Are There Are Any Flaws In Today’s Hot Theories on Leadership?

What does it take to cultivate strong relationships with the folks that you find yourself leading or managing?

As I listen to the folks in HR, and those that talk leadership, it occurs to me that a specific style/approach is being advocated: be nice to folks, listen to them, don’t lose your calm, delegate/share power, make them feel they matter…  If this is the case then how is it that Steve Jobs is held up as one of the most effective business leaders of all time? Steve Jobs, at least what I know of him, was not the exemplar of this approach.

We can ignore anomalies, breakdowns/holes in our existing take on reality, or look into them, explore and learn. Today, lets take this breakdown to see what it might conceal. As it happens this was a matter that I was grappling with whilst I found myself incapacitated for 4-5 weeks. I’d like to share with you what showed up for me. I invite you to listen to the words of Douglas McGregor as spoken in his book The Human Side of Enterprise (bolding mine):

Many subtle behavioral manifestations of managerial attitude create what is often referred to as the psychological “climate” of the relationship. During childhood ….. each of us acquired a high level of skill in perceiving aspects of parental behavior which told us whether everything was “all right with the relationship. Even very small children are amazingly sensitive to quite unconscious manifestations of parental attitudes of acceptance or rejection...

Granted that the subordinate’s dependency is far less in the employment relationship, it remains materially true that his ability to achieve his goals is materially affected by the attitudes of his superiors….. The climate is more significant than the type of leadership or personal “style” of the superior. The boss can be autocratic or democratic, warm and outgoing or remote and introverted, easy or tough, but these personal characteristics are of less significance then the deeper attitudes to which his subordinates respond. 

What Do You Get When You Swear At, Drive, Discipline, Dictate At Those You Lead?

Let’s continue this conversation by listening to Douglas McGregor share an anomaly that he encountered at a manufacturing company (bolding mine):

The mechanical superintendent in a small manufacturing company was the prototype of the “bull in the woods” manager. He swore at his men, drove them, disciplined them, behaved superficially like a Napoleon. He was the despair of the staff group who were carrying on a program of supervisory training in human relations. Yet, oddly, his subordinates appeared to have high regard to him. They said, “Oh is bark is worse than his bite.” Morale and productivity in his department were both high.

Let’s stop here for a moment and reflect. Here we have a real life example that goes against the conventional wisdom of human-relations – at least the wisdom advocated by leadership gurus, and HR advisors/practitioners. What is going on? How is it that someone who swears, drives, acts like Napoleon calls forth high regard, morale and productivity from the very folks he is swearing at, driving and disciplining? I say we are back to Steve Jobs and the question that I posed at the start of this conversation.

Is Effective Leadership Limited to Creating a Deep and Satisfying Emotional Certainty of Free Treatment?

I invite you to listen some more to the words of Douglas McGregor (bolding mine):

Probing revealed some significant facts. He was known as a “square shooter” who dealt with his men with scrupulous fairness. Despite his superficial toughness he was sincerely and warmly interested in his subordinatesWhen they were in trouble – whether it was a simple matter of a few dollars to tide a man over until payday, or a family crisis – he helped out in matter-of-fact way that left no uncomfortable feeling of being patronised.

Most important of all, he was known to be ready to go to bat for his men on any occasion when he felt they had not been accorded a fair break by higher management. The men spoke with awe of two occasions during a ten-year period when he had stormed into the office of the big boss to demand that a decision be altered because it was unfair to “his boys.” When he was refused in one of these instances, he resigned on the spot, put on his hat, and left. His superior actually followed him out to the gate and capitulated.

Douglas McGregor concludes his take on this superintendent and his leadership/management style with the following words of wisdom:

His managerial attitude cuts across authoritarianism, permissiveness, paternalism, firmness and fairness, and all the other “styles” of management to create a deep and satisfying emotional certainty of fair treatment.

It occurs to me that Douglas McGregor’s take on leadership/management accounts may just account for the success of Steve Jobs as a leader/manager. From what I have read, Steve Jobs surrounded himself with A players: those that showed up as A’s were treated as As, those who did not were pushed out.

