Is the default condition of showing-up and operating in the business world that of experience blindness? Is the reason that so little progress has been made by so many on customer experience due to this experience blindness? Is experience blindness the cause behind so many workplaces having the same feel as hospitals?
Let’s make this personal. Did you drink coffee? No, did you drink tea? No, did you drink water or some juice? Yes. Ok. Now go back to the last occasion that you drunk something and ask yourself what your experience was. What was the sensation of drinking? What was the texture of the container that touched your lips? What about the liquid itself? How did the liquid travel from the container and through you? What thoughts were present as you were drinking? What kind of mood were you in: relaxed, sad, anxious…? If you are like most people that I see-encounter, you drink in an experience blind manner. Why? We have not been taught to be mindful and present to the experience that is occurring right now. Given our blindness to our own-lived experience, how present-receptive can we be to the experience of others: customers, employees….?
Allow me to illustrate, bring life to, this conversation with two examples.
Example 1: Conversation With A Customer Experience Consultant
I found myself working with someone whom I like-respect, someone who has operated as a customer experience consultant. On a joint engagement we were planning a workshop session. The challenge was to devise a way to help the people who would be in the room choose between the various alternatives.
As we were talking, this able consultant was going through the various methods that were available for use. He talked about which methods tend to work. And he talked about the method that his latest employer recommends using. What he did not talk about was the ‘customers’ – the people who would actually take part in the workshop.
Then I was asked for my opinion. My response was immediate and it went along the following lines. We are designing this workshop for the benefit of the people who will attend the workshop and make the decision. Why don’t we ask these people which framework-method-process they tend to use, in their organisation, to make this kind of decision? And if they don’t have one method then lets run them through the most promising methods and see which one speaks to them.
What really surprised me was this: what showed up for me as the obvious way to look at and deal with the situation at hand (bring the voice of the customer into the discussion-decision) had clearly not occurred to my colleague. And this is no ordinary business person. He is customer savvy: he has been doing customer for a long time.
The only way that I can explain this to myself is that doing customer experience is not the same as being customer experience. Doing is like going to a party and putting on the proper mask and playing the proper role. Then it is time to leave the party and put on another mask and play a different role. Whereas, being is that which is embodied in the way that you show up – being lives in every fibre of your organism. It is what you are, naturally.
Example 2: Phone Call From The Director of The Building Company
Over a month ago, I arranged with the Steve, the director of a building company for work to be done on the house in which I live. We agreed the start date: Thursday 10th April (today). As I need to be around the house, I took the day off as a holiday.
Yesterday, around 18:30 I got a call from Steve. Why was Steve ringing? Steve was ringing to ask if I had emptied the room out. I told him that I hadn’t as I had just finished work for the day. And I had set aside the evening to do the clearing out. He asked me if I had taken the shelves off. I told him that his firm was responsible for doing that under the agreed schedule of work.
Then Steve got to the point. He told me that the guy that was supposed to come to the house, around 8 am, would not be coming. Why? Because he is still finishing the work he is doing for another customer. The Steve told me that he would have someone else come over to the house, after lunch, to remove the radiator and the shelves. This was just the preparatory work to enable the room to be plastered and then painted. What became clear is that the room would not get plastered even though that is what we had agreed. And what I had expected to occur. I did not need to take a day off for someone to come and do two jobs that collectively took 45 minutes.
Have you noticed what I noticed? I noticed that the conversation was all about Steve and his needs, his concerns, his priorities, his situation. Not once did Steve ask about me, ask about my concerns, or even ask how I felt about Steve not keeping his word.
Is Steve a bad person or a rotten business man? I don’t know the answer to that. All I can share with you is that Steve does not show up for me that way. How does he show up for me? Steve shows up for me as a great example of business as usual. What do I mean about that:
- Showing up and operating from an ‘inside out’ view of the world and not evening being present to any other way of operating e.g. ‘outside-in'; and
- Concerned only with the job/tasks to be done and being blind to the human being he is dealing with and thus blind to the concerns, needs, expectations, and experiences of these human beings.
It occurs to me that this is simply what goes along with living into-from a worldview that sees and thus uses human beings as resources – to be used for one’s purposes, efficiently and effectively, for largest profit/benefit for oneself. So the challenge of Customer Experience is the challenge of a transformation in worldview.