Tag Archives: Customer Experience

Can airlines really deliver good experiences? Listen up Iberia Customer Experience!

Iberia, I know here in Spain you actually have a Customer Experience director (not a common job title in this country), so, read on…

Let’s face it – most airlines are pretty similar. Unless you’re taking advantage of frequent flier miles, the reason you pick one over the other is price, plain and simple. In my case, the only reason I might pick Iberia is because they have direct flights to Boston from Madrid, not because the service is great – or even that good. I think we’ve just resigned ourselves to the fact that flying is what it is – a means to get from one place to another and something that you have to put up with. (maybe you’ve seen one of my earlier airline experience posts).

So, is it possible to create a good experience?

Yes! I think it is possible to break old thinking and barriers and create something new with flying. Take a look at this article about a design consultancy’s idea “Poppi” for reinventing the airline experience:

http://edition.cnn.com/2015/10/07/design/airline-future-uber-airbnb/index.html

For example, instead of having customers be upset and complain for being stuck in a bad middle seat, why not let those who want a free gift choose  to go with that seat? Why not make the luggage experience more hassle-free? Why not think of ways to make the waiting time at the gate be better?  Poppi might not be a reality yet, but I hope it follows in Uber’s footsteps to shake things up.

Domino's Pizza logo

Domino’s Pizza Delivers Customer Experience

It’s been a while since I’ve written with the summer shutdown and vacation (https://spanishized.com/2015/03/31/the-summer-slowdown-is-on-the-way/). But now I’m back from the summer hiatus and happy to have a new Customer Experience story to share. And it’s an unexpected one this time.

I’ll be honest; I’m not a big fan of pizza. Well, at least not the Domino’s or Telepizza fast food type. Just seeing the newly-advertised Nacho Pizza from Telepizza for example makes me a bit uncomfortable (who thinks of these things?!)

Telepizza Nacho Pizza

However, when I was in Italy recently I was quite happy to order an Italian pizza without thinking twice. In any case, whether or not I like it here I have to admit that I was impressed with Domino’s recently when we ordered a pizza with some friends. Who would’ve thought Domino’s would be one of the companies making the move toward improving its customer experiences here in Spain

Domino's Pizza logo

Usually, after ordering a pizza online, Domino’s delivery is quick and efficient. To date we haven’t had any real issues. The other day the pizza arrived as ordered, but it was about a half hour late and COA (cold on arrival). It was one of those “well, it is what it is” moments without giving it much thought.

The next day my husband received a phone call from Domino’s asking how his experience had been: the delivery time, if the pizza arrived in a “good condition”, if it was hot etc. When he mentioned that it was more or less ok but that the pizza had arrived cold, they apologized and said the next pizza would be free.

Good job Domino’s for unexpectedly reaching out to your customers and improving your customer experience! I still don’t like fast food pizza, but the next time someone wants one I’d definitely call Domino’s first.

Carrefour’s Scan & Go Scanners – Is the purchase experience really better?

Every so often my husband and I have a similar conversation where my American roots come out in full force as I get annoyed at the workings (or lack thereof) of something here, and he gets frustrated, telling me that I’m making a big deal out of nothing. This is when I have to tell myself that it’s just not the same over here. And I wonder, “Am I really just overreacting and being too American?” The last time this happened was the other day at Carrefour. That’s right; at the supermarket. It actually wasn’t the first time that we’ve had the same discussion at the check out…

About five years ago Carrefour launched its touch screen “Scan & Go” scanners in Spain. As a loyalty card member you can pick up one of these nifty devices when you enter the hypermarket and scan your purchases along the way as you go. What’s the point? Well, as Carrefour promotes with its “innovation designed to make customers’ lives easier”, it seems there are several benefits:

Carrefour Scan & Go scanner

1. Time saver. After finishing your shopping you don’t have to wait in the long check-out lines; you go directly to the special “Scan & Go” machines where you either get a green light which lets you directly leave after paying and expresses Carrefour’s confidence in you as a customer. Or you can be chosen as a random check where an employee supposedly has to scan a few items in your cart just to make a double check, and then you’ll be on your merry way. I say “supposedly” as this is important to my story.

2. More control for the customer. you scan your own products and easily see your total purchase amount as you go. If you need to add or delete an item, no problem. also, if there’s a special offer the little machine will tell you so.

3. More fun shopping experience. As you have more control and do the scanning yourself, the experience is more enjoyable and in your hands.

4. Carrefour shows its trust.  By putting the checkout experience in the customer’s hands, Carrefour is saying that it trusts the customer and trusts that you really have scanned everything that you’ve put in your cart. GENERALLY.

