Category Archives: Brand

2013: Where Are We At With CRM, Customer Experience and Customer-Centricity?

What can we learn from Havas Media’s 2013 Meaningful Brands survey?

For me, the highlights from the survey report are:

  • Just 20% of brands worldwide are seen to meaningfully positively impact people’s lives;
  • The majority of people worldwide wouldn’t care if 73% of brands disappeared tomorrow;
  • Only 32% feel brands communicate honestly about commitments and promises;
  • 54% of us don’t trust brands; and
  • The meaningful brand index outperforms the stock markets by 120%.

It would appear that the case for making a shift towards a ‘meaningful brand’ is compelling according to Havas Media and yet most brands do not show up as meaningful.  This shows up as interesting for me given all the talk-spend on brand, branding and brand building.

Let’s shift perspective and take a look at the situation through the eyes of Customer Experience.

What is the state of Customer Experience at the end of 2013?

In her November post, “Sucking Less” is Not a #CX Strategy, Annette wrote:

“Are organizations seeing the value of delivering a great customer experience? Clearly they pay lip service, but we know that actions speak louder than words. Do they really get it? No. There’s no real commitment of time, resources, and budgets to initiatives that improve the customer experience.

I spend a lot of time talking to prospects and clients about how to sell the value of customer experience to company leaders. It’s so disheartening …..”

My experience resonates with Annette’s.  And our experience is not unique – talk with Customer Experience professionals and you get a taste of how difficult it is to move the Customer Experience ball beyond conducting VoC surveys and collating-publishing the results.

So what is going on here? If Tops are VCs and Customer Experience is seen as investment then the Tops do not see the value of investing in Customer Experience ventures.

What is the state of CRM at the end of 2013?

It occurs to me that large established companies have spent large sums of money in the name of CRM – usually in procuring and implementing so called CRM systems.  What is there to show for this investment in terms of generating superior value for customers and cultivating meaningful profitable relationships with customers?

As I look around I find that the single customer view is just as elusive today as it was when Siebel was promising it, through the adoption of its CRM suite, back in 1999.  The gulf between the talk and the reality continues to stun me. So many companies still struggle to work out the totality of their relationships (products purchased, interactions) with their customers.

I notice that many marketing, sales and service (customer, field) processes are just as broken today as they were in 1999.  Why? Because too many people implemented CRM to automate the existing way of doing business.

It occurs to me that the challenge of getting the marketing, sales and service folks to genuine work together to build meaningful relationships with customers is beyond almost all companies.  These functions and the people in them continue to work in silos, pursue their functional objectives, and work to their particular style.

I notice that the state of fragmentation within the marketing function is higher today than in 1999 due to the proliferation of digital channels. Marketing has become so complex that a whole industry, marketing automation, has grown up with the aim of automating marketing with a view to taking the complexity out of it.

Why do organisations continue to grapple with the same challenges despite their investments in CRM and Customer Experience? 

Having been in the field since 1999 I am struck about how little has really changed despite all the changes that have occurred outside and inside organisations.  What is going on here?  Why is this the case?

It occurs to me that most of that which has taken place in the areas of CRM and Customer Experience has occurred in the domain of doing.  And this doing has arisen from the same old domain of being. And as such, the mode of being has poisoned-corrupted all the doing. How best to illustrate this? Think King Midas. Whatever King Midas touched it became gold.  Being has that kind of power: every action is tainted with the being that gives rise to it.  Yet, those who have walked the CRM and Customer Experience path have been oblivious to this corruption because the the current style of showing up in the world is so taken for granted that it is invisible to us:

“The way of life of a culture is not an explicit set of beliefs held by the people living in it. It is much deeper than that. A person brought up in a culture learns its way of life the way he learns to speak in the language and with the accent of his family and peers. But a way of life is much broader than this. It involves a sense for how it is appropriate and inappropriate to act in each of the social situations one normally encounters; a familiarity with how to make sense of things and of how to act in the everyday world; and most general of all, a style, such as aggressive or nurturing, that governs the actions of the people in the culture although they are normally not aware of it. We can think of it as a cultural commitment that, to govern people’s behaviour, must remain in the background, unnoticed but pervasive and real.

- All Things Shining, Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly

This sense of the being, of the default ‘style’, of organisations (and the people who work in them) is spelled out clearly by Vik Maraj in an interview published on the Huffington Post where he talks about the challenge of transforming the not for profit sector:

Question: What is the over-arching challenge in the not for profit sector? 

Answer: We act mostly inside of a context of charity not empowerment. Very few people are “learning to fish”. And this is a societal issue not just a not for profit issue.

