2014 State of Customer Experience: Who Are UK’s 2014 Leaders And What Can We Learn From Them? (Part 1)
Yesterday, I received one of the few publications I find worth reading. Which publication? The 2014 UK Analysis put together by Nunwood‘s Customer Experience Excellence Centre. In this series of posts, I will be sharing with you my take on this report and its findings and recommendations. Let’s start with the dominant themes.
Little Change In The State of Customer Experience Excellence From 2013
The foreword by Marketing Week is full of the kind of exaggeration-hype that goes with much of marketing:
With customer experience now firmly established as the main competitive battleground for ambitious leaders, this is a uniquely rich insight into the best practices needed for success…..
- Mindi Chahal, Features Writer, MarketingWeek
Did you get the clue? The clue lies in the adjective ambitious as in ‘ambitious leaders’. It turns out that of the 250+ brands surveyed by Nunwood only a very small number are ‘ambitious’. And as such little has improved overall as regards the state of customer experience excellence in the UK. Which kind of makes me question the claim that customer experience is now firmly established as the main competitive battleground. My experience is that whilst it is talked about, that is pretty much all that happens: talk.
What do the folks at Nunwood say on this matter? This is what they say (bolding is my work):
A minority of brands are shining every brighter …… These examples of brilliance are dimmed by the larger set of brands whose efforts have stalled. Either because they have hit cultural glass ceilings …… or the ambition of their leaders has failed to match the rising expectations of UK consumers … This has meant that across all 263 brands analysed the overall improvement in performance was less than 1%.
The Biggest Improvement In Customer Experience Excellence Has Occurred In The Financial Services Sector
Which sectors show an improvement? Three of them: financial services, entertainment & leisure, and travel & notes.
Which sectors are stagnant? Three of them: telecommunications, restaurants & food, and non-food retailing.
Which sectors have declined? Two: utilities, and grocery retailing.
Did the financial services sector make the 2.2% improvement due to benevolent-enlightened leadership? Or a new found love of the customer? Or was it because some teeth have been put into a regulator and regulation? Here is Nunwood’s take on the situation (bolding is my work):
The financial services sector sees the largest improvement in performance …. This is in no small part due to the burning platform created by the government, media and regulators. New FCA-mandated focus on customer outcomes … has led to massive investments and exhaustive leadership attention.
It occurs to me that here we have a clue as to why there has been little or no change in all the other industry sectors. Organisations and the Tops that lead them do not willingly stop screwing their customers and employees. And so switch from the easy and established way of making ‘bad profits’ to doing the hard stuff of generating superior customer value and thus reaping ‘good profits’. This kind of behaviour is arrested and weakened through a combination of effective regulation and sustained media pressure. Which may explain why it is that the utilities sector, which has been the weakest in terms of customer experience excellence has slipped further down the rankings. In my view-experience the Ofgem, the regulator for gas+electricity market, is about as toothless as you can get.
The Same Brands Continue To Shine And Some Shine Less Brightly
By now, I suspect that you may really want to know who the UK’s Customer Experience leaders are. Here are the top 10:
1. First Direct (bank without high street presence)
2. John Lewis (multichannel retailer)
3. QVC (tv based shopping channel)
4. Lush (retailer)
5. Amazon (online retailer)
6. Appliances Online (online retailer of appliances)
7. Waitrose (grocery retailer)
8. Nationwide (building society, financial services)
9. Specsavers (retailer)
10. M+S Simply Food (grocery retailer)
10. Your M+S (retailer)
Here are my take on this Top 10 list in comparison with 2013:
- Virgin Atlantic and Ocado have dropped out of the Top 10. Virgin is now at number 21, and Ocado just outside the Top 10 at number 12.
Appliances Online, Nationwide, and Specsavers are new to the Top 10. This is what Nunwood says about Appliances Online (ao.com):
A clear value proposition wedded to an excellent service culture sets the brand apart.
