Today’s the big day!!!

screenshot of text from Virgin MediaIf you had arranged to go and visit a friend, would you text them three days prior to say, ”Hi, the big day’s coming!”? Neither would I. Nevertheless, this is exactly what Virgin Media did to me.  I had arranged for them to add a landline to the broadband package that I already had with them.  They sent me the following message to confirm my appointment: “Hi, it’s Virgin Media. The big day’s coming!”  First of all, do they really think my life is so dull that having Virgin Media to visit would make it my “big day”?  If it was an event such as my wedding, moving house, having a baby, then, yes, this could be called a “big day”.  Virgin Media’s pending arrival – no.

Most businesses know that it is important to make their customers feel valued.  Virgin Media seem to have decided to turn it around and do the exact opposite!  They are trying to TELL me that I should be excited about THEM.  I found their tone quite self indulgent.

Nevertheless I replied to their message to reconfirm the appointment.

snapshot of text from Virgin MediaThe whole thing became even more irritating as half an hour later, I received another text from another Virgin Media mobile number again asking me to confirm that the appointment was to go ahead.  So what was the point of the first message?  Did they not receive my reply?  I certainly was not feeling very positive about my so-called “big day” after all that.

Make sure you show your customers that you appreciate them.  Don’t try to force them into believing that you are the best thing that has ever happened to them!

Dealing with Pressure

shoe displaySo it’s January and that means January sales.  At times Oxford Street was so busy I felt as though I could barely move.  I popped into two different shoe stores.  The first was Aldo.  The place was manic.  I didn’t fancy my chances at getting served.  Despite this, within a few minutes of my arrival, a staff member approached me and offered me assistance.

teamwork quoteI asked for three different pairs of shoes in my size.  The staff member went straight over to a screen in the middle of the store and was able to type in a request for the shoes.  Aldo obviously had carefully planned for the busy footfall and had plenty of staff in place.  The process for requesting shoes on a screen was efficient as it cut out the time taken for a staff member to walk back and forth to the stock room.  Instead they had different members of staff in each area to complete each part of the task – great teamwork. My requested shoes were with me within a couple of minutes.

The second store was Camper.  This was a much smaller store.  I could see three staff members on the shop floor.  I noticed a couple of pairs of shoes that I wanted to try on.  As I looked around to see if any staff member was free, I noticed another customer asking a staff member for a pair of shoes.  I was quite shocked.  The staff member completely blanked the customer and walked past her.  I could see the disappointment and disgust in the customer’s face and she put down the shoes and left the store straight away.  I decided that I wasn’t going to hang around to be treated in the same manner and I too left the store.

leadership quoteClearly the staff members in both stores were under pressure.  Camper had no process or plan in place to make the service more efficient.  However I think the key thing here is that the staff member in Camper chose to ignore the customer.  It would have made a world of difference if he had been able to calmly apologise and state that he was busy serving another customer and that he would be with her as soon as he had finished.  Even better would have been if he had acknowledged the customer before she had resorted to try and approach him herself.   Although the customer may not have been served any quicker, it would have shown that the staff member cared.  Attitude is important when it comes to customer satisfaction. What is your experience of shopping in the sales?  I would be interested to know in the comments below.

The Value of Great Service

This week I have visited two different venues in view of holding a conference there.  Both of these venues are owned by the same company.  However they couldn’t have been more different in the welcome that they provided.

fawlty towersOn arrival at the first venue, I told the receptionist my name and who I was there to see.  When the receptionist called the person who I had booked the appointment with, I could tell from his conversation that the staff member was not expecting me.  I had to wait for around five minutes before she arrived to meet me in the reception area.  The worst part of the visit came when the staff member opened the door to the room where the event was to be held and a rat ran all the way across the floor!  I am not a fan of these animals at the best of times and I certainly did not expect to see one inside an upmarket venue.  The staff member then showed me one of their most exclusive bedrooms.  It smelt damp and musty and there was a general feeling of a lack of cleanliness.  I doubt I will be returning.

