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So, we’ve accepted black Friday is actually a 3-7 day sale, with retailers telling us on their promotions exactly how many days a day lasts in their world. Some managing to bend a 24 time frame seven fold. So, it’s not a good start, we have a sale, that starts with a lie. At least it’s now poor cousin, the January Sale, had a bit more integrity in it’s non-defined description.

Also, what does it say when the BBC lead with an item on Black Friday from the advertising watchdog saying beware! Warning on ‘misleading’ Black Friday deals. 

There are a host of examples where customers have been disappointed by the quality of the sale:

  • Pressurised into tracking countdown sale clocks
  • Pre-saving and paying for items which disappear from stock on the day
  • Ads promising sales for them to not materialise on the day
  • Fake online review (which can be bought as well)
  • Hourly price changes
  • Fake sites (copy brand ID of genuine sites but payments page changes)

Let’s step back for a second. Many organisations talk about ‘putting customer first’ and invest in continuously improving the quality of the experience. After all, CX is a significant contributor (more than price) for customers choosing one brand over another.

However, when it comes to Black Friday it’s as if it becomes ‘all bets are off’, with compromises experienced by customers as overwhelmed companies struggle to maintain a ‘sales with the service’ standard.

As any behavioural psychologist would explain better than me, when we are caught in the moment we do not always emotionally process our actions which clouds our decision making. But afterwards, when we look back we assess more clearly what we traded for that gain. And sometimes we don’t like our decision or even recognise the version of ourselves that made those decisions. We feel cheated and we feel cheap. We don’t feel that great about ourselves when that’s the outcome. We remember how that felt to ensure we can avoid it in the future.

We can’t ‘feel’ a discount. It was a contributing factor to a decision but it’s not an emotion. But we can ask, ‘how did that purchase experience make me feel’? And we will remember.

If the answer is that the experience was less than great due to misleading sales info, a lack of or a poor response from an over capacity customer service, the expectation by the company for us to exchange lots of contact details for future promotions getting in the way of the purchase, distracting up-sell techniques or a problem with payments going through (to name a few), then we start to challenge our decision. And with so many options, we may even decide that the retailer is not for us. This may be an unfair representation of their normal customer experience. if we caught the retailer when they were stretched. But that’s the gamble they take when you compromise CX on Black Friday.

If the retailer sacrifices CX for sales at this time, they have to accept that’s exactly how the customer will see them in the future; a company you can get a bargain from if you don’t care how they treat you. So, when the black Friday fog has passed, the customer will look elsewhere.

To me, and the 50% of others according to PwC, the potential of a bargain isn’t worth the  risk of an impaired experience and destroying confidence and trust in brands who have worked hard to win a place in my heart over the rest of the year.

It’s not just customers who step out of the rush, retailers chose to as well.

So, will there be winners on the day? Of course. There will be those consumers who get the item they always wanted cheaper, there will be those who get a few extra items they’d normally ignore at a better price and there will be retailers who shift stock they haven’t done until now.

But the real winners are customers who experience a quality purchase experience. And those retailers who prioritise customer experience over a sale, even on Black Friday (well done – you know who you are). Because come the consumption hangover, we will then chose which relationships we value, and it wont be decided on the transaction alone.

Posted by

Christopher Brooks, Lexden, The Customer Experience Practice.

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I write a series entitled, ‘CX leaders’ which has included number of CX practitioners. The selection criteria for the interview is simply companies, or CX leads within those organisations who have impressed me with their commitment to a customer-led approach.

I’ve covered a range of sectors, including financial services. There is inspiration to be found from talking with those who are pushing forward with a customer agenda in a world dominated by transactions. As the interviews featured in this FS special show customer experience is a great way to transcend from a customer transaction focus to a customer relationship culture.

Against a backdrop of FCA regulation, historical lack of consumer trust and the arrival of nimble ‘cloud’ inhabiting digital brands, the established FS brands have their work cut out to stay relevant. But as these three interviews show, FS has a lot to gain from an effective CX strategy.

Newcastle Building Society – interview with Stuart Fearn, Head of Customer Contact

Stuart explains how NBS review technology to understand how it helps customers before deciding whether its relevant and valuable to adopt.

“Our priority is to make it easy for our customers to deal with us and to create positive, memorable moments and connections.

Link to the full interview – CX Leaders: Newcastle Building Society

The Bank of Cyprus – interview with Scott Fleming, Chief Customer & Commercial Officer

As his job title suggests, the Bank of Cyprus see customer-led thinking as a key growth imperative. With a customer base spread across branch usage and online banking, BoC’s challenges are familiar to most in retail banking.

Scott highlights the key requirements and support needed to make customer experience a priority focus in a financial organisation, including KPI management and backing from the CEO.

Link to the full interview – CX Leaders: Bank of Cyprus

One Savings Bank – Interview with Stephen Plimmer, Head of Customer Strategy & Insight

I met Stephen at the FSF Marketing Effectiveness Awards where OSB had picked up the CX award we sponsored that year.