- Amazon continues its slide down the rankings here is what Nunwoods says:
Amazon …… continues to slip slightly in the rankings for the third year in a row, as consumers react to declining perceptions of its integrity and the performance of its delivery companies.
Waitrose ascends the rankings moving from being number ten (2013) to being number 7 (2014).
M+S (both Simply Food, and Your M+S) descend towards the bottom of the Top 10 in 2014.
My personal take is that Your M+S is a retailer in trouble. Management, probably in desperation, are bullying store managers. This then cascades down to the people on the shop flower. And in turn impacts the customer experience. So it will be interesting to see where Your M+S stands in the 2015 rankings.
The Secret of Customer Experience Success: Put Your Customers Second
You may have noticed that I insist on the need for and the critical importance of the human dimension: calling forth and putting into play the best of our humanity in order to orchestrate great relationships and generate great experiences. In short, to create a better world, a world that works for all: employees, suppliers, management, customers, shareholders, and the community.
More than once I have spelled out that the access to great customer experience lies through the folks that actually interact with and serve customers: the people working in the business and especially those who interact with and serve customers on a daily basis. Not technology! Technology can enable or hinder the customer experience. It is merely a tool.
Which means that there cannot be excellence in Customer Experience without excellence in Employee Experience. And these two have to be in tune with one another.
What does Nunwood say on the matter? Here is what Nunwood says (bolding is my work):
With only a single exception, the top 10 ‘Champion’ brands are characterised by their evangelical employees and superior cultures. Employees who are exceptionally proud of the brand they represent and the job they do each and every day for customers. Their culture plays a pivotal role in creating outstanding customer experience and they value that some culture first and foremost. In a very real sense, employees come first and customers come second.
Which is the single exception? I take it to be Amazon. And in the longer term this could be the undoing of Amazon.
Enough for today, I will continue this conversation in the next post. In that conversation I propose to explore the underlying factors that show a correlation with Customer Experience excellence. Until then I wish you the very best.
In amidst all the talk of the importance of a customer-centric culture, customer obsession, building customer relationships and improving the customer experience I find something missing. What? The commitment to tell the truth: being straight (levelling) with the customer. What I notice is that the ubiquitous business practice is to:
1) bullshit – make things up because they support the narrative/agenda irrespective of concern for truth-falsehood of assertions;
2) deceive by actively misrepresenting and/or omitting essential information; and
3) lie – to know the truth and assert the opposite.
So I find myself delighted to read that recently Honda has recalled ‘1.8m cars around the world after a scare over an airbag in another manufacturer’s vehicle but made by its supplier Takata’. I’d like to believe that the folks in Honda are decent folks who put the lives of their customers before profits. And that may be wishful thinking. At the very minimum, it occurs to me that Honda has learned some lessons from Toyota and GM: when you find there is an issue, share what you know with your customers, and do the right thing.
Does it pay to do the right thing: to tell the truth? I share with you the following story (bolding is my work):
What many hospitals don’t consider is that a positive error culture could increase the trust of patients, as the following case shows. Matthias Rothmund, a professor of surgery, once made a big error. When one of his patients was checked a few days after a successful tumour operation, the x-ray showed a surgical clamp that had been mistakenly left inside the patient’s body. Rothmund immediately informed the patient, removed the clamp, and reported the incident to his insurance, which gave the patient a settlement.
For a long time the surgeon was plagued with the thought of his error. Five years later the patient returned to his office with a hernia and said he wanted him to perform the operation. Rothmund was surprised. The patient explained that he trusted Rothmund and his clinic precisely because Rothmund had immediately admitted his error and corrected it.
- Gerd Gigerenzer, Risk Savvy
Did you notice the trap that I set for you/us? Did you notice that the question that I asked is this one: ‘Does it pay to do the right thing: to tell the truth?’ If you formulate the question/challenge of right action in this manner then you show up and travel in the world in the manner of the Tops at GM. The folks at GM kept the knowledge of a faulty ignition switch secret for over a decade and in the process at least 13 people lost their lives. Why? Because by their calculations it didn’t pay (revenues, profits) to tell the truth, recall the cars, and fix the ignition switch.