At the second venue, in contrast, I felt inspired and uplifted by the welcome, hospitality and service that I received. Even prior to my arrival, the Events Co-ordinator called me and let me know they were looking forward to meeting me. She also sent me an email with clear directions to the venue.  Upon arrival, there was not just the Events Co-ordinator, but also the Sales Director, waiting in the reception area to meet me.  They thanked me in a genuine and enthusiastic manner for coming to see them today.  The Sales Director said that meeting people like me was one of her favourite parts of her job. This put me at ease and made me feel welcome.

afternoon tea The staff members told me that they had reserved an area in the bar.  I couldn’t believe the sight when I sat down.  They had prepared a magnificent afternoon tea for me, with ornate crockery and an appetising fresh fruit platter.  I felt as though I was being treated like a queen.  They checked whether my name was spelt as ‘Rachael’ or ‘Rachel’.  This showed the level of attention to detail that they were making to ensure that I would be pleased with the experience that they were offering.  While we were sitting down, a man came up to the table and shook my hand.  He said that he was the Operations Director.  He checked that I was happy with my visit so far.  He gave me his business card and invited me to get in touch at any time.  I felt like a VIP by this point.

quote about being extraordinaryAfter the tea, I was shown through to the room where the event would be held.  The staff had arranged for my logo to be displayed on a projector at the front of the room. There was also a message displayed to welcome me to their venue.  The Sales Director enthused about how excited they were at the prospect of working with my company.  She said that she had been on the estate where my business is located as they have another client there.   She said she had driven past my office and was therefore very excited when she heard that I had made an enquiry.  She asked about other events that we hold throughout the year and told me that it would be great to form a partnership.

The Sales Director named a few of their blue chip clients and this showed the level of service that they offered.  She also told me a bit about the history of the building and also mentioned some TV shows that had been filmed there. The Event Co-ordinator let me know that she would look after me throughout the whole process.  The Sales Director joked that the Event Co-ordinator was always there and didn’t have time off as they couldn’t afford to be without her as she was so valuable to them.  I loved this attitude and it goes to prove that when staff feel important and valued, they will inevitably provide great service.  It was clear that the staff felt very proud of their venue.

It was very apparent how well the staff at the venue worked well as a team.  This created a welcoming and homely atmosphere.  This was evident to me by the following:

  • The Events Co-ordinator who I had originally spoken to on the telephone had told her Sales Director about my enquiry and had arranged for both of them to meet me.
  • The Operations Director had also been told about my visit and had come to meet me.
  • The staff in the corridors smiled and said, “Hello”, as we passed them.
  • Technical staff had arranged for my logo to appear on the screen in the conference room, together with a welcome message.
  • As we passed some other staff in the foyer, the Sales Director said that I could grab any staff member for assistance at any time. This made them stand out from many businesses in which individuals will only be focused on their own tasks and would not think about working as a team to assist their colleagues in other departments.

Throughout the visit, the Sales Director thanked me for my enquiry.  She acknowledged that I had given up my time to visit them today and thanked me for doing so.  She checked whether I was okay for time today, or whether I had any time constraints.  She also showed respect by asking me whether I preferred to be contacted by telephone or by email.  She explained that she understood that it could be difficult to take a telephone call during a busy working day.

customer service quoteThe Sales Director also told me that I could let them know in advance who the VIPs were in my company.  She said that they would arrange for these individuals to get a free upgrade to superior rooms.  She said that they would put wine, fruit, bottles of water and a nice welcome note from the General Manager in these rooms.  These added touches can go a long way.  Another way that the Sales Director made me feel valued was when she mentioned that she had noticed on my website that it was important for our company to be environmentally friendly.  She said, therefore, that they would be happy to provide crockery in place of disposable cups.

Towards the end of the conversation, I mentioned that we may be looking to hold a drinks reception on the evening of the first day of the event.  The Event Co-ordinator took this opportunity to close the sale by telling me that they would be happy to put on a drinks reception free of charge if I confirmed my booking by the following Friday.

thank you quoteBefore I left, the Sales Director made some friendly conversation with me.  She asked me about my hobbies and we found some common ground.  She used my name several times in conversation and said that it was good to get to know me.  On my way out I was handed a nice goody bag contained some chocolates, a notepad and some further information.

thank-you noteUpon leaving the venue I felt inspired and uplifted.  I truly felt as though I could form a partnership with this venue and that they would be dedicated to making sure that I was happy with their service.  It is also worth noting that I received an email straight after my visit thanking me for coming to see them.  I have a follow up email arranged for Tuesday as I said that I will be making my decision by then. It would be hard to choose another venue instead of this one after the warm welcome that I received.  I would be willing to pay more money for great service like this.