I Find Myself Disagreeing With Douglas McGregor. Why?

How is it that I find myself left uncomfortable and in disagreement with Douglas McGregor? I say that the ground upon which the exercise of human-centred leadership occurs is ‘care’: genuine care for the wellbeing of one’s ‘boys and girls’. Care is more than fair treatment. And is illustrated by this superintendent in two ways. First, when “his boys” were in troubles he helped out “in a matter of fact way that left no uncomfortable feelings”. Fair treatment in the workplace does not require one to lend money to the folks you are leading or help them out with family crises. Second, he resigned. Fair treatment would require that the superintendent go to bat for his boys – to make the case. It does not require one to resign. So how does this resignation show ‘care’? It occurs to me that it shows the other (usually hidden side) of care: care for one’s stand in relationship to what will and will not stand for. In his case, the Superintendent was not willing to stand for anything less than fair treatment for “his boys”. I bet that “his boys” were proud to be called “his boys”.

Note: this conversation is a modified version of the conversation published earlier at CustomerThink.com

What Is The Single Most Critical Factor in CRM / CX / Digital Success?

Recently I was pitching for new work and the question that keeps coming up came up. This question is alway some form of “What is the single most critical factor in ……..?”   Examples include:

  • What is the single most critical factor in coming up with a great strategy?
  • What is the single most critical factor in CRM / marketing automation success?
  • What is the single most critical factor in customer experience success?
  • What is the single most critical factor in making a success transition into a digital business?
  • What is the single most critical factor in effecting organisational change?
  • What is the single most critical factor in managing CRM projects and programmes?
  • What is the single most critical factor in getting folks to adopt new systems?

You get the idea.  No matter the domain, sooner or later a client will want to know what is the single most critical factor to success.

If find it interesting how it is that intelligent folks ask such a stupid question – with no awareness as to what makes this a stupid question. Do you get what it is that makes this question stupid?

The assumption behind this question is that the world, in which we find ourselves, is simple, silo’d, and linear.  It assumes that the when it comes to dealing with challenges (and creating new futures) you can identify, isolate, work on one key factor – and this will ensure the desired outcome.  It assumes that this factor is invariant across time – that it is always the same one thing that matters most irrespective of time, situation, context…

What if the challenge that we face is similar to the challenge that the juggler faces? The very nature of juggling involves juggling many balls at the same time. As such, does it not involve competence in using a wide angle lens to keep track of all the balls? And at the same time, focusing on the one or two balls which are at the forefront at the moment in time? And at the same time keeping one’s attention over the environment in which one finds oneself in: the audience, the surroundings, the weather….?

I say to you that what makes CRM, customer experience, digital marketing, digital business, marketing-sales-service effectiveness challenging is that there is no single factor that is critical to success!  I say to you that no ‘guru’, no consultancy, no vendor has the magical recipe that takes the messiness out of life and guarantees a quick-easy journey to success.

So what is it that you have to put into the CRM, CX, Digital game?  You have to start working on that which needs work. You have to attract the right folks to work with you on your challenge / desired outcome. You have to get hold of the necessary resources. You have to be attuned to that which is going on within and around you. You have to accept-embrace failures. You have to fail your way to success by keenly attuned to the visible and the invisible and making the necessary corrections as and when these are called for.  You have to give up the stupid notion that there is one single most critical factor to success. And you have to continuously free yourself (and others) from the addiction to the short-cut.

I say to you that it is foolish to search for and focus on that one most critical success factor. I say to you even more foolish than this foolishness, is the foolishness of searching for and fixating on some magical potion: approach, methodology, technique, technology… I say to you that any person that offers you a single most critical success factor or magical potion is either a fool or a charlatan.

I invite you to consider that there is no single most critical factor in CRM / CX / Digital success!  Enough for today, I thank you for listening.

Competency: The Untapped Lever For Improving the Customer Experience And Cultivating Loyalty?

It took me over nine months to get my eldest son to consult Sandra about his shoulder/back pain. It took only one consultation for him to book another four sessions with Sandra. Why? Because Sandra is excellent at what she does.

