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Customer journey mapping

We often receive briefs from our clients which are focused on mapping and optimising a specific ‘as is’ customer journey.  The specificity of such a brief suggests that the journey in question is universally defined and understood across the organisation; however, in our experience, this is often not the case.

You might be asking, ‘Why is this a problem?’  Let’s think about a geographical journey – how can you plan or map out your route (and hope to have the best possible travel experience) without an understanding of…?

  • …Who’s traveling (and what kind of travellers they are – needs, preferences, etc.)?
  • …Where you’re setting off from (your starting point)?
  • …Where you’re trying to get to (desired destination)?
  • …Who and what can help you to get there?

The same principles apply to adopting a customer journey approach.  Critically, before starting to map and optimise its customer journeys, a business needs to ensure that journeys are a) universally defined across the organisation and b) that journeys are defined by customer goals (as opposed to a specific channel/ internal process/ product or service). 

A business should therefore begin by building their ‘Customer Experience (CX) Landscape’- a key (yet often overlooked) first step.

What is a CX Landscape?

A CX Landscape documents (at a high level) the key components of the organisation’s CX – based on current state and including both the ‘front stage’ and ‘back stage’ – and shows how key components relate to/ integrate with each other.  More specifically, a CX Landscape is a framework which provides a business with a clear view of:

1. What customers are aiming to achieve with the organisation (on the ‘front stage’)
2. How the business is currently set-up to support and deliver the CX (‘back stage’)


Why is building a CX Landscape important?

Building a CX Landscape is a critical first step as it:

  • Provides a clear definition of a business’ customer journeys representing a consensus on how many journeys the business has, how they’re defined, and where each journey is perceived to start and end. This, in turn, provides a framework for everyone to work from and a clear scope for any subsequent customer journey mapping (CJM) activities
  • Clarifies governance and ownership – and highlights those areas of the CX which are not currently ‘owned’ or where there are differences in opinion regarding ownership and accountability
  • Provides an overview of current measurement activities, which can then be built upon via detailed deep dives/ evaluations (of individual customer journeys) that help to identify the right metrics and measurement approach for the business
  • Highlights any gaps and overlap in terms of measurement, ownership and processes, etc.
  • Informs customer journey prioritisation – with the best will in the world, a business may not have the resources to map or optimise all customer journeys and/or at best needs to know where to start. Once all journeys have been identified, additional data (e.g. relating to drivers analysis, commercial value, customer volumes, customer segments, etc.) can be overlaid to inform journey prioritisation and categorisation (the nature/ current state of individual journeys may demand different approaches)

What should your CX Landscape look like/ include?

Lifecycle phases


Customer lifecycle phases: the typical steps experienced by customers throughout their end-to-end relationship with the organisation


Journeys

Customer journeys:

  • Defined by what customers are trying to achieve with the brand(s)- i.e. customer goals/ intended outcomes
  • Plotted horizontally to show where they sit across the customer lifecycle, with a (perceived) view of where they start and end
  • Including those which are ‘core’ (to the relationship) and ‘ad hoc’ (only experienced by customers in specific circumstances)
  • With a summary of the key channel(s) that each journey can be experienced through


Metrics

Metrics: what are you measuring and where are you measuring it?  I.e. key metrics (customer, operational & commercial) that help the business to assess the extent to which customers can currently achieve their goals




PeoplePeople: who within the business owns each part of the CX – and who else is responsible for shaping, delivering, and managing it?





processes


Processes:
how and where do internal processes align to, and support the delivery of, the CX?





Tech & tools

Tech. & tools: which systems and tools enable the business to support customers in achieving their goals?






Want to find out how we can work with you to build your organisation’s CX Landscape?  Need support with defining your business’ customer journeys?  We’re here to help – hello@thisislens.co.uk or 0113 344 8640…

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customer experience, Customer experience strategy, Customer research, customer-centric, customer-first

In our last blog (‘CX Principles: Why bother?’) we discussed how and why businesses need Customer Experience (CX) Principles. Below we address another key question sometimes posed by our clients – ‘What makes a good set of CX Principles?’

In our experience, there are six key factors which determine their success:

CX Principles_What makes a good set_Image (1)








1. Buy-in

To deliver a good CX on the ‘front stage’, it is critical to develop the right attitudes and culture ‘back stage’.  Stakeholders and employees need to be engaged with and bought into the CX Principles from the offset and, specifically, need to be fully aware of:

  • Why the CX Principles are required / how they will add value to the business
  • How they will be developed (and how colleagues will be engaged in this process)
  • How they will be applied and used

Communication and on-going colleague engagement in the development of the principles fosters buy-in, which in-turn engenders a culture of cross-functional working, ownership, and accountability – factors which are critical when it comes to the implementation/ roll-out stage.

