Monday, June 10, 2013

Leveraging your customer experience

There are plenty of companies like Nunwood, using jargon to impress and doing just the opposite. Still, Nunwood is a particularly juicy example.

I found myself exposed to the company's incredible self-delusion in April, when I filled in a survey it had created for my gas and electric company. I looked at its website and found enough there for a whole blog post about meaningless, corporate jargon.

More recently, I looked at the company's Twitter feed. This was too good not to share.
Like an inept lover I want to leap straight to the best part, but I'll hold off for just a few seconds so I can prime you with Nunwood's Twitter description of itself. Bear in mind that this organisation presents itself as an expert in customer relations:
"Specialists in customer insight and experience management, working with the world's best brands to create outstanding experiences for millions of customers"
I know, and I'm sure you do too, that "customers" are not an amorphous morass of potential revenue to be commoditised. Customers are people. Also, any organisation with "customer insight" should know that customers (i.e. "people") don't talk or think like that. This fact seems to be strangely beyond the likes of Nunwood, so let's go in at the most basic level, using a hypothetical situation that nonetheless bears an uncanny resemblance to an evening I enjoyed recently.
2.30am: when McDonald's comes into its own

I went out in London for a friend's birthday last week. Despite her impressive coterie of nubile, single, female friends and a well-organised evening that ended at an all-night bar, I still found myself alone at Trafalgar Square waiting for a night bus at 2.30 am (this says more about me than I should probably reveal in a blog post). Now, anyone who has found themselves in this situation knows that the only obvious food outlet at that time of the morning is McDonald's next to Charing Cross station. (Incidentally McDonald's, unlike Waterstones book shop, has no problem maintaining its apostrophe.)

So, what am I looking for as I roll unsteadily into this emporium? I have no idea, but I know that I am not looking for an outstanding customer experience. I'm looking for some grub: something to keep me awake even after the denizens of the N47 night bus have stopped dribbling out their residual testosterone by picking fights with each other before baling out at Lewisham, Catford or Bromley. The staff, bless them, furnish me with whatever they've got ready while hiding their contempt for my drunken state. For that, I thank them.

The staff, underpaid and working at a horribly unsociable hour, instinctively understand me and give me what I want, without judgement. Even though I dislike McDonald's in theory and on principle, I'll certainly be back, only drunker next time, if such a thing is possible.

McDonald's and its staff understand their customers. Nunwood, on the other hand, has its corporate head full of clichéd phrases of 'customer service' twaddle. So it offers you drivel like this:

Do you want anyone to "deliver an overall customer service experience" to you? Do you want your customer experience to be managed? I don't. I want to be served. As a customer. By a person. 

Try saying this sentence out loud, imagining you're talking to someone who is serving you:
"Please deliver to me an outstanding overall customer experience"
You'd feel like a fool, of course. So why do organisations use these terms to describe your contact with them? How can you serve customers properly if you aren't even speaking the same language they do?
This is how pompous language distorts thinking. By abandoning normal English for corporate cliché, Nunwood has fallen into the trap of advising its clients to 'deliver customer service' instead of serving customers. Customer service is not a commodity that can be put into a box and delivered to your door. Such thinking divorces the company from its customer instead of bringing them closer. It's hard to find a clearer sign of an organisation that has its head up its own corporate backside.

Moral: If you talk to people in their own language, they will understand you. I'm baffled why this even needs stating.


  1. I agree with you about 95%. The language these guys are using is painfully, showily corporate - the kind of thing that unfailingly repels me.

    But the caveat is that Nunwood's customers are not ordinary people in hungry-burger mode. Its customers are marketing departments. And the language they speak, at least when they're in work mode, is much more like this.

    That said, from what else you've shown us of Nunwood's work, and from what I know of marketing people, I suspect it's still laying it on too heavily to be effective even on its own terms.

  2. I wish it was true ! Speaking to people their own language isn't enough to be understood, unfortunately ! People have at first to be willing to understand, and then the language become secondary at all...