How does Sandra demonstrate her excellence? In her greeting. In how quickly-easily she spots what the underlying causes are. In how effortlessly she causes the necessary adjustments. In how keen and effective she is to communicate with, inform, and educate the folks that go and see her.  In short Sandra is competent in that which matters.

What are the sources of her competence? This is what I have distinguished. One, she has been doing what she has been doing for forty years. In her early years. Two, she is really into her chosen field and so keeps up to date with the latest research. Three, she is open to learning  – including learning from the folks who are her clients.

I say competency matters. I say that competency can provide powerful access to improving the customer’s experience of you and your organisation, and cultivating meaningful-enduring relationships. And I say that competency is neglected. Why? It occurs to me that the assumption is that folks / processes / technology are competent. Is this assumption valid?

Allow me to give you examples of incompetency that I have come across myself:

Many if not most marketers are incompetent. Some are not adequately skilled in the creative side. Many are not skilled in the data/analytical/digital side of marketing….

Most sales folks are not competent in the craft of selling.  Some lack commercial acumen. Others lack an adequate grasp of their customer’s industry/business. Some lack a through grapes of the product/solution that they are selling. Others lack the ability to focus on the clients/deals that matter. Some suffer from all of these handicaps.

Most of the folks that I have found to be in retail stores are incompetent. Some are not skilled in greeting / welcoming customers. Others simply do not have the requisite product knowledge to answer the customers’ questions. Some cannot work the technology that they need to be able to work quickly-easily to serve customers promptly….

Most of the folks in call-centres are incompetent. Some simply do not have the requisite listening and speaking skills. Others do not have the knowledge-understanding to provide the right answers to customer queries. Some are not adept at working the range of systems that they need to interact with to deal with customer queries. Others lack a sound understanding of the company’s processes.

Most managers are incompetent. Some are incompetent in the task dimension. Most are incompetent when it comes to working effectively with people and calling forth the best from their people.

Many of the IT folks are incompetent. Some do not understand the technologies that they are dealing with. Far more and most are unskilled in dealing effectively with human beings or simply bearing in mind that they IT systems must serve the needs of people if these systems are going to be adopted and used effectively….

Most business processes are incompetent – they are not fit for purpose.  Some are simply out of date. Many are too restrictive – they do not allow folks to respond flexibly to the demands of the situation.  So the folks who find themselves amidst these processes have to find creative ways around these processes. Or stick to the script and leave customers with the experience of dealing with robots.  That is is the biggest incompetency of business process fixation: turning resourceful, creative, flexible beings (human beings) into mindless morons.

Most IT systems are incompetent. Some are simply not useful – they do not help the folks to get the job done better, quicker, easier. Others are not usable – they take to long to learn, finding one’s way around the system is not intuitive, they are not accessible when they need to be accessible, or they are not adequately responsive… Most are simply not for human beings with soul. And of course often there are simply too many of these systems and these systems do not talk to one another – thus creating extra work for the human beings.

I say that when you choose to really look at the world of business through the lens of competency you may just be amazed on how incompetency is ubiquitous. I say that the organisational world is wide open for those who wish to make a name for themselves (and/or their organisations) by rising above the general level of incompetency and committing to excellence.  I say that one critical role of effective leaders is to set and live high standards – standards which define competence as being no less than excellence as defined by the ‘customer’ of the product, the process, the system…

Does Customer Experience Leadership Require Straight Communication And Fair Business Practices?

Are UK Supermarkets Conning Customers?

According to the press, the consumer watchdog Which? has been investigating the UK’s dominant supermarket chains for the last seven years. Based on the ‘findings’  Which? put forth a super-complaint against the supermarkets. A super-compliant is not something that is done lightly. So what is the basis of this super-complaint?

Despite Which? repeatedly exposing misleading and confusing pricing tactics, and calling for voluntary change by the retailers, these dodgy offers remain on numerous supermarket shelves.”

– Richard Lloyd, Which?

How Are The UK’s Supermarkets Conning Customers?

