Six steps to guarantee a ROI (return on investment) in customer experience

How do you know when to invest in Customer Experience?  What does such an investment look like? Is it training or measuring or just paying attention to the customer? And then, the million-dollar question, how do you know your investment in customer experience has actually worked?  AND, is there a time you can stop investing in this valuable resource?

At insight6, our team of 24 Customer Experience Experts (CXDs) work across the UK and Ireland, with more than 1,000 businesses.

We asked them how they would answer these questions.

Our CXD team have very impressive senior management experience in customer centric companies from Tesler to Tescos, from Costa to Coke, Apple to Heineken.

What we discovered from our team of CXD’s can be summed up in six key findings:

1. One size does not fit all

The first step with any new client is to gain an understanding of the needs of the organisation. Some clients know exactly what is needed, for example, a team training programme or a competitor analysis. Other clients may need to gain an objective view on whether there is a customer experience issue to address. When a client does not know if there is an issue, the only way to find out is by asking either customers, the team or both! Whatever the client issue, whether it be high team turnover or low customer retention, the results of asking the right questions will always illuminate a path of action that will solve the problem. Simply having an open discussion with an expert will open up the world of CX and allow exploration into what can be achieved.

We had such a discussion with the CEO of a private school, which had a problem with their open days lacking purpose. Measuring the customer experience through insight6 CX reviews across all their open days led to identifying untapped specific sales opportunities that were immediately actioned by the whole team. This, in turn, led to an increase in conversion on new students of 49%! The return on investment on a school with £25K fees per annum is significant.

2. The time is right when you are ready for change

The only time to invest in Customer Experience is when you are prepared to take action. How many times have you decided to undertake research and used the report to fill a bookshelf, or attended a training course and, within a week, forgotten what you learnt? We all do it.

The truth is that you will know when it is time to invest in customer experience; it’s when you know you are ready and are open minded enough to embrace what comes next, and then make it happen.

Two live examples from our team are:

In an accountancy practice, staff focus groups and a team engagement survey were conducted across the business: the results were poor, as expected. The manner in which the results were presented, and the clarity of the next steps were too compelling for the managing partner to ignore. Within 6 months of the results and the actions of the management team, staff morale and retention had improved, and like for like sales had increased on the previous 6 months.

Conversely, a business had commissioned Customer Experience reviews (mystery shopping) to measure the customer’s perceptions of the service. KPI data was generated from the customer experience studies on sales, service and presentation over a series of months. The detailed gap analysis over time, clearly highlighted the need for sales skills training but the business was not ready to take the plunge. When measurement is used without the accompanying action, it is not possible to create the impact on the business and maximise your return.

Improving CX is about changing behaviour and that needs to be central to all activity.

3. Investment in Customer Experience is everything to do with the Customer

Take a look at your business through the lens of your customer, and you will see everything that needs to change! Keep the customer as a metaphoric ‘horse whisperer’ by having a continuous 'feed in' of how they see your business, from focus groups to CX reviews (mystery shopping), on-line immediate feedback, to Video mystery visits. The only thing that is vital, is that you listen to the ‘whispers’, and elevate their status in your business to the most important voice in your management team. One of our clients has an empty chair at their board table that represents the customer, so the customer’s perception can never be forgotten. This makes the point to the whole management team that the person in that chair is the one who needs to be most impressed with the decisions made in the meeting.

Our CXD’s recount some great examples where…

An optician's practice committed to an ongoing programme of CX reviews (mystery shopping), Feedback Direct (real time customer feedback) and annual Focus Groups, which led to a change in strategic direction, continued investment and acquisition. All this was possible through deeply understanding the relationship with customers.

In a farm shop, the investment in understanding their customers better resulted in an observable increase in confidence in the management of the teams; they delivered great service and developed the art of selling through being ‘in service to customers’, rather than ‘hard selling'. The ROI was staggering.

4. Investing in the Catalysts to Customer Experience

Customer experience is not something that can be ‘given’ by a business. Customer experience is a subjective feeling that the customer has, which results from a series of events and encounters which leave an impression. This is called the Customer Journey. In order to create the blank canvas so that a customer journey can be identified, everyone in the organisation needs to see themselves as a catalyst to a great customer experience - from the leaders to the front-line team.

In a business that we worked with, the Customer Experience reviews (mystery shopping) and team engagement surveys revealed the need for sales training, coaching and mentoring for the whole team from the Senior leadership team to the salespeople. The team recognised the need to treat their customers better than their competitors, which resulted in an increase in sales and referrals.

A hospitality business was able to increase average spend by a fifth, and increase Customer Experience scores by 25%, as a result of fully engaging the team and management in the training and coaching programme.

5. ROI on Customer Experience is exponential

How do you measure the impact of making your team happier? What do you ask your customers to find out if they had a good experience? And how do you know if all your investment in your customers and team really did increase your sales?

Part of any customer experience project is to put ROI at the core of the work. It is vital that you can quantify the impact of the work and the money invested. The only place to start is by asking yourself questions about where your business is now and where you would like it to be and what would ‘great’ look like. Over 25 years, insight6 has developed robust tools to measure and quantify the impact of investing in customer experience for businesses, so you can know what works and what does not.

A retail and hospitality business wanted to understand what the increase would be in sales following a programme of CX reviews that identified an issue with the cafe team not upselling.

As a result, a sales training programme was delivered to the team. A carefully structured benchmark was created with the client on current customer spend levels and footfall before starting the project, so that any increases would be recognised and rewarded. At the end of a 12-month period, the spend levels increased as a result of 75% more customers responding to the service of the team and they purchased more product.

In a solicitor’s practice, a client journey mapping exercise led to the whole team becoming engaged in the customer experience. As a result, client retention and team productivity was increased. Just one client - who decided to stay with the practice after all - paid for the investment in the customer experience project 52 times over.

