An intern´s thoughts on Buljan & Partners´ culture

By Maite Eraña Salmeron

We could call it a stroke of luck, really. The placement process was rather ambiguous, which is why I still can´t believe how well this position suits me. I am a recent graduate from Boston University School of Hospitality Administration and I came to Madrid to complete a study abroad program that includes an internship and coursework components. You can already tell I have had a positive experience, but the real question I hope to answer with this blog post is the following:

How is the commitment to customer experience expressed within the walls of this leading consulting firm?

I should start by explaining more thoroughly why I find my position here so valuable. In my opinion, to be an intern means you learn to actively develop any company´s most valued competitive advantage: employee commitment. As an intern you often ask yourself nervously, “Will I be doing something meaningful? Do I have enough experience to be here?” And while it´s absolutely true that you want to quickly get adjusted to doing your job effectively, I would not underestimate the opportunity to embrace the ambiguity and take in how the company makes a difference in the lives of its employees. This time is crucial because the newness can help you be objective and honest about your expectations and your employer´s expectations. In this competitive business environment, employee commitment is not only the result of the appropriate strategies and support systems, but that of each employee internalizing how he/she can encourage intentional care of all stakeholders. As I reflect on my internship experience, I keep in mind a question I like to share with my employer:

How will you help me be a better version of myself today?

As an intern the most crucial thing I can do is to make a habit to always be learning, because this is how I challenge my employer to think differently, to embrace change, and to want to invest in me as much as I want to invest in them so that we may both be successful.

So how does Buljan & Partners respond to this? I think the most impressive way they address customer experience is through their commitment to empower others. The Madrid team has a culture dedicated to raising the standards within the individuals who work here so that the firm can be innovative and adept to the opportunities that come with change and diversity. Their expertise in customer experience recommendations is in fact an initiative they first live by example within the office. We could talk about all the details that help them be so successful, but I would like to focus on a few ways in which they have impacted me the most, and through which they have addressed my previous perspective on being an intern.

Since the minute I got here, I have been considered a valuable team member. My main responsibility is to support the team of consultants with their projects, which involves a variety of tasks including developing offers, creating presentations, translating documents, etc. They have made me feel proud of the experience I have, and they have given me an opportunity to apply such knowledge. There´s a great balance where I am encouraged to share my insights, as well as to receive guidance to apply them to the established frameworks.

The team wants to collaborate with me and they express that often. This is not just encouraging, but it allows me to connect with each team member more personally. As a result when it comes to networking, the relationships I am learning to build here take on a whole new level of depth. The relationship is valued for more than what each party can provide; it is based on bringing the best out of people and seeking through collaboration to make a difference that is tangible and influential in our businesses.

There is also an emphasis to communicate honestly and often.

More than one person a day will check in with me to ask how I am handling the workload, to offer me an opportunity to collaborate, as well as to get to know me. I find such awareness for a team member the first of many intentional ways to foster trust and loyalty. Buljan & Partners also offers great flexibility to express our ideas, which promotes our personal responsibility to lead and keep each other accountable. These efforts may seem simple, but their effects are lasting and is what I will remember most as I continue to develop professionally.

In conclusion, my experience at Buljan & Partners has been one of profound impact.

I can confidently say that what they do every day for their clients only scratches the surface in comparison to the dedication to customer experience they foster at the core. They take seriously how to invest in their own employees so that they may grow as people. Customer experience is an attitude; one of servant leadership that must be lived fully in order to make a difference, and one that I am grateful to experience so passionately while working abroad.

customer engagement

Artificial Intelligence and Customer Engagement

When I was asked about my takeaways from CRM Evolution by the audio-visual team at the event in Washington D.C. last week, I didn´t doubt for a second: The theme of the moment clearly is the rise of AI (artificial intelligence) in CRM, CX and Customer Engagement. All the sessions I attended, both key-note as well as break-out, had one or more mentioning of AI in it. Some of the sessions, were about AI full stop.

At CRM Evolution I had the pleasure and honor to be one of the break-out session speakers. And my theme being about Organizational Alignment toward Customer Engagement, I did not mention the word technology at all, let alone talk about AI. But, in hindsight, I should have dedicated it some time, because the impact of AI on organizational alignment is huge. And because I didn´t talk about it then, I´ll do it now.

Artificial Intelligence is on the rise, an unstoppable, unthinkably impacting and very useful to engage with customers and employees if used wisely. But it implies a mindset change. If through AI the customer experience can be more seamless, we should be embracing it. Repetitive tasks and questions can be dealt with much better and quicker using AI technology than done by humans, this means work becomes more fun, customers and better experiences and companies would get an ROI and reduce operating costs.

Thinking about what it would mean for me as a customer, I realize that in many occasions AI would certainly save me some angry tweets every now and then. I would no longer have to shout, “I want to talk to a human being” to the Vodafone IVR, for example. And, as I learnt on the CRM Evolution conference, AI is continuously developing more intelligence: AI is learning. It is evolving in such a way that the bots, robots etc. keep on learning, are even taught emotions, to show empathy even. The secret behind that all is the intelligent use of data of course.

