Category Archives: Social
The Situation: An Unexpected Problem Shows Up
I got a phone call to tell me that it had not been possible to get the road tax renewed. Why? Because the MOT had run out. Given that I had asked (and paid for) the car to be ‘road taxed’ over two weeks ago, I was not happy to get this news when the road tax had run out. So I set myself the task of getting the car through its MOT on the next day – the day where I would be working from home.
The Customer Experience
1) Research Phase: Finding A Suitable Local MOT Centre
About 7-8 am I turned up at Google and searched for MOT centres in my part of the world. Halfords Autocentres caught my eye. Why? I know where the local centre is and it is only five minutes drive from my home. And because of the offer.
Book Now To Take Advantage Of Our Exclusive Online Deal. Save Today!
The offer – MOT for only £27 and ability to book online – was too good to resist. So I clicked on the link and ended up on a well designed-helpful web page. Here is screenshot of the middle section of this page:
This one page, answered my key questions-concerns:
1. Can I book online? Yes
2. Can I make an MOT booking for today? Yes, provided there is an open slot at your chosen centre.
3. How long does it take? 45 minutes if no repairs needed, up to 60 minutes if minor repairs needed.
4. What happens if the car fails the MOT? Most repairs can be carried out at the autocentre on the day of the MOT.
2. Purchase Phase: Booking and Paying Online
Within five minutes I had selected my local Halfords autocentre, entered the details of my wife’s car, selected the ‘MOT’ product, accessed the MOT calendar, found an empty slot for that day, booked that slot, entered my contact details, paid, got a confirmation, and printed off my the relevant documents. Easy!
3. MOT Phase: Arrival At Local Autocentre
Five minutes before my appointed slot, I turned up at the local Halford Autocentre. Alex was on reception, he recognised me, he smiled, he welcomed me. I did not have anything to explain as Alex had a copy of my booking.
Exactly on time, one of the mechanics showed up, took the keys and got on with testing my wife’s car; I could see exactly what was happening because the office and service bays are separated by glass. Whilst the mechanic was conducting the test, Alex and I were catching up when he was not taking calls (from customers) or serving customers who popped in.
4. MOT Phase: Results and Departure from Local Autocentre
The forty-five minutes flew by. Alex went to talk with the mechanics. Coming back he told me that the car had ‘failed’ its MOT and there was nothing to worry about. Noticing my confusion, Alex explained that the regulations had changed and so the ‘state of wiring’ in-around the engine did not meet regulations. And there was nothing to worry about because the mechanics were tidying up the wiring – the job would be done in the next five to ten minutes.
True to his promise, within 10 minutes Alex had my MOT certificate ready. He went through it including pointing out that two tyres would need to be replaced soon. At the end of this review I was expecting to be charged for the ‘tidying up’ of the wiring. Surprise! No charge.
I thanked Alex. I thanked the mechanic who came into the office at the moment. And I wished them both a great Christmas and the very best for 2014. What did I get in return? An early Christmas gift. Both Alex and the mechanic said, with a certain genuineness (conveyed by the tone of their voices) “And the same to you, mate!”
What Made This Such a Great Experience?
It occurs to me that the following factors worked together to make my experience a great one:
- Compelling offer (price competitive MOT, online booking) that grabbed my attention
Well designed MOT page that is informative, useful and usable
Easy to find local Halfords autocentre, easy to search for MOT slots by day, one click booking of an empty time slot, easy payment-checkout process, online confirmation of booking, ease of printing out the paperwork.
The right hand knows what the left hand is doing – in this case the local Halfords autocentre knew of my booking, had printed off the paperwork, and were expecting me.
Keeping the promise – the MOT was completed within 45 minutes. And the minor repairs ‘tidying up the wiring’ in-around the engine was completed in the 5 – 10 minutes, and in any case less than the 60 minutes quoted on the website at the time of booking.
A friendly face that I knew, who knew me, and who welcomed me.
Generosity – the chaps at Halfords could have charged me for ‘tidying up’ the wiring. And I would have paid. They didn’t. Most importantly, they made no big deal of it. In a world where I expect to pay for everything, this generosity of spirit was and is welcome.