6. The magic sauce for customer experience is objectivity and expertise

The journey to being ‘great’ is continuous, especially as we live in a world where expectations from customers increase every single moment. Keeping up with customer expectations, knowing how to respond and being aware of what the priority is in your business, is a difficult task when you are ‘looking out’ from your business, as opposed to having the benefit of looking from outside in. Finding a trusted, objective and expert human adviser/partner is the magic sauce for knowing when and how to act with customer experience. Have you ever tried being your own therapist or coach? It does work, but only to the limit of what you have already experienced in your life. Gaining the insight of an expert will always allow you to step outside the boundaries of your own thinking, and experience a fresh, new way of looking at your business, inspiring you to go boldly into your future.

“Having the experience to mentor the managers to follow up the training is essential to create the transformation.” Harriet, Scotland

“We provided powerful insight with a large sample size which clearly showed the changes needed, those changes in this example created an extra £200k of income.” Graham Hill

So, is investing in Customer Experience a choice? The answer is not binary - the business needs to commit to changing and you need to find the expertise to rocket fuel your customer experience.

A Reliable Approach to Turning Complaints into Custom

Dealing with complaints

Dealing with complaintsCustomer complaints are an unavoidable challenge that any business inevitably face sooner or later. Your team will be working hard to maintain a high standard of business in order to prevent customer discontent, however the reality of human error renders total satisfaction amongst every customer impossible. Once in a while, a slip-up will occur, and a customer will make sure that any inconvenience the mistake caused them is known to your organisation. The complaint could be in the form of a disgruntled phone call, a strongly worded email, a targeted social media post or even an in-person confrontation.

The folly of most companies however, is in immediately disregarding these complaining customers as lost business. By sending complaining customers away with a partial refund or some other form of compensation and thinking no further about them, many companies are missing out on a chance to improve precarious business relationships, and in doing so, strengthening their reputation.

In fact, statistics show that those who complain when dissatisfied with customer treatment are more likely to want to continue a business relationship with your organisation than those who do not complain.

“A customer complaint highlights a problem, whether that’s a problem with your product, employees or internal processes, and by hearing these problems directly from your customers, you can investigate and improve to prevent further complaints in the future.”[i] (SuperOffice).

 Complaints represent a customer’s disappointment in the standard of your company, which has fallen below their expectation. It is the job of your customer service staff to reinstate this expectation at its prior high level. To do this, insight6 has come up with an effective strategy that will help you to negotiate angry customers into loyal patrons.

Clean up the first response

 Before responding to an irate customer, consider their position. Nobody contacts the complaints department of a business because they want to. The reason for the call is likely to be because the caller is upset due to what they consider to be sub-par treatment from your company. Whether or not this upset is justified is, at the first point of contact, irrelevant. Your position when hearing out the complaint should come from one of total un-bias; good customer service employees are willing to listen and accept the customer’s story at face value instead of immediately attempting to negate it.

As Mark Goulston says in his book Talking To Crazy: ‘leaning in to crazy [a term he uses to describe incomprehensible hostile behaviour] can empower you to break free from communication strategies that [typically] fail and break through’[ii]. What Goulston means by this is that even if the person you are speaking with is being belligerent, rude or irrational, it is important not to allow your own instinctive anger to form a response. Instead, by attempting to empathise with the customer, even in an absurd context, you can diffuse their anger, and get to a place where you can negotiate. Through ‘leaning in’ to their perspective, you can convey to complaining customers that you have acknowledged and understood their frustration, which is what they want.

Something to keep in mind is that your customer is already aggrieved before reaching out to complain, and then on top of this, they are forced to plough through whatever formal complaints process your company has in place. Customer complaints processes can often be frustrating and unpleasant, as no doubt you have probably experienced at some point. Hostile responses from front of house staff are a shortcut towards the notorious “I wish to speak to the manager” request. This is an easily avoided conversation, combated by implementing proper training for your customer service staff.

Another fault that many companies fall into is failing to impress authority through tone and language during the initial report of a customer complaint. The last thing customers want is to feel in this situation is that their time is being wasted by speaking with someone that is not taking them seriously. By utilising simple, confident phrases such as: “I have the expertise to help you with your issue,” or “let’s go through what next steps we can take to solve this”, your staff can provide immediate assurance that they are in control, and are able to handle the complaint without needing to pass the phone around to find someone ‘in charge’.

Get the apology right

According to Forum Corporation’s research, 70% of customers leave a business because they feel the company doesn’t care about them. If a customer complains, it is because they feel they have been wronged by your organisation, and are seeking amends. The first step towards righting any wrong is an apology. Unfortunately, a large percentage of corporations and brands do not understand how to make a sincere apology, leaving customers disinclined to believe they are genuinely sorry.

To simplify this grey area, here is a formula for a proper apology that can be taught to your customer service team as a guideline when speaking with disgruntled clients:

  1. Express remorse for the specific problems the error has caused.
  2. Admit the company is at fault, and do not try to excuse the mistake.
  3. Offer to make it right and assure them it will not be repeated.

This formula is based on an article written by psychologist Christine Carter called The Three Parts of an Effective Apology. This article breaks down the concept of an apology into three components, based on what the apology intends to achieve. Apologies are not a chance to list excuses for behaviour that caused hurt, they are a demonstration of remorse for this behaviour. If the actions of your company somehow upset a customer, the apology for this should be reassuring enough that the upset party knows your company is totally accepting of the error, and fully intend to make up for it.

What does the customer want from the complaint?

Customers complain for a few different reasons: to express their dissatisfaction, to release their frustration, and to receive some compensation for their struggle. An apology will go a long way, but to ensure a customer does not move their business elsewhere, compensation can be a necessary part of smoothing over the issue.

An effective method of letting a customer feel they have been appropriately compensated is to personalise their reward to them. Instead of a generic partial refund, or company-branded merchandise, find the root of their initial complaint and tailor the offer around it. For example, if a customer purchased some legal advice on a house purchase and ended up dissatisfied, their compensation could be a discount on future mortgage advisement.

