Customer First. Second. Third. And fourth.

When was the last time you were seriously blown away by the customer experience provided by a brand? This happened to me twice in one week, and no, it wasn’t by a tech company, hotel, or a sports shoe company. It came from the most unexpected of places. A government centre and a car park.

The government centre was Service NSW Miranda. It was a human, seamless, personalised, easy and incredibly friendly, human customer experience. Yes, I know what you’re thinking: In the past, renewing your driver’s licence was an awful experience. My recent experience though, blew me away.  And it was created by the government.  From the moment you walk in, the entire experience wasn’t about an expensive fit out or useless fancy technology. It was about human interaction and technology that added human value. I had a human concierge navigate my entire experience. It was a masterclass lesson in human-centred design. Everything about the centre was designed with the customer at the heart of the experience; it’s something you would expect at a 5-star hotel or Emirates first-class lounge.

To demonstrate my point, when at the Metropol Hotel just yesterday, the customer service experience across the board was of a significantly lower level than that of Service NSW. Firstly, best practice is for someone to be at the entrance to greet you; instead, they acted like security guards. The experience when you check in hasn’t moved on from the 80’s. It’s not personable, and surprisingly, very analogue. Even though I have stayed with the hotel previously, the computer records don’t show it and you must fill out paper work requesting the same personal information every time you stay.

The other brand experience was in the car park of a Westfield shopping centre at Miranda. Westfield shopping centres have become modern day living/social centres filled with amazing restaurants, cafes, cinemas, experiences and of course retail outlets covering a broad spectrum from luxury to getting your groceries. As to be expected, most retail brands invest the majority of their time and money in the main event; the shopping centre. However, a customer-first driven brand that has relentless consideration and strong empathy for the entire customer experience starts at the car park.

This is exactly what Westfield has done; using technology to completely transform what is normally a dull and frustrating car park experience (and a place brands normally don’t focus on because it’s not the sexy stuff). In my opinion, it is one of the most important. How you enter determines the mood you’ll be in. If a positive impact can be created in the car park, customers will mentally be ready to be in the shopping centre earlier, and as such, more open to experiences (including purchase). Through this process, the importance of decompression at retail is being elevated to the carpark. Imagine a car park that is ticketless and has overhead technology that guides you to find a car park space. No more leaning out of windows to collect tickets or driving around in circles for a car spot.  For me personally, that’s simply heaven!

Now, technology has been a source of inspiration for many brands to try and enhance the experience – it’s been the motivator for many brands to disrupt their categories – but technology is not the disruptor here. Westfield put the customer first and worked back from there.

If more brands focused on placing the customer at the heart of their businesses and only innovated on things that truly add value to customers, they would change the rules of the game. Simple yet powerful stuff.

Pete Bosilkovski is CEO of Y&R Australia and NZ.

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