Winning Customer Experience Tools and Resources

...solve thorny business challenges in the time it takes to drink a cup of tea


Secure your business success – take your customer experience seriously...

Your customers can make or break your business.

Get something wrong, treat a customer badly, miss a delivery or deadline and in this social media world we live in, then the details are quickly out there, negative details about your business.

This can also work in reverse, do something well, deliver on time, treat your customers well, have a credible product or service then customers will share their story of their experience with your business. Positive details about your business.

This outcome is entirely down to you and the way your customers feel about your business.

Start by asking yourself this question:


"When did you and your team last review your customer experience?"

Isn’t it time you gave your customers some serious time and attention?

STOP thinking your customer experience will look after itself as you continue to do the busy day-to-day work needed in your business.

START investing team time and effort consciously improving your customer experience – block off diary time for team focus.

The one ‘BREAKTHROUGH QUESTION’ you must ask to help yourself…

We can all remember our good and bad experiences; how many times have you gone back to a business that has treated you badly? And how many times have you shared this story with others to ensure they don’t receive the same treatment?

Don’t let this be YOUR business – make your customers’ experience with your business a winning one.


"When did you and your team last review your customer experience?"

And to answer this question revisit the Business Breakthrough Report and put the tools and resources below to work for you.

The good, the bad and the ugly of customer experience

Here is a great story from a young customer who had a great customer experience.

Lily Robinson (aged 3 and ½) had observed that Sainsburys Tiger bread actually looked more like a giraffe than a tiger, so she wrote them a letter suggesting a name change to Giraffe bread.

She received a letter back, declaring that this was a brilliant idea, and that it was named a long time ago by someone who was perhaps a little silly!

Lily's letter said: "Why is tiger bread called tiger bread? It should be called giraffe bread. Love from Lily Robinson age 3 and 1/2".

Chris King from the Sainsbury's customer services team wrote back: "I think renaming tiger bread giraffe bread is a brilliant idea - it looks much more like the blotches on a giraffe than the stripes on a tiger, doesn't it?"

But he went on to explain how it had got its name: "It is called tiger bread because the first baker who made it a looong time ago thought it looked stripey like a tiger. Maybe they were a bit silly."

He included a £3 gift card and signed the letter "Chris King (age 27 & 1/3)". The exchange began trending on numerous social media platforms.

Sainsbury's changed the name of the bread and issued this statement:

"In response to overwhelming customer feedback that our tiger bread has more resemblance to a giraffe, from today we will be changing our tiger bread to giraffe bread and seeing how that goes," the supermarket said.

This response from Sainsburys is clearly an example of a great customer experience.

The loyalty of customers is fragile and this is a perfect example of how a little gesture can have a big impact.

It takes years to win a customer and only seconds to lose one.” Matt Watkinson – The Ten Principles

Behind Great Customer Experiences.

The importance of creating a winning experience for your customer resonates even more when you consider “Customers place up to twice as much importance on negative customer experiences than positives ones”.

Here is a link to the top 10 best customer experiences:

I think the ‘magic making’ one at Disney is my favourite. What is yours? And how can your business match these?

Sadly where there is good, there is bad and with bad comes ugly..

Here are where businesses got it wrong:

I think the airline lavatory one is perhaps the worst!

Customer scenarios and customer empathy

Get close to your customer – understand their higher goals as well as the functional task-related aspects of product use – here’s how Intuit use their ‘Follow Me Home’ process to get a clearer and comprehensive understanding of their customer goals, challenges and user issues:

Value differences... ANSWER THE KEY QUESTIONS

Customer value shows up on 3 levels, according to Matt Watkinson in his landmark, award-winning book on customer experience – we’ll explain each of the 3 levels below:

You build a world class customer experience when you tackle all 3 levels of value for each customer group.

Let’s have a go.

