To grow your business, think not “What can I do for my company?” but “What can I do for my customers?”. In the age of the customer, the customer experience (CX) rules.

Remember the days when gauging customer experience meant asking people to fill in a survey to win a shopping voucher? In today’s digital world, CX has transformed - it is central to many companies’ ethos and directly affects the bottom line. 

Workspace hosted a Business Insight Breakfast at Fleet Street to show how businesses can become customer-centric, with tips from panellists at innovative brands on how to create a truly exceptional customer experience.

Read on to hear from our panel of experts:

Julian Tan Ph.D, Head of Growth & Esports at Formula 1 

Laurence Krieger, Chief Operating and Product Officer at Tide

George Robson, Product Owner at Revolut

Kirsty Macdonald, Head of Customer Experience at Bloom & Wild, based at Vox Studios

Martin Stahel, Sales Director at Zappar, based at Barley Mow Centre

What does the customer experience mean for you and your business’ brand? 

It varies from company to company, depending on its aims. For online letterbox florist Bloom & Wild, it means differentiating itself in a crowded market to deliver its brand promise of joy. Kirsty says, “We aim to do that systematically for every single customer and recipient [of flowers].” 

For fintech start-up Revolut, CX innovation is quite different. It means offering customers a breath of fresh air to traditional forms of banking by democratising access to banking services and information. George says, “We are focused heavily on big sectoral trends like the frustration in financial services around transparency, what you pay for services and barriers to entry like your wealth status. At Revolut, we ask is there an opportunity for us to do this better than elsewhere?”

This nuanced understanding of what CX innovation means for your business can fuel the bottom line. George explains, “At Revolut we also pay attention to “how” we can best deliver our product. We followed the huge success of companies like Amazon and Spotify and use a subscription model to democratise access to financial services.

This is validated by consumer trends, which show an under-served community and a business case for a subscription model. There are online companies that can help you build subscription-based businesses and handle the execution.”

To find out what your customers want, look at your business from the outside in. What does it look like from a customer’s perspective?

You can find out in just a few clicks by checking out reviews on sites like TrustPilot and Google Reviews; create a Slack channel and keep updating it with the latest customer feedback. Bloom & Wild puts all its new starters on its customer services desk in their first week, to embed the customer experience into their thinking.

When you think about CX, it's about re-framing the questions you typically ask. So rather than moving from the business outwards, which is so easy and natural to do, shift your focus to change from the outside in. What does your service look like from the outside?”

Kirsty Macdonald, Head of Customer Experience at Bloom & Wild

Business owners can bring their own perspective to what their customers need as well. Tide’s Chief Operating and Product Officer Laurence Krieger brought his own experience as a businessman to the business banking platform; it features its customers in its ads and gives them a chance to advertise their businesses for free.

He says, “Your company mission needs to be all about your customer. Our customers are members and we think about them, not ourselves.”

Listen to Tide’s Chief Operating and Product Officer Laurence Krieger explain how Tide figured out what businesses needed – to set up their business account quickly – and sold them a great customer experience

What can CEOs learn from customer-centric businesses?

Adapt to what the customer wants. Create different touchpoints that resonate with different audiences; for example, offer chat bots for web-savvy Millennial and Gen Z customers and a phone service for those that prefer to talk to a human.

Get comfortable with a “test and learn” approach, recommends Julian. He says, “Instead of rolling out a single digital strategy, try small customer innovation experiments to see what customers respond to best.” Bloom & Wild is best known in the UK for selling flowers that can fit through a letterbox - it’s a key selling point. When the company expanded into Germany, they discovered that whilst this signature format did not give the delivery advantage of the UK (many German residences have tiny letterboxes, if anything), a large proportion of customers still really engaged and found novelty value in the slim, self-arranging format.

To make customers feel as though their opinion counts, give them different ways to feed back on your business such as by email or through social media accounts, and respond to feedback quickly. Early-stage businesses can use this as a way to identify common “pain points” and fix them.

Listen to George Robson, Product Owner at Revolut, explain what business leaders can learn from its innovative approach to CX

Meanwhile, businesses can make workers accountable for whether customers have a good or a bad experience and be transparent about it. Laurence says, “Create different areas of your business that operate as individual businesses. We split ours into segments with VPs that have their own goals, P&Ls and are accountable for their touchpoints with their customers. If you are a VP on payments and it goes wrong, it’s your job to fix it.

