No Pain, No CX Gain_nlighten article_April_2019

No Pain, No CX Gain_nlighten article_April_2019

I become dismayed when I realise that a potential client is just paying lip service to this newish buzzword, customer experience, and doesn’t realise that you get out what you put in. On occasion, I have had to walk away because I know that we can’t help. Commitment to customer experience is so much more than sending staff on CX training  or developing a  customer journey map, sending your customer a web survey to complete – it’s a total commitment to change.

There are times that we are invited to pitch to a potential client, and there is a room full of execs sitting around the boardroom table and it becomes clear that though they claim that the customer experience agenda has become a sudden critical business objective, but it soon becomes pretty clear they do not really understand what CX success really means or what the value is and often the CX “portfolio” becomes the task of one member of the Exco – where real change is everybody’s business and responsibility.

CX leaders make fundamental changes to the way their business thinks.

In order to deliver consistently great service experiences  means  a shift in thinking and transforming business objectives and priorities.

An analogy I use is comparing  when a company who has been in existence for a while , wants to differentiate and add value through improved service to their clients/customer to that of a middle aged person trying to shed weight . Mid-sized to large companies who have been around for a while really battle to make the shift. CX is the business equivalent of achieving the body beautiful. When you wake up one morning and realise that you really need to shed some timber, that you’re 10kg overweight and feeling tired and sluggish, but not only does it affect how you feel it impacts all areas of your life.

This neglect to your health and wellness might mean not only are you not feeling or looking your best, but a lack of confidence means you could miss out on opportunities.

There are two approaches when it comes to addressing this:

Option A – The Quick Fix

This person goes on the latest fad diet with a snazzy name and big promises and celebrity endorsements. They deprive themselves, feel the strain, become demoralised by lack of results and don’t stick to it. They end up rebounding and it just isn’t successful because it isn’t sustainable. In reality, nothing changed, they just made some drastic temporary adjustments for short term goals. They were not strategic, they were merely reactive.

Option B – The Holistic Approach

Now, this person is on the road to success. The go for the total lifestyle overhaul. They change the way they think, not just the way they eat. They make a commitment, change what, how much, and when they eat. They hit the gym, but they don’t just do that, they walk instead of taking a taxi, they take the stairs instead of the lift. Fitness and wellness permeate their lives because it becomes a way of life. They make decisions that benefit them and support their lifestyle, perhaps even limiting contact with people who don’t align with their goals and who can attempt to derail their successes. This person loses the weight and keeps it off, because they have made sustainable changes to the way they think and approached the issue holistically, not just temporarily changed a behaviour.

Becoming a customer-centric business is exactly the same. To achieve it, you can’t simply crash diet your way to true customer experience excellence. It takes a real commitment to change, and in many cases revolutionising the way your business thinks and operates.

Getting customer experience right means putting the customer at the centre of your business – your whole business. This is where I see many companies sign up for being customer-centric but who ultimately fail to make meaningful change, and this is usually because of a lack of commitment or disparate views from members of the leadership team. Not everyone understands that the entire business must change its focus, or realises the part they play individually and how they contribute to the bigger picture. Without motivation there will be no results – whether we are talking about the body or business beautiful.

nlighten are South African customer experience experts, committed to helping your organisation understand your business from your customer’s perspective, and optimise how you cultivate your greatest assets – the people who buy from you. Contact Us to see how we can work together.

View the previous nlighten article by Nathalie Schooling: Conflict Management: When a Customer Sees Red

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Customer Experience Masterclass: Get results by thinking like a customer experience pro – Invest a day in our value-packed interactive CX coaching. The quality of your customers’ experiences defines your success. | JHB – 9 May 2019 & CPT – 15 August 2019 view more

Whaen a Customer Sees Red_nlighten Article_2019


Have you seen this footage of the aftermath when a woman allegedly rammed her car into the Boksburg branch of Standard Bank on Friday?


There’s a digruntled customer, and then there’s a really disgruntled customer.

According to reports, she had been waiting for more than five hours to be served at the bank. Following an altercation with a bank teller who refused to allow her to withdraw money because she jumped the queue, she allegedly exited the premises, got into her car and then drove straight into the bank.

