The good, the bad and the ugly

7 Dec

Slide1

Customer experience is hot right now – there are plenty of great reports and facts and figures out there that help sell the story. Some are more powerful than others, some are plain worrying and some continue to highlight the deep void between the corporate view of the world and customers’ view. Here then is a roundup of some of my favourite numbers, pulled from a wide range of sources and commentators, the good the bad and the ugly. So, do the maths, and work out for yourselves where the real issues lie.

The good news is largely about what organisations say about themselves and their ambitions and plans. The bad and the downright ugly truths are much less about talking the talk, and much more about walking it too. And, as always, when you get down to the ugly truth, it’s all about the culture in the business. After all, every business that has customers is really in the people business.

 

THE GOOD

  • 97% of global executives say that customer experience is critical to their success (1)
  • 90% of executives claim that customer experience management is a top corporate priority (2)
  • 85% of customers state that they are willing to pay up to 25% more for a superior customer experience (3)
  • 81% of senior managers believe that gaining an understanding from the customer viewpoint is very likely to lead to ROI (4)
  • 59% of large global organisations have an ambition to provide the best customer experience in their industry (5)

THE BAD

  • 79% of those who complained about poor customer service online had their complaints ignored (6)
  • 61% of customers agree that ‘different people approach the handling of issues when something goes wrong differently’. Clearly, inconsistency in treatment is always going to be unsettling. (7)
  • While 80% of big companies described themselves as delivering “superior” service, only 8% of customers say they’ve experienced “superior” service from these same companies. It’s a similar story in banking: while 78% of executives say their customer experience has improved over the last year, only 28% of their customers agree (8)

THE UGLY

  • 96% of executives say that some culture change is needed in their organisation (9)
  • Only 31% of employees are truly ‘engaged’ with their organisations, across Europe (10)
  • 30% of managers are coping with 6 or more strategic initiatives at any one time (11)
  • Only 18% of consumers globally believe that business leaders tell the truth (12)
  • Only 8% of companies can confidently declare that they have been successful in changing their culture as a result of customer feedback (13)
  • Only 5% of companies actually bother to tell their customers what they have done with the customer feedback they collect  (14)
  • Only 4% of customers actually bother to feedback and complain to the company – the other 96% don’t bother. (15)
  • Only 4% of global companies are judged to be delivering excellent customer experiences (16)
  • A mere 2% of customers feel that their expectations are always met (17)

SOURCES:

  1. Oracle
  2. Forrester, 2013
  3. Right Now, 2010
  4. Institute of Customer Service, 2011
  5. Temkin, 2012
  6. Kissmetrics, 2013
  7. Beyond Philosophy 2010, CX Trend Tracker
  8. The New Yorker, Bain Consulting and People Metrics
  9. Booz and Co 2013
  10. Blessing White, 2013
  11. Simplicity Consulting, 2011
  12. Edelman Trust Barometer, 2013
  13. Syngro, Seven global challenges 2012
  14. Gartner
  15. Helpscout, 2012, quoting Understanding Customers by Ruby Newell-Legner
  16. Temkin, 2012
  17. Oracle – 2012, the Era of Impatience

Nine ways for organisations to kill great ideas

25 Oct

Slide11. Normalise it: by turning it into yet another project, to be assessed and prioritised alongside 100 other projects. Yes, a structured discipline around making things happen is important, but great ideas are vulnerable when born, they can all too easily lose their essence and excitement when translated into the normative language and management behaviours of the organisation.

2. De-personalise it: in other words, lose sight of the customer it is trying to help, by literally sucking the life out of it and turning it into numbers, projections, and assumptions. Numbers are important too, but it’s far too easy to create distance between ourselves and the customer. The end result? We only talk about customers as targets and segments, and how to extract value from them. 

3. Patronise it: “you’re not from round here, are you? Let me tell you, we tried this before and it didn’t work…” And, the bigger the company, the more likely it is to also secretly believe it’s too big to fail, and why meddle with a formula that’s served us well so far?

4. Reduce it: by de-risking it. Failure is not an option, really, and besides the idea is competing with many others that have traded risk off by reducing scope and ambition. So, this becomes the game to play, but beware the implications for your idea by de-risking it.

