Customer Experience Matters…

17 11 2010

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Increasingly companies are not just offering customers products, but a combination of product AND service. Even for those mainly selling products, the customer purchase experience is so important that companies like Apple, Nike, Adidas, AGA, Bose, and Bang & Olufsen are taking the lead by setting up their own stores. They want to connect with their end users and have more control within the overall customer experience. And after-sales service is a further key component of the overall package for many companies such as car and motor-cycle manufacturers, and for electronics/white/brown goods producers.

But whilst product development is usually carried out by dedicated R&D teams, service development is often ignored, or left to distribution partners. This ignores the fact that meeting ever increasing customer expectations is a key aspect of competitive differentiation, and is vital to both customer retention and generating word-of-mouth referrals.

Traditional service related organisations such as banks and restaurants are re-inventing how they deliver as the basis for retaining customers and winning new ones. And those within the public sector are beginning to wake up too. We now understand that there is a need to radically transform how we deliver public services because our economy cannot support the current cost of them. But no-one wants to pay less for a lower-quality service, so the exam question is :-

“how can we deliver a better quality service at lower cost?”

So Service Design is increasingly important to ALL organisations. Customer experience REALLY matters. Looking forward 10 years, meeting the needs of customers will only be delivered by radical change and re-inventing how service is delivered. For example, both Mercedes Benz and BMW are currently investing heavily to develop business models that rent vehicles to users by the hour instead of selling them a new car every 3-4 years. For more about this see this Economist report about Car2Go.

Is your organisation considering this? Will your next 5 year strategy embrace emerging technology and social trends to define how you will deliver a better customer experience than your competitors? Will it show how Authentic your business is? Will it embrace design-thinking as a way of engaging end-users? If not then perhaps it should?

If you would like to discuss how Cultivar can help you to develop and implement your own customer experience strategy then please get in touch.

James Rock – MD and Chief Business Designer

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Big businesses using social media to improve customer experience

14 05 2009

As a consultant working in the field of service management I am always looking for examples to use with customers.

Last week I had a really great personal experience of how a big business can use social media to improve customer experience.  After a frustrating period of service problems with my home broadband connection I posted the following post on Twitter in conversation with my friends: “Good Morning All! I ask myself “will today be another frustrating Battle with Virgin Media day”?    

Imagine my surprise when @VirginMedia tweeted back to me shortly later to ask if there was any way they could help with my problems.  I was impressed that they are not just listening but also pro-actively getting in touch. After an exchange of emails to explain my problems I was called by someone of influence who listened to my issues and set someone to work on solving them. This was an unusual and suprisingly refreshing experience I have to say.

The next train of events resulted in the VirginMedia representative not just resolving my issues, but also understanding where some of their internal processes and systems could be improved to prevent similar things happening for other customers.  I have to report that their service recovery was brilliant. It reminded me that the true measure of a good service company is how well they recover when the inevitable service issue arises.  When the problems were eventually closed I tweeted again a short message to say how pleased I was: “those nice folks @virginmedia proactively tweeted me to find out and sort all my problems and made me a very happy customer again…”  It was only a few minutes later that I got a message back thanking me for my positive endorsement.

I think this is a great example of a company using Twitter to listen to the opinions of customers.  In doing so they not only put my problems right but also turned me into a strong advocate for their services.  The several hundred people who listen to me, and in turn to their friends,  now know that I rate the VirginMedia service highly and that is important in today’s word-of-mouth marketing world.

I think more companies should take heed and embrace Twitter and other social media platforms to engage with customers for mutual benefit.  Why not try it and see the results for yourself. Get in touch if you would like to discuss how you can integrate Social Media into your service operation.

James Rock  www.cultivar.co.uk  or find me on Twitter: @james_rock