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What have ‘soggy bottoms’ got to do with great customer service?

Bake-off frenzy has gripped the nation. Viewing figures tell us that 13.5 million people watched the first episode of the series. Op-ed pieces are written about the programme in journals as varied as the New Statesman and GQ. And the news that the BBC has lost the contract for next year’s series to Channel 4 has made headlines from the red-tops to the broadsheets.

So what is it about cake-baking that makes it such a hit with UK audiences (and those in 20 countries, including France, Brazil, Australia, Ukraine, Denmark, India and Turkey)? More importantly, how on earth can I transition seamlessly from the most popular TV show in the UK to lessons about great customer service.

Bear with me reader……

Bake-off does not take itself too seriously – but it matters

Bake-off is about cakes. It’s not about world peace or global warming….it’s just cakes. But to the contestants, to the judges, to the viewers it couldn’t matter more. In the same way every exchange between a brand and its customers is repeated many times a day to the point where it can seem insignificant to those delivering it. But to each customer it matters. It’s a crucial point in their day, their week, sometimes their life; because the result of any transaction can be life-changing….or it can be completely run-of-the-mill. Not knowing whether it matters or not you have to assume it does and make it matter.

Bake-off is true to itself.

Bake-off conjures up an image that is quintessentially British. It wears effortlessly its trappings of bunting and garden fetes and ghastly puns, to the point where it just feels right. It’s an experience that’s completely comfortable in itself. It’s authentic.

And it’s an object lesson in how to create an experience that is true to its brand. We know when things feel right (as Bake-off does). And we know when things feel wrong. So when a brand that’s been around for decades tries to create customer experiences that are ‘down with the kids’ it sometimes feels uncomfortable, it lacks authenticity.

According to the Econsultancy/Adobe Quarterly Digital Intelligence Briefing (Jan 2016) optimising the customer experience is seen as the single most exciting opportunity for business in 2016. In many sectors CX has become the primary means of expression for the brand – in effect the number one marketing platform. Brands that depend on CX must create an experience that is differentiated but also that’s true to the brand story and customers’ perceptions of the brand. Virgin does this brilliantly across most of the industries it serves. As do John Lewis, First Direct, Boden and NFU Mutual.

Bake-off respects the wisdom of elders

I can’t think of many programmes on TV where an 81 year-old woman is such an integral part of its success. At a time when age (particularly for women) can be a threat to a career in media and entertainment Bake-off understands that experience counts. Grannies know how to bake.

Similarly age can be an attribute in developing a great customer experience. B&Q understand the value of age in a DIY context and actively recruit older shop workers – some past retirement age. McDonalds, J.D. Wetherspoon and Lloyds Banking group also seek out experienced recruits. (In the interests of full disclosure I should tell you that I picked up my Senior railcard last year so feel this point particularly strongly).

I fear if I go on much longer this blog will start to feel over-baked. As always, if you have any thoughts or comments you want to share please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Thomas Cowper Johnson

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