5. Grow it: have you noticed how everyone wants to embrace a good idea, and add their own twist, and pet ideas to it? Scope creep is always a risk, you don’t want your idea to become the universal panacea, that fixes everything, because what began life as a swan, a simple, elegant and achievable solution can easily morph into a  Frankenstein, a hastily stitched-together collection of ideas, all seeking to become real, by attaching themselves to the original..

6. Quarantine it: in splendid isolation. Great ideas are the result of multiple departments, if not the whole organisation, collaborating together and marching to the same tune in the same direction at the same time. Not departments ignoring each other and always competing for budget to achieve their own functional goals.

7. Disown it: literally speaking, remove the owner, its originator. The reality is, the cast is constantly changing (maybe even more so than the customers, ironically), so just change priorities and agendas, re-organise departments and / or people and before you know it, the idea is an orphan. Which, even if it is successfully adopted, will most likely then be forensically re-examined, taken apart and re-built in a different guise.

8. Stall it: by setting the pack on it and ask smart but let’s face it, unhelpful questions, ones that don’t really have answers at this early stage, or ones that sow the seeds of doubt. How statistically significant is the data? What’s the ROI? There’s nothing like smart talk to kill an idea. The sad fact is it is a lot simpler and easier to stay sitting down and ask questions than it is to stand up and support and sponsor an idea.

9. Smother it: in bureaucracy and committees, where it may never see the light of day again (or certainly not in its current form).

 

 

The soft stuff is the hard stuff – unwrapping culture

29 Aug

Slide1

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. So said Peter Drucker and it’s a classic quote: spot on. The more I do and see the more convinced I am that culture eats just about everything. Without the right culture, no amount of charismatic leaders, off-site team building events and swanky cheerleading conferences will make much lasting difference. All the good words and intentions will wither and die on stony ground without the right culture.

So, what then is culture? Chris LoCurto says “culture comes down to two things: action and attitude”.  And as the HR Director at my old company told me, it’s about what happens when no-one’s looking: he tells a great story about three different types of employee, each one confronted by an empty crisp packet in the office corridor. The engaged employee instantly picks it up without thinking and drops it in the bin. The disengaged employee walks by on auto-pilot, thinking someone ought to do something about the standards of cleanliness in the building, while the truly disengaged person was probably the one who dropped it in the first place.

Now, “every company has a culture, either by design or by default”. So says a recent video from the CEO Show.

Here then are nine key questions to ask, amassed from plenty of reading, to understand how things really get done in your organisation:

Do departments and people collaborate or compete?

Warning signs to look for… There may be radically different cultures across teams and functions that drive radically different interactions between people. At the unhealthy end of the spectrum, there’s suspicion and mistrust and the dark art of budget planning becomes a zero sum game with winners and losers, and the idea of working together for the higher cause of (whisper it quietly) serving the customer is heresy.

How are decisions really made?

Warning signs… They aren’t really; it’s down to whoever was still talking at that critical moment when everyone else surrendered, for the sake of moving on (or because people were gathering outside the conference room, impatient to start the next meeting). Or, despite all the soundings and consultation, it’s really done hierarchically, by egos and status. 

Are people enabled or merely ‘empowered’?

Warning signs… Being told you’re empowered is not the same as being enabled. It’s not that helpful unless you also have the right tools and support to succeed. 

When confronted with bad news, how do leaders behave?

 Warning signs… Or, perhaps the first question ought to be, do the leaders get bad news, or is every scorecard a sea of green, which is nonetheless at odds with what peoples’ guts are telling them? But assuming the bad news gets through, which instinct is the first to kick in, of BIFFS? Blame; Ignore; Freeze; Fix; Shoot (as in shoot the messenger)

How do senior leaders add value? By criticising or constructing?

Warning signs… Managers who think the best way to add value is to hunt for flaws and ask the tough questions; all fine in moderation but not so good when the outcome is to delay, defer and depress. 

How is important information shared?

Warning signs… The endless and hierarchical waterfall that slowly cascades down, each time losing a little more meaning and nuance so that by the time the exercise is over, leaders are sick and tired of the whole thing, in fact they’ve already moved on.

How are employees recognised?