So, what made my American temper shine through? This was probably the fourth of fifth time that we had finished a big shopping trip, with the cart overflowing, and encountered a “situation” at the Scan & Go checkout station. When the flashing orange light above the stand started blinking I thought, “Great, here we go again.” Now I understand that sometimes just to maintain Quality Control employees need to do a quick double check and rescan some items to verify the order. What I cannot understand is having an employee take out each and every item that we have in our cart to rescan everything again. And, of course, the end result is only to discover that no, we did not steal anything. After a few minutes when I realize that they are actually going to completely disorganize the cart and take out each item to scan again, my attitude comes out. At this point I begin my usual rantings about the lack of efficiency, what’s the point of having a scanner, why don’t they look for real thieves, etc. etc. Really, I might as well be wearing a shirt that screams “USA” to go along with my huffing and puffing.

To Carrefour: great idea to improve the experience, but bad execution when you are telling loyal customers that you don’t trust them at the end of their shopping experience. Now, trust me, I understand that robbery is a problem in Spain. However, if Carrefour consciously made the decision to implement a system such as this in its stores, then they have to show their customers they trust them. If not, instead of improving the purchase experience they are actually running the risk of turning loyal customers away and creating unnecessary frustration.

What do you think? Does Carrefour make the purchase experience better? Should this kind of system exist here in Spain? Does it work for you?

p.s. Interesting article from five years ago about Carrefour’s decision to launch Scan & go: https://socialmediaexperience.wordpress.com/2010/06/28/carrefour-scan-go-una-innovacion-de-la-experiencia-del-cliente/

Babies R Us logo

Babies R Us – What happens when a global brand goes wrong

Time for a new customer experience reflection, this time with the experience of a global brand with a presence in 13 countries:

If you’re living in the US and pregnant (or post-baby) Babies R Us is the mecca for every and any baby product that you can imagine. When I visited the Babies R Us in Massachusetts while in the US and waiting for my little bundle of joy, I was quite impressed, and at the same time quite overwhelmed, by the amount of “things” that you could need for a baby.

Then I met Phil. In a matter of a half hour Phil became my new best friend and trusted advisor. Who is Phil? Phil is a millennial. He’s a college sophomore who plays on the basketball team, hangs out with his friends after classes, and spends his free time playing on his ipad and texting. The only difference is that Phil also works part time at Babies R us and is totally knowledgeable about baby products and pregnant woman needs. And no, Phil is not a father. According to him, he has a lot of nieces and nephews so he knows a lot about this stuff, and he’s also interested in being a teacher in the future. Thanks to Phil’s help I purchased a lot of great baby knick knacks and whatnots, signed up to be on the mailing list and in the baby club and helped enhance Babies R Us’ annual profit. I also learned a thing or two about nursing needs that I’m not really sure how Phil knew, but I was too impressed to ask questions. When I left the store with my mother that day I wanted to take Phil home with us. Of course, I had a hard time later explaining to my husband that Phil was just a Babies R Us employee who happened to be awesome.

Flash forward a bit over a year to Madrid post-bundle of joy arrival: now that little Nicolas had arrived I realized we were in desperate need of some baby items like an electric swing. Then I remembered that I had seen a Babies R Us not too far away from where we lived, although I had never set foot in the store before. This time entering the store I didn’t have the same illusion as back in the US (probably from the lack of sleep), but I was ready to be greeted by my Spanish Phil (Felipe??) and start to great experience. To my disappointment, there was no Phil. In fact, there was hardly anyone at all. We had to walk around the store trying to find an employee to try to help us. When we finally did find one, she pointed to her watch and said sorry, she couldn’t help since it was her lunch break, but another employee would probably be around. We were finally able to find an employee to ask a question about the swings, only to have her reply that she really didn’t know the difference between the different models available. And that was about it. In general the employees were more on the rude side and definitely not at all like my beloved Phil.

Just last week I was back at Babies R Us in Madrid, this time with more sleep behind me and a better idea of what I wanted, but I was still “greeted” with the same lack of greeting and lack of help. After trying to find someone to ask a question for about 5 minutes, I finally just decided it just wasn’t worth it and left.

Why am I am I writing about this and why should you care if you don’t frequent Babies R Us or don’t have kids? Really this post could be about any brand that transcends international boundaries with its logo and image. As a person with quite a bit of background working in Customer Experience research and most recently in consumer goods marketing, I’m a a real proponent of the importance of delivering a consistent and better-than-good brand experience. Customer engagement is key; if you don’t deliver a full-cycle experience and/or consistent experiences (more the case here), in the long run you lose customers and profits. To me, it seems hard to believe that a global brand like Babies R Us (Toys R Us) can be willing to put its brand name, logo and all that these images stand for on a store that delivers a sub sub-prime experience. In my opinion, with an experience like this, it’s better to skip the big brand and find a local option to fit your needs.

