Category Archives: Customer Experience
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.
Honouring One’s Word v Keeping One’s Word
As a ‘graduate’ of Landmark Education I came across many valuable distinctions. One of the most powerful of these distinctions is this one: honouring one’s word. Notice, that honouring one’s word is not keeping one’s word.
When one operates from a stand of ‘honouring one’s word’ then one cleans up the mess that occurs or is likely to occur when one does not keep one’s word. And one does so gladly as one values the other, values the relationship, and values one’s word as one’s self.
Tesco Mobile Honours Its Word After Having Not Kept It
What has this to do with Tesco Mobile? You may remember that it occurred to me that Tesco Mobile had not treated me fairly given the situation I found myself in. And the way that I had sought to work with Tesco Mobile to come to an amicable resolution – one that was fair and worked for both Tesco Mobile and myself. I wrote up my experience in the following post: Why I Will Never Buy Anything From Tesco Mobile Again!
Several days after writing the last post, a helpful chap (Niky McBride) from Tesco Mobile contacted me. We spoke on the phone. And the phone call ended with Mr McBride promising to look into the situation and find am amicable solution for all.
I had my doubts. One part of me expected that Mr McBride would come back and tell me that he had looked into the corporate policy and he could not help me. The other part of me expected that the best offer would be along the following lines: you can terminate the contract by paying up the remaining amount on the cost of the iPhone and this months airtime-data fee.
Instead I received the following offer:
Dear Mr Iqbal
Thank you for your time over the phone today.
As discussed, we are unable to offer tethering on iPhone at present. As a resolution to the matter, we’re happy to:
1. Allow you to return the handset so we can cancel your contract without Early Termination Charges
2. Allow you to pay for the handset so you can keep this and use it on another network that supports tethering
Please let me know which course of action you would prefer so we can bring this matter to a resolution for you.
Niky McBride (Mr)
Customer Service Executive
After consideration, I chose to return the handset and cancel the contract. In part, this was because I wanted to see what my experience would be like if I did decide to return the handset. Would it be easy or difficult? Would I find that despite Mr McBride’s promise, I would find that the right arm didn’t know what the left arm was doing. And so I would find myself charged for cancelling the contract and returning the phone.
The return process turned out to be remarkably easy. I was sent clear-helpful instructions on how to go about returning the iPhone. And on the appointed day-time, the courier turned up to pick up the iPhone.
Somewhat later, I got an email informing me that I would be charged something like £800+ for the early termination of the contract. So that which I had envisaged had come true: the right arm did not know what the left arm was doing! Just as I was about to consider my options, I found myself disarmed with the following email:
Dear Mr Iqbal
I am writing to prevent any concern, as there has been a charge applied to your Tesco Mobile account for the iPhone handset you returned. Please however, rest assured that we’ve asked for this balance to be cleared so you will not be charged.
This email is confirmation that you will not be charged.
Niky McBride (Mr)
Customer Service Executive
Did Mr McBride live up to his promise? Did he keep his word? Here is an extract from the email that I wrote:
Dear Mr McBride,
I have just received my credit card statement and find that you have been true to your word …. I have not been charged by Tesco Mobile.
….. I thank you for all that you have done on my behalf. I find myself wondering what kind of world you-I would find ourselves living in if enough of us were to show up and operate in this world in the way that you have done – in helping me come to an amicable-just resolution……
It occurs to me that a great way for me to repay you is to thank you through a follow up post. You have done right by me. And now it is my turn to do right by you, and Tesco Mobile. If you are in a position to email me a photo of yourself, your team leader, or your team then please do so, and I will include it in the post……
At your service / with my love and gratitude
Does Tesco Mobile Now Offer Tethering On The iPhone?
Allow me to close out this post by dealing with the issue of tethering on the iPhone. Why? It was the lack of tethering that drove me to look to end my relationship with Tesco Mobile.
