Why Customer Experience Doesn’t Start With Your Customers

Republished on The Marketing Association

CX seems to be making its way to the lips of marketers again lately, driven in part by shifts globally like GDPR, which place emphasis on quality interactions, over quantity of interactions.

But before you get all starry eyed and rush off to map customer journey touch-points, aggregate disparate data silos and create business cases to build single views of your customers, you need to consider one other group of people first.

In 2016, I was lucky enough to attend the two-day Customer Experience Management summit in Sydney, where the caliber of speakers and thinkers was high.

Two years and many moons spent thinking about customer experience later, two particular presentations still stick in my mind; one from Lush, a company created with a CX mindset in their DNA, and the other from a hotel in NSW who cracked CX to differentiate in a crowded marketplace.

They came from different ends of the CX spectrum, but had one simple unifying trait: He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.

Lush’s presentation was delivered by one of their directors, in an out of the way break out room on the first day of the conference.

Her story of how they created and operated the company showed that customer experience to Lush means living a very clear set of values and ethics that its management team, and best employees and customers would die by.

Lush builds this level of advocacy by listening and using its weight and influence to stand up for what the Lush collective believe in; everything from marriage equality, LGBT awareness, animal rights to fair and ethical trade.

In doing so, Lush is one of a very few companies who have cracked it, where the brand takes on a life of its own through the things the leaders say and do, the workforce live and breath and the customers experience and feel.

But Lush is a unicorn; a billion dollar company built with a CX mindset in their DNA.

We can’t all be Lush.

So what if we weren’t lucky enough to be born with CX DNA? The inevitable position of most public companies, government departments and commodity businesses.

The other presentation from the Sydney conference was from a general manager of a hotel in Australia (whose name escapes me) who had been trying out different CX initiatives to see if the hotel could increase their TripAdvisor rating.

For six months, the management team tried everything from brand and marketing campaigns, staff retreats, customer journey mapping, design thinking, data crunching and employee recognition programs, but they weren’t able to move their #4 TripAdvisor rating.

In the end it was the simplest of solutions that saw them move to and maintain the #1 position: They put the decision making power for improving customer experience into the hands of the people at the front line.

Not exactly revolutionary, but something most businesses would struggle to actually do (not just say).

The hotel took an honest look at themselves and realised they will never be a five star hotel (they didn’t have a pool), and the best they could be was the best four star hotel in their city.

They asked their people for ideas to get them there, and decided to test one of the simplest ideas – empower front-line staff to add personal touches to the guests stay.

Each employee from the concierge, the porter, through to the room cleaner, had access and the decision making power to spend up to $20 per customer per visit, on any small touches that they thought would help make the customer feel more welcome and at home.

The staff were encouraged to listen to and look for moments where they could delight and deliver over and above what the customer would have been expecting from a hotel, using their judgement to decide on any appropriate action to take.

Examples included a customer who checked in and mentioned coming down with a cold, who had coldrex and tissues brought to their room soon after settling in. Another guest  was celebrating their birthday with a night away, and the staff arranged a cake to be delivered to their room as a surprise.

These simple gestures added a little magic to the customers experience, didn’t cost the world to implement, set the hotel apart from its competitors, increased retention of its people, and had people raving about the hotel all over TripAdvisor. Win win win win win.

The point is that while we all can’t quit our jobs and go and work for Lush, we can all start improving on our customer experience.

And before you go investing in hopes and dreams and technology to solve your problems (it won’t), make sure you take time to truly understand what really matters to your customers when and where they are interacting with your company (whether this is in person or online), and don’t overlook the power of making it possible for your frontline staff to add a little unexpected magic.