Rugby World Cup fever has been dominating the lives of South Africans for the past six weeks, and for some brands, it’s been a prime opportunity to capitalise on the local gees with clever marketing tactics and promotions. Unfortunately, though, not all brands who jumped on the Springbok wagon got it right. The recent nightmare experienced by DStv customers is one such example.
MultiChoice gave South Africans the opportunity to watch the 2023 World Cup Final on Saturday, 28 October with a special once-off R 19.95 deal on DStv Access streaming packages. A generous offer and deserving of a pat on the back to the marketing guys who used the R19.95 price point as a play on the year 1995 – the year the Springboks first won the Rugby World Cup.
Marketing brilliance aside, the promotion quickly fell flat when the customers who signed up for the deal realised that they were now locked into a 30-day cancellation policy.
“This happens all too often. Brands take a knee-jerk reaction because they don’t want to miss out on a great opportunity to news jack. But they don’t always think it through. It’s a communication breakdown between departments. The marketing team and operations aren’t aligned, and this can cause a massive problem for the holistic customer experience,” says Nathalie Schooling, customer experience specialist and CEO of nlightencx.
Schooling highlights that although mistakes happen, and Multichoice did apologise for their faux paus, it’s how a company handles the error that can make or break the brand in the eyes of the customer.
“Brands need to remember that when customers are upset, especially if there is money involved, their emotions are heightened. A quick resolution will go a long way. In the case of Multichoice, they did apologise for their mistake and provided an email address for people having problems cancelling their subscription. But is this enough? I think a better course of action would have been to proactively reach out to all who signed up to resolve any issues, rather than just providing a generic email address. This shows genuine customer care and a commitment to fixing the problem as quickly as possible.”
According to Schooling, marketers cannot separate their marketing campaigns from the customer experience. As the saying goes, the customer always comes first. “Today’s customers have very high expectations and an appetite for speed and efficiency. Marketers and brand managers need to become champions of CX if they want campaigns to succeed and stand out from competitors.”
As the leading CX Agency in Africa we feel that it would be worth helping you understand the difference between Customer Service and Customer Experience. While neither operates in a silo and can be seen as different rooms in the same house, there are subtle but fundamental differences in these two business areas.
So, let’s start by looking at what Customer Service is. Customer Service is, by definition, the old-school way of doing things. It is one-dimensional and transactional. A customer comes to you with a need, you find a solution, and the customer goes off with a big smile (hopefully). They might come back when they have another need, or you might never see them again. That’s the nature of the beast.
Customer Experience, on the other hand, goes much deeper than ticking boxes of individual customer needs. CX delves deep into the emotions, taking your interaction from a once-off to an entire journey. While Customer Service might be needs-based, CX is relationship-based. It focuses on the whole gamut of human emotions to positively impact your customers’ behaviours and what drives them to come to you first and then keep coming back.
At the most basic level, Customer Service is a single interaction. In contrast, Customer Experience is the sum of all your interactions with your customers and how they perceive you.
In Customer Service, you are reacting to your customers’ needs as they come to you. With Customer Experience, there is a constant analysis across all customer touchpoints to create an improved experience that has your customers in mind and will keep them satisfied.
While we are on touchpoints, Customer Service is just one point of contact your customer has with your business during their holistic Customer Experience Journey. The joy of CX is that the Customers’ Journey is mapped out, right from becoming aware of you to leaving and returning. This helps you to understand your customers’ needs and emotions at each step of their journey and allows you to create moments of magic that keep them coming back.
It all comes down to ownership. While Customer Service is primarily handled by Customer Service Managers, front-facing staff, and contact centres, Customer Experience belongs to the whole business. From the CEO to the sales team, the distributors, and the guy in the back office who fixes your email issues and always tells you about Lord of the Rings – Customer Experience is the whole team’s responsibility, and everyone needs to take ownership of it. CX understands that no matter your role, what you are doing will impact a customer’s experience of your company.
So what’s the bottom line? A well-executed customer experience will work hand-in-hand with customer service and enable you to create authentic interactions that grow your client relationships and retain your customers.
By Nathalie Schooling
South African tourism has been in the spotlight recently, as the country celebrated tourism month in September. While it’s encouraging to see the industry enjoying a better-than-expected post-Covid recovery, with international arrivals more than doubling versus this time last year, I think we’d be remiss to think we are anywhere near sustainable long-term recovery.
