Friday, January 22, 2016

Knock knock - who's there? Your customer experience

John Lewis is no longer the exemplar in UK customer service. Amazon has stolen its place at the top of the list. It is precisely JL's inability to replicate its in store customer experience online which is costing it so dear.

See the top 50 here

In store they can control. Online, they lose control of the last few yards - the delivery. Tesco, it seems, has understood this - investing in training for its delivery van folk. They seem on the whole a cheery bunch (at least where I live), happy to be doing their job and representing the brand with real concern. They have understood where the human touch of brand interaction actually happens in an online transaction - on the doorstep.

Compare and contrast to a John Lewis delivery. Some great - some not. None controlled by the brand. The click and collect system seem to melt down at Christmas (a camera I went to pick up in store never arrived. Hours spent on the phone resulted in it finally being delivered to me at home. That came with a promise of a £20 goodwill refund. Checked my credit card statement only today (nearly a month later) and the refund never was made. Another phone call today should have remedied that - fingers crossed).

Some fragile deliveries have been slung over garden gates.

JL aren't alone in getting the less-the-perfect service from the delivery outfits they employ. But given the very high value they place on service they have to ask themselves if the gap in control of the customer experience they have opened up is too great.

Consistent customer experience has to drive through the entire journey. The last touch-point you can afford to scrimp on is the one where the customer physically interacts with the brand. Often, and increasingly, that's the delivery person.

Is Amazon perfect? No but more of its deliveries go right than anyone else's I try - and that is my experience of the brand and therefore the one I share with my peers.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The 10 Principles of Open Business - in Chinese

I'm pleased to say the rights to publish The 10 Principles of Open Business in simplified Chinese have been sold to China Renmin University Press.
I'm really looking forward to seeing how it looks and delighted that the message is being shared with the world's most populous and fastest-growing nation.
I'm fascinated to see the results of that...

Monday, January 11, 2016

He told us not to blow it

David Bowie taught a generation is was great to think different.
He was as much a  platform for innovation and creativity as Apple ever will be.
Yes I have been a lifelong fan, Ive seen him play arenas, festivals, Cambridge Corn Exchange and, on one memorable occasion in the tiny below stairs nightclub of a London hotel as he warmed up for the Earthling tour.
I published a fanzine dedicated to the man called Hunky Dory. It sold in its niche around the world. Don't know what a Fanzine is? It's what we used to do before blogging.
So it's easy to conclude I'm biased. I'm going over the top because he who fell to Earth is now raised up among the stars.
But I'm serious about the Apple comparison. For my money two men impacted our culture more than any others in the late 20th Century and early 21st - Steve Jobs with his hard and software and David Bowie - with his permission.
He gave us the permission to be different, to challenge the normal, to seek something extraordinary - in ourselves and in each other.
As news of his death starts to sink in, I'm finding the best way to cope is to remember what he gave us - and to try to use it everyday.
Look out your windows - and don't forget to sparkle.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

50 years of me

It's my birthday today. My 50th. I know lots of people do their review of the year or predictions on December 31. I'm going to have more of a wander down memory lane. 50 years makes you pause and reflect. Those of a certain age may enjoy the reminiscences...

Change is the constant of the last 50 years of course. Isn't it? I wonder if in fact it may have been a story of massive technological change in the very earliest years of my life followed by a frenzeid four decades of commercialisation of that technology.

In the first five years of my life we put a man on the moon, the first supersonic commercial jet liner took off for the first time (a feat NASA scientists regarded as a greater technical achievement) and the first two nodes of the internet were connected.

Actually all of these things happened  in 1969.

Compare this with the life of ordinary folk. I went to school, aged 4 and a bit, probably in 1970. Occasionally we would all be called outside to watch as Concorde flew on test from the relatively nearby RAE Thurleigh (I grew up in Bedfordshire, UK). Hi-tech huh? Inside we had blackboards and chalk. Even in my junior school the desks retained the holes where inkwells used to be held.

While I studied for an O-level in Computer Studies (writing code, in BASIC) the only time I saw a computer at school was in those o-level lessons (around 1980-82). We had the first rubber keyboard Spectrums.

At university I typed not on a word processor, but on a manual typewriter. It wasn't even electric.Research meant the library.

I owned a home pc before I got exposed to one at work. Mine was a Spectrum. ZX-82 (please correct me) I think - proper keyboard, playing games loaded by cassette player. Copying was easy.