Phil, if you’re reading this, we could use you over here in Spain!

Back to Customer Basics: Eureka Kids

It’s been a while since I’ve shared a Customer Experience story here in Spain so here’s a new one I had recently with Eureka Kids after buying a walk-and-ride toy (correpasillos) for my 13 month old. You can decide for yourself how you’d rate this one.

Eureka kids logo

As the expression goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. But if you buy a product and it breaks, you expect it to be fixed, right? A month ago I purchased a walk-and-ride toy (http://didicar.es/walkn-ride) at Eureka Kids in La Vaguada shopping center. Eureka kids is a big retail chain here in Spain, but the actual stores themselves are quite small, with catalogues of many products that work through distributors. The toy I bought was guaranteed delivered free of charge to my house two days later. As promised, the toy arrived two days later and my son happily began riding all over the place until…the wheels became totally blocked about 2 1/2 weeks later, much to the frustration of the little guy.

Walk and Ride toy, Didicar

Walk and Ride toy, Dicier

The next day I went to the store and was told that they couldn’t do anything there, since everything is through a distributor, and that I would have to wait until they got in touch with the distributor to see what kind of solution they could offer. So, I left with the broken bike in hand. When I didn’t hear anything back two days later, I called the store again to see what was happening. The girl who helped me was very friendly and assured me that they had put in the complaint with the distributor but hadn’t yet heard back. So, I called again the next day and still no news. Finally, one week after going to the store I received a call that in two days they would be coming to my house to pick up the broken bike and deliver a new one!

How would I rate this experience? The final result has been a success since my problem has been solved and I’ll be getting a replacement bike. But… there were definitely some unnecessary steps/frustrations in the process. It’s important to remember that from the customer POV what can stand out more than the actual end result is the ease (or lack thereof) and trustworthiness of the process itself.

The next time I would definitely think twice about buying a product that goes through a distributor instead of being in-stock in a store in case anything happens. Being a bit finicky about customer service and treatment as I am, I’d like to point out one definite item to improve: keep the customer informed! The only thing that’s gained from leaving the customer in waiting and forcing him/her to proactively connect again with the client is frustration from the client’s side and time/costs from that of the client.

Finale: Delta/KLM and the broken stroller

At the beginning of January I reported my experience traveling across the ocean with an infant alone and arriving in Amsterdam to a destroyed stroller (see: Delta/KLM and the broken stroller). At that point the customer experience with Delta/KLM was pretty good as they responded quickly to my official online claim and agreed to pay to repair the stroller or for a new one. Now, a month and a half later I can officially say that that this issue has successfully concluded, but, not without a little snafu of course.  We immediately went to the store where we had originally purchased the UppaBaby and were told that the damage was not repairable. We left our information as the distributor had to get back in touch to give the store an official cost estimate. Five days later when I still hadn’t heard anything back, I called the store and was told that the distributor was out of the office for a few days (or did they forget?). In any case, a few hours after the call I received by email the pro forma invoice totally the damage at 601€. I immediately forwarded everything to Delta/KLM, and a few days later received a pleasant email apologizing again for the damage and saying that I would be receiving 499€ in my bank account in a couple weeks. What a minute… I would have to pay the 100€ difference?! KLM email To this email I responded that this was not acceptable and again attached all documents as justification. Since Delta/KLM had been so efficient in responding to my online messages previously I was expecting a rapid response. However, two weeks later I had still not heard back and finally was forced to pick up the phone. Why hadn’t I just picked up the phone in the first place? Well, as the customer service game sometimes goes here in Spain, the number to call was not toll-free. And I was unable to find a free alternative number (See When It Doesn’t Pay to Call Customer Service). I was pretty adamant about not paying to call their customer service, but at the end of the day I had no choice as they were not responding. Fortunately, when I finally called, the customer service rep was extremely nice, apologized again, and within 5 minutes had reviewed my record, confirmed there was an error and immediately issued the processing of the remaining 100€ to my account. Phew. Final KL email Overall, there was a bit of a disconnect between the information sent to Delta/KLM and the final result, as well as the last email that didn’t receive a response…. however, in the end, I have to say that I’m pretty happy that the airline is taking responsibility and paying. Maybe they’ll be more careful in the future since, for them, they basically just paid back my plane ticket. Note: if something like this ever happens it’s very important to file the claim directly at the airline incident desk in the airport when it happens.