As I understand it, Which? is asserting (based on the evidence it has collected) that the UK’s dominant supermarkets are misleading customers through dishonest communication. Through which mechanisms is this dishonest communication occurring? Through “dodgy multi-buys, shrinking products and baffling sales offers”: the supermarkets are communicating / promoting illusory savings and fooling shoppers into choosing products they might not have bought if they knew the full facts.

What is the purpose of this dishonest-misleading communication and customer facing practices?  As I understand the purpose is to keep existing customers and protect margins by conveying the illusion of a good deal – as opposed to providing a genuinely good deal.  Does Which? have any examples?  According to the Guardian:

Seasonal offers: higher prices only applied out of season, when consumers are less likely to buy the item. It found a Nestle Kit Kat Chunky Collection Giant Egg was advertised at £7.49 for 10 days in January this year at Ocado, then sold on offer at £5 for 51 days.

Was/now pricing: the use of a higher “was” price when the item has been available for longer at the lower price. Acacia honey and ginger hot cross buns at Waitrose were advertised at £1.50 for just 12 days this year before going on offer at “£1.12 was £1.50” for 26 days.

Multi-buys: prices are increased on multi-buy deals so that the saving is less than claimed. Asda increased the price of a Chicago Town Four Cheese Pizza two-pack from £1.50 to £2 last year and then offered a multi-buy deal at two for £3. A single pack went back to £1.50 when the “offer” ended.

Larger pack, better value: the price of individual items in the bigger pack are actually higher. Tesco sold four cans of Green Giant sweetcorn for £2 last year, but six cans were proportionately more expensive in its “special value” pack, priced at £3.56.

Are these crafty (the marketing folks will be saluting themselves for their ingenuity) yet dishonest business practices of any significance?  Given that some 40% of supermarket sales are driven by sales promotions of this kind, it occurs to me that the answer is likely to be yes.  Further, these are the practices that these chains are using to stave off the genuine price-value completion introduced in the supermarket sector by the likes of Aldi, and Lidl.

What Are The Customer Experience Implications?

At one level, it occurs to me that the key customer experience is rather simple: it is relatively easy to fool customers and keep fooling them over years through misleading communication, misleading pricing, and dishonest business practices.  As I look into this, I find myself concluding that most customers, most of the time, are trusting of the folks they do business with.  Why? Because in the absence of this trust, human lives become practically unlivable. The cost of being constantly vigilant is too high – those who can afford not to pay this cost choose not to pay it. These creates the space for businesses (supermarkets, utilities, banks…) to do that which they do do: take advantage of customers to extract ‘bad profits’.

What Is The Cost Of Addiction To These Dishonest Business Practices as Opposed To Focusing On Creating Genuine-Superior Value For Customers?

It occurs to me that the cost is paid over the longer term. Whilst the folks in your organisation are busy congratulating themselves on their ability to dupe your customers, or provide the bare minimum to keep customers,  there is someone out there busy doing the work of coming up with compelling value propositions. Think back to the american automotive industry and the rise/dominance of the Japanese automakers.  Think about Amazon and what it has done to retail.  Think about Apple and the impact it has made.  Think about First Direct ….. I say that the use of misleading communication and dishonest business practices is a form of subsidy to the least competitive players in an industry. From whom is the subsidy extracted? Customers.

Does an Organisation Get To Be And Keep Being A Customer Experience Leader Through Misleading Communication And Dishonest Business Practices?

Is USAA a CX leader because the folks in the business genuinely show up to do the best for their customers or because they have found slick ways of conning customers?  Is Apple a CX leader because the folks in the business create great products that resonate with customers or because it has found a slick way of conning customers – perhaps through advertising and the outward veneer of its products?

I am clear that sustainable CX leadership requires straight communication and fair business practices in the context of going full out to simplify-enrich the lives of the folks impacted by the business: employees, customers, suppliers / partners….

You are welcome to disagree. If you find yourself in disagreement then I invite you to share your perspective by commenting.  I am opening to learning that which I am not present to.

What Does It Take To Close The Customer Experience Gap?

