Saturday, December 30, 2017

Words mean things

“Words mean things”
- Rush Limbaugh
I’m not normally one to be quoting a ‘shock jock’, but I keep coming back to this quote in my head as I deal with companies as a customer, trying to give them input to improve their Customer Experience (and, as a result, their bottom line).

A recent example would be when we went to the USA on holiday, flying with British Airways.

Due to their widely publicised botched IT upgrade, my ESTA was not on record (despite being valid for another year and filed with them less than 12 months ago), and they would not let me enter the details online.  I tried at least 8 times, each one of which would have been logged on BA’s servers.

As a result we were unable to check-in until we got to the airport, didn’t get allocated seats together and had escalate multiple times.  When a senior manager eventually arrived his attitude was ‘not my problem mate’, only actually ‘finding’ us 2 seats together as I was e-mailing the company’s Chief Executive right in front of him.

None of this of course is rocket science, and I ensured we gave structured, detailed and actionable feedback at every stage of this process.  Words mean things.

The secret of great Customer Experience is to mask the complexity of your business from customers.  Design your business process with their needs front and centre.

I always ask myself: “Would it be good enough for me if I were the customer?”

If the answer is no, then something needs to be changed. Try again until it IS good enough.

The failed attempts to check-in online were logged, should have been tracked as an error condition, with root cause identified and resolved.  The symptoms affecting me should have resulted in an outbound phone call to resolve the issue.

This is common sense and best practice. Customer Journeys have clearly not been mapped and optimised.

All staff (from those in the terminal to those responsible for CX) need empowerment to own and resolve customer issues, not obsess about explaining why it has gone wrong.

A colleague of mine speaks of “Techsplaining”, would this phenomenon hence be “CXsplaining”?
It’s something that many businesses are wedded to – feeling the need to make excuses and explain why experiences are bad for their customers rather than ensure they’re not bad in the first place.

This is not what a customer wants to hear.  When I give your business feedback it’s so you can identify what’s gone wrong and to put it right.  It’s not for you to explain to me why you have bad customer experiences.

This is all doable, and as I say not rocket science.

One of the best examples I have seen of this is when I used to stay frequently at the Radisson Blu hotel in Manchester Airport, complaining about their staff continuously badgering me on each stay with the question of whether I wanted a hot drink at breakfast (due to poor business processes not being able to identify that I had declined the offer).

The hotel listened to the feedback, developed a very simple business process to ensure that customers weren’t repeatedly annoyed and executed it.  Flawlessly.

This was a great illustration of what Customer Experience is really about - talking to customers, listening to what they’re telling you and actioning their feedback.

It’s something that British Airways could learn a lot from Radisson Blu about.

Words mean things.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

It’s also time to update the football viewer experience

I wrote a while back (and thanks for all the interesting feedback) about the need to modernise the in stadium football fan experience.

There also the need to update the experience of the viewer at home.

A few weeks ago at the Telegraph Business of Sport Conference the ever-interesting former Crystal Palace supremo Simon Jordan was absolutely spot on in the comments he made about how every single Premier League football game should be televised live, comparing the sport to other facets of the entertainment industry:

"I think that every game around the world can be live.
Football eats itself sometimes. We're talking about £8bn in [global] TV revenues, right?
Well, the X-Men movie franchise is £10bn, so let's get context about how big this business really is against how big it really could be."

I’m a lifelong Liverpool fan.  I came to the UK to watch them play, but yet I can’t watch every single game – despite the fact that I’m happy to pay to do so.

No service to enable me to exists.

The rights regime around the game is really dated, preventing games being televised at 3pm on a Saturday, nominally to ensure attendances are not impacted for games on at the same time.

Despite the fact that I live 5 minutes from the ground of my local non-league team I’m not going to pay to watch them play at 3pm on a Saturday (or indeed ever) as I don’t follow them.  In fact I generally only watch Liverpool games.

A regime predicated on people living in one area only supporting their local side when the population is so upwardly mobile feels stuck in the 1950s – so, like others, I’m forced to find a pub with an international feed to watch my team play.

Being able to watch my team play if I’m on holiday in another country but not in the one where the game is played is bizarre, especially when technology exists that would enable me to buy a subscription service from a broadcaster or even the club direct.

I can watch goals just after they go in via the Sky Sports Football Score Centre app and cast them to my big screen but I can’t pay to watch the game live, which is ridiculous and needs resolving with a rule change as part of the next rights auction.

It’s really not surprising that 5 million UK adults use illegal streaming services or apps – many of them to access football – when the demand is there but the supply isn’t being met, and football as an industry needs to learn the lesson of the music industry on how to credibly tackle piracy and monetise the demand.

For many years the recording industry attributed blame to ISPs, file sharing services and individuals they’d targeted via PR, regulatory & governmental pressure and lawsuits – but it wasn’t until streaming services like Spotify became mainstream that consumers moved away from piracy en masse.

All due to consumer demand being met by a great subscription based streamed service which consumers are happy to pay for.

Along with updating the rights regime, the Premier League needs to take televising the sport to the next level with the development of a centralised platform from which all games can be streamed globally – and to make it available as both a direct subscription (including apps for smartphones, tablets and Smart TVs) plus whitelist it to club and other websites to enable innovative bundling of digital and other services.

This can then be available in several different languages and include all kinds of other interesting content alongside it, plus offer the end consumer a choice of commentators, camera angles and plenty of other innovations.

I’d happily pay a tenner a month for that.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Smoke on the switcher

Going through my bills recently I spotted one I have absolutely no engagement with – my water provider.

Without going back into my Inbox now to check who I paid it to, I couldn’t even tell you that I was a customer of a firm called Affinity Water:

My £330.55 bill for the year was paid, and nothing in their confirmation message even tells me what I’m getting for that (presumably it’s for the annual water supply for and the removal of waste water from my home).

I’d long since thrown away the original paperwork along with the unengaging blurb that came with it.

Like many other utilities, it’s a product I don’t care about and have no engagement with – regardless of who my provider is, the same homogenous product comes out of the pipe (in a similar way to my electricity).

I have no brand loyalty to the company whatsoever.

What I do have loyalty to though is the minimising of my bills – something that I review on a regular basis to ensure I’m getting good value.

So I was surprised to discover that I can’t switch water supplier as a consumer at all.

As with other regulated markets in energy and telecommunications switching does seem to be coming though, and any regulatory framework that ensures competition is good for consumers - hopefully fostering innovative products as well as optimising value.

One concept that has often been mooted is a brand like Virgin entering the energy space, and in theory the opportunity is there with a brand many consumers are loyal to.

Virgin is, however, also a brand that resonates more with the consumer of today than the one of the future – those familiar with Virgin Cola taking on Coke and the gloriously executed publicity stunts to steal the thunder from British Airways – and is more about partnering and branding than running services in the modern era.

Others such as the well rated Utility Warehouse could also make a play and even bundle water supply with energy products, growing the attractive model for those managing their spend of one bill for multiple utilities entering the home.

The real opportunity is for a player like Google to enter the market and really shake things up.  With all the R&D work they do on innovation in energy saving and environmentalism, a Google badged service (using a smart water meter) that gave me the tools to both save money and conserve one of the world’s scarce assets would be very attractive to me.

If profits could be reinvested into further conservation and/or water charities in the third world it would be all the incentive needed. I would switch tomorrow.

This needs the market opening up and the regulatory encouragement to invest and innovate – and it would be great to be able to choose my provider based on providing services that I am both happy to pay for and are doing good for the planet.