Category Archives: Customer Strategy

Customer Centricity: A Sunday Morning Religion?

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:

  1. am I/we willing to put the needs-concerns-wellbeing of the customer at least on par with our needs-concerns-wellbeing?

  2. am I/we willing to sacrifice revenues and profits (‘bad profits’) that I/we are making from taking advantage of our customers?

  3. am I/we hungry (passionate) about coming up with products-services-solutions-experiences that simplify and enrich the lives of our customers?

The Effortless Experience: Sensational Headlines, Misleading Conclusion?

In this post I complete my take on the key assertion and the 4 findings put forth in the book The Effortless Experience.  Before I launch into this post let’s recap the following points from the first post.

Recap of the essential points from the earlier post

The four major findings put forth by the authors:

  1. A strategy of delight doesn’t pay
  2. Satisfaction is not a predictor of loyalty
  3. Customer service interaction tend to drive disloyalty, not loyalty
  4. The key to mitigating disloyalty is reducing customer effort

Let’s also get clear on the scope of the research that gave rise to these findings. The primary mechanism was post (contact centre) call surveys completed by customers. And the scope did not included the end 2 end customer experience:

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.

And my position?  I shared in the first post that these findings show up for me as a statement of the bleeding obvious. And it occurs to me that the headline grabbing finding “Satisfaction is not a predictor of loyalty” is misleading if not flawed.  Now I fulfil on my promise to share my rationale.

Dealing with findings 2, 3, and 4

How many studies do we need to get that satisfaction is not a predictor of loyalty?  Just look into your experience!  I can be satisfied, even delighted, with a physiotherapist and switch to a chiropractor. Why? Because by switching I reduce my travel time from 45-60 minutes (each way) to  15-20 minutes each way.  I can be satisfied with a particular restaurant and try out new restaurants that show up on my radar – usually as result of some recommendation.  I can be satisfied with a particular mobile telco and switch because of some promotion heavily promoted by a competitor …

Who does the customer turn to when s/he has a pressing issue which needs to be dealt with?  Customer Services and the folks sitting in some distant contact centre.  What does it take for a customer to make the call to these contact-centres?  My experience that many of us only call the contact centre if and only if we cannot address the issue through other means: internet, self-service channels, friends….. Why? Because, on the whole the experience of dealing with contact centres is effortful and painful.

It occurs to me that customers increasingly turn to Customer Services as a last resort and usually with the more complex issues/problems.  And on the whole the Customer Services function is not designed to help customers with these complex issues/problems;  contact-centres are staffed and run to minimise the cost of operations not to deliver a good customer experience.  As a result of the mismatch between the needs of the Customer and the design-operation of the contact-centre customers often have to force a solution out from the contact-centre.  That is to say that at best the interaction shows up as effortful. And there are many instances where the contact centre is unhelpful: quoting policy or making promises and not delivering on them as Customer Services has little power in the rest of the organisation.  Given this is it any surprising that “Customer service interaction tend to drive disloyalty, not loyalty” and “The key to mitigating disloyalty is reducing customer effort”.  Don’t take my word for it, read this post for my British Gas experience.

Dealing with the profound finding: “A strategy of delight doesn’t pay”

Take a look at delight.  What shows up?  For me, taken a phenomenological approach, the following shows up:

  1. I rarely find myself delighted in the course of interacting with companies of which I am a customer.

  2. When I do find myself delighted it is because someone who is a representative of the company , or the company itself, has ‘given’ me something that shows up for me as valuable and which I did not expect.

  3. Delight is contextual – the  content which shows up as delightful in one context does not necessarily show up as delightful in another context. For example, being upgraded from an economy seat to a business seat, in Virgin Atlantic, for a transatlantic flight showed up a delightful.  If I had been upgraded in the case of an hour flight the hassle would have probably outweighed the ‘delight’. Friendly-chatty service show up as delightful when I am relaxed and have plenty of time to spare; the same friendly-chatty service shows up as annoying-intruding-unprofessional when I am in a hurry and simply want the job done, the outcome delivered. If getting the job done turned out to be easier than I imagined, involved less effort on my part, then I tend to be delighted at how easy-effortless the experience was – whether conducting research, making a purchase, or contacting the customer services team and getting help with an issue.

  4. In service transactions there is something like a recipe for generating delight in customers. The recipe involves: solving the customer’s problem; doing so quickly not leaving the customer hanging and most likely worried; minimising the effort that the customer has to make; and last but not least the human element – how you treat the customer as a flesh and blood human being with or without respect, with warmth or with coldness/indifference, as a unique fellow human being or just another call to be handled asap to meet the call time metrics….

How do the authors of the Effortless Experience see, define and measure delight? They see it very differently to me.  They do not see delight in phenomenological terms: that which shows up in the customer’s lived experience – body and mind.  No, they have defined a strategy of delight as consisting of a number of tactics falling under the category Moments of “Wow”:

“Moments of “Wow”

- Willingness of service to go above and beyond

- Applying knowledge about customers

- Exceeding customer expectations

- Teaching the customer

- Offering alternatives

- Perceived value of alternatives”

So what the author’s research is testing, if it is testing anything, is the effectiveness of these tactics in generating delight and thus loyalty.  What if these tactics annoy customers rather than delight customers?  Just this week, I rang my broadband supplier as my patience had run out. The contact-centre agent was helpful. In between conducting the tests, and understanding the size of my home, she was telling me about a special offer (wireless range extender) that the company had on, encouraging me to take advantage of this offer, and telling me she would be happy to guide me through the online process.  Did this land as delightful for me? No! Why not? Because I just wanted her to fix my broadband so I could get my work done!  I didn’t ring to get advice. I didn’t ring to get a free wireless range extender. I range because the broadband was slow, had been slow intermittently over weeks, and that day I desperately needed the broadband to work because I had pressing work to get done and for that I needed a fast (enough) internet connection!

Now take a look at what the authors have placed under the category of Customer Effort:

“Customer Effort

- Number of transfers

- Repeating information

- First contact resolution

- Number of contacts to resolve

- Perceived additional effort to resolve

- Ease of contacting service

- Channel switching

- Time to resolve”

It occurs to me that many of the factors that are likely to lead to delight showing up in customers, as a lived bodily experience, in-around-after a customer service interaction have been placed in the Customer Effort category.

If I am correct, this exhaustive research, the millions of data points, and the subsequent profound finding “Strategy of delight doesn’t pay” is:

  • misleading at best;
  • has been misinterpreted and misreported by many in the media (including bloggers) who failed to dive into the fundamental grounds of this research;
  • does not prove that leaving customers feeling delighted does not generate an economic return.

I get that I make mistakes. If you see mistakes in the analysis that I have shared with you then please point them out to me by commenting.

The Effortless Experience: Is There Anything of Value Behind The Hype?

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.

Integrity: Is This Why Apple, John Lewis, and Amazon are Masters of the Customer Experience?

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

  1. Why is it that commercial aeroplanes don’t fall out of the sky?
  2. Why is it that terrorism did not take root, establish itself, and grow in the USA/UK?
  3. Why is that it is rare for criminals to kill a policeman in the UK?
  4. 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?
  5. 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?
  6. 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?
  7. 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:

  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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. 

Summing up

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.

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