Survey says: Customer Experience a top strategic priority for companies in 2015. Would the results be the same in Spain?

A new research study conducted by Econsultancy and Adobe has found that the customer experience is among the main strategic priorities for companies in 2015. Of the business owners and marketing professionals taking part in this study, 54% were from the US, 23% from the UK and only 21% from the rest of Europe. A couple interesting points:

  • Within small/medium businesses 90% believe that customer experience is what defines their brand.
  • 44% see customer experience as a medium-long term strategy for differentiation vs. the competition.
  • Giving customers a personalized, relevant and easy experience is key according to 33% of respondents.

I completely agree. And I also wonder… would these results have been the same had the study been conducted solely in Spain? For example, the term CEO (Chief Executive Officer) is understood without a doubt here, but what about the other CEO (Chief Experience Officer)? What do you think?

Research information:

https://econsultancy.com/reports/quarterly-digital-intelligence-briefing-2015-digital-trends/ http://www.puromarketing.com/13/23932/experiencia-cliente-posiciona-entre-principales-prioridades-estrategicas-empresas.html

Customer Service Spain

When it doesn’t pay to call customer service.

When doesn’t it pay to call a company service line? When you (the customer) are the one who is paying. Literally.

Being from the US I’m used to calling a company’s 800 number and being able to speak to a representative to solve whatever issue I may have. Here in Spain you can almost always find a number to contact a company’s “atención al cliente”, but beware … You may be the one paying for the call.

paying customer

Unfortunately, I didn’t discover this until one day I received a whopping 40€ phone bill after calling Iberia’s 902 prefix customer service line to book a trip with my infant using points. It wasn’t possible to do all of this on the web site, so I picked up the phone and called customer service. I was quite impressed with the friendly person that assisted me and with all of her help to get everything in place. Since the transaction was a bit tricky involving using my loyalty points, including an infant on the ticket, reserving a baby bassinet, etc., the whole process took over a half hour. I was quite satisfied with everything until I received my phone bill a few weeks later…

customer representative

Here’s how to avoid having the same thing happen to you:

You can find alternative free numbers to most of the 900/901/902 toll customer service numbers here in Spain by looking up the number on one of these websites:

http://nomas900.info 

http://www.lineas900.com

http://www.nmn900.com

So what went wrong with the experience here? In my opinion, the biggest mistake was the lack of transparency on the company’s part.

Transparency is key. It’s really not that tricky. A good way to gain customer’s loyalty and repetition is with honesty. No one likes feeling that they’ve been tricked. If I had known I were going to pay for that call I may not have been happy about it, but at least I would have known what I was getting into and would not have been shocked later. Each interaction a company has with its customers has an impact on its brand. In this case the impact was two-fold: originally great customer service, then subsequently an angry feeling of being tricked and having to pay without knowing it. The result? The negative experience is the one that is definitely most impactful and remembered.

As a last reflection I’d like to share a great Salesforce.com article in Forbes that talks about Great Customer Service, including the importance of every interaction and transparency:  http://www.forbes.com/sites/salesforce/2014/09/13/truths-great-customer-service/

Somehow I feel like the authors would just be shaking their head reading this post! As I’ve mentioned from the start of this blog, the Customer Experience will be the next competitive battleground, but it’s clear that there’s still a lot of groundwork to be done until we get there.

Toothpaste incident El Corte Ingles

Why I waited 15 minutes to pay for toothpaste. (El Corte Inglés)

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a stickler when it comes to anything customer-service or customer-experience related. Perhaps this is since I’m American or perhaps it’s because I worked on a Customer Experience research team for several years…in any case, as this blog reflects, I am a strong proponent of taking customer experience seriously.

The other day I was at my favorite department store, the Corte Ingles, browsing around to pick up a few items. As are a lot of shoppers, I tend to be attracted by special price promotions or packaged bundle promo packs that promise X amount of savings. So when I saw a special offer for toothpaste that I use frequently, BOGO (buy one get one) 70% off (double packs in this case), I grabbed a couple packages. Alas, it was too good to be true. When I got to the self-checkout and rang my items through they did not come up as the second pack at 70% off.

toothpaste

At this point I had a couple of options: 1. I could just say “forget it” and only buy one pack to avoid having to talk to someone and avoid any hassle or 2. I could talk to an employee and try to figure out what was going on. Now, let me just take a moment to explain that my intention wasn’t to cause a problem, and it’s not that  I couldn’t pay for the toothpaste, but I decided to use this situation as a test to see how the store would react.

Here’s how the test went: 

1. My first response from the employee was one of surprise, but not the defensive, the-client-is-wrong type of response. She said I could go back to the shelf to check if I wanted. So I did.

