Interview with a master of chocolate- CEO Alister Haigh from Haigh’s Chocolates talks customers and service

In Customer Experience, Loyalty & CRM by Simon Crompton-Reid


Alister Haigh CEO and fourth generation of Haigh's Chocolates talks about customer engagement and the importance of customer service. Haigh's Chocolates is a South Australian based company and has over 300 employees and 13 retail stores. It prides itself on giving each and every customer the best in customer experience and service.

What would you say is the biggest challenge for present day businesses in engaging with their customers?

Mr Haigh: The biggest problem is keeping customers loyal. For engaging with customers, there are so many options available now with the internet. The thing is to keep offering them new reasons to engage with you. You can't have a stale website or the same advertisements. You always have to have updated websites, new advertising campaigns and such to keep customers engaged.

Do you think businesses spend enough time listening to what their customers want?

Mr Haigh: On the whole I don't think they have. Which is the reason Australia has a bad reputation in customer service. It does give my business an advantage as customer service is a focal point. Sometimes business gives a bit of lip service but it doesn't go much further, or businesses only listen when there is a customer complaint but don't really actively listen to their customer. However with social media it has become so much easier for businesses to start listening.

At Haigh's Chocolates what is your philosophy in regards to customers?

Mr Haigh: We want customers for life and the next generation of customers. We treat everyone with respect whether they are coming in for a $1.20 chocolate frog or a $100 box of chocolate. We give a world class experience.

What do you think are the most important aspects of a business to keep customers coming back?

Mr Haigh: Firstly, at least by providing their expected level of customer service but then if you can exceed that you will get your customers becoming ambassadors for your business.

Another thing for us is to always have something different in the shop, even on a weekly basis. Not in a way to frustrate the customer so they don't know where anything is, but even small aesthetic changes such as a display or even a taste test, something.

Do you think customers have changed their loyalty to brands in the last 5 years after the GFC?

Mr Haigh: Easy answer- yes. More complicated- depends on the age group. The older age group have stayed more loyal, probably because they are not as tec savvy as the younger generation. Also with the dollar overseas products are so much cheaper and people think they will purchase a cheaper version of a product that looks the same as what they would normally get and "give it a go" and see if it lives up to their expectation. Some industries are more affected than others.