Pre-staging Anyone?

Pic of Car Servicing

I dropped my car off for servicing this morning.  It’s my weekend, and I want to spend as little time on chores quite frankly.  I reach the counter of my service advisor and spent no less than five minutes providing information to the advisor and him filling a form with 2 carbon copies, such as my name and contact number.  What is more surprising is that he needed to actually write down my car plate number and some other details.  What an ineffective use of both the employee’s (writing information they already have on a system) and the customer’s time.  It would have been much easier if, at the time of booking the appointment (via the call center) this information, if not there already, is captured, I am given a “soft token” on my phone, through the car dealership’s mobile app, which as soon as I walk in to the service center notifies me of my advisor’s name / counter number, and pops a screen to the advisor with my details, ready to be printed (if at all a printout is required).

Consumer driven industries like airlines are spoiling us: they understood the value of making consumers feel empowered by allowing them to be masters of the transaction time and therefore, of their own convenience and partly, their own experience: I check in to my flight at home either through my phone, laptop or tablet, and then drop my bags at the baggage drop counter therefore reducing the inconvenient wait time.

In the age of instant messaging, always on connectivity, consumers have less tolerance for inefficient processes.  A friend of mine working at an IT firm in Dubai actually formally informed his peers about his “email processing methodology”: any email he is put on CC, he will not read and in fact would file under a low priority folder automatically.  If people require him to action something, then they better put him on the To line.  The point here is consumers are time starved and are pulled in so many directions, companies who truly understand this and “empathize” with their customers are the ones who will be able to garner their customers’ loyalty.


Picture via Mouleesha under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Loyalty Extends The Customer Experience the Costumer Experience cycle or customer journey, associated with the purchase cycle (e.g. awareness, consideration, intention, purchase, loyalty/reward/re-purchase/advocacy/up-sell), I would like to focus on the Loyalty phase of the cycle, which is what has recently started taking shape in the region, and specifically UAE.

The loyalty phase, being where the initial journey ends and the cycle actually starts again, is not considered to be the so-called going back to basics, however it is where companies consider it an advanced stage of delivering top-line and complete customer experience. Within the loyalty cycle comes the points/rewards system, customer care, and added privileges.

Proving its importance and need early within airlines and banks, the loyalty cycle have confirmed its necessity to extend to Retail; and even some FMCG brands that still need to prove its worthiness and proximity to their customers or consumers using a concrete metric like a points-system, or data collection which is a key element of a successful loyalty program.

At this stage also, and recently with the help of social networking sites, the voice of the customer (VOC) promoting their experiences and ideas have become a key aspect to monitor. Brands, especially within the service and retail industry, have took note of it and are collecting inputs from customers over their experience before it gets posted online, and rewarding them through advocacy by sharing it on their own websites or communications.

In UAE, there are some good and bad examples of applying loyalty and reward. The good example which most of us would know is Emirates Airlines, that delivers added-value through their purchase cycle with options to stay loyal through their Skywards program and the benefits it gives; but also we can look at how well the program is positioned in their strategy and applied within the customer cycle phases from marketing it, integrating it with purchase options and upgrades, and delivering status value to customers benefiting from it.

I will leave the bad application of loyalty to your imagination, as there are plenty.

Overall, categories related to overall customer experience (Cx), return business (repurchase), and referrals to friends, and sharing opinion (advocacy) will have a positive return effect based on above loyalty measures, regardless of the industry…in which Automotive industry can now have an opportunity to build on.


Picture by Mattes via Wikimedia Commons.

De-Escalation 101: Focus on Anxiety

I have seen customer service departments struggle so many times with complaining customers, it’s almost heartbreaking.  At the same time, I have seen so many situations de-escalate despite relatively long resolution times.

How can an escalating situation ever end up in satisfied customers, despite a long resolution cycle you ask?

Escalation = Anxiety

It all starts with an understanding of anxiety and frustration of customers: the reason something escalates is usually linked to a customer not believing you understand the urgency, or the importance of a situation for them.  Escalating  helps focus resources and recruit support from senior management, especially when resources are across different functions and reporting lines within an organization.

The key is therefore to keep the customer’s anxiety levels about your capabilities to a bare minimum, while helping them understand in their own terms what it is you are doing for them to salvage the situation.

“Push” Notifications Became Popular for a Reason

The second and most important key is to keep communication flowing, think of “push” notifications on your smart phone: they reduce the anxiety of having to remember, or having to follow up on things (a meeting reminder, a friend’s comment to your post, a flight being delayed, etc).  In the case of push notifications, the anxiety is mostly linked to your own ability to remind yourself of a task, rather than a supplier’s capabilities to do their work right.

