I'M LUCKY TO BE BASED IN RURAL DORSET. i'm probably best described as A DIGITAL STRATEGIST. I EXPLORe DIGITAL AND SUPPORT BUSINESSES all over the uk IN USING IT TO THEIR AND THEIR CUSTOMERS ADVANTAGE.

Customer Engagement is always on…

Here are a couple of examples (albeit in a B2C environment) that I have experienced in the last two weeks that outline badly disjointed marketing, product and customer engagement strategies that resulted in very poor experiences – if only they had looked at all channels as a whole and customers as humans..

Carphone Warehouse.

One lazy Saturday afternoon I dropped into my relatively local Carphone Warehouse to see if I could get a better deal on my expiring mobile phone deal. I was welcomed like an old school friend by a very helpful assistant who upon hearing my requirements asked me the following questions;

·       Name

·       Email

·       Address

·       Current provider

·       What I was looking for in a phone (I love that question – my answer of ‘inner peace’ was met with stony silence).

All very sensible right? So, after a little discussion around the fantastic benefits of the various phones – the assistant processed the information into a tablet and therefore into the Carphone Warehouse service and proposition platform from which the best deals for me would be presented.

Excellent – what a great start to a customer experience – beautifully blending online and offline experiences, from a face to face discussion with an attentive and engaged assistant, to being able to hold the phones in the store through to being presented digitally, with a list of potential options and packages for me to consider.

So, as the assistant had taken my email address – could the options please be emailed to me, so I could have a look and compare at my leisure?

‘A’fraid not’ replied the assistant – ‘we can’t email these out to customers.’  

‘Right, ok why?’

‘Can’t do it, the company doesn’t like it and the system can’t do it’

‘Why did you take my email address then?’

‘It’s a required field’

And so on and so on…….

The assistant had to write the options down on a piece of paper for me before I left the store. How hugely disappointing – what a let-down…. Boooooo!

Suffice to say the end of that engagement resulted in me throwing the paper into a bin and declaring that I’ll stay online when looking for a new phone and that I when I do definitely won’t do it with Carphone Warehouse.

South Western Railway

Travelling into London on an afternoon train - the buffet trolley wandered past, I fancied a coffee so ordered one. Noticing that I was paying by card the attendant started a conversation;

‘Are you paying by card sir?’

‘Yep, yep I am’

‘Minimum payment is two pounds fifty pence on a card.’

‘Ok, cool – how much is a coffee?’

‘That’ll be two pounds thirty pence.’

Knowing what the answer would be I said..

‘Let me guess you have nothing for twenty pence?’

‘That’s right, the cheapest thing we have is one pound...................... I know sir it’s rubbish’

So, a two pounds thirty coffee will cost three pounds thirty.

Now many of you may say – you don’t have to buy a coffee – and you are correct, but that isn’t really the problem – the problem is that South Western Railway have created a completely avoidable crap customer experience within their overall (literal) customer journey, which if you are a public transport provider – creates unnecessary customer angst, frustration and creates the opportunity for peer-shared negative feedback (of which there is plenty for them). 

What’s to be done?

I think businesses need to stop believing their own marketing hype (if that is possible) and really concentrate on customers. Never mind marketing, digital and sales being closely aligned – marketing and customer care within organisations should be in each other’s pockets. Rather than throwing money at the same marketing channels (be this social ad’s etc.) align customer experience with marketing opportunities.

Where the experiences are bad – they should spend shared resources fixing them (be this digital, content, offline or perceptive) and use the opportunity for strategic marketing to create (dare I say) a distraction until they are ready to shout about the fact that their customer experiences are great (ignoring that they were broken to begin with)!!

Ultimately by stepping back and observing a customer’s experience from an objective angle is never a waste of time – there is always something to improve – and therefore an opportunity to increase product and brand loyalty by giving organisations the methods and confidence to constantly develop not only their engagement but also marketing strategies.

In praise of generalists – fighting against commoditisation of skills.

Finding your voice..