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The Highs and Lows of Customer Experience


Customer experience…. It has become a key battleground for brands desperate to stand out from the competition. When the experience is brilliant, when the transaction is faultless and when – to use a trite phrase – you are surprised and delighted, these interaction with brands really stand out. To deliver a fantastic experience isn’t easy. For most businesses it requires co-ordination of multiple internal teams, resources, egos and project plans. Which, I guess, Is why many business can be great at some points in the relationship with you as a consumer and irritating at others.


I was in the US with work a few months ago and when I landed at JFK I took out my debit card (from a large high street bank in the UK) and stuck it in the cash point (or ATM to use the local parlance) to withdraw some cash for the taxi in to Manhattan. I entered my pin and fairly promptly was told my card had been declined. I was frustrated initially, and then annoyed as I realised I had no cash and was potentially stuck at the airport. However, before I got my card back in my wallet I got a text on my UK mobile from my bank which was along the lines of “Your card has just been used to try and take out $200 at an ATM in JFK airport”. I was impressed by this (it was less than 30 seconds since my card was declined), but the message went on… something along the lines of “if this was you, reply YES to this message”.  I replied YES. Within seconds, a second text arrived “Thank you for confirming, your card is now activated for use in the USA”. I tried the card, and it worked. Seriously impressive.

A couple of months later I lost my card. I contacted the bank for a new one but as I couldn’t remember my telephone banking pin or the exact amount of a regular transaction (and as I have online only statements and had lost my card I couldn’t view a statement to confirm any transaction) they wouldn’t re-issue one over the phone. After 20mins of debating this I conceded defeat and was told I had to go in to my local branch. I got in to my local branch and they told me that I had to order a new card via telephone banking. I had my two kids with me at the time and the idea of arguing in the bank for another 30mins while they slowly destroyed the place in the way young children are apt to do didn’t fill me with joy. The goodwill gained as part of my JFK experience was pretty much used up by now. The situation was saved however when one of the other employees at the bank overheard my dilemma, saw the unfolding issue of two rampant children and took the smart call to override policy and issue me a new card (which took all of 2 minutes)…

Reflecting on all of this it is clear to me just how important ‘experience’ is with brands. Clever technology, data insights and media deployment are very important but they are nothing if the end experience doesn’t match the promise. To get it right requires co-ordination of multiple people and technologies and a unified understanding of what a great experience is. This needs to be defined as early in the planning process as possible so that processes and services can be designed around exactly how to meet these goals. It’s a lot of work, but it makes all the difference and will be a critical element of what defines the successful brands of the future.