“Oh come on!” That’s the scream in my head when I got to meet BA customer’s service. The backdrop being a delay of 3 hours travelling out of India which left me missing my connecting flight in the UK and 8 hours hanging around waiting for the next flight. Of course I complained, but BA’s process meant that I wasn’t entitled to any compensation. Well, next time I will fly Virgin me thinks. Then on a recent train journey with Virgin East Coast Trains where my wallet was stolen, the conductor could not accept my explanation for having rail tickets but no rail card and Virgin’s processes which the conductor took great joy in repeating several times meant I had to pay an additional £180. That was all the cash I had leaving me having to beg a lift home. My experience left me feeling less cuddly about the Virgin brand.
Now, have you ever tried to ring Sky? I was tempted by Sky Q. What a bloody nightmare. If I get one more “please wait” on the screen while I am trying to see for example, what’s on the TV channels, I will throw my remote at the TV.
Let’s ring them and complain.
What do you get? “Your call is important to us, but let’s keep you hanging out there for over 30 minutes.” I FINALLY managed to get through to a real customer service person and they said “You will have to go online to fix this.” I replied “Seriously? I am talking to customer service representative, a real live human being and you can’t do a thing for me? - Yes sir, you need to go online to do this.” So I asked her, “What, exactly, do you do?” Silence. My experience reflecting very poorly on the Sky brand.
Why do I share these stories?
Well, because the customer experience is all about the customer’s feelings and emotions, not about the businesses processes or policies.
‘Experience’ to me in this context means the intimacy and value you deliver should exceed the individual desires and needs of the other person.
This applies within business and in our approach to the market. It is achieved by customer engagement, our leadership style, and within the DNA of our cultural operating practices. Companies intending to be more relevant today must learn the art, behaviour and science of creating ‘Experiences’ that genuinely engage markets, customers and people.
We have seen the evolution of customer sales that have migrated from ‘Commodities’ to ‘Products’ to ‘Services’ and to now more bespoke ‘Services’. The key challenge within each of these customer offerings is that they involve some sort of customer sacrifice. Choice fatigued consumers who are frustrated with having to make sacrifices are not looking for another product, or service that hasn't taken their true needs and desires into consideration. They are looking for companies that are credible, trustworthy and who understand the values of intimacy, emotional connectivity and individual engagement. They are looking for companies to believe in and to give their allegiance to. They are looking for ‘Experiences’ that cater to their deep seated desires. As we look to innovation to resolve or solve some of the harsh business realities of today, I suggest there are three areas of innovation we need to focus on: technology, product and ‘Experiences’. For this article I will stay with ‘Experience’.
If we want to truly transform our businesses we must start that ‘Experience’ each and every moment (yes moment) a person has an interaction with us as a business, as a leader and as an individual employee. This ‘Experience’ touch point has the highest value to customers and to employees because it has deep and personal meaning. Let us look at what we mean by ‘deep and personal meaning’ in our World of Work!
Customer connectivity. In our sales engagement, we must firstly look beyond offering customers products and services to instead build credible, trusting and intimate relationships. Secondly, we have to truly understand and satisfy their needs including any unfilled desires and give them an emotional experience that is positive, enlightening and changes their personal world of work!
Leadership. Our ‘People Engagement’ cannot be just about value driven connectivity, authenticity, diversity and trust. These must be the platforms on which we build for the future. We now need to live transparency with a Mindset of active equal status and participation in employee engagement that allows freedom, decision making, innovation and a passion to grow unabashed!
Culture. To me these are the sets of beliefs, values, and norms, together with symbols like dramatised events and personalities that represent the DNA of the business. These are the unique characters of an organisation which provides the context for action in it and by it. Our culture must have the enabling ‘Experience’ lead DNA with the energy, knowledge, capability and motivation to make each and every connection a transformational 360 experience.
Remember, customers don’t interact with an organisation. They interact with an individual or a product or service. It’s how we shape that ‘Experience’ with meaning that will determine whether it’s a memorable ‘Experience’ which leads to a positive story. The winning formula for consumer and employee engagement is storytelling. It sounds simple, but we only need to look back through history to see the impact that stories have had on shaping our lives, how we live them, why we live them and what it means to be human. ‘Experiences’ result in stories (good or bad). For a business to appeal to its market consumers and employees, and to build an emotional engagement, every interaction must tell a story and one that draws us in, broadens our horizons and delivers added value to our lives.
This leads to the emotional type of customer and employee loyalty that is just invaluable to our business. Competing in the market today demands innovative and emotional engagements. Creating complete 360-degree ‘Experiences’ is the only way to be relevant and visible in a glutted marketplace.
So, to BA, Virgin and Sky, my experiences with your businesses shows that how you leave a customer feeling is more important than the standard operating policies you hold so dear.
As for WH Smith and self-checkout machines that bully you into submission….that is another story for another day.
If you want to continue this discussion, you can contact me using the following:
Twitter - @TheBeakSquawks
Facebook - @MauriceMDuffy
LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/in/mauriceduffy