In fact it is a very hot topic. There is a lot of discussion about creating experiences for your customers that meet their needs, and to create an experience that is easy and enjoyable. Of course you want to realise both of these aims as a rail company or travel agency!
The Business Impact of Customer Experience
"The business of business is business" as economist Milton Friedman said. Simon Sinek doesn't agree with him in his Golden Circle theory, but - if you take it from me - treating customer experience as a business discipline is a great idea.
Why? Because it is proven that investing in customer experience brings business success. Firms with high Customer Experience Index (CXi) scores have more loyal customers who repurchase, who don't switch to competitors, and who recommend the company. Besides treating it as a business discipline, from an ethical perspective it is the right thing to do. Why treat your customers in a lousy way? There is a lot of talk about customer centricity within organisations and leadership teams. It is time we put our money where our mouth is and start investing in customer experience.
Consumer Experience Trends:
When looking at rail and customer experience trends, real time decision making based on peer reviews is very important. Customers compare and make decisions based on what is said about your service on social media. It is therefore important to be aware of the channels and apps where your customers share their views. Make sure booking procedures are transparent and easy to use, so that when they decide to travel with you the customer can make the bookings with ease.
Another interesting trend is the need for Wi-Fi and battery. Since we live in the era of the Internet of Things, we expect to be connected constantly 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Perhaps more so than at any other time, when traveling we are glued to our mobiles and laptops. The business traveller wants to charge his or her laptop, and the leisure traveller wants to share their travel experience on Facebook or Snapchat. Make sure you have electricity sockets to meet these needs and provide speedy Wi-Fi in the train and at stations: recognising this need and acting on it gets you in line with the times.
Modern day Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Diagram:
Consumer Experience: make or buy?
An interesting question proposed by one of the participants at the Amadeus Rail Forum was whether rail companies should 'make or buy' customer experience knowledge and capabilities. The key to achieving a good customer experience is getting the right experience and knowledge inside the company.
Often leaders and employees are 'business blind', so it is important to start building your CX strategy and implementing those changes gradually. In the first phase, the best idea is to buy / hire the right advisor to advise on desired behaviour and decision making.
To start working on customer experience, you have to learn to map customer journeys, develop 'voice of the customer' programs and work on a customer-centric' culture. It's proven that developing these capabilities results in sustainable change and solid results.
Positive customer experience is a long-term commitment
You need to accept the fact that you are here for the long term. There will be some small short term results, but winning the trust of your customers and and building relationships with them requires a long term effort. Set your goals where you want to be in three or five years, and then start with your strategy.
Make sure it consists of these building blocks:
Voice of the CustomerDefine the customer KPI you want to steer on. Is it NPS or Customer Satisfaction Scores? Start measuring, choose your rhythm and act upon the customer feedback you get. Use this information to steer the company, incrementally improve processes and channels, and - most of all - make customer centric decisions.
Deliver on your brand promiseKnow what your brand promise is and distinguish yourself from competitors in the travel industry. Translate this promise in the 'customer journey'. Use 'customer journey mapping', where you work with the emotions of customers and the 'peak-end rule'[i] . Have you been to Ikea? They perfectly put the peak end rule into practice. Customers always leave the store in a good mood thanks to the hotdog and ice-cream.
Employees are ambassadors:Real customer-centric companies have enthusiastic employees. They are engaged, go the extra mile for each other and breathe customer service. Treat your employees as humans, recruit new employees with the right competencies and drive and enable everybody to really act as an ambassador of your organisation.
So no, customer experience is not rocket science, but it is not simple either. It is about changes in leadership, behaviour, processes, sales, marketing, billing and operations; a willingness to look at change across the whole company. It is not rocket science, but I promise you that if you start working and learning and continuously keep at it you will become customer-centric and results will follow. Good luck and never give up!
Nienke Bloem from Holland is often called the 'Customer Experience Guru'. She is a keynote speaker on 'customer-centricity' and inspires audiences with best practices and proven methodologies. Besides being a public speaker, she is a trusted advisor for boards and guides customer experience managers on their leadership journey. Learn more about her by listening to her interview here.
Watch her presentation on the topic at the Amadeus Rail Forum 2015 below:
 The Business Impact of Customer Experience, Maxie Schmidt-Subramanian https://www.forrester.com/The+Business+Impact+Of+Customer+Experience+2014/fulltext/-/E-RES113421
 The peak end rule https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak%E2%80%93end_rule