Though there was considerable damage to the building, there were thankfully no injuries to staff or members of the public, and the woman was arrested immediately.

Clearly, there is no justification for such disregard to life, limb and law and order – but, this woman must have been utterly furious. Who knows what kind of pressures she was facing, or what situation led her to this total loss of control. Money is an emotive issue and when a bank won’t allow you access to YOUR money, that is a massive trigger point – as is five hours spent hanging out in a bank waiting for access to your own cash.

The fight or flight response is real.

This situation is extreme, of course, but I can empathise a little with the red mist that can descend when dealings with the bank are protracted. In this digital age where we are so accustomed to instant, automated transactions and have little tolerance for bureaucracy or delays.

I had to go in recently because there were some glitches with the online Forex system, and several visits and many wasted hours later I was yet to get the issue resolved – boy, did I feel like ramming my car into the bank on a few occasions during that process. Not that I would ever do it, of course. Honest.

There is a customer experience lesson to be learned here.

A representative of Standard Bank, Ross Linstrom, is quoted as saying that the client was “served in a professional manner and in line with client-service procedures.”

Sometimes, being ‘professional’ in a situation that is personal to the client merely serves as a red rag to a bull. Client service procedures are important, but what can so often be overlooked is that humans are unpredictable and they haven’t read your manual on how they should respond to your procedures. Particularly not after five hours.

In commoditised industries where organisations differentiate through better, richer customer experiences, especially when it comes to emotive subjects like personal finances, it is absolutely essential that staff are trained in handling and deescalating difficult situations.

Though this customer’s actions are extreme and beyond excuse, this incident highlights an important example of how conflict can escalate and confirms this point:

Emotions drive behaviour – straight through your front door if you’re not careful…

What is so often neglected by personnel in situations of conflict with clients is that businesses should not only be striving to achieve a practical solution to their client’s problem, but an emotional fix is often even more important. People want to feel heard and validated, they need empathy, and often even when their request cannot be granted, how they are treated on an emotional level can impact outcomes and deescalate conflicts that could otherwise get out of hand.

Customer-facing staff should be trained in identifying trigger points and red flags, as well as in advanced listening techniques and how to handle public conflict situations. Procedures are not enough – staff need the knowledge and the skills and understanding of human behaviour in order to take control of conflict.

nlighten’s customer experience training can help your business develop a business-wide culture of customer experience excellence. To find out more about turning your team into customer experience champions, contact us.

View the previous nlighten article by Nathalie Schooling: Customer Experience is About Substance Over Style

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Customer Experience Masterclass: Get results by thinking like a customer experience pro – Invest a day in our value-packed interactive CX coaching. The quality of your customers’ experiences defines your success. | JHB – 9 May 2019 view more

Substance Over Style_nlighten article_March_2019


Great customer experience is invariably about substance over style, and that is where a well-known cosmetics brand recently got it wrong during a shopping experience.

Last weekend I had a busy Saturday planned, but I dashed to my local mall to one of the make-up outlets to replenish my lipstick collection. I was shopping for some new shades to try out, so I took advantage of the expertise of the very well-turned-out shop assistant to help me make my selection. She was great at advising me about the tones that worked for me, and I eventually selected my two favourites.

I asked her to bag them up for me, but after much scratching around in the stock drawers, she discovered that neither of my selected shades was actually in stock. I wasn’t very interested in going back to the drawing board – particularly as I had no guarantees my next-best selections would be in stock either. Besides, the next-best-thing isn’t as satisfying to buy.

I asked the shop assistant why they insist on having a full range of sample lipsticks in their display if they don’t actually have them in stock. How irritating for both customer and sales assistant to go through a selection process only to find the stock isn’t there. Surely the right thing to do would be to not display the ones they don’t have to avoid disappointment?

‘Oh, noooooo!’ she said, ‘We aren’t allowed because it would look untidy.’ They are instructed to keep a pristinely organised station at all times and have all products available at point of sale.

What’s the point of having an item on display if you can’t actually sell it though? Am I missing something?

I think it’s Lancome who are missing something, and they aren’t alone – this little Saturday morning inconvenience got me thinking.

