How to add to the customer experience just by using your packaging….

We have all learnt that packaging can be a key component of an experience, like many people I have to confess that I am one of those sad people that keeps my Apple product packaging.  Opening one of their products has been turned into an experience, the time spent designing the usually disposable and superfluous stuff your purchase comes in helps to define the brand.  No opportunity is wasted – their customers open the products with a degree of reverence and joy that is probably unsurpassed – how to connect cardboard to human emotions!

Well in a small way I came across this whilst having breakfast in the budget hotel chain Premier Inn last weekend.  More about that later as they take my expectation versus reality test in a future blog.

For those who don’t know Marmite is a savoury spread and it has built a reputation as a product that taste wise you either love or you hate there is NO middle ground!  The brand has embraced this fan versus loath and the advertising makes great play on “love it or hate it”.

So the translation of this into packaging is a brilliant, fun extension of the message and whilst it would seem obvious I am sure that the cost of creating this type of packaging was the basis of some debates between different departments.  what I know is that it works!

#Think differently

When a web “chat” experience is not a “chat” experience

The increasing use of web chat as a way to introduce a human component to an on line experience continues to frustrate me.  Why?  Because it is too often seen as a cheap alternative to actual voice and as a result companies seek to make it ‘cost effective’ that means that the person you are chatting to has multiple conversations in play at any one time, they are juggling us in the same way that you would have to keep putting people on hold if you had twenty people that you were ‘talking’ to at the same time!!

Those pregnant pauses between you typing and the reply coming through make it feel stilted you begin to wonder are they still there…ask yourself the question what is the average wait time between you typing and the person replying – it doesn’t feel like a real time conversation rather more like they are on the moon and it takes a time delay before the next interaction.

This was really brought home to me in a recent “web chat” where the language used by the person I was ‘talking’ too absolutely confirmed this view – even the person on the web chat thinks that they are actually on the phone to you otherwise why do they say “thank you for holding” not something you would say in a a real live conversation…would you???

BA sells out its customer experience for the price of a tea bag….let’s play them at their own game ;)

My latest discovery in this saga, those of you that have followed my blog on the decline of the BA brand experience will be familiar with this theme (if not you can check out the story and many others here at, having taken a short flight to Amsterdam it became clear why the changes are absolutely about chasing short term cash.  Anyone that knows anything about the food industry is aware that the highest profit margins in a pub/restaurant or bar are generated by tea and coffee sales…clearly not lost on our BA friends where they are now charging £2.40!!!!! for a single tea bag and some hot water, if you went to your local supermarket and they offered you a single tea bag for £2.40 what do you think you would do???

Now bearing in mind that I could bring my own and ask for some free hot water I would suggest that we all think about doing that in future, hardly a tricky thing to carry and yes it is ‘thinking differently’ 😉


How to ruin a pub experience….

So I was in a lovely English pub/bar last week and it got towards closing time, last orders for drinks were at 10.50pm and the place was due to close at around 11.30pm, I had taken someone along with me as my guest.

So imagine my surprise when just before 11pm the bar staff decided to start getting ready to go home, tables were moved, the floor was being swept and to make us feel truly uncomfortable and not welcome the chairs and stools were being stacked on the tables around us!

One thing is for sure I won’t be taking any friends or guests there again in a hurry.  A good evening ruined by staff that focussed on their personal task rather than their purpose of making sure guest have a good experience- that task being clean up before you leave and wanting to ensure they left having technically completed that task as the last customer walked out of the door,arrrrgh!!

Yet another example of task over-riding purpose instead of the other way around.

Hard Rock Hotel Tenerife take my expectation versus reality test and score 7/10….

The latest brand to take my customer experience test is the Hard Rock Hotel and specifically the newly refurbished site in Tenerife.  We chose this for a week long break with our three teenagers after seeing it reviewed in one of the weekend papers.  the expectations were high – this a brand with a good heritage, cool, fun and this hotel has had lavish refurbishment.

So we arrive and are given a welcome drink whilst registering that is nice – except that it took about 20 minutes to check in and be given the funky wristbands that double as your room key and a way to charge to your room.  So we were impressed by the leading edge technology, accept that when we tried to use it to pay it didn’t work and needed to be reset twice.  That said the second time the reception staff actually came to the pool to do it!

The rooms were pretty impressive and well played out just as we expected so that was a big plus in fact most of the core elements were meeting expectations, no shortage of sun beds, entertainment, very polite staff.

Where it fell down was the detail – so we went to the roof top bar one evening and being April it was a little chilly but the blankets (we didn’t know that had any) were not brought out until an experienced guest asked for them.  Then I wanted to change a restaurant reservation one evening only to be told it was fully booked – wandering over it was clear that it was only half full – what was emerging was that the hotel was not full and the restaurants were not fully staffed.  When you are told somewhere is full you expect it to look that way when in fact what they meant was it is full to capacity based on the number of staff we have available.   Not really what you expect from a 5 star resort.  This was really brought home when I returned to our room one afternoon to find the room still unmade.  Unhappy I popped down to the Concierge to speak to the Manager only to be told she is busy in a meeting so come back later – oh no!  I did insist that she came out of the meeting and to be fair she did and apologised…a little while later a gift arrived by way of further apology.  So the service recovery was good but the staff need to know that Managers purpose is no different to heir own – to  meet expectations and ensure that guests are happy and that purpose over-rides any internal task.

This felt like a hotel starting to get to grips with the operation and that is not what you expect from a 5 star experience – I am going to the Hard Rock in Orlando in June that will be an interesting opportunity to compare and contrast with a well established venue.

Overall the experience was good, the atmosphere was great and the hotel fixtures and fittings do have the wow factor (apart from the hand drier in my earlier post) the staff are trying hard and just need that attention to detail they are not there yet, so it comes out at 7/10 and I look forward to the American experience.

One for the weekend…spend tens of millions on a hotel and get the simple things wrong…

In a future post I will review the performance of the Hard Rock Hotel in Tenerife that I stayed in recently.  This hotel was the subject of massive overhaul and whilst there is much to praise it also makes some basic errors.

In this case the male toilets, so having washed my hands I looked for the hand drier and was just about to use it when I was nearly knocked out by a fellow guest.  How…. well just look at the location chosen for the drier, yes that is the door into the toilets on the right and in a perfect position to hit you hard as you try to dry your hands and someone else enters!

So basic from a experiential point of view and so easy to correct!

A helpful piece of information to enhance your driving experience…..

When I was working with Mazda out in Orange County California a couple of years back I found out a piece of information that was one of those “REALLY” moments, maybe you already know this but I didn’t and actually some of the Mazda team didn’t either!

In the picture below you will see the fuel gauge from my car and an icon with a petrol pump …on the side of the pump icon you will see an arrowhead…guess what… that is pointing out to you which side of the car your fuel filler cap is.  So no more driving onto the garage forecourt and trying to remember which side to go just look at the pump icon and it will tell you.

This is great example of attention to detail in design terms that is not then followed through in terms of communicating this to the customer – it is one of those things that is useful to have and even more useful to know that you have!!!

Businesses need to think about what they actually want and need to tell their customers.

What have you most likely even invested in and then not told your customers about?  

British Airways customer experience will be worse than Ryanair as early as next year….the end of an iconic British brand?

Following on from my earlier post on October 4th 2016 highlighting how British Airways is sinking into the customer experience mire by taking the opportunity to move from an easily distinguished full service carrier to a hybrid low cost/premium player it now transpires that in a few short months it is potentially  going to be a worse experience than Ryanair (long seen as the price champion that ignored experience a model that the travelling public both understood and bought into) but at a higher price, the story continues….to get worse….read on!

The appointment last year of Alex Cruz as Chairman and CEO of British Airways and previously the founder of low cost carrier Clickair was I guess the inevitable death knell for the BA brand and customer experience as we know it. Someone with a background of success in low cost carriers is put in charge of the crown jewel in the airline brand world.  It didn’t take long for the free food to go, for routes to be franchised out under the BA brand (but to not even necessarily using BA branded aircraft), paying for specific seats is rife and now the latest and biggest change.  BA has announced it is now going to be adding 12 extra seats to its short-haul Airbus A320 fleet from Heathrow, my understanding is that this that this will mean leg room of 29 inches as opposed to the 30 inches offered by Ryanair.

This is described using a term new to me they want to ‘densify’ their aircraft –  lovely way of saying cram more people into the same space this was described by Willie Walsh, chief executive of BA’s parent company IAG as “responding to a market opportunity” clearly not for the travelling passenger!!

Not only that but if you want to use them for international travel, whilst the Business and First won’t change, if like the majority of passengers you travel economy, then they are set to increase passenger numbers per flight by adding an extra seat to every row.  Their business plan obviously assumes that will be BA money in the bank but that assumes that we are happy to still fly with them given they are now going to be competing with both budget airlines and the likes of the mighty Emirates.  Yes Emirates have the 10 seat configuration on Boeing 777’s BUT  it has newer aircraft, better service and more regular flights whereas BA is going’ in many cases’ to be retro fitting to older planes by adding an extra seat to every row on its Boeing 777 fleet adding an extra 52 seats to the aircraft from 2018.  Travelling passengers will notice this!