Their story is of interest to anyone with a specific product or demographic looking to broaden their reach further.

link to the full interview – CX Leaders: One Savings Bank

These three interviews highlight some of the challenges and solutions financial services brands are dealing with in order to pursue a more sustainable profit from committed and content customers.

If you would like to be, featured in our CX Leaders series please drop me a line.

If you’d like to understand more about the value of CX and how to apply it to your business, email christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com and we will forward details of how to ‘improve’, ‘prioritise’ and ‘lead’ with CX.

Posted by Christopher Brooks, Lexden – The Customer Experience Practice

lexdengroup.com ¦ +44 1279 902205 ¦ @lexdengroup

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With the unfortunate circumstances surrounding House of Fraser and Debenhams, not long after British Home Stores disappeared from the high streets the giants of retailing are falling.

Has the high street kept up with the expectations of the modern customer? This means making itself more relevant and attractive than other channels. At best retail will be part of our shopping experience, but indicators are that many are being sacrificed as the online retailers take a bigger slice of the retail pie.

A couple of recent retail experiences demonstrate to me how old cost reduction models are still dominating the high street. Whilst online retailers use the assets they have to develop technology which fulfils customer requirements. See if you can spot the future of retailing from these three examples:

ASOS – Search and select outfits capability 

You see an item someone in a magazine or on the high street is wearing and you think ‘I like that, where did they get it?’. You snap it and load up on your ASOS app. they then search (using their trickery magic) and select a match or similar looking items for you. Easy and a ‘go to’ option for any impromptu clothes shopping.

Next turn away sales to save employee effort

I haven’t been in Next for so long, but I was passing and saw a 50% sale poster outside. I popped in and my eye was drawn to a dress shirt wrapped in it’s packaging. I am never quite sure what size I am, so wanted to try it first. The pattern was very colourful and just what I wanted, but I again wanted to see what it looked like on.

I headed to the changing room with the shirt and a pair of trousers I liked the look of. I hadn’t meant to pick up the trousers, they sort of jumped in to my arms on the way to the changing rooms. I didn’t think they’d look any good but thought I’d try them om anyway.

At the changing room the member of staff took my shirt off me, asked my collar size and gave me a cream, silky shirt in my collar size. I looked confused so the changing room manager told me the problem was that people get the shirts out, they can’t put them away properly so have to hang them up and then people don’t buy them because they are not in packaging. I meant to get a picture of the ‘prison shirt’ at this point, but was so gobsmacked I forgot. For some reason I went alone with this and tried the garment others used (I didn’t think about that at the time) on – it didn’t even fit. I took it off and headed to the till with just the trousers which I didn’t think would fit, but once tried I realised did. 

At the till I explained the shirt didn’t fit, to which he replied, ‘well not all shirts are the same cut’. So what was the point of the charade of the ‘trial’ shirt! I asked if I bought the shirt and took it home to try it on and it didn’t fit could I bring it back to which he said of course. So I asked why do I need to come here anymore, he just smiled knowingly. I left, unlikely to ever need to return.

So I’ll shop for from home now. The only problem being when I am in their store, they have my attention but when I am at home, I never think of them and always default to ASOS.

Argos reduce store size, and the customer base with it

In the town I live, like many others Argos has shed its retail footprint skin and become incubated within the Sainsbury’s supermarket. I needed a lap top case and thought Argos. Having seen the shopped moved I headed to Sainsbury’s. I found a small corner of the store with Argos tablets and a counter which was stacked full of good behind it. It reminded me of Screwfix or The Tool Station. The grand stacking and conveyor belt set up, which I always felt was quaintly Generation Game like, had gone.

I punched my request on the key pad and a perfect laptop case came up. I requested to buy it but it was out of stock. I paused and thought I can never remember EVER going into an Argos and them not having the item in stock. The option was to have it delivered at home, despite the fact I was in store. I reluctantly agreed and was asked to go to the front desk/til to pay. The member of staff then punched my order in asking all the questions I’d given the tablet and more to arrive at the answer, ‘we don’t have it in stock’. I replied that I knew this and could he order it to be sent to my home. He explained further, that they didn’t have it in stock at all locally, ‘we don’t hold as much now’. Really? I would never have guessed!

I concluded that the transfer into the supermarket space had both reduced stock space and required new, yet to be compatible stock management systems.

I asked what I do now. He helpfully explained I could go back to tablet I used before, and when it told me to pay, he would then check again and tell me if it was in at all. I asked whether it would be quicker to go home and order, to which he said they’d probably see a wider national coverage of stock and it may be available somewhere in the country.

So my conclusion was that by visiting the new store it made it clear I would be wise ordering online from home from Argos. The challenge is, when I’m in store Argo don’t have to compete with Amazon, they have my business. When I am at home, I never think of them and always default to Amazon.