For so many businesses it’s too much about form and not enough about content



For #Lancome, it’s obviously more important what their sales environment looks like than how functional and easy it is for their clients to make a purchase. If symmetry really is the most important aspect of your display, what about a little black sticker or a cover for the products that are out of stock, or even a key behind the display, so the shop assistant would immediately recognise that there was no point wasting the customer’s time with that option.

This is a prime example of a small detail that matters to the customer being totally overlooked because the organisation are looking at customer experience from the wrong angle. They are thinking ‘how do we look’ not ‘how does it feel to buy from us’. A transaction should be designed with ease and fluidity in mind, and aesthetics as a secondary aspect – even for a cosmetics brand!

After so many years in this line of work, I am still amazed that big businesses don’t listen to or engage with the frontline staff who are interacting with customers daily to find out what needs to improve. If businesses want to excel at CX they need to take their blinkers off and go looking for trouble.

nlighten are customer experience experts who provide research, strategy, training and more to help you unlock the potential in your customer relationships. For more CX insights, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

 Image: Pixabay


View the previous nlighten article by Nathalie Schooling: Customer Complaints

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Customer Experience Masterclass: Get results by thinking like a customer experience pro – Invest a day in our value-packed interactive CX coaching. The quality of your customers’ experiences defines your success. | JHB – 9 May 2019 view more

Customer Complaints_nlighten article_March_2019

Customer Complaints: Where Did it All Go So Right?

Customer Complaints_nlighten article_March_2019
There’s a great misconception in the business world that for consumer satisfaction everything must go 100% smoothly. This isn’t possible or plausible – no person, product or business is infallible. The pinnacle of customer experience excellence is, of course, providing a product or service that exceeds expectations – that goes without saying. But, what is equally important is accepting that Murphy’s law is real: What can go wrong will. What counts is how you handle it when it does, and even more crucially how you handle it before it does.

It is important to change your mindset about customer complaints and issues and see them as a gift and an opportunity to get things right. Better yet, proactively seeking out and inviting communication about complaints can be a game changer. Instead of hiding your customer service details at the bottom of your website, give them pride of place. Giving your customers a clear and simple path to resolving their complaint can end up enhancing their overall experience beyond the positivity of it going smoothly in the first place.

Give your customers an avenue to explore their discontent, preventing them from venting their spleens about you online.

A great example of a company who stands out as really nailing this concept is Anker, the electronics firm that is the brainchild of some ex-Google whizzkids. They specialise in charging products but have expanded their repertoire to include other electronics.

I was looking to buy a bluetooth speaker for a friend, and was particularly taken with the Amazon reviews for one of Anker’s offerings. In particular, a review from a customer whose speaker hadn’t met their expectations based on the glowing reviews from other customers. This buyer posted a review reflecting his disappointment on Amazon and within hours had been contacted by Anker directly and had an upgraded product (which he described as awesome) shipped to him. He was impressed, and shared his experience online – leaving me impressed enough to buy.

I can now see personally why Anker get this experience so right.

Within a few days of my purchase being delivered, I too received contact directly from them checking in that I was happy with my purchase, reminding me of my 18 month warranty and giving me lots of methods of contacting them should I not be entirely satisfied.

Within the box of the product itself was a cute little booklet. On one side it said ‘Happy?’ and when you opened it, invited you to post a positive review on Amazon or share on social media. On the flipside, it said ‘Not Happy?’ and reiterated the ways I could contact them to resolve the problem.

I feel confident that if I wasn’t entirely satisfied I would have felt validated and cared about, and that the complaints procedure would have lived up to my expectations. Thankfully, the product was as great as my customer experience, and here I am not only sharing my experience on social media but blogging about it on my business website.

It may seem counterintuitive to be so proactive in presuming that your customer might have a problem with your product, but this example shows that it reeks of confidence in the quality of their products. Through solving a problem before it even exists, the inconvenience of being disappointed by a product can be outweighed by a customer-focused, smooth and effortless complaints procedure, resulting in an ultimately enhanced customer experience.