Experience Boutique can work with you to help your company achieve brand consistency across all of your locations.  Call us today on 0203 239 2326 or email Rachel at

Personalising Your Service

personalised Coca Cola bottlesWe know that customers want to feel as though they have received a personalised solution to their unique challenge. This was brought to light to me this week while I was looking into ordering some new business cards. I looked on both Vistaprint and Both of these websites offer a service in which they will send out a sample pack of their products to prospective customers. The process of ordering these sample packs differed greatly on the two sites.

On Vistaprint, I was simply asked for my contact details so that the pack could be sent to me. However on, I was asked a series of questions so that the sample pack could be tailored to my needs. The questions were quick and simple to answer.

I noticed how my perception of these two companies had been affected by the differing approaches. I guessed that the value of the cards from would be more expensive. I felt that it would be worth paying more for their service as it had been tailored to my specific needs. I felt confident that their company was looking after me and that I would be happy with my purchase.

This is a similar phenomenon to when I have been assisted while trying on clothes in a fitting room. When an employee makes a comment along the lines of, “That blue colour really illuminates your skin”, then I feel as though I would be missing out if I did not buy the garment in question! How do you make sure your customers feel as though your service has been personalised to them?

Customer Service Versus Marketing

“Customer service is the new marketing” – Derek Sivers.

pile of loyalty cardsA well known brand launched a new loyalty scheme a few weeks ago. I bought some food items recently in this store. When I looked at the receipt, it told me how many loyalty points I could have earned. I felt slightly annoyed that the cashier had not pointed this out to me at the time so that I could have opened a card to earn the points. Once I got home, I looked at the store’s website and found out that I would need to go into a store in order to get a loyalty card.

I was passing a different branch of the store earlier this week and so I decided to go in and pick up a card. I waited for five minutes in a queue at the till point. Once I reached the counter, the staff member told me that I would need to go over to the food department to find someone with an iPad. There was no apology for my wait. I found it quite irritating that there had not been any signs to tell me where to sign up. I would have expected the procedure to be better organised, considering the scale of the launch on this loyalty scheme. I couldn’t see anyone with an iPad, so I waited at the Customer Services desk. There were four staff members standing around discussing some issue among themselves. After waiting for a few minutes without being acknowledged, I decided to tell one of them that I was waiting to pick up a loyalty card.

The staff member was very helpful and obliging. She led me into a small office and offered me a seat on a dingy looking chair. It felt a bit odd to be sitting in what was clearly a staff office. While I was in the office, another staff member came in and interrupted my meeting. Without excusing herself to me, she asked the staff member who was assisting me if she could help somebody else sign up for the loyalty scheme. It all seemed highly unprofessional. The staff member who had been assisting me seemed slightly annoyed by the interruption from her colleague and explained that there were no iPads working and so she would have to serve the next customer once she had finished signing me up. It seemed very odd to me that there was no way to sign up for this scheme other than to sit in this strange cubby hole sized office. I had to tell the staff member all of my personal details including my date of birth. I did not feel confident that my data was being dealt with in a secure manner.

What can we learn from this scenario? I have seen this time and time again. A company comes up with a great idea, in this case a loyalty scheme. However there are not sufficient staff in place to implement the scheme and on top of this, the staff are not well trained enough to deal with customers who want to sign up to the scheme. I came across a similar example a few weeks ago. A large organisation had been looking at plans to improve their complaints system. They were spending thousands of pounds on working out how to structure their automated switchboard and website contact forms in order to make the process more pleasant for their customers. I had to make the point that all of those plans would be wasted unless they made sure that their staff were sufficiently trained and had the relevant knowledge to answer the complaints that were being made. The same company had been highlighted by Which? last year as having staff without sufficient knowledge on certain key issues. It is no good having a switchboard that is easy to use if the staff member who eventually answers the call doesn’t listen properly and has to ask a customer to repeat themselves several times. Look at the bigger picture!