Warning signs… If “what for, exactly?” is the first response, then that tells you one thing. Clearly, recognition schemes are many and varied but as a general rule, avoid letting bureaucracy and process drain the life out of what should be a simple and fun thing to do – to acknowledge and thank.

How do big things get done?

Warning signs… Does nobody move unless there’s a signed off project, scope, and deliverables? The question then becomes, how easy is it for the business to adapt and absorb new things? Which leads us on to the last one…

How much time do people spend in meetings reviewing progress?

Warning signs… Some people get double, even triple booked. And ask yourself, what happens in these meetings? What percentage of time is spent on simply monitoring, reviewing and reporting on progress?

Finally, thanks too, to careerrealism.com for two more great questions that can also reveal so much:

  • What would you guess would be the five key words or phrases your (husband/wife/partner) would use to describe your company?
  • What is your favourite day of the work week? And why?

Surviving and thriving in the brave new world of customer experience

27 Jun

Slide1Without doubt, the world of customer experience is changing. I heard a great quote at a conference the other day, when the speaker said that we’ve moved from a world where companies had better technology than their customers, to one where the consumer has the better technology, and at his or her fingertips, than the companies we do business with, many of whom are hampered by old, complex, and multiple systems. Wow. That’s quite a shift in power.

That got me thinking. Lots of commentators talk now about how the world is radically changing as a result of the consumer’s new found power and status. Here then is my round up of the shifts in thinking and behaviour required for organisations to adapt to the new realities, survive and thrive.

  OLD WORLD COMPANIES… NEW WORLD COMPANIES…
EXTERNAL   ORIENTATION Serve shareholders. If making money is the goal, then shareholders and other investors, whose interests are typically short term in nature, are the masters. Serve customers. Their philosophy is, if you get it right for your customers, day in day out, then profit takes care of itself.
TIME   HORIZONS Live for the short term: a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Obsesses about making more money today out of its customers. Manage and plan around a different timeframe because they value the rewards that come from longer term thinking. And, they forgo the quick buck because the price to the business – losing customer trust and engagement – is simply too high a price to pay.
ORGANISATIONAL   FOCUS Are schizophrenic. They talk a good game publically about customers when necessary, and spam the organisation with posters and propaganda, but this doesn’t permeate the DNA. So, at other times, and in other meetings, the customer is entirely absent. Not only does this create confusion internally, it ultimately signals a lack of authenticity in the business. Are single minded in ensuring that the customer agenda pervades the business, in everything it does. (This is partly because they’ve joined the dots between happy customers and happy CFOs.) And that everyone is connected to the   customer agenda and how the business serves its customers. After all, if your own people aren’t proud of the customer experience they deliver, how can you expect customers to get excited?
ORGANISATIONAL   LANGUAGE Call customers (and   people) “assets”, talk about “share of wallet”, “target customers” and “owning” the customer. In these businesses, customers are numbers and scores in KPI dashboards. Are humble. They understand that the organisation needs its customers more than its customers need it. And, do all they can to relate to their customers, one by one, as   people, not numbers.
CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE DESIGN Create Frankenstein experiences for their customers: silo’d and fragmented companies create ugly, stitched-together experiences that feel disjointed, inconsistent and random. Understand that great customer experiences can’t be left to chance; they are designed with intent and require a seamless orchestration of the whole enterprise. This is how the notorious silos get busted.
LISTENING   TO, AND ACTING ON, FEEDBACK Conduct market research every now and then, query its statistical significance, what to act on and what not, and schedule improvements for next year’s plan (because delivering this year’s plan is already an impossibility) Treat feedback like oxygen, something the business needs every day to survive. They constantly listen and constantly act on the voice of the customer, and make sure the   customer sees this happen too.
CUSTOMER CLOSENESS Keep the customer at arm’s length. They’ll push periodic sales campaigns out, and control the script when selling to customers. And, yet when the customer has a query, it’s like they’re in hiding and it’s a long and lonely road to get an   answer. Jump to it. They work hard to break down the barriers, make ‘customer effort’ an important yardstick and welcome and seek out opportunities to talk and meet with   customers, who even turn up at internal conferences.
REPORTING AND   GOVERNANCE Value data and measure and monitor everything that moves. The result? Paralysis by analysis, or as I heard recently, they suffer from DRIP: they are Data Rich, Insight Poor. Ask ‘So what’? For them, less is more because they understand what really matter to customers (and therefore what drives business success), and are relentless in   challenging the data and then acting on it.
PEOPLE POWER Use targets, metrics and scripts to control and drive what their ‘employees’ are paid to do. This invariably makes it harder for the workers to do the job the customer wants   them to do.In these companies,   the Golden Rule is, would my boss be happy with my actions? Know that everything begins and ends with people, without whom there is no business. They obsess over recruiting the right people and then letting them be themselves. This   means doing the right thing for customers because the organisation sees the value in doing so.Here the Golden Rule is, if the customer was in the room, listening and observing, would they approve of my actions?