Regardless of the size of your business, your customers want to feel that they are your priority, that you value their specific custom. By paying attention to the precise needs of each individual client, you are more likely to build a loyal base of consumers, eager to recommend you to their family and friends.


At insight6, our Customer Experience Directors (CXD’s) have found time and again that one of the most significant positive changes a business can make to turn enquiries into confirmed clients is to follow-up. The follow-up is a simple and effective tool, comprising of a simple phone call or email one to three days after a client conversation. In this follow-up call or email, the client’s name should be used, details of their enquiry should be peppered in, and a plan should be established to secure further business.

After a complaint has been recorded, the follow-up is crucial. Whilst following the steps above will do wonders to placate an irate customer, the final step that will eradicate any further concerns about the competence of your company, is this follow-up call. Checking in with a client after their report of a problem is a signal that you still care about their satisfaction in regards to the organisation, even after the initial complaint has been resolved. This will make a customer feel valuable to the business, and at last the matter can be left alone.

When discussing how to deal with angry customers, remember to impress upon your customer service team that complaints should not be viewed as a wholly negative response. In a survey conducted by Customer Strategies Analyst Esteban Kolsky, only 1 in 25 customers complain to the company as opposed to sharing their grievances online. Once your customers begin typing their negative responses into the many review sites across the internet, it is far more difficult to erase their detrimental impact from your company’s reputation.

Direct complaints can be handled out of the public eye with the correct know-how. Once your staff have been trained in mediation strategies such as the ones we have exampled in this article, insight6 can guarantee you will see a significant decrease in loss of business from complaining customers.

9 ways to keep your customers coming back

Customer Retention

Customer Retention

A customer makes an enquiry, you make the perfect pitch, win the conversion and ultimately win the customer’s purchase – success! But does the journey end there? Not if you want them to keep coming back.

According to KPMG, customer retention is cited as the biggest revenue driver for businesses putting it above customer acquisition, product innovations, pricing and promotional strategies, and technological advancements.

Coupled with the fact that poor Customer Experience is by far the most common reason for a customer leaving a company (68%), you can see why retaining customers and treating them right is so important.

With that in mind, insight6 presents to you: 9 ways to retain your customers. 


1) Follow up and get feedback

If you want your customers to keep coming back then you need to know exactly what it is that they want. To make improvements to the service you offer the best person to ask what could be improved is the customer.

Getting feedback does not have to be a long, complicated, process. It can be gained via exit interviews, email survey forms or asking customers to leave a review on social media. It should be made as simple as possible for customers to provide feedback as the majority of people will not bother to go through a long questionnaire.

The first thing to do is to stay in touch with the customer. Part of providing excellent Customer Experience is to ensure that the customer is happy after they have used your business. Go the extra mile by asking the customer when would be convenient for you to give them a call.

Not only will this keep you in the mind of your customers, it will also show them that you care, you didn’t just forget about them when they left the door.


Get in touch with insight6 today to find out how we can help you gain the very best feedback from your customers.


2) Have a passionate team

When a customer uses your services do you want them to be greeted by a team who don’t really understand your offering, are unenthusiastic and are only there for the money, or do you want them to be greeted by a team who love the service, make an effort to relate to the customer on a personal level and genuinely love what they do?

Ok, these are two extremes but the point stands. Enthusiasm breeds enthusiasm, and if your team has it then the customer is much more likely to get excited by the brand itself. A customer is much more likely to return somewhere where they got to know the team and felt that they were passionate about finding them the perfect solution.


3) Create something your customer will keep

To keep yourself in the minds of your customers and to keep them coming back, you want them to have a familiarity with the brand. By doing something as simple as offering out a free branded pen, socks, notebook, you name it, customers will see and use the item and build a familiarity with your brand. Then when they need to use your services again, who will they think of first? You.

The great thing about collateral such as this is that when they start using it in front of other people, they will be asked about it. They create more conversations about your brand and if you have provided them with a truly memorable experience, your customers will tell others that and recommend you.



4) Be transparent and honest with your customers

It is often said that relationships are built on a foundation of trust. The same applies to a relationship between you and your customers. If they can’t trust you, how do you expect them to continue to purchase from you? Don’t be dishonest or over exaggerate to get that initial sale, it is just not sustainable.

If the customer is unhappy with a product or service because they feel they have been deceived, then the least they are going to do is simply not come back. You are also risking them complaining, asking for a refund and letting their friends and family know about how deceitful the company was. Does that all seem worth it for that one sale?


5) Personalise their experience

People like to do business with other people that they know and, importantly, like. Small things such as using their name when communicating with them, whether by email, phone or in person, make a big difference to their overall experience. It makes them feel valued and that helps to build trust. The more your business connects with a customer on a personal level, the more they will trust your brand, meaning they are more likely to come back to you in the future. 


6) Own up to your mistakes

If something has gone wrong and the customer is not happy, the most important thing for you to do is to listen to them. If it turns out that for whatever reason you haven’t been able to fully deliver what the customer was promised, own up to that mistake and offer the customer some form of apology. You could even offer the customer a discount voucher for next time they come which encourages them to come back or give them a complete refund or replacement, depending on the scale of the problem.

It is inevitable that mistakes will happen, but the majority of your customers will understand as long as you take the necessary measures to put it right. Not everyone will come back despite your efforts but by owning up to your mistakes and apologising you are doing everything you can to keep them happy and to retain them as a customer.


7) Reward loyalty

Offering customers who have purchased multiple items or are a regular user of your service a special reward shows them that you value them. If you show your customer that you not only welcome them back in but will reward them for doing so, they will keep coming back. One of the best ways of achieving this is to set up a loyalty card scheme. There are a number of different scheme types you could use such as ‘10th purchase is free’ or even a bonus system where they build up points that they can spend with you.