I worked in media and over the course of a decade we moved from typing on three layers of paper separated by carbon paper (to create copies) to Macs with the power of 'super computers'. Lots of folks lost their jobs.

By then (early 90s) the internet was becoming a thing. I got internet access at home before I did at work. But boy was it slow. Even so, internet banking seemed infinitely preferable to the High Street alternative. In the next month or so I'll be taking delivery of a new broadband offering up to 500mb. Back then I had 512kb.

This past Christmas my guestimate is that 90% of my spend was online.

When I was born, the second world war was just 20 years behind us. We were reaping the technological peace dividend.

But since 1969 what giant leaps for mankind have we made?

Put it like that and smartphones and tablets can be easily dismissed as ways of commercialising the internet.

Medical advances have been spectacular - but we are only generally exposed to these when they become a matter of life and death to our nearest and dearest. We don't have a cure for cancer, nor for many other diseases.

And most painfully of all, despite the massive resources we have accumulated, the brilliant minds we are capable of connecting, we have not solved the problem of poverty. All the data suggests that, even in developed countries, the gap between rich and poor is growing.

  • The gap between the rich and poor can be illustrated by the fact that the three wealthiest individuals in the world have assets that exceed those of the poorest 10 percent of the world's population.
  • The fact that inequality exists between nations is seen in the statistic that the world's wealthiest countries have just 13% of the world's population but 45% of its purchasing power; the poorest nations have 42% of the world's population and 9% of its purchasing power.
  • Source: Boundless. “Growing Gap Between Rich and Poor.” Boundless Sociology. Boundless, 21 Jul. 2015. Retrieved 31 Dec. 2015 from
    Our great technological leaps have given many of us significantly better, more connected, healthier, wealthier lives. That has been the great achievement of the last 50 years.

    1969 showed us the way: Neil Armstrong's pictures of the Earth showed us we share a world. The internet allowed us to make that connection real. 1969 gave us the tools. Perhaps 2016 could be a new dawn of intention?

    So my birthday wish is that the next 50 years are focused on making significantly better, more connected, healthier, wealthier (and happier) lives for ALL of us.

    Have a great New Year.

    Friday, November 13, 2015

    Three lessons online can learn from offline customer experience

    An article on HBR today makes a lot of sense on consistency of customer experience online and off.

    And it notes we have different expectations online versus off.

    But the question is should we? When we talk about improving customer experience its often, where a business already cares about customer experience, a question of giving it the same emotional feel online as off.

    This is difficult stuff. And it needs examples to help us shape a response.

    Many years back I recall Doc Searls talking about his wife's annoyance with sign-ins and registrations online - the sort of barriers people seeking to transact in the real world rarely come across. And when we do... "Can I take your postcode please... and the number of the house?..." we feel something unnatural and data capturey is taking place, something we'd rather not soil ourselves with...

    Lesson - The best experience requires no sign in and no registration.

    And as I noted recently - online we may be cutting organisations more slack than we would in the real world... because no one sees us fail when we try to 'get in' to your online presence. The very human emotion of embarrassment is removed.

    Lesson - Dance like no one is watching, by all means, but Test your online customer journeys like someone is watching.

    Imagine you are a retailer who has built a reputation on no quibble returns - money back immediately? How can you replicate online the satisfaction provided by handing over the faulty item in person in the store and getting credited back immediately on the card you paid with (usually prompting an instant repurchase from stock).  If my transaction is recorded and available in all channels then this can be used to verify I do possess the product in question. In selecting to send it back, generating a postage paid printout address, or even a label to attach to it for pick up from home, I should be granted an instant refund - before the item is even boxed up to be sent back.

    Why - because this shows me the retailer trusts me (and trust is reciprocal) and I am much more likely to repurchase from the same retailer, right now, to replace my faulty item - a loyal customer ready to tell friends all about my great experience.

    If I fail to send the faulty item back what's the worst that happens? The retailer loses the full value of the item and the consumer gets blacklisted (but only after a period of reminder communications, of course).

    Fearful retailers could trial limiting the value available to do this online, and/or providing vouchers which can only be spent with the same store. But I suspect the more trust you offer, the more you get back.

    Lesson: Don't forget the core emotions you are trying to generate online. If you've built your reputation on no quibble in the real world, how do you remove all the quibble when online?

    The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?