Tag Archive innovation

Customer experience strategy: sometimes, less is more*

This article was first published on Nunwood.com – the Customer Experience Blog. It is the exclusive property of KPMG Nunwood, part of KPMG in the UK. It was re-published on Enage Customer.

The Jazz genius Miles Davis, behind Kind of Blue and Tutu, was one of the most influential musicians of the past century. To this day, his words keep inspiring and even offer us a simple but powerful rule in customer experience strategy:

“I always listen to what I can leave out.” 

Although referring to his compositions, this approach is extremely fitting for one key practice of customer experience strategy: journey mapping. Businesses, with a vision of delighting customers, tend to provide fancy and overly complex journeys, with many stages to showcase their expertise and wealth of services. It doesn’t have to be that way though, and the leading companies understand this.

When a journey stage becomes obsolete

Many industries were born way before our age of technology and abundance of data. When an innovation comes along, companies have shown to be able to adapt themselves (retailtravel or financial services have been a few we have observed recently). However, what happens when a process becomes outdated? The answer is “take it away” – or leave it out, to pay tribute to Miles Davis – and unfortunately, companies are not always as quick to acknowledge and act upon this.

There are some companies, however, that are bold enough to do so. JetBlue Airways realised that the once necessary check-in process for a flight no longer had a reason to exist. Put in place at an age and time where airlines depended on travel agents to sell seats and manage its inventory, the check-in principally served to ensure you were at the airport so that they knew where you were. With today’s technology and fast-moving operations, the process no longer had a reason to exist. Whilst many airlines decided to simplify the process by providing online check-in, JetBlue went the extra step and understood it could leave it out.

As a consequence, JetBlue passengers are automatically checked in for their flights, with seat allocation based on their travel history and preferences. With staff being freed up from this procedure, it provided them with more opportunities to service and delight their passengers before the flight. This certainly contributes greatly to a good performance in Time & Effort, Expectations and Empathy.

Companies like JetBlue demonstrate that a good strategy can be taking steps away, rather than adding in. Or as Miles Davis would aptly say:

“If you don’t know what to play, play nothing.”

This translates into a key rule of customer experience strategy: if you don’t know what value the stage brings, leave it out.

Eating out – at its simplest

The restaurant industry is another example of how simplifying the experience can transform the journey of the customer. Many restaurants have adopted a connected approach to delivering their services, with orders going directly from the ordering terminal (nowadays, often a smartphone or tablet) to the kitchen, without the waiter even leaving your table. Sometimes, I get served my entrees whilst my party is still chatting with the waiter.

The pattern we mentioned with the airline industry is clearly found here again. Whilst the connected system has been widely implemented, very few went another route. Eatsa, a new Californian restaurant, decided to strip the experience down to its simplest.

Eatsa is unique in that there is no human interaction required for you to enjoy your meal – although the restaurant is staffed. Come in and order your food on a tablet kiosk. The team in the kitchen will prepare your food and it will come to you. When the food is ready and served, the appropriate locker will display the customers’ name and light up. Take your order and enjoy it. Next time, the system will even remember your past visits and recommend dishes you might like to try.

Eatsa’s customer experience strategy clearly differs from the rest of the industry. The fact that they recently announced expansion plans hints to the idea that many customers are buying into the concept. One question being: how would service failure be addressed in these cases?

The key learning from our two examples can, once more, be summed up using Miles Davis’ own words:

“It’s not about standing still and becoming safe. If anybody wants to keep creating they have to be about change.”

More often than not, excellent customer experience strategy is about change: seeing how things are being done and how to change this for the better. Always look for what you can leave out. After all, sometimes, less is more.


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Customer Experience Best Practice: Tesla the Disruptive*

This article was first published on Nunwood.com – the Customer Experience Blog. It is the exclusive property of KPMG Nunwood, part of KPMG in the UK. It was then re-published on Engage Customer.

Tesla has been all over the news and is one of the newest disruptors around. Point in case: this month, Tesla, led by the visionary Elon Musk, established an expressive record: the biggest ever launch for a product totaling more than £10 billion worth of revenue (in reservations for its Model 3).

Musk’s company started in 2003 with its entire business revolving around providing a fully electric car and with free recharge. For years, they were laughed at, and discredited. Until their first model, the Tesla Roadster, hit the American market in 2008. What led to such a success goes far beyond the product: experts report loyalty and advocacy levels that are simply unheard of.

Tesla happens to be a great example of customer experience best practice and how a successful strategy can redefine the state of the art customer experience design.

Tesla rethinks the selling and customer service models

In the automotive industry, carmakers focus on the product and marketing of their products and leave the selling and customer service to their partners. Tesla doesn’t have any reselling partners and its electric cars do not require as much regular maintenance as a traditional car, this is because of tesla’s charging system. More importantly, the retail location is not primarily focused on selling (unlike dealerships) but rather on allowing customers to experience the brand, its philosophy and get a feel for the cars. The differential of Tesla Motors is that it takes ownership of the experience, which, in their case, is a clear customer experience best practice strategy.

When you purchase a Tesla (be it online or in the store), the car will be delivered to you, wherever you want it. Or you could pick it up at the factory and get a free tour of the factory with your friends.

If there are any issues with your car, they’ll pick it up, provide you with a replacement car and repair it – removing the need to bring the vehicle to the repair centre. If the issue is related to its software, the engineers can in many situations update the car, at a distance, during the night and have the customer delighted the next morning. In many instances, car owners were offered spontaneous updates and extra features at no cost. These aspects of the Tesla experience are unique to the carmaker and are excellent examples of their customer experience best practice through actions in the Expectations and Time & Effort Pillars of customer experience. No wonder customers are loyal and more than 300,000 people reserved their Model 3 (launching in 2017, some people will have to be willing to wait at least a couple of years before being proud owners of a Tesla car)!

