Apple, John Lewis, Amazon: Masters of the Customer Experience? Christmas is over and three organisations stand out for me: Apple, John Lewis, and Amazon. Why? It occurs to me that the people in these organisations get customers as human beings, are clear about the kind of customer experience they are up for delivering, AND have […]
Category Archives: Customer Philosophy
Why Not Replace People With Technology?
In the second half of the 90s I was involved in consulting in the area of shared services. Being a sidekick I got to witness the sales pitch. What was the sales pitch? No human beings. Everything in the back office was subject to business rules. The business rules could be codified, programmed and back office work could be automated. No human necessary. Nirvana: 24/7/365 nirvana of efficiency guaranteed to deliver the same outcome each and every time.
Today, I notice the same love of technology as regards the front office: where the customer meets the enterprise. In this age of technology do people still matter? Do we need sales people given that content marketing will generate the interest, product demos can be put on the web, and the ‘inside sales’ people can take the orders? Do we need to have any people in marketing given that big data will generate the insights, decision engines will contain the heuristics, market resource management systems will hold the marketing assets, and marketing automation will take care of the execution of marketing campaigns? Do we need people in the call-centres taking calls given the extensive self-help that can be enabled through digital channels and every customer would prefer to interact via Twitter? Do we need people in the stores? Why not rebuild the stores so that they resemble a combination of a website and a vending machine?
What Do These Two Women Say On The Matter?
Allow me to share a conversation that I overheard the other day between two women. Before I do that let me set some context. Waitrose is supermarket chain in the UK and it is owned by The John Lewis Partnership. The John Lewis Partnership has been and continues to do well despite tough times for retailers. Tesco used to be the darling of the CRM press and used to be the dominant supermarket chain. It has not been doing so well since austerity hit. Morrisons is the fourth largest chain of supermarkets in the UK.
As promised here is the gist of the conversation (between two women) that I overheard at the weekend:
Mrs A: “Waitrose is known for their great customer service and rightly so. It’s easy to find someone to help you. And when you ask for help in finding something, the Waitrose person walks you across the store and takes you right to the item you are looking for. They are so helpful.”
Mrs B. “I was in Waitrose this week and wasn’t sure what ingredients I needed for eggs Benedict; I haven’t cooked them before. So I asked for help. The Waitrose man didn’t know either but he told me that he would find out. I saw him walk to one of his colleagues. Then he came back and told me what I needed and how to cook eggs Benedict. He was so helpful: he made my problem his own. That’s such good service.”
Mrs B. “The staff in Morrisons don’t walk with you to the item you are looking for. Yet, I always find them warm, friendly and helpful.”
Mrs A. “I don’t like Tesco. It is hard to find people in the store to help you. And when you do find someone to help they tell you where you can find the item, point towards it, and then leave you to it. They don’t walk with you and show you where it is. They don’t care – not at all like the Waitrose people.”
Mrs B. “I used to do all my shopping at Tesco. Then Tesco got greedy – pushing up prices and cutting down on the customer service. Now, I shop for the basics at Morrisons and the rest from Waitrose.”
My Take On The Situation
I’ll leave you decide whether people matter or not in the age of technology. For myself, I am clear that humans are simply more at ease in dealing with other human beings. And there is no substitute for great customer service – the way that the folks in Waitrose (and John Lewis) stores interact with their customers, and amongst themselves.
Before you rush off to revamp your customer service remember that one ingredient does not a dish make. A great dish always consist of the insightful application of a recipe – and the recipe requires a mix of ingredients, in the right measure, and sequence, cooked for just the right amount of time. How does one generate such insight? Through experience: on the battlefield of life. What is the recipe? The business philosophy and organisational design: what matters, who matters, the operating principles, how conflict is handled, how rewards are shared, how people are structured into groups, and how interactions-relationships-differences-conflicts are handled…
Please note: I am not in the business of giving advice (in this blog). So you shouldn’t take anything in this blog as constituting advice. In this blog I find myself involved in sharing my thinking and experience. That is all. Then you make of it what you make of it.
