For much of my career, I, like many of my peers, have had to suffer what I like to call the ‘rolling eyes phenomenon’ on numerous occasions. Usually (although not exclusively) the domain of men and women working for organisations in senior roles, the ‘rolling eye phenomenon’ often occurs when someone like me, a Customer Experience Professional, starts to talk about anything related to the Customer Experience.

Whilst I must acknowledge that the phenomenon has lessened somewhat over the last few years, it is still pretty prevalent around the world. Some may say that body language can often be more powerful than words – for those who do not feel that the subject of Customer Experience warrants any specific discussion, the rolling of their eyes followed by the caressing/obsessing of their smartphones or tablet computers, says it all.

Like it or not, all organisations have been delivering a Customer Experience since the day they were formed. The fact that so many have been delivering the experience unconsciously, or accidentally, goes some way to explaining why we, the humble customer, still have so many random experiences that fail to meet our most basic of expectations. The real fact of the matter is that there are STILL those who do not believe that transforming or managing the customer experience requires any specific skill or competency. These are the people who continue to roll their eyes at the mere mention of the subject.

Last year, I had real pleasure in writing a post about ‘making the customer experience magical – the power of surprising and delighting customers’. If ever there were fodder for the ‘eye rollers’, this headline absolutely nails it!! It was a pleasure writing it because of the stories the article contained. One of them was about a client of mine – financial services business, Old Mutual Wealth – referencing an initiative they introduced to the business called….. wait for it…… ‘Magical Moments’! You will have to read the article to find out exactly how it came about. What I can confirm, is that ‘Magical Moments’ has now won numerous national awards – recognising the amazing effect it has had on the customer, the employee and the company in general.

However (there is always one of those), gaining national recognition does not guarantee that the eyes will stop rolling in the doubters. Influencing any organisation to constantly focus on the critical need to remain continuously and sustainably customer focused is a never ending task. Even Old Mutual Wealth need to keep guiding their people on the journey towards sustainable customer centricity. Convincing someone that Customer Experience is not soft and fluffy is not that easy – bringing me to the point of this post.

Every now and then, I meet someone who is completely comfortable with sharing their thoughts on the subject of Customer Experience – both in the spoken and written form. You are about to read one of, if not the best personal articles on Customer Experience I have ever had the honour of being exposed to.

Andy Heather is a writer and communications specialist at Old Mutual Wealth. He has a keen interest in all things ‘customer’ and an extreme dislike of poor service. He has been in the financial services marketing sector for 13 years and also works closely with customer service teams to help them write better client communications. Andy does not work in the Customer Experience team at Old Mutual Wealth – he does not have a Customer Experience specific role – he just believes in putting the customer at the forefront of everything he does.

What Andy has written is a message to all – a message that brilliantly describes that whilst elements of the discipline Customer Experience has become, may sound a little fluffy, but they are most definitely NOT nonsense – in fact, they are the future! It is an article for the ‘eye rollers’ and the ‘smartphone obsessors’ in companies all over the world. I hope you enjoy reading Andy’s words as much as I did…

Financial companies creating random acts of kindness for their customers – that’s all just fluffy nonsense, isn’t it?

Sure, customer experience is important. But does anyone actually believe someone is going to invest more into their pension because we sent their dog a get-well card?

That’s the kind of thing Old Mutual Wealth has been doing for its customers, through its Magical Moments initiative. Customer service centre advisers are encouraged to have meaningful conversations with customers and, on occasion, will send personal messages or small gifts.

So the question above is a fair one but it’s kind of missing the bigger picture.

Emotion is the new currency of experience“ John Mellor, vice-president of strategy and some other stuff at Adobe Systems.*

Mellor says that all businesses are now experience businesses, and customer experiences are meaningful because they create an emotional reaction as well as a physiological reaction.

This is all a fancy way of saying that the cold, hard corporate world is finally coming to terms with the inescapable fact that customers are actually (wait for it) people!

Yes, humans like you and me. People are emotional creatures and, whether they admit it or not, they love to be loved.


We want it all

Once upon a time we used to buy an insurance policy or a pension in a similar way that we used to enter into a marriage. You probably chose the first one who managed to lure you in with their charm, signed the paperwork and then neglected it for 40 years or so, just hoping it didn’t end too badly.

Today we all expect the dream. We want the early flushes to last forever; we want to be pampered on an ongoing basis and reassured of our decision. In many cases we never lose sight of the fact that we made a choice and we can change that choice whenever we want!

Showing the love

So, those businesses we’ve all come across, who only show you the love when they are in the luring-in phase, are like a bad marriage. You know; those broadband providers who offer you the known world to join them; or beg you to stay when you threaten to leave – but in between times treat you like an embarrassing irritation.

If, as Mellor says, all businesses are now experience businesses, those of us in the financial services industry need to recognise it and constantly create great experiences for our customers. Sadly, their expectation of us is low so the potential to surprise them is even greater.

Does my marriage analogy not satisfy the hard core analysts and number-crunchers among you? I’ll try to rein it back in to something that makes more sense to you if you’re only concerned with the bottom line.

By treating customers like real, human, emotional people at every opportunity, for as long as they are with us, we have a far better chance of sustaining a long and happy relationship with them.

For the actuaries, here that is again as an unfeasibly silly equation:

Customers are people + People are emotional = Need to make them happy
Happy customers = Loyal customers and brand advocacy
Customer loyalty and brand advocacy = More successful business
More successful business = Untold riches for all*

*Levels of exaggeration may go down as well as up

Still in denial?

Are these Magical Moments a bit fluffy? Perhaps. Are they nonsense? No, it’s the future.

Any feeling person who sees the responses from recipients of such personal-touch customer experience moments is likely to leave the room with a small lump in the throat or a tear in the eye. Anyone who doesn’t is probably not human, and they’re probably in a bad marriage. Just saying.