When we buy today it is a value based decision and that is a combination of availability, price, service, brand and of course how we feel about a particular supplier.  Just as Ryanair has woken up the the power of offering its customers more in terms of an experience BA is heading in the opposite direction.  Why does that matter?  Is this just not a levelling of the playing field (a market opportunity to quote Willie Walsh).  Well I would argue that BA customers have to an extent been loyal because of those little differences – the free food, the better leg room, the brand BUT those customers are going to see a downgrading of their experience and an opportunity to no longer be loyal.  As an example the Ryanair customers are seeing the opposite an improvement in service and a feeling of better value for money – I know who I see as the big winners and it is not BA.  You have one opportunity to trash the brand (sometimes called moving with the times!!) for a perceived short term gain and the world is littered with the relics of companies that have and never recovered.

As a BA loyalty card member of decades standing I am truly sad that the management are going down this road and my loyalty that was already fading is now almost gone 🙁



Vodafone blatant attempt to access my data – exposed in pictures!

If you have seen my previous blog (if not I have added it to the bottom of this post) about the damage done to the Vodafone brand by their attempt to access my personal data then these pictures will make sense.  They are the evidence of how a major brand is attempting to access personal data and will block future access to their core App if you fail to agree  – whilst you can then go through the effort of refusing access using your phone settings if you know how (they are of course banking on you not doing this) this is a perfect example of hiding commercial aims behind a facade of ‘improving the customer experience”.

So you click on the App it delivers the message headed “improve your customer experience”..oh really!! If you press cancel then it gives you the third screen that says you can’t use the App unless you press “OK” so why even bother giving me a cancel button!  Of course the answer is because when I hit cancel and get the message I delete the App 🙂

As you can see they are even making this access part of the terms and conditions of usage of the App an interesting issue for data protection I suspect and if nothing else it is incredibly sharp practice and clearly designed for a purpose.

Whilst they may claim you may get an improved experience and that is highly questionable, that assumes that you want Vodafone to make money out of selling for example your location to commercial partners who may want to advertise to you using your real time data using near field and similar potentially invasive technologies – do you really want a company to be able to rack your movement and monetise them for themselves.  Yes at the heart of this is making money out of data… your data and my data as they seek to diversify and develop revenue outside of their core business of providing access to calls and broadband – in the final analysis whilst their business models aspire to be multi purpose providers all telcos are just utilities like water and electricity and would you want your water company using your data.

The reality is that we will in future become more not less sensitive to companies trying to access our data and only those with the highest trust ratings are going to be given that privilege …I don’t see telco’s in that bracket today and this type of activity just underlines that view in heavy black marker pen.

The original post……

Love the strap-line “power to you” if only it was true – maybe it should read “Vodafone we abuse the power we think we have over you” not quite as catchy but at least it is true.

It seems that mobile companies cannot help themselves when it comes to killing their customer experience in pursuit of their own objectives. What do I mean, well I am sure we could all think of occasions where this has happened to us and this was my latest experience. As a customer I was encouraged to download the Vodafone app a potentially useful little tool for checking usage of my monthly allowances – that was the driver for me. I used it only occasionally but it was helpful particularly when travelling overseas.

So I switch on my phone last week to find the app image with “2” next to it indicating that Vodafone were communicating with me. The message basically said we want to a access your personal data “to improve the service” oh of course I thought – well in this age of data security no one gets access to any of my data unless I see real value in sharing it. So I declined the option thinking that was it!!! But no I then get a message saying that if I decline this then I won’t be able to use the app! WHAT!!!! Now that is firstly supreme arrogance that they believe this crappy little app is so significant to my life that I would immediately say “ok have my data” and secondly has completely ignored how I might react to this and feel about this…frankly I feel like cancelling my and my families contract….not rational I know, but when people make you angry you cease to be rational and that is a key point that businesses fail to comprehend.

Reading on I find that I can accept the request and then I can go into my phone and deny the requests through my settings – so let me see how that lands in terms of their customer effort score (bearing in kind that the lower the client effort the greater the propensity to be loyal)..and the answer is very very badly. Clearly the ‘design assumption’ is that people will agree and then forget to or not understand how to stop Vodafone from then accessing the data.

Trust is going to be an increasingly key element of our relationships with suppliers and there will be a few winners and lots of losers, Vodafone could have been one of the chosen few but with this approach have thrown away all trust they had built – with me at least, all for what? Access to some personal data that they hope to make money out of having access to ….dream on!