Be careful though, you don’t want to devalue the services that you do offer by making discounts and free rewards too easy to obtain. Not all loyalty schemes work for all businesses, so you may have to do some thinking as to what would work best for your customers.


Keep Customers Coming Back


8) Keep the experience fresh

Constantly be updating and improving your Customer Experience to ensure that you stay up to date and ahead of your competition. Keeping things different will prevent customers from getting bored with the experience and gives them a reason to go back to find out what will be different the next time. We’re not talking about changing your seafood restaurant into a Chinese takeaway but make sure you are changing things up every now and again. Go back to point one and look at the feedback you have received from your customers to get the best ideas on what you can do differently.


9) Always thank the customer – even when they do not make a purchase

It sounds obvious, but it is amazing how many times as a customer you do business with a company and they don’t thank you for it. It is so simple and yet leaves the customer feeling valued and respected. Failing to thank the customer can lead to them feeling dejected and that their purchase didn’t really matter to you.

Equally important however is to thank a customer who has decided not to make a purchase on one occasion. It may be the case that they don’t ever come back, but on the other hand, it could just be that they are thinking about coming back later or that they want to explore all of their options first. If you want a customer to keep coming back you have to think of the long run, they may not have bought from you on this occasion but if you show them politeness and a good attitude then they are far more likely to come back in the future.


To find out more about how insight6 can help you to achieve world class customer experience, get in touch today.


Is Observation Dead?

I was recently browsing the local supermarket shelves for a loaf of gluten-free bread that I was purchasing in anticipation of a weekend guest who suffers from celiac disease. Who knew there could be so many different varieties of bread?

I stood browsing for a good ten minutes during which time a young, male employee wandered past on three separate occasions. On one occasion, he even stood within two feet of me to check his hand-held radio.

No eye contact was made, however, or any attempt whatsoever to assist me in my product search. On his way into the storeroom, which was right next to the bread section, he nearly tripped on three cardboard boxes that were partially obscuring the doorway. He muttered under his breath and then continued walking, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the boxes were now more than partially blocking the doorway!

Eventually I found my gluten free bread (possibly lined with gold dust due to its exorbitant price) and made my way to the checkout. As it was late afternoon on a Friday there was plenty of activity in the store with much stocking of shelves in preparation for a busy shopping weekend.

As I queued and waited to pay for my gold-encrusted gluten free loaf, I noticed a female employee walk straight past a piece of plastic wrapping littering the floor. A second employee also walked by, this time it appeared to stick to her shoe. She brushed it off, left it on the floor, and continued walking!

Do people simply not see what’s in front of them, I wondered, or is it a case of ‘that’s not my mess so I’m not touching it’?

We all know those families who moan about their children walking straight OVER their clean washing on the steps of the stairs as they dash to their bedrooms to update their Instagram and I’ve witnessed countless waiters placing my food order in front of me and then walking back to the kitchen empty handed, past a table laden with dirty dishes.

So, this ‘selective blindness’ is not a new phenomenon. Is observation dead? Do we simply not see what’s in front of us? Or have we created a society so lacking in awareness and sensible judgement that we simply don’t care what’s around us?

I decided to create a small experiment with the help of one of my clients; a local primary school.

On the day of my visit to XXX Preparatory School to discuss our latest series of web enquiries, I placed a large, empty plastic bottle on the floor outside the head teacher’s office. We chatted about the impact our monthly reports were having on the school and Samuel, my willing 9-year-old accomplice, counted the students who walked by and observed their response.

Of 19 passers-by, only 2 students picked up the bottle and took it (presumably to the nearest bin). 4 students decided to kick the bottle and 2 trampled on it! The rest walked on by.

Unobservant or lazy? Self-motivated or self-serving? Are we simply too busy to be truly observant? And how does this translate to what we see, or don’t see, in our customer’s faces and behaviours?

The takeaways from my ramblings………How observant are you? To the needs of your customers, your team and your visitors. When was the last time you had a close and thorough look at your own premises, website or social media image?

Just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean others won’t.

If you’re interested in a fresh pair of observant eyes taking a look at your business, give me a call. My powers of observation are quite good, especially when it comes to a lack of observances from others.

Jonathan Winchester

Improve Your Customer’s Experience In Six Easy Steps

1.   Listen

When was the last time you asked your customer how they felt? Do you know what their needs are? Are you familiar with their perception of your website, your premises and your communication with them?

Thanks to the huge array of customer analytics tools this is easy to establish and, depending on the size of your business and the level of detail you wish to gather, these tools can provide a critical insight into the habits, behavior’s and trends of your customer.

‘Customer analytics is the use of data to understand the composition, needs and satisfaction of the customer. Also, the enabling technology used to segment buyers into groupings based on behavior, to determine general trends, or to develop targeted marketing and sales activities.’

If you are not using customer metrics to track your customers spend habits you are missing out on valuable data which could hugely influence your income. Being able to deliver an experience based on the historical habits of your customer creates a far more personal relationship. When you create a more personal experience you have the opportunity to win trust and loyalty and if you tap into those emotions, you could win a customer for life.


2.   Listen More Closely

Tracking your customer’s behaviour through analytics is a great tool for predicting habits, anticipating problems and getting into the purchase mindset of your customer.

But there is still more valuable data you can obtain….

Exit surveys are extremely useful in getting real time feedback. Actually listening to the customer, while their experience is still fresh in their mind is potentially the most valuable data you may glean. Surveying your potential customers through direct questions will give you completely honest and raw feedback which can be used to great effect in creating a dynamic and relevant relationship with your customer. (Contact us for more information regarding bespoke surveys you can use in your business next week!)

3.   Listen To What You Don’t Hear

Your data metrics may give insight into the customers who have failed to come back to you, but do you know why these customers have chosen to take their loyalty elsewhere?

Have you called your loyal previous customers who don’t seem to be doing business with you lately? Have you followed up on any customers who have had issues or complaints and ensured their problem was fully resolved? What do you offer your disappointed or ambivalent customers to come back to you?