Question: With respect to the not for profit  sector, what is the truth that we don’t want to talk about? 

Answer. We compete with each other with a smile on. We protect ourselves. And we collaborate in an opportunistic way. And the game is rigged such that this behaviour is almost inevitable. And the rigging is usually done by a decades old governmental policy…….

At first some of the obvious challenges are a lack of funding, a lack of resources, a lack of volunteers, turnover, a lack of being valued, lower salaries, lack of training and development, lack of policy, political unwillingness, the economy, etc. There are many more that I have not mentioned and what they all have in common is that none of them are the real problem.

Question: What’s the real problem, and what’s the answer?

Answer: The real problem is that we don’t collaborate and align our vast, often duplicated resources, talents, and mandates, to have a collective voice. Collaboration is both a missing mindset as well as a missing process. We mostly define collaboration as “getting together”. As one of our clients said, “[we act as] independent islands chipping away at symptoms”.

Almost all transformative change started with a series of small groups led by a few courageous people. They came together to tell the truth to one another, did the tough work to get over their differences, and then whole-heartedly went after an intolerable circumstance that each could not surmount on their own! The answer is to move from a “me or you” mindset to a “me and you mindset” and to stop pretending that we are always noble or even often noble!

Question: If this is the answer, at least one powerful answer – so then why aren`t we doing it? 

Answer: Good question. Given the common goals, overlapping skillsets, and in many cases overlapping client bases and services, why aren’t we truly collaborating and coming together to increase the power of our voice and share resources, information, and talent? Why? The answer is that there is too much self-interest and survival thinking to allow for this. Making it and surviving forms an almost inescapable context within which people operate.

If you are awake and have any lived experience of the for profit sector you will see the parallels.

Summing up, excellence in CRM and Customer Experience requires a transformation in the character (being) of organisations (and the people in the organisations especially the Tops) not just a change of clothes to project a more ‘customer friendly’ personality. This is a challenge that few have taken on wholeheartedly – arguably the CRM and Customer Experience fixes were actions designed to bypass the need for a genuine shift in being, in transforming from extractive capitalism to conscious capitalism.

Who Are the UK’s 2013 Customer Experience Leaders and What Can We Learn From Them (Part 3 – Brands That Have “Cracked The Code”)

This third post completes the series of posts based on the Nunwood’s 2013 annual customer experience excellence report (The UK’s Top Customer Brands: How They Achieve Success).  You can find the earlier posts here:

Who Are the UK’s 2013 Customer Experience Leaders And What Can We Learn From Them? (Part 1)

Who Are the UK’s 2013 Customer Experience Leaders And What Can We Learn From Them? (Part 2)

Which UK Brands Have “Cracked The Code”?

In the executive summary section, I noticed the following assertion:

“Overall there was no change in the mean score across all the brands evaluated. This suggests that …… some brands are improving exponentially and others are falling behind……

There are some brands however who have “cracked the code”, and are making major leaps forward notably Butlins, QVC, Tesco Mobile and Giff Gaff.

In the rest of this post, I wish to take a closer look at Giff Gaff . Why? Because Giff Gaff is innovative and because of the way it actually does put customers at the heart of the business.

Giff Gaff

Who leads the “Value Top 10″ table? Giff Gaff.  What allows this brand, this organisation to create this kind of value for its customers?

Giff Gaff is something of an anomaly in the field of mobile communications. A SIM only provider with no high street presence, it is entirely focused on delivering best value. Giff Gaff gives back to their members through savings – cutting away costs that rivals have to cover such as physical stores, customer service teams …..

A quirky company Giff Gaff say you are not a customer – you are a member of the family.  Members of the Giff Gaff family save considerable amounts on their purchases and receive rewards for promoting services and contributing to their on-line care.

The concept of membership, being part of something, is powerful one and for Giff Gaff it leads to a highly engaged and hugely active online community. 

Drawing its name from a Scottish phrase for mutual giving, this community is encouraged to share ideas, potential rewards and price plans via forums. Many unique selling points and technical developments are credited to members…….

Fundamental to its success has been the unique way they have put customers at the very centres of their business…… The notion of a common sense of purpose with your customers is a powerful one.

What I want to draw your attention to the following:

1. It occurs to me that Giff Gaff is inventing-experimenting with-perfecting a new way of doing business.  Not a customer-centred way of doing business. Nor a shareholder centred way of doing business. No, it is deeply immersed in a ‘community-membership’ way of doing business.  In this way of doing business, the customer plays many roles in addition to the role of customer: as marketer, as sales person, as R&D advisor, as customer services agent, as a ‘shareholder’…..

