Why your end-to-end customer experience is only as strong as its weakest link

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.nlightencx.com

7 Ways to Clean Up Your Business Language

We all know the feeling. Buying a new car or claiming from insurance – convoluted language is often used as a trump card – a “thanks for playing, but you should’ve read the fine print”. So why do we put up with it?

The need for plain language has sparked a global movement. Worldwide, especially as a revolt against “legalese”, plain language has gone beyond a preference – it is seen as a basic human right.

In business, plain language is turning countless brands into household names. Today’s most successful brands are transparent, accessible and engage with their customers directly.

Our emotions drive our responses. When we perceive a company’s communications to be insincere and impersonal, we tend to disconnect with the brand – which can be toxic to its survival.

To use a double negative, brands can no longer afford not to embrace plain language. Here are seven ways to rethink the way your business communicates:

  1. Identify your voice

This is the hard part. Scrutinising every angle of your business – what it looks, feels and sounds like – can take time and a bit of help from the experts. But once you have found your voice, everything else becomes much easier.

Start by taking a journalistic approach. Ask yourself who, what, where, when and why – and answer these questions as simply as possible – as though explaining them to a child. Then, build this identity into your business culture.

  1. Simplify

Turning the complex into something simple is a skill. Many purists would look at the simplification of language as its undoing – dumbing it down for the masses. But the fact is, skillful simplification does no such thing.

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Each industry has its language, used only by its practitioners. But by simplifying language, one makes it accessible – expanding the world to which it belongs – and making it accessible to a wider audience.

  1. Strike a balance

Modern-day communication walks a tightrope between the rational and the emotional. Businesses like rational – it follows orders, it is structured and most importantly – it can be measured.

Emotional communication, on the other hand, taps into our baser desires. It is unpredictable and infectious, but unmistakably powerful – and it can topple even the mightiest of household brands. A single slip-up can initiate a wave of emotion to wash over the public’s consciousness. Consider the BP oil spill in 2010, where their stock fell by 52% in less than two months after the incident.

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The balance lies somewhere between rationality and emotion. Too much emotion makes your business look weak. Too little makes it seem indifferent – out of touch with customer needs. Similarly, when your communication is too rational, it comes across as cold, even robotic – and when you do not offer enough facts, you cannot be trusted to deliver on your brand promise.

  1. Personalise

The trick is to communicate with a large number of people in a way that feels personal to the individual reader.

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No one has time for endless promises and marketing jargon – not while Facebook is just a click away. Your communication must be relevant, on a rational and emotional level, to escape the dreaded “send to trash”.

  1. Enhance your tech

In a recent marketing email for our signature Customer Journey Mapping Workshop, Experience by Design, 35% of nlighten’s clients opened the email on a tablet or smartphone. Any communication’s ability to be accessed from multiple devices (particularly mobile) is the result of responsive design – something without which no modern-day company can communicate effectively. The more responsive a particular communication, the more likely people are to read it.

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As with all information, the user experience is key. Push your reader beyond the first screen – that prime piece of digital real estate from which readers are so reluctant to scroll down.

  1. De-clutter

It is often tempting to recount one’s entire journey in reaching an important milestone. But unless you have climbed Everest or discovered Coca-Cola’s secret recipe, your journey holds little interest for anyone other than fledgling writers and immediate peers who relate directly to your situation.

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People more readily digest information from the outside in. From a reader’s perspective, when you give him/her the bigger picture first, the details that follow pack more punch. You want to inspire your reader to action.

  1. Visualise

Considering that people only remember 20% of what they read and that 83% of learning occurs visually, it goes without saying that “show don’t tell” should become your mantra.

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The key, of course, is not merely to come up with content that grabs your reader’s attention, but that will also be memorable. Metaphors and similes, for instance, stimulate the imagination – eliciting an emotional response similar to that of an image. Used together, striking pictures and visually infused words make powerful companions.

The purpose of any communication is to spark action – whether merely to evoke a response, or to drive someone to do something that will benefit you or your business. If what you want is not clear, no action will come of it.


Susan Adams, 13 January 2013, 19 November 2013, www.forbes.com

Christopher Balmford, (no date available), www.plainlanguage.gov

Jeremy Galbraith, (no date available), www.wpp.com

Anita Jenkins, 22 August 2009, www.nzherald.co.nz

Brian Scott, 23 June 2013, www.business2community.com

7 Ways to Clean Up Your Business Language

Contact nlighten. The Customer Experience specialists.