No News is Still News

Do not wait too long for an update to actually update your customer.  Sometimes, investigations to a problem take time, keep your customer engaged nevertheless.  Let them know you are still owning their problem, even if it takes time.  Do not wait for them to request an update: it would already be too late, and you would only be reinforcing their belief that without their intervention and consistent follow-through, you would not be doing your job.

Maya Angelou was right: “People will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”.


Picture via Wikimedia Commons licensed under the Gnu General Public License.

Infographic: 3 Interesting CX Metrics

We have put together 3 interesting metrics of customer experience / satisfaction into an infographic, our sources include the Temkin Group,, Lee Resources, Inc (quoted in, Bain and Company quoted by  Click on the infographic to see a larger version.

CX Metrics Infographic Oct-14

Data compiled from these sources: quoting Lee Resources, Inc. quoting the Temkin Group

CX and Organization Alignment

Delivering consistent consumer experience across all customer touch points provides opportunities for competitive differentiation, conformity to consumer expectations and at times customer delight. However, in the today’s world, consistency of experience across channels (manned or unmanned) is expected by customers. Consumers have been attuned to such nuances by interacting with industries like Airlines where search, booking and check-in can all work seamlessly across various channels.

Nonetheless, organizational emphasis on delivering consumer experience helps in clarifying internal brand identity and organizational alignment to it. Companies like Apple, Google & Facebook deliver unparalleled consumer experience. Interestingly all of these companies also rank highest as one of the best companies to work for. Employees of these companies know what their organizations stand for, and deliver experiences to their consumers through products and services that embody this purpose. These employees are better able to understand the greater purpose of their organization, and can relate their work to this goal. Consequently, such values and discipline result not only in quality products, services and external brand development, but also in increased employee loyalty and pride.

Unambiguity in organization’s identity and the consequent successful delivery of consumer experiences in tune with this identity requires clarity of purpose and vision on part of the organization’s leadership, and dissipation of such values across the organization.

Image by G Patkar (Wikimedia Commons)

Emirates Airlines, for example, has an extreme focus on consumer experience that takes root from their hiring process. The expectations from its employees are very clear even before they apply for a job:

“As a powerful international brand delivering a world class product we believe that the Customer Experience is the differentiator. Our challenge is to constantly re-look at what we do and to keep designing and delivering an Emirates experience in a way that our customers see, hear and feel the power of the brand. This is what sets us apart from other organisation across all areas of our business. A commitment to customer services is therefore a critical value that all employees demonstrate internally and externally across the organisation.”

The above excerpt from their “Careers” sections shows the clarity with which the company emphasizes on the “Emirates Experience”, and what is expected from their prospective employees.

Such clarity and focus across the organization is crucial in delivering the consumer experience in every aspect of customer’s journey of a transaction, and in the long term – their relationship with the company and its brand.

Big Data, Nostradamus, and CX!

It has become a given by now that Big Data is of great value and importance in the technology industry today, and in fact it is going mainstream at a faster pace than any other technology. But some of the main questions that remain unanswered to the most of us are: why is Big Data so important? and why now?

It has always been a desire of man to foresee the future or predict the outcome of certain decisions ahead of taking them, and to do that we have turned to many ways (some of which defy logic), but one solution that has proven more successful than others is to look back at similar events from the past and given similar conditions assume that the results will be similar, and the more past experiences we have the higher the probability of getting accurate results.

One of the most important drivers (if not the most important) behind the Big Data Revolution was the ability to predict the unknown – and here I will jump to answering the question “Why Now?” first; it is simply because never before the age of the Internet, the Cloud and the Social Media, has there been any larger and more accessible repository of information – Big Data allows us to look at such huge amounts of historic data generated by humanity since the early days of recorded history as well as data being generated every day, and helps us in creating the links between the different bits and pieces of seemingly unrelated events and thus finding correlations and deriving patterns.

Since we are talking about huge amounts of past information, the level of CORRELATION can be very high and accurate that for some applications it is arguably as good as CAUSATION. The debate of whether correlation derived from Big Data is good enough for taking actions or making decisions is still ongoing and it heats up more in topics such as medicine and health sciences where the wrong predictions can have serious effects, however in applications where the data is more repetitive and predictions are safer such as predicting consumer behavior, and improving customer experience the results can be simply astounding.

It is such kind of pattern recognition and predictive analytics that allowed Amazon earlier this year to make the announcement that soon they will be able to predict your next purchase. Imagine how convenient it would be if (as a local example) was able to tell when you are going to buy your new smartphone from them, and have the exact model ready in the warehouse that is closest to your location, so that once you make the purchase they will have it delivered on the same day; now this is what I call an “Exceptional Consumer Experience”.