What is my point? If you are genuinely committed to putting in place a customer culture then you do right by the customer, always, irrespective of how the ROI calculation works out. And whilst Mary Barra may lay the blame on the corporate culture, I say that the responsibility ALWAYS lies with the Tops.
I leave you with this final thought: Steve Jobs may have been able to bring about that which we he brought about because his actions were not dictated by ROI. What were his actions dictated by? Simplicity? Beauty – in its fullest, holistic, sense? The customer experience?
Does The Concept Of Integrity Apply Only To Non-Human Systems?
This post continues the conversation (blog and comments) that started with the following blog post: Revisiting Integrity: Why Do All Human Systems Lack Integrity?
To summarise, I say that integrity in the sense of whole and complete (unity between word and action, between the ‘parts’ and the whole) is essential to workability and performance of all systems including human systems. If you want to get a sufficient understanding of Integrity as I am speaking it then it is essential to read this post: Integrity, Leadership, Communication and Performance – The Most valuable Post You Will Read This Year?
Max J. Pucher disagrees. He says that ‘whole-complete’ is an idealistic interpretation and does not apply to human systems:
“Maz, I propose that it is not allowable to use a physical system concept of integrity (whole-complete) for human systems. Physical systems such as a car have a well-defined function/output and therefore integrity is defined to perform as designed. Human systems have no such function and the output is purely based in individual perception. Therefore ‘whole-complete’ is an idealistic interpretation from a single human perspective and will most likely not agree with many others….”
As I promised Max, I have been thinking about his assertion. And now I share with you what showed up for me. I find that Max’s view is commonplace, I came across it just today. And I find myself in disagreement. Allow me to share with you that which shows up for me as I get to grips with the coal face of human existence.
What Does The World Of Aviation Disclose Regarding The Integrity of Human Systems?
Let’s consider NASA’s shuttle program. Yes, this program involves amazing technology-equipment. Who produces this technology? Who configures it? Who works it? Who addresses issues with it? Human beings. OK, the equipment is ready, in place. Is that all it takes to take a number of human beings, put them in space, keep them there, and then bring them safely back home? No! It requires a large number of people, in different roles, of different temperaments, of different genders, of different ages to work together as one. What do I mean by one? I mean integrity as in being ‘whole-complete’ at the level of the system they constitute. Which is why there has only been one disaster to date.
Why did this disaster occur? Because the integrity (wholeness-completeness) of the system was compromised. Some ‘parts’ (people) did know of the issue and the associated risk. Some ‘parts’ (people) escalated the known issue. Other powerful-dominating ‘parts’ of the system choose to ignore the voices-concerns of these ‘parts’. And, they also choose not to care for the needs of other ‘parts’ (astronauts) to return safely to Earth.
This is my point. Where there has been a focus and commitment to integrity (wholeness-completeness of the system) the shuttles have launched and returned safely. When integrity was sacrificed, disaster struck, the astronauts died.
Now consider the world of air travel. Don’t the passengers count on the integrity of the system? Don’t they count on people to make sure that the airplanes are safe to fly? Don’t they count on people to ensure that the airplanes have the right fuel – type and quantity? Don’t they count on the pilots to be competent and fit to fly the plane? Now look behind the scenes, what else has to be in place? How about the air traffic controllers – on both sides of the trip? You get the idea: all of these ‘parts’ have to work together for air travel to exist as it does. And the system works. It is rare for the system not to work, for a crash to occur. And when it does, an investigation occurs, lessons are learned, sanctions applied where necessary, new operating policies and practices put in place.