2. Insight-led

It may sound like an obvious point…but Customer Experience Principles need to be customer-led and built from the bottom-up. More specifically, they should:

  • Start from customer ‘ideals’ derived from primary research with customers
  • Be grounded in human universals/ innate needs and the customer’s desired emotional state – i.e. how they want to feel as a result of their experience with your brand
  • Be built upon and refined using/ via:
    • Existing sources of data and insight across the business, with customer verbatims and sentiment analysis proving critical in this context (e.g. from your VoC programme, complaints data, and customer reviews)
    • Input from a cross-functional group of colleagues, with collaborative sessions used to challenge, refine, and further develop key themes identified through insight and analysis

3. Linked to business strategy

Whilst it is essential that the principles are both customer and insight-led, it is also critical that they are aligned to the overall business direction.  The customer ideals, identified via customer insight, should therefore be reviewed through the lens of the overall business strategy to arrive at the delivery of an experience which is also right for, and representative of, the business and what it stands for. 

For example; when describing the ideal airline experience, leisure customers may want to feel ‘special’/ ‘valued’ and describe tangible aspects of the experience such as a complimentary limousine service, being greeted by air hostesses with free champagne, and/or their own private area in the cabin as delivering on this.  However, these features are not aligned to a low-cost airline’s proposition; so, for a low-cost carrier, the question then becomes, ‘What can we do to make our customers feel special/ valued (within the realms of our proposition)?’

4. Understood

For principles to be embedded effectively across an organisation, they need to be universally understood and, like the CX vision (discussed in last week’s blog), not left open to interpretation.  To be understood, the principles need to be:

  • Clearly defined and brought to life through real life examples (customer scenarios), which make sense to both frontline and back office colleagues
  • Memorable – employees are not going to remember a list of 20+ principles! In our experience, 3-6 overall/ ‘headline’ principles are optimum (though these will have underlying attributes that explain how they will be delivered).  The business may then also consider ways to keep its principles top of mind; for example, this may include a mnemonic and/or ongoing engagement tools such as a customer room, short films, and posters/ artwork around the premises

5. Can be applied

In order for CX Principles to be applied day-to-day it is critical that the framework is:

  • Rigid yet flexible – i.e. supports a consistent CX whilst also allowing sensible flexibility to account for nuances across brands, customer journeys, products, services, and channels, etc.
  • Realistic – i.e. built upon a realisation that things sometimes go wrong (even for brands that are leaders in CX). In fact, putting the customer back in a better place than where they started can result in a happier customer.   Principles therefore need to consider both the ‘happy’ and ‘unhappy’ paths, with a plan for turning a negative CX into a positive one
  • Holistic – in a world where customer expectations and tech are simultaneously evolving, CX Principles need to deliver on the desired experience of both today and tomorrow. (As well as accounting for the very basic elements of the CX/ ‘hygiene factors’), a good set of principles will include aspirational attributes – things that the business may not necessarily be set-up to achieve right now…but elements that it aspires to achieve in the future, feeding directly into customer journey design

6. Can be delivered and measured

Finally, to prove the added value of CX Principles (and to ensure they continue to drive customer-led change), they need to be:

  • Linked to organisational behaviours – with a clear link between touchpoints and how they make customers feel, bringing to life the impact that colleagues from across the business have on the CX
  • Embedded and part of BAU, including change processes, journey design and re-design, and SLAs with suppliers, etc.
  • Part of the internal measurement process – with colleagues asked to evidence how they’re delivering against them as part of the employee renumeration process
  • Part of the external measurement process – with performance against principles and their role in driving key metrics (e.g. NPS/ CSAT/ CES) understood on an ongoing basis

Do you have experience of developing/ embedding CX Principles within your organisation?  We’d love to hear your thoughts and experience in terms of what’s key to driving success…

 

 

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customer experience, Customer experience awards, Customer experience strategy, Customer journey, customer-centric, customer-first, Uncategorised

We’re excited to announce that lens Co-Founder, Vicky Smith, will be judging at the UK Customer Experience Awards 2018.

With a great list of finalists announced, we’re really looking forward to being part of the judging process and can’t wait to see the presentations at Wembley on 11th October – it will be great to see how things have moved on since 2017.

If you’re involved in and/or are going to be at the Awards, please do get in touch – we’d love to hear from you!

 

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customer experience, Customer experience strategy, customer-centric, customer-first, Uncategorised

Customer Experience (CX) Principles do what they say on the tin – i.e. they are a set of guiding principles which exist to inform the design, delivery, optimisation, and ongoing measurement of your CX.  They are customer-led, grounded in the customer’s desired emotional state, and comprise the key ingredients of a great experience with your brand.

‘But why do we need them?’ 

‘We already have brand values, employee values, digital/ UX design principles in place…’

‘…Aren’t they just another set of principles to remember?’