2. I am clear that Giff Gaff has got social right because social is the heart-ethos of the business. Social is not a bolt-on. Social is the business. I say mutual giving is the definitive test of an authentically social way of showing up in the world.

3. Will Giff Gaff do to the mobile industry what the mini-mills did to the US steel industry?  That is to say is Giff Gaff show up for me as an example of a low end disruptive innovator according to Clayton Christensen model. Or will its parent O2 ‘kill’ it like GM did with Saturn when Saturn became a threat to GM’s way of doing business?

As a member of Giff Gaff I notice that Giff Gaff is travelling the path that Amazon/Bezos has travelled. Which path?  The path of listening to customers and using this listening to figure out which products-services to introduce next. For example, Giff Gaff is no longer a SIM only provider. Giff Gaff now sells a small range of the popular phones.

If you want to learn more about Giff Gaff then I recommend reading the following posts:

giffgaff where customers are ‘members’ who sit at the heart of the organisation

giffgaff: what impact will the 8 hour service interrruption have on brand reputation and customer loyalty?

giffgaff: how to generate delight and advocacy without spending a fortune

Want to learn more

If you want to learn more about these brands (Giff Gaff, Butlins, QVC, Tesco Mobile), or any of the other Top 10 UK Customer Experience brands,  I suggest that you download-read Nunwood’s annual Customer Experience report: CEE-Centre-2013-UK-Full-Report

And the table of the Top 100 UK customer experience brands is here:  NUNW00D-CEEC-UK-2013-TOP-1001

Who Are the UK’s 2013 Customer Experience Leaders And What Can We Learn From Them? (Part 2)

This post continues the conversation started in the earlier post which disclosed the UK’s Top 10 Customer Experience brands and provided an analysis of the Top 100 brands by industry.

Nunwood’s Six Pillars of Customer Experience

The folks at Nunwood claim “we have used advanced text analytic techniques to derive and then statistically validate the six most important factors that customers talk about when it comes to great experiences”.  What are these factors?

Personalisation: using individualised attention to drive emotional engagement

Time & Effort: valuing the customers time – minimising the effort and creating frictionless processes

Expectations: managing, meeting and exceeding customer expectations

Integrity: being trustworthy and engendering trust

Resolution: turning a poor customer experience into a great one

Empathy: achieving an understanding of the customer’s circumstances to drive deep rapport

What can we learn about these six pillars of Customer Experience by looking at the Top 10 brands?

In their report Nunwood list the top brands by each of the Customer Experience pillars. So:

  • Amazon sits at the very top for the Personalisation and Time & Effort pillars;
  • Virgin Atlantic is the leader in the Expectations pillar;
  • John Lewis leads when it comes to the Integrity pillar; and
  • QVC leads in both the Resolution and Empathy pillars.

What is not easy to do, from the report, is to see at one glance what each of the Top 10 brands does in terms of these six pillars. So I have taken some time to piece that together for you and here it is:

Top10 CEE Six Pillars Analysis

Coming Next

In the next and last post, I will share with you details of the “brands that have cracked the code” and are making major leaps forward – according to Nunwood. And in particular I will single out one brand that shows up for as being truly innovative in its business model, in customer engagement, in being social and making online community work, in putting its customers truly at the centre of its way of doing business.  I also happen to be a customer of this brand.

Who Are the UK’s 2013 Customer Experience Leaders And What Can We Learn From Them? (Part 1)

I have been studying the 2013 UK report by Nunwood’s Customer Experience Centre and in this post I share with you what shows up for me.

Which are the UK’s Top 10 Customer Experience brands and why?

CEE Top10 2013

Comparing to last year I notice that:

1. Amazon has dropped to fourth place. Why? The report suggests that this is due to two factors: reputation damage related to tax avoidance and performance of delivery companies.

2. QVC (TV centred shopping channel) comes in at no 2. It appears that in previous years the responses failed to meet the minimum required and so QVC was excluded.

3. The Co-operative Bank has not just fallen out of the Top 10, it has fallen out of the Top 100. Given it’s much publicised troubles centred on its finances this does not come as a surprise. Above all, it occurs to me, that a bank has to have a reputation for being financially sound.

4. M&S, one of the UK’s traditional and loved brands, has moved into the Top 10. 

5. Four out of the Top 10 positions are held by two organisations – The John Lewis Partnership and M&S: organisations that have a reputation for caring about their people, caring about their customers and showing this through the quality-range- vfm of their products, and the quality of their service.

Which industries dominate the Top 100 Customer Experience brands?