Notice, that the pilot of an airliner that crashed and killed passengers would not get away with pleading “Your honour, I am only a human being. You can’t expect me to follow the rules, each and every flight, regarding how much I drink before boarding the plane and taking the helm.” No, if he was found guilt of breaking the rules, he would go to jail. Notice, no party that is essential to the game of ‘safe air travel’ would get away with shirking its role and responsibility. Why? It is simply not acceptable to compromise the integrity of the system. And if there are ‘flaws’ in human beings, in themselves, then the designers of the system are charged with coming up with the means to address the ‘flaws’ through checklists, equipment, technology….
Why Does The Lack Of Integrity In Human Systems Persist?
Werner Erhard et al assert that this lack of integrity exists because we do not get the impact of the loss of integrity on the workability and performance of a system. And I find myself to be in agreement.
Werner Erhard et al assert that this lack of integrity exists because we misunderstand integrity. We make integrity to be ALL about morality: right and wrong according to the moral norms of the group/s we find ourselves living amongst. And in so doing, we are not present to integrity as the fundamental basis of workability and performance: integrity as a state/condition of a system – state of being whole-complete, a unity. I find myself in agreement.
It occurs to me that there is an even bigger-deeper, more fundamental, cause for this lack of integrity in human systems. What is this cause? Max provides a clue when he says it is not allowable to use the concept of integrity (as the condition of wholeness-completeness) for human systems. It occurs to me that when it comes to integrity and human systems, we accept and are comfortable with defeat before we even start. What do I mean? Allow me to share an extract from another blog post ‘The Myth of Scarcity: That’s Just The Way It Is’:
“That’s just the way it is is just another myth, but it’s probably the one with the most grip, because you can always make a case for it. When something has always been a certain way, and traditions, assumptions, or habits make it resistant to change then it seems logical …. that the way it is is the way it will stay. This is when the blindness, the numbness, the trance, and, underneath it all, the resignation of scarcity sets in. Resignation makes us feel hopeless, helpless, and cynical. Resignation also keeps us in line…….
That’s just the way it is justifies the greed, the prejudice and inaction that scarcity fosters in our relationship with money and the rest of the human race…”
- Lynne Twist
What Does It Take To Call Forth Integrity From Human Systems?
If we are the ones that defeat ourselves when it comes to calling forth integrity from human systems, then the answer to this question lies in us: specifically, in our collective way of being/showing-up in the world. Let’s listen to the wise words of Lynne Twist once more:
We have to be willing to let go of that’s just the way it is, even if just for a moment, to consider the possibility that there isn’t away it is or a way it isn’t. There’s the way we choose to act and what we choose to make or our circumstance.”
- Lynne Twist
Consider air travel. Would there be any air travel if all of us had simply accepted that man is not meant to fly on the basis that if he was meant to fly then he would have been given wings. Everything starts with one or more of us being called forth and stepping into a possibility. The possibility of integrity in human systems is a real one. Will you and I embrace and embody that possibility? Will your team embrace-embody that possibility? Will your organisation embrace-embody that possibility?
Why Pay Any Attention To The Integrity of Systems: Human, Mechanical and Hybrid?
I invite you to consider that your customers are painfully aware of where your organisation is not in a state of integrity. Why? Because customers experience the effects of this lack of integrity: promises made in marketing-sales but not kept by the product itself; being passed around from one person to another, one team to another, and having to go through the same dance all over again; promises made by one part of the organisation and not honoured by the others part/s…. I say that if you want to play the joined up game of Customer Experience then you have to work on the integrity of the ‘system’ – the whole organisation including all the key partners whose performance impacts the end customer and shapes her experience.
Finally, I invite you to not kid yourself. You cannot claim to be 90% pregnant and get away with it. Why not? Because you either are pregnant or you are not pregnant. The same is the case for integrity: either the system in question (e.g. the organisation) is in a state of integrity or it is not.
Setting the context for this conversation
In an earlier post, I wrote:
When you take a look at the system that generates outcomes you will find that all human systems lack integrity; at the level of the person, the family, the organisation, the community, the nation and even the world what there is is the lack of integrity.
James Lawther upon reading the post commented:
Sorry Maz, I don’t understand. Why do all human systems lack integrity?