…These are just some of the valid challenges that we hear from our clients’ stakeholders and employees.  Below is a summary of the five key reasons why CX Principles add value to a business and are key to CX success:

CX Principles_Benefits_Image (2)














1. Make your CX vision a reality

Many businesses have a CX vision – a statement which summarises the business’ aspirations and the experience it wants to deliver to its customers.  For example, IKEA’s CX vision is to, ‘create a better everyday life for the many people’ whilst The Ritz-Carlton strives to ‘enliven the senses, instil well-being, and fulfil even the unexpressed wishes and needs of guests.’  However, although they come across as genuine and inspiring, what do either of these statements (and words such as ‘better’ and ‘enliven’) actually mean? 

Vision statements alone are open to interpretation and therefore at risk of being nothing more than a nice idea without the necessary substance behind them.  CX Principles act as a framework, with underlying attributes, designed to remove ambiguity and clearly define what your CX vision means and how employees should aim to deliver it in practice.

2. Develop a customer-centric culture

When embedded successfully across an organisation, CX Principles unite colleagues from all business functions around one goal – delivering the best possible outcome for the customer.  This means that customer will be one of the lenses that a business challenge or proposed change is viewed through, i.e. ‘If we make this change, what impact will this have on the customer and their experience with us?  How will we make them feel?  And what will they do differently as a result?’  CX Principles therefore support the development of a customer-centric culture by:

  • Facilitating customer-led conversations
  • Highlighting that everyone, from back office to frontline, has a role to play in (and an impact on) the experience delivered to customers
  • Looking at the experience holistically, cutting across business silos and supporting cross-functional working

Organisations who are truly striving to be customer-centric may also take this one step further, including their CX Principles in their employee review and renumeration criteria.

3. Deliver a consistent experience

In today’s omnichannel world, customers are increasingly connected through technology and, in fact, can be interacting with a brand via multiple channels at any one time.  And customer expectations are simultaneously evolving – 75% of consumers expect a consistent experience wherever they engage with a brand (irrespective of channel) and 87% of consumers think brands need to do more to provide a seamless experience.  CX Principles take account of all relevant channels, with underlying attributes that are generic enough to allow for nuances across channels, yet specific enough to support the design and delivery of a consistent CX.  For example, a business may have a principle around ease/ reducing customer effort, with one of the underlying attributes being focused on the customer ‘getting to where they need to be in a maximum of two steps.’  When translated into different channels, this could mean two options on an IVR menu, two clicks on the company’s website, or face-to-face contact with two colleagues in branch/ store.

4. Differentiate your experience

In the age of the customer, a brand is only as good as the experience that it delivers.  CX Principles are therefore not only built on what your customers want, need, and expect from your type of business – e.g. a building society or digital retailer – but also what they want and expect from your brand specifically.  This means that:

  • They will need to be aligned to, and deliver upon, your overarching business strategy, CX strategy, and brand promise (a brand experience)
  • They have the potential to include ‘signature actions’ which differentiate your brand from the competition and make your experience both unique and recognisable (a branded experience); for example –
    • The DoubleTree cookie, with which guests at DoubleTree Hilton Hotels are greeted at check-in to make them feel special and valued…
    • …Or the Starbucks tradition of labelling the customer’s cup with their first name, to make the experience feel personalised


5. Measure your CX performance 

Last, but by no means least, CX Principles can add depth to your CX measurement, ensuring that the business remains focused on measuring those ingredients which matter most to its customers.  Businesses with established CX Principles are able to understand:

  • The impact of each principle on overall metrics (e.g. CSAT/ NPS/ CES), highlighting the components of the experience that they may need to focus on or dial up
  • Performance against each of the principles – benchmarking the business’ own performance year-on-year and/or versus competitors (where relevant/ appropriate) – indicating clear areas for improvement
  • Which principle is most important at each phase/ stage of the customer journey, providing a clear focus for experience design/ re-design

Want to know more about CX Principles?  Look out for our next blog, coming soon, where we will discuss what makes a good set of CX Principles (and why) & how your principles should be developed…

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customer experience, Customer experience awards, customer-centric, customer-first, Digital customer experience, tech

We’re delighted to announce that lens Co-Founder, Helen Fennell, will be judging at the UK Digital Experience Awards 2018, which will take place in London on 12th July.

With a great list of finalists announced, we’re really looking forward to being part of the judging process.

We’re also interested in seeing if/how the key considerations that we discussed in our previous blog (focused on the UK Customer Experience Awards 2017) might have been applied to digital experience specifically.

If you’re involved in and/or are going to be at the Awards, please do get in touch – we’d love to hear from you!