Two readers have written to let me know that Tesco Mobile is now offering tethering. I am assuming that this means that Tesco Mobile is now offering tethering on the iPhone; they were already offering tethering on other phones including my daughters £60 Samsung phone which made me see red as I had paid £660 for the iPhone 5s 32GB and could not get tethering when I needed it for work.
I cannot say whether Tesco Mobile is or is not offering tethering with the iPhone. My recommendation is to check this before you enter into a contract. Or to check it out as soon as you receive your iPhone. Why? Because you have 14 days to return your phone and cancel the contract. I believe this is a legal requirement when buying stuff via the internet.
What I can say is this: I find myself willing to buy from and recommend Tesco Mobile. Why? Because Tesco Mobile, through Mr McBride, honoured its word to me as a customer. And that is all that I ask of any person-organisation that I do business with: honour your word.
What is the connection between happiness, leadership and customer-centricity?
A lot has been written about happiness. Not much of it speaks to me. And there are some speakers whose speaking resonates with me. Let’s start by listening to a wisdom master:
Happiness is almost not worth talking about because the instant you turn happiness into a goal it isn’t attainable any more. In other words, happiness isn’t something you can work towards.
- Werner Erhard
Let’s follow this up with the following quote which is in alignment with that which Werner Erhard is pointing at:
Happiness is not a station you arrive at, but a manner of travelling.
- Margaret Lee Runbeck
Many want what are presented as the trappings of leadership. Few get the reality, lived experience, of being a leader and the exercise of leadership. What is the reality? I’d say it something like the following:
Being a leader and the exercise of leadership is not a destination you aim for or arrive at. Nor is it the path that you take. It is a manner of being-showing up in the world and travelling.
If that sounds a little philosophical for you. Then I share the following with you, courtesy of Shane Parrish at Farnham Street:
.. actually leading is different. A leader decides to accept responsibility for others in a way that assumes stewardship of their hopes, their dreams, and sometimes their very lives.….
It is mostly just hard work. More than anything else it requires self-discipline. Colorful, charismatic characters often fascinate people, even soldiers. But over time, effectiveness is what counts. Those who lead most successfully do so while looking out for their followers’ welfare. Self-discipline manifests itself in countless ways. In a leader I see it as doing those things that should be done, even when they are unpleasant, inconvenient, or dangerous; and refraining from those that shouldn’t, even when they are pleasant, easy, or safe.
- General Stanley McChrystal
I’ll leave you with my take on customer-centricity which is manifested in many ways including creating-generating customer experiences that leave customers feeling happy, even delighted, in doing business with you:
Customer-centricity is not a station you arrive at. Nor is it the path that you travel. Customer-centricity is the manner of your showing up (in the world) and travelling.
I wish you a great day. And on this first day of a new year of living for me, I thank you for listening to my speaking. Your existence makes a contribution to my existence. Let’s work together to co-create a world that works for all.
Some work environments are characterised by that which is called psychological safety: a shared belief, by the people who work in the environment, that it is safe to experiment, to give voice to one’s voice, to take risks.
A Thought Experiment On Psychological Safety and Performance
A researcher is researching the link between psychological safety and the number of medication errors made in hospitals. She studies eight hospital units and finds that the hospital units characterised by psychological safety have the highest medication error rates. She reports these ‘findings’ to you.
Imagine that you are the manager responsible for reducing the number of medication errors in these hospital units. How will you determine what course of action you will take given what the researcher has ‘found’? Will your action not be determined by how you make sense of the phenomena at hand: the higher the reported psychological safety the higher the reported medication errors?
Given your management training, you say something like this to yourself: “No surprise here. Where you create an environment for people to make mistakes without fear of punishment, people make more mistakes!”
Given this ‘explanation’ what will be your course of action? Isn’t the course of action shaped, even dictated, by your explanation? Will you not reduce the psychological safety? Of course you will. You will put fear into the hospital units characterised by psychological safety. Imagine you take that course. You track medication errors by person and hospital unit. You name-shame by putting together and making visible a ‘leaderboard’ of those making the most errors. And apply sanctions to those who exceed a certain error rate.