Leading the witness. The unsubtle art of ‘gaming’ customer surveys

22 May

Hmmm.

Take a look at this online survey on attitudes to a leading UK bank that popped up a month or so ago when browsing ft.com. I am asked to say if I agree with the following statements (helpfully, I am also told that I can select all 5 responses, if the mood so takes me):

Slide1

Lloyds Bank…

  • …has the expertise to be a leading partner to UK business
  • …serves and supports UK business
  • …helps make its customers more successful
  • …helps make the UK economically stronger
  • …demonstrates leadership on key issues that matter to my organisation

Now, this is clearly just a piece of fairly innocuous puff to fuel some sort of PR message, and we can all smile wryly and move on. That said, it hasn’t done anything to improve my perception of the bank concerned because obviously, someone somewhere must have felt this was a good idea, worth spending time and money on.

Some surveys that try a little too hard to lead the witness also have a darker side. This is where the outcome is linked to personal reward or recognition.

When the well-intentioned idea becomes hostage to the law of unintended consequences. 

I was recently reminded of this when I picked up a prescription at a leading pharmacy brand. We’re probably all familiar with the scenario: you queue to hand the prescription in, you’re told to come back in 15 minutes, and then you collect it from a different counter. For once I wasn’t told to go away, and the same person handled the whole transaction in around a minute. I mumbled “gosh, that was quick” and then the pharmacist, sensing a happy customer, wrote his name on my till receipt and asked me to take part in the online survey mentioned on the back of it. Now, chances are, if I’d had a very different experience, say where it took much longer than promised or they’d run out of the product, I suspect he’d have acted very differently.

Slide1

Such stories – when personal intervention can, in effect, ‘lead the witness’ – are legion on the web. Take a look at this example, from the Consumerist site in April, where a pizza company in the US is offering a $1 discount off the next order provided you score the experience you’ve just had a 5 out of 5. As you can see from the photo, the process to claim the discount involves some ingenuity – all helpfully explained – to work around the system.

So, if your organisation is truly intent on listening to the authentic voice of the customer, then avoid the witness being lead! The first rule of survey completion should be to avoid putting the invitation to complete the survey in the hands of people who personally stand to gain from positive responses.   

Sorry doesn’t seem to be the hardest word any more

24 Apr

Slide1

In the good old days (for “good”, read “bad”) when a company screwed up, it was a case of wait and see who notices, deal with complaints as and when they come in, and hope that nobody goes to the press. When (or if) the spotlight was finally thrown on the miscreant, a written statement to the press would have told us that the company had learned its lesson, and that such things just cannot happen today, etc. 

Well, some things don’t change; wait and see if we get caught still seems prevalent – but what does seem to have changed is the way that companies recognise they need to be much more proactive, sincere and even ‘human’ in how they respond, and to mean it!

 Saying sorry is the new black. It’s certainly not the hardest word any more    

 Take a look then at this little collection of video apologies (or, what passes for apologies, in some cases). Some are very new, some older. Thanks are due especially to the Wall St. Journal for a 2011 article that captures some good ones (referenced at the foot of this post).    

 Eurostar

 Although it looks like it was filmed in a broom cupboard, this one scores for being timely, rough and ready and, more importantly, ‘real’. And, the compensation offer is appropriately generous! 