The issue I’ve always had with SA tourism, is that strategy mostly seems to be rooted in short-term thinking. One has to remember that short-term recovery can very easily be derailed by toughening global economic conditions, increasing competition from other destinations, and internal challenges such as load shedding. Therefore, the local industry needs to put in place long-term fundamentals.
These should include increased on-the-job training for tourism industry workers, better opportunities for formal qualifications in tourism, an acknowledgement that an ‘inside-out’ approach is what’s needed to enhance the overall SA tourism product, and a change in mindset that regards tourism-industry employment as low-paying ‘McJobs.’
Unfortunately, we can’t bank on SA’s beauty alone. Abundant wildlife, breathtaking scenery and clever destination marketing are not, in themselves, sufficient to ensure long-term tourism success.
Tourism is essentially a customer-facing industry, so it makes sense that customer experience is truly where ‘the rubber hits the road’ when it comes to tourism products and services. Yet it is one of the things that local and foreign tourists most complain about when they visit the country.
Just pay a quick visit to review sites such as Tripadvisor, LekkeSlaap, Booking.com, Afristay and others, where poor customer service is our Achilles heel. As a country we have so many good things to offer visitors, but we frequently fall down on basic customer service.
Customers may put up with bad service out of necessity in some industries, but in tourism their spend is discretionary and they expect to be looked after – especially when it comes to business travellers – so they will quickly take their money elsewhere. And they will tell many others through word-of-mouth and online reviews.
Having one visitor once is not a good strategy; the most cost-effective business is repeat business, and you need those satisfied customers to amplify your brand and your marketing efforts.
A study published in July 2023 in the American Marketing Association’s Journal of Marketing shows clearly that in the hotel industry, for instance, pricing and positive online reviews of a guest’s stay are the two most important drivers of business.
If you can balance both, you have a winning formula. In the local airline industry, for example, there’s a school of thought that it’s all about the price of a seat. It’s important, of course, especially for local leisure travellers. But if price is your only point of difference, when a competitor matches or beats that price then you have nothing else to offer.
Better to be an Airlink and have a superior on-time record versus your bigger competitors, or a LIFT airline that offers better customer service. A good experience will be remembered long after the cost of the flight is forgotten.
The same principle applies to all tourism products and for this reason it’s important even for budget-focused operators to spend time and money on staff training – whether this is on-the-job or in specialist training environments such as colleges and technikons.
It’s also essential to reward employees appropriately and create a supportive environment where they feel valued and can progress in their workplace.
Too often, tourism jobs in South Africa are not seen as career paths and are mere ‘fill-ins’ until something offering better pay and opportunities comes along.
Demotivated employees give bad service. Bad service devalues your product. Even budget customers have a right to expect friendly and efficient service, as well as effective product delivery.
Motivating all roleplayers in the wider SA tourism environment – including the general public and those working in transport, retail, government, law enforcement and border control – should be a key part of making the country more tourist-friendly.
I was pleased to hear that Toni Gumede, Manager in the office of the CEO of Brand South Africa, had told an international marketing conference in early September that tourism branding should be ‘inside out’, with a focus on achieving buy-in from people and business within the country.
“If local people are not happy with their tourism product, then you have already lost half the battle,” Gumede said.
This is music to my ears. South Africa is a brand, and each region is a brand. The people living there are a part of that brand, even if they don’t work directly in tourism, because they interact with visitors regularly in some way.
So, they need to be made aware of the importance of tourists to the country – and the critical role that they can play, even if it’s just a ‘hello’ and a smile or a wave.
South Africans are naturally friendly and outgoing people. They can contribute more to a great visitor experience than paying millions to Trevor Noah to be a brand spokesperson, or being a sponsor of an English Premier League soccer team.
Blog by Nathalie Schooling
If you’re anything like me, you’ve likely landed up keeping unwanted items you’ve purchased online out of sheer resignation to the uphill battle of returning it. Why do they make it so hard!?
But as e-commerce grows in popularity and competition increases among online retailers, companies need to heed to the intensified pressure to make product return policies as quick and easy as possible for customers.
With global research showing that returns by online shoppers are rising year-on-year by around 40%, a slick and effective ‘reverse logistics’ capability is just as important as competitive product pricing and fast delivery. Current figures show that compared to the cost of goods sold, returns from customers account for an average of 7-10% of sales revenue.