Is Knowledge / Understanding The Key To Closing The Customer Experience Gap?

A few well known brands are renowned on the basis of how their customers experience these brands. Year after year, the situation remains the same: the same brands stand out in terms of the customer experience, and of the rest most of them are doing ok (not great) and haven’t improved much from the previous year.

So what’s missing?  Is it that the Tops and Middles in these so-so organisations/brands don’t understand the importance/value of customer experience? Is it that they don’t understand how to go about improving the customer experience? If this is the case then the mountain of speaking and writing that has taken place and continues to take place on the important/benefit of Customer Experience is failed. If this is the case then all the effort that academics, consultancies, and ‘gurus’ have put into coming up with and pushing forward their secret recipes – approaches, methods, tools and techniques – has been wasted.

Hold on. Could it be that what is not missing is not knowledge/understanding – of the benefits, and how to get there?  Could it be that folks understand Customer Experience and that understanding is not enough?  I invite you to read and reflect on the following words of wisdom:

In life, understanding is the booby prize.

– Werner Erhard

What is it that Werner Erhard is getting at? I don’t know because I was not present when he spoke those words. What I can share with you is my take on what he is getting at. The world is changed though action not understanding. A wo/man with no understanding and some action is likely to get much farther than a wo/man with a limitless understanding and no action.  Hence, the assertion that in life (as we experience and co-create it) understanding is the booby prize.

Bridging The Customer Experience Gap: Knowledge, Desire, and Action

The other day I watched a Dan Ariely TED talk. In this talk he talks of three gaps: the knowledge gap, the desire gap, and the action gap. Lets use these to grapple with the CX gap – in particular what is involved in closing the CX gap.

CX: Knowledge Gap

This is the gap between the following:

  •  Your organisational view/rating on how your organisation is doing in the Customer Experience realm; and
  •  Your customers’ view/rating of their experience in doing business with your organisation.

Clearly customer research, including voice of the customer surveys, can be of value in getting a sound understanding of the ‘cx: knowledge gap’.

Please note, if your organisation is using VoC surveys to reward/punish your people then I advise you to work on the assumption that these VoC are being gamed and as such unlikely to be accurate.

CX: Desire Gap

It is not enough to know where things are at; remember Werner Erhard’s quote on understanding as the booby prize? The critical question is where do you want to be in terms of the Customer Experience? What type of Customer Experience do you want to deliver?  This brings us to the CX: Desire Gap:

  •  The  Customer Experience your organisation desires / wants to show up (deliver) for your customers across various touch-points and the customer journey as a whole; and
  •  How you think your organisation is doing today in terms of the Customer Experience it delivers to your customers.

  • Look if where you want to be is where you are at then the conversation is over! There is only a meaningful conversation is there is big enough gap ‘cx: desire’ gap. Why? Because desire is the starting point, the motivational fuel, for shaping our actions in the world.

    CX: Action Gap

    As I stated at the start of this conversation, our only means of effecting change and making a dent in this world, even a tiny dent, is through action.  So we must face the action gap. Many (if not most) of us desire to be slim and have the knowledge to achieve state and yet do not arrive there because we fail to act. Many (if not most) of us desire to be ‘leaders in our chosen field’ yet do not arrive there because we do not do what it takes.  It occurs to me that this is also the case with the matter of closing the CX gap. So where to start? How to get your organisation to act?

    It occurs to me that to address the ‘cx: action gap’ it would be wise to recognise and work with organisational reality. What is this organisational reality? I am not in a position to make a definitive statement/assertion. I am in position to make a tentative one. It may be a safe bet that organisational worlds are worlds in which selfishness and short-term focus are the primary and overwhelming attractors of behaviour – especially at the managerial levels.  Therefore, it may that the CX appeals that are most likely to be heeded are the ones that appeal to selfishness. And will deliver results over the short-term.

    Which appeals are most likely to work the best?

    In my time working with the folks in marketing, I have found that they only act (wholeheartedly) on those suggestions that matter to them: lead generation, and in some cases direct sales. And which respect their need for adequate space for the exercise of creativity.

