Archive | August, 2007

great retail customer experience

23 Aug

serenata homepage

Its not often that I can say that I’ve just had a great customer experience. Being focused on customer experience professionally, 99 out of 100 times I’m frustrated with the customer experience I receive, but today I had a great retail experience.

Lets start with the customer profile:

  • 30 something male – has no clue about flowers
  • Need – to find some appropriate flowers to send as a ‘get well soon’ message
  • Concerns – worried about sending the wrong message is aware of the situation where he sent ‘sympathy flowers’ to his Nan on her birthday
  • Primary Goal – to put a smile on the face of a client after a recent operation

So after a bit of ‘shopping around’ visiting different sites I settled for the one I felt looked professional, well designed and easy to use. I chose this site because it did all of those things and I spotted a tool on the left navigation which helped me navigate by sentement  to the ‘get well soon’ flowers.

Along the way I noticed some friendly features which made me feel that the site had really done its research into what their customers need. They provide a ‘Help me choose feature’ which I imagine really supports those slightly nervous flower naive men (and women) out there, and from the layout of the products and the clear shopping cart my confidence built with every minute I spent on the site.

help me choose feature

After choosing my flowers, specifying the delivery slot and making my purchase I was happy I’d done a good thing. A day later, a dispatch email into my inbox telling me my flowers were on their way in a friendly and amusing style and later that day another email arrived letting me know they were delivered successfully.

delivery email

OK, so there’s nothing ground-breaking in this experience, and sure there were some things I’d recommend that Serenata change but what struck me most was the effortlessness of it all. Sadly I’ve got used to things going wrong; websites being hard to use, difficulty making a purchasing decision, forms returning errors, mistakes in delivery. Instead I had a pleasant experience with a retailer and you know what, I’ll use them again and tell my friends (consider yourself a friend who’s been told).

After checking out a few other flower and gift retailers, many of them appear to have worked hard on their customer experiences and seem to be ahead of alot of other retailers. I guess what many of them have is a single channel to worry about and a fairly well defined set of customer goals to support. The challenge for multi-channel retailers is to focus their efforts on all their touchpoints to make them as slick as the flower and gift retailers have.

Full marks to Serenata who have clearly invested in getting their customer experience right. I wonder how many other retailers out there can claim to have invested in delivering a consistently great customer experience?

 

 

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Damian Rees

About Damian Rees

Damian has worked as a usability and user experience consultant for over 13 years. He has worked in senior roles within companies like the BBC and National Air Traffic Services where he has researched and designed for users in a variety of different contexts including web applications, voice recognition, and air traffic control interfaces. Follow Damian on twitter @damianrees

ideas for improving the networking experience

16 Aug

networking with business card

I went to a networking event in London last night hosted by Lemon Studios and e-consultancy- the Lemon Studios Summer Party. It was a good, well organised event where I enjoyed mingling with a bunch of people in the new media industry. The event was held in the Larder restaurant in Clerkenwell to promote Lemon Studios who are based on Clerkenwell Road, in the old building I used to work when I was at Wheel (now LBi).

As an inexperienced networker and someone who is guilty of being quite introverted at times, the idea of going to an event with hundreds of people there and approaching complete strangers is more than a little scary. So I was quite aware of the experience I had last night and a couple of things struck me on the way home which I think future networking events could improve on to give their attendees a better experience.

Help people connect with specific attendees - Lemon studios published the guest list before the event last night which I thought was a great way to see the kind of people who were going to be there. What I would have loved is a way to tag a couple of names with a note to say I’d like to talk to them. A board of some such or a notification system where when I had finished a conversation with someone I could go to the board, check my phone or something and see if anyone wanted to talk to me. If they were free also, I could meet them to chat.I’m not sure how this would work in a practical sense, but it struck me that identifying people I wanted to talk to would be a really great way to get the best of a networking event. As it was I went through the whole night not meeting anyone from the organisations I was hoping to talk to. Of course some people may attract more interest than others so may not like this idea so much, but as long as the system supported optional contact it could work well.

Backup business card printing on the spot - This one might be a bit ‘out there’, but I was surprised with the number of people I spoke to who didn’t have a business card with them. I was thinking that maybe if an event provided the facility for people to run off a small batch of plain cards with their contact details on them it would allow them to network with a bit more confidence and efficiency.

Consider a venue with good air con - half way through my second conversation I broke into a sweat. Initially I thought nerves were getting the better of me, but looking around I noticed I wasn’t alone. Its always difficult to keep a room cool with lots of people in it, but this is an important factor when people are in a setting where they need to talk and some could be nervous. Comfort is really important to avoid distractions or self consciousness over growing sweat patches.

Provide cloakroom facilities where possible - although they had a small cupboard to put coats and bags in last night, it wasn’t really supportive of a safe environment to place belongings for people turning up after work with coats, brollies and laptop bags. Instead I saw some people struggling with their bags on their shoulders with their coats thrown over tables. A comfortable environment where valuables are safely placed out of the way will support a more smooth networking experience and allow people to move around the room away from the their things.

The key thing I took away from my first proper networking event was that everyone was in the same boat. A lot of people were as nervous as I was to begin with, and most of us shared the same common goal – to expand our network of contacts. If event organisers focus in on those goals and work out what they can do to make it easier and more enjoyable for people to reach their goals, they will find that they create a networking experience that people come back to again and again.

 

 

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Damian Rees

About Damian Rees

Damian has worked as a usability and user experience consultant for over 13 years. He has worked in senior roles within companies like the BBC and National Air Traffic Services where he has researched and designed for users in a variety of different contexts including web applications, voice recognition, and air traffic control interfaces. Follow Damian on twitter @damianrees

pub experiences after the smoking ban stink

12 Aug

customer experience after smoking ban

Since the smoking ban has been introduced in the UK, pubs are beginning to face the issue of introducing scent into their customer experience. According to an article in today’s Sunday Telegraph, this is due to the ‘smell of old carpets and body odour … no longer masked by cigarette smoke’.  One pub group, Mitchells & Butlers (http://www.mbplc.com/) are experimenting with scented air conditioning to mask the aromas in all its smoke free pubs, using Ocean Breeze and Freshly Cut Grass.Scents are an largely neglected in designing great customer experiences.

Smell is a sense which evokes a powerful emotional response in us because it doesn’t get interpreted by the thalamus – the area of the brain which interprets all our other senses. This direct connection from the nose to the cortex is responsible for the strong memories which are relived when smelling a familiar scent, most of us can associate with passing someone in the street wearing an old girlfriend or boyfriends aftershave or perfume. 

How these pubs integrate an extremely personal and powerful sense into a consistent customer experience is an interesting problem and one which would be good to research further. My feeling, without the benefit of research, is that  I’m not sure if the experience of sitting in your local on a Friday night with the smell of freshly cut grass is going to feel right. Many of us associate these smells with more healthy outdoor pursuits rather than having a few beers chatting with friends. It seems to me that the real customer experience issue here is smelly old pubs needing to refurbish rather than trying to mask the smells left behind from years of beer, food and smoke.

 

 

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Damian Rees

About Damian Rees

Damian has worked as a usability and user experience consultant for over 13 years. He has worked in senior roles within companies like the BBC and National Air Traffic Services where he has researched and designed for users in a variety of different contexts including web applications, voice recognition, and air traffic control interfaces. Follow Damian on twitter @damianrees