Anyone who knows me will tell you that I love a good story. Storytelling is such a powerful way of bringing theories and concepts to life – if you are good at it, the use of stories as a way of inspiring others is second to none. Over the years, I have told a fair number of horror stories to help others learn about the importance of Customer Experience – to the customer, the employee and the shareholder. Whilst often it is the negative that resonates, the stories that people thankfully remember more than any other are the positive ones.
When I teach others about the Customer Experience profession, I am often asked if anyone is actually any good at it. The simple answer to that particular question is YES! Although there only a small number of organisations around the world who are consistently good at delivering great Customer Experiences, there are a lot of people doing a lot of great things to demonstrate the importance and effect of good customer engagement.
So it is with great pleasure that I am able to share a wonderful example of great customer engagement from United Biscuits – manufacturers of Jaffa Cakes, Hob Nobs and Jacobs Cream Crackers (to name but three of their many brands). United Biscuits are also behind the Jacobs Mini Cheddar brand – if you have children, it is very likely they have indulged in a packet of Mini Cheddars in their time!! The story I am able to share with you concerns a lovely lady called Helen and her little boy, Tyler. I will let Helen tell the story:
My little boy loves Mini Cheddar Crinkles and last week during the school holidays he found a piece of string in one of the packets. I called the customer service team who were great. Very understanding apologetic I was very impressed. They asked me to return the packet and contents to a free post address and bizarrely asked his favourite animal. Today I have received a lovely letter thanking me for taking the time to contact them and return the goods, they tell me they are investigating and will be in touch later with a report of their findings. They have also sent a branded box which in the letter they have asked I pass on to my 4yr old, inside is a cuddly toy approx 8-9 inches of a monkey and a jaffa cake ruler.
So simple, yet so powerful. Whether the customer is right or wrong has been deemed irrelevant – acknowledging and apologising is what has deemed to be the right thing to do. Engaging both mummy and son is intentional and very, very sensible. When things go wrong – which they inevitably will for any organisation in its interactions with customers, the way you deal with it can determine how you ultimately make your customer ‘feel’. Here was Helen’s reaction to the letter from Karen at United Biscuits:
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The Whole experience will certainly will stay with me. We often have the bad experience of unengaging staff. This whole experience was text-book perfect with empathy and understanding making me as a customer feel like I was so important and not one of thousands they probably have. It has made me think about the service I give to my own customers even more and ways in which I can improve, not saying I give bad experience’s but there’s always room for improvement!
United Biscuits did not stop there. True to their word, five days later, Helen received another letter from Karen. Taking customer feedback (and especially complaints like this) very seriously, a full investigation had been conducted. Karen wanted to update Helen on the findings of the investigation. Helen continues to tell the story:
I have just received my report from United brands, they again apologise for the inconvenience, they have explained the string was a piece of webbing from the conveyor system that had broken free. They explain these are checked regularly but they are putting extra checks in place. The have also sent some vouchers for my next purchase and £10 good will gesture. I have called the company to thank them and let them know how impressed I am with the customer experience they have given.
When was the last time you picked up the phone to actually THANK a company for the way they addressed a problem? What United Biscuits have delivered through this story is what I describe as a ‘masterclass in customer engagement’. They appear to be focused on wanting to create and sustain long-term relationships between their brands and their customers. They have taken a complaint extremely seriously, making the customer feel listened to, cared for and valued. The result is not just a customer whose complaint has been dealt with, but a customer who has become an advocate of the brand and everything it stands for. Helen will never forget what United Biscuits have done – and I guarantee that she will tell many people about this story in the days and months to come.
What United Biscuits have demonstrated is not difficult. Customer Experience and customer engagement never has to be so. Hopefully this simple story of a packet of mini cheddars and a little bit of string can provide inspiration to other organisations who want to know how to better engage with customers themselves.