Retail CX revolution

These experiences tell me two key points:

  1. ASOS are going places (alright I’m 18 years behind the curve here) and being a customer will be a fun and engaging retail experience
  2. I am now an inconvenience to Argos and Next because I wanted to use the advantage of their retail set up.

If retailers want to outlast their digital cousins, they need to update their mindset and then their CX, because they are making it ‘less painful’ to shop online. Online retailers only need to set up and fulfil the basics and they look streets ahead (pardon the pun).

Here’s hoping the best practice lessons from other service based sectors with human interaction can be carried over to the retailers, before they become completely irrelevant to us all.

Posted by Christopher Brooks, Customer Experience Consultant                                                        Lexden, The Customer Experience Practice

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‘Customer Experience’ is a very popular business expression these days. It features heavily in everything from boardroom agendas, to Amazon book lists, to the events & conference circuit to LinkedIn posts.

But what you must be careful of is making sure you only reading content relating to the correct of the two wildly different definitions of customer experience which have been established. One is a force for gain for all, the other a force for gain for a few.

The correct and healthy CX focus if one that delivers value to clients and their customers and has been around since before ‘CX’ had a label. It is expressed (broadly) as follows:

“The value created from the sum of the interactions between a customer and company throughout the term of their relationship”

The focus here is on helping companies to identify what matters most to their customers and how to improve the associated experience to attract an increasing level of commitment from customers on a sustainable basis.

And there are a myriad of great books (see below), helpful practitioners guidance notes and insightful case studies to fuel your CX thinking. These are penned and provided by some great practitioners who happily stay in the wings; clientside or consultants who recognise the solutions are the true heroes and they are merely the enablers.

Accepting CX evolves and everything from customer expectations to the way it’s measured updates with it are the hallmarks of progressive and proactive professionals in CX. We’ve found being connected with an elite number of practitioners, professionals and professors in CX keeps us up to date and always seeking a higher ground.

This is an inclusive approach where the collective create gains for clients and customers alike dominate. Customer comes first.

I was approached to write a book on CX. In response to which I pointed out the set below – explaining there are enough good books out there covering many angles. What more could be said?The effort should be on the application. 
So it’s very important to avoid the second definition of customer experience:

“The value created by often unqualified individuals or companies using CX primarily as a means to create personal financial gain”

Sadly these leads to many mediocre books, second rate speakers (poor content overpowered by delivery style) and case studies (without the context connected). These serve the providers and presenters well,feeding egos and euros in equal measure. But they are nothing more than re-purposed content often featuring outdated or unsubstantiated ‘observations’ from others or outdated polished pomp. But it’s getting easier to spot these pretenders from the true professionals.

CX is an evolving discipline and many of the conventional ideas, models and measures have now been proven to be less reliable and damaging. But like a one hit wonder pop star, it’s too much of a challenge for these podium princess and princesses, tech tyrants and other ‘CX pretenders’ who have built their fortunes on the back catalogue, to accept their sound is outdated.

Their advice and inspiring soundbites may quench the thirst and even taste good initially but they will be prove difficult to digest and ultimately add little to no substance, leaving you still hungry for sense and success.

So how can you tell the good from the bad? It’s quite simple beware of those putting ME and US before CUSTOMER. Now we’ve shared the signs, you’ll spot them every time you pick up a CX book, click open a webinar, pay to hear a speaker or scan an article on customer experience. 

But if you are unsure simply challenge their value with these, ‘Does it put the customer first?’ Will it improve our customer’s experience? Does everyone gain from the experience?’.

If the answer is yes, keep consuming!

Posted by Christopher Brooks, fan of progressive and productive CX which inspires practitioners and delivers gains to clients by generating genuine value for their customers.

LexdenGroup.com

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I once attended a meeting discussing with a company who had an issue with their speed of delivery and getting it right first time. What they delivered was falling below expectation of customers and they wanted to put in place processes to speed things up. We intended to kick-off by reviewing the correlation between this issue and attrition, so it was a key to resolve.

Five minutes in to the meeting one of the attendees excused himself and popped out, without explanation. They arrived back 5 minutes later. I asked what happened and he said he’d forgotten his notes for the meeting. Ten minutes after we started another of their colleagues arrived, apologising for being late with explanation and everyone carried on.

At this point I asked how confident they were they could fix things. They said because it was simply a process issue it would be fine. I played back the lateness and incorrect information at the meeting. They recognised it was more than a process, it was cultural.

Lack of cultural alignment of CX is the second most cited reason for failure of customer experience. The focus for this company then shifted from customer experience to employee experience. It was agreed standards needed to be established which changed behaviours. With the employee experience improved, many of the customer experience issues disappear, specifically much of the bad demand – as in this case.

You can’t complete one without the other, but neither should you separate them. Working on customer experience initiatives is a great mechanic for staff to value the importance of delivering a great employee experience too.

10 stats highlighting the importance of Employee Experience on Customer Experience

How understand how you can improve your customer experience performance through a more resilient and rewarding customer experience contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com

Lexden | the Customer Experience Practice 

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