As online shopping matures in South Africa, the expectations of consumers increase too. They demand convenience from every aspect of their online shopping experience, including easily returning the goods they don’t want. So, e-tailers wishing to remain competitive need to take this part of the customer journey seriously.
Unfortunately, some local e-commerce platforms regard returns – part of a process known as ‘reverse logistics’, in which goods go back along the supply chain to the original supplier and then onwards from there – as a costly and unwanted burden.
Consequently, customers are sometimes charged for returns, or the process has been made unwieldy and complicated to deter shoppers, which can lead to major frustration.
But buying online often means returns are sometimes inevitable. Research cited by courier company DHL, for example, indicates that half of all clothing items bought online are returned.
This isn’t unreasonable, given that online shoppers can’t try them on in a changing room before they buy. But if the process of sending back the clothes they don’t want isn’t hassle-free, they either won’t shop online again, or they won’t shop with that e-commerce platform.
So effective returns management shouldn’t be a chore or a cost centre for the business; it must be seen as a critical part of a customer acquisition and retention strategy. It must be a core customer experience competency that will ultimately grow the company. Consider that, according to a survey by Deloitte & Arvato, a well-managed reverse logistics process has the potential to reclaim up to 32% of original product value.
So, how can a business implement reverse logistics cost effectively and in the best interests of their customers? Technology such as automation, AI and machine learning should be harnessed.
To truly streamline the returns process, businesses need to be gathering ongoing customer insights to find out where the customer concerns are, as well as understanding bottlenecks in the logistics process, and technology is a great enabler for this. In fact, we are seeing an upward trend in companies using machine learning to increase visibility and predict supply chain disruptions.
We are also noticing the benefit of advanced technologies in breaking down silos and communication barriers across the supply chain ( and for those who read this blog regularly, you know how I feel about silos!)
Closing communication gaps in this process , I believe is the ultimate source of effective returns management, and where businesses should be focussing their energy. The most important communication gap to close is with the customer. They are the ones you need to be empathising with throughout the ‘ often frustrating’ returns journey.
Talk about living through a long winter of discontent. Consumer confidence is at a low ebb, and South Africans are feeling overwhelmingly uncertain about their economic wellbeing. With constant loadshedding, high inflation, a dwindling Rand, and other hurdles, it’s no wonder we’re all yearning for a glimmer of hope to melt away the frosty grip of ambiguity.
The good news for business though is that there is light at the end of the tunnel. In a recent snap poll we conducted on our social platforms, we discovered something unexpected or not). We asked our followers what would make them switch brands when the going gets tough? Despite the prevailing notion that price is the sole driver of purchasing decisions, it turns out that customer service and empathy play a much larger role in swaying shoppers. That’s right, folks—consumer decisions aren’t solely based on the price tag.
When faced with economic uncertainty and rising prices, you might assume that customers would prioritise the lowest price possible. However, only 22% of respondents in our poll listed price as their decisive factor. Interestingly, a whopping 56% identified ‘great customer experience’ as the most important aspect, with ‘better products/services’ also receiving 22% of the votes. What this tells us is that businesses need to shift their strategies away from simply slashing prices and focus more on fostering empathetic connections with their customers.
Not always. A knee-jerk reaction of cutting costs and racing to the bottom price point won’t necessarily deliver the desired results. Today’s savvy consumers know that a ‘good deal’ doesn’t always equate to the lowest price. They seek value in a broader sense—one that includes superior customer experience and high-quality products or services.
Well, it’s all about customer empathy. Businesses need to recognise the prevailing price-consciousness in the market while understanding that customers are no longer willing to sacrifice product quality and a positive customer experience for a lower price. In times like these, a single misstep can shatter customer loyalty, and it’s harder to regain than ever before.
Don’t just take my word for it though. A study by Salesforce, a global customer relationship management software company, found that 71% of consumers had switched brands within the last year due to changing priorities, lifestyles, or financial situations. Nearly half of those who switched did so because of poor customer service, while nearly 60% cited product quality as the driving factor. Furthermore, a staggering 90% of respondents believed that the experience a company provides is as important as its products or services.