The Effortless Experience Promises the Roadmap to El Dorado
Over the course of 2013 I noticed a certain buzz about ‘customer effort’ and its associated metric, the ‘Customer Effort Score’. So when I was invited to review The Effortless Experience (the book behind the buzz around customer effort) I took up the offer.
The central assertion of the book can be summed up by the following paragraph (page 3):
“Whilst most companies have been pouring time, energy, and resources into the singular pursuit of creating and replicating the delightful experience for their customers, they’ve ironically missed the very thing that customers are actually looking for – a closer in, more attainable, replicable, and affordable goal that’s been sitting right in front of them all this time: the effortless experience….”
That paragraph got my attention. Why?
First, because my experience contradicts the first half of the paragraph. It occurs to me that most companies have NOT been pouring time, energy, and resources into the singular pursuit of creating and replicating delightful experiences for their customers!
Second, the authors make a bold claim. Is there anything of substance to support this claim or is it as ungrounded as the first half of the paragraph?
The Effortless Experience: Four Core Findings
The authors claim that they surveyed over 97,000 customers and conducted a whole bunch of research through which they “ended up with a few million data points..” which they boiled down to four simple yet profound findings. What are these findings?
1. A strategy of delight doesn’t pay
“…. there is virtually no difference between the loyalty of those customers whose expectations are exceeded and those whose expectations are simply met… loyalty actually plateaus once customer expectations are met.
2. Satisfaction is not a predictor of loyalty
“… we found virtually no statistical relationship between how a customer rates a company on a satisfaction survey and their future customer loyalty..
3. Customer service interactions tend to drive disloyalty, not loyalty
“.. according to our research, any customer service interaction is four times more likely to drive disloyalty than loyalty…”
4. The key to mitigating disloyalty is reducing customer effort
” … four out of the five drivers of disloyalty are about additional effort customers must put forth…..”
What showed up upon a closer-questioning look at these ‘profound’ findings?
If one reads the book carefully it becomes clear that one has to be very careful about these findings. Why? Because the scope of the findings is limited to only one domain, one piece, of the end-2-end Customer Experience:
“We wanted to know ….. exactly which elements of the customer interaction with customer service have the biggest effect on making people more (or less) loyal….
In the first of these surveys, over 97,000 customers – all of whom had a recent service interaction over the web or through calling a contact centre….. – were asked a series of questions about their recent service interactions….
An important disclosure before we reveal the results and their implications: we intentionally limited this study to service transactions and their impact on customer loyalty.”
Now you understand the scope of this “exhaustive study” is limited to interactions between the customer and the contact-centre. And you understand that the data was collected through post call surveys.
Take a look at the four findings again. And think back to your telephone interactions with contact centres. Get present to the situation that led you to call the contact centre. Get present to the state that you were in just before you made the call. Get present to your experience of being on the phone to the contact centre. Now ask yourself if these four profound findings are not a statement of the obvious?
Looking into my own experience, the four findings showed up for me as being true to my lived experience. And yet nothing new. These so called profound findings show up for me as a statement of the bleeding obvious. In the next post (in this series) I will share my rational with you. I will also set out and explain my assertion that reducing customer effort in customer interactions with the contact-centre is a ‘strategy of delight’ and does generate delight in customers. Until then, I wish you the very best and invite you to share your perspective by commenting.
Why Aeroplanes Don’t Fall Out Of The Sky; Why Business Screws Customers and Hospitals Kill Their Patients
I invite you to ponder the following
- Why is it that commercial aeroplanes don’t fall out of the sky?
- Why is it that terrorism did not take root, establish itself, and grow in the USA/UK?
- Why is that it is rare for criminals to kill a policeman in the UK?
- Why is it that the bankers lied-cheated-stole, brought the western capitalist system to its knees, and prospered whilst the rest of society has been paying the price of their actions?
- Why is it that hospitals in the NHS have been killing their customers (the patients) for ten years (or so) despite whistleblowing (by doctors and nurses working in these hospitals) and complaints made to hospital management, the regulators, and the politicians?
- Why is it that employees have no voice in large organisations and domination-intimidation of the less powerful by the more powerful is rife in these organisation – public and private?
- Why is it that large established businesses, and those who lead-manage-run them, continue to screw (cheat, swindle) their customers?
What did you come up with? I suspect that you came up with the standard excuses and explanations – this is what we do when we show up from the taken for granted way of seeing and explaining.
What shows up when I look beyond the accepted excuses and explanations?
I invite you to put aside the standard, commonplace, complaints, excuses and explanations. Instead I invite you to grapple with the question that I have posed in a zen like manner. What shows up for you? When I grapple with this question this is what shows up for me:
- When a commercial aeroplane falls out of the sky it is clear-obvious that the aeroplane has fallen out of the sky. When such an aeroplane falls out of the sky people die and often there is carnage. Loved ones grieve and demand answers. The media is on the scene and gives voice to the grief-loss of the loved ones and vividly displays the carnage. All of which makes it unacceptable for commercial aeroplanes to drop out of the sky. Put simply, commercial aeroplanes don’t fall out of the sky because we do not accept them falling out of the sky!
Terrorism failed to get established in the USA and UK because it was unacceptable to allow terrorists space to terrorise. Because it was not acceptable, massive resources were mobilised and draconian measures put in place to deal with threats of terrorism.
It is not ok for criminals, or anyone else, to kill a policeman in the UK. Killing a policeman is going to far and that is something we will not allow. Because we do not allow it, it rarely occurs.
Bankers lied-cheated-stole and got away with it because we accept lying-cheating-stealing as business as usual. Greed is good. Lying is good. Cheating is good. Stealing is good. As long as this lying-cheating-stealing generates bumper profits, generates employment and yields the requisite tax revenues.
A number of NHS hospitals have been killing their customers, the patients, over a period of some 7 – 10 years because we accept it. It is OK to kill patients provided the instructions of the Tops (the government ministers) are carried out. It is not OK to disobey our masters. It is OK to kill patients. Besides the killing of patients by neglect-negliance is not evident unlike the clarity of aeroplanes falling out of the sky.
Domination, intimidation and bullying is common place because it is OK to dominate, intimidate and bully people. It is the way that the powerful get the powerless to do what they want them to do. It is the way to exercise control. It is business as usual in public and private sector organisations. It occurs because we accept it.
Large established businesses, and those who run them, continue to screw their customers because it is not obvious when this screwing is taking place. And even when it is obvious it is perfectly OK to screw customers. We accept that business and those who run them will seek to and find way so screwing customers. This is simply business as usual.
Lloyds Banking Group is fined a record £28m by the Financial Conduct Authority
If it occurs to you that I go too far then I invite you to read the latest revelations as showcased in the following piece in the Guardian newspaper: Lloyds Banking Group fined record £28m in new mis-selling scandal. This is what Tracey McDermott, the Financial Conduct Authority’s director of enforcement and financial crime is quoted as saying:
“Customers have a right to expect better from our leading financial institutions and we expect firms to put customers first – but firms will never be able to do this if they incentivise their staff to do otherwise.”
Why has the FCA handed down a record £28m fine?
According to Guardian piece:
1. “for putting staff under intense pressure to sell products customers did not want – or face demotion and pay cuts”; and
2. “the fine had been increased by 10% because Lloyds failed to heed repeated warnings about sales practices and because it had been fined 10 years ago for poor sales practices.
It occurs to me that which shows up and continues to show up in our world, the human world, is that which we accept, that which is OK by us, that which we assent to in our way of being-showing up in the world. As customers we get what we accept – no more, no less. As employees we get what we accept – no more, no less. As citizens we get what we accept – no more, no less.