Let´s go back to Organizational Alignment toward Customer Engagement. With AI, we´ll have to take care of another type of internal customer. You select and hire (acquire) it, it has it needs introduction (programming), it has educational needs, it comes with an operating cost, it delivers results, it has performance reviews, and it needs maintenance. Somebody or some department needs to take ownership. It learns through interaction, it usually has a name and a role profile, so it has an employee journey.

Should it be rewarded too? To what extend does it need motivation, and can it help motivate human talent? Can it have a role in taking the Customer Engagement strategy and vision forward? Can it help to making a Customer Centric Organization sustainable? Treating AI as another group of talent within the organization, would be exciting. It´s challenging, but around the corner.

However, I have a deeper and more fundamental worry when it comes to AI. My guess is that while AI takes care of the repetitive “chores” and customer interactions, not all employees are able to take on a more intelligently demanding role. Even if they would like to do a more complex role when bots take over their tasks, would they, with all the training and motivation we can think of, really be able to take on other tasks? And if indeed AI keeps on learning and improving, where will it end? To me, it´s all a bit too “Black Mirror-ish”, and its scares me a bit.

Imagine there were hardly any average or bad customer experiences because of AI. Imagine everything goes smoothly. Wouldn´t live be a bit boring? What would we talk about during the coffee break if it wasn´t for our bad customer experiences? Would AI come up to my room in the Marriot from the front-desk to tell me with a smile how my coffee-machine works? Would AI glow with pride because it tells me it made a great decision, and would this make me go all emotional? ¿Would AI tell me all about his home country Ethiopia while driving me to the airport?

These are some of the questions on AI that did not get attention in CRM Evolution, and I am, as you can read, left with a lot of questions. I would love to have a debate about this. Please feel free to join the discussion!

recomendaciones aerolineas

My top 10 Recommendations to Implement in Airlines


I would like to share with you some actions that, in my opinion, could be implemented in airline companies and that do not involve great costs, are easy to implement and aim to improve the customer experience:

1. Bereavement fare:

in the event of a family death and given that the tickets bought the day before are really expensive. In this possible contingency, passengers should have the option of a tariff adapted to their situation, not implying a great cost. This would show a great interest in the customers and their circumstances. The company could request written proof, and it would be a tariff similar to the “large family” one.

2. What if you are flying the day of your birthday?

If the company detects that you are flying the day of your birthday, wouldn’t it be a good idea to offer you to travel in business class or to receive an extra drink? The crew could also sing happy birthday to you! (It is not necessary that they look like Friday’s waiters) Airline companies collect a lot of information from us, so they could take advantage of that to offer a greater experience for the user.

3. Bottle of water for loyal clients.

First, considering that Cabify provides a bottle of water to each customer for a few euros, an airline could think about providing the same service to every customer with a loyalty account. In my perspective, this could be a good idea to attract new customers, apart from satisfying the current ones.

4. Eliminate unnecessary procedures.

Does the duty-free make any sense? Almost no one buys there. Additionally, I received a survey to complete each time that I fly, being a frequent flyer. Finally, don’t you find senseless that the business passengers get on the plane before a queue of 150 people? Tell me that I am not the only one.

5. Including new procedures.

For example, on a connecting flight that is delayed, the company could facilitate the plane change picking up the passengers in the runway and taking them to the other plane, although the suitcase arrives the day after (good idea in Lufthansa). The crew assistance is also susceptible to be improved when passengers get out of the plane, we usually see that the contact with the members of the crew is restricted to the flying hours. In KLM I could see two members of the crew getting out of the plane and guiding the passengers on their way to the suitcase collecting area or to the airport’s exit.

6. Improving the food service:

  • The food metal trolleys are usually full of blows, they could have a brand-customized cover to add a classy style to the service.
  • In general, food is delivered in a quick way, the service should be provided more calmly, it usually looks like a marathon. In Qatar Airways the service is excellent, I was really surprised with their food delivery.
  • The coffee is delivered right after the food. A second round of drinks (mainly bottles of water) would be appropriate given that the passengers are normally thirsty afterwards.
  • Wouldn’t it be a good idea to reach an agreement with Nespresso or Costa for the coffee?
  • In long-haul flights, if you are in the last row you get the food that is left.
  • The bread is usually not likely to be eaten.

7. Cleaner toilets:

When I am on a plane, I have the feeling that toilets are not completely cleaned, usually there is toilet paper or liquids on the floor. A more frequent review process should be implemented by the crew, although I feel that this is not their job or that they lack proactivity.

 8. Children reserved zone:

At the end of the plane, children altogether, in seats close to the toilets to avoid disturbing the rest of the passengers. As far as I know, just one company has carried out this strategy.

9. Platform to get to know the crew:

To increase the interest of the passengers for the company before the flight. It can be a reason to get a better connexion with the crew and to facilitate the interaction during the flight.

10. Make communications more attractive and practical:  

We receive emails based on offers, but nothing on experiences or on the best price on the dates to travel. I get offers all the time and I don’t think that everyone is traveling every weekend to Porto, Paris, London…

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