Ask just about anyone which industry does client service best and you’ll hear the same answer again and again.
The airlines. That’s because (beyond economy class, at least), they’ve turned the business of travel into an art form, making the journey from home, to check-in, to the club lounge - to the flight itself - as smooth and enjoyable as it possibly can be.
And considering that air travel’s basic offering (once you peel away all the layers of extras) consists of negotiating a range of barriers - check-in, bag drop, security, customs - waiting in a hangar and then sitting for hours with hundreds of others in a metal tube hurtling through the air 10,000 metres above the ground, that’s quite an achievement.
And there are some key lessons other industries can learn from the way airline companies’ approach how they treat their customers.
Which is why when PwC conducted extensive client experience research - a years-long process that has culminated in the creation of our new offices in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne - the airline industry was one of a range of places we looked to for inspiration.
“It was all about making sure that we design something that supports the variety and diversity of the clients that we have by looking outside of our industry to create a new benchmark in experience,” says New Ways of Working Partner Debra Eckersley about a process run in parallel with, and cross-fertilised by, a cultural transformation program.
The aims of both are one: to put our clients at the heart of our offering.
“It’s much, much more than a lift and shift,” says CEO Luke Sayers, “It’s about mindset and behaviours in a dynamic new space.”
“The mindset we must have as leaders across the firm, and for all our people is that this is a cultural, values-based, behavioural-led change with our clients. And the client experience is right at the middle of what we’re aspiring to do.”
To ensure the client experience was based on facts and not assumptions, the research process leading up to the change has taken in observational research and organisational visits (in Australia and overseas).
There were in-depth interviews with clients, floor usage and room style data assessments, and research was conducted into the best that retail, tech, hotel and hospitality had to offer.
It’s much, much more than a lift and shift. It’s about mindset and behaviours in a dynamic new space.
“We researched obvious places like Google and Facebook and spent time to understand the space and how they work people through the space,” says Schmid. "Then we looked at many other organisations such as telecommunications stores, boutique hotels, restaurants and a range of airlines."
PwC looked at how a client’s journey through a space could be made as seamless and as rewarding as possible - from pre-meeting, arrival, to the welcome, to the meeting itself, and then departure and post-meeting.
What ultimately resulted was a client experience-led brief for interior designers Futurespace, with a commitment to creating a welcoming, barrier-free environment at its heart.
What was also clear from the brief was that technology would need to play a pivotal role, allowing clients, as Hilda Clune, PwC’s CIO and technology leader, explains, to “suddenly and physically have no barriers that you need to walk through.”
Previously, like with so many corporate towers, a security pass/glass screen arrangement on the ground floor negated creating any sense of openness and transparency as a first impression. It's light-years from our new approach. “We were quite deliberate in making sure we weren’t creating unnecessary challenges in accessing our offices,” Clune says.
“The experience of the technology has been very, very important in its construction and its delivery.”
It was crucial that this technology be “simple and accessible,” she adds. “Simplicity is important for people to be able to navigate and to get the most out of the technology.”
From 2017, PwC Open, a custom app, will be used by both clients and PwC people, and alert PwC hosts that their client has arrived in the building. The app helps clients explore, find and connect to insights, ideas, people and events. The app will also guide clients to the appropriate floor and allow them to register themselves if they so choose.
Clients keen on a more personal touch will be able to be guided to their meeting space by either their PwC host or the welcome crew.
There’s nothing “gimmicky” in the approach, Clune says. “In order for us to truly differentiate the technology, it needed to be embedded as part of the journey and to be thought of as a part of the experience,” she says. “The technology is probably one of the most complex parts of the program because it’s embedded in the core building. It’s embedded in the way we work and it’s embedded in the way we work with clients.”
Find out more about the technology powering the new spaces, and how it is being harnessed by new work practices.
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