Customer service: how technology, process and people combine to give great experience

Written by Michael Smith on the 1st of May, 2018

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Whilst waiting for my car to be serviced, I was reminded how customer service controls consumer perception and impacts brand values. Audi seem to get this. The booking was easy, my reminder came through to my mobile the day before and as I chose to wait whilst the car was serviced, the work area and facilities were excellent including a constant flow of coffee and bottled water. Finally, I received an email with the above picture featuring the team - nice touch!

Contrast this with my most recent experience on Virgin East Coast. My train was cancelled, the operator did not know why (they advised fatality on line when actually it was a fire on the incoming train from Leeds), I stood all the way to York and when I attempted to make a claim was advised that a scanned copy of a ticket that I was not issued with was required, as I had sent a screen grab of my M-Ticket (mobile) as this was the mode of issue.

Two very different scenarios, two opposing ends of the spectrum and to be fair, two very different use cases.

All the same, Virgin East Coast can learn a lot from Audi. First and foremost there is a clear investment in technology, environment and colleague training to ensure that they properly manage my customer journey. This started with a centrally booked appointment via a contact centre, email confirmation, automated reminder by text and mail, and then manually making the experience a positive one by meeting and greeting, offering me everything that I needed to use the time productively whilst waiting (excellent wifi, workspace, power sockets, coffee… etc), providing updates on progress and sending me on my way.

Contrast this with Virgin East Coast. The booking element was good and in the true spirit of technological advancement, I selected M-Ticket which was auto-fulfilled to the phone app, I received email confirmation of my booking plus a journey reminder mail the day before.

However, on my return leg arriving the information board displayed delay which eventually turned to cancellation. No explanation was provided, no advice given on alternative travel or even whether my advance ticket would be be valid on another service. Furthermore, the service I embarked upon was chaotic. Seat reservations remained in place causing chaos and the train was so crowded that it became a health and safety risk.

Station teams should be trained to deal with these scenarios and perhaps offer some choices to passengers. E.g. a simple accurate explanation for cancellation, platform colleagues available to advise, offer access to 1st Class Lounge for cancelled ticket-holders to wait for a less buy service, provide information about status of alternative services for customers that wish to avoid an immediate crush on the next train out etc.

In extraordinary circumstances, we understand that we have to pull together and make the best of the circumstances. However, in this instance communication and ‘hand-holding’ becomes an imperative for a brand if it wishes us to empathise with their plight.

Finally, we expect quick and effortless compensation, not further stress relating to claims being disputed  because no-one properly understands the customer journey, as demonstrated by V-TEC customer services in relation to a non-existent ticket :  “We need a copy of your ticket(s) for the journey to investigate any potential compensation as we are unable to accept reference numbers or email confirmations – sorry!”

Audi’s experience is designed to work around people and business process and is enhanced, made simple and de-risked using technology. Virgin East Coast have created front-end applications and technologies that are not properly aligned with people and process. 

Like I said, the use cases are different but there is a lot that Virgin East Coast can learn and apply from my experience with Audi.

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