Datum, Data, Information… Dashboard

Some Math

Don’t worry, X-men aren’t real and you are not wolverine that traveled back in time, you aren’t on your desk suffering dreadfully from the voice of your math teacher trying to get in-sync with his frequency.

A couple of days ago my Colleague posted an article on Big Data discussing various practicies that ultimately enhance CX. Data being a key element to any targeted business in this era became an integral factor in decision making. Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Bank promotions, Email Ads, bill boards; all these forms of advertisements aren’t just ads posted/ sent randomly, they rely on in-depth analysis, studies, researches, statistics that results in a 160-character SMS or a 250X250 px image.

What happened in the early 21st century? Did we invent data? Is it a new science? All are rhetorical questions and their answers are, a two character word. What really happened in the 21st Century is calculated shift in presenting these data in a simplified, readable manner. Consumer experience isn’t just a B2C experience, at most it is a B2B experience that results in an elevated B2C experience.

A simple live dashboard that incorporates thousands of variable numbers changing per second will provide you a more vivid holistic view on where do you stand in providing your end-consumers a better service, hence a better CX.

Let’s agree on one thing.  Unless you are Bill Gates, we all hate numbers (that includes our salary!). Numbers crunched, Latin characters scrambled, mathematical representation, all are an ongoing eye-scratching pain. These numbers have to be transformed into a simplified diagram that serves their purpose, ultimately better CX. Microsoft, Google, Oracle and many other big IT firms are making billions of $s on their ability to transform the pain to a simple, beautiful, colorful dashboard.

A key to a successful dashboard is 3 attributes:

1. Clear vivid representations

2. Self sufficient. A dashboard should not require Mr. Clippy next to it explaining what is going on, by spending minimal time observing it the user should know how and what the information means

3. Ability to overlay information and manipulate data providing the user with a different viewing perspective.


In Conclusion, I have good and bad news. Let me start with the bad news to leave you with a shred of hope to strangle on. Numbers will always be important. But. The good news is, we reached to a stage where we can manipulate these numbers and present them in a simplified dashboard.


Formula picture via Behdad under the Creative Commons Attribution-shareAlike 2.0 Generic License.

Dashboard picture via Manop under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License.

3 Lessons from Zaatar W Zeit’s Customer Journey

ZwZ Salaam Street

I am a big fan of Mana’eesh, the carb loaded cheese or thyme Lebanese pie.   When you think mana’eesh, one bakery’s name pops up inevitably, Zaatar w Zeit.  For the uninitiated, Mana’eesh is considered to be fast food, traditionally sold on every street corner bakery in Lebanon, and known to be quite cheap.  Zaatar w Zeit, however, managed to charge a premium, and turn a traditional “mamas & papas” business into a successful multinational brand, spanning 22 outlets in 5 countries.

If you walk into some of their outlets, take for example the Salaam Street Branch outlet in Abu Dhabi, you would be able to see the kitchen, and therefore have a glimpse at their standard of hygiene.  The taste is great, but that’s highly subjective.  Even their vegetables seem to be handpicked, but these plus points alone did not make me a loyal customer.

What made me a loyal customer is the experience they deliver, either in their outlet, or on their call center:

1.  Personalization: Know (and update) Your Customer’s Contact Details

Not only does Zaatar w Zeit know my delivery address, but throughout my history with them (I’ve moved across two cities, 3 apartments, and ordered a few times from friends’ homes).  They have all my addresses saved, automatically.  This makes ordering with them wherever I am, very easy, and makes me feel like a valued customer.

2. Absence of Anxiety

Zaatar w Zeit is one of the few, if not the only food delivery chain which explicitly asks if you need change in case you are not carrying small notes.  How frustrating is it when a delivery man knocks on your door presents you the food, and tells you he has no change for your AED 500 note.  This has never happened to me with Zaatar w Zeit.

While this seems like a small thing, it actually contributes to the entire experience, and only reinforces in their customer’s perception that they are easy to do business with.  The mere fact of asking if you have change reduces the amount of “anxiety” that you as a customer may experience while waiting for your order: “will the delivery man have enough change? should I go downstairs and get some cash from an ATM?”.

Marketing Optimization firm Marketing Experiments quantified the impact of “anxiety” on email & website conversions.  It probably applies equally to customer journeys.