 

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customer experience, Customer journey, Customer journey mapping, Customer journeys, Customer research, customer-first
CJM Pitfalls slides_AS IS




















1. The journey map as the ‘end goal’

The common mistake

  • If the production of a journey map is the main aim, and hopes are on the map to ‘turn insight into action’, then this will lead to disappointment
  • The map might as well be a report, or another way of presenting some information, perhaps just a bit prettier and more visually engaging
  • In this instance, a journey map has no more guarantees of driving action than any other form of an insight-led report or document – a map isn’t magic

Avoiding the mistake…

  • Customer journey mapping should be part of an overall commitment towards taking a customer-first approach
  • Outputs such as the map and action plans are the tools that will support this – only then, will the map become magical
  • The ‘end goal’ for mapping customer journeys should be to provide the business with a way of understanding, improving and managing the customer experience (around customer needs)

 

2. A customer journey defined by a product, channel or service

The common mistake

  • We have witnessed many briefs over the years with requirements to map specific journeys such as the ‘contact centre’ journey, the ‘mortgage’ journey, the ‘personal advisor’ journey
  • This approach is an ‘inside out’ view of the customer journey, whereby the journey is viewed from a business and operational perspective, rather than from how the customer would view their experience
  • Taking this ‘inside out’ approach to mapping a journey would be a mistake and would result in not achieving the true benefits of a customer journey approach

Avoiding the mistake…

  • Customer journey mapping requires an ‘outside in’ view to be taken from the offset; defining journeys according to what customers are able to / want to achieve with a brand
  • Once a business has defined their journeys according to this, customer journey mapping will come in to its own, enabling a business to:
    • Map the end-to-end journey – the start and end points of the journey from the customers’ point of view and all that happens in-between, and not just the interactions with the business itself
    • Understand the role of channel(s), why customers use specific channels and when (by choice or being forced due to issues in other channels), how customers move between channels
    • The needs and wants of customers across the journey, and the intended outcomes – how these differ and the extent to which a brand is delivering on this (according to different goals / intended outcomes) e.g. ‘Outside in’ view: ‘Mortgage journey’, ‘Inside out’ view: ‘I want to buy my first home’, ‘I want to remortgage my house’ etc.
    • The true opportunities to optimise the journey through understanding the emotional and rational context (not just the physical interactions) and the aspects of the experience that a brand could potentially play a role / stronger role in (that they may not know exist or are viewed as ‘out of their control’)

 

3. Building a view of the customer journey through use of existing insight only

The common mistake

  • Use of insight and data that is held internally across the business is critical – in both building an initial view of the journey and to continue to monitor performance of a business’ customer journeys
  • Using this as the only source of insight, however, means that
    • The business does not actually engage with customers as part of the process of mapping journeys, they don’t witness actual customer experiences and the true impact these are having
    • The experiences may be ‘out of date’ – we have been through journey mapping exercises with clients ourselves and witnessed changes to internal processes that have been made internally by the business in-between the time we have mapped the ‘as is’ to the point in which we were optimising
    • The detail gets missed – the detail that can reveal some pretty ginormous issues with the customer experience. A specific example we have come across is where routing of customers between channels appeared so much more complex than the business viewed it. This revealed that the no-one across the business was actually managing the process that enabled customers to successfully book an appointment in the channel of their choice.
    • The emotional context gets lost – ‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel’ – with emotion believed to account for 70% of the CX (McKinsey – “70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated.”). Without this understanding of emotion, how will a business be able to delight customers and truly innovate around their needs?

Avoiding the mistake…

  • Existing insight that is held across the business will be hugely valuable as part of building the view of the customer journey and measuring performance moving forwards. This should not, however, replace the need to conduct primary customer research with customers who are experiencing / have experienced the journey
  • Every exercise that involves mapping journeys should involve direct engagement with customers, be it existing ones, lapsed and prospect – nothing will replace this! CUSTOMER journey mapping – the clue is in the name!

 

4. Customer journey mapping – another term for ‘workshops’
The common mistake

  • As a clientside professional once said to us.. “I’m sure you run a great workshop, just like every other consultant…”
  • Thank you we thought (!), but running ‘another workshop’ is the least of our concerns – it’s the 2000 pain point post-it notes that you are now having to ‘address’…
  • When establishing a clients’ starting point for customer journey work, we also sometimes hear… “We have mapped the journey already – we have run lots of workshops internally”

Avoiding the mistake…

  • Mapping journeys in business / stakeholder workshops are a tried and tested way of mapping the customer journey from an internal perspective – and it’s great to see so many organisations doing this
  • But to us, it’s not just a ‘workshop’, it’s a very strategically planned exercise, call it a workshop or not, it requires:
    • a significant amount of planning and set-up, executed in the right way
    • a very clear set of mapping guidelines and definitions – for mapping key components such as phases, stages, touchpoints, MoT’s etc.
    • an ability to manage and facilitate differing perspectives without it resulting in a ‘battleground’
    • an ability to consider all views without resulting in 2000 ‘pain points’
    • facilitated action planning and continued engagement on the back of the workshops
    • a well-thought out programme of continuous work and assigned responsibility that will make absolutely certain that the end result is not a journey map (in a drawer)

 

5. Frontline representation

The common mistake…

  • Understandably, frontline representation across a programme to map, optimise and/ or redesign journeys can be a challenge – be it a global cabin crew or a UK based small contact centre team
  • Due to resourcing challenges, clients often ask that we forego frontline representation as part of the mapping process

