5 Lessons in Simple Customer Experience (Indonesian Style)


A new report puts Amazon, McDonald’s and First Direct as the leaders in the top ten of the UK’s ‘simplest’ brands. The companies that are the easiest to deal with.

Whatever you think of them most of us could learn from their “frictionless” customer service. It’s interesting to ponder how sectors might be transformed if we had Amazon Health , McDonald’s Housing and First Direct Care.

“Our survey reveals that both in the UK and on a global scale, consumers would pay more for simplicity” says the report.

There is a huge irony here in a week when three of the brands in the bottom ten , Npower , British Gas and SSE, have announced huge price increases. Simply put – we are being asked to pay more for the companies we value the least.

I’ve been out of the UK recently and it’s led me to ponder how – as customer experience seems to get more complex –  it gets easier in places like Indonesia. Now the worlds fourth most populous country and packed full of newly aspirant Generation Y , Indonesia is tech savvy and connected. The number one consumer purchase is the smartphone. It’s a country unencumbered by bureaucracy, rules and rigid infrastructure.

No-one tells you that’s not the way to do it.

Here are 5 examples I saw that remove the friction from customer service:

You know that moment when the plane hits the runway and everyone takes their phones out only to be told you can’t use them? Annoying right? Well Qatar Airways  say it’s OK – you are free to use your phones. Texting your parents to say you’ve arrived isn’t going to kill anyone.  Which is why it’s great to see that British Airways is the first European carrier to end this outdated “rule”. Don’t create rules for your customer that are meaningless. Or at least revisit your rules often to check they are still relevant.

At Circle K and the convenience stores that are on every corner – WiFi is freely available. Benches are put up to encourage locals to park their mopeds , buy a coke and sit chatting and browsing online. These community hubs – dotted all over the place , bring the internet to everyone. If all the supermarkets in the UK did the same – we’d have a better connected society. And people would spend more in stores. Simple.

The Pop-Up Bar
The Pop-Up Bar

One of best things about South East Asia is that everyone seems to be an entrepreneur. It’s hardly ever “not my job”. A lovely example of this are the Pop-Up Bars on many of the beaches. Take one cool box, an umbrella and a couple of chairs , and hey , you’re a bar owner. On hearing that he didn’t stock what we wanted,  the “owner” left us for 10 minutes while he popped out to stock up – specifically for us. As a counterpoint – two nights after I got back to the UK I was in a bar where I heard the waitress tell a customer that they had “run out of chips”. The customer asked whether she could go to a local supermarket (literally next door) and buy some potatoes. The waitress replied that company policy said they couldn’t buy potatoes from another supplier.

On arriving at Komeneka – everyone seems to know your name. Even the gardeners greeted us as “Mr Paul and Miss Karen” as if they’d known us forever. We only stayed a short time but in 72 hours Komeneka had built a deep and meaningful customer relationship that most businesses couldn’t build , or rather couldn’t be bothered to build, over a lifetime. The Manager also told me about his unique service vision “We compete on experience. We try to be unique. Our food and wine doesn’t come with the usual hotel surcharge – we want you to stay here so you have a better experience”.

Screen Shot 2013-10-25 at 07.42.41

Arriving at another hotel I apologised for being so early and said we’d wait around whilst the room was prepared. “It’s OK” they said “The boat company you used told us what time you were getting here – so we got ready early”. Despite the fact I’d used a fairly budget boat transfer they had noted where I was staying and had forwarded on my arrival time. To make it easier for me. How many times does your organisation make your customers day a little bit easier – not because there’s anything in it for you – but just because you can?

The lessons here?

  • Don’t create false rules – check them for relevance
  • Give your customers something free – or something that “feels like free”
  • Go out of your way to personalise – people remember you for it
  • Build deep and lasting relationships – even if the experience is brief
  • Make your customers day a bit easier – just because you can

It’s not complicated. Let’s get simple.

Screen Shot 2013-10-25 at 07.41.34


5 thoughts on “5 Lessons in Simple Customer Experience (Indonesian Style)

  1. Aaah, Circle K! I miss the overly sweet sugary drinks! Great blog – love your point about revisiting rules, I don’t think I do that enough. Having worked in the same organisation for 8 years before this job, it was the people who were moving in to the organisation who questioned things, as opposed to doing it myself. Definitely something for me to think more about in the future.

    Hope Indonesia was great!

    – Dyfrig

  2. Thanks Dyfrig – we all develop rituals and rules that become normalised over time and unquestioned. I think that’s why we all need to develop deeper listening to the customer experience. Just like we tend to do when in a foreign or unusual place.

    It was an awesome trip as well – thanks!

  3. Such an interesting insight, yes those are some good examples of how good customer experience sometimes born out almost naturally. Most of those qualities would also less noticed by locals like me as it would be regarded as something normal :). Thanks for lending your perspective.

  4. Great post. I understand “old” businesses doing customer service badly “because it’s always been done that way”. But I see in the start-up space advisor-after-advisor tear businesses apart as they’ll “never scale”. There’s an obsession with scale – every social network has to be a new Facebook, every service company has to be a new Uber. And I think this is an issue, as it inevitably leads to the removal of all human interaction from day one, and every process being completely automated (and how much do we love services where we can’t speak to anyone to get our problems solved?!). Perhaps anyone trying to disrupt a sector should look at what the incumbents removed from their service to scale it – and see if there’s a way (using today’s tech) to add it back. Chances are the incumbents haven’t asked themselves in a while “remind me, why do we do it this way?”.

  5. Thanks Stu – It’s a really interesting point about the obsession with scale. We are working on a few things at the moment and the (admittedly very early) indications are that they solve some social problems but probably aren’t very scaleable. Does that make them a waste of time?

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