Renowned digital anthropologist and futurist Brian Solis emphasises the significance of empathy in business, specifically ‘digital empathy’. Don’t you just love the lingo coming out of the information age! This ‘digital empathy’ concept involves understanding customer behaviours, preferences, and aspirations through human-centred data and creating meaningful customer engagements based on those insights. While technology undoubtedly plays a role, an over-reliance on AI and bots can undermine the human touch that customers crave. It’s the antithesis of true empathy in my opinion.
Allow me to me share some of my top tips that can either make or break your company’s success during these difficult times:
By embracing empathy and prioritising exceptional customer experiences, your business can weather this economic storm and emerge from the chaos stronger than ever. Remember, it’s not just about the price tag; it’s about the lasting connections you forge with your customers. So, let’s spread some empathy, foster loyalty, and make a difference in these tough times.
Blog by Nathalie Schooling
Upfront Full Disclaimer: In the face of deepening poverty and unemployment in South Africa, amongst other challenges like power outages and water shortages, I’m completely aware of how absurd it could seem to be moaning about a silly milkshake order gone wrong. But what I’m hoping to get across in this blog is more about the integrity of the matter. It’s about responsibility, accountability, and empathy, all of which are the backbone of good business. Moreover, it’s about encouraging our online retailers to do better. How can we expect businesses to flourish in the age of digital technologies, help grow the economy and keep people in jobs if they keep letting down their customer base?
My delivery arrived on time, but to my dismay and my teenage son’s horror, we found ourselves face-to-face with countless bottles of strawberry-flavoured Steri-Stumpie, instead of the anticipated chocolate-flavoured goodness. What was meant to be a digital convenience was now a sour and frustrating experience.
Determined to right this wrong, I reached out to the retailer’s call centre, hopeful for a quick resolution. However, the call centre proved to be a dead-end. It became clear that they outsource their call centre services because they could not bridge the gaps between the different areas of the retail business (something that is very doable with the right CX measures in place, but I’ll save that for another blog). The store, the online platform, and the scooter delivery service operated totally independently of each other. It was like dealing with three separate businesses.
I felt a little sorry for the call centre operator because she was totally unempowered (again, for another blog on how to use omnichannel platforms effectively to empower your staff).
The operator did however manage to give me a complaint number – 1001861975. I guess that’s something?
Undeterred, I persisted in my pursuit of a solution. I dialled the call centre not just once or twice, but four times, desperately seeking a glimmer of hope. I also turned to the power of social media, sending three direct Facebook messages to the retailer. However, these attempts were met with resounding silence, further amplifying my sense of helplessness.
As the days turned into weeks and my efforts to resolve the issue proved futile, frustration took hold. To add fuel to the fire, the retailer sent me an email to say my service request had been completed and the issue resolved. Really? Then why did I still have an overflowing cupboard full of unwanted strawberry-flavoured milkshakes?
I couldn’t help but reflect on the broader implications of this ordeal. The disconnect between different parts of the retail business highlighted the importance of seamless integration when it comes to offering a good customer experience. Siloed operations and fragmented customer service can lead to countless missed opportunities for retailers.
As a customer, it’s disheartening to feel unheard and trapped in a digital labyrinth with no clear way out. The isolation and detachment that can come with digital transactions gone wrong can leave a customer very disgruntled and quick to reconsider where they choose to put their spend.
In this digital age, it seems that the convenience of online shopping can come at a price. As customers, we often find ourselves distanced from the human touch, left to navigate a vast and impersonal cyberspace. The very essence of customer experience, which relies on personal connections and timely resolutions, can easily get lost in translation. Businesses need to know that if they detach themselves from their customers in the digital realm, they risk losing customer loyalty.
So, here’s a word of caution to all retailers out there: beware of the pitfalls of siloed operations and disconnected customer service. Embrace the power of integration and communication between your online platforms, stores, and delivery services. Because to be frank, it’s at the very basic level of what is expected by your customer today.
Oh, and for those still interested…. The pink milk was donated to a very worthy charity. But this experience has made me weary as to what and how much I buy online.
If* and when a client, customer, patient, guest, member (or any other person receiving a service or buying a product from you) complains about your company/service/product, your gut reaction is, more often than not, to be: defensive, take it personally, recoil in disgust, hit the roof, dismiss it, or (normally) a combination of the above.
But in fact, we need to start looking at “customer complaints” as treasured insights to better understand your client and have an opportunity (which is sometimes rare), to create “moments of magic” where a customer least expects it.