Jean Baudrillard, A French philosopher, explored the concepts of consumerism and value in detail, concluding that there are different sources of value for an object or service. Matt Watkinson in his book ‘The Ten Principles Behind Great Customer Experience’ summarises them brilliantly:

BRAND LEVEL – ‘Sign value’ is the value of the object in relation to other similar objects, and what it says about the owner in a social context or against their personal values and beliefs – a Mont Blanc pen signifies different values, status and taste compared with a Bic. 

  • Do all your customers want to say the same things about themselves?
  • What exactly is the message you want to be known for?
  • What are the different emotional payoffs your customers will value?
  • What does your business or product say about each of your customer groups?

PRODUCT/SERVICE LEVEL – ‘Exchange value’ is the economic or market value – a pig is worth two sheep, a pen is worth two pounds. This level of value is about how your product or service delivers on your customer objectives. 

  • Do all your customers have the same budget or willingness to pay?
  • What are these price points?
  • How can the price points differ to reflect different objectives?
  • How does your product or service help them achieve each customer groups objectives?

INTERACTION LEVEL – ‘Use value’ is the function or utility of an object – a pencil draws, a refrigerator cools.

  • Do your customer groups want a product that performs the same function?
  • What are the different functions for each group?
  • What are the different interaction payoffs your clients will value?

ACTION: With your team, use a piece of paper or flip chart and a pen to answer the questions above in blue and get clear on your customer groups (or customer profiles).

“You can’t infuse the experience with the right brand values if you don’t know what they are upfront, and you can’t evaluate whether features or functions are useful without relating them back to the customer’s higher objectives. But both these things – the brand promise and the higher objectives – are delivered through each and every interaction the customer has with the business. To create a great customer experience, we need to identify what these interactions are.”

Matt Watkinson – ‘The Ten Principles Behind Great Customer Experiences’

Emotional payoff matters most

Baudrillard argued that consumption is driven by the brand level sign value of the product or service – what it says about the consumer to herself and signals to others – and this determines the exchange value – what it’s worth. Fail to identify the emotional value for each customer group and you miss out on what matters most to your customers!

‘Emotions arise when something or someone either stops you from achieving or enables you to achieve your objective. The more you need to achieve your objective, the greater will be your emotional response either when you are blocked in your pursuit or when that pursuit is made easier.’

Matt Watkinson quoting Bella Merlin in his book – ‘The Ten Principles Behind Great Customer Experiences’

The more visible or obvious the signs of emotional value for your product and service, the better. Weird how most businesses focus on use and exchange value to build customer value and experience around, rather than emotional signals!

Get close to your customers... ACTIONS AND NEXT STEPS

Empathy and understanding about what matters in your customers’ lives (objectives/goals) can reshape the customer experience you want to create.

To help you do this Watkinson recommends that you use a 4-part framework of ‘mental reconnaissance’, to help you analyse and scrutinise the detail of your customers’ lives to inform and guide your customer experience.

1) SUPER-OBJECTIVES: A super-objective underpins a whole range of lower objectives. It is our highest-level goal. These span a whole range of specific objectives. Start by trying to think about what your customer’s super-objective might be. 

Watkinson shares another obvious but insightful example to help show the way:

“Brian and Jenny are on their honeymoon. Steve has a client meeting. James is attending a friend’s funeral. They are all flying economy class to San Francisco. Yet for all their similarity, the three have radically different higher objectives, and thinking about them could open up a world of opportunities for the airline.”

The real purpose of this exercise is to get you to think about your business in a new light and notice new opportunities.

“Amazon realised that while an objective of their customers might be to order a book, the super-objective was to read the contents, so they created the Kindle reader which did away with the physical book entirely, offering greater convenience and less cost”.

ACTION: What super-objective is at work with your customers?

2) SUBTEXT: The difference between what people say and what they mean – the underlying thoughts and feelings that are compelling their behaviour. 