The humanity right at the end – between myself, Alex and the mechanic. I can still hear the genuine warmth-melody of “And the same to you mate!”
It occurs to me that:
whilst there is truth in the saying that customers don’t want relationships with companies, this truth turns out to be falsehood when it comes to the human to human level: between the customer and the employees (flesh and blood human beings) who deal with, serve, and help the customer.
great experience designers craft experiences where hi-touch integrates with and complement hi-tech; hi-tech is great for making it easy to get jobs done; hi-touch is essential for calling forth the kind of emotions that cultivate emotional bonds.
Halfords Autocentres have got it right when it comes to the MOT experience – at least in my case, for this specific experience.
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:
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.
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:
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
Tags: community, customer experience, disruptive innovation, Giff Gaff, innovative business models, membership, mobile telecoms, Nunwood Customer Experience 2013 Report, Putting customers at the heart of the business, sense of common purpose, social, UK Customer Experience Leaders
What Happened to the Human Touch?
Think back to your last encounter with an employee of a retail store? Did that encounter meet your expectations? Did that encounter leave you ‘uplifted’ in some sense? Did that encounter, elevate your view of your fellow human beings? Did it make you feel good about this race of beings who call themselves human beings?
My suspicion is that your last encounter with the employees of a retail store showed up as rather mechanical. The human touch and the sense of aliveness that comes with the human touch was not present. And in not being present, all that took place was an interaction between you and the employee. The kind of interaction that can be and is being replaced by digital technologies.
Have you wondered why it is that so many retail store employees show up as lacking the human touch? What have you identified as the core causes? Did you come to the conclusion that the retail store staff don’t care about customers? Perhaps you thought to yourself that these employees are lazy, want to do the minimum, take no pride in their work. Did you determine that they simply do not have the soft skills? Perhaps you concluded that they lacked training and so should be trained in customer service skills.
Are retail employees given the space to be great with customers?
If this is your position then I invite you to consider this question: are retail employees given the space to be great with customers? Is it possible that retail employees want to do a good job, they want to be engaged in what they are doing, and they want to treat customers well. And yet often they find that they are not given the space to do this. Allow me to illustrate through real examples.
I know a young woman that has been working in one of the UK’s well known high street retailers for over a month. This high street retailer has been established for some time and tends to have a loyal customer base. And this retailer stresses the importance of customer service. Let’s call this young woman (Miss).
One day, after only about a week in her job, Miss was called over by a customer. The customer was on old woman (70+). The old woman was carrying a few bags, trying to get hold of her purse, and struggling to stay upright. The old woman asked Miss to help her. Miss provided the help that the old woman asked for: help her steady herself, help her walk over to the cashier, help her get her purse out of her handbag…..
The customer was grateful for the help that she received. She told Miss that. Miss was pleased with the way that she had conducted herself in helping the customer. What was her reward? She was told off for breaking company policy. What policy? The policy against touching customers. She was told that she should not have put her arm around the old woman to steady her. She was told that she should have simply walked the old woman to the nearest counter. And there the customer could have steadied herself. When Miss explained that it had been necessary to put her arm around the old woman she was simply told that it was against company policy.
A week or so later Miss was stopped by another customer, an older man in his 60s. This customer could not find the clothes he was looking for. Miss told him where they were and offered to take him there. Once there, the customer asked for Miss help-advice in selecting certain products. Miss gave the help that this customer asked for. In all this encounter lasted around 30 minutes. In that time Miss had learned a lot about the customer (articulate, lost his wife, son gone to Australia, lonely…) and had shared some of her life that was relevant to the conversation. For most of this time, Miss was worried that management would tell her off for spending too much time helping one customer. What to do, do what the customer is asking for? Or to make an excuse, walk away, and safeguard her job? Miss chose to stay and finish helping the customer.
Once the customer had completed his shopping, Miss walked him to the cashier. At the cashiers desk the customer thanked her, wished her well, and gave her a hug. It occurred to Miss that the right thing to do was to reciprocate the hug. Even just a little touch on his shoulder to say ‘thank you’. Instead, Miss found herself standing still, arms hanging by her sides, mindful of the company policy, and fearful of what management would say. It showed up awkward for her and she is sure that it must have showed up as cold-distant-awkward to the customer – as if he had done something wrong. That was not the experience Miss wanted the customer to remember.
