Archive for the ‘Customer Experience’ Category

Blind Customer Service

Friday, November 30th, 2018

I called my opticians asking to order some more contact lenses. The receptionist responds, “sorry sir, we don’t seem to have your records.” After giving a few more details, she responds “let me go and speak to one of my colleagues.” She returns saying, “I found your details, I am sorry they are out of date on our system. Bear with me, do you think you could come in for a new eye test, such that we can update our records?” (I’d only done that 6 weeks ago). Then the conversation moves onto suitable appointment times, three of my suggestions are met with “I am sorry we have no availability”. She asks to put me on hold (we’ve been speaking for 11 minutes). We finally get a convenient date agreed. 

Opticians as with dentists and vets businesses are feted for their clients loyalty, the predictability of recurring business and their earnings. When customer service is so derisory, how long before those “strengths” evaporate and then is no “magic” left?  

Back To A Print Media Future

Thursday, July 12th, 2018

 

When you are skiing down a slope into a descending fog and suddenly lose sight of the blue, red or green piste signs, a sudden “fear” engulfs experienced and inexperienced skiers. That very same “fear” is pervading management in most global print media companies. The fear that erodes trust in their own judgement. Talking to BBC broadcaster, Evan Davis, last week about what advice he would give to a 24 year old “Evan” considering a career in journalism today. His honest response was that he couldn’t see a viable career path in mainstream broadcast, print or digital media, at least one that is reasonably remunerated. “It’s is nearly all in an irreversible decline.”Traditional reference points have gone or are heavily obscured (distributors, customers, advertisers and so forth).

The future is a divergence into two dominant forms,

  1. “Convenience Media”, where the customer experience is all about shorter, snappier bite-sized reading, knowledge and entertainment.
  2. “Immersive Media”, where the  customer is able to direct their passion, energy and time towards in-depth learning, knowledge acquisition and entertainment.

It is about two axis: “speed” of absorbing what I need to now (convenience media ) and the “customer experience”, how easily does it conform to each customer’s preferences.

A world where “quality” is THE key determinant in attracting customers, converting them into paying subscribers and building loyalty.

Look at at The Wall Street Journal. 2.5 million daily newspaper readers are roughly split 50/50 print versus digital. The European and Asian  print versions ceased in 2017 largely driven by the impact of changes in advertisers’ behaviour, on the management’s judgement. The future they scream is all about an adaptive paywall, allowing users to test-drive the digital offerings, and through targeted global promotion and offers to lure them as subscribers into a vast array of offerings including the WSJ+ Benefits program. Yet old habits die hard.

Reading a print newspaper is both the easiest form of convenience media and immersive media for an urban dweller. I can pick it up, put it down at any point, no need to tap into a backlit screen to access it, no need to squeeze it onto a narrow picture frame, no tired eyes and an easy way to “gift it” to customers in a company waiting rooms. A three-dimensional brand offering.  In their wisdom, the WSJ have struck out that option for its’ European and Asian audiences. The reality is that a reliance on higher tech is creating a lower touch customer experience, less brand loyalty, less volition for advertisers to spend and increasing irrelevance in Europe and Asia.  Why would you do that unless you are paralysed by fear of the future, you default to cost saving, increasing consolidation and reducing customer choice in a multi-media world?  Think bigger.

I am with Tyler Brûlé, Editor-in-Chief of media publication, Monocle, high quality print media has a very strong future in a commercial world so long as management don’t stop trusting their own judgement.

© James Berkeley 2018. All Rights Reserved.

Teaching Expertise

Thursday, June 21st, 2018

One of the most overlooked aspects of hiring expertise, is separating great teachers (how to do it) from great intellects (what to do). The former is a lot more valuable.

If you are novice standing on a riverbank trying to learn to fish for trout, as I was last week, we often run into passionate “intellects”, who seek to tell you everything they know about casting in a given moment. When what we really need is a great teacher, who excels at discussion, practice, feedback and application in that very same moment and exudes patience.

Who do your clients see you as? Is that the same person you see yourself as?