The danger is that as you get bigger, you end up like the old school businesses you are trying to compete against. To stay focused, split your business into smaller businesses and keep people really focused on what they have to deliver to their customers.” 

Laurence Krieger, Chief Operating and Product Officer at Tide

For example, at Revolut George says that teams are empowered to focus on delivering great CX through the use of real-time customer feedback; aggregating data points from across Customer Support, Complaints and online forums like Trust Pilot.

How can you discover new audiences through innovative CX?

From zero marketing campaigns to a virtual championship with top racing teams like Ferrari, Julian shares the steps he took to bring F1 under the noses of Millenials, both on and off the race track.

“F1 jumped into the world of esports in August 2017. We had an ageing fan base; this was a clear lever to test and see how we could reach out to this new audience that we weren't speaking to. We did a three-month pilot and tested new formats to see if there was appetite from both existing and new F1 fans. We saw 80% of people participating in our digital competitions and watching broadcasts were below the age of 35. Only about 38% of traditional F1 fans are below 35. This was a very clear sign that this was an area we needed to invest in and explore. But how can you differentiate your products from what is out there in a saturated market?

In 2018, we got real F1 teams like Ferrari and Maclaren to participate in a virtual championship in the off-season to mirror what we do on the track. Now, 10 teams are on board and our viewership has grown – 5.5 million people watched F1 esports online last year. To deliver the best customer experience, we amalgamated the new world of esports with the traditional world of F1 so that we could serve new audiences but not alienate existing ones.”

How core is the digital experience to innovative customer experience?

For newer companies, digital has to be part of the package from day one. As Kirsty says, “For Bloom & Wild it was never totally separate. It was always built into everything we did. We have a physical product - flowers - but a core part of our customer experience is digital.”

Over at Formula 1, it’s a different story. Founded in the UK in 1950, it is now undergoing a root and branch restructuring following its 2017 acquisition by US-based Liberty Media. Until its new owners took over, F1 didn’t even have a marketing department, never mind a digital department. No money had ever been spent on a marketing campaign, says Julian.

He says, “Our CX is about the fan and how we can better serve the half a billion fans across the globe, from the petrolheads to those that dabble in the sport. We now create digital touchpoints, whether through digital products or esports, to help move casual fans to avid fans that go from subscribing to our consumer service to buying tickets to the Grand Prix.”

No matter which stage of growth your business is at – from emerging as a start-up to expanding into new products and markets – embracing innovation in CX can not only help shape your company’s future direction, but also grow your audience and boost profits. 

"The CX panel was really informative, and gave me some great examples of where CX has been a focus for other business. Left me with a 100 more questions and 10000 ideas - which is awesome!"

Han Szurek, CX Lead from Create and Adapt based at ScreenWorks in Islington

Further Reading & Listening

IDEO U Creative Confidence Podcast. Find out how business leaders inspire change through creativity. Kirsty says, “It’s about design, innovation and cultural change.”

How I Built This. National Public Radio’s Guy Raz investigates the stories behind the biggest companies. George says, “Founders take you through the journey of their business. It focuses heavily on the early stages, how they interacted with customers and what they learned from them.”

Prune the Product Tree. This blog uses the metaphor of gardeners pruning trees to keep them in shape as a way to help businesses understand how to give customers what they want. Laurence says, “It is a way to think about your product like the way tree is built, with the trunk, roots, canopy and branches.”

Crossing the Chasm. This book dives into how to market and sell high-tech products to Joe Bloggs. Julian says, “It’s about how digital disruptors scale up.”

Did you enjoy reading this piece?

Looking for inspiration for your next innovative campaign? Augmented Reality is a powerful way for brands to connect their physical touchpoints to digital and mobile experiences in a way that delivers value to the customer and the business alike. See how Workspace customer Zappar (based at The Barley Mow Centre) has used AR to drive digital marketing campaigns for companies like gin brand Bombay Sapphire and Chiquita Bananas.

Hear more great insights at our upcoming WBI dinner event, Sustainability & Business: A deep-dive into how business leaders can address the impact of climate change, on Tuesday 19th November from 6pm at Brickfields in Hoxton. Join our panel of experts for an evening of thought-provoking discussion about what business leaders can do in the face of climate change.