Avoiding the mistake…

  • Frontline are critical – they often have the closest grasp on the customers and they also shed light on the reality of processes, the workarounds and highlight the nuances and the detail of the experience (which can showcase just how inconsistent the customer experience can be)
  • Frontline employees are also the ones that will need to embrace any change so are the people you need to make feel involved from the offset and throughout for the whole exercise to pay off…
  • Plan ahead and accommodate in any way you can to make sure the frontline view is in some way represented as part of the business view of the customer journey

These are just some of the easy mistakes to make…We’d love to hear about your own experiences of customer journey mapping and discuss how to overcome any challenges you might be facing or have faced.

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customer experience, Customer journey, Customer journey mapping capability, Customer journeys, customer-centric, Digital customer experience, financial services, life insurance

The life insurance industry continues to face several long-standing and well-established challenges –  low levels of consumer interest and engagement, a lack of knowledge/ understanding of products, and generally low levels of consumer trust in insurance brands (to name a few). Today, in the age of the customer, life insurance companies are also faced with:

Recently named as ‘Best Online Life Insurance Provider’ at the 2017 Your Money Awards, Beagle Street are a company who have, since starting out in 2012, faced these challenges head on and are truly embracing the age of the customer.  A recent experience of purchasing life insurance with Beagle Street has enabled us to illustrate the key success factors that contribute to them getting it right…

#1 Strong and differentiated branding

I’d personally been putting off purchasing life insurance for months, having done some initial research via specialist online aggregators and then telling myself that I would ‘do it later.’  I was only prompted to think about life insurance again when I saw Beagle Street’s recent TV ad.  My initial reaction was, ‘Who?!’  Being honest, I’d never heard of the brand; however, their informal and friendly branding and tone of voice stood out against my perception that life insurance brands can be ‘stuffy’ – so it got my attention right away.  The ad. went on to build positive perceptions of the brand in two ways – 1) it spoke to me in my own language – plain English, not insurance jargon and 2) it highlighted Beagle Street’s free will service (amongst other things) which, to me, said that the business has integrity.  This wasn’t enough to convert me at this point…but it did put Beagle Street firmly on my shortlist.

Again, I waited a while before acting – prompted to re-engage with the sector by a text message from a (rather persistent) Independent Financial Advisor.  My further research, this time via one of the big four comparison sites, put Beagle Street at the top of the list on price (they were cheaper for a higher level of cover) – reaffirming my perceptions re. integrity. 

What stood out to me next was the ‘about us’ section on their website, which gave me the impression that their proposition genuinely had been developed based on a sound understanding of customer needs…and this, in turn, made me feel that I wanted to take the next step on my journey – a deeper exploration of how they might be able to meet my needs.

#2 A clear and simple explanation of products

I then decided to start the online application process, though wasn’t completely sure if I’d see it through to purchase at this stage.  It’s worth pointing out that I do know a little bit about life insurance, having previously worked with various insurance brands; however, this was the first time that I had personally purchased it – so I’m by no means an expert.

The clear and concise explanation of the different product types was therefore really helpful – not too much information but just enough to confirm that what I thought was correct…and there was further information available if I needed it. 

Image 1

#3 A quick and easy online purchase journey

The application process itself was super quick (it took me about 10mins from start to finish) and was really easy.  A couple of things that contributed to this were:

  • I was able to do a ‘quick quote’ before the full application
  • Throughout the ‘quick quote’ I was only shown one question at a time
  • Questions were displayed in a clear and visual way, using large icons (like in the screenshot above) and boxes
  • The application form was really intuitive (e.g. my personal details were pulled from the ‘quick quote’ through to the full application) and…
  • …finally, it felt like minimal effort for me as I didn’t have to do a lot of typing!

As well as the above specifics, it’s also worth noting that I was able to complete the end-to-end application form online – i.e. via my channel of choice – something that, even today, we shouldn’t take for granted.

#4 A memorable welcome

At the end of the application process a pop-up appeared, offering web chat with a message along the lines of, ‘Hello, welcome to Beagle Street, would you like to chat?’ I didn’t take them up on the offer as, at that stage, I didn’t feel that I needed to; however, it did make me feel ‘welcomed’ as a new customer.   You may argue that they could/ should have offered web chat earlier in the journey (when I may have still had some product-related questions to answer to inform my decision) – and there is definitely a case for this.  However, the fact that it was offered when they already had my business made me feel that they genuinely value me as a customer. They also followed-up quite quickly with an invite to complete a survey, which tells me that they are interested in my feedback – and, as a result, it re-affirmed that they value their customers.

#5 Clear comms. that set my expectations

And last, but by no means least, was the way that they clearly set my expectations at key points in the journey.  Upon completion of the application, I was told the three things I should expect to happen next, alongside my key policy details, who to contact if I had a problem, and three things I may want to do myself (see below).

