“We’re not going to get a perfect solution in the short-term”
Talk abounds, advice abounds: the road to organisational nirvana is laid out by many a guru, professor and consultant. Talk about big data, customer analytics and customer insight. Talk about marketing effectiveness and marketing automation. Talk about sales effectiveness and sales force automation. Talk about great customer service. Talk about CRM. And talk about Customer Experience. Yet, little really changes: I see managers grappling with the same challenges that they were grappling with in 1999 when it comes to marketing, sale, service, and CRM.
Given the abundance in talk why is it that so little changes when it comes to organisational behaviour and organisational effectiveness? Let’s take a look at this question from the position of being on the court (in the organisation) rather than in the stands as a journalist/reporter (which is how many gurus, professors and consultants show up for me).
Working with a number of people grappling with the challenge of improving the sales process, improving customer service, enabling CRM and improving the Customer Experience across the entire customer journey one manager exclaimed “We’re not going to get a perfect solution in the short-term”. What led to this statement? Days of grappling with the challenge; coming face to face with the many and interlinked factors – culture, people, process, systems, data, metric, business priorities – in the way of making any significant changes-improvements.
If you and I had been on the court grappling with the challenges that this manager was grappling with then I say that it is highly likely, almost certain, that we would have arrived at the same place: this is too much to take on, let’s focus on what is doable in the short-term.
A history of short-term local fixes leaves room only for short-term local fixes
Given how everything is interlinked to everything (the systems nature of organisations) and the desire of Tops for ‘instant solutions’ to specific problems, Middles get busy on the short-term fixes and the quick wins. What is missed is that today there is only room for short-term fixes and quick wins because previously management took the route of the short-term fix instead of doing that which was necessary for generating longer term effectiveness.
Every time we intervene in the organisation we make a choice. What choice? The choice to leading the organisation to higher performance or generating a drift to low performance. In fixing the pressing local-functional problem, focusing on the short-term, and going after quick wins, the Tops and Middles are generating a drift to low performance. How/why? Let’s listen to a noted systems thinker, Donella H. Meadows.
“Some systems not only resist policy and stay in a normal bad state, they keep getting worse. One name for this archetype is “drift to low performance”. Examples include falling market share in a business, eroding quality of service in a hospital, continuously dirtier rivers or air ….. state of …… schools…..”
How does this drift to low performance occur?
“The actor in the feedback look (… government, business, hospital….), has …. a performance goal or desired system state that is compared to the actual state. If there is a discrepancy, action is taken……
But in this system, there is a distinction between the actual system state and the perceived state. The actor tends to believe the bad news more than the good news. As actual performance varies, the best results are dismissed as aberrations, the worst results stay in the memory. The actor thinks things are worse than they really are.
And to complete this tragic archetype, the desired state of the system is influenced by the perceived state. Standards aren’t absolute. When perceived performance slips, the goal is allowed to slip. ”Well, that’s about all you can expect.” ……. “Well, look around, everybody else is having trouble too.”
The lower the perceived system state, the lower the desired state. The lower the desired state, the less discrepancy, and the less corrective action is taken. The less corrective action, the lower the system state. If this loop is allowed to run unchecked, it can lead to continuous degradation in the system’s performance.
Another name for this system is “eroding goals”. It is also called the “boiled frog syndrome”……. Drift to low performance is a gradual process. If the system is plunged quickly. there would be an agitated corrective process. But if it drifts down slowly enough to erase the memory of (or belief in) how much better things used to be, everyone is lulled not lower and lower expectations, lower effort, lower performance.”
Here I ask you to be present to what the manager said after grappling with the challenge: “We’re not going to get a perfect solution in the short-term.” Do you see, how it is that if one takes this reasonable approach the organisation almost never gets around to creating-putting in place the ‘perfect solution’? How/why? Because it is never the right team to make difficult decisions, create-accept short-term pain in order to generate longer term effectiveness!
What are the antidotes to eroding goals and the drift to low performance?
In her book, Thinking In Systems, Donnella H. Meadows points out that there are two antidotes:
“One is to keep standard absolute, regardless of performance. Another is to make goals sensitive to the best performances of the past, instead of the worst..….. if one takes the best results as standard, and the worst results as a temporary setback, then the same system structure can pull the system up to better and better performance.
This reminds me of my father. When I was young my father insisted that a) I finish whatever I started no matter what; b) do the best that I was capable of doing; c) strive to do better than I did the last time; d) set my sights on the best performer in the class; and e) take the short-term pain in order to generate the longer term gain.
