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: www.nlighten.co.za

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: www.nlighten.co.za

A non-negotiable customer experience_nlighten_article_2019

A non-negotiable customer experience_nlighten_article_2019

Customer Experience is Nothing without the Non-Negotiables

Ok, hear me out here. I don’t want you thinking I’ve got a big case of Anti-British Airways-itis. I want to like them. They’re a stalwart of the flight industry. However, recently I’m again unimpressed.

I particularly want to highlight a recent experience. Why? Because it shines a spotlight on why it doesn’t matter how fabulous your higher-level customer experience is, if you get the basics wrong it’s not good. Let me explain.

Many businesses take a tiered approach to their customers.

However, this should not  mean that organisations view their lower tier as being sacrificial lambs at the expense of meeting the expectations of the higher tiered customers. No, they expect an absolute baseline of quality customer experience.

This should include non-negotiables – the things that are a given, whatever tier you as a customer sit in. Those things should include hygiene (yes, really I’m amazed I have to mention this), professionalism, ease, and friendliness. We expect a certain level of service.

This baseline is about the company’s brand and persona. The absolute minimum you expect when flying with that name, in the case of airlines.

Oh no BA, where are your non-negotiables?

Let me put this in to a real life context. As is often the case with my life, I was returning to Cape Town, South Africa from London Heathrow. It was terminal 3 which was graced with my presence. I was invited by my friend who is Gold Class member on BA, as his guest to the First Class lounge and as one does, I made use of the lounge’s restroom.
the very cubicle_British Airways Article_nlighten_2019
This is a pic of the very cubicle I experienced. Sorry for the TMI.

I admit I may have a little bit of a chip on my shoulder, as  Africa seems to get the raw end of the deal when it comes to Heathrow. We get Terminal 3, the older more decrepit relation of the snazzy new Terminal 5. We get the old planes – thanks BA.

But really, come on, when it comes to basic hygiene? Surely it should be spot on. What’s more, I don’t actually give a fig that I was in the First Class lounge. I’d want to know that the punters in economy get better hygiene than that!

Not impressed. This is basic stuff BA!

What can we learn for customer experience?

The lesson here needs to be that customer experience itself should be a layered approach. It shouldn’t start with the premium end and work backwards. It should start at the bottom with core values and non-negotiables and work up.

BA really needs to get this. Last year, BA (thankfully!) announced that they were investing an eye-watering $4.5bn in a 5-year customer service improvement plan. Yes there have been a few things thrown out at the base level (WiFi being installed in all seats for example). However, they’ve just thrown multi-million pounds of that figure at the food in Club Europe. Great, but seriously, don’t you think you need to get the basics right first?

So please, all businesses, I implore you. Turn your customer experience thoughts on their head. Start at the bottom with the absolute non-negotiables of your brand and then add on the frills for the higher tiers. Whether you’re an airline, a car rental company, a bank or someone else, you need to learn this lesson.

Nathalie Schooling : CEO | nlighten

View the previous nlighten article by Nathalie Schooling: Bye bye British Airways / Comair

nlighten. enhancing customer experience: www.nlighten.co.za

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

Bye bye BA/Comair> A letter from Nathalie Schooling, CEO, nlighten

Bye bye BA/Comair> A letter from Nathalie Schooling, CEO, nlighten

Loyalty? (A open letter from an unhappy customer)

Dear Erik Venter,

I’ve had enough.

After more than 15 years of loyalty – you have officially lost me as a client.

I simply cannot justify the financial and emotional expense of dealing with an airline that does not seem to appreciate the ripple effect that one delayed flight makes in the lives of its passengers.

Worst of all, it happens a lot. Imagine what the actual impact is on people’s lives, families, businesses, even the economy, if one had to measure these regular delays over a period of time?

As someone who, up until now, has flown with British Airways probably 3 times a month, every month, the regular delays that I experience with your carrier are simply unacceptable. Add to this the poor (slow) service we are subjected to in the Slow lounge, and the lack-lustre and disrespectful way in which passengers are treated by on-flight staff, and I find it really hard to justify the additional expense I’ve been paying for BA flights.

