Category Archives: Customer experience

Banking on Usability?


This ad from Kiwibank shows a customer turning to rage while checking his balance online   …presumably on a competitor bank’s website.

Banks were one of the first industries to take their services online in New Zealand, so after more than a decade to fine tune their customers’ online experience…

…should user-friendliness really be a point of difference?

Running. A user centred business.

Where can I go for a run around here?

Concierge at my hotel in Singapore only needed to be asked this a few times before they found themselves offering directions.

…But all too often they’d spot their guests returning by taxi after getting lost in the suburbs.

This jogger’s map started out when a staff member sketched a suggested route over a city map for a guest. This evolved over time through photocopied and laminated versions into this runner-friendly neck-tag.

Not everyone’s idea of going for a run is the same, so hotel staff asked sweaty runners how far they ran and looked at the ways they folded their improvised city map. This way they could adjust the route and the boundary of the map to suit all levels of runner.

I love the way this jogger’s map came about, it’s like a condensed example of a User Centred Design process:

  • None of the staff were runners themselves
  • …but they strove to understand their customers
  • …they generated a solution in response to an observed need
  • …evolved the design through user feedback
  • …and iterative improvements
  • …adjusting the design to suit the context of use
  • The result benefits both the business and the customer

It’s also a good example of how the little things can make the a big difference.

Chocolate on the pillow is always a nice touch and a no-brainer for hoteliers. …but businesses who listen to and observe their customers are in the best place to discover new and sometimes simple ways to provide both a point of difference and an improved customer experience.

The oldest trick in the customer experience book

Every Tuesday NZ business strategist Lance Wiggs issues ‘Three ways to improve your business’, Last week at number two is ‘Meet your customers’.
This simple advice represents the grass roots of a customer-centric approach to building a great experience for your customers, and competitive advantage for your business.

So, if this approach is simple yet crucial to design and business, why do we have to be reminded?

In the world of retail, gaining customer insight is; there for the taking, known best practice and as old as shops themselves.

In traditional retail, understanding customer behaviour is a matter of key staff keeping eyes and ears open. At base level, switched-on store managers can track and respond to demand and popularity of products simply by watching them fly off the shelf (or not). Front of house employees with their ears ‘on’ can gauge reaction to new product lines and track customer requests to inform potential new products or services.

Online, without face to face contact with your customer, you’re blinded to these insights and opportunities.
…of course web analytics can paint some of the picture, and tracking keywords in your site search can take you closer to the mind-set of your customer…

…but ultimately these aren’t stats or keywords, they are people and  it’s about meeting them, understanding the attitudes that drive behaviours in and around the context of your product or service, and their wider goals relating to what you offer.

This means qualitative research at an individual level. By building empathy with your customers, you can gain valuable insights into their motivations, monitor changing attitudes and expectations to inform vital changes to your proposition. …just like shopkeepers have been doing for thousands of years.

Lance’s timing is good however, as too many online businesses have failed to keep eyes and ears on their customers.  It’s an old and proven approach, and it ain’t going anywhere soon.

Prepare to be disappointed. Customer service in an over-subscribed city

I’m en route to London and am bracing myself for the reality of ‘the nation of shopkeepers’

London shopkeepers’ best intentions to deliver great customer experience are challenged under the weight of the massive demand. With this volume of customers to serve, there’s no time for the personal touch.

And from a shop workers viewpoint, why bother? It’s a constant anonymous flow of customers and tourists you’re very unlikely to see again.

I’ll soon get used to this, lower my service expectation and be delighted if I even get a hello at the checkout. When your sights are set so low, it’s amazing how little is required to make a difference.

In New Zealand, good sales staff will greet you with a smile, look you in the eye and seem genuinely interested. Often you feel like you are the only customer in the shop or on the phone, you have their attention and it even seems personal.

When returning to NZ from a global metropolis I really notice our hometown advantage, and it takes some acclimatising. “why are they so interested when I’m just buying the milk?”

I’m already looking forward to the first few trips to the shops on my return.

Customer experience pilgrims: Experience economy brings a new kind of tourist to NZ

Some Kiwi brands are attracting their global customers back to the source of their product, creating new customer experience touch-points as well as fuelling tourism.

Companies exporting products ‘made from NZ’ are seeing their customers make pilgrimages to experience NZ brands at the source, connecting with the origins of the product.

Tourists have journeyed to previously ignored parts of our landscape thanks to Lord of the Rings. Now they are visiting high country sheep stations to come face to face with the sheep whose fleece they have been wearing. More than 10,000 people worldwide have traced their merino garment right back to the sheep station here in NZ where the wool was sourced using Icebreaker’s ‘baacode’ trace-ability technology.

Last week an American man whose leg was saved from amputation by a Manuka Honey dressing  has been to visit the apiary here to ‘meet the people who changed his life’.

With an increasing number of global NZ brands trading on the unique geography and natural resources of our country we could see more tourism based on these brand pilgrimages.

Blinded by mass production, availability, and homogenous strip mall shopping, today’s discerning consumers seek authenticity of products and experiences. Providing a traceable origin and conveying the authentic root of the product seems to be winning Icebreaker wearers over, so will 42below vodka devotees visit glacial springs where the magic brew is sourced, virtually, then in person?

What sort of experience are people expecting when they arrive, traditional retail or a gumboots-and-Hilux adventure into the depths of our countryside, both, or something completely different?

In an experience economy, opportunity awaits those who seek to understand their customers motivations, then define and create the types of experiences and touch points these ‘authenticity seeking’ visitors are drawn to.