I get a letter
I got a letter through the post informing me that I was due for an eye test. Given that it has been several years since I had my eyes tested I welcomed the colourful reminder from Boots. I noticed that I could book an appointment online or by calling. At that moment I did not have a laptop handy so I chose to call. My call was picked up almost immediately and a helpful chap booked an appointment for me at the local Boots (Opticians) store.
How am I feeling? Happy. What kind of impression do I have of Boots? This is an organisation that has its act together: it has sent me a useful reminder, it has offered me several options, it has made it easy for me to book an appointment, and the fellow on the phone exuded human warmth.
I turn up at the store for an eye test
Several days later I turned up at the local Boots Opticians store. The store looks spacious and clean – I notice the whiteness of the store and I wonder if Boots is ‘stealing’ from the Apple retail stores. Walking up to the woman at the counter, I smile, I give my name and let her know I am there for an eye test. This is an opportunity for her to show up as a human being. She declines. In her best robotic voice, she tells me to take a seat.
Looking around the various stands housing the spectacles, I notice four seats in line. Two seats are occupied, two are free. As I approach the seats I notice that one of the seats is dirty – obviously dirty. The dirtiness of seat clashes with the sparkling whiteness of the store. And I notice that the seats (for customers) look crammed in comparison with the spaciousness of the rest of the store.
What does this tell me? It tells me that the star of the show at Boots Opticians is the product: the range of spectacles. How am I left feeling? Disappointed. Unwanted. What am I thinking? I wonder what the rest of the experience is going to be like.
The eye test happens
Shortly, and on time, a professional looking man comes out from the ‘back’ of the store, calls my name, and asks me to follow him. He shows me into a ‘tiny area’ which houses three machines. At one of the machines, a member of staff is testing a customer. I am handed over to a young woman. She proceeds to conduct an eye test. Whilst another member of staff takes my glasses to get those tested.
What am I thinking? I am asking myself how it is that there is so much space in the front for the spectacles and so little space at the back for conducting eye tests on customers. And I am asking myself if a lack of ‘human warmth’ goes with the opticians and/or the Boots brand. I am clear that for the staff, I show up as a ‘widget’ to be processed and not as a ‘flesh and blood’ human being.
Thankfully, the eye test does not take that long and the professional looking man is back. He asks me to follow him and walks me to a room that occurs as positively spacious-luxurious. Over the course of the next 10 – 20 minutes he proceeds to test my vision by inserting different lenses into the spectacles he has placed on my nose. His manner is professional. He shows up as knowing what he is doing.
At the end of the testing he tells me that my short-sightedness is slightly worse. And that I have started to become long-sighted too. He tells me that I can either have two pairs of spectacles – one for short sightedness and one for reading. Or I can go for one pair of spectacles that will cater for both needs. He suggests that I go for the single bifocal pair of spectacles. He then hands me over to another member of staff.
I walk out without buying spectacles
The new member of staff, a good looking lady with a smile, is keen to take me to the front of the store to pick spectacles. I decline. Instead I ask for my prescription, receive the prescription, make my way to the robotic lady on the counter, pay and leave.
Why did I not buy? I did not buy because I did not feel valued. I did not buy because it did not occur to me that I was consulted on my needs. I did not buy because it occurred to me that the focus of the staff in the store was to sell me spectacles. I did not buy because the people in the store and the experience lacked any semblance of humanity. Put plainly, I was looking for an ‘I-Thou’ relationship and what I got was an ‘I-It’ relationship – I was the ‘It’.
I look forward to the day, that an ‘Amazon’ like competitor puts the likes of Boots Opticians out of business.
Investments in CRM (including database marketing) are not likely to yield the desired results if the customer experience sucks! To generate ROI from CRM investments you have to pay attention to the customer experience.
I have been reflecting over 20+ years of experience centred on enabling, effecting, facilitating business change and improving business performance. During this time I have been involved with a whole range of management panaceas:
- business process re-engineering;
- management information systems;
- ERP systems;
- shared services
- knowledge management systems;
- kaizen, lean and six sigma;
- the internet;
- database marketing;
- permission marketing;
- relationship marketing;
- 1:1 marketing;
- customer relationship management;
- data mining and predictive analytics;
- organisational development;
- change management;
- leadership development;
- strategy and strategic planning;
- scenario planning;
- balanced scorecard;
- zero based budgeting;
- matrix organisations;
- customer experience;
- customer loyalty schemes;
- employee engagement;
- corporate social responsibility;
- social business;
- digital transformation …
What shoes up for me when I reflect on this experience?
I am present to the gulf between the promise of each of these ‘tools’ and the reality of that which showed up when these tools were introduced-applied in business settings. Rarely did the reality match up to the promise of these ‘tools’. Why? Were these ‘tools’ defective?