It occurs to me that this is the way to turn human beings into automatons, drive the human touch out of the retail environment, and thus negate the one lever retail stores have to differentiate themselves against e-tailers: the human touch. Look if social business means anything meaningful then it means this: putting our humanity into the game of business and there is nothing more human than the genuine human touch.
Next time you and I come across an employee that is going through the motions, it may be worth suspending our judgement and not blaming the employee. It may be more useful to look at the broader system in which the employee is embedded. And looking at this system, the smarter question may be: what is it about the broader system that calls this employee to turn and up and go through the motions as opposed to put himself fully into his job and thus show up with aliveness?
Integrity is a choice – one that we fail to choose
Let me make clear that when I speak integrity I am not talking about morality nor virtue. I am talking about integrity as honouring one’s word.
Integrity, as honouring one’s word, is a choice. It is a choice that almost all of us choose not to make. And those of us who do choose integrity, as way of being and showing up in the world, get that ‘Integrity is mountain with no top’ – that is to say that one never arrives. Put differently, integrity is always flowing out. Therefore, the challenge is to be present to this flowing out and make the necessary corrections ongoingly – this applies to individuals, teams, organisations.
It occurs to me that we live in an age given by cultural practices which allow and encourage us to have a cheap-weak relationship to our word. In our societies one expects people not to talk straight. One expects people not to mean what they say. Nor to say what they mean. It is perfectly ok to make promises and break them if it is convenient to do so. And when we do this the challenge is to find convenient reasons and excuses that allows us to ‘save face’.
What place is there for integrity when the measure is ROI?
Consider the world of business. What drives decisions and actions? If you look at it theoretically, every significant decision should be based on ROI. If honouring your promise, your word, delivers ROI then the smart course of action is to honour your word. If honouring your word does not deliver ROI then the smart course of action is not to honour your word. Doesn’t the ROI argument, in one shape or another, show up at each level of the organisation: Tops, Middles, Bottoms?
Without integrity promises to customers are just cheap talk
Why am I drawing our attention to integrity and the importance of fierce resolve to honouring one’s word? I say that work on harnessing digital technologies is useful. I say that work on changing policies and processes is necessary and useful. I say that harnessing data and using it to generate insight is useful. And I say that all of this makes no difference if fierce resolve is missing. What kind of fierce resolve? The fierce resolve to create superior value for a core set of customers. The fierce resolve to honour the organisations implicit and explicit promises to the customer. The fierce resolve to honour one’s word to colleagues within the bigger context of honouring the organisation’s word to customers.
Let me put it bluntly, the companies that excel at generating strong profitable relationships with customers create and show up from a fierce resolve to create superior value for their customers. Companies like Amazon, John Lewis, SouthWest Airlines, USAA, Zappos… Then are the rest – those that talk the talk and lack the fierce resolve to honour their word. Their words, our words, are cheap.
The real test of integrity is?
The real test of integrity, honouring one’s word, comes when the ROI of keeping one’s word is negative. For an organisation the real test of integrity shows up when the cost of honouring one’s word directly and negatively impacts the short term numbers: revenues and profits. And when the cost is a loss of face even ridicule. I think back to Warren Buffet sticking to his way of investing-doing business during the tech-internet boom.
Here’s the core point when it comes to integrity and honouring one’s word. Those who recognise the critical importance of integrity (as a positive phenomenon) would never do an ROI calculation once they have given their word. For these people honour one’s word is matter of principle not expediency. People with such deep relatedness to their word get that integrity is not a nice to have. No, they get that integrity is basis of workability and performance – of our lives, our relationships, our communities, our organisations, our societies, our world.
What is possible when cultural practices encourage and call forth integrity?
