Corporate Eye

Getting it right for the best customer experience

A month ago, we heard from Colin Shaw (founder of Beyond Philosophy) on how companies should react to the current climate. Today he’s back, to share his views on one of the secrets of a great customer experience…

A few weeks ago we conducted our annual study tour in London, England. This is where we take delegates to visit a number of leading companies for a behind-the-scenes look at how they approach the task of building a great customer experience.

The companies included Prêt-a-Manger, Virgin Atlantic, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, Dell Computers, T-Mobile, Lexus Cars, AOL and Microsoft. As we travelled around these companies on the luxury coach, I pondered what the common traits are of companies who provide a great customer experience? Undoubtedly one of these traits is “attention to detail”, so let’s give you an insight as to what some of these companies did. Prêt-a-Manger told us about the absolute struggle they go through to make sure that all the ingredients in their sandwiches are additive free so as to enhance the taste of the sandwiches. This involves a great deal of searching to determine the best supplier, as well as extensive tasting. The time and money they spend on this activity is phenomenal and is testament to their customer focus.

But this is just one element of the attention to detail these companies pay. Liam Lambert, Director of the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park Hotel told us of his “attention to detail”. He wanted his doorman to stand out as ‘beacons’ to help promote the hotel – as it is on the less busy side of the street and after seeing other hotel doormen who were all dressed in grey overcoats. This colour made them blend into their hotel buildings and act as great camouflage. Liam decided to dress his doorman in red, creating a true beacon. It was clearly effective as more people noticed them than ever before!

Liam told us about how he treats his new arrivals and our group was privileged to attend and witness his ‘Morning Prayers’. This is where all the managers from each department within the hotel get together every morning and talk through each new guest explicitly that is arriving at the hotel that day. They look at who they are and look at where they’re coming from and therefore how likely they are to be tired, for example. They even get on their guests’ web sites to discover more about the person staying so that they can ultimately provide them with a better service. Finally, if available on the web site, they will print a picture of the individual who is staying with them and place it on the ‘Guests Wall’ so the staff can recognise the person by name.

So, do you go into that amount of detail with your customers? When a guest is staying with them they ‘learn their behaviour’. They also take note of the drinks they order, whether they like ice or not, whether they have a cappuccino or a Latte after a meal. This information is then recorded on what is effectively a CRM system, which is them utilised to enhance the customer experience on subsequent visits. This is pure attention to detail!

Our visit to Virgin Atlantic highlighted to us the amount of time they have spent on working out when the optimum time is to deliver hot towels in Upper Class – before or after takeoff, for example. They also have calculated the most pragmatic and attractive layout of a service trolley, and have great new lie down beds situated in Upper class. As someone who spends a lot of time travelling around the world giving conference speeches, I can’t wait to try them.

And Dell Computers have set up a number of ‘Listening Posts’ to ensure they capture customer information and convert this into something that is usable by the customer.

So, attention to detail in building great customer experiences is paramount. The converse is also true, and lack of focus on the customer experience will detract from it. The other night I visited my local cinema. The ‘baby booster chairs’ were left in the aisle so that when we entered the cinema late, we nearly broke our necks falling over them! Not to mention the vast queue to buy a ticket, with only two tills in operation and three people standing at the back chatting whilst dozens customers showed their indignation. We have all had similar experiences, but it takes thought, time and commitment to build a great customer experience.

We recommend you to pay attention to the detail in future – both in ‘real life’ and on the various sites that are part of your company’s web estate.

A classic example of focusing on the details that make the customer experience of corporate web estate better is Amazon’s recommendation system, which gives the customer suggestions as well as providing potential up-sell opportunities. Like the Mandarin Oriental example above, this helps the visitor feel that the company ‘knows’ what they like. And the customer reviews provide reassurance, so the visitor feels they are making the right choice.

At a more mundane level, ensuring that the website is user-friendly, with appropriate help easily available when needed, matters. Visitors need to be able to navigate the site to find what they need (without falling over unnecessary ‘baby buggies’, or being led down navigational dead ends). And ensuring that the site can be found easily, and is distinctive helps. Consider the Mandarin Oriental again: is your site dressed in the appropriate livery, and acting as a beacon for your visitors?

Thanks, Colin!

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