Image 4

I’ve gone ahead and done the first of those two things and, on their part, Beagle Street both sent my documents and uploaded them online.  However, if I were to highlight one area for consideration, it’s the role that other channels may play in supporting this digital experience/ ensuring a connected experience across channels – e.g. I don’t recall them contacting me directly for my ‘welcome call’ (as promised above).

The impact?

I was left feeling genuinely positive about a) the fact that I had purchased life insurance and b) that I am now a customer of Beagle Street.  I now have high hopes about my experience moving forwards as I sense that Beagle Street values me as a customer – it will be interesting to see if or how they engage with me to remind me of how my policy meets my needs throughout life over the next few years…

 

 

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B2B customer experience, customer-centric, customer-first, Hospitality & Leisure

hub by PI - image 1

Ever stayed at a hub by Premier Inn hotel?  Whilst in London for business the other week, we tried it out for the first time and wanted to share our thoughts – both in terms of the concept itself, and whether its innovative design meets the needs of its target customers…

…So, what’s the concept all about?

Described as, ‘…The new urban hotel where location matters and size doesn’t,’ the brand promises customers a central location at a lower price point – or, as hub by Premier Inn says, ‘A stay at the heart of the action for less’.  For this lower price point, customers need to be willing to trade-off the size of the room on the basis that they will get ‘all the comfort, half the size’ in ‘cleverly crafted rooms.’  On top of this, customers are also promised ‘the latest tech. to keep you connected.’  So far, so good – the positioning is clear and lets customers know what to expect before booking.

Who’s it for?

hub by Premier Inn says that its rooms (‘standard’ or ‘bigger’) have been designed around ‘you’ – but who is ‘you’?  On the basis of its design and positioning, and after reading a bit more on the Whitbread website, it seems sensible to assume that it has been designed with two main types of target customer in mind – 1) the business traveller and 2) singles/ couples on a short city break.  As many of our clients are based in London, one of two locations where hub hotels are currently located, we very much fit into ‘Group 1.’

What were/ are our specific needs as business travellers?

On this particular trip, we were in London to conduct some customer research on the evening of our stay, with a client debrief session the following day.  Therefore, our top three needs were:

  • A good, central location – i.e. close to our client’s offices and public transport links
  • A competitive price – as with any small start-up business, we’re keen to manage costs efficiently and were looking at price per room versus other budget hotel chains
  • Somewhere we could work together – with an imminent client meeting to prepare for, we needed a quiet and well-equipped space where we could work…preferably with decent coffee on tap!

Our top three needs formed our decision-making criteria, leading us to choose a hub hotel in the first place – we had a choice of a hub hotel, a standard Premier Inn, and a Travelodge (all a short distance from our client’s offices).  Though collaborative work spaces are not promoted as a key selling point of the hub concept, our expectations were that a) a hub hotel would offer better collaborative working space than a Travelodge and b) given the focus on business, the hub hotel’s work space would be at least equal to (if not better than) a standard Premier Inn.  Our high expectations, coupled with the lower price point, led us to take a ‘risk’ and book a hub hotel.

Over and above this, when travelling for business, we’re also particularly looking for:

  • Clean rooms, with comfortable beds and desks where we can work if needed
  • A strong, reliable Wi-Fi connection (preferably free)
  • Basic facilities that mean we can ‘travel light’ – e.g. toiletries, a hairdryer, etc.
  • Enough space to hang our clothes (and an iron available if needed)
  • ‘Fuel for the day’ – i.e. a decent breakfast and ample tea & coffee

And, unlike when travelling for leisure, we’re far less bothered about having a massive room, extra facilities/ ‘frills’ (e.g. a pool/ gym), and being close to tourist attractions, etc.

How well did the experience deliver against our needs?

For those of you who are familiar with the Channel 4 TV programme, Four in a Bed, you’ll know that, on the show, four sets of B&B owners take turns to host with a view to decide who offers overall value for money.  They evaluate each other’s B&Bs based on four main criteria – 1) their hosts 2) cleanliness 3) the facilities and 4) the breakfast.  Now, we’re not for a minute suggesting that this is the criteria that all customer experiences should be evaluated by – as we all know, it’s about much more than just these rational/ functional factors!  However, given that the criteria broadly relate to our needs and are focused on the Hospitality & Leisure sector – and in the spirit of having a little fun with our blog – we’ve decided to review our experience in the same way…

a




















b




As you avid Four in a Bed viewers will know, contestants are also asked two additional important questions…
c


We did feel that the hub by Premier Inn offered value for money overall and, all things considered, that the £179 per room was competitive for a one-night stay in central London.  In our view, the compromise in terms of size of room is not an issue for a short business trip – especially when you’re currently guaranteed a new, modern room (as the hub hotels have only been around for around 2 years).

The impact?