2. As it turns out, the product was marked incorrectly on the shelf. The 2nd unit at 70% off was correct, but this was related to a different product, not the one shown with the tag.

3. When I returned and told the employee what I had found, she said that she would have to confirm it with the price department (or something like that). She seemed happy to do this, but told me it would take a few minutes. Again, since I had already decided to use this as a test, I decided to wait.

4. It’s a good thing I wasn’t in a rush. Between 5-10 minutes later the employee received a call back confirming that the item was marked incorrectly on the shelf. At this point I was expecting a “Sorry. It is what it is. You can buy it or not”.

5. However, the employee then rung up my items and applied the discount as it should have been, had the items been marked properly on the shelf! Now this might not seem like any big deal to many of you reading this, but I must say that this sort of “the customer is right” attitude is not something I’m used to over here (even though I really was right).

This is why I waited 15 minutes to buy toothpaste. This is why I’m a loyal Corte Ingles shopper. And this is why I (and I’m sure quite a lot of other fellow shoppers, judging by the typically long lines) are loyal Corte Ingles customers willing to spend a little more (see Paying Premium) for a good overall experience.

El Corte Ingles

Would you be willing to pay a premium for a good experience?

Don’t answer right away… Living here in Spain has made me reflect on the topic of paying more for quality and service. Is it worth it? And how much?

There’s a certain very-well-known department store where it’s generally a fact that you may pay a bit more for your purchases, but you can almost always expect friendly, knowledgeable service and no hassles when you run into any problem. After having one too many hassle experiences of running into a problem only to find that you as the customer are wrong (example: See Zara Kids post) or that you can’t make a return for some reason, sometimes it’s worth the price to pay a little bit more.

If you’ve ever lived or traveled to Spain, you’ve probably heard of the Corte Ingles, the massive department store sprawled out around the country. The Corte Ingles has everything – from clothing to a supermarket to a travel department. If you go to the supermarket chances are you’ll notice that prices are slightly higher than your local small supermarket like Mercadona, Día or Ahorramás (some typical stores in Madrid). The supermarket is always packed and with lines at the checkout. So, why would people be willing to pay more to buy the same thing they could get for less at another location?

el-corte-ingles

Let’s think about travel insurance. When you go on vacation or buy a plane ticket there’s always an option to pay for additional insurance in the case that something goes wrong. Do you buy it? What about car rental insurance? The last time I was in the US and rented a car I decided that $25 a day for complete coverage was a lot of money. However, when I learned there was an option to pay less than half of that ($11 a day) for partial coverage, meaning I wouldn’t have to worry about any scratches, small crashes, etc., I signed up. Of course, both of these examples refer to additional services that must be purchased to avoid hassles. Here, we are talking about knowingly paying more (perhaps only 50 cents or perhaps a few euros) to have ease of mind.

Yes, we are still battling an economic crisis here in Spain. But that doesn’t mean that customers aren’t willing to spend. If you take a walk on any day when the sun is out you can generally find packed terraces with people enjoying a bit of sun and a beverage. And you can usually expect lines or reservations necessary at a lot of restaurants during the weekend. And during “rebajas”, the huge rebate and offer shopping period right after the holiday season, the stores are crazy. Crisis? What crisis? Consumer spending is on the rise (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-05-29/spain-growth-accelerates-as-household-government-spending-rise.html)

Similarly, with consumer goods products it is true that the Private Label is growing at an enormous pace (http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2014/how-private-label-and-retailers-are-disrupting-the-trading-envirornment-in-western-europe.html) but it’s not just price that’s factoring into this growth; quality is a key factor as well. Private label is innovating and providing quality to customers; customers are willing to pay for quality and innovation, with Private Label or with branded products (within set premiums).

81% of European consumers are willing to pay more for superior customer experience. (http://www.oracle.com/us/corporate/press/1883120) And 44% are willing to pay a premium of more than 5%. What does this mean? Making customer service and customer experience a focus of any business (yes, it’s just as important as other departments!) pays off to increase sales and retention. Still not convinced? Do a simple survey of customers and the facts will speak.

http://www.inc.com/geoffrey-james/the-10-reasons-customers-pay-more.html (See No. 6 and 8)

So how much premium are you willing to pay? 5% 2% 10? In my case I would say my premium here in Spain is definitely higher than that in the US. Why? Because I know that the concept of the importance of customer experience is still a novel idea here in Spain, but I prefer good treatment. Back in the US generally the customer is always right and the need for higher premiums isn’t as important.

As I said in my section on Customer Experience, I believe that this is the next competitive battleground here in Spain. Sooner or later…