© James Berkeley 2018. All Rights Reserved.

Great Service Begins At The Top

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

 

If you aspire to or are a pre-eminent global service business, shouldn’t the CEO’s communication and feedback systems with its’ customers reflect its’ pre-eminence and branding? Here is a recent example of personal response times from constructive customer service letters to European CEOs:

3 days, in person Ewan Venters, CEO of grocer, Fortnum & Mason

14 days, in person Nigel Wilson, CEO of insurer, Legal & General

135+ days, zero response Dame Carolyn McCall, CEO of budget airline, easyJet

645+ days, zero response Keith Gibbs, CEO of insurer, Axa PPP Healthcare

795+ days, zero response Rickard Gustafson, President and CEO of airline, SAS Group

Letter writing might be unfashionable in certain quarters but when a customer today makes the effort to put pen to paper, it is a common sense assessment that they are serious about their intent to point out a superior or underwhelming experience. Based on my anecdotal research, a great experience buying a tin of biscuits will elicit a 4x faster response from the CEO than buying a cumbersome life insurance policy, 45x faster response from the CEO than being stranded late night in a desolate European airport or 219x faster response from the CEO to acknowledgement of proactive service in a healthcare insurer! Why would a CEO’s office operate like that unless it is seriously disorganised, it doesn’t hold itself accountable for the promises it makes to its’ customers or it is simply arrogant?

© James Berkeley 2017. All Rights Reserved.

 

A Time And A Place

Thursday, July 27th, 2017

 

What is the price of privacy and silence in a workspace? Money and demand are abundant from small medium enterprises wanting more flexible offices, and investors hurtling after them with bags of moolala. WeWork, the co-working giant, announced today that it has raised $500 million from SoftBank and Hony Capital to fuel its growth in China. I am helping another ambitious group charm professional investors with their Mandarin Oriental-style idea and secure north of a $100 million backing. Indeed, I write this sitting in my own upscale serviced office located in the heart of London’s West End.  Yet there is one drawback that almost all of these co-working/serviced office operators have not properly addressed. Co-working is great until you want privacy and silence. You struggle like hell to find it. Hip canteen or dining areas, noisy club lounges, and expensive, clunky meeting rooms with time-consuming booking systems don’t provide real-time access to the seamless professional environment and image that your most discerning clients expect. Perhaps in a techie world but sorry, not in a professional services or financial services firm. It is like asking an Englishman to adhere to a relaxed dress code at a wedding, it is carnage. I am sorry but I neither want to work in or be seen as an underpaid HR manager ghosting in a Starbucks mid-morning. Whether we like it or not, informality in a business setting has its’ limits on how we think about ourselves, our productivity and our profit.   The operator, who can truly provide a workspace with “flexible” privacy and silence is really the one to throw serious money at.

© James Berkeley 2017.

High Touch Trumping Parking Tech

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

 

High tech is dramatically improving the way we live (transportation, medicine, education and so forth). Yet in some areas particularly related to prevention it is trumping a high touch customer experience for close to zero benefit. Nowhere more so than the indiscriminate use of ANPR technology to record number plates entering and leaving car parks. The technology isn’t smart enough. In a recent example, to inquire about a hotel night stay and meet a fellow guest, it required entering late night through a car park using the technology. For reasons that were out of my control I had to wait for an extended period outside the hotel’s front door. There was close to zero signage visible about the snake pit I had driven into or even awareness of what lay in store until a further two weeks had elapsed when in the mail arrived a £100 penalty notice. Apparently I had stayed longer than permitted even though I wasn’t technically parked and indeed was interacting with the hotel’s front desk. When I sought to appeal you are directed to a cumbersome and legalese riddled process that exclusively treats you like a transgressor.

Thankfully, the common sense intervention of the Hotel’s Deputy General Manager, Jena Smith, was able to right a wrong. When investors look at early-stage tech businesses, the right question to ask is, this business addressing a human need, solving a human problem or kindling the human spirit. Quite clearly, the owners of Parking Eye, Capita, who shelled out £54 million four years ago for Parking Eye, never stopped to consider that simple question. Or if they did, they have come to a warped conclusion that driving away huge volumes of repeat and referral business from the surrounding businesses, generating huge negative media publicity and hiding behind weak boiler-plate defences, is a great advert for the CEO and their Board’s genius.

