I find myself interested and caring for the human. So the following slogan caught my attention: “There is no more b2b or b2c: It’s human to human”. This got me wondering: What does it take for us to show up and operate as ‘human to human’?
If we are to do business in a ‘human to human’ way then it helps to have a good grasp of what the defining characteristic of human is. In Being and Time, Heidegger asserts that ‘Care (Sorge) is the being of dasein’. For the purposes of this conversation dasein = human being. What does Heidegger mean by this? I take it to mean that I do not find myself indifferent: to myself and my experience of living, to the world in which I find myself in, to my fellow human beings. It matters (to me) how I live and how my life turns out. It matters (to me) how my fellow human beings live and how their lives turn out. And it matters (to me) how this world is and is not. I care as I am aware that I am being-in-the-world-with-others-towards death.
If we are going to show up and operate from a ‘human to human’ way of doing business then we must genuinely care for ourselves, the people we work with, the people we sell to, the people we buy from, the people whose lives are touched by us and our way of showing up and operating in the world. How best to illustrate this? Allow me to share a story the following story with you (bolding is my work):
Harry, an emergency physician …. One evening on his shift in a busy emergency room, a woman was brought in about to give birth…….. Harry was going to deliver this baby himself. He likes delivering babies, and he was pleased…… The baby was born almost immediately.
Whilst the little girl was still attached to her mother, Harry laid her along his left arm. Holding the back of her head in his left hand, he took a suction bulb in his right and began to clear her mouth and nose of mucus. Suddenly, the baby opened her eyes and looked directly at him. In that moment, Harry stepped past his technical role and realised a very simple thing: that he was the very first human being this baby girl had ever seen. He felt his heart to go out to her in welcome ….
Harry has delivered hundred of babies. He has always enjoyed the challenges of delivery, the excitement of making rapid decisions and feeling his own competency, but he says that he had never let himself experience the meaning of what he was doing before. He feels that in a certain sense this was the first baby he ever delivered. He’s says that in the past he would have been so preoccupied with the technical aspects of delivery, assessing and responding to needs and dangers, the he doubts he would have noticed the baby open her eyes or have registered what her look meant. He would have been there as a physician but not as a human being. It was possible, now to be both…
-Rachel Naomi Remen, Kitchen Table Wisdom
This is what I notice about the whole Customer thing: the focus is almost exclusively on the technical stuff (metrics, data, analytics, technology, processes) and almost no recognition of the human. Does this matter? Yes. Why? I leave you with these words of wisdom:
Quality matters when quantity is an inadequate substitute. If a building contractors finds that her two-ton truck is on another job, she may easily substitute two on-ton trucks to carry the landfill. On the other hand if a three star chef is ill, no number of short-order cooks is an adequate replacement. One hundred mediocre singers are not the equal of one top-notch singer…
- Richard Rumelt, Good Strategy Bad Strategy
We may not be able to define-measure-calculate quality. Yet we are present to it when we experience it. The quality that you/i/we experience from the people we interact with, work with, sell to, buy from, makes a huge difference to our experience of living. This quality of caring cannot be faked, though many folks make the attempt to fake it.
Interestingly, in our age, it is easier to build this caring into the ‘product’ itself (Apple) or the digital interface (Amazon) than it is in human to human conversation-encounters. Why? Because we have become so wrapped up in the technical that we have lost touch with the human – including our own humanity. Yet, it is possible to get in touch with this humanity and give it expression: to show up as a CEO and as a human being; to show up as a CMO and as a human being; to show up as CFO and as a human being; a sales person and as a human being; to show up as call-centre agent and as a human being……
Please note: I am about to go on vacation and will be out of touch for several weeks. I wish you well and look forward to being in communication after the holiday.
What Is The Access To Calling Forth The Best From Your People and Cultivating Authentic Customer Loyalty?
In the realm of business, first and foremost, I show up (for myself) and travel as a philosopher-strategist. One of the central concerns in philosophy used to be ethics: how to live well in this world with others. This has not been the case for quite some time and may account, to a large degree, to the way the world is and is not. One of the central pillars of strategy is focus: bringing to bear all your resources to the key leverage points at the right time/s.