    In my time working with the folks in sales, I have found that they only act (wholeheartedly) on those suggestions that will allow them to close more sales, more quickly, with less effort, and less oversight and micro-management from their managers.

    In my time working with the folks in charge of call-centres, I have found that they only act (wholeheartedly) on those suggestions which promise a reduction in the demand falling on call-centres – if these suggestions can be implemented in ways that do not involve any significant changes to the way that the call-centres are organised, staff, managed.

    Which avenue is the most promising for all three of these areas? Digital. Effective use of digital technologies and channels increase leads, increases sales, decreases the work load falling on call-centres and improves the customers’ experience of your organisation. At least that is my experience: most of my CX design and change experience has centred on effecting change through digital means.  It has been the road of travel with the least resistance. That may have something to do with the fact that the work of digital falls to other parties – like the IT department, the digital agency, outside saas vendors and associated consultancies / implementation partners.

    What avenues are most likely to be effective in closing the ‘cx: action gap’ in your organisation? Remember, we tend to overestimate what we can accomplish in the short-term and underestimate what we can achieve over the longer term.  It may be ok to start small and take it from there.

    And Finally

    I recommend that you watch this TED talk by Dan Ariely. Why? You are likely to get a better appreciation of the knowledge gap, the desire gap, and the action gap. You may also learn something about how human beings work.

    How To Solve The Insoluble Problem Of Employee Engagement and Customer Loyalty?

    It occurs to me that when the same ‘problem’ keeps coming up then it worth taking a deeper look at the ‘the way of showing up and travelling’ (some call this mindset  or worldview) that generates the methods-techniques-tools for addressing the problem.  So in this conversation I wish to grapple with the persistent problems of ’employee engagement’ and ‘customer loyalty’. Let’s start by listening to one of my favourite stories (of wisdom):

    Dividing Camels

    There was once a Sufi who wanted to make sure his disciples would, after his death, find the right teacher of the Way for them. He, therefore …. left his disciples seventeen camels with this order: ‘You will divide the camels among the three of you in the following proportions: the oldest shall have half, the middle in age one third, and the youngest shall have one ninth.’

    … the disciples were at first amazed at such an inefficient disposition of their Master’s assets. Some said, ‘Let us own the camels communally,’ others sought advice and then said, ‘We have been told to make the nearest possible division,’ others were told by a judge to sell the camels and divide the money; and yet others held that the will was null and void because its provisions could not be executed.

    Then the fell to thinking that there might be some hidden wisdom to the Master’s bequest, so they made enquiries as to who could solve insoluble problems.

    Everyone they tried failed, until they arrived at the door of … Hazrat Ali. He said: ‘This is your solution. I will add one camel to the number. Out of the eighteen camels you will give half – nine camels – to the oldest disciple. The second shall have a third of the total, which is six camels. The last disciple may have one-ninth, which is two camels. That makes seventeen. One, my camel, is left over to be returned to me.’

    This is how the disciples found the teacher for them.

    – Idries Shah, Thinkers Of The East

    Have you watched The Matrix? It is movie that can be listened to at so many levels. I find the same to be the case for this story. For the sake of this conversation, let me highlight this:

    1. The conventional ‘leaders’ had supplied conventional advice which was ok for conventional matters. But not for this unusual one;

    2. It is what Hazrat Ali put into the game at hand (‘one camel’) that ended up solving the insoluble problem facing the disciples; and

    3. The ‘one camel’ does not refer to a physical camel. The ‘one camel’ refers to wisdom, compassion, love, humanity – the essentials of human existence and authentic community. There can never be a human being only human beings; to be human is to be social.

    What relevance does this have to the world of business and the two problems of ’employee engagement’ and ‘customer loyalty’? I say everything. Take a deep look at the methods-tools-techniques used to address these challenges. What do you notice? I notice that the ‘way of showing up and travelling’ (mindset/worldview if you prefer cognitivist rather than existential terms) is extractive: extracting more creativity, time, and effort from the employees and extracting more revenue and profits from customers? Where is the engagement, by the leaders/managers, in the lives (and existential projects) of the employees?  What loyalty is there to the customer?  Here I am pointing at practices and actions that ensure that the company is loyal to customers – not just words.

    Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit by Robin P.

    What ‘way of showing up and travelling’ in organisational life calls forth the kind of employee engagement that most organisations can only dream of?  I share with the following story as shared by Robin P of Zappos. I invite you to pay attention to that which I have put into bold:

    My husband passed away under tragic circumstances …. I couldn’t being to think of what was going to happen for our children, our family, or for me.

    When I first heard the news, I was numb, but I needed to make a call. Strangely enough, the call wasn’t to an immediate family member. It was to my employer, Zappos.com. That one action made me realize the strong connection I felt with my co-workers and the Zappos culture…

    When my senior manager received by hysterical call, she showed great compassion and gave me sound advice to calm me. She assured me that I shouldn’t be concerned with anything else but to take care of myself and my family, and that – day or night – I should call if I needed anything. After that she gave me every single one of her phone numbers, I knew she meant it.

    As much as Zappos meant to me before, the things they did after my husband passed amazed and humbled me. I was reassured that I shouldn’t feel pressure to return to work as soon as possible. They even volunteered to cater the reception for my husband’s service….

    There was always someone there to listen, offer consoling words, sit with me as I released my tears, or just give a hug. Co-workers and managers alike allowed me time to heal and gave me strength I needed to continue as a contributing and functioning member of the team.

    the most important contributions from my extended family at Zappos were support and friendship. Zappos was my refuge and healing place that gave me everything I needed to continue on with my life.

    – Delivering Happiness, Tony Hsieh

    What do you notice here? Are the folks at Zappos applying a particular set of techniques-tools dreamt up by social scientists, consultants, or recommended by HR? Or is it that the folks in Zappos, including her manager, putting their humanity into action: demonstrating care/concern for a human being in distress?  Do you/i/we need some kind of special training to do this?  Or is it merely a matter of creating an environment where we can put into play that which we know as well as we know how to breathe? Finally, I invite you to notice that domain of ‘care/concern’ for our fellow human beings (customers, employees…) involves action (doing stuff that makes a difference) not merely smooth talk.

    Summing Up

    It occurs to the that the worst thing that has happened to the world of business is the language of relationship: customer relationships, customer engagement, employee engagement, social.. Why? It masks the reality of the business world and organisational life. What reality? Business and organisational worlds are transactional. There is no genuine care for customers as human beings. There is no genuine care for employees as human beings. There is no genuine care for suppliers/partners as human beings. My lived experience (25+ years) is that those who occupy management and leadership positions are not in touch with their humanity. I doubt that most genuinely care even for themselves as human beings rather than human doings, human ‘achieve-ings’.

    I invite you to listen to the following profound words:

    To become a leader, first you must become a human being.

    – Peter Senge

    It occurs to me that all Customer and Employee efforts, like the advice-solutions offered by the conventional leaders to the disciples, are likely to fall short until the advice of Peter Senge is heeded. When it is heeded, and lived, like it is by Tony Hsieh (the CEO of Zappos) then the Tops and Middles will be able to call forth the best from the folks in the business to create meaningful-strong-loyal relationships with customers. With the folks working in the business and directly/indirectly serving customers. And suppliers/partners.

    I thank you for listening and invite you to put your humanity into the game of living no matter where this living occurs: with customers, in the workplace, at home….

    Please note: an earlier version of this conversation was published on CustomerThink.com last month.

    CX 2015: Where Does The UK Stand In Relation To The USA?

    Some folks at Nunwood (CX research and consulting company) have been kind enough to email over their latest report: Have A Nicer Day, Learning From the USA’s Customer Experience Leaders.  I found it to make interesting reading. In this conversation, I wish to focus on where the UK stands in relation to the USA – as set out in this report. Let’s begin with a quote that kind of sums the report up:

    On average, US enjoy significantly better experiences than their UK counterparts. This is more consistent across the sectors….

    Let’s look into why this is the case.

    CX: What Are The Big Difference Between The USA And The UK?