In this post, I honour the promise I made: to think on the matter and share that which has showed up for me. Before we start I am compelled to warn you that this is a long conversation and you will only get value out of it if you really are interested in grappling with the question of integrity. Let’s start.
First, let’s be clear on ‘integrity’
In order to speak about and grapple with the phenomena of integrity it is essential to be clear on what it is that I am pointing at when I speak ‘integrity’. When I speak ‘integrity’ I am not talking about ‘integrity as morality': the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles/practices. So what is this conversation about?
It is about integrity as the condition/state of being whole, complete, cohesive, unified’. Let’s be clear on this:
- If I promise ‘To come over to your house and smash your car with sledgehammer” and I turn up at your house and do exactly that then my actions are in a state of integrity with my words;
If you gathered together all the parts that constitute a car and throw them together without ensuring that they interconnect with one another and are in tune with one another then the car is not in a state of integrity – it may work yet it is highly unlikely that the car will generate high performance, it is highly likely that it will fail far short of the ‘ultimate driving machine’.
Second, let’s consider the phenomena
Now look into your lived experience devoid of theory-opinion-dogma and ask yourself if the individual human being shows up as being in a state of integrity? What about the family – is there a state of integrity operative at the level of family? The organisation – is there a state of integrity operative here? The community? The nation?
Is there a state of wholeness-completeness at the level of the individual human being? Sure? Ask yourself if the values you profess are the values that you embody-live? What about the family, is there wholeness there? Ask yourself how many families work well? In how many families is there respect, consideration, love and communication? How many families are happy families? At the organisational level ask yourself how well management and the workers work together? How about the interplay between the front office and the back office? What about the fit between the talk (espoused values) and that which is in play on a day to day basis (lived values)?
If after this you are still convinced that integrity (whole-complete-unified) is the default condition then take a look at the education system, the healthcare system, the financial system, the legal system, the political system. How well are these working in your country?
Having so looked at the phenomena – ‘that which is as it is and is not’ – I am clear that the default condition of ALL human systems is a lack of integrity. If you disagree then I ask you to consider
What is the explanation for the pervasive lack of integrity in human systems?
Let me say that I do not have the one answer to this question. And that which I share here is simply my thinking on what may be the threads of an explanation.
1. Design of the human-being at the level of the system
It occurs to me that at the level of the design of the system that we call ‘human being’ there is a lack of integrity. Rather than there being one unified self it appears that there are a multiplicity of competing selves. Do you find yourself doubting my assertion?
Look at the phenomena. What do you see? Do you see that there is a self that is keen to be slim. And there is the self that loves all the ‘wrong foods’ from a ‘being slim’ perspective. What about the self that wishes to be athletic and gets the value of exercising. And then there is the self that is addicted to being comfortable, sat on the sofa watching tv for hours. Is there not a self that yearns to speak its truth. And then there is the self that ensures that only that which is politically acceptable is spoken…..
Yet this is not an excuse and not the whole picture. After all we are not designed to fly and yet do so safely, through the inventions and practices of aviation. So let’s continue the exploration and ask ourselves why it is that we have not put in place practices that call forth integrity.
2. Not being present to the importance of integrity and the impact of being out of integrity
“Our way of being and our actions are a correlate of the way in which the circumstances we are dealing with occur (show up) for us”.
- Werner Erhard
Do you/i/we truly get (at the experiential level not the cognitive level) the value of operating in a state of integrity and the impact of lapses in integrity? It occurs to me that the answer for most of us – as expressed through our living – is that we are blind to the true impact of violations of integrity. This became clear to me on a driving awareness course.
All of us on this course were on the course because we had been caught breaking the speed limit. Did any of us feel guilty? No. Why? For my part, I found myself feeling sorry for myself and blaming the police for focussing on folks like me rather than the proper villains. Why? Because I had been only doing 36mph in a 30mph zone: “What’s the big deal! What difference does 6mph make?”