Sometimes it’s what you DON’T hear that could provide imperative information about your customer service. MOST customers who are disappointed with their service will not complain – up to 96% of unhappy customers never complain. However, up to 91% of those unhappy customers will never willingly do business with you again.

4.   Listen With Love

If you do get the opportunity to listen to customers, for example in a forum or customer focus group, or during the exit surveys, make sure your customers feel they are being listened to with genuine interest and concern. Too often the listener can act defensively or with a reaction that implies some sort of justification. If you have asked for feedback, LISTEN to the feedback. Do not argue, offer rationale or excuses. Take on board the feedback with grace and interest.

5.   Listen Again

Many businesses get swept up in the desire for customer metrics or surveys and implement the appropriate programmes to gain relevant data. The insightful businesses build programmes and develop new initiatives based on the data, hoping to pitch a more personal service to their customer database.

But too often businesses see this sort of project as a one-off. Once the data is obtained and used to springboard new ideas, few companies repeat the whole exercise frequently enough. If you are to truly listen to your customer you should listen again and listen often.

Once is not enough. Let it be known that you are keen to obtain feedback all the time, not just during surveys or focus groups. Embed your plans to listen to your customer within your weekly operations. Make an ongoing commitment to listen to your customer regularly and keep your promise. If your customer knows they will be heard at any stage of the customer journey they will have confidence in your relationship and be far more likely to remain a lifetime customer.

6.   Listen To Those You Don’t Know

Spread the net widely and target all contacts and potential new contacts through social media campaigns. Ask the question ‘What is the most pressing matter right now that you face?’ Create conversations with potential customers by expressing an interest in them and a desire to provide a solution for them.

For example, at Shopper Anonymous we recently ran a short social media campaign targeting all leisure centres within a specific area. We simply asked the question, ‘What issues do you face on a day to day basis that cause you headaches?’

Several leisure centres responded to say that staff attitudes to customers were poor and they received regular complaints. We then approached these leisure centres offering our services of team training sessions and motivating incentive programmes. Their response was ‘we thought you only did mystery shopping’. Several new clients gained simply because we widened the net and listened to what our potential customers were struggling with.

So the one common theme in our six steps to improving your customer service is to listen. We have two ears but only one mouth. If you adapt your business practices so that at the heart of every decision and new initiative is a desire and genuine ability to listen, you will increase your customer database and win lifetime customers. So simple, yet so often forgotten.

Can The Independent Food Retailers Survive?

The bi-annual UK Customer Satisfaction Index has just been published by the Institute of Customer Service and for the third consecutive year, Amazon tops the list. In fact, there are no real surprises in the list at all; First Direct, John Lewis,, Next, Subway and Aldi were all in the top ten. The bottom performers were New Look, TSB, Skoda UK and Iceland. Eight of the twenty ‘most improved’ organisations were utilities companies which is a much anticipated and welcome change and yet I can’t say I’ve had a surge of customer love from any of my utility suppliers!

According to the UKCSI July report, 28% of consumers favoured excellent customer service, even if it meant paying more, compared with 15% who were motivated by the cheapest deal.

It would appear that the statistics back up the premise that excellent customer service is worth paying for. This is good news – no news to us at Shopper Anonymous of course as most of our customer relationships are built on that very premise.

Core ingredients of excellent customer service – employee competence, attitudes and behaviour – have become even more significant differentiators,” said Ms Causon of the ICS.

“Mass marketing or a ‘one size fits all’ customer experience is delivering diminishing returns and diluting valuable customer relationships.”

So if the larger companies with huge buying power like Amazon continue to deliver excellence in customer service and a speedy delivery service, does this signal a danger bell for smaller retailers? And how much are we prepared to pay for excellent customer service?

The biggest warning bell of the decade resounded throughout the aisles of independent supermarkets and farm shops last month after Amazon finally launched its fresh grocery service in the UK.  The retail giant has begun delivering groceries in 70 north and east London postcodes and anticipates offering same-day deliveries with access to high quality local stores such as Gail’s Artisan Bakery, Daylesford Organic and chocolatier Paul A Young. With the combination of same day delivery and access to quality produce, who wouldn’t want to make Amazon a ‘Prime’ friend, particularly if they offer superb customer service.

The online grocery market is expected to nearly double in value to £17.2bn over the next 4 years, according to food and grocery research body IGD, while supermarket sales will fall by nearly 3% to £69.6bn. Businesses with an online presence only such as Amazon and Ocado are expected to benefit the most from this growth in home delivered groceries whilst the current market leader Tesco, which controls about 40% of the online grocery market, could lose out.

And if same day delivery and excellent service isn’t enough to sway the average customer, the range of products might be the game-changer. Amazon is expected to have over 130,000 products which far exceeds the other main operators; Ocado boasts about 48,000 items while Tesco has about 70,000. The average Asda or Sainsbury’s superstore carries less than 40,000.

With such an impressive and reliable ability to deliver, will shoppers continue to venture out of their homes or offices to take a physical trip to the local supermarket? Certainly, in London and other large cities with a predominance of young, urban, working families, home delivery means more time to work or socialise so there is little doubt about their shopping habits. It remains a generational habit still, with many middle to older aged shoppers preferring to use the local shops and continue with decade-old habits.

Survival techniques for the smaller retailers are many and varied with some local supermarkets near me organising day trips out and excursions to West End shows, in addition to cooking demonstrations from Celebrity Chefs. Seasonal and social occasions are being promoted as a way of enticing customers into the store and buying loyalty.

Other independent retailers offer loyalty programmes and their own home deliveries with personal touches.

Amazon may have plans to take over the world and they may have the winning formula to do so, but the independents will fight a worthy battle if they continue to value their customers on a personal level; something Amazon simply cannot do.

