A clear customer culture

Embedding customer experience principles in an organisation’s culture is critical to the success of the customer experience strategy and yet, it is all too common to come across a company embarking on a programme without tackling cultural change. There can be any number of reasons for this “we tackled our culture last year” implying it is a once-in-time exercise, “we already have values and we need our CX strategy to fit with these”, suggesting rigid thinking, “culture sits in the HR function”, implying it is owned by a single department, or very often it is just considered too hard a challenge. Whilst this may be the case, it is certainly not justification for avoiding embedding customer experience in an organisations culture, which is fundamental to driving real customer competitive advantage.

Recently, I had to take a pair of glasses back to Specsavers because of a design flaw. During my experience, it was very apparent that they had embedded customer experience in the heart of their organisation’s culture. As a consequence, my experience as a customer was refreshingly easy and memorable, so I thought it was worth sharing. I purchased a pair of new sunglasses a couple of months ago and it quickly became apparent there was a design flaw, when every time I took them off, they pulled a clump of my hair out too! This week, I finally got around to taking them back to the shop to see if they could be repaired. I approached the counter and explained the problem to the young sales assistant, who, without hesitation offered me the opportunity to swap them for another pair of my choice.

What really struck me about this experience was the ease and simplicity with which my problem was sorted. The sales assistant didn’t have to ask a Manager to authorise the exchange, she didn’t ask me for proof of purchase, she didn’t even ask me for my contact details, so she could check I was a customer on the system. Now, whilst I realise that she would be collecting all of this data when finalising the replacement order, it was clear Specsavers has customers embedded at the heart of its culture, and here’s how it was demonstrated,

·       The staff, even at a junior level, had been given the autonomy to put the customer first and resolve my problem, without seeking higher level approval or authorisation

·       They trust their customers to be honest and open and there go-to response wasn’t to think that I wasn’t trying to “take them for a ride”, quite the opposite in fact. How many times do you deal with a company where you feel like you must prove who you are and that you have a right to a half decent product or service!

·       They showed empathy with me. I didn’t have to provide reams of evidence to demonstrate there was a flaw, they accepted the problem and how it impacted me and even identified it in other glasses from the same range. 

·       If the product doesn’t meet the customer’s needs or expectations, then it isn’t good enough and they will find a product that is. Without question they offered me a replacement pair. I recently advised a client that they needed to separate their internal quality control process from their customer quality control process, because the internal one was slowing down the speed with which they could resolve the customer issue. Specsavers have clearly done this to enable them to address the customer issue in the moment and then the quality control issues separately.

·       They recognise the cost of retaining a customer. Although it has cost them to provide me with a free second pair of glasses, they recognise that by looking after me now I am more likely to be a repeat customer, which costs them a lot less than trying to win me back if the piss me off, by not addressing my problem

It may seem like a very simple transaction, but that is the crux of it. Specsavers have clearly taken customer experience right to the core of their business and embedded it into their culture. They don’t always get it right, but they have gone beyond process redesign and journey mapping to really thinking about how they behave as a business, what that feels like for their customers and how they can turn a negative into a positive, pain free experience.

Before going into the shop, I fully expected to have to argue the case that I had a defective product, evidence who I was and when I made my purchase, wait for a manager to authorise a replacement or discount and leave the store feeling frustrated and deflated. As it is, I’m now sharing my very positive story of a positive organisational culture.