Don’t treat subtext lightly. Like Watkinson says:

“The subtext is the most difficult thing to identify, and yet often is the most powerful driver of customer behaviour. Can you imagine a customer walking into a luxury car dealership and saying to the salesman, ‘I’m looking for a status symbol that will make me attractive to the opposite sex. Something that shows to everyone how wealthy and powerful I am’?”

You build empathy with your customer when you understand customer motives, shining a light on their unspoken and often unrecognised shadow issues (subtext) and relating all this back to a higher objective.

When you think about your customer subtext for only a few minutes, it can be enough to help you and your teamwork work out insights that profoundly improve your customer experience.

ACTION: What subtext is at play with your customers?

3) OBJECTIVES: The reason why your customer performs an activity or task using your product or service. These represent the success criteria for your customer’s use of your product or service.

Watkinson uses the airline example again to explain:

Yes, your customer wants to arrive in San Francisco at a certain date and time, but here are some other objectives that feed into that:

  • Decide when to go on my trip
  • Find the cheapest fare
  • Decide how to get to the airport
  • Pack appropriately for the length of my stay and the weather at my destination
  • Get to the airport on time
  • Check in my luggage, pass security

To help with the objective to pack appropriately – why not e-mail customers a weather forecast for their destination a few days before they go to influence their choice of clothing and improve the joy of their trip?

ACTION: This can be an unstructured and messy task. Just start anywhere and follow your nose. You’ll quickly find that more and more parts of the customer experience emerge that you had never considered before. Make sure you identify objectives that satisfy your customer’s super-objective.

IMPORTANT: In the real world a clash between customer objectives and your business objectives is inevitable at some point. On a simple level, you want a profit and the customer wants value for money – you need to strike a balance here.

To deal with this Watkinson suggests you build two lists: one of the customer objectives, the other of your business objectives. Identifying any conflict between objectives is the first step towards solving it.

ACTION: Look for obvious/easy conflicts between the two objectives – some, like the email to customers about the weather forecast to help guide packing, will be inexpensive and simple to set up.

4) STAKES: Every customer objective has a different level of importance – holiday flight vs funeral flight. 

The stakes and level of risk involved determine how intently customers feel about your business, and how their experience will be impacted.

“Satisfying the high-stakes objectives is the route to a great customer experience." Matt Watkinson - The Ten Principles Behind Great Customer Experiences’

ACTION: Be sure to give the high stakes, high emotion objectives your utmost attention (these are the ones that show up on twitter and Facebook). Deal with lower emotional stakes later.

The interaction stages and steps - get to the nitty gritty detail

Brand image is one thing.

Brand reality is another.

Brand reality ultimately determines your success as reflected in the experiences of your customers.

Matt Watkinson’s landmark and award-winning book drills into the detail of creating world class customer experiences but only after you’ve taken the higher-level issues into hand – it’s the higher-level value issues where the sustainable competitive advantage lies.

The Business Breakthrough report that accompanies these tools provides a brief overview of Watkinson’s valuable insights and guidance on the higher-level elements.

Here is Watkinson’s overview on getting to the nitty-gritty customer experience details – but we highly recommend you get his book to get the detail behind this overview and get all of Watkinson’s guidance on customer experience – your business results will truly benefit from this.

Think of your customer’s journey on the highest level first then work down.

For example, you might start with four simple stages that apply to most businesses:

  • Discovering the brand
  • Shopping
  • Using the product or service (commonly called ‘in-life service’)
  • After-sales support

You could then break down each of these smaller stages into smaller steps.

Let’s take Shopping.

  • Orientating yourself in the shop 
  • Browsing the products available 
  • Asking staff for help with finding a product 
  • Taking products to the check-out 
  • Checking out 
  • Taking the products to the car

IMPORTANT: It’s always useful to give stages and steps a unique reference number when you share them with colleagues, and for referring back for further experience improvements at a later time.

Now you can investigate each stage and step and determine whether your customers are having a miserable, neutral or magical experience at each stage and step. Then you can work out how to influence your customers’ experiences by improving the moments of truth (interactions) that truly matter to each customer in each scenario.