The hub by Premier Inn is an example of great customer experience (CX) design – the concept:

  • Sets, manages, and delivers on customer expectations
  • Is based on the needs of target customers – and is focused on the things that matter most (particularly in terms of the design of the rooms)
  • ‘Mirrors’ the modern business world with the use of the latest tech.
  • Feels new, ‘cool’ and different – a bit of a novelty…but also feels very relevant/ ‘for you’ and creates a sense that you’re ‘on business’ (so connects with customers emotionally)

Yes, we’d absolutely stay again when travelling for business.  However, the real question is, ‘Would we stay at hub by Premier Inn again over and above other budget/ value hotel brands?’  The answer…

  • …If the price was equal to/ only slightly higher than some competitor brands (e.g. Travelodge or ibis) then yes, based on a) the current guarantee of new, modern rooms with (in our opinion) superior facilities and b) the fact that hub hotels are specifically for business
    …If the price was equal to/ or only slightly less than a ‘standard’ Premier Inn or a brand with a comparable offering (e.g. Holiday Inn, in our opinion), then our choice would not be as clear cut – yes, the hub experience is different but, all things considered, we wouldn’t necessarily say it is ‘superior’

Our closing thoughts/ questions…

Let’s remind ourselves of the key selling points of the hub concept:

  • A central location at a lower price point (with the compromise of a smaller room)
  • Carefully crafted rooms – guaranteed to be new and modern (given the age of the hubs)
  • The latest tech. to keep you connected

With these points in mind…

  • …Are the hub hotels really/ always in a better location than other budget hotels?
  • …As owners of a small start-up, we’re still price conscious…but many individuals booking business travel will work for large corporates/ won’t be directly affected by cost – so is/ will the lower price point be enough to encourage customers to trade-off size of room?
  • …What happens when the ‘novelty’ of the concept wears off – and the rooms are no longer as new/ modern (presumably Whitbread will need to keep refurbing them)?
  • …The tech. is innovative and mirrors the world of business – but is it all necessary? Is it compelling enough to influence purchase decisions?
  • …What does the current experience feel like for singles/ couples on a short city break?
  • …How will Whitbread continue to develop the hub hotels based on customer feedback / evolving customer needs? For example, will they introduce business areas for collaborative working/ meeting rooms in the future?  (There is a clear role for customer journey mapping (CJM) and experience design in this context – e.g. CJM to identify opportunities to improve comms. around the QR code; experience design to co-create the ideal collaborative working space with customers)

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the hub by Premier Inn concept and on our comments in this blog – please do share your thoughts/ experiences with us below…

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B2B customer experience, Customer experience strategy, Customer journey, Customer journey mapping, Customer journeys, customer-centric, customer-first, start-up businesses

UK start-up businesses are on the rise – 2016 saw a record number (650,000) of new start-ups, with this trend predicted to continue in 2017. Alongside this, customer experience is being recognised as a driver of growth amongst B2B service providers, yet less than 25% are excelling and only 23% of B2B organisations claim to have a customer-centric approach. With last week marking six months since starting up ourselves as ‘lens’, we wanted to reflect on some of our own experiences to illustrate:

– Why we firmly believe that a ‘customer first’ approach is so important
– How getting the customer experience ‘wrong’ can have a negative impact on customer behaviour, loyalty, and advocacy
– …And why/ where significant opportunities exist for B2B organisations who ‘get it right’

Here, we take a look at some of the fundamentals of a customer first approach and illustrate how they played out across our own experiences when starting out…

#1 – Understand your customers’ mind-set and needs

Taking the plunge into ‘start-up world’ brought about a whole series of conflicting emotions – we were in a place that we hadn’t been in before…a totally different ‘mind-set’. We were very focused on an overall mission – ‘To set-up our business so that we were ready to go on day 1’. This meant creating a ‘to do’ list which included things like registering the business, buying (and setting-up) the right IT equipment, taking out the right business insurance, and setting-up business banking, etc.  Each item on our ‘to do’ list represented an individual customer journey that we would go on, with each journey involving different organisations.

Our mind-set very much shaped our needs, which was somewhat different to what we would want/ need as a consumer – we were a different persona.  In general, we felt that very few of the organisations we dealt with really took the time to understand this.  Some of the banks got off to a reasonable start – they suggested that they had products for us by having the word ‘business’ in the naming of their accounts and, with some, we could then look at accounts for ‘start-ups’ versus those who were ‘already running a business’ or ‘switching providers.’  Beyond this, the questions they asked us were pretty much about facts and figures (e.g. ‘What will your turnover/ net profit be, will you be dealing in cash?’) and not about what we actually needed.

The impact?

First impressions count.  We started out feeling that we weren’t fully understood and that the banks, in particular, weren’t all that interested in us as a business. Turns out, that feeling became a reality…

#2 – Design around customer goals, not a product or a process

After understanding who your customers/ target customers are, the next question a business should ask is, ‘What are customers trying to achieve with us?’  This leads to the identification of customer goals, which define individual customer journeys, e.g. ‘to set-up our business banking.’ 