This becomes a fantastic opportunity to outshine your competitors and ensure you create some loyalty and build trust with your client or customer.
Ready to start creating moments of magic in difficult situations? This is how to do it:
1. Put Yourself in Their Shoes – One word: Empathy. We all know the frustration of having an issue not getting resolved – they probably account for the majority of those grey hairs you have. Use your experience of how YOU would like to be treated as the basis for your interaction.
2. Listen – Let them vent, and do not take it personally. No one likes being on the receiving end of a complaint – but if you actively listen to their point of view, you will gain their trust and they will be more receptive to listening to you.
3. Identify – Get to the bottom of the problem – what is the root cause for their complaint? Clarify what they are concerned about so you are both on the same page.
4. Don’t Play the Blame Game – Face it, someone messed up. Now is not the time to point fingers, now is the time to take responsibility and a chance to fix the problem and create a moment of magic.
5. Resolve the Issue – You have made it this far, so now it is time to be genuine and willing to find a solution. Involve your customer, and ask them how they would like it resolved. Be sure to give them a realistic timeframe for feedback, and don’t rush – make sure it is fixed. No one likes repeat issues.
If you made it through all 5 steps, congratulations! Chances are your client or customer now feels seen, heard, and valued. And hopefully, you have not only resolved the issue but you have built trust and brand loyalty. Go ahead and try it next time someone complains – you will be pleasantly surprised!
*We mentioned “if” because how easy is it for a customer to complain to you? Have you ever tried to reach out to an online-only service provider but had to jump over 100 hurdles and fight off some bots before you get to a person? Sometimes companies make it impossible to contact them, and this is really going to stunt their growth…but more on this soon ?
Have you ever noticed that some rating scales businesses use fail to capture the full range of customer/client/guest experiences? Take, for example, the widely recognised and trusted peer review site TripAdvisor, with its rating scale ranging from 1 to 5, labelled as Terrible, Poor, Good, Very Good, and Excellent. However, this scale omits the traditional midpoint of “average.” Such misalignment in rating scales can create unrealistic expectations for potential customers and hinder the customer from reviewing their experience and the ability to convey their true experiences. Let’s delve into this issue and explore how it can impact both customers and businesses.
Rating scales that omit the “average” category, like the one used by TripAdvisor, can lead to skewed perceptions of customer experiences. By categorising establishments solely as “poor” or “good”, it fails to account for experiences that fall in between. As a result, customers are forced to either rate an establishment lower than their actual experience or inflate their ratings to match the available categories. This discrepancy sets unrealistic expectations for both customers and businesses, ultimately harming the credibility and usefulness of the rating system.
To ensure customers can provide accurate and realistic ratings, it is crucial for businesses to implement balanced rating scales that encompass the full spectrum of experiences. Including an “average” or “satisfactory” category allows customers to express their true opinions without distorting the overall perception. By aligning the rating scale with customers’ actual experiences, businesses can gain more accurate insights into their performance and areas for improvement.
Customer feedback and transparent reviews play a pivotal role in shaping customer perceptions and helping businesses make informed decisions. By encouraging customers to share their authentic experiences, businesses can gain valuable insights and improve their offerings accordingly. Transparent reviews, which accurately reflect the diverse range of customer experiences, empower potential customers to make informed choices based on a holistic understanding of an establishment’s strengths and areas of improvement.
To thrive in a competitive landscape, businesses should prioritise delivering exceptional customer experiences that are customer-centric.
A customer-centric approach involves:
By providing consistently high-quality experiences, businesses can cultivate trust, loyalty, and positive word-of-mouth referrals, ultimately contributing to long-term success and reputation.
The use of misaligned rating scales, such as those lacking an “average” category, can create unrealistic expectations for customers. This not only hampers their ability to accurately convey their experiences but also poses challenges for businesses seeking genuine feedback. Implementing balanced rating scales that encompass the full range of experiences allows customers to provide more accurate and realistic ratings. By fostering a customer-centric approach and encouraging transparent reviews, businesses can build trust, enhance customer satisfaction, and create meaningful connections with their clientele.
Blog by: Nathalie Schooling
When one begins to look at the current advancements in the accessibility and usefulness of AI, such as ChatGPT, it is important to be able to discern the sustainability from the hype. While these technological advancements are groundbreaking, exciting, and revolutionary, in the customer experience industry we need to take a step back and remember who our customers are and what they want.