JetBlue Airways

Here is an apology for the logistical snafus that grounded planes and people; pretty straightforward and direct, and again reassures listeners that they will learn, but with the less than specific ‘we’re-going-to-conduct-a-review-so-we-learn’ defence. On the plus side, the choice of venue is interesting – here is the COO, a man in the nerve centre of the operations, not in an anodyne media interview suite, and with his jacket off, so maybe he’s part of the solution, rather than just the spokesman? And, like many public apologies these days (Barclays in their one page ads from last year is a good example) he reminds us that he needs to re-earn our trust.      

SSE

SSE, a UK energy provider, was fined £10.5m this month for miss-selling. Here is the Managing Director of Retail in a video entitled Sorry isn’t good enough’. And yes, he’s at pains to stress that ‘it wasn’t me’, it all happened several years ago. This seems to be a sorry tale of yet another toxic culture, where targets and incentives were designed to benefit the company concerned, at the cost of its customers.  Is he truly remorseful? You decide.

Domino’s Pizzas

For a good and ‘human’ example, look no further. Here is the CEO’s response to a stupid and disgusting prank by two (now ex-) employees in one store. The interesting thing about this video is that it tracks audience reaction to the ‘believability’ of his words. This is a man talking with sincerity, passion and anger – watch how the scores shoot up as he talks of the business “reeling” from the incident, and how it “sickened” him. And of course, extra ticks for being very specific on the actions taken.

Netflix

Two people apologising, and it’s personal, but it seems to morph into a sales pitch for the new service too. Wasn’t much liked on youtube either, but then of course, there was a lot of anger around the move that eventually prompted the apology! Check it out here

Groupon

A good one, from Groupon. Scores for a very detailed explanation for what went wrong, and it’s open and humble.

Sony

Err, what’s with the backdrop ambient music? Maybe too slick? Take a look here.  

Toyota

Again, a nice one, detailed and specific, which is good. Nice to see a freephone number throughout, too, to add to the voiceover.

BP

Enough has been said about the CEO’s “I want my life back” comment already. All I can say is, don’t bother clicking on the link in the WSJ story at the end of this post, as you get a message saying, “This video is private”! Maybe they’ve decided to move on?

What, then, makes a good apology?

From the top – we don’t want to see a PR spokesman forced to go through the motions by his or her boss. We want to see it from the boss, or if not the boss, then the person accountable for ensuring it doesn’t happen again. And we want to be convinced that he or she ‘gets it’. Let’s not forget that a good apology ought to be worth its weight in gold – commentators talk of the Domino’s apology as a classic: by showing his anger and disgust, and moving to action, the CEO repaired many bridges.  

We want to see it – Press releases, full page ads, carefully crafted letters don’t seem to cut the mustard. We want to see sincerity, humility and be convinced that lessons have been learned and that things will change.  

Be specific – we want to feel that the speaker acknowledges the real details of the problem, rather than shies away from them, or talks vaguely. Without them talking about the specifics, the nagging doubt is, do they really understand what went wrong, and what it meant for those affected?

Be timely – better to be proactive, surely, than wait till the chorus of disapproval is deafening. And especially so if the trigger for the apology is a regulatory fine, or other public censure! There, the risk is the apology is perceived as too little too late. 

Actions speak louder – we want to see that the business is taking responsibility, now, and that practical action is being taken, in order to give us some belief that the mistakes of the past cannot be repeated. ‘Root and branch reviews’, internal investigations, audit committees are not the same as actions, by the way..the fear is, they are yet more smokescreen!

 

Finally, thanks to the Wall St Journal, for a 2011 round up of 10 CEO video apologies – I’ve used a few in this post, but for the full article, and access to all 10 (well, 9 given that the BP one has been taken down) click here

Are your customers out of sight, out of mind?

11 Apr

Slide1

It’s far too easy for senior executives to be seduced by numbers, graphs, charts, red-amber-green ratings, and generally let their eyes glaze over when they hear the word, customers. Especially if you’re sitting in a conference room up on the 25th floor – customers look quite small from way up in the rarefied air of the corporosphere. 