The turning point came when I learned the impact of that extra 6mph. That 6mph is the difference between life and death. Turns out even an extra 3mph is the difference between a pedestrian walking away relatively unharmed and spending the rest of his life badly damaged. To bring the point home, in the only way it can home, we were shown a film showing the human impact of speeding. This had such an impact on me that I left this course with the commitment to drive safely and that is what I do. If I catch myself exceeding the speed limit, guilt is present, and the presence of this guilt is enough to get me mindful and respectful of the speed limit.
We assume that it makes no difference if we turn up five minutes late for a meeting. Yet it does. We assume it makes no difference if we tell ‘little lies’ to customers. Yet it does. We assume that it makes no difference if we push employees around and take advantage of their weakened position to get more out of them. Yet it does. We assume that it makes no difference if we push around our suppliers and squeeze them to drive up our bottom line. Yet it does make a difference.
3. Lack of willingness to put in place mechanisms and listen to feedback that points out a lack of integrity
It starts in the family. The child points out of the lack of integrity between what the parent is preaching and what the parent is embodying-living. One response is “Do as I say not as I do”. Another kind of response is a slap on the face or some kind of punishment like that. The third kind is to ignore the child, to pretend that you have not heard anything, and continue as before. In all three cases the child learns the message. Be quiet, don’t rock the boat, don’t upset the authority figures. And so the child muddles through as best as s/he can.
Put bluntly there is an unspoken agreement not to ‘speak truth to power’. Breaking this agreement is no easy matter and as such only a few brave souls do so. When you break the unspoken agreement not to threaten the status and power of those in power then you put yourself in a vulnerable position. The powerful and their allies turn their guns on you and target your livelihood, your reputation, your social status, your freedom and even your life.
There is an excellent example of this unwillingness to listen to feedback and the consequences for those who speak ‘truth to power’ pointing out the lack of integrity of the system. Listen to this piece on the NHS:
The NHS will “go bust” without radical change to drive up standards and rid hospitals of a “toxic” bullying culture that damages patient care, the head of its official regulator has warned.
David Prior, the chairman of the Care Quality Commission (CQC), says the safety of the most vulnerable patients is being jeopardised by a “dysfunctional” rift between NHS managers and clinical staff…..
He discloses that one in four staff have reported bullying, harassment or abuse from colleagues and managers, while whistleblowers are ostracised……
Mr Prior highlights the treatment of whistleblowers, saying the NHS is failing to listen to those who challenge poor care and champion the rights of patients. He says those who try to speak out are too often “ostracised” by their colleagues and managers.
He writes: “Too often, it delights in the ritual humiliation of those deemed to fail, tolerates and institutionalises outdated working practices and old-fashioned hierarchies and can almost encourage “managers” and “clinicians” to occupy opposing camps…..
Soon after Mr Prior took up his post as CQC chairman last year, the regulator’s previous management was accused of a “cover-up” and failing to properly investigate hospital scandals because it was too close to the last Labour government…..
“Perhaps most crucially, we need to change the culture.”
Even when there is no power to speak truth to, we do not speak truth: we don’t call people on their lack of integrity. Why not? There is another unspoken agreement: “You don’t call me on mine, and I won’t call you on yours!”. We are socialized into this early on with instructions to mind our own business and not to poke our nose into the affairs of others. Furthermore, from an early age we are actively pushed to tell people what they want to hear and/or what will ‘save face’. This becomes so much a part of us and our way of showing up in the world that we don’t even notice how much of social life, in all its favours, is based on this way of showing up.
4. The powerful ensure that they are immune from the impact of systems that lack integrity
As I reflect on the impact of systems that lack integrity I am struck by what is so: the powerful almost always profit and worst walk away unscathed and the powerless are struck with the impact-costs-wound arising from the lack of integrity.
Who suffers most from the impact of poor teaching and poor schools? The powerless – the children. Who has suffered most from the lack of integrity (through and through) in the NHS? The powerless, the vulnerable – the patients. Who has suffered as a lack of integrity in the world of finance? The powerless – those who have the lowest incomes and the least politics clout. Who is most likely to suffer from our way of living and the impact on the world that is our home? The powerless – the unborn, the future generations.