A full service approach

Tesla goes beyond offering a great product and exceptional support around it. Their commitment to their vision is so strong they actually have put together a comprehensive network of recharging stations across the United States and Europe. Its charging stations are conveniently located on the highway and near hotels, shopping malls and restaurants they partner with.

The real learning from the approach Tesla takes to the network can help shape many customer experience best practice strategies.

The network is necessary for Tesla to sell its fleet of cars. But beyond that, the tech-company offers their customers a clear trade-off: free or fast. The supercharger offers a 50% battery charge in only 20 minutes – and is free for life on its Model S (to the best of our knowledge, it hasn’t been announced whether this will be carried on for the Model 3). But what if 20 minutes is too long for you? Provided you’re willing to pay the equivalent price of a regular gasoline tank fill, you will be able to exchange your car’s battery for a new, fully charged, one. The time it takes? Reportedly, 90 seconds.

The reason their strategy is so critical

Tesla is in the enviable position of defining what customers will come to expect from the automotive industry. This will ultimately end up being reshaped according to their own strengths and ambitions; a strategy to which competitors will have to abide by. This is true customer experience best practice.

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The Uncanny Customer Experience Strategy: April Fools’ Day*

This article was first published on Nunwood.com – the Customer Experience Blog. It is the exclusive property of KPMG Nunwood, part of KPMG in the UK.

April 1st is the most dreaded of days for the tech-savvy and early adopters of innovations: April Fools’ Day, the preferred day for hoaxes and futuristic announcements.

Surprisingly enough, though it is widely acknowledged, there is no agreement on its origins: some say it started in 1582, when the Georgian Calendar (ours) was introduced, putting the old new year’s celebration to our new April 1st (an opportunity to make fun of those who didn’t receive the note). Others say it all started in 1698, when people were led to believe that London would be washing its lions on that exact day.

Although we will have to live with the fact that we probably will never find out when this first started, there is one consolation prize for us: over the years, this celebration has brought an important contribution to customer experience strategy, design and innovation.

You might be wondering by now how such a light-hearted day could possibly be used by corporations to drive innovation and transform our experiences? It actually does make a lot of sense, so bear with me. Innovation is often very costly and, needless to say, very risky as not every innovation will be welcomed by customers. If only there was a way of getting a feel of how customers would welcome a disruptive innovation in their lives, without investing consequent resources or putting your customers off… there is, and yes, it is known as April Fools’ Day!

Using April Fools for your strategy

There is no clear cut way of knowing whether a real innovation is hidden behind an April Fools joke (regardless of whether it is implemented afterwards). However, if a company was to use this day to test the water, there are a few requirements.

Announce your latest disruptive idea (preferably on April 1st, that’s the whole point of the strategy), make it believable with quality PR and promotional videos (potentially leaked if the company doesn’t want to stand by it), sit back and observe people falling for it or giving their opinions on whether it could be something they’d welcome.

If done right, you will get two major benefits from this approach:

  • Provide a positive experience to your customers, leading to positive word of mouth, building your brand as bold, innovative and entertaining.
  • A clear and honest take on your customer experience strategy.

And these hoaxes have actually given light to a number of innovations that did get people very excited. For many of these, the public simply end up forgetting it was an April Fools joke. Alternatively, companies save significant amount of money, time and risk to their reputation when they see customers are not ready to embrace the innovation they had in mind.

In celebration of this day so useful for customer experience strategy, let us look at four simple jokes that became serious business.

1. Wireless charging

Many years ago, a specialist retailer added to its shop a wireless extension cord, offering an extension cable, without the cable. This turned out to be a fake (although it could actually be ordered – and still can, with a clever “No suing” feature). Nowadays, the latest wave of smartphones can be charged wirelessly, thanks to innovative charging pads.

2. MP3 player extension to call your loved ones

Back in 2004, the iPod was a stellar success and ruled the music player market. On April Fools’ Day, a gadget news website announced Apple was working on a phone add-on to its iPod, allowing iPod owners to actually use the device as a cell phone. Although the website revealed it was a hoax and said the firm from Cupertino had nothing to do with this, the coincidence is noticeable. Three years later, in 2007, Steve Jobs disrupted the mobile phone industry with the iPhone.

3. A physical purchase button

This is a button that automatically purchases products for you with only one click. Amazon announced it one day before April 1st 2015, which led everyone to believe it was an early April Fool (without having to even share the spotlight with anyone else – clever!). The Amazon Dash became a reality a few months later and was available to purchase for every Amazon customer. No more running out of toilet paper, washing powder or razor blades. A click of a button will be followed by an order and a product arriving at your place two days later. This customer experience strategy is brilliant, both in the way it was announced, along with the publicity it received and the experience design innovation it brought with it.

4. The driverless pizza delivery car

Neither Google nor Tesla, the first company offering you an autonomous vehicle driving your next pizza quattro fromaggi, is a pizza chain. For April Fools’ Day 2012, Domino’s Pizza in the UK advertised a two-wheeled autonomous pizza delivery vehicle. Although it was a simple joke at that time, Domino’s announced in March 2016 it was trialling the DRU – Domino’s Robotic Unit, in Australia and New Zealand.

The DRU can deliver up to 20km from a store, has sensors to avoid obstacles and only releases the orders with a unique code given to customers when they make their orders.

Whether this design innovation is the result of a conscious customer experience strategy or a happy coincidence is unclear, but this certainly does transform the way the company operates and the way customers are serviced.

With all these pranks that became true, the burning question can only be: What will this year’s April Fools’ Day hold for us? Time will tell if brands involved this year do see April Fools’ Day as a valuable part to their customer experience strategy, or if it is just an opportunity to spread a good PR stunt and make us dream of tomorrow’s innovations.

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