    At the last UK survey conducted and published in Q4, 2014 the average CX score was 7.25 (out of 10). The USA score as at Q1 2015 stands at 7.6. This looks like such a small difference: only 5%.  What do the authors of the Nunwood report say?

    – Every US sector with the exception of telecoms, outperforms its UK counterpart.…Sectors that are weak in the UK, notably utilities and logistics, are significantly stronger in the USA, despite challenging geographic and environmental circumstances.

    – The top 6 US brands (USAA, Publix, Amazon.com, Chick-fil-A, Disney Parks, Edward Jones) are stronger performers than the UK’s number one brand (First Direct).

    – With the UK’s CX currently improving by less than 1% per annum, the current trend puts the USA five years ahead of the UK.

    CX: What Accounts For This Difference?

    What factors, taken together, account for the difference between the quality of CX in the USA and that provided by the UK?  Here is my take on the matter based on the Nunwood report.

    1. CEOs and Culture That Places The Customer At The Heart Of All Decisions

    This is how the authors of the report put it (bolding mine):

    Few UK companies have a culture where the customer is at the heart of all decisions, few make strenuous efforts to ‘bring the customer into the organisation’ to improve collective understanding of the customers needs and wants. Fewer still have behavioural standards engrained across the organisation that drive behaviours to continuously improve the value created for customers.  

    At the heart of the difference lies a fundamental belief that what is good for the customer is good for the business. As some £166n fines and provisions across UK banking shows, that is not always the case in Britain.

     2. Customer Driven Innovation Is A Way Of Life In CX Leaders

    Let’s listen to the authors (bolding mine):

    The top 10 get so close to their customers that customer driven innovation is a way of life, not an aspiration. These brands follow the Steve Jobs edict that firms should “get closer than ever to their customers. So close that you tell them what they need before they realise it themselves.” For the US leaders, technology does not define the customer experience, rather the customer’s needs define the technology.

    3. Effective Use Of Technology To Deliver Omnichannel Experiences

    How do the authors see/express this?

    SMACIT. It stands for social, mobile, analytics, cloud, and internet of things…. For leading US companies, success is not merely mastering these fast moving technologies in isolation, but rather integrating them – often with offline components – around gaps in the customer experience. 

    In the UK, ‘digital’ is more often a way of reducing costs to serve, making life easier for the company. Increasing it’s a department or a directorate, By contrast, in the USA, digital is one of range of tools for solving customer problems. The message from the USA is use these technologies as mechanisms to deliver against customer needs.

    4. USA Is Back To Doing What It Does Best: Service

    Let’s listen to the authors once again:

    In the 70s and 80s, .. British holidaymakers were bowled over by the high quality of service delivered by US employees…. in the 90’s and 00’s … US service seemed no better, and often worse, than service at home. The ‘have a nice day’ culture was no longer associated with caring employees but with faked smiles…..

    tough economic times have a way of returning companies to fundamental business principles – and one of the most basis is customer service.…. All indicators now show that that not only has the US rediscovered its service ethic….

    CX: Summing Up The Difference Between The USA And The UK

    If we look behind all of this can we discern a ‘structure’ – a way of being and doing – that gives rise to the USA being some five years ahead of the UK in terms of customer experience?  I think we can. It occurs to me that the authors have identified and expressed it in these words:

    Customer experience management in the US is a more mature discipline, with every successful organisation focusing its marketing, operations, leadership, HR and systems investments on these goals. There is greater innate understanding and coherency than in the UK, with customer experience defining the change agenda for many firms, rather than simply being a part of it. 

    Put differently. It would appear that folks working within the US CX leaders show up and operate from the context of ‘unity of purpose’ – the unity of purpose being creating superior value for customers. And all change that occurs in these organisations arises from and supports this unity of purpose. Whereas CX in the UK, for the most part, is another item on the management/change agenda.

    Enough for today. Next time, lets dive a little deeper into the Nunwood report and see what we can learn from the US CX leaders. Until then I wish you the very best and thank your for listening.  Oh, and my thanks for the folks at Nunwood for emailing me their latest report.