Our customers and clients are human beings who desire authentic human interaction.
We, at nlightencx., have been asked by many of our friends, clients, and associates about the benefits of using AI in our customer journeys. Over the next few weeks we will be exploring more about the pros and cons, and we will be talking to experts in the industries (maybe you have seen some of our chats with Futureworld International Co-Founder Anton Musgrave already). But to kick things off we spoke to the most important people – the customers.
When looking at the current customer service options available, it can be narrowed down to four basics: Human Interaction, Self-Help, Online Forum, or ChatBots. We took to our social media to see which of these options brought the best service and, most notably, the most joy during interactions. Out of about 100 responses, over 85% found the best service from human interaction, 14% from self-help and FAQs, and only 1% enjoyed interacting with ChatBots.
While AI might be efficient and to the point, their biggest downfall is that they lack the understanding of human emotion. Their responses, while to the point, are cold. They cannot empathise with what we are experiencing as a customer because they have never experienced anything we have. At best, they can simulate what they have learned through ones and zeros what our experience might look like. While a bot might be able to use the correct language to mimic compassion, their responses are not authentic. You would find as much empathy and human understanding from a bot as you would from a Kenwood mixer user manual.
When ChatGPT, who we shall call Kevin (he said he was okay with this I promise), was asked about the role he sees AI will play in customer service he had this to say:
“It is possible that AI may play a larger role in the customer service industry in the future. AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants are already being used by many companies to provide customers with quick and convenient access to information and support. These tools can handle simple, routine tasks and inquiries quickly and efficiently, freeing up human customer service representatives to focus on more complex and nuanced issues.
However, it is unlikely that AI will completely take over the customer service industry in the near future. While AI can handle simple and routine tasks, many customer service interactions involve complex issues that require human empathy, intuition, and problem-solving skills. AI also lacks the ability to understand the emotional context of a situation, which can be critical in resolving customer concerns.” (OpenAI’s GPT-3 session accessed 7 February 2023)
There you have it in Kevin’s own (assimilated and aggregated) words. The limitations are evident, and it doesn’t take a superbot to figure that out. Kevin went on to explain that AI has limitations with emotional-intelligence, creativity, contextual understanding, adaptability, and problem-solving. So while able to complete some tasks to improve efficiency, the main purpose of AI would be to free up humans to actually engage with customers.
As humans with a gamut of human emotion, our biggest desire is to feel like we are understood, seen, and valued. We want to know that our concern matters, ultimately that we matter. And it is human connection that drives experience.
Customer service through human interaction, and even self-help, are preferred because it involves help from humans who can empathise with a customer, humans that can understand context, nuance, and humans that have emotional intelligence. A human working in customer service can understand the frustration a customer might be feeling, they know the pinch of the economy, they know what it is like to have a bad day, and ultimately they know their own need for human connection and will bring it to any interaction.
To bring the best service to a customer, we need to bring our humanity to the forefront. It is these human interactions they resonate and are remembered by customers.
If you want to look at using AI to take your customer service to the next level, look at how it can be used as a tool to free up your people to do the real work of connecting with your customers.
P.s Just in case you were wondering, this blog was written by a real-life human ?
Blog: by Nathalie Schooling
We are in the business of understanding the journey of our clients’ customers, and what still amazes me is how many companies forget the fundamental ‘first impression’. This refers to the very beginning stage of the customer/client/guest/passenger/member/patient journey, and why customer journey mapping is one of the most valuable CX exercises a company can invest in. It’s an incredible tool if facilitated properly and on a regular basis, especially when you have changes or new service/product offerings.
Just putting yourself in your customers shoes at the starting point of their interaction with your brand can be a serious eye-opener. Depending on your industry, this would typically be called the arrival/arrive/onboarding stage. Getting this stage right certainly goes a long way in terms of how the relationship will develop over time. Nailing it will ensure that you don’t waste time, effort, and revenue in reparations down the line.
Let me give you an example. My son and I went on a short vacay during the September holidays to Mauritius. Unfortunately, flights are few, and the only one we could get landed at night. We left Cape Town very early that morning (followed by waiting for a connecting flight from Jozi) and finally arrived at the airport in Mauritius at 21h30. We were not exactly oozing with charm after such a long day of travel.