© James Berkeley 2017. All Rights Reserved.

PE’s Hidden Value At The Dogs

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

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How many times have you made an advance booking for an event ticket, a restaurant reservation or a hotel room only to arrive on the day to find your name is “not in the system”? How many times have the front line staff sought to caste blame on you or others rather than take immediate steps to resolve the problem and display empathy? How many times have you been turned away when you were eagerly looking forward to that experience vowing never to return in future? How many times has it been a major pain in the backside to ensure the charges have been reversed seamlessly to your credit card?

On Saturday night, I found an outstanding customer experience in the most unlikely of settings, Wimbledon greyhound track, host of the Greyhound Derby and owned by private equity firm, Risk Capital Partners. Arriving to find my family “not in the system” or in Wimbledon’s case, “not on the list”, two enthusiastic front line staff (Anita and Sonny) stepped in to help with simple proactive suggestions.

Sonny and Anita: “Pay cash for alternative tickets, we’ll run to our booking office and return with a receipt, personally email our central reservations with full instructions asking them to rapidly resolve the problem. In addition, we will follow up in their opening hours to ensure a rapid reversing of charges and you won’t need to do a thing. Is that OK? Is there anything else we can do to ensure that you have a fabulous night?

Me: “No. That would be wonderful if you can accomplish that.”

I am called this morning by their Central Reservations to be told that the problem was human error (incorrectly spelling our name) and all charges are being immediately reversed.

Applying common sense, taking ownership, displaying empathy and disciplined follow up are all very simple human tasks. Yet what Sonny and Anita displayed is so rare in my experience today.

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Even more so, if I told you that they are working in a business, whose private equity owners want to shutter the business and is in the midst of a political fire storm.

None of us want to swap jobs with their predicament. Indeed, I would go as far to suggest that their responsiveness to my problem had little or nothing to do with their circumstances. They are two enthusiastic, proactive and hard working employees, who have the skills and volition to do the right thing at the right time. To use their eyes and not rely on redundant operating policies and procedures.

Many seemingly successful companies get in the way of their employees displaying their talents. It destroys customer goodwill, which in turn harms loyalty, repeat business and value creation.  When you see a business fighting for survival but with a bedrock of enthusiastic employees displaying great customer service perhaps there is value where the existing owners don’t see it?

If you are a Sponsor with a penchant for a turnaround, you could no worse than organise a night out at Wimbledon dogs. Is that helpful Mr Moulton?

© James Berkeley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

 

No Xpense Spared

Friday, January 29th, 2016

We cannot live without technology but there are times when the interaction is so appalling you just scream “Give me Fred Flinstone!” On the flip side, you have a stellar experience resolving a user problem, often self-inflicted (!) and you want to rave about the service. XpenseTracker is an ingenious iPhone app, created by Silverware Software. If you are user you won’t need me to say it but it is an incredible time saver for anyone, who hates the tedium and time consuming process of collating and processing expense reports. I guarantee that you can create an extra day of working time for a $5 investment!

My settings for reasons I cannot fathom prevented me exporting the finished expense report to my cloud server. I emailed Scott, the app’s author, we are on friendly terms in a virtual way of doing things. He immediately responded in 2 minutes with a brief “here is how to solve the problem” email, succinct and on point. So far, so good until I pressed the wrong button and the screen froze. A quick email to Scott in his Boston office, and within 3 minutes, no blame attached, “this is what you do”. Boom, solved.

I don’t know about your firm or its’ clients standards in resolving clients problems but ask yourself honestly, does our access, response times and success in permanently resolving our clients’ problems match our brand? If you don’t know the answer I suggest you test it immediately. If you do, and you are happy with the results, ask yourself, how can we reinforce those results such that there is a discernible gap between our competitors and us in future?