It occurs to me that few of these ‘tools’ are fundamentally flawed in themselves. The one that comes to mind is the area of knowledge management. There a huge gulf between information and knowledge. Knowledge management systems are great at holding information. They cannot ever hold-distribute knowledge. Knowledge is contextual, largely tacit and embodied. If you get this then you get that the premise of knowledge management systems is fundamentally flawed.
If most of these tools are sound then why has there been such a gap between the promise and the reality?
Take just one example: CRM. Why is it that whilst CRM systems have become essential part of the corporate infrastructure, they have not fulfilled on their promise: to drive marketing, sales and service effectiveness; and generate sound relationships thus contributing to higher revenues and profit margins?
Before I provide my answer to this question, I pose another question. Why is it that whilst so much is known about Steve Jobs (the way he went about doing what he did at Apple) there will never be another Steve Jobs? Why is it that you can copy Steve Jobs’ techniques and not generate the results that Steve Jobs generated? Why is it that pretty much all one needs to know about Zappos is widely available yet there is only one Zappos? For that matter, why is it that USAA is still in a league of its own?
Here’s my pointer to solving this riddle:
All we have is who we ‘are’, and this in turn shapes what we do. Being is sometimes though of as something intangible, abstract, or even ineffable, but it is actually quite real ….. Being is the context from which all of our thinking and actions spring, as opposed to doing, which is just a content that flows from the context.
Robert Hargrove, Masterful Coaching
The access to empowerment, customer-centricity, and innovation lies in being
Let me put this bluntly, the access to customer-centric organisations lies in being. Not in the ‘tools and techniques’ (the doing, the content). The same applies to cultivating a loyal, motivated, engaged, high performing workforce. And it is no different when it comes to innovation.
If empowerment, customer-centricity and innovation is not your being then all the ‘tools and techniques’ will make little difference. On the other hand if empowerment, customer-centricity, and innovation are your being then you will find or create all the ‘tools and techniques’ that you need as you need them.
There are people in leadership positions whose being is in tune with talk of enlightened leadership, customer focus, and empowerment. I dedicate this post to my friend Lonnie Mayne. I am clear that Lonnie’s being is a clearing for the best of our humanity and our greatness to show up. And as such I find Lonnie to be a source of inspiration.
If you are regular reader of this blog you may remember that I set-up a business bank account with Barclays Bank and shared my experience:
- Barclays Bank: what are the customer experience folks up to?
- Barclays Bank: what are the customer experience folks up to? (part II)
If you read those posts and come away thinking that my experience was one of disappointment then you’d be correct. So where do I stand today with regards to Barclays Bank?
Barclays Bank: a customer experience that leaves me delighted and grateful
Recently, I changed the name of my consulting company to Bold Intent. Given this change I was expecting to have to get together various documents, make an appointment with a Barclays Bank branch, and then take in the paperwork to get the account name, cheque book, and credit cards etc changed. Being human, I thought about doing it when the official name change document came through the post. And I put off doing it as it just showed up as too much hassle.
A few days later I got a letter from Barclays Bank. Upon opening it I found myself surprised and delighted. Why? Barclays Bank had worked out that I had changed the name of the company and issued me with a new cheque book and a new paying-in book – both reflecting the new company name. What did I say to myself? “Wow, this is great!” A few days later I received another couple of letters. These letters contained the updated credit cards. How was I left feeling? Actually, a better question is how do I feel towards Barclays Bank, right now? I feel grateful. Why? Because Barclays Bank helped me out – saved me time, effort, concern – without me even asking them to help me out. They anticipated a need and met it.
So if you want to delight your customers then do the unexpected. Anticipate and meet customer needs in way that simplifies-enriches your customers lives. Take actions that generate gratitude and invite reciprocity. Like Virgin Atlantic did when they upgraded me from Economy to Business Class many years ago. Like Halfords did when they made it easy for me to return a product to the local store when I had bought it online. Like my local garage did by not charging me the quoted amount when the found the fault was simply a loose wire – which they fixed at no charge…..
Sky TV: how to use marketing to interrupt and disappoint a customer
I used to buy a landline, broadband, and TV services from Sky. Some time ago, I stopped subscribing to the Sky TV ‘product’. Why? Because Sky TV insisted on doubling the price. And this gave me a great excuse for not buying Sky TV. Thus, helping me obtain two objectives. First, giving me greater access to the lounge. Second, helping me ensure that my children watched less television (in the lounge).
Is Sky celebrating with me? No. Sky continue to send me direct mail with a view to enticing me back as a customer. At the start I used to open this mail just to see what the offer was. Now, I don’t even do that, the direct mail arrives and I put it in the waste paper basket. Whilst, I can live with this as it is not that intrusive, it is a different matter when it comes to the regular calls. What calls?
