is… many people go out shopping (in malls, etc.) not only because they need to buy something, but because they are looking for social interaction and distraction, with family or friends.

This is not news, and that is exactly why malls and retail parks started opening restaurants, cinemas, bowling alleys, entertainment venues for kids, etc. People go there not only (sometimes not even) to buy stuff, but rather to socialise.

The same will now apply to the wider industry – big, medium and small retailers. Meaning everyone will have to do something to attract people to their shops. Of course not all can or have size to build cinemas, so they will have to build Experiences.

Big successful retailers are already pioneering this. Apple designed all their shops with a focus on customer’s experiences. Offering a modern and innovative environment, that unlocks creativity, inspires learning, and encourages connections.

But how do you know what “experiences” will attract customers? Once more, technology can help. Experience management platforms (like Qualtrics) allow companies to reach out and understand customers’ needs, wants, drivers.

That insight can then be turned into action to baseline experiences and improve continuously.

Customer Experience in Water Companies


In England and Wales, OFWAT (part of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) is the authority that regulates the water and sewerage industry, after services started being provided by private companies, to residential consumers.

A year ago OFWAT issued PR19 (Price Review 19) a comprehensive and stringent report about the way the water industry operates in these countries. And on the back of that, replaced SIM (Service Improvement Mechanism, launched in 2010) for C-MEX.

C-MEX stands for Customer Experience Measurement and is the mechanism OFWAT found to incentivise water companies to become customer-centric and deliver good experiences. Until 2020 incentives would be reputational, and thereafter financial.

But water is a commodity and customers don’t have a choice of supplier. We must use the incumbent in our area. Majority of us don’t even interact with our water company, and a significant subset of us pay bills via direct debit, without even looking.

So how can water companies engage with customers, from a CX perspective? From my point of view there are a couple of things that matter and impact customer’s satisfaction with a water supplier: Brand perception and customer service.

Of course we would like water suppliers to ensure service doesn’t have issues (e.g. leaks, disruptions), that bills are clear, and prices fair. But a new generation also wants companies to care about the planet, and how water is used (or wasted) – see good example in email I received from my supplier (Affinity Water).

When we contact our water supplier (statistic says mostly to complain/report issues) we want empathetic, seamless and efficient interactions. Actually, one of the drivers in C-MEX is complaints handling (and definition of “complaint” includes those made via social media – in line with Consumer Council for Water’s definition).

Another interesting guideline from PR19 is that water companies will need to offer at least 5 communication channels for receiving contacts and complaints. Phone, email, and post seem the obvious ones being used.

Water companies will need to start looking at the enablement of channels like Live Chat, Social Media, and Text Messaging (e.g. WhatsApp), to comply with the 5 channels rule. OFWAT says penalties will apply, if they don’t.

Technology can definitely help water companies comply with PR19, and ensure they follow C-MEX guidelines.

  • An omni-channel ticket/case management platform (like Zendesk) can enable the required multi-channel capability for interaction and complaint management.
  • An experience management platform (like Qualtrics) can enable the required C-MEX capability to measure consumer experience with NPS and CSAT.

Technical mastery is not enough to be competent


On “Consultancy lesson from Winston Wolfe” I talked about how consultants are not, and should not try to be “must-know-it-all encyclopedias with a solution for everything” that “are available within the hour” and “make problems go away in no time“.

Another crucial principle that consultants should always follow is that technical mastery of their specialist discipline is not enough to come across competent, and deliver good service and/or advice to a client. You need to earn their trust and confidence.

To do that, consultants must value the relationship with the client, more than the transaction in hand. However big it may be, it could be the only one you get, in case you are not able to create a long-standing and trusted relationship with your client.

Consultants invest in improving specialist technical skills, focus on acquiring experience, and work hard on building a network of contacts. But rarely spare enough time creating and nurturing trust relationships with clients. Majority don’t even know how to do it.

Here are a number of things you should follow if you want to build trust and confidence:

  1. Focus more on the client (and the problem), less on yourself (and your skills)
  2. See your client as a person (John Smith), and not just a role (Head of Operations)
  3. Listen more (understand challenge and concerns), talk less (don’t assume)
  4. Do the right thing (for your customer), not what’s best for you
  5. Personalise your delivery, don’t give “blanket” answers or on-size-fits-all solutions
  6. Be honest and transparent (even if truth is hard), don’t hide issues or say it’s all easy
  7. Make yourself always available, accessible and reachable

Customer-centricity, humanity, integrity, reliability, dependability, responsiveness (among other characteristics) are, more often than not, more important than technical mastery, when it comes to deliver outstanding service and successful outcomes to clients, creating long-standing win-win trust relationships.

Gestures that turn customers into advocates

This week I received an email from the company where I have my car insurance – Admiral – and the subject was “Important information about your Admiral policy”.

Past experience tells customers that an email with this subject rarely brings good news. It usually is to inform that premiums went up, or something of that nature.

But the content of the email was rather surprising. Admiral was telling me that due to COVID-19, and the lock-down measures, there was less cars on the road.

This obviously resulted in fewer claims. So Admiral decided to pro-actively issue premium refunds to their customers. How cool is that?!


There are a lot of great things about this gesture of goodwill, as well as the way it was communicated, delivering an outstanding Customer Experience.

  1. The gesture is not common in the industry; Surprises the customer with good news in a time of crisis; And puts some money in the pockets of some customers in need.
  2. It shows that even in during a crisis, and whilst the company is dealing with enormous challenges, they are still thinking of the customer.
  3. The communication is personalised, direct, simple and to the point; It not only says how much will be refunded, but is transparent re. the calculation done.
  4. To avoid confusion, anxiety or frustration, it also clarifies how it will be done; And when the customer can expect the refund.
  5. For customers who may need further information, a landing page was created admiral.com/stayathome where it is also easy to get in touch.

I have researched a lot when looking for a car insurance, and one of my criteria was Customer Experience – it seems like Admiral is living up to the positive reviews and brand promises.

I am a loyal customer that, on the back of this experience, turned into an advocate.