Customer experience: lessons from the commercial world

the fundraiser image

Customer experience: lessons from the commercial world

Customer experience: lessons from the commercial world

Companies spend billions of pounds every year on customer experience initiatives to drive loyalty and satisfaction. What can fundraisers learn from the commercial world? Fundraising consultant Craig Linton investigates.


Last year I had the pleasure of visiting Disney World in Florida. It is an amazing place and everything is geared to keeping visitors happy. This keeps people in the parks longer, which in turn gets people spending more.


Perhaps the best example of how this works in practice is MyDisneyExperience. Most theme parks make money by charging extra to ‘Fast Track’ to the front of the queue. If you’ve ever visited Legoland or Alton Towers, it can be hugely frustrating trying to explain to the kids why dad can’t/won’t pay extra to jump the queue!


Disney gets rid of this friction by giving all visitors the right to three free reservations on rides a day (once you’ve used your three you can book additional Fast Track passes). This all fits in with two key Disney values: Everyone is equal in the park, and everyone is welcome.

This is the most visible way Disney tries to remove all friction in the customer experience in the park through technology. You can also pay in the shops, order lunch and get enhanced experiences simply by wearing a Disney Magic Band.


Creating this experience took more than $1bn and 1,000 people working in secrecy over five years to develop the technology. However, the basic model Disney uses to understand how to treat its customers is surprisingly simple and can be copied by fundraisers to improve their supporter experiences:


N – Needs – what are the basic things donors require?

W – Wants – how do you go beyond the basics to get people to want to give again?

S – Stereotypes – how do you overcome any negative impressions?

E - Emotions – how do you make donors feel good about giving?


The six pillars of customer experience excellence


Closer to home, KPMG Nunwood publishes an annual report on customer experience

excellence in the UK. In the 2016 awards, the top five companies were:


1: First Direct

2: John Lewis

3: Lush

4: Emirates

5: Amazon


So what do these companies do consistently? KPMG Nunwood has created a six pillars model to describe the fundamentals of a great customer experience:


Six pillars.jpg

Would any fundraising team improve by embedding these six pillars? Yes!


According to the 2016 report, one of the big trends in the commercial world is making memories:


“At the heart of customer experience thinking this year has been the desire to create experiences that live in the memory, either directly through the superior quality of the experience, or indirectly through association, as is evident amongst the leaders. For Lush it is about linking what they do to a memorable campaigning stance, for M&S Food it is the part they play in date nights, for Apple Store it is the cleverness of their geniuses and for Richer Sounds it is the passion and exceptional knowledge of their people.”


There are three crucial parts to creating memories: first impressions; emotional peaks; and last impressions. We spend a lot of time welcoming new donors, but do fundraisers put enough effort in creating further emotional peaks or creating a lasting impression by little touches of personalisation and surprise?


“Everything we do starts and ends with the customer”


If we take a closer look at the winner, First Direct, then its use of the telephone and training of staff in empathetic listening and customer service are areas of learning for fundraisers. Additionally, as Tracy Garrad, First Direct’s chief executive explains why the customer experience is so important to the company:


“Our customers’ experience is everything to first direct. Everything we do starts and ends with the customer. When we are talking about new products or systems changes it always comes back to the customer journey, what will the impact be on customers, and how can we make it better for customers? We are always making changes to the business to make sure we’re delivering what customers want and need.”


Garrad then gives an example of an improvement in the last year:


“We’ve also added greater digital functionality to our verification checks, launching Touch ID verification, and most recently, Voice ID – the first retail bank in the UK to make this the primary method of verification for customers on the phone. Using Touch ID and Voice ID to verify who you are instead of just using passwords means it’s never been more convenient or secure for customers to access their accounts.”


For those of us who hate being asked the same security questions repeatedly when we contact a company, this is a massive improvement in customer service!


But customer experience improvements don’t need to cost the earth. Another example from the report comes from Premier Inn. A customer reported how the York hotel put a Yorkie bar on the bed with a handwritten note wishing the guest a pleasant stay and offering assistance. As the customer explains: “A small but lovely touch that I mentioned to several people when I came home!”


Managing the entire customer journey


McKinsey is another company that has published several papers and pieces of research on customer experience. This summarises its findings:


“In our research and consulting on customer journeys, we’ve found that organizations able to skilfully manage the entire experience reap enormous rewards: enhanced customer satisfaction, reduced churn, increased revenue, and greater employee satisfaction. They also discover more-effective ways to collaborate across functions and levels, a process that delivers gains throughout the company.”


McKinsey has demonstrated that high customer experience scores correlates with profits. In Customer experience: Creating value through transforming customer journeys there are a series of reports on how to develop a culture and strategies to embed a strong customer experience in an organisation.


In one of the examples, McKinsey describes how an airport transformed their passengers’ experience. They began by setting a shared aspiration “to delight and value each guest with the finest airport experience in the world.”


After conducting extensive research on the existing service (not one area was scored highly by customers), the management team decided to focus on four core areas: safety, comfort, ease and speed.


They then used the four compasses model to improve essential experiences for passengers using the airport. This led to simple improvements such as better signage and more seating to more transformative changes, such as revamping the check-in area and reducing the time it took to get through security.


Perhaps most impressively, they boiled down the essence of great experience to five key points that all employees were expected to adhere to at all times:


1. Remain mindful of surroundings, and stop unsafe behaviour.

2. Pick up trash or report an area that needs attention.

3. Display appropriate body language and use a calm tone of voice.

4. Make eye contact and smile.

5. Stop and proactively offer to assist with the next step in the customer’s journey.


Simple, but effective and something we could replicate by asking all our staff what are the five things we must do to keep donors happy?


The end results of the customer experience changes were impressive. Staff were happier. Most importantly, customers were happier. Additionally, an unexpected by-product of the improved experience was a 15% increase in spend per passenger while in the airport.


The Disney four compasses model, the KPMG Nunwood six pillars and McKinsey’s customer experience case studies all provide useful guidance for fundraisers who want to improve the supporter experience.


There is no doubt that there is lots we can learn and adapt from businesses. By understanding our supporters’ needs, setting a supporter experience aspiration and using a framework for change, then there is no reason why any charity can’t deliver experiences that exceed anything in the corporate world.


Top tips for charities


* Be like Disney and try to remove all the friction from your donation process.

* Look for simple opportunities to create ‘emotional peaks’ for donors by surprising and delighting them.

* Evaluate your supporter care against KPMG Nunwood’s six pillars and develop a supporter experience improvement plan.

* Ask colleagues to share their best and worst customer service experiences with companies. What can you learn for your charity?

* Decide on a handful of simple supporter experience principles for your team that everyone can agree and adhere to.


Craig Linton is a fundraising consultant and researcher

Get the latest fundraising advice and insight

the fundraiser cover Sign me up