Will the customer who received the upgraded product based on his disappointed review go on to purchase from Anker again? I’d be pretty certain of it. That complaint was a gift that keeps on giving.

nlighten are customer experience experts committed to helping our clients see the world through their clients’ eyes and optimize their customer experience. For more insights on how you can positively impact how your customers feel about you, speak to us.

View the previous nlighten article by Nathalie Schooling: Tipping Point

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Customer Experience Masterclass: Get results by thinking like a customer experience pro – Invest a day in our value-packed interactive CX coaching. The quality of your customers’ experiences defines your success. | JHB – 9 May 2019 view more

Tipping Point_nlighten article_Feb_2019

Tipping Point: Restaurants Must Put Customer Experience First in Their Gratuity Policy

Tipping Point_nlighten article_Feb_2019


You’ve finished a delicious meal, the waiting staff were attentive, the wine has left you feeling warm, fuzzy and generous. The bill arrives, you request the card machine so you can pay, and when you ask the server to add 10% to the total, they politely ask if you would please leave the tip in cash.

Things just got awkward.

You have chosen to pay by card for a reason. Maybe you have reserved your cash for your taxi home. Perhaps you don’t feel the service was above par so you don’t want to pay more than the requisite 10%, but you also don’t want to ask to break a large bill.

What started as a perfectly pleasant customer experience just hit a snag at the final exchange.

In today’s increasingly cashless culture, card payment is convenient, secure and instant. We aren’t accustomed to fussing with real money any more, nor do we need to carry around large volumes of cash that could be lost or stolen.

Now, this server asking for their tip in cash may seem cheeky or ungrateful, but if we really look at the situation here from the other point-of-view it is easy to understand why they made the request.

What happens to tips when you pay by card?

It can be a bit ambiguous. First, many restauranteurs sit on staff tips for a month or even longer before paying them out. Tips are often collected and shared evenly between waiting and kitchen staff, which is fair enough; Kitchen staff often lose out on the potential to supplement their earnings because they are not customer-facing.

Many restaurants also charge their staff an administration fee for handling tips, a practice known as ‘skimming’. Now that can leave a bitter taste for both staff and clientele.

Tipping policies can vary wildly between restaurants. Some have no policy at all, some automatically add gratuity to your bill and I even went to one restaurant a while back that had banned tipping entirely because it was ‘part of their culture to serve’.

Should tipping be banned altogether then?

I can understand the thought process behind establishments who are jumping on the trend to ban tipping. It is a decision made with enhancing customer experience in mind. These establishments ban tipping, and simply pay their staff more – and increase the menu prices accordingly. All very transparent. But, ultimately totally unsuccessful.

Studies have shown that establishments who have banned tips have negatively impacted customer experience. Whether it is just that we don’t like change, or the higher prices make it feel like we are getting less value for money, or that the decision to reward great service has effectively been taken out of our hands – the reviews are in, and they aren’t positive. Many restaurants who banned tipping have since reverted to the traditional method of payment.

The restaurants who have banned tipping are onto something, they have just taken it in the wrong direction.

Banning tipping is not the answer to removing tipping ambiguity or awkwardness. Restaurants do need to have a clear tipping policy, and they need to make it easy and painless for the customer to tip, or not to tip, if that is their choice. This means they need to make it easy and painless for their staff to receive their tips and be transparent about what happens to tips paid by card.

So many decisions about how to optimise customer experience and customer service begin and end with treating your staff well and attracting and retaining the right talent. It is clear that tipping culture does improve customer service, but that does not mean that good waiting staff are not intrinsically motivated to provide great service when they feel valued by their employer and customers. It is your front-line staff who will keep your customers happy.

Make tipping a formalised part of the transaction.

A simple check box on the bill about whether the customer wants to add no tip, 5%, 10% or their own suggestion actually removes the need to discuss the tip with the server. Tipping should be a polite nod of gratitude, not a grand gesture. Equally, not tipping shouldn’t be a drama. The customer should have control and as little fuss as possible either way.

At nlighten, we are all about pioneering ways to ensure the customer is at the centre of your business. Our bespoke training solutions can help you and your staff transform how you think about your business, your customers, and the customer journey. Find out more here.

