An open invitation to Starbucks..

I visited your Leeds store on the Headrow today for a meeting with a friend of mine and he picked the location as he lives in Leeds so it was great for convenience. We spent about 90 minutes in there and both had two drinks. Service was ok, product good and we didn’t have a problem. But it wasn’t a great experience which is why I’m writing.Starbucks

I just completed your online feedback survey and from the language in the questions I believe you want to deliver a great experience, one that stands out, one that people remember that makes their day and even uplifts your customers but to be honest, something somewhere today at least got ‘lost in translation’ in your Leeds shop.

Interestingly, I also tried to call your customer care line but only got a voice mail with a request to call back. To be honest, that’s just too much effort. Why not add an option to leave a number to get a call back?

Most people wouldn’t have even called but they would have voted with their feet and maybe gone somewhere else for their tea or coffee. I’m sure you’ve got many loyal customers but you could have many more. I help businesses improve their customer experience. Like the ‘Hotel Inspector’ but  for customer experience instead.

I’d be happy to help if you want to drop me a note or give me a call.

Many thanks,



Customers don’t feel averages

“On average our customers are 90% satisfied”. A popular headline reported by many businesses and organisations. Ok so the exact numbers may vary slightly but the statement is the same. And rightly so if an organisation is proud of the levels of customer satisfaction it’s delivering. But if you dig a little deeper into this statement we uncover something more than the headline itself.mean wordle

What does ‘on average’ actually mean? From a mathematical perspective, Wikipedia describes it as ‘average usually means the sum of a list of numbers divided by the size of the list, in other words the arithmetic mean. However, it can alternatively mean the median, the mode, or some other central or typical value. In statistics, these are all known as measures of central tendancy.’

So in this context, average or arithmetic mean denotes the average levels of satisfaction across a number of customers – assumed to be a statistically reliable sample size (by me anyway!). A convenient measure and an easily understandable headline number from an organisational perspective. One that most people can understand fairly instantly. However, if we turn this around and look at it from a customer perspective, do customers feel averages?

Before I give my view on this, let me share an analogy with you that a manager I worked for once used. To explain the point about averages he used to say ” if I put one hand in a bucket of ice and one hand in the fire, on average I don’t feel great do I?”fire and ice hands

To me that makes the point. Customers don’t feel averages. If I have a bad experience as a customer, I don’t cognitively step back and think, I’ve been in this shop ten times and I’ve only had one bad experience so on average I’m 90% satisfied. Customers experience it as it is, good or bad and future behaviour, purchases and recommendations are shaped by these experiences. To further compound matters, cognitive biases such as negative and recency bias often interject and give disproportionate weight to these positive or negative experiences, reinforcing them and the resulting behaviour that follows

I’m not saying don’t use averages. They’re definitely useful and informative but they shouldn’t be taken at face value alone or just seen from an organisational perspective. They should be used sparingly and in context with how customers actually feel about their experience. However you look at the numbers though, make sure it’s from the customer’s perspective.


Health and safety law becomes the new excuse for poor customer service

After recently hearing that the Health and Safety Executive have a Myth Busters Challenge Panel I thought I’d do some further research into this to see what it  was all about. So to help me do that I requested some general data from them but I certainly didn’t expect to see what I found. The data shows overwhelmingly that Health and Safety law is being used as an excuse by organisations to get away with poor customer service and communication.

A staggering 64% of cases reviewed over an 18 month period by the Mythbusters Challenge Panel were deemed to be either the result of poor customer service or poor communication with customers and not related to Health and Safety Law. This was the very reason the Challenge Panel was established as their website states ‘”Health and Safety” is often incorrectly used as a convenient excuse to stop what are essentially sensible activities going ahead’.HSE logo

One such case, reported by The Independent in June this year arose as a result of staff at a branch of Waitrose refusing to fillet a fish for a customer on the grounds that it was ‘too slippery’, despite the fact that this service was offered on their website.

As ridiculous as this one incident sounds, the data suggests a more alarming trend.In total, over the period of January 2012 to June 2013, a total of 184 cases were reviewed by the panel.

45% were attributed to poor customer service

20% were an ‘overinterpretation’ of the law

19% were poor communication on behalf of the company

9% related to other regulators e.g. Food Standards Agency

It was only a mere 7% of cases that were actually a sensible decision related to Health and Safety on behalf of the company concerned.

On a visit to the Mythbusters website where reviewed cases are listed, it doesn’t take long to spot other ‘crimes against the customer’. Case 172 cites an incident on a train resulting in the buffet car service being stopped due to “health and safety” whereas in reality, it was actually due to staff shortage.

Being a parent and frequenter of soft play areas, case 157 also caught my eye. A children’s soft play centre has signs up “customers must not consume their own food or drink on the premises due to Health & Safety reasons”.  However customers are allowed to consume hot drinks and cooked meals on the premises as long as they are purchased from their cafe. The panel’s decision reads ‘There are no health and safety laws which would stand in the way of customers consuming their own food in circumstances as described. The panel all believe that this is a clear case of commercial motives being conveniently hidden behind the catch-all health and safety excuse.’not allowed food sign

Whilst everyone accepts that commercial organisations are in business to make money, clearly some act in a very short sighted way towards customers and customer service, which, in beautiful irony actually systematically undermines and then ultimately destroys the business growth and profits organisations are trying to achieve. In addition to crediting customers with a complete lack of intelligence. However, this lost revenue opportunity is easily quantifiable.

In an article published by the Retail Gazette in 2012 based on research conducted by SMG, they estimated that UK Retailers are losing out on an estimated £45.38 billion a year by not giving their customers the best possible experience. Staff training and a real lack of understanding of what customers actually want from and expect from an experience with companies contributes to this situation, as does a very woolly understanding or over interpretation of Health and Safety law. However this situation is created, the customer shouldn’t be made to bear the brunt of this and the impact of this is financially significant for the UK economy at the very worst possible time.Poor rating scale

However this is completely avoidable and it doesn’t need to be like this. Indeed there are many companies both large and small delivering great customer service and delighting customers on a daily basis. More often than not though, it’s the attention to detail with customers, a smile and the timeless and consistent delivery of the basics which is where companies succeed or fail. A quote from Richard Branson sums this succinctly; ‘customer service is about communication and attention to detail, neither of which are difficult so naturally they’re the first things we forget!’

Customers simply want to be treated like individuals and made to feel valued not fobbed off with excuses about Health and Safety or other attempts to devolve the responsibility of delivering good