Looking through the ethical and strategic lenses, I have been grappling with the question of performance and loyalty: what calls forth the best from the people who work in your business and what is he access to authentic customer loyalty? The kind without bribery, without the gimmicks. In my search I came across a wonderful book. Today, I wish to share with you certain passages that speak to me and may provide an answer to the question that I have posed here (bolding is my work):
When people work in conditions of perceived unfairness and unkindness, they fall into a self protective mode. Like turtles, they crawl into their shells and hide. They’re not motivated to take positive risks, to dig deep inside to discover all their talents and bring those talents to bear in creative ways on the challenges of the corporate business. Their emotions are tinged by fear and resentment, and these negative feelings block the flow of positive emotional energy the could be putting to work in their daily activities…..
… employees who feel honourably treated are most likely to pass on that honour and respect in their dealings with customers, potential customers, and vendors. Those who feel badly treated will quite often pass on some of that treatment as well to those outside the company with whom they have contact. And this can become a flash point for whether business is gained or retained. Most people find it difficult over the long run to buy even good products from bad or discourteous people.
Relationships Rule The World
In the course of my life so far, I have become totally loyal to any number of businesses ….. because I felt well treated in each of these places, welcomed, honoured, and respected. Friendliness, kindness, genuine concern, that little extra touch, going beyond the call of duty – these are all exemplifications of basic goodness, applications of the moral dimension that often bring with them the result of loyal relationships and greater business success…
Go ahead and develop a strategy, change the organisation structure, redesign processes, and implement the latest Customer Experience technologies. And it occurs to me that if you don’t talk about, grapple with, and address the questions of liberation and basic goodness as exemplified by friendliness, kindness, fairness and genuine concern for the people in your business (those who work ‘within’ it), the people served by your organisation (customers), and the people impacted by your organisation (community, vendors, partners..) then you are unlikely to ever build a solid foundation that allows you to call forth the greatness of your people and cultivate enduring authentic relationships with your customers.
I know that this is a BIG ask. Sit in on counselling sessions and you will learn that almost every single one of us resists acknowledging, understanding, and dealing with that which really matters. We will do just about anything and everything except that which really matters: how we show up and travel in the world and in particular who we relate to and treat our fellow human beings including those closest to us. And some folks do the difficult work and by so doing the live lives and make an impact in the lives of others that is uncommon.
I wish you a great day, thanks for listening. I welcome your thoughts, your experience on that which I have shared here today.
Does Customer Experience require information technology? Allow me to rephrase this question, is it necessary to purchase-configure-operate an arsenal of information technologies to improve the Customer Experience? Which is my way of asking, if it is necessary to turn Customer Experience as a business philosophy and/or value proposition into CRM: an information technology?
It occurs to me that it is mistake to collapse information technology and Customer Experience together – to make the kind of mistake that was made with CRM. I say that your organisation can impact-improve the Customer Experience in many ways that do not require information technology. Where is my proof? Let’s start with my recent experience.
Why Didn’t I Buy From Two Well Known Retail Brands?
I needed more trousers; my preference, some would call it addiction, is for Chinos. So my nephew drove me to a shopping centre outside of town. On his advice, I went to the first shop, found what I was looking for. And in the process I came across summer shorts. So with a handful of trousers and shorts I headed to the fitting rooms. Long queue. No movement for three minutes. No staff around to help out. I put the goods back on the racks and left.
Onwards to the second retail brand, which just happened to be next to the first store. Within five minutes or less, I found myself exiting this story empty handed. Why? One, they just didn’t stock trousers that fit me. Just about every trouser that caught my attention was regular length and regular is too short for me as I am tall and have long legs. Second, no staff members around to ask for help in finding longer length trousers. Third, the prices showed up as being too high; I remembered what I had paid for the Chinos I was wearing.
Why Did I Buy From The Gap Store?
Having had enough, I headed directly for the Gap store. Why? Because this is where I had purchased, some years ago, the Chinos I was wearing and happy with. The store showed up as friendlier-easier as it was much smaller in size, I could clearly see two sales assistants, and they looked happy. I spent over £150 pounds and walked out of the store with several Chino trousers and shorts. Why did I end up buying from Gap?
- They stocked the products that I was looking for – Chino trousers and a range of summer shorts;
- I found the particular style I was looking for – Classic;
- Each range of trousers came in a range of sizes including the size (34, 34) I was looking for;
- I found it easy-quick to try on the trousers (and shorts) as there was no queue for the fitting rooms; and
- The ‘checkout’ experience of paying for these items was quick-easy and delivered by a friendly sales assistant.
And there was a moment of delight. What delight? Upon checkout I found that I had been charged 30% less than I had expected to pay. Why so? Because Gap had a sales promotion that day and I had not noticed it as it had not been well signposted.
I draw your attention to this: no information technology was needed other than the POS till. Gap ended up