Digital transformation

v Customer Experience

Is ‘digital transformation’ getting in the way of designing and executing great customer experience?

Let me share two anecdotes with you…


A month ago, I plonked my derriere on to the skimpy (and rather stained) ‘padding’ of one of GWR’s new trains. I asked the passing train manager to point me in the direction of the buffet, to which he replied “Well Sir, it’s an at seat service. Possibly. You see, these trains are ten carriages, made up from two sets of five. We’ve not got enough staff, so the trolley may be on the other half.”

Anyway, it would seem the trolley was in my carriage but as I raised my hand to get served, I was met with “I can’t serve you Sir, we’re short staffed so I can only serve 1st class.” Or, as I heard it ‘You second class scum.’

GWR have bought hi-tech trains, Wi-Fi, websites – and an expensive ‘Adventures start here’ campaign. But they've forgotten the basics. A cup of tea and a comfortable seat isn’t much to ask from a train company. The result? Google ‘GWR Famous Five’ and look at the images.

Wyevale Garden Centres

There’s a lot to admire about Wyevale. Their MD - ex Toys R Us - has got ecommerce working (not easy with plants) and there’s a plethora of short ‘how to’ videos. Their cakes also go down well too. But, as a gardener, I’d rather spend my money elsewhere. Why? I go to a garden centre to get advice and buy stuff to make my garden look good. Plants can be complicated, and Wyevale simply don’t deliver these basics in the way that others do. Which is surely part of the reason they’re currently up for sale having recorded a £122m loss in 2016.

In contrast, Hillier Nurseries grew profits and turnover in 2017. They don’t do ecommerce (yet) and the website is fairly brochure. But one visit to Hillier is enough to know ‘these people will make my garden look good, long term’. How? Their layout demonstrates customer experience-focused expertise. Plants for shade. Plants for sun. Plants for dry spaces. Plants for acid soils. Plants for small gardens. Still stuck? Then ask our of their friendly on-site gardeners. Low tech, simple. Effective.

Don’t get me wrong, Hiller know that there are many things tech that will, in time, further improve their CX. But they haven’t lost sight of what their customers want. They are horticulturists who help people to enjoy their gardens.

So, should we call time on Digital Transformation? Absolutely not. But tech is simply a component part of delivering the whole of what your customers want. For some it will be the critical part. For others, less so. But, until experiences are mapped, don’t spend. Or your customers may desert you while you cry into your tea (assuming you’re not on a GWR train).

P.s on the point of trains - here's a current list of the most disrupted stations in the UK - in at no:5 Bristol Temple Meads with 58% of trains either late or cancelled: 

Post by

Alan Thorpe