Customer Experience

Customer experience transformation – 3 game changers in 2016

Demographic and economic shifts coupled with game-changing advances in digital technologies are changing customer behaviour faster than many large companies can respond. More informed and sceptical consumers are holding businesses to increasingly higher standards and brands are having to discover new ways to connect with individuals, becoming more creative and empathetic in their interactions.

by David Conway (contact)
2 minute read

Transforming around your customers takes commitment and strategic direction from the top. As a first step, leadership can consider the following pillars which put the customer at the heart, rather than focus on company policy or corporate rulebooks.

These pillars form the basis of KPMG's Customer Experience Excellence Survey which, over the last seven years, has measured trends in customer initiatives and behaviour. It benchmarks a large number of recognised British brands. In this year’s survey, the research found three companies leading the way at customer experience transformation.

 Virgin Holidays leaps into the top 20

Virgin Holidays has an established reputation, and in 2015 consumers voted it the Best Large Holiday Company to the USA, Canada and the Caribbean at the British Travel Awards. The company made an impressive leap to 15th position, from a previous ranking of 113th after a renewed focus on customer initiatives. “Virgin Holidays performed strongly and made a substantial contribution to this result, with a profit before tax and exceptional items of £10.9 million.” This was £5 million up on 2014.

Key to this success is Virgin Holidays' ability to engineer 'emotional peaks' - enhanced moments in the customer journey that not only resonate with its brand values, but also touch the customer in a way that will live on in their memory. Virgin focus very much on what customers remember and is clear on where it has to be exceptional, and where being okay is good enough. For example, one respondent in the survey referenced an occasion in which they mentioned to the cabin crew that she and her partner had just got married, and were going on their honeymoon. 15 minutes later, the couple were visited by the captain, who presented them with a bottle of champagne, which had been signed by each member of the crew. The whole aircraft erupted to the sound of applause, creating an emotionally-rich, memorable moment that was shared by over 150 people. 

Virgin's focus on creating emotional peaks is also evident at other points in the customer journey. The company has developed its own smartphone app, which enables users to connect directly with its social media accounts using the hashtag #seizetheholiday. And at its retail outlets, customers can experience key holiday destinations via Google Cardboard virtual reality goggles. Using state-of-the-art 360 degree filming techniques customers are transported to the serene Riviera Maya, giving them a vivid sense of what an upcoming holiday could really feel like. In addition to helping bring a potential holiday to life, this initiative has also been significant in helping to alleviate any potential boredom that customers may experience whilst waiting to be attended to.

TSB – the first major high street bank to break into the top 50

TSB is the first of the major high street banks to break into the top 50, climbing an impressive 85 places to land at number 35 in 2016's results. This performance is driven by an intense focus on being more ‘human’ throughout the customer experience as a competitive differentiator, and it is led from the very top.

"Our success has been driven by our willingness to challenge some of the orthodoxies of running a retail bank," says Peter Navin, the Distribution Director of TSB. "When we designed and trained in the TSB Experience, we created a flexible framework, rather than a set of rules, which partners (employees) could buy into, because they could see how it would improve the customer experience."

With this in mind, TSB has focused on delivering a 'red carpet welcome.' Whenever a customer enters a branch, a staff member will immediately approach them with a smile and a willingness to assist. TSB recognised that customers want to be dealt with in different ways and so removed standard word patterns. They bypassed the mechanical approach and started to treat every customer the way they want to be treated.

In addition to this, TSB has made all employees partners, removed sales targets and created a brand new business culture.

This strategy has helped build trust between employees and customers and it is clear that people have warmed to the brand as a result. TSB's Net Promoter Score rose 10 points to 24 in 2016, and this indicates that a large number of individuals were prepared to recommend the brand to their family and friends[1]. This was certainly evident in the first half of the year, where seven per cent of all customers who opened a new bank account, or switched from another provider, chose TSB[2].

Eurostar saves customers time and effort via improvements in technology

Eurostar has seen the biggest leap in the UK rankings rising 142 places to number 24, with its strongest results lying in the pillars of personalisation and time and effort, and like Virgin Holidays it has a top down desire to make its customer interactions as memorable as possible. 

A key area of focus for the company has been to leverage social media to engage with customers and prospects alike to help broaden the purpose of travel. Many Eurostar destinations are seen as romantic getaways, and to move past this, Eurostar ran an award-winning[3] advertising campaign, inviting selected bloggers to share their stories across social networks and on a competition microsite. Social networks encouraged passengers and the general public to share their own stories and pictures, which were subsequently used in TV advertising.

In addition to the focus on social media engagement and interaction, Eurostar firmly believes that the customer journey starts with its website. The company has worked hard to make every aspect of the overall experience as good as it can possibly be, enabling passengers to self-serve for a greater range of interactions. The website also offers hotel suggestions and deals, alongside live departure and arrival times, and up-to-date timetables for all of its destinations.

"In the travel industry, saving customers time and effort is the ultimate selling point," explains Marc Noaro, the Chief Customer Officer for Eurostar. "Our product has been built on this principal from the outset – short journey times, fast check-in procedures, city centre stations and no baggage reclaim or passport checks on arrival. This has provided our customers with an ease of travel which has been integral to our success for more than 20 years."

Technology plays an important role on the trains. Eurostar has invested in a new fleet of trains, which feature free Wi-Fi and on board entertainment. The brand also uses technology - as opposed to announcements - to point out parts of the trip that it thinks will be of interest to passengers, helping to make the experience as memorable as possible. This ensures that regular travellers are not disturbed with information they may already know.

It's a more diligent and a more 'human' approach which has clearly affected customer loyalty, with Eurostar reporting passenger numbers to be in excess of 10 million in 2015.[4]

Over the course of a twelve month period, these brands have managed to reconnect with their customers by embracing customer experience transformation and creating more memorable experiences. They are proof that any organisation can transform to create customer and enterprise value.

What are the customer experience pillars of excellence you can focus on more to transform your organisations customer experience?

[1] http://www.tsb.co.uk/news-releases/delivering-strong-growth/

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://www.britisharrows.com/awards-2014/winners/entry/a14-100011-eurostar-a14-100011-stories-are-waiting-in-paris/

[4] http://www.eurostar.com/uk-en/about-eurostar/press-office/press-releases/2016/passenger-numbers-stable-new-e320

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