Today, HSBC’s online banking incurs a cyber attack, zero customer notification beyond a brief badge on their site. A call to Hiscox, a market-leading global insurer, goes unanswered for 7 hours. Telefonica, a leading European telecoms operator, asks me to wait on “hold” for 22 minutes or use their online chat room, which takes a further 19 minutes to get to the heart of my difficulty with someone, who struggles to assemble an audible sentence in English.

Large global brands are being disrupted by smart, small technology firms in almost every product or service line because the latter have better organised themselves to provide a “high touch, high tech” customer experience.  It is not about size or scale, it is about how smart your people are.

© James Berkeley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Eccentric Behaviour

Friday, January 8th, 2016

I love living in London because you sees displays of eccentric human behaviour that defy all logic but are in equal measure very funny. This morning I hopped on a London bus in a rainy Mayfair to be followed in by a well-spoken English gentleman struggling to haul a 7 ft loosely bubble-wrapped, early 19th Century British masterpiece procured from an eminent Bond Street gallery. The sought of place where the red dots on the gallery wall demand a large five or six figure sum. Poor man, wouldn’t his budget stretch to hailing a taxi or the Gallery’s to delivering the piece to his home or workplace?

When we deliver services to our clients, do we seek to save pennies (demand our people spend no more than £25 on a bottle of wine at dinner) or promote overly cumbersome client processes (onboarding) for no good reason, after we have been paid pounds? Is our mindset and self-talk one of abundant opportunity or desperately fearing poverty? Is that reflected correctly in how we ask our people to behave and act with our clients’ best interests at heart (exemplars, policies and procedures)? You would be surprised how often that there is a huge misalignment, which instantly dilutes client and employee trust and weakens loyalty to top management and the firm.

© James Berkeley 2015. All Rights Reserved.

20th or 21st Century Business

Thursday, June 4th, 2015

Many executives and managers in financial services, insurance, professional services, private equity and so forth presume that they have to go to great lengths to stand out from the crowd with their clients. I am telling you that isn’t true. Look around at your colleagues, peers, business partners, advisers, competitors and clients behaviour. How many of them regularly exhibit attitudes and behaviour that are informed by 20th Century operating beliefs some fifteen years into the new millennium?

In another breathe they quite casually pull out the latest iPhone, Blackberry or tablet device. By any rational count they are hyper-connected. They simply don’t choose to make their clients or customers THEIR priority. They hide behind the “shared” belief that their lack of responsiveness is reasonable and appropriate.

Pick your favourite:

“Sorry I am travelling I will need to call you when I get back from my trip” (are you telling me you have no access by phone, voicemail or email? Are you really in Mongolia?)

“Can you speak to my Assistant she manages my calendar/diary” (is your Assistant in charge of your life?)

“I am in meetings today, I’ll get back to you” (do you really not have 15 minutes to respond via phone or email?)

“He/She is in a meeting, can you send them details via email” (are you seriously suggesting an alternative that demands both of you accept a significant delay and greater labour intensity to decipher an issue that could be solved in one three minute call today?)

There is a perception in many business advisory sectors that a powerful brand = greater responsiveness. I have recently conducted a straw pole of senior executives in Top 5 global businesses in insurance, private banking, executive search and advertising amongst other sectors suggesting a genuine potential client opportunity.

The least responsive sector quite humorously is the executive search business. The average response is 7.5 working days! Well done Odgers, Korn Ferry, Heidrich and Russell Reynolds, you are joint winners of the “Global Customer Disservice Award” (GCDA). There are a great many other global brands who would be appalled at the behaviour of their senior and key executives.

Next time your colleagues tell you “it is tough to compete with XXX, they have such a powerful brand”, caution them that clients buy from individuals who are highly responsive to their needs.

There is a high probability that you can establish a competitive advantage if you focus on customising your people and systems tightly to your customers’ self-interest. You don’t need to be selling some predictive analytic tool, overly complex technology or big data process. You need common sense and enthusiasm.

Copyright James Berkeley 2015. All Rights Reserved.