One of the Secrets of a Great Customer Experience…


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A few weeks ago we conducted our annual “Customer Experience Study Tour” in London England. This is where we take delegates to visit a number of leading Customer Experience companies for a behind-the-scenes look at how they approach the task of building a great Customer Experience. Companies include Pret-a-manger, Virgin Atlantic, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, Dell Computers, T-Mobile, Lexus Cars, AOL and Microsoft.

As we travelled around these companies on the luxury coach, I pondered what the common traits are of companies who provide a great Customer Experience. Undoubtedly one of these traits is “attention to detail”. So let’s give you an insight to what some of these companies did. Pret-a-Manger told us about the absolute struggle they go through to make sure that all the ingredients in their sandwiches are additive free so as to enhance the taste of the sandwiches. This involves a great deal of searching to determine the best supplier, as well as extensive tasting. The time and money they spend on this activity is phenomenal and costs a great deal. But this is part of their attention to detail.

Liam Lambert, Director of the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park Hotel told us of his “attention to detail”. He wanted his doorman to stand out as “beacon’s” to help promote the hotel -as it is on the less busy side of the street. He saw other hotel doormen who were all dressed in “grey” overcoats. This color made them blend into their hotel buildings and act as great camouflage! Liam decided to dress his doorman in red! Truly a beacon! It worked! More people noticed than ever before.

Liam told us about how he treats his new arrivals. Our group was privileged to attend and witness his “Morning Prayers”. This is where all the managers from all the departments in the hotel get together EVERY MORNING and talk through EACH AND EVERY new guest that is arriving at the hotel that day. They look at who they are. They look at where they are coming from and therefore how likely they are to be tired for instance. They even get on their guests web site and try and find out more about the person coming to stay so that they can serve them better! Finally, if available on the web site, they will print a picture of the individual who is staying with them and place it on the “Guests Wall” so the staff can recognize the person by name! So do you go into that amount of detail with your customers? When a guest is staying with them they “learn their behavior”. They take note of the drinks they order, whether they like ice or not, whether they have a cappuccino or a Latte after a meal. This information is then recorded on what is effectively a CRM system and used to enhance the Customer Experience on the next occasion. This is attention to detail!

On our visit to Virgin Atlantic they told us about the amount of time they have spent working out when the optimum time is to deliver hot towels in Upper Class! Before or after takeoff! They also have worked out the optimum layout of a service trolley and they have great new lie down beds in Upper class. As someone who spends a lot of time traveling around the world giving conference speeches, I can’t wait to try them!

Dell Computers have set up a number of “Listening Posts” to ensure they capture customer information and convert this into something that is usable by the customer. So attention to detail in Building Great Customer Experiences is key.

The converse is also true. Lack of focus on the Customer Experience will detract from the Customer Experience. The other night I visited my local cinema. The “baby booster chairs” were left in the aisle so that when we entered the cinema, late, we nearly broke our necks falling over them! ……the massive queue to buy a ticket – only two tills were open but there were 3 people standing at the back chatting whilst 50 customers fumed. We have all had similar experiences.

It takes thought, it takes time and it takes commitment to build a great Customer Experience. We commend you to pay attention to the detail.

Colin Shaw
Colin is an original pioneer of Customer Experience. LinkedIn has recognized Colin as one of the ‘World's Top 150 Business Influencers’ Colin is an official LinkedIn "Top Voice", with over 280,000 followers & 80,000 subscribed to his newsletter 'Why Customers Buy'. Colin's consulting company Beyond Philosophy, was recognized by the Financial Times as ‘one of the leading consultancies’. Colin is the co-host of the highly successful Intuitive Customer podcast, which is rated in the top 2% of podcasts.


  1. Great post, Colin!

    Loved the examples. You are so right, the best companies have figured out that the little things really do matter. Good food for thought for us all.

    Bob Thompson, CustomerThink Corp.
    Blog: Unconventional Wisdom

  2. Colin,
    You are absolutely right both about the details and the need to be disciplined about using them consistently (e.g. the baby booster chairs are a laudable detail but someone forgot to follow through).

    I also enjoyed your examples as a reminder that the details are important not only in the direct touch-points with the customer, but also in the operating actions that enable the experience across the company. Your Pret-a-Manger supply chain detail is a case in point.

    Thanks for a great post.
    Linda Ireland

  3. Sorry I missed your tour. I think the essence is what you are saying is that businesses have to pay attention to the customer in order to create the best experience.

    Liz Sealey

  4. Enjoyed your post Colin. When it comes down to it what you’re saying is that this stuff is not rocket science. Anybody can come up with these great ideas, after all we are all customers. It’s as much about structure and empowerment as it is about strategy and grand customer initiatives.

  5. Excellent article with inciteful examples. Manderin Oriental is very detailed and highly representative of knowing one’s customers. We do not all have the capability of being able to drill down as deeply, but we have to know who our customer is in order to provide the goods and services they want and need. But do we presently know enough?

    Thank you for the article. I throughly enjoyed it.


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