Flight delays aside, the administrative process of redeeming Avios Miles is genuinely more burdensome than obtaining a new passport from Home Affairs. Measure for measure, I simply do not see the value for the cost I am paying.

So, I’m switching all our company’s domestic travel to Safair.

Sure, they offer less frills, but at 40% cheaper per flight, I am happy to perhaps sit a little less comfortably knowing that I am going to reach my destination on time which, let’s remember, should be the primary objective of an airline.  They deliver what they promise!

Changing to Safair at their current rates compared to British Airways, and at my current travelling frequency, will save me more than R 50 000.00 per year, which will buy a business class ticket to most holiday destinations offered by Emirates (so, I’m creating my own loyalty miles).

Seems like a bit of a no-brainer really.

Nathalie Schooling : CEO | nlighten

This article is on on News24: https://www.news24.com/MyNews24/bye-bye-bacomair-20180830

View the previous nlighten article by Nathalie Schooling: How Customer Experience Impacts Bottom Line Growth

nlighten. enhancing customer experience: www.nlighten.co.za

Bottom Line Growth_nlighten_article_2018

Bottom Line Growth_nlighten_article_2018

From Journeys to Experiences. It doesn’t feel so long ago that everyone was talking about buyers’ journeys. While the concept served to introduce many companies to the notion that their customers were on a journey and don’t just appear out of thin air, it still ultimately felt transactional. Consisting of a linear process that maps out the steps a buyer goes through in the process of purchasing a product, a buyers’ journey is made up of pre-defined steps. However, collectively, all the interactions the customer has with your brand during this journey, at each step, makes up their customer experience.

Increasingly, companies are acknowledging that it is a customer’s experience with your brand or company that leaves a lasting impression, either good or bad.

Recognising the power and value that lies in creating an exceptional customer experience starts with understanding that it is about personalisation. Great client experiences are not one size fits all, in addition, as we keep raising the bar, clients’ expectations keep climbing too. This is true for B2Cs and for B2Bs where it is about adding value to their businesses, in an environment where influencers often have different needs and expectations.

The Symbiosis Between Your Customers and Staff

A true understanding of customer experience lies in appreciating that both your employees and clients are symbiotic, and essential, to the success of your business. You cannot have one without the other, they are both important. Client satisfaction and employee experience track on similar sentiments – if staff are happy and engaged at work, it has a direct impact on your client satisfaction index.  Nathalie Schooling, CEO of nlighten, explains: “Our data has shown that in terms of client retention, cross sell and upsell – if there is a focus on client feedback and dedicated action to improve or innovate product/service, then businesses can look forward to between a 10-20% improvement in sales.”

Internally, providing clients with exceptional experiences that will keep them coming back, starts with your hiring process. In the long run, this will have a direct impact on customer acquisition, retention and ultimately will improve your bottom line.

An Operational Map for Delivering Exceptional Client Experiences

Practically, what does this look like? At executive level, leaders need to ensure that their daily interactions with staff are consistent with how they would expect their staff to interact with customers. Executives should set the standard for positivity and for going beyond the call of duty to help customers. Sir Richard Branson of the Virgin Group is a good example of this. For marketers, who have daily contact with customers, it means picking up on the little details, like responding to questions that arise on unconventional channels like social media, all adding to the micro-moments that make up the customer’s experience. On an admin side, accounts receivable has a substantial amount of client interaction on a regular basis, discussing payments or sending and following up on invoices. Rather than dealing with the customer transactionally, a little bit of patience can go a long way. Similarly, human resources have an important role to play in providing exceptional customer experiences. The HR department is going to hire the person whom the company is going to entrust with taking care of clients, so it is imperative that new recruits be a comfortable cultural fit for the business. Good characteristics to look for when hiring includes; initiative and motivation, patience and flexibility, optimism and problem-solving skills.