Enough said, now I want to share with you this article that I read and which got me present to what is possible when cultural practices encourage and call forth a strong relationship to our word. Here is what struck me about this real life WWI story:
- Capt Robert Campbell had been languising in Magdeburg prisoner of war camp for two years;
- He received word that his mother was dying of cancer;
- He wrote to Kaiser Wilhelm II, begging to be allowed home to visit her one final time;
- The Kaiser granted his request, allowing him two weeks leave, and did so on Capt. Campbell’s word as an Army officer;
- Capt. Campbell returned to Kent (England) in December 1916, spent time with his mother and returned to the prison camp (keeping his word to the Kaiser), and was held there until the end of the war (1918).
I say that this is possible only in an age where cultural practices call us to be our word. When we are called to be our word, our enemy can grant us leave trusting that we will honour our word. We in return are called upon to honour our word. As the author of the article says:
“Had he not turned up there would not have been any retribution on any other prisoners. What I think is more amazing is that the British Army let him go back to Germany. The British could have said to him ‘you’re not going back, you’re going to stay here’.”
Imagine what level of performance would be possible if the people in your organisation were committed to honouring their word. Imagine what kind of relationships would be possible with customers if the people in your organisation – Tops, Middles, Bottoms – were committed to honouring the organisation’s word to customers.
If you want to explore integrity at a deeper level
If you find yourself drawn to this conversation on integrity then I encourage you to listen to this 2 hour talk on integrity by Professor Michael Jensen
Is there a secret to great customer service? Is there a secret to great customer experiences? Is there a secret to cultivating genuine-meaningful-profitable relationships with customers? Is there a secret to authentic customer centricity? I say there is. I also say that it does not lie in the places where almost all organisations are focussed on: data, analytics, process and technology.
Data, analytics, process and technology are content. Think of these as the walls, floors and roof of a house. What do they rest on? The foundation. What happens if the right foundation is not in place?
Using an organic metaphor, I say that data, analytics, process and technology are seeds. What if they are being planted in a desert? If you want to genuinely connect with your customers and cultivate mutually beneficial relationships then you have to cultivate the right ‘soil’ for such a relationship to sprout. What kind of ‘soil’ am I pointing at? I am pointing at the very ground of your being-in-the-world, the way that you automatically show up in the world. Think of it as the presence and possibility that walks into the room when you walk into the room.
I am also pointing at the very ground of your organisation’s being-in-the-world. I am not talking here about brand values cooked up by marketing nor about cultural values cooked up by the Tops or HR. I am pointing at ‘what is so’ in terms of your organisation’s people, priorities, policies, practices, products, processes and platforms.
I get that you are not likely to be used to my way of speaking. So allow me to give you a concrete example of what I mean by ‘the very ground of your being-in-the-world’. Please read the following quote by Mahatma Gandhi:
A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependant on us. We are dependant on him. He is not an interruption on our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider on our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so.
I invite you to read it again. Now ask yourself, how true is each of these statements for me, for my team members, for my organisation? Now take a look at the many organisations spending money on VoC, customer analytics, customer journey mapping, process redesign, and technology implementation in the name of customer focus, customer experience and customer-centricity. How true are these statements for these organisations?
I say that the access to great customer service, great customer experience, and authentic customer-centricity is empathy, generosity, and compassion.
I have a question for you to ponder. What becomes possible if you:
- truly treat your customers as if they were the most important visitors on your premises?
- showed up in the world in way that honored your customers and never treated them as interruptions to your business?
- truly embraced your customers and considered them to be an intrinsic and essential part of your business?
- focused on simplifying and enriching the lives of your customers in a way that contributed to their wellbeing?
- treated the people who constitute your organisation with dignity and respect where each person was listened to as a person of worth?
Does all this sound unrealistic to you? Would you rather be working on the getting access to the voice of the customer, talking about ROI, changing processes, outsourcing, and implementing CRM and other technologies? That’s totally OK by me. You probably wasted a ton of money on CRM. And I am totally OK with you wasting another ton of money on Customer Experience stuff. It is your money!
If, however, you have some listening to what I am pointing at here then I wish to share, with you, this quote from Mahatma Gandhi:
Love is the subtlest force in the world.
Yes, I am a dreamer. I dream of a world that works for all, none excluded. I dream of you and I working together to co-create this world. And with that thought I leave you with this final quote from Mahatma Gandhi:
It is beneath human dignity to lose one’s individuality and become a mere cog in the machine.