View the previous nlighten article by Nathalie Schooling: A non-negotiable customer experience

nlighten. enhancing customer experience:

Customer Experience Masterclass: Get results by thinking like a customer experience pro – Invest a day in our value-packed interactive CX coaching. The quality of your customers’ experiences defines your success. | JHB – 9 May 2019 view more

End_to_end customer experience_nlighten_article_Feb_2019

End_to_end customer experience_nlighten_article_Feb_2019

Humans are a pessimistic bunch. Studies show that we remember negative events with greater clarity and accuracy, and they re-trigger our emotional responses more than our positive recollections.

This element of human psychology is why business owners have their work cut out when managing customer experience, and ensuring client satisfaction.

The value of one negative experience outweighs the power of multiple positive interactions.

Here’s a real-life cautionary tale about flaws in customer experience strategy.

During a Christmas shopping trip last month  I received a call from my mobile operator – Vodacom. My phone identified the call as ‘scam likely’, but due to my trust in the Vodacom brand, I decided to take it.

It wasn’t a scam. A well-informed and enthusiastic phone operative explained I was due for an upgrade. He was knowledgeable and engaged my trust. He was genuinely helpful when explaining my options and the technical aspects of devices, and because of that and my satisfaction with my Vodacom experience to date, he made the sale.

I wanted to do more research before I sealed the deal. I went home, whittled down the options, made my final decision and called Vodacom’s third-party provider to finalise the details.

This is where things started to go pear-shaped.

I was pushed from pillar to post and didn’t feel I belonged to anyone as a customer. The agents were all pleasant to deal with, but they were governed by internal processes that they were forced to drag me through.

Multiple calls later, and having spoken to supervisors and managers to no avail, I was now angry. The initial appeal of receiving my new device without needing to step foot into a store had long worn off.

Fast forward to mid-January and I still don’t have my new device. Before that phone call, I was happy with my current situation. Now, sold on all the exciting new aspects of my shiny new smartphone, my current phone feels inadequate. I am disappointed. My customer experience has been tainted.

Where did it all go wrong?

The third party Vodacom uses is a company called Mondo, and one Google search results in frustrated customers venting their spleens about their negative experiences.

They easily convinced me to upgrade, even to pay more money, but failed in one area: understanding my experience. Our Smartphones are important to us. Who is going to make a snap decision that affects them for the next two years whilst Christmas shopping? There was no pathway for pausing the journey and picking up the deal where we left off, no continuity, no ownership and as a result no deal.

I get the allure and even the necessity of contracting a third party, and I don’t even think Mondo were bad – their staff were well-trained, sweet and my dealings with them pleasant. The problem lies with inadequate customer journey mapping.

Walk a mile in your customers’ shoes.

A mobile service provider’s customer journey has a lot of activity in the front end, and then the service provider can sit back and reap the rewards for two years. The customer journey looks a little like this:


That cycle relies on a happy and engaged customer. If something interrupts that journey, it could go off in tangents of COMPLAIN – LEAVE, and then you need to work on getting them to RETURN, starting the whole cycle again from the beginning.

In this example, the issues arose at the purchasing stage. Mondo are playing a numbers game of wanting to pressurise customers into making their decision on the spot.  They aren’t anticipating or responding to the customer’s need for thinking time, and through them not ensuring cohesive relationships and internal pathways my customer experience has been soured.

This is Vodacom’s problem, not Mondo’s. It is so important to maintain ownership of the customer experience even when outsourcing to a third party. Businesses cannot lose sight of the bigger picture, because even if one small element if off-kilter the entire end-to-end customer journey can be derailed.

Ps: Since writing this blog my new phone has indeed arrived, but memories of the customer effort and the bitter taste in my mouth still remains.

Getting it wrong can cost a business big.

At the centre of what we do at nlighten is the belief that every interaction with your customer is an opportunity to get your CX right. And woe betide those who get it wrong in the digital age. Even after multiple positive experiences, it takes just one negative to annoy a customer enough that they will blog about your business on the Internet….

It’s our aim to get you and your staff thinking like customer experience pros. Find out more about how a day in our interactive CX coaching masterclass could enhance your customer satisfaction.

nlighten. enhancing customer experience: