Customer Experience: the competitive advantage

I was interested to read a piece recently in the UK’s Travel Weekly explaining how Kuoni Travel has introduced a ‘wow budget’ for staff working in their retail shops. Apparently the staff have a discretionary amount per month to spend “the best way they see fit to clinch a sale or raise excitement of the product they are selling.”

I was interested in the piece both because of my history with the company, having worked there many years ago, and because I think this is a great example of how a company can, and should, create a remark-able experience for its customers.

Let me just give you an example from the article to save you scooting over there:

“An example given was of a couple from Leeds who were weighing up whether to book a trip to Italy and decided to discuss it over lunch at Harvey Nichols. On arrival they received a bottle of Italian wine courtesy of the Kuoni staff they had just left who phoned ahead to ensure they had a taste of what was on offer if they booked.”

Now if you were that couple you are going to be pretty surprised I would suggest and you are unlikely to keep this to yourself.

In my opinion this is a great example of Word of Mouth Marketing in the age of the customer. What I do not know is whether or not the couple concerned were digitally savvy but you can be sure that if they were, they would be Facebooking and Tweeting news of their experience.

OK I accept this could be seem as gimmicky but if it is done well, consistently but without over-doing it, I believe this is a great way of creating an experience that can be uniquely Kuoni – a Kuoni-branded experience.

A word of caution. You should not put lipstick on a pig (sorry pig). In other words if you do not have your basic offering right in terms of the quality of your product or service, the environment and the many other factors that contribute toward the customer experience, then no matter how many grand gestures you might produce, you will still end up with a bad customer experience.

If, like Kuoni, you have the basics right but do not have the budget of a multi-national fear not: all you need is a team of people that cares about your customers, then stand back and watch the magic happen.

Companies that are not embracing the concept of managing the Customer Experience are in my view missing one very big trick and I fear they might come to regret it.

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