Customer Experience Dinner

Posted by Adam Stead | 21-Jul-2017 14:31:06

This interactive dinner took place at the Covent Garden Hotel on the 29th June. It was a dinner for industry leaders from backgrounds as diverse as letting agencies, the public sector, and digital marketing experts. The dinner was held in association with DocuSign.

DocuSign make offices paperless. Signatures are now legacy systems of verification – unsuited to the digital age. DocuSign has innovated an eSignature to collapse this lengthy process into a few clicks and no printing. It is the largest brand of its kind.

For this dinner, guests were asked to think about the following questions:

  • The most common frustrations that cause customer churn and abandonment, and how can organisations counteract these
  • How new technology can create a frictionless customer experience
  • The oft-forgotten element of digital transformation: overcoming the analogue hurdle of paper documentation
  • Creating invisible reliability: making sure that customers prefer the ease of your product/service over the frustrations of your competitor
  • Instant delight: how delivering balanced personalisation can build concrete bonds between consumers and your organisation
  • Trustworthiness and looking out for your internal and external customers: why making consumers feel like you are looking out for their best interests is vital to long-term retention
  • Customers take control - how a great customer experience can be exclaimed by your consumers; and how a negative one can create irrevocable damage
  • The importance of a seamless customer experience for internal/external stakeholders, on a global scale

A good customer journey, it seems, should be smooth, friendly, and personal. The question then becomes, how?

One complicating factor here may be a generational difference in cultural needs. For example, if millennial Joe wanted to purchase insurance, he might prefer an online interface where all the available information is readily accessible to him, and he can come to an informed judgement easily. In the near future, he might ask his personal Siri to do the analysis for him, which he knows acts solely in his interest. He would not ask the insurer rep: they act in the insurers’ interest. He would not use the phone as a way of learning information – information dispensed in a linear way is inefficient. The phone seems to him a mad way to buy insurance. But his mother Lyn would prefer to speak to a human, so she buys her insurance by phone.

So in this example, is it better to have an online engine or an adviser? The obvious answer seems to be, both. There should not be a one-size-fits-all policy when it comes to customer journeys – people have different needs and wants. It is the duty of the vendor to give the customer as much choice as possible, including in the mode of communication.

This is not always practicable. Lots of details of a customer journey it would  be too ask for an opt in or out. Do you want to speak to the delivery person? Do you want customer service emails? It’s also the case that price is a factor. Lynn might well prefer to buy her insurance by phone, but she will pay a premium for doing so as the price will have to incorporate the cost of an adviser.


At the very start of the dinner, guests were asked to share the best and the worst customer experience they’d had. In positive experiences, one theme was convenience and ease of use; for example, the ability to use a smartphone to arrange an entire holiday on the way to the airport. However, the standout theme was that the customers felt they were valuable to the company or person. Many stories focussed on human relationships, in which their interaction went beyond what might have immediate, measurable, ROI – a butcher that became a friend, or a remembered customer from months ago.

Bad experience stories were themed around hassle, dishonesty, and rudeness. One theme common to both good and bad customer experiences, was that customer service is at its best or worst when a customer is stressed or disempowered. When you need to be somewhere, but when your previous arrangements fall through; when you need to get something done now. This is exactly the situation where some companies or individuals will work extremely hard for you. It is also, unfortunately, the situation in which some companies will use your disempowerment to leverage more money from you. ‘I’m afraid there’s only one train left sir, and you will need a new ticket.’

But companies can surprise. One guest claimed money back after his young daughter racked up a fortune on in-app purchases on his iPad – successfully. Increasingly, service-oriented large companies challenge the stereotype, in which people refer to ‘fighting’ the customer team. Empowering the customer reps to grant recompense, combined with generous returns policy, pays dividends – Amazon’s returns policy was referred to more than once, along with the policy of stores such as L.L. Bean which offer “lifetime returns” for their clothes, should they wear out.


Complaints are the part of the journey least suited to automation; you want to explain your problem in your own terms, and you want empathy. But for the earlier parts of the process,  is  it possible to make the customer feel valued without having to invest in expensive human relationships?

Personalized customer experiences are coming into the marketplace in a new way. Some people get them right, some get them very wrong; hopefully this is part of the trial and error period as the capability is introduced to the marketplace.

Too much is done with block demographic categories: age, gender. People do not correspond exactly to their generations’ preferences and generalizations can be patronizing. (For an extreme example, see the misjudged “millennial” Pepsi ad, which they withdrew after it received such a poor response. It features Kendall Jenner and a protest for a nonspecific cause by hip young millennials such as myself who like multiculturalism and Pepsi. It reeked of aged boardrooms and buzzwords.) They can also be wrong: Lynn might be an online whizz, and Joe might prefer to talk on the phone. You do not want to alienate the customer.

But personalization tools available today can be far more sophisticated than this. Spotify’s superb daily mix feature suggests music based on your listening habits. This is exactly the kind of feature customers should want – and young or old, I will be suggested music relevant to me. While there are concerns that you could ‘define yourself into a corner’ (i.e. you may never listen to anything different) it is not hard to imagine breakout features. ‘Find me something different’ could be a great button, alongside the daily mix.

The debate playing out at the moment asks, when does it go too far? A supermarket, for example, may be able to tell when a family member is pregnant from changes in the pattern of alcohol purchase with a high degree of accuracy. Should it start suggesting nappies – or worse, send an automated message congratulating you on being pregnant?

This would be an intrusion, surely. While people appreciate being valued on a human level, in a friendly way, knowing a lot of information about somebody is not a substitute for friendship – and the simulation of friendship can be creepy.

Or, irritating – people can play games with you. For some online retailers, prices will be different depending on your purchase history. They are trying to work out an individual demand elasticity and respond accordingly. For some vendors of flights, they will put the prices up after the second time you visit a website because your return to the address means you’re likely to purchase. This ultimately creates an adversarial relationship between customer and vendor in a way that harms customer experience.


Lots of companies are off-puttingly keen to ask their users to build an account, even where no account is needed. That way, they have my information, and I am part of a sales process. This is not usually what I want.

Perhaps this trend is a reaction to a less loyal customer base in a marketplace where any other website (and therefore, rival) is next door. The collapse of distance has made companies anxious to get people inside the walls, in a way which is ultimately annoying. Data protection laws requiring companies get my permission, usually results in companies asking me to tick boxes and sign online forms – which makes the experience even worse.

But these are all examples of hassle. Convenience is king. That it is irritating to me to spend two minutes registering an account shows that we have already undergone radical leaps forward in putting the customer at the centre of the business process.

Topics: Activities & Updates, Case Studies & Interviews

Written by Adam Stead

As Research & Content Producer, Adam finds and publishes up-to-date expertise regarding how disruptive technology will drive change business and life.

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