Setting Customer Expectations

diagram of customer needsWhen a company does what it says it is going to do then builds trust between the company and the customer. When a company fails to fulfill a promise, the opposite can happen. Recently, our local water supplier spent a couple of days in our road, dealing with a leak outside our house. When they departed, they left a lot of stones on the lawn, which would have been dangerous and would have blunted the blade on my lawnmower, had I not spent several minutes picking them up. It struck me as being very slovenly. However I received a very nice note through the door, explaining how much the company tries to improve the customer experience and inviting me to let them know if I was happy with their work. I therefore rang them to let them know about the stones on the lawn. Since I had removed the stones, there was no point in asking them to come back, so I just registered my comment and said there was no need to do any remedial work. However, the lady, who answered the phone, said that someone would phone me back after lunch. This did not happen, which annoyed me more than the original problem, because I felt that I had a promise that something would be done and it wasn’t. I had been encouraged by the first call to believe that the poor service was an exception but, having been let down by the lack of a call back, I rather believe that the poor service was not an exception. The lesson is, carry through on your promises.

Thank you to Keith for this week’s post.

Do your customers feel welcome?

image of yoga class
Yoga Class

Yesterday morning I decided that I was going to take part in a yoga class. I had visited three different branches of a sports shop recently and I was aware that each branch offered complimentary yoga classes. The difference between the three stores was that only one of them had actually taken the opportunity to invite me to their yoga class. While I was in the store, a friendly employee had told me that they ran yoga classes every Sunday. She informed me that they even provided the mats and said that there was normally space for everyone who turned up. This invite left me feeling welcome. Therefore I chose to go to this store over the others who had not invited me. It is human nature to need to feel wanted. Customers are no different to humans! Research by McKinsey has shown that 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated. I felt good to be invited to the class. It made me feel as though I could belong in their ‘club’. The instinct to want to belong also left me feeling as though I wanted to purchase the clothing from the store so that I could fit in with the other people in the yoga class.

As it happened, the yoga class exceeded my expectations. The staff thanked me for coming even though it was a free class! The class started on time. I was thanked and wished a good day as I left the store after the class. The class was challenging and I can feel the pain / benefits today!

Even if you are not running any events, there are many other ways of making customers feel encouraged to return.  Three examples are below:

  • Tell the customer your name and contact details. Let them know what days you are working so that they know when they may come back to see you.
  • Tell the customer about a new item that will be arriving soon in the store.
  • Explain to the customer how they can earn loyalty points on future visits.

What experiences have you had that have left you feeling welcome? It would be great to hear your stories in the comments below.

Ideas on The Apprentice

handful of loyalty cards
Collecting loyalty card stamps

This week saw the start of Series 11 of The Apprentice. As predicted there are a few characters on the show. One such character is Richard Woods, a founding director of a digital marketing agency. In week two, he was project manager of a task which involved the marketing of a cactus shampoo. He was seen giving each team member the chance to pitch in with their own ideas. Baroness Karren Brady commented that she wondered if Richard had bought a book on management skills and read it cover to cover prior to coming on the show. It was quite funny because she said she wondered whether Richard was actually listening to them or just pushing what he wanted. Following on from this, I decided that I would discuss the ways in which managers can motivate their staff by giving them the autonomy to have their own ideas.

Three examples are shown below:
Loyalty card stamps: Joseph Nunes and Xavier Dreze conducted a study into the effort that customers put into achieving the reward from their loyalty cards. They conducted a study with a car wash business involving a total of 300 customers. The loyalty cards involved collecting stamps in order to get a free car wash. There were two groups in the study. One group was given a card that required 8 stamps in order to receive the reward. The second group was given a card that required 10 stamps in order to get the reward. However these cards had two stamps already completed. This is known as ‘artifical enhancement’. The second group were found to be 44% more likely to complete the cards. The completion time also decreased. This effect has been named the Endowed Progress Effect. You could allow your staff the discretion to provide one or two extra stamps when issuing customers with their loyalty cards.
Store environment: The coffee shop chain Harris and Hoole gives their staff input into what music is played in the store. This is a simple, yet effective, way to engage staff.
Treating customers: Pret A Manger rejects the loyalty card idea, in favour of giving out a certain allowance of free items to their customers each day. The staff members are given the freedom to choose which customers receive the free items.

What do you think of these ideas? It would be great to hear your thoughts!

Related articles: Employee Engagement