It’s All About Functional Integration

While it’s a good start, increased awareness and individual commitment to providing exceptional customer experiences is not enough. You also need all functional groups and systems to align, supporting each other in customer experience efforts, sharing knowledge with each other, living and breathing a consistent brand message in ways that are meaningful to your customer. A memorable customer experience should be a strategic imperative fully interwoven in your businesses DNA and become who you are, not just what you strive for.

View the previous nlighten article by Nathalie Schooling: Pride comes before the fall

nlighten. enhancing customer experience: www.nlighten.co.za

Customer Experience Masterclass: Make every touchpoint a great experience | JHB – 16 August 2018  /  CPT – 6 September 2018view more

Pride comes before the fall_Article_Nathalie Schooling_nlighten

Pride comes before the fall_Article_Nathalie Schooling_nlighten
Melissa’s, once a much-loved Cape Town café, restaurant and retail franchise business, is to be no more. It will be liquidated to cash in assets to pay unsecured creditors. That’s a big blow. Not only to those of us who have come to enjoy a quick shot of robust Melissa’s coffee, the wholesome comfort of a gourmet soup, or the indulgence of a sticky-sweet chocolate brownie, but especially to the 400-plus people employed by Melissa’s nationwide.

What went wrong?

Many factors are likely to have played a part, but from a customer experience perspective, we can draw some inferences.

In an earlier blog, Navel-gazer or Let’s Mover: Which will it be?, I wrote about two types of companies. On the one hand, you have the Navel-gazer; on the other, the Let’s Mover. The latter will remain agile, constantly busy and curious about new developments—ready to invent and reinvent themselves as needed and as they mature. By contrast, the Navel-gazer will grow older in a comfort zone, with little appetite for change. Navel-gazing companies have a tendency to be internally focused to the point of placing comfort and self-satisfaction ahead of customer.

Melissa’s has been a very successful brand for well more than 20 years, although it must have suffered setbacks in the last few years. This makes for a classic case study of some of the reasons behind business failure. Six navel-gazing traits spring to mind.

1.   Growing too large too fast

Unless you do your homework in painstaking detail, fast growth can destroy your business just as easily as not. If growth gets in the way of your running your business properly, you are courting disaster. More sales is not synonymous with profit. Every successful business reaches an optimal size, beyond which it may well find itself on an unsteady footing unless a very clear growth plan is in place. This kind of growth can cause a loss of focus, while overhead expenses steadily creep up.

Rapid growth beyond an optimal size doesn’t necessarily translate into financial viability and business owners should never assume that it does. It is dangerous to base your decisions around growth on what you want instead of analysing and understanding the market. Another complication is that management may be spread too thin, with people having on to take on too many day-to-day duties, while the quality of the business offering may suffer because of the shift in focus to quantity.

A business can also become financially strained, with difficulties in managing the increasing complexity of the financial accounts and collecting monies owed fast enough.

2.   Losing interest in customer feedback

Being slow to respond to customer complaints or not responding at all will put you in the fast lane to perdition. The last thing you want to do is ignore what your customers want, and it is essential to stay in touch with their needs. Customer feedback is what will determine your forward planning and product or service offering. In today’s business climate, placing your customer at the centre of your focus is what will give you the competitive edge—not doing so will relegate you to the ranks of the mediocre or even the failed.

Pay close attention to what your customers feed back to you via the channels of customer communication you have available, be it online, telephonic, or in-person customer support, or responses on the social media. The latter has become integral to our lives—ignore negative comment on the social media at your peril.

Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk has said, ‘Find everything that’s wrong with [something] and fix it. Seek negative feedback.’ In other words, don’t just listen to how wonderful your business is—it’s more valuable to hear what people tell you is wrong with it and then to do something about it.