It quickly became clear that the bank had designed their experience around their product and associated process, not around us achieving our goal.  This was most apparent in terms of where we each perceived our journey to end – to us, being ‘set-up’ meant that we had everything we needed and knew how to access and manage our accounts; to the bank, the emphasis seemed to be on our account being open – they sent out the necessary comms. and then it felt like ‘job done’…

The impact?

In the short-term, we had some issues with setting-up and support was hard to find – we were unsure who to contact, which lead to us sending several emails and making quite a few calls.  This quickly descended in to feelings of ‘what have we done…’

#3 – Map the end-to-end journey, not just interactions with your brand

It’s also important to note where our business banking journey had started, which was before we got in touch with our chosen bank.  We’d begun by researching and comparing bank accounts online and seeking recommendations from other businesses, meaning that we came armed with information, perceptions, and expectations.  This vital context surrounding interactions, including the ‘route’ taken to get to the brand, is often missed by businesses, who often perceive that the customer journey starts at first contact with their organisation. 

The impact?

In our case, setting-up business banking was also just one of the journeys that we were on in our ‘quest’ to achieve our overall mission – and many of these journeys were dependent on each other, e.g. we couldn’t set-up our direct debit for insurance without our bank account details.  Therefore, when we had to wait 4 weeks for an in-branch appointment, it may not have seemed like a big deal; however, to us, this was part of a much bigger picture – meaning it was more of a ‘pain point’ than the bank is likely to have anticipated.

#4 – Understand the rational journey – i.e. the thought process and support needs beyond the product/ service

The bigger picture, and the journeys themselves, were also about much more than the physical interactions (touch-points) we experienced – the more touch-points we went through, the more questions we had…and the extent to which we could get answers dictated our behaviour. 

When it came to laptops, we wanted to know which one was right for us.  We started off in store, where one retailer provided attempted to provide some POS guidance – laptops for different ‘purposes’ (none of which mapped to what we needed).  We reverted to comparing laptops online and managed to narrow our options down by seeking recommendations from friends and family in business and applying some guess work.  To make our final decision, we decided to go in back in to store, where we chose the most expensive of our shortlisted options.

The impact?

You could argue that this was a win for the retailer as we bought the most expensive laptop from our shortlist.  However, we also needed an ‘all-in-one’ printer/ scanner, a cloud-based storage/ file sharing system, and various software…cue more questions. We’d have happily bought them all in one go if we’d have known we could get the answers we needed.  However, the lack of proactive help from the ‘advisor’ in-store meant we decided it would be ‘easier’ to go back online and purchase the other items we needed from elsewhere – so, does this really count as a ‘win’?

 #5 – Understand what matters most (and why) to build an emotional connection

Across the different journeys, we expected to feel a ‘healthy level’ of anxiety – but there were some stages/ touch-points where we felt more anxious.  In some cases, this felt natural; in others, this was due to, or at least ‘heightened’ by, poor customer experience. When we started our business banking account journey, we wanted an in-branch appointment initially – we called to make one, the contact centre ‘pushed us’ back online…and even when we were (finally) at our appointment, it was suggested that an online application might have been better. Whilst online would be our preferred channel in ‘consumer world,’ this was different – we were in a new territory and we had to get this right. 

The impact?

We wanted to use specific channels for specific reasons. Whilst digital channels will enable us to manage our accounts ongoing, at this point we wanted face-to-face contact with someone who would be on-hand to answer key questions we had and would be accountable for helping us to achieve our goal. For the bank, this was a real opportunity to connect with us and start to build a relationship – whilst in the end, they gave us an initial face-to-face meeting, it was with reluctance and we certainly didn’t feel valued. Our stance now is that we’ll stay with them for the free banking period offered by the product; however, beyond that, our decision will depend on how well they respond to what matters to us in future.  Building an emotional connection where/ when it matters most is so important in terms of customer loyalty and advocacy – people will forget what you said or did but will remember, and talk about, how you made them feel.

#6 – Measure the right things and prioritise based on key drivers

The things that matter most to customers should be amongst the things that a business measures – this means focusing on key stages/ touch-points (‘moments of truth’) and the drivers of satisfaction across these interactions. 

The impact?

Our experience has led us to question whether the organisations we have dealt with have designed around the things that are important to start-up businesses specifically… Interestingly, none of the organisations that we have dealt with have approached us to ask us for feedback on our experiences.

Some final reflections…

So… we didn’t have the best customer experiences and we wouldn’t recommend the bank or the retailer…or any of the businesses we dealt with for that matter.

As the start-up market continues to grow, it’s time to take things seriously. Adopt a customer-first approach; Get the customer experience right, identify opportunities to fulfil other needs at the right points, create reasons for business customers to be loyal, and build advocates of the future.

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