I think we're at a really interesting time in the history of consumerism.

In developed markets, we have all had some amazing experiences enabled by (often mobile) tech. Not only that, we are seeing incredible investment in innovative new technologies (such as voice assistants), with tech-savvy consumers seemingly ready to experiment with tech when it is arguably far from mature (an astounding 10% of UK households have an Amazon Echo, according to Kantar).

What are the implications for mainstream businesses? I'd argue there are laggards in many industries that are sitting ducks, ripe not necessarily for disruption, but certainly to be taken down a peg or two by businesses who get the customer experience right.

customer experience management best practice guide (subscriber only)

Let's take a minute to consider the maturity of some of the most revelatory digital-enabled customer experiences. Here are some that still give me feels today (I've concentrated on those that link with the real world, rather than digital only): 

  • pick up where you left off, for streaming media (introduced in 2010 across devices by iPlayer)
  • online flight check-in (compulsory at Ryanair since 2010) and mobile boarding passes
  • one-click ordering (Amazon since 1999)
  • next-day delivery (bundled with Prime since 2007) or even same-day delivery (launched 2014 by Amazon)
  • mobile banking (launched by Barclays in 2012)
  • click and collect (launched by Argos in 2001), used by three quarters of UK shoppers
  • connecting a smartphone to a car computer via Bluetooth (early '00s)
  • pay-by-phone parking (late '00s)
  • Starbucks mobile payment and rewards app (launched 2009)

There are loads more, but these are the ones that sprang to mind. Just look at the dates on these innovations. They are five, 10, 15 years old. And yet they still thrill in that recognisable way that elegant solutions thrill. It's the same feeling I get when I use an elegant non-digital system (e.g. an electric drill, a ticketed queue in a very busy deli or pharmacy, or well-designed signage, to name three random examples).

So, what about experiences that are beginning to stick out like a sore thumb? Here are the ones I nominate...

(N.B. Econsultancy subscribers can download our Guide to Customer Experience Management)

1. Bank branches that close on weekends or open at 09.30

Bank branches have weird opening times. All that beautiful mobile banking has made us accustomed to doing stuff when we want it done. So when we have to head to branch for something, and we find it closed at 09.25 or all day on a Saturday, we simply cannot believe it.

Tom Goodwin says it's all about banks treating customer interactions as a cost. A scary thought if true.

This examples shows a fundamental truth about customer experience – improve in one area and it will highlight other deficiencies. In fact, some advocate improving the very end of the customer journey first, to leave customers feeling satisfied and good about your brand.

2. Badly automated email

I've already written about how 'personalised' email can go wrong, but here I have another company in mind. I rented a van a few years back when I moved house, and since then I've had a monthly email from the company telling me I have zero loyalty points and have made zero rentals. How bizarre.

van rental email 

The whole email does a good job of alerting me to the fact that there is a loyalty scheme – I'm told that despite having made zero rentals this year, I need to get to six before some sort of reward. But with my frequency of hiring, surely this is the wrong approach? I don't go through vans like americanos. What I really need is to be in a much less frequently emailed bucket, which shows the benefits of choosing this company, or gives some kind of one-time or seasonal incentive.

This doesn't really annoy me, but as a savvy consumer I certainly notice it. What's interesting here is how the intention was to improve marketing through automation, but the result (through poor implementation) is jarring. Yes, the company may get a tiny bit of brand awareness from this monthly contact with me (which I never open), but they are a market-leader anyway.

Might I seek out more personal service next time I need a van? Quite possibly.

Just to throw in another similar example – I reviewed the Wish app a year or so ago. I deleted the app not long after, and never open Wish emails, but Wish still emails me every single day. I completely understand that the company model (cheap prices, offers and persuasion tactics) dictates a lack of subtlety, but again – doesn't the pureplay retailer have more to gain by changing tactic with me, or removing me altogether? Perhaps not, perhaps the idea is that I am collateral damage, simply not a Wish customer so it doesn't matter.

wish emails every day

3. Magazine subscription renewal letters

This one is a bit niche. I respect the power of direct mail, and I believe it may be the best channel to remind me to subscribe for another year of a magazine.

But the reminders are often pretty basic – a discount code for next year perhaps? Paywall publishers have access to subscriber browsing history on their websites, they know the sorts of stuff you are interested in, and this renewal letter is a great chance to show what's coming soon that may be of interest.

Publishers could even call out particular articles that have been accessed more than once online and maybe cross-promote other products. A version of Amazon's "people also bought".

I guess that Spotify and its incedible recommendations have raised the game in media, and I'm waiting for the literary world to catch up.

N.B. I'm sure there are many publishers who are great at this, but most are not.

What about you? 

Two of my examples are all about customisation/personalisation and contact strategy. These are things that new AI software should be making inroads into, but companies must get their data and tech stacks in order first.

The landscape has changed and great CX offers a massive competitive advantage – those who realise that are on their toes, whilst others sit back in the blocks (N.B. get a head start with Econsultancy's Implementing a CX Strategy Best Practice Guide and training).

This is a bit of a scattergun article, but I wanted to put down my thoughts to make way for new ones. What customer experiences stick out for you, in light of what you enjoy elsewhere? 

Ben Davis

Published 30 January, 2018 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (2)

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Matt Lovell, Head of Customer Data, Insight & Analytics at Eurostar International Ltd.

Great article Ben. To me, I think the companies that stick out tend to often be the ones you expect better of too. From a pure research perspective I did some work around 6 months ago where I signed up to a wide array of emails to see how they would response to a zero level of activity - the shocking thing for me was the number where months later, I was still being sent the same volume or irrelevant emails (anywhere from three to as high as 21 per week!).

Two extras I would add are:

* I signed up to receive GAP's emails while on their website a few months ago and the first email I received from them a few days later was an email informing me that as a loyal customer, I would get first access to their 40% off offer on all their new lines. Now while a part of me went, great - let's shop, I also question the need for this given it was a closed sale (only accessible through relevant links from individual emails) while it also left a level of expected discounting for future purchases

* The second revolves around travel. While you mentioned above that airlines have had mobile boarding passes for what feels like an eternity now, it really frustrates me that if you want to buy a train ticket (or theatre ticket, gig ticket etc.), most providers insist on you having to collect these or be sent them in the post / print them out from your computer. Given how busy and active people are in this modern world, how is it that we find it so difficult to provide a simpler solution here whereby people can use something they will always have with them (be that mobile, watch or card) to store their ticket? This particularly frustrates me when to travel / gain entry to an event, they have a digital reader checking those tickets...

4 months ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Editor at EconsultancyStaff

@Matt Two terrific examples, thanks. I nearly wrote about train tickets, but user adoption of mobile tickets is definitely growing. I don't think we will ever be rid of paper tickets, given how useful they are (so perfectly transferable and with equivalent of eternal battery life) but the lack of mobile tickets on some lines is a bugbear. Who wants to wait impatiently in line at a machine as the once-an-hour puffer train approaches?

3 months ago

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