Jonathan Winchester, Chief Executive, Shopper Anonymous (UK) Ltd

Customer Service; Past, Present, Future

Many years ago, I sat in an education lecture and a very forward thinking professor said “More than half of the information our children will need to survive and thrive in their lifetime has not even been invented yet”. Scary, but how true have those words proven to be.

Given the saturation of digital platforms, it is very hard to anticipate what technologies will exist to enhance our purchase power in 2020 but one thing is crystal clear; to increase revenue and custom, every business will be striving to position themselves very overtly as customer-centric.

We live in an age of immediacy; the Centennials or Gen Z will never understand the concept of ‘waiting’ as we knew it. If they want it, they want it NOW.

The customer experience has evolved beyond recognition to meet the needs of the digital savvy Gen Z in the past decade but what will the customer experience be like in another decade?

So let’s take a closer look at customers’ expectations then, today and in the future and how it will affect your own business.

A little tongue in cheek at times, but I’d be interested to get your feedback on how you see the 2020 market place in terms of the customer.

The Prediction The 2017 Reality The 2020 Possibility
Google, Safari, Bing and other search engines will have the answer to everything; from where to buy a 1890 gramophone to where to go for a vegan meal in Paris. That’s a big YES. Last year Google announced ‘It’s official, there are now more searches on mobile devices than on desktops’. Is your business mobile device compatible? PCs may be a thing of the past. High speed internet and improved telecommunications will mean your customer profile will be in the ‘cloud’ and will remind you of your preferences each time you step into a purchasing environment.
Customer loyalty to one brand will diminish as customers realise there are many different options and offers available to them. They will not hesitate to change brand if they are unhappy with service. Online reviews will become popular. They do and they will continue to. And if customers change brand they often tell their hundreds of social networking friends about what compelled them to do so! Excellent service is a priority and is sometimes worth more than a reliable product. Brands will be defined by more than price, product and historical reputation; customer experience will be the key brand differentiator. Reviews, case studies and customer testimonials will be sprinkled about with the value of gold dust.
Customers will use social media to find the service or product they require. In 2015, there are over 2.5 billion social network users world-wide. That’s over 30% of the world population; a staggering amount of Instagram snaps or tweets or posts and an incredibly large advertising playground. Advertising agencies won’t be finding print very profitable. Will the Centennials even know what a magazine is?
Customers will want a relationship. And they will want ‘pain free’. Customers expect more than a receipt. A loyalty program, a follow up call/email or a chance to get to know their choice of business. Customers will expect businesses to pre-empt their purchase. A fridge magnet will cause immediate disappointment and guaranteed defection.
BUT the relationship won’t necessarily be face to face…. More than 50% of customers now prefer to communicate via text or email for an immediate response. Virtual agents make frequent appearances on many websites. Those online, ‘speak-to-an-agent NOW’ pop-ups will be a bad memory. It’ll be face to face communication via the web. Wearing jeans and no makeup to the office will not be an option; you’ll be on display. That’s assuming there is an ‘office’.
Customers will want more than a product or service – content will be a key feature of every business image; ‘how to’ guides, ‘did you know?’ posts, blogs and newsletters will enhance the reach of most businesses. Clever, forward thinking businesses have employed content managers who are working hard to create their businesses as a ‘thought leader’. Most businesses do not limit themselves by offering just products; they offer solutions. Honesty, integrity and approachability will key. Your customer will base their relationship with you on so much more than your last transaction. Depth of expertise and knowledge, speed of response and excellent resolutions to any queries or issues will define a successful business.
The marketing budget for retaining customers and encouraging loyalty will more than double. Not yet, but most businesses KNOW they should do it and many are starting to prioritise it. The first item on every agenda in every meeting will be ‘are we doing the right thing by our customer?’
Customer intelligence will be key (not their IQ scores; information ABOUT the customer such as their age, shopping habits, preferences etc.) Intelligence, statistics, feedback and real time information will be imperative in key decision making. Big data is BIG business. It’s everywhere you look at the moment; analytics, statistics, metrics, KPIs,…’s there for the taking.
Are You Over-Analysing and Under-Thinking Your Business?
Data and feedback will become even more ‘real time’ responsive. Smartphones will be enabled with technology that provides location and preference information to both the business and the customer. Think big brother and his extended family.
The CEO of every business will make SERVICE a priority. Not many CEOs are flying the customer service priority flag yet but many are starting to recognise that excellent customer service may differentiate their business from their competitor. The CEO of every business will BE a customer service expert. Universities will offer degrees in ‘The Complexities Of The Customer’ – that’s a step up from ‘Love Your Customer 101’.
Customers will want an immediate response. Those days of ordering something and waiting over a week for delivery are gone. A phone call, email or web enquiry come with a silent expectation of a response within the same working day. Think Kindle Fire Mayday button, Spotify or Apple live streaming music, track your delivery etc. The forward-thinking industries are already offering immediate solutions. Same day delivery and anticipatory shipping will be standard. Yoga retreats and technology free holidays will be the only way to remind yourself you are a human. Counsellors will offer Digital Detox sessions and exercise will still be a thing – but with a larger focus on vocal chords.


The digital economy changes so rapidly that we are not yet fully aware of the options we may have in 2020, so predicting the future of the face of customer relationships is almost impossible.

One thing is certain, however, whether you like it not you will have to embrace the technology on offer if you wish to maintain any sort of connection with your customer. Add in your own personal style and touches of course, but don’t keep your head in the sand in relation to new developments, your business will simply not survive.

How To Run A Customer Service Clinic

Customer service. It’s the benchmark that every business knows it should be measuring. It’s the topic that should be featured in every team meeting. It’s the one differentiator that every manager believes they have under control. Yet it is still difficult to measure the ROI of good customer service – there is no clear metric to define it – and therefore, many businesses are reluctant to allocate a fair whack of their budget to it.

It’s also the one thing that very few businesses do exceptionally well. And that is the key right there – exceptionally. It is no longer good enough to have great customer service. If businesses are to succeed and rise above the competitors in 2017, your customer service must be EXCEPTIONAL.