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

nlighten. enhancing customer experience: www.nlightencx.com

The Road is Paved with Good Intentions

On a recent outing to that most loved or loathed of South African institutions – Builders Warehouse – I was hardly through the front door when I was met by the words, “Can you rate my service?” What alarmed me most was that, when asked this question, I had not received any service at all. It goes without saying that giving any rating in this instance, whether favourable or not, would mean nothing to either the customer or to Builders Warehouse.

My guess is that Builders had implemented some kind of carrot or stick strategy, aimed at driving employees towards better service by collecting service ratings from customers – and using those ratings to either reward or punish their employees.

The trouble with this kind of management style is that the employee then acts from a place of very little, if any insight. Their style of service becomes intrusive and annoying. And worst of all, the research generated yields highly inaccurate results.

In this unfortunate scenario, we are presented with a system that should work well, but in practice has gone so horribly wrong. On the one hand, it opens up an opportunity for valuable customer service research but on the other – falls short when the research holds no value. So, when does an employee rating system actually work?

Enter Uber – the wildly successful, international public transportation company that recently celebrated its second birthday in South Africa. To those familiar with Uber, their process is beautifully simple. At the end of your ride, you rate your driver on a scale of one to five. Your rating – along with the driver’s acceptance rate (how often the driver accepts a pick-up request within Uber’s 15-second timeframe) – determines whether the driver has a future with Uber or not. The result: only 2.3% of drivers are at risk of deactivation.

By coupling customer satisfaction with employee ambition, Uber has crafted the ultimate recipe for success. Admittedly, comparing retail to transportation does bring a certain apples and oranges metaphor to mind – but management should, in essence, be universal.

Over the course of the last century, two main forms of management have dominated the workplace, broadly known as Theory X and Theory Y. Each subscribes to one of two extremes. Theory X takes a pessimistic view – assuming that employees are lazy, dislike work and have to be micromanaged. Theory Y, on the other hand, is X’s optimistic opposite. Giving employees the benefit of the doubt, it assumes that people are ambitious and self-driven.

Before shunning either approach, it should be noted that they have worked, in one form or another, for a long time. All people have a need to achieve, but also have a need for security and direction. The key, then, is striking a balance between trusting your employees and providing them with the parametres in which to thrive.

Drawing from both schools of thought, consider the following three motivators:

  1. Keep it interesting
    As obvious as it sounds, people are motivated by interesting work. But in many cases, the work itself holds very little interest for most. In these cases, finding what aspect of the work fuels your employee – be it working with people or staying abreast of the latest technology may be key.By seeking out opportunities for your team to build their skills and practise them, you will have tapped into your most valuable resource – a motivated workforce.
  1. Get creative
    While few businesses can compete with Google and Apple in this regard, building a participatory, creative workplace could build you a reputation for being employee friendly – which, in turn, attracts a larger talent pool.But this kind of working environment slants more towards the Y-Theory style of management, which means trust – and lots of it. Your first steps, then, to giving your business a creative makeover are asking your staff for ideas, offering them creative opportunities, and opening doors to their suggestions.
  1. Increase responsibility
    Once you have allowed for a more innovative working environment, letting employees drive their outcomes – and letting them use some discretion in achieving their objectives – will go a long way in garnering trust.

In the end, it is your company’s ability to connect with its customer base that will guarantee its success. Taking a more creative approach to management may be easier said than done, but perhaps finding the link between your employees and your customers holds the secret to success.

From a customer experience standpoint, Builders Warehouse sits on a goldmine. For the most part, its customer is there for the tools to improve the space they hold most dear – the one in which they live. Getting their employees to understand what they have to offer their customers may unlock their greatest potential.


James Cook, 11 February 2015, uk.businessinsider.com

Chris Joseph, (no date available), smallbusiness.chron.com

Lisa Jo Rudy, 7 March 2014, business.tutsplus.com

Rick Wartzman, 8 January 2013, www.forbes.com

Ray Williams, 25 November 2013, business.financialpost.com

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

nlighten. enhancing customer experience: www.nlightencx.com

Great App! But Can You Do Beta?

Great App! But Can You Do Beta?

Whether driving to work, sweating it off on the treadmill, or binge-watching their favourite courtroom drama, 91% of smartphone users keep their devices within arm’s reach 24/7. Apps have become the way we connect with the world – and the way we conduct business.

Since its inception in 2007, the mobile application economy has begun to outshine Hollywood, whose global box office revenue for 2014 was $36.4 billion. By 2017, app downloads are expected to generate $77 billion worth of revenue.