See below - adapted from - The Ten Principles Behind Great Customer Experiences by Matt Watkinson.

‘When we look at the smallest steps involved in a customer journey, we find that the number of things that affect a customer’s decision-making can grow.

‘Consider a supermarket – these might include: whether the customer has a loyalty card, whether they are paying by cash or credit or debit card, whether they are using a basket or a trolley. Each of these is a significant factor in the design of the customer journey.

‘A customer who is using a wheelchair may need help getting items from high shelves or might need a specially designed trolley, and yet these factors will not usually be picked up at the higher levels of profiling – the identity or objective level – even though they are very important.

‘What we need to do is generate a complete list of significant factors that apply to the stage, then group them into combinations.

‘Start by generating the largest list possible of factors

  • Are they an existing customer or a new customer?
  • Have they registered for an online service or not?
  • Is the customer logged in or not?
  • Are they doing these steps online or in a shop?
  • Are they in a particular location – at home, in the office, on a train platform?

This list of possible factors can grow very quickly, and you may find even more emerge as you apply other aspects of Watkinson’s models and frameworks.

Factors such as competence – is the customer a beginner, intermediate or expert? – can be of huge importance when designing an interaction. The point is to keep adding to the list and accept that you won’t know everything at the start.

Remember to keep in mind the relevant customer profile and customer scenario to ensure you remain relevant to the target customer experience and avoid alienating other customer profiles/groups.

The book and other resources

The Ten Principles Behind Great Customer Experiences

Matt Watkinson

Customers matter, they can make noise about you, good or bad, they decide the future of your business and their expectations are high. This book covers the ten principles you must use to ensure you improve your customers experience with your business. This book offers you the opportunity to create a great customer experience and give your business the edge over your competition.

Here’s what people are saying about this book:

"Many of the business manuals or books that cross our desk here at ‘The Entrepreneurs’ are dry, aspirational, self-help texts devoid of any intellectual spice. Some business themed books however buck the trend. Glance at its title and Matt Watkinson's business tome seems innocuous enough, "The Ten Principles Behind Great Customer Experiences." But crack open the spine, and the prose reveals a cerebral and often original approach to design, customer service and management. He references playwrights, directors and philosophers, and makes their theories applicable to the world of customer experiences."

Sophie Grove, Business Editor, Monocle

"Businesses and governments are obsessed with setting metrics. These are almost always numerical representations of some objective reality. And that's where the problem lies. First of all, because such metrics can almost always be gamed, but also because they often translate badly into subjective experience. Finally, here is a book which tackles this problem and has simple, practical principles for solving it. It is part of a whole movement in social science and marketing which leads me to believe - and indeed to hope - that the next revolution will be not technological but psychological."

Rory Sutherland, Vice-Chairman of Ogilvy UK & TED Speaker

Here is Matt Watkinson in 10 short videos explaining the principles behind his award-winning book -The Ten Principles Behind Great Customer Experiences. They are ALL well worth a watch!

Theses videos are a minute or 2 each and he gives some great examples of the importance of a great customer experience – the ‘Build a Bear example is genius! (Principle 9)

Principle 1 – Great customer experiences strongly reflect the customers identity.

Principle 2 – Great customer experiences satisfy our higher objectives.

Principle 3 – Great customer experiences leave nothing to chance.

Principle 4 – Great customer experiences set and meet our expectations.

Principle 5 – Great customer experiences are effortless.

Principle 6 – Great customer experiences are stress free.

Principle 7 – Great customer experiences indulge the senses.

Principle 8 – Great customer experiences are socially engaging.

Principle 9 – Great customer experiences put the customer in control.

Principle 10 – Great customer experiences consider the emotions.

And here is one last video – 2 minutes long where Matt Watkinson explains briefly all of the principles and their importance to a winning customer experience.


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