I’m always fascinated by how companies try to get beyond the numbers on the page. This feels pretty important to me – people who forget that their customers are, well… people too, with feelings and emotions, just like them, then find it all too easy to perpetuate the language of ‘target markets’, produce ppt presentations with arrows and bullseyes in them and talk about capturing share of wallet, and ponder, in all seriousness, questions like, who owns the customer? Errm…. newsflash: I’m not sure anybody owns me, least of all a company I just happen to have chosen to do business with.

So, here then are 12 great examples of how organisations seek to remind their folk that customers are people too:

Amazon is famous for having an empty chair in executive meetings that represents the customer. Throughout the meeting, executives are reminded to include the customer in their decision making processes, and to ask, what would we do if the customer were sitting in this chair, here and now?

TUI, a leading UK based travel company went one further and for several years permanently displayed three key challenging questions on their boardroom wall – see picture. Slide1

The software provider Adobe won a Forrester Award in 2011 for its customer immersion programme (see short film) which is all about getting executives to stop thinking like boardroom automatons, and step into the customers’ shoes for a day, and build empathy.

For another example of a more interactive experience, a few years ago, CIGNA (US Healthcare) developed an Experience Room in the HQ for their people to walk through and live the customer experience. Some 80% in total went through it. It set out the ‘before and after’ for how the experience is and how it should be. It was imaginatively done, so for example, there was a scary ‘wall of paper’ that was, as intended,  overwhelming and that made the point well; imagine if it was you receiving all this paperwork, and at a vulnerable moment in your life, how would you feel? This is a powerful mechanism to force the company to think ‘horizontal end to end experience’ and not ‘vertical functional silos’. 

USAA are renowned for making their staff ‘wear their customers’ shoes’ (clearly, recruiting from the armed forces helps too). As they say “we require all of our staff to live the lives of our customers – only then can they understand their unique needs”.  So, for example, induction involves eating army rations and wearing helmets and Kevlar flak jackets. USAA calls this living customers’ lives in ‘surround sound’. If you think this is too gimmicky for you, then consider the story I heard of the lady who joined USAA many years ago during the Vietnam war – her first job was to ring up troops stationed overseas for the war. Having got the ‘job’ part of the call out of the way, she was told to stay on the line for as long as needed and simply talk to the soldiers. For many, she was a lifeline back to the ‘normal’ world, back in the US.

Office Depot, a US business-supplies chain, has a “planogram lab”, a prototype store, where it brings in customers to co-create and test new ideas. As the Economist reported, it “also uses the old trick of forcing senior managers to play the role of customers”.

Deere and company (tractors, US) invite farmers who are buying tractors to visit the factory with their families. This is a chance to cement the relationship, but also for factory line workers to meet their customers, and maybe better understand the role their products play in their customers’ lives.

Talk to the customer – yes, I know, it’s not rocket science is it? As I shared in a recent post, SouthEastern does it in person – they regularly hold “meet the manager” events at London Bridge station in the rush hour, where 10 or so senior directors gather with their clipboards, listening to their customers’ tales of commuting nightmares. Others do it over the phone. Virgin Media are strong here – resisting the temptation to just have managers passively listen to calls, and for a day only (when, let’s face it, the urge to check in with the day job will still be strong), they have every manager spend a week back on the floor, being trained up, then manning the phones and at the end of it all, reflecting back on what they’ve seen and learned.  I recall a great conference presentation from 2 years ago when David Perotta of Vodacom talked about how he ‘ambushed’ a senior management conference in South Africa by announcing that in 10 minutes each table would be joined by 10 customers, ready to talk to the executives, answer their questions and ask their own, about the products and services! As you might imagine, David said there was a fair bit of trepidation at the outset, but 45 minutes later, he couldn’t get the managers to stop talking!

Finally, my old employer, Aviva made a series of short films celebrating ‘heroic’ service. They were well made, emotional, and they had a powerful impact internally. And, interestingly, one of the principles underpinning production was that the individual who had made such a difference for the customer was reunited with the customer. Moving stuff, watch this one for example. Finally, this film, from Cleveland Clinic is also a superb example of building empathy and customer understanding.

 

Links for more information:

CIGNA source : Don’t Yield on Customer Trust, IBM White Paper, 2009 

The Economist, The Magic of Good Service

Deere and Company: How Customers can Rally your Troops, HBR June 2011, available at HBR.org

 

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