One of the problems with having a career focussed on improving people’s experiences is that you can’t go through a day without analysing life as a customer. I feel genuinely sorry for my friends & family, having to put up with me constantly commentating on train announcements, supermarket queues, and the layout of new mobile apps. I excitedly tell them what I think is good and where things could be better, all the while slowly ruining my conversation companion’s customer experience by talking incessantly about they customer experience they are currently experiencing.

This week was one of those weeks. Three companies, three shoddy experiences, and lessons to be learnt from each of them…

File illustration picture showing the logo of car-sharing service app Uber on a smartphone next to the picture of an official German taxi sign in Frankfurt, September 15, 2014. A Frankfurt court earlier this month instituted a temporary injunction against Uber from offering car-sharing services across Germany. San Francisco-based Uber, which allows users to summon taxi-like services on their smartphones, offers two main services, Uber, its classic low-cost, limousine pick-up service, and Uberpop, a newer ride-sharing service, which connects private drivers to passengers - an established practice in Germany that nonetheless operates in a legal grey area of rules governing commercial transportation.    REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/Files  (GERMANY - Tags: BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT CRIME LAW TRANSPORT)

Everyone loves Uber, right? Right? Well, maybe not Taxi drivers. Or, evidently, Parisians. Or commuters in London trying to get home during the tube strike yesterday (what a missed opportunity to build some long-term customer engagement…). And I think, after the last couple of weeks, I may be joining the list.

Uber wins because of simplicity and certainty. You swipe and click and within a minute a car is on it’s way to you, letting you know how long it’ll be, meaning you can stay in the pub rather than stand out in the rain trying to hail a traditional Black cab. It doesn’t always work like that though.

Taxi Drivers Protest New Internet Services

I was in Leeds this week, with 30 minutes to do a 15 minute journey. Uber estimated a 3 minute pick up. So I ordered, and that 3 minute estimate suddenly become a 7 minute pick up time. Annoying, but not a disaster. Until, 6 minutes in, the Uber decided to cancel on me… I ordered again, a 1 minute estimate – and a 5 minute reality. Confused? I was.

So I jumped in a normal taxi and got there with 30 seconds to spare.

Lesson: Manage expectations, and do what you say you’re going to do…


My favourite bad experience of the week was at a hotel in Edinburgh, where I was staying for one night.

Three of us turned up around 11pm, tired from a long day at work, a bit of hanging around in airports, and aware of the early start in the morning so wanting to get to bed. The receptionist was lovely, hugely welcoming and very friendly. She confirmed that breakfast wasn’t included, but that we were welcome to eat there, or use one of the local cafes. So far so good.

Then even better! It was our first time there as guests, so as a thank-you we were given a £10 gift card, that we could use for food or drink at anytime in the hotel during our stay. What a lovely thought. And much needed, given our shoddy breakfast planning. We started dreaming big.


‘Can we use this for breakfast?’

‘No – breakfast isn’t included in the offer’

‘Oh – can we use it for the minibar?’

‘No, we don’t have minibars’

‘Right – what can we use it for then?’


We’d essentially be given a £10 voucher to use on food, to be redeemed at ANY POINT between 11pm and 6am on a Thursday night. Which meant, in one of those beautifully bizarre psychological twists, that we were now more dis-satisfied than we would have been had the voucher never been offered…

Lesson: A good idea with bad execution can be worse than never having the idea at all


And finally, to Brewdog, the revolutionary beer-makers, challenging the status quo and delivering brilliant experiences on the way.

Or so I thought.

I was running a workshop yesterday, and we thought it would be a brilliant idea to forego the usually cold-sandwich-buffet-and-Blackberry-checking-lunch, and instead bundle the group into a Taxi and send them to Brewdog to learn about life as a disruptive company.

We tweeted Brewdog, to make sure they could deal with a slightly-bemused group descending around lunchtime. And then we phoned them, just to make sure that, even though they don’t take bookings, it would be alright on the night, so to speak. The plan was set.

Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 08.40.24

Lunchtime came, the group piled in to the taxis excitedly and headed of to their Brewdog experience. And they certainly had an experience. Walking in to a near-empty bar, they were told  that serving eight of them in a hour would be impossible due to the small kitchen size, and so they’d just have to go elsewhere. Sorry about that.

All was not lost though. The place across the road (OX184), which Brewdog recommended) was brilliant, and so the compare and contrast provided a great experience for the group to think about.

And their main lesson from this expedition?

2015-07-09 14.44.13

*Brewdog sent me a lovely email today explaining the situation from their side, and apologising for what’s happened. So they’re back in my good books, and still do amazing beer*


I really hope you enjoyed this article. If you did, I’d love you to subscribe to my blog at to get new thoughts sent to you on an infrequent basis, and find me on twitter @johnJsills.

Posted by johnJsills


  1. Awesome. Simply awesome.

    Charlie Curson +44 7989 982 757



    1. I’m counting the beers I owe you…


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