It occurs to me that all human systems exhibit a lack of integrity. And that the reason that this lack of integrity continues to persist is because we have not put in place cultural practices to call forth integrity and keep it in existence: detecting lapses in integrity and correcting course promptly to put the system back into a state of integrity.
Why haven’t we put these cultural practices into place? It occurs to me that despite the lack of integrity in human systems we have successfully muddled through. In so muddling through, most of us do OK, and the powerful do great most of the time. Look at the business world: despite all the scaremongering (by those who hope to profit by selling their products-services) most organisations have muddled through all the ‘challenges and dangers': they are doing OK. Look at the banking crisis: we have muddled through. Look at the Euro crisis: we have muddled through. Every time we muddle through we reinforce our addiction to muddling through. Look under the hood of ‘business transformation’ and most and on on most occasions you will find plain old fashioned incremental change.
We do not put integrity into our way of being-showing up in the world because like thinking, genuine thinking, it is hard work. More importantly it is hard work that never ends. Why? Because integrity is always flowing out and so we have to be always putting it back in. Then there are people like Jobs who set out to make a dent in the universe and accept nothing less. Or people like Gandhi who set out to set India free and accept nothing less. Or people like Mandela……
What can we learn from Havas Media’s 2013 Meaningful Brands survey?
For me, the highlights from the survey report are:
- Just 20% of brands worldwide are seen to meaningfully positively impact people’s lives;
- The majority of people worldwide wouldn’t care if 73% of brands disappeared tomorrow;
- Only 32% feel brands communicate honestly about commitments and promises;
- 54% of us don’t trust brands; and
- The meaningful brand index outperforms the stock markets by 120%.
It would appear that the case for making a shift towards a ‘meaningful brand’ is compelling according to Havas Media and yet most brands do not show up as meaningful. This shows up as interesting for me given all the talk-spend on brand, branding and brand building.
Let’s shift perspective and take a look at the situation through the eyes of Customer Experience.
What is the state of Customer Experience at the end of 2013?
In her November post, “Sucking Less” is Not a #CX Strategy, Annette wrote:
“Are organizations seeing the value of delivering a great customer experience? Clearly they pay lip service, but we know that actions speak louder than words. Do they really get it? No. There’s no real commitment of time, resources, and budgets to initiatives that improve the customer experience.
I spend a lot of time talking to prospects and clients about how to sell the value of customer experience to company leaders. It’s so disheartening …..”
My experience resonates with Annette’s. And our experience is not unique – talk with Customer Experience professionals and you get a taste of how difficult it is to move the Customer Experience ball beyond conducting VoC surveys and collating-publishing the results.
So what is going on here? If Tops are VCs and Customer Experience is seen as investment then the Tops do not see the value of investing in Customer Experience ventures.
What is the state of CRM at the end of 2013?
It occurs to me that large established companies have spent large sums of money in the name of CRM – usually in procuring and implementing so called CRM systems. What is there to show for this investment in terms of generating superior value for customers and cultivating meaningful profitable relationships with customers?
As I look around I find that the single customer view is just as elusive today as it was when Siebel was promising it, through the adoption of its CRM suite, back in 1999. The gulf between the talk and the reality continues to stun me. So many companies still struggle to work out the totality of their relationships (products purchased, interactions) with their customers.
I notice that many marketing, sales and service (customer, field) processes are just as broken today as they were in 1999. Why? Because too many people implemented CRM to automate the existing way of doing business.
It occurs to me that the challenge of getting the marketing, sales and service folks to genuine work together to build meaningful relationships with customers is beyond almost all companies. These functions and the people in them continue to work in silos, pursue their functional objectives, and work to their particular style.
I notice that the state of fragmentation within the marketing function is higher today than in 1999 due to the proliferation of digital channels. Marketing has become so complex that a whole industry, marketing automation, has grown up with the aim of automating marketing with a view to taking the complexity out of it.