3. Consistency Across Channels

The overall experience is very consistent.  In fact, it’s highly predictable.  Over the past 5 years or so, in Dubai and in Abu Dhabi, Zaatar w Zeit invariably manages to deliver my order in 40 to 45 minutes.  The predictability of their delivery is what keeps me ordering more.  The wait time on their call center is also predictable and rarely noticeable.  Not so coincidentally, UX Mag lists predictability as The First Essential in a Customer Centric Business, according to their article, it provides customers:

  • A sense of control
  • Trust and safety
  • Reliability

Because of these 3 reasons, and many others, I am a loyal customer to Zaatar w Zeit.  Bon appetit!

Reduce Consumer Anxiety Using “Feedback Design”

Forrester is one of the leading supporters of Customer Experience.  In one of their posts (by Kerry Bodine), they say: “Of the six disciplines in Forrester’s customer experience maturity model, design is probably the least understood. It’s is not taught in most business schools (although this is starting to change at institutions like Stanford and the University of Toronto). It’s also not widely practiced in most companies outside of specialized groups that focus on digital touchpoints. And so it remains a mystery to most business people. That’s a shame, because design is an incredibly valuable business tool — and it’s accessible to just about anyone in any organization.”

Design is becoming increasingly important in all touchpoints a company has with its customers: we, consumers, have been spoiled.  Products like the iPhone, iPads, mobile and web apps like GMail and Evernote, interfaces in general, got us used to expect simplicity and “feedback design”.  What do I mean by “Feedback Design”?  imagine you are on a website trying to order a pizza, you choose a Hawaiian large pizza, and are ready to check out, except that when you click on the check out link, nothing seems to happen: the button does not give you the feel of being clicked, it does not change color, you do not hear a sound, for a few seconds, you do not perceive any feedback from the web page.  I say perceive, because you are used to hearing a click sound, or seeing the button actually get pressed down when you click on it, it may even change colors.  In these few seconds of zer0 perception / zero feedback, what do you feel? if you are a typical online shopper, you probably decided to order online because it felt convenient for you to do so, you don’t have much time, and it empowers you to do what you want to do.  Keyword “empowers”.  You expect empowerment, yet, what happened is exactly the opposite: you did not feel in control anymore, you did not feel empowered.  You feel lost, confused, you are not sure if the website actually accepted your click, you may even try to click again on “check out”, a feeling of anxiety, however minor, creeps up.  You are disappointed!

This is how important “feedback” is in the online experience.  We now expect it, and if we do not get the perception of “feedback”, we are frustrated, and disappointed.  The web and its brainchild, the mobile app industry understood this long ago.  To top things up, being multi channel creatures, consumers now expect such “feedback” from any other self service channel we use: the beeping sound of your choice on an IVR when calling a support line, the audio sound or color change of a button pressed at an ATM, or the click sound of a button at a donation kiosk in a mall.

Feedback Example on Self Service Interface - Before
Feedback Example on Self Service Interface – Before
Feedback Example on Self Service Interface - After
Feedback Example on Self Service Interface – After

When designing for a self-service channel, make sure your design incorporates basics of “feedback” and ensure you deliver an “anxiety” free experience to your users.

Bigger is Better!

This is not about the new iPhone, it is about something much bigger that even the 128GB iPhone won’t be able to handle a fraction of its size; this is about “Big Data”, a term that has become quite famous and familiar in the technology industry in the recent years.

But without going into the debatable definitions of Big Data, or even delving into the argument of whether it is good or just creepy (cheeky smile), we will focus instead on its functional aspects and the impact it can have on improving our experiences as consumers and making our lives easier.

Imagine walking into Dubai Mall on your birthday with your newest smartphone in your pocket; Beacons Micro-location technology will detect your presence in the mall, but instead of sending you a simple congratulations message, the smart analytics engine running in the background will immediately do a quick check on you in the realm of Big Data “The Internet” and all of its Social Networks, Blogs and other… and in a fraction of a second it will notice that you are someone interested in gadgets and electronics, but not only that, it will also notice that you have been doing a lot of online search in the past couple of weeks for “Bluetooth Speakers”.

Now a special birthday message will be pushed to your phone, one that contains a 30% discount coupon on Bluetooth speakers from your favorite electronics shop in Dubai Mall; you decide to take advantage of the offer and head towards that electronics shop, once again Beacons will detect your arrival at the shop and relevant information will be passed to the shop manager, who decides to greet you in person and to your surprise he/she will give you an additional 20% discount on your purchase and another small gift on top of that, but that gift isn’t random at all; it is the same smartphone case you added to your online cart the other day but never bought.

So here you are, walking out of the mall on your birthday with a big smile on your face.
This is not science fiction, this is a scenario that can happen today and it is just a small example of the power of Big Data – when used wisely – and of the impact it can have on our everyday experiences.


Image via Camelia.boban, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.