What turns out to be the impact? You find that after a little while there is significant drop in the number of medication errors that end up on your weekly management report. You congratulate yourself: you figured out what was going on, you acted, and you generated your desired outcome.
Let’s Reconsider The Phenomena AND The Explanation
Whilst you, the manager, have been ripping out psychological safety and replacing it by fear, the researcher has been doing some more digging. She had a brain wave and decided to look at independent data.
By looking at this data, she ‘found’:
- The psychologically safe hospital units did not make more medication errors. In fact, the data showed that the higher the psychological safety within a hospital unit, the fewer the medication errors made by the people in that unit.
- The folks working within units lacking psychological safety hid their medication errors, out of fear of punishment. And as a result no learning took place regarding the causes of medication errors and thus no reduction in medication errors.
With this phenomena-explanation (the explanation and the phenomena have been merged into one here) what course of action do you the manager take? Isn’t the sound course of action dictated by the phenomena-explanation? Isn’t the sound course of action to increase psychological safety in those hospital units (under your management) where fear of retribution-punishment pervades?
Your Actions Are Shaped By The ‘Story You Construct’ To Explain The Phenomena
I draw your attention to the fact that action is the access to influencing the world and generating change-outcomes: only actions cause-shape outcomes. If you think otherwise then don’t breathe and see what shows up!
Notice that your actions are NEVER given by the phenomena itself. That which is, simply is. And is discarded by most of us if we cannot make sense of it. Why? If we cannot make sense of it then we cannot orient ourselves in relation to that which is: the phenomena.
Further, notice that your actions are ALWAYS given by the ‘story you make’, the explanation you construct, about the phenomena.
What does this mean? It means that all the power-possibility lies in the ‘story you make’, the explanation you construct. Why? Your actions are influenced-shaped, even dictated, by the explanation you construct.
What Is The Access To Generating Breakthroughs In Effectiveness-Performance?
The access to generating breakthroughs in effectiveness-performance lies in the domain of explanation: the ‘story that we construct’ around the phenomena at hand.
If we are to construct more insightful stories/explanations (on the phenomena that concern us) then we have to escape the pull of the existing ‘net of understanding’ – the paradigm that gives us being and from which we operate. Listen to Ralph Waldo Emerson:
Every nation and every man instantly surround themselves with a material apparatus which exactly corresponds to … their state of thought. Observe how every truth and every error, each a thought of some man’s mind, clothes itself with societies, houses, cities, language, ceremonies, newspapers. Observe the ideas of the present day ….. see how timber, brick, lime and stone have flown into convenient shape, obedient to the master idea reigning in the minds of many persons ….. It follows, of course, that the least enlargement of ideas …. would cause the most striking changes of external things.
I say that the job of leaders is to generate that ‘least enlargement of ideas’ that Ralph Waldo Emerson is talking about. That is to say make a shift in the dominant paradigm that shapes organisational sense making of phenomena. And thus shapes-dictates their courses of action.
If you are lamenting the state of the Customer Experience like Colin Shaw is then it is worth listening to the following words by Donella H. Meadows:
There are no cheap tickets to mastery. You have to work hard at it, whether that means rigorously analysing a system or rigorously casting off your own paradigms and throwing yourself into the humility of not knowing….
The reason that organisations have not made a success of Customer Experience. And are in the process of killing it, is that the Tops in these organisations have not made the requisite ‘least enlargement of ideas The have not put aside their existing ‘net of understanding’ and so are go about the new in the same old way. Thus, I say that many, if not almost all, Customer Experience initiatives start stillborn.
To conclude: the challenge of leadership is to cast off the already existing ‘net of understanding’ and thus creating a space from which to construct more insightful stories-explanations of phenomena. And thus opening up new courses of action. Course of action that carry risk and also the promise of breakthroughs in effectiveness-performance.
If you found this ‘conversation’ one that resonates with you then I invite you to watch the following video: