Wake up and smell the cologne… how are you inspiring your customers?

Wake up and smell the cologne… how are you inspiring your customers?

“Magic moments” are not the be-all and end-all of customer experience – but they are important 

Wednesday in Wimbledon – I’d say wet if I was seeking an alliterative effect but in the interests of veracity it was a fine day – and I had an hour’s “office time” before a meeting. I went to an independent coffee shop on Wimbledon’s main drag – once apparently the high street with the most chains in the UK – not because it was an indie but because I knew it would be quiet, got my coffee and my WiFi code and logged on.

The welcome screen was not what I was expecting. Instead of the usual MSN collation of news items there was a poem (see below).

Now whilst I don’t read a lot of poetry and my limited abilities as a literary critic are safely confined to my book club, I’d say that the author’s efforts were a bit overwrought. Nonetheless I loved the idea of the coffee beans’ “cologne” and this little poetic pause set me up in a good frame of mind for the next 60 minutes.

And it made me think: how often do businesses go out of their way to inspire their customers?

In my experience – not very often.

At which point, if you’re in the business of providing customers with a service on behalf of your company you might be thinking “hang on Nick, isn’t it enough that we provide a great service day in, day out? That’s hard as it is without expecting our agents to be inspirational poets!”

Up to a point

Well, you may have a point: broken processes, malfunctioning systems and a back office that’s still in the 20th century may be some of the daily challenges your front-line people successfully manage every day to deliver a great service. In which case any further requests to create moments of magic will fall on deaf ears.

Note that in my example the magic moment didn’t require any human intervention – in fact, the coffee service was pleasant but unremarkable – but someone had taken the time to think about what might make the experience a little bit special.

Your call is important, so here’s something that’s not muzak 

Of course, the effect can wear off. For example, my bank, First Direct, have a different approach to hold music, playing some ambient street sounds while you wait to speak to someone. As I have been repeatedly calling FD with regard to a foreign payment that’s gone astray (that’s a CX epic that will find its way onto this site soon), this is now as grating as listening to 16 bars of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons on a loop. Any element of surprise wore off about 30 seconds into my first hold.

Maybe First Direct think they’re being smart and different but it’s part of what’s become, for me, an increasingly frustrating customer journey so it’s having a negative effect.

That old black magic

The quest for “magic”, inspiration and out-of-the-ordinary elements of a customer journey is important, but it’s not the only thing that’s important. One organisation I came across liked to devote considerable management time to deciding whether a customers’ experience could be classified as a “magic moment”. If it was deemed to contain insufficient pixie-dust to make it magic, it was deemed a “brilliant basic”. Both were rather aspirational terms as exceptional customer experience hadn’t exactly become the norm and there were plenty of basics that were far from brilliant. In my view they were well-intentioned but probably should have been a bit more rigorous about identifying and fixing process breaks and then empowering front line staff to create magic themselves.

Having a commitment to inspiring customers is a worthy ambition and it’s something that’s etched into NextTen’s DNA. We challenge ourselves to present material and ideas to our customers that inspires them to think differently about their businesses to deliver better results. Whether or not we succeed is something only our customers can judge. We haven’t yet employed seaside sounds or poetry to help us, but who knows what the future holds…

Meanwhile, what are you doing to inspire your customers?

Nick Bush

Nick is a business advisor and non-executive director who helps companies become genuinely customer-centric. Nick delivers customer-driven business transformation projects and has worked across many industries including banking and finance, insurance, telecommunications, industrial and public sector. Has held senior roles with variety of blue chip names including BT, Royal Bank of Scotland, CSC and Sema Group. Currently Head of Delivery at NextTen Innovation Solutions