Given that Nunwood has not done an analysis by industry, it occurred to me that it would be useful to do one. Here is what shows up:

CEE Top100 by Industry

The retail industry leads in the sense that 44 out of the Top 100 places are filled by retail brands. And 10 of the Top 22 customer experience brands are in retail (as classified by Nunwood).  Please note I have not listed all of the retail brands in the Top 100 – too many brands.

The supermarkets take 3 out of the Top 10 places, 7 out of the Top 20 places, and 11 out of the Top 100 places. That is quite some domination given the relatively small number of players in this category.  It’s interesting that all of the big names are in the Top 20 except for Tesco (47), Morrisons (29) and Lidl (53).

The food & eatery industry takes 14 out of the Top 100 places. None of the brands in this category is in the Top 50. It is interesting to note that Starbucks is missing from the Top 100. Could this be due to the brand damage that Starbucks has suffered due to the tax avoidance issue that has hit Starbucks much harder than say Amazon? Who says life is fair?

The travel & tourism industry takes 16  out of the Top 100 places. There is only one brand in the Top 10 (Virgin Atlantic) and three in the Top 20 (Virgin Atlantic, Butlins, Emirates).  Looks like airline travel experience is not that hard to get right if you are committed to getting it right like Virgin Atlantic and Emirates.  The surprise appearance (for me) is Butlins. It looks like Butlins have invested in their staff and their hotels and this is paying off.

The telecoms & media industry only takes 3 out of the Top 100 places.  Do you notice who is missing? All the big brands like Vodafone, Sky, EE, BT, O2, TalkTalk, Virgin Media …… yet these are the very brands that do much talking about customer service, customer experience, customer-centricity. Seems to me that all this customer talk could just be ‘marketing talk’.

The financial services industry takes 12 out of the Top 100 places. And like the telecoms industry none of the big brands – Barclays, RBS, Lloyds, Santander – are present.  It will be interesting to see how much headway the supermarket brands  – M&S Bank (23), Sainsburys Bank (83) – can make in this industry.  Given the shift to digital-mobile banking, it would be interesting to see what will happen when the likes of Amazon decide to go into that market.

The energy & utilities industry. Have you noticed that not one of the energy and utility players is in the Top 100?  No British Gas, no EDF, no Npower, no E.on, no Thames Water, no Severn Trent ….. If the energy industry proves anything it proves this, you don’t need to pay attention to customers when you have structured the industry into an oligopoly and customers have to come to you to buy an essential product.

What does it take to be a Customer Experience leader? 

If there is one thing I am clear on it is this, one cannot become a customer experience leader by bolting on customer experience trinkets to the existing way of being-doing.  This is about as effective as taking a  frigate, adding bits and piece of a fighter plane (say wings), and expecting the frigate to be a great fighter plane. That is just stupid. Most of us can see this stupidity when it comes to warships and fighter places. When it comes to organisations, it is amazing how few see the stupidity of taking this route. What does the Nunwood report say?

Culture and climate are the foundation stone of great experiences. Experiences are delivered through people, the above companies are focusing on creating a culture and climate that starts with meeting all of the customer’s needs, emotional, rational and transactional and then replicating across channels.

Customer experience has many moving parts the key is an integrated approach across a business. It demands an intense focus over the long term. It has to be kept on everyone’s daily agenda. 

This requires customer experience to be woven into the fabric of the company, reward, performance management and planning.

Coming next

Enough for today. In the next post, I will take a more detailed look at some of the more interesting brands in the Top 100.  Until then I wish you the very best.

The Power of Essential Integrity In A World Where Integrity Is Lacking

You are most effective when you act out of essential human values. When you behave with integrity, you use the challenges in your life to express your higher self. You might not always achieve success, but you can always behave honourably……

Essential integrity allow you to develop strength, inner peace, and self confidence. It acts like a climbing harness, catching you when the challenges of the world prove too arduous. When you trust this harness, you feel more enthusiasm and less fear during the climb.

Essential integrity provides the secret to achieving happiness in a world where you will inevitably end up losing all your possessions – even your life and the lives of those you love.

- Fred Kofman, Conscious Business

I say that essential integrity is also the access to living the brand promise, treating employees and customer right, and cultivating enduring-meaningful relationships with all stakeholders including customers. Think Amazon. What does Amazon do amazingly well? Live the Amazon mission (of being the Earth’s most customer-centric company) by keeping its promises to its customers.

I thank you for listening to my speaking. I am grateful that you exist and that in your listening my speaking finds fertile soil. I thank you for reaching out to me and letting me know that my speaking, my existence makes a difference to your existence. What is present between me and you is love.

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