Once we got through passport control (not a friendly experience), we were shuffled onto a tour bus built for people no taller than 5ft. The driver of the bus, who hardly spoke a word of English, was also the baggage handler, so we sat on the muggy, cramped bus while suitcases were loaded (adding more time to this endless journey). With no water to quench our thirst, and no idea of what time we would be leaving, we weren’t sure if we should rush back to the airport to scavenge for something to drink. After an hour of waiting on the bus and then another hour of travelling on said bus, we arrived in pitch darkness at the resort. Parched, achy, hot, grumpy, hungry, and frankly a bit shaken by the bus driver who thought he was Pascal Wehrlein (a German-Mauritian racing car driver), we were ‘greeted’ by someone who was clearly a trainee porter and who looked like he had never seen a tour bus filled with Saffers before.
We poured out of the bus, not quite sure what to expect next. Just getting the luggage sorted took another 30 minutes! Next, we were told to sit and wait for someone to ‘check us in’. Talk about anxiety – we were the last in the queue. Eventually, a woman handed me a tablet so that I could retype all the information I had already provided when booking this holiday. It was now well past 22h00.
We were then told to hurry if we wanted dinner before the ‘restaurant’ would close – a fancy name for what was in fact, a canteen. There we were given the option to select from the tired remains of food available, and then directed to revisit reception to collect our key cards.
There was zero explanation about the resort, or an offer to chat through all the facilities the next morning. We were just given our key cards and pointed in the direction of our room.
Through our travel agent, I had specifically booked a room with two king beds, but the room we were assigned had just one queen bed. I was now beside myself.
This lovely treat of a holiday, which we were terribly excited about, was not starting on a great note. I asked to be moved to the room that I had paid for, but the housekeeping folks said that the hotel was fully booked and that they had no other rooms available. After much discussion, a single bed was delivered, I unpacked… and then stewed until I eventually drifted off to sleep.
The next morning, I sent a rather uptight text to my travel agent, with pictures attached. I was seething. I won’t bore you with further details but, after a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, we eventually got the room that I had booked and paid for. This meant repacking suitcases and unpacking suitcases. Again! This exercise pretty much took up the first official day of our holiday, including needing to sleep for most of the next day as I was utterly exhausted.
To give credit where credit is due, the guest relations manager did her very best to go out of her way to apologise and offered us two complimentary massages as a token of their apology. This was a sweet gesture, but the arrival part of our experience was so disappointing, and it really did steal two days out of a 6-day holiday.
My son and I enjoyed the four remaining days, but I certainly won’t be a returning guest, nor will I recommend the resort.
What could have been done differently?
Let’s look at some very simple tweaks that would have absolutely changed the game.
First, know your customer. In this case: your guests. We are from South Africa, where most people can speak English but very few understand French. Generally, the SA guests check in at night so the bus transport company that represents the resort’s brand should have someone on board at the airport who can speak English, to welcome guests, hand each person a bottle of cold water, and brief travellers on what to expect (how long the bus trip is, what happens on arrival at the hotel, etc.). If that is too much of a stretch, a bottle of water and a note from the hotel explaining the process would be better than nothing. You want your guests/customers/clients to feel “supported” right from the get-go.
South African tourists are this particular hotel group’s main source of sales – so I ask you, with tears in my eyes, why choose a trainee porter who hardly speaks English to be the ‘face’ that greets a swarm of 50 new guests who are not in the best of moods? Just to be clear – everyone on the bus was grumpy at this point. It would have made all the difference if there was someone who spoke English, was fully trained, and was competent to welcome the guests.
Know that your customer is going to face a long journey from the airport, understand their emotional state, and know that if you ‘on-board’ with genuine kindness at this point, it will be the customers’ ‘moment of truth’. You need to get this right.
Slip-ups happen, but it is SO much harder to win back a disgruntled customer whose expectations have not been met at the arrival point than to retain a temporarily disappointed client who has already been through enjoyable interactions with your brand.
Typically, it’s financial institutions and retailers who use customer journey mapping to good effect, but as the example I’ve provided shows, businesses should invest in this powerful tool that allows you to put themselves in your customer’s shoes, understand their high points and pain points when engaging with your business, and highlight opportunities for quick win areas where you should be making improvements.