Clearly Sky has an outbound tele-marketing team and members of this team ring me regularly. Each time they have a special offer for me. Each time I tell them that I am not interested. I even spell out why I am not interested: I don’t watch television and when I did have Sky TV my children did nothing but watch Sky TV! Does this stop the outbound tele-marketing team from calling me? No. I continue to get calls. I continue to be made aware of a product that I do not want. I continue to be told about offers that I don’t care about.
What broke this camel’s back and prompted this post? This Monday it was Early May Bank Holiday here in England. I was outside doing some gardening in the glorious sunshine. Who calls? Sky! What does the young lady want to talk about? A great offer about Sky TV. I say, “Do you know that it is a Bank Holiday? How is it that you are calling me on a Bank Holiday?” I was expecting an apology for being interrupted once more about a product that I do not want, on a Bank Holiday. Did I get the apology? No!
The young lady clearly had a mission and a script. She ploughed on with the pitch/script. So I told her what I had already told her colleagues: I don’t want Sky TV, it is a blessing that it is gone, I cannot be tempted to buy it even if you offer it to me for free. Finally, she got the message. She ended up by wishing me a great holiday. That would have been a great way to end the conversation if she had come across as sincere. She didn’t. She came across as inauthentic: what was clear from her tone was her disappointment that I had not taken up her offer…..
So that is how you disappoint a customer and rupture the bonds of any relationship: ignore what matters to your customer; ignore what your customer has told you; continue sending direct mail even though you have had no response to many mailings; and back up that with intrusive tele-marketing calls that create no value for the customer!
Issue: how do I do this online?
Travel is an essential part of my life as a management consultant and business advisor. Occasionally, whilst I am on my travels I get a call from either my wife or children asking me for help on getting some task done on the web. During these remote conversations I tend to be gripped by a sense of frustration and futility. Why? Because I get that the most effective way to help them, and not get another call, is to be by their sides guiding them through the job they want to get done online.
This week I came across WalkMe and spoke with their Head of Marketing, Boaz Amidor. He tells me that the founder of WalkMe found himself in the same boat – his mother needed the help again and again – and this is what led him to create WalkeMe.
What is WalkMe™? It is an “interactive self-guidance technology that guides prospects, customers, employees or partners through any Web experience.” As I understand it, WalkMe it sits on top of your website and as such does NOT need any integration or changes with the underlying site.
Why use it? If you use it intelligently – focussing on the scenarios/tasks that matter – then WalkMe reduces your customers’ frustration of waiting for assistance, shortens the time it takes for support personnel to handle an incoming request and strengthens your company’s support reputation. It also occurs to me that this technology can improve sales conversion as not all customers who want to buy from you call support when they cannot buy from you – some go elsewhere, I do!
How does it work? ”Through a series of interactive tip balloons overlaid on the screen, tasks are broken down into short, step-by-step guided instructions, which help customers act, react and progress during their online experience. As a result, customer support managers can empower their customers to self-task successfully even through the most complex processes.”
You can get an introduction to WalkMe by taking a look at a short demo video: http://vimeo.com/48888010
And , you can learn more about WalkMe and even try it for free. Check out www.walkme.com
What can you expect from the WalkMe team? Boaz Amidor told me that their customer support team is not called the customer support team, nor the customer services team. It is called the Customer Success team. Why? Because “The philosophy here is to make sure that our team is committed to the success of the customer. WalkMe brings the value and our team is here to ensure the success.” I say that this resonates with my idea of service.
WalkMe was founded in 2011, has offices in San Francisco and Tel Aviv. It is funded by Mangrove Capital Partners, Giza Venture Capital and Gemini Funds.
WalkMe recently WON the Red Herring Top 100 Award. Alex Vieux, publisher and CEO of Red Herring, said the following regarding WalkMe’s win: “We looked at hundreds and hundreds of candidates from all across the continent, and after much thought and debate, narrowed the list down to the Top 100 Winners. Each year, the competition gets tougher but we believe WalkMe demonstrates the vision, drive and innovation that define a Red Herring winner.”
WalkMe has been included in the list of “Cool Vendors” in the “Cool Vendors” in the CRM Customer Service and Social 2013″ by Gartner.
You Should Know
I am not a fan of complex technology, I have grappled with it (MIS, ERP, CRM, e-commerce) and it tends to be hard work to implement, and it rarely generates the promised benefits.
I am a fan of simple technologies that are easy to implement, simplify-enrich lives, and create value. This is how WalkMe showed up for me this week and this is why I agreed to write this post.
I am not being paid, in any shape or form, for writing this post. Or any other post that I have written to date. My commitment is to write from a context of service.
As with everything I write, I urge you to “try things out AND do your homework”.