But over and above listening to and acting upon customer feedback, you need to take proactive measures to define and get to know who exactly your customers are. This can be done by personal, telephonic, online, or paper-based surveys, or a combination of these. The secret is in how the data you collect from customers is interpreted and responded to. You may need the services of a customer experience specialist to design meaningful questionnaires and arrive at helpful conclusions. nlighten offers a customer journey mapping workshop to demarcate the customer experience.

3.   Failing to reinvent yourself

The Let’s Mover is always on the lookout for ways in which to stay relevant, while the Navel-gazer prefers to look inward and ignore what is going on in the real world. This can come at a high cost, as any of the captains of Kodak could tell you. At the rapid (and ever-increasing) rate of change in the early 21st Century, no modern business can afford not to innovate, and businesses should do everything in their power not to lose their innovators. So, hang on to your innovators—this may well stave off a ‘Kodak moment’ of your own.

A good example of a business that could well have faced extinction is South Africa’s premier bookseller. Publishers and booksellers throughout the world have taken a knock in the face of online content and e-books. Finding the very existence of their core product offering—books—threatened by modern technology, Exclusive Books has reinvented itself as a chain of bookstore-as-a-lifestyle centres, where customers can relax over a cup of coffee and a meal. It is probably too early to make predictions, but the EB Café and EB Social Kitchen and Bar may just be a solution to the very real danger of becoming irrelevant in an age where paper-based products are becoming less viable.

4.   Forgetting the art of humility

Humility is a virtue, everyone knows that. But does that apply in business, where you need to be assertive and have a lot of confidence to succeed? Self-confidence and faith in your offering are essential qualities when promoting yourself. However, confidence is not to be confused with arrogance, and a healthy dose of humility will keep things real.

An example of a company that owes its demise—at least in part—to arrogance is the South African group, Steinhoff, whose ethos has been described by a former employee[1] as ‘a domineering, patriarchal, misogynist and racist culture in which no human emotion was spared when it came to those all-powerful aphrodisiacs: profit and money’.

Arrogance will render management incapable of self-reflection, which is a prerequisite for good leadership. It will further create a toxic work environment characterised by a competitive, unwelcoming and ultimately counter- or unproductive work ethic. Arrogance can also create a false belief in your offering and tempt you to overinvest in expansion.

Authentic, honest self-reflection and a rigorous assessment of your business will create a collaborative atmosphere, inspiring confidence among staff. And happy staff translate into happy customers. Every time.

5.   Underrating the importance of human capital and staff training

To represent your brand authentically, your staff need to be properly educated and trained. But many employers resist opportunities for staff training, arguing that it is expensive and employees miss time at work while getting trained. This attitude is short-sighted because an investment in staff training will improve your employees’ knowledge and productivity, ultimately benefiting the business and profitability.

You also need to make sure you employ the right people for the right jobs when hiring, because employees incorrectly placed will not be happy and thus productivity will suffer.

It is essential to keep the lines of communication open between management and workers, to make sure everybody in the organisation knows about future plans and strategies, and how these are to be executed.

6.   Pricing of the product does not represent value

When your pricing is higher than the value your offering represents to customers, you could be entering dangerous territory. The amount you spend to produce your product or service is its cost. The price is how much you sell it for. But the important factor here is the value your customers attach to it. Is the product or service worth the price you have put on it? Understanding this equation and getting it right can greatly increase your profitability.

To know how to price a product or service, you need to understand your market and what it is about your offering that makes people want to pay good money for it. Again, this type of information can be gleaned through online or other types of surveys.

What are the warning signs?

You will know your growing business is heading for trouble when you experience a spike in customer complaints, HR reports problems, your cash flow becomes unsteady, employees are stressed and morale is low among them. You may also experience difficulties in keeping up with demand.

In the case of Melissa’s, could it be that the very same exacting standards of quality, the quest to increase the company’s footprint and the drive to offer a wider range of products to an increasingly diverse market all eventually served to undermine the very spirit with which Melissa’s was founded?

View the previous nlighten article by Nathalie Schooling: Personalising your business – The 5 fundamentals of getting it right

nlighten. enhancing customer experience: www.nlighten.co.za