Customer service is no longer a ‘department’ it is an attitude; an attitude and behaviour that should be embraced by the whole team from the Managing Director to the cleaner. And customer service starts from within. If the management team does not treat its own team with courtesy, respect and professionalism, it is difficult for the team to relate to the importance and value of customer service.

So, other than talk about the basics such as eye-contact, pleasant smile, quick response rate and professional delivery (of service or product), how do you really ensure the customer service message is getting through to your team?

A customer service clinic.

A totally focussed, in-depth look at how your customer service measures up. This could be a half day, a full day or even a workshop. There are many options but our recipe for running a successful customer service clinic is outlined below.

  1. Make it special – different location, different speaker, different reward/incentive scheme.
  1. Be prepared. You will need to conduct a survey both in-house and with your customers to obtain relevant and current data about the true picture of your customer service. You cannot improve effectively on what you don’t really know. Accurate data is imperative.
  1. Use specialist knowledge (we can help with this!) Don’t assume that researching customer service and using an outdated manual will do the job. Customers expect more than the smile and polite interaction that the ‘How To Relate To Your Customers’ manuals of the 1990s preached about. Customers of 2017 want a relationship, they want to feel special and valued and they will not hesitate to move their loyalty elsewhere if they feel this is not forthcoming.
  1. Make it relevant – to every person attending. Every member of the team needs to understand the effect they can have on a potential or existing customer. Once again, understanding the importance that customer service has on your customers is something that cannot be taught or emphasised in handouts or emails – it is part of the team culture, it is a feeling, an attitude and a deep-seated part of an individual’s inherent makeup. You will not necessarily get a surly, shy or introverted 19-year-old to embrace the idea of excellent customer service by sitting them in front of a PowerPoint presentation. But they may start to ‘feel’ your goals’ intentions if you create a warm, buzzing, positive workshop and carry that attitude through to the workplace.
  1. Advertise the training as an upskilling session, be upbeat, positive, friendly, inspiring; all the things you want your team to be. Make a point of praising the team and using in-house examples of great customer service that you have experienced within your own business.
  1. Focus on the key pillars of great customer service:
  • warmth and building a rapport,
  • patience,
  • ability to really listen,
  • knowledge of product,
  • ability to read customers,
  • a calm demeanour, and
  • a willingness to go the extra mile.

It is these factors that will set your team apart from the rest.

  1. Develop a loyalty programme as a team so that there is ownership and, therefore, a more personal investment in recommending and promoting it.

When creating a loyalty programme consider three important aspects:

  • Find a desirable outcome. Customers won’t commit to a programme if the reward isn’t worthwhile. Additional access or discounts for your product/service may be viable but in many cases, freebies work best.
  • Find an action the customers will regularly commit to. Dropbox found that customers were very willing to refer other users for additional space. For some businesses, the initial purchase of the product or service could be the beginning of an accumulation of points or rewards.
  • Make sure the programme aligns with your business. Tesco has its loyalty programme spot on. Accumulated points can be used for a range of items or rewards and they have periods where they double or triple the value of the vouchers used. I’m guilty of shopping at Tesco because they have a great reward programme and I don’t like Tesco! Waitrose don’t have a loyalty programme so I shop there begrudgingly because of this. Most businesses will not be launching a rewards programme quite on this scale but do consider the value of your loyalty programme in relation to YOUR business.

Back to our customer service clinic…..

  1. Make it active. Your customer service clinic should not be a lecture or a one-way stream of information. Allow the team to discuss their own experiences and in doing so, identify any barriers some may have to offering excellent customer service. If it is blatantly apparent that no amount of training will mean Bob on the front desk might smile at his customers, put him in a different role/location. Role play is an excellent tool for demonstrating how to handle specific incidents like a complaining customer, and whilst some may moan or be reluctant to participate, if you make it fun (or use the experts for the training session) it can be a very revealing and often ‘penny-dropping’ powerful learning tool.
  1. Allow for follow up training or sessions/questions. This may be a week or month later. It is important to reinforce the important points and to make it clear that customer service excellence is well and truly on your agenda.
  1. Ensure the team take responsibility in some way. Often if several of the team are on-board then they can influence the others to act the same way. It is quite hard to be a raincloud in a building full of rainbows so don’t underestimate the influence of peer pressure.

How you promote and advertise your customer service clinic is key to its overall success. If you drop it in a busy month in a boring room with dull lighting and a monotone delivery of information don’t expect your team to respond with enthusiasm.

The real key to creating customer service excellence lies in your hands. BE the excellent role model, ignite interest in the topic within your team and make it special. Special is how your customers want to feel. And it starts with you.

Is Your Customer Service Vanilla?

In a world of ice-cream parlors, vanilla is no longer enough these days; we expect something different, exciting, unique. We want to find a flavour that really floats our boat. Maybe honey-lavender or chili-chocolate? Something that keeps pulling us back to the one place and something that creates conversation; ‘have you been to…..?, ‘have you tried the…….?’

As competition and buyer empowerment increases, what is the one differentiator in businesses? Customer satisfaction.

A Gartner study from 2014 predicted that ‘by 2016, 89% of companies expect to compete mostly on the basis of customer experience, versus 36% four years ago’. Those predictions are coming true as customer service skyrockets its way to the top of the list of business priorities. Successful businesses realise it’s not just the transaction that counts.

So the majority of customers are happy to pay more or travel further IF the customer service is right.

Is it time then that you stopped offering vanilla service? The type of service that you can get anywhere, anytime? The type of service that is the same day in, day out? Boring, reliable, predictable vanilla.

Your customer service doesn’t have to be SO different that it is an acquired taste or only appeals to a certain few, but it DOES have to be different if you are to rise above your competition.

If customer service is one of the most critical deciding factors in business success, what are you doing to ensure yours is first class?

In the UK, some industry sectors excel at offering vanilla customer service. The banking industry is one of them. Which bank offers a much more desirable flavour? First Direct is the luxury, passion-mango flavour in the banking world: it is the top bank for customer service and has been for some years. It is way ahead of other banks in terms of customer service due to a combination of great smartphone apps and a 24-hour call centre, where calls are answered by a human, not a machine.

Amazon has set itself up as the coconut crème-de-la-crème of the technology world as it was one of the first companies to allow consumers to connect to support agents in real time. The release of the Kindle Fire HDX and the ‘Mayday’ button was one small step for Amazon and one giant leap for customer service. By allowing consumers to connect to support agents at the click of a button, Amazon redefined “exceptional” customer service in just a matter of minutes.

Customers are far more discerning and are likely to form a strong relationship with a business that, firstly, cares about them and, secondly, has a USP or differentiator that appeals to them.

There is a fine line between gimmicky, tacky or ‘cheap’ flavours and quality flavours but with some thought and innovation, it is possible to find the right approach for your business. Think outside the box; think like a customer and be bold.

If you’ve been churning out the same training to your team, year in, year out with the same mantra; smile, always have eye-contact, be polite and wear your uniform, is it enough? Or is it just a little too vanilla?

The Three Things You Must Do To Increase Your Profits Today

Customer engagement strategy? Or outdated marketing plan based on figures and historic patterns? Believe it or not there are still many business leaders out there who sit in their offices and ponder the best ways to launch a new product, develop a new marketing campaign or sign up new business without acknowledging the one most important factor in all of these plans; the customer.

The rapid explosion of digital technology means that your customer can rate or decimate your reputation in seconds. Customers have, in their hands at all times, access to you, your products, your reviews and their own relationship history with you. Customers want, and expect, immediate solutions, prompt resolutions and educational and/or entertaining content. Customers want relationships.

Forward thinking market leaders now recognise that customer engagement is key to maximising profit and are already placing greater emphasis on driving customer value, loyalty and retention.

If you’re not of the view that customer experience is destined to overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator in the future, you are now in the minority.


The customer of today is more informed and more in control of the experience they receive. Customers expect businesses to know their individual needs and preferences and often expect their experience to be customised for them.

Statistics now saturate most B2B marketing reports and social media platforms such as LinkedIn and the message is usually the same:

Loyal customers are 5 x as likely to repurchase, 5 x as likely to forgive, 7 x as likely to try a new offering, and 4 x as likely to refer. (Temkin Group)

The customer of today expects more than polite, friendly service. They want to feel valued, to be listened to and to feel that they matter to you. If you treat your customers with that criteria in mind you will win a lifetime supporter whose value could be worth more than a new customer.

So instead of simply focusing on expanding your customer database, there are three simple things you can do to improve your profits immediately:

  • Develop strategies to retain your existing customer database
  • Improve your customer engagement
  • Maximise your customer lifetime value

1.    Develop Strategies To Retain Your Existing Customer Database

A repeat customer spends 67% more than a new one (BIA/Kelsey).

What are you doing to retain your existing customers?

  • Are you updating them on new products or services?
  • Do you offer incentives to draw them back?
  • Do you invite them to stay in touch and perhaps share their experience with others?
  • Do you offer competitions or draws to make them feel valued?
  • Do you create opportunities to ask for their feedback and views?

There are pages of statistics devoted to showing the worth of the repeat customer and the pattern is clear for obvious reasons. If a customer already has a relationship with you and likes what you offer, they will return, unless you give them a reason NOT to.

2.    Improve Your Customer Engagement

Engaging with your customer is much more than a simple ‘hello’ as they enter your premises or site. Customers want to feel loved and appreciated. They need to feel that if there is a problem, it will be handled confidently.

  • How often do you engage with your customer? If it is only during your transaction you are not really engaging your customer.
  • Do you stay in their minds by keeping in contact with them?
  • Do you have a weekly or monthly newsletter?
  • Do you have seasonal events or occasions to invite them back?
  • Is every member of your team aware of the need to make your customer feel special? It’s a culture. Spread the intent throughout the whole team.

3.    Maximise Your Customer Lifetime Value

My father only ever owned a Ford. He loved the cars and said he always received great service. His local dealer knew him, addressed him by name and always had his favorite paper in the waiting room when he took his car for a service. He was a lifetime customer and no amount of persuading would encourage him to defect.

  • Reward your longstanding customers.
  • Pay attention to the little things; that’s what makes your customer feel special.
  • Be honest and transparent at all times.
  • Effective customer engagement calls for a thorough understanding of the customer. Make sure you KNOW that your customer is a wheelchair user or works abroad.

Forward thinking businesses go to great lengths to identify their ‘typical’ customer and then attempt to create deeper parallels by matching social and ethical preferences. For example, businesses that advertise charitable work or sustainable or eco-friendly ethics publicise these values and attract like-minded customers.

Customer lifetime value is one of the most important metrics in your business toolbox.

In this age of the empowered customer, businesses must look forward to develop better customer engagement strategies. Being reactive does not work in the arena of customer relationships; it’s about being proactive, about noticing and predicting your customer intelligence and using big data to provide customer mapping. It’s about being sure your customer journey is great – in every regard and at all times.

“It’s very critical that we are honest and provide value every single day to our customers, because otherwise they won’t renew. It’s a culture of taking care of your customers, not just once a year or once a quarter when you need to sell and make your number, but increasing value to our customers throughout the entire year.” —Gabriel Szulik, Red Hat

The expectations of the 21st century customer are complex and multi-faceted. Competition is fierce and digital platforms flood your customer’s inbox or newsfeed with attractive offers every second. And yet the answer to a healthier bottom line is so simple. Love your customer. Your customer engagement strategy should be front, back and middle of any business strategy if you are to grow and create solid foundations for future profits. And the mantra again…….LOVE YOUR CUSTOMER!