Apps are hot property and everyone wants some real estate. But what too many companies seem to forget in this age of appdemonium is that no matter how kickass your app – delivering on your brand’s promise really is the only thing that matters in the end.

In the world of business, technologies are only the enablers – not the people driving them. Apps should bring consumer access and convenience – and those that do triumph. In the process, power is shifted from institutions to individuals.

Customer experience is still personal and the #1 factor influencing how much a customer trusts a company.

An app for app’s sake is not enough. After all – in the world of technology – what you do today may not be relevant tomorrow. On the other hand, without all the technological bells and whistles your company’s relevance is dragged into question.

From the customer’s standpoint, an omni-experience is called for – where people and technologies live in perfect harmony. But technology’s nomadic nature means that customer experience will always be in a state of flux. So, where does that leave the brand?

A trend has emerged. Today’s most successful companies are the ones that live in permanent beta – constantly evolving – always on a quest to be better. So, how do you do beta?


Drive the Maelstrom

With no hard and fast rules to guarantee a company’s success, the business landscape is one of chaos. But rather than choke on it – thrive on it. Be eveready to adapt. Take a proactive approach to change by looking at success as the start of the next chapter – not the end goal. And fill your schedule with productivity, not just activity.

Nurture Your Pride

Asking for help is never easy, but being transparent about your process garners trust. Build a tribe. Create a nucleus between you and your customer – be your customer’s ally – and allow your business to grow from that relationship. Look at any failures along the way as an opportunity for change.

Stay Two Steps Ahead

Arrogance breeds complacency. To stay two steps ahead, focus on training your employees to reflect your vision – your relationship with the people that work for you ultimately influences how your employees engage with your customers.

When all is said and done, your company needs to brave the storm with everyone else – gathering information and building relationships to stay ahead of the curve. But in all this seeming chaos, keep the customer experience simple – always make it as easy as possible for the customer to engage and transact with your brand. And finally, let technology enable you, not command your brand.


Catherine Clifford, 26 Aug 2014, www.entrepreneur.com

Laura Fagan, 24 Oct 2013, www.salesforce.com

Pamela McClintock, 11 Mar 2015, www.hollywoodreporter.com

Dan Martell, blog.clarity.fm

Tricia Morris, 24 Oct 2014, www.parature.com

Dan Rowinski, 7 Apr 2015, arc.applause.com

Daniela Puzzo, 26 Feb 2013, customerthink.com

Get your head out the sand

Blog – Get your head out the sand |nlighten

Innovation is everything today. That might be a bold statement, but if you are paying attention to the world around you, you’ll agree. It starts with leaders who understand the need to challenge the status quo and disrupt their own assumptions to create a business that lasts. Leaders today understand that business is changing, so thinking laterally has never been more important.

Critical concepts:

#1 Create the Culture

Innovative leaders understand the need to continually disrupt, question and create. They are building cultures that thrive on a holistic view of thinking, doing and communicating and in this manner encourage a culture of innovation by creating an environment that supports it. The bottom line is that it starts with leadership.

#2 Build Collaborative Communities

The collaboration economy is a movement, a change in the relationship between customers and companies. Led by “billion-dollar babies” like Uber, AirBnB, Etsy, Alibaba and Facebook, customers like you and I are no longer just consumers, we are also producers and distributors.

A recent study of 90,000 people in three countries revealed that over 40% of us are already using companies in this new economy – and this number is set to double in the next 12 months.

What exactly is driving the enormous growth of the collaborative economy? It’s sharing. People aren’t just buying from you, but also from one another – and sharing their experiences along the way.

In the same way that social media enables content to be shared, technologies in the collaborative economy enable peer-to-peer sharing at a speed and scale that were unimaginable a decade ago.

So, success in the collaborative economy focuses on customer relationships and the technology that you choose enables you to create a personal, relevant and unforgettable experience for them. Your target is to land on the homepage of your customer’s desktop which is prime real estate.

#3 Get rid of Toxic Assumptions

Toxic assumptions = innovation inertia, your company’s inability to innovate due to existing assumptions based on the way you currently do business.

These assumptions are based on ideas that (your) business of tomorrow will look like (your) business of today. Toxic assumptions generally go unchallenged in an environment that doesn’t innovate and stands in the way of future growth. To avoid innovation inertia, you have to continually challenge your own toxic assumptions.

It’s not about changing everything all at once, but the first step is to get your head out the sand and start embracing the change, one innovation at a time.

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

nlighten. enhancing customer experience: www.nlightencx.com


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