Why do organisations continue to grapple with the same challenges despite their investments in CRM and Customer Experience?
Having been in the field since 1999 I am struck about how little has really changed despite all the changes that have occurred outside and inside organisations. What is going on here? Why is this the case?
It occurs to me that most of that which has taken place in the areas of CRM and Customer Experience has occurred in the domain of doing. And this doing has arisen from the same old domain of being. And as such, the mode of being has poisoned-corrupted all the doing. How best to illustrate this? Think King Midas. Whatever King Midas touched it became gold. Being has that kind of power: every action is tainted with the being that gives rise to it. Yet, those who have walked the CRM and Customer Experience path have been oblivious to this corruption because the the current style of showing up in the world is so taken for granted that it is invisible to us:
“The way of life of a culture is not an explicit set of beliefs held by the people living in it. It is much deeper than that. A person brought up in a culture learns its way of life the way he learns to speak in the language and with the accent of his family and peers. But a way of life is much broader than this. It involves a sense for how it is appropriate and inappropriate to act in each of the social situations one normally encounters; a familiarity with how to make sense of things and of how to act in the everyday world; and most general of all, a style, such as aggressive or nurturing, that governs the actions of the people in the culture although they are normally not aware of it. We can think of it as a cultural commitment that, to govern people’s behaviour, must remain in the background, unnoticed but pervasive and real.“
- All Things Shining, Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly
This sense of the being, of the default ‘style’, of organisations (and the people who work in them) is spelled out clearly by Vik Maraj in an interview published on the Huffington Post where he talks about the challenge of transforming the not for profit sector:
“Question: What is the over-arching challenge in the not for profit sector?
Answer: We act mostly inside of a context of charity not empowerment. Very few people are “learning to fish”. And this is a societal issue not just a not for profit issue.
Question: With respect to the not for profit sector, what is the truth that we don’t want to talk about?
Answer. We compete with each other with a smile on. We protect ourselves. And we collaborate in an opportunistic way. And the game is rigged such that this behaviour is almost inevitable. And the rigging is usually done by a decades old governmental policy…….
At first some of the obvious challenges are a lack of funding, a lack of resources, a lack of volunteers, turnover, a lack of being valued, lower salaries, lack of training and development, lack of policy, political unwillingness, the economy, etc. There are many more that I have not mentioned and what they all have in common is that none of them are the real problem.
Question: What’s the real problem, and what’s the answer?
Answer: The real problem is that we don’t collaborate and align our vast, often duplicated resources, talents, and mandates, to have a collective voice. Collaboration is both a missing mindset as well as a missing process. We mostly define collaboration as “getting together”. As one of our clients said, “[we act as] independent islands chipping away at symptoms”.
Almost all transformative change started with a series of small groups led by a few courageous people. They came together to tell the truth to one another, did the tough work to get over their differences, and then whole-heartedly went after an intolerable circumstance that each could not surmount on their own! The answer is to move from a “me or you” mindset to a “me and you mindset” and to stop pretending that we are always noble or even often noble!
Question: If this is the answer, at least one powerful answer – so then why aren`t we doing it?
Answer: Good question. Given the common goals, overlapping skillsets, and in many cases overlapping client bases and services, why aren’t we truly collaborating and coming together to increase the power of our voice and share resources, information, and talent? Why? The answer is that there is too much self-interest and survival thinking to allow for this. Making it and surviving forms an almost inescapable context within which people operate.
If you are awake and have any lived experience of the for profit sector you will see the parallels.
Summing up, excellence in CRM and Customer Experience requires a transformation in the character (being) of organisations (and the people in the organisations especially the Tops) not just a change of clothes to project a more ‘customer friendly’ personality. This is a challenge that few have taken on wholeheartedly – arguably the CRM and Customer Experience fixes were actions designed to bypass the need for a genuine shift in being, in transforming from extractive capitalism to conscious capitalism.