Category Archives: Customer Philosophy
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.
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.
Based on recent experiences I find myself moved to create a ‘Hall of Fame’. And a ‘Hall of Shame’ for well known brands based on how these businesses treat their customers. My commitment is to share the great practices of the ‘givers’ as well as the deceitful-manipulative practices of the ‘takers’.
Let’s start the ‘Hall of Fame’ with Waitrose. Why Waitrose? Yes, the stores are clean, spacious, well presented, well stocked. And our local store even has a cafe-restaurant and ample parking. Yes, the staff in the store are helpful. Yet, these are not the reason that I am choosing to place Waitrose, as the first entrant, into the ‘Hall of Fame’.
Recently, I found wife telling me that she was surprised about the quality of the tangerines: some of the tangerines were hard (too hard) and others were soft (too soft). Now, I found this interesting. Why? It was the way she talked about it. I think it fair to say she was shocked. What this suggest to me is that Waitrose, in her experience, delivers great quality products consistently.
Despite the relatively small price and the hassle involved, she decided to take them back. Why? This is not the kind of product quality she expects from Waitrose. And she was wondering how she would be treated.
Later that day, my wife couldn’t wait to tell me her experience. I was clear by the way she had a huge smile on her face that the experience was positive. What did she say? Something along these lines: “The staff at Waitrose were great. They apologised, I could tell they were also surprised and genuinely sorry about my experience. And they refunded twice the price. Not just the price of the tangerines, twice the price.”
Waitrose enters my ‘Hall of Fame’ because of the following:
Reputation for product quality – I cannot imagine my wife giving up half an hour of her time to take back a product that only cost her £3 to the likes of Tesco;
Great customer service – the staff in the store have always been friendly and helpful;
Design and condition of the stores – the Waitrose stores are clean, white, spacious, inviting, natural and for some even uplifting; and
An equitable-fair-collaborative-generous business philosophy – Waitrose lives-exhibits a philosophy of generosity and in so doing shows up as a ‘giver’. A ‘matcher’ would simply have refunded the purchase price. And a ‘taker’ would have put all kinds of hurdles in her way so that it was not worth her while even thinking of asking for a refund.
Most of all, Waitrose enters my ‘Hall of Fame’ because my wife told me she “can’t see herself not being a Waitrose customer”.
In the next post, I will kick-off the ‘Hall of Shame’ with anti-virus vendor BitDefender.
It occurs to me that customer-centricity has become a religion in many ways. And as such is characterised by a particular philosophy-ideology, rituals and practices. We have many books-articles published on customer-centricity, customer experience, CRM, customer service etc. We have many gurus expounding their particular philosophy of customer-centricity. We have many consultancies pushing their flavour of customer-centricity and associated paths to customer-centric nirvana. We have the IT industry pushing an array of systems under the customer-centricity and customer experience banners. And, we have many conferences centred on the topic of customer-centricity in one or more of its flavours.
What difference does all this make when it comes to lived experience – the real world of business? I say that customer-centricity has become the new game to play: a charade. And in this sense, customer-centricity shows up for me as a Sunday morning religion. This was brought home to me, recently, when listening to the advice given by an engagement manager to a project manager. It went along the following lines:
“Looks like you have a happy customer. Ring up the customer and ask if he would be willing to give us a 10. If he is willing to give us a 9 or a 10 then send him the NPS survey.”
Am I faulting the engagement manager? Not at all. The engagement manager through his instruction has simply made visible the game that has become the norm under the religion of customer-centricity. How many Christian’s who turn up on Sunday morning are actually Christians? By that I mean how many embody-live the principles-values-practices embodied by Jesus Christ? Please note, I am not attacking Christianity. I find that the same has occurred as regards Islam: rare is the person I encounter who calls himself a muslim and shows up for me as being as such.
I ask you consider, be with, reflect on the following sage speaking by a sage:
The intricate maze of philosophy of different schools claims to clarify matters and reveal the Truth, but in fact they create confusion where no confusion need exist. To understand anything there must needs be the understanding being. Why worry about his bodies, his ahankar, his buddhi, creation, God, Mahatmas, world – the not-Self – at all? Why not remain yourself and be in peace? Take Vedanta, for instance: it speaks of the fifteen pranas, the names and functions of which the student is asked to commit to memory. Will it not be sufficient if he is taught that only one prana does the whole work of maintaining life in the body? Again, the antahkarana is said to think, to desire, to will, to reason, etc. Why all these details? Has anyone seen the antahkarana, or all these pranas? Do they really exist? They are all conceptual divisions invented by teachers of philosophy by their excessive analysis. Where do all these concepts end? Why should confusion be created and then explained away? Fortunate is the man [person] who does not lose himself in the labyrinths of philosophy, but goes straight to the Source from which they all rise.
- Ramana Marashi
I say put aside customer lifetime value. I say put aside share of customer wallet. I say put aside big data. I say put aside data mining and predictive analytics. I say put aside CRM and CRM systems. I say put aside Voice of the Customer and Customer Experience. I say put aside customer loyalty programs….
Now ask yourself some really hard questions and answer truthfully:
am I/we willing to put the needs-concerns-wellbeing of the customer at least on par with our needs-concerns-wellbeing?
am I/we willing to sacrifice revenues and profits (‘bad profits’) that I/we are making from taking advantage of our customers?
am I/we hungry (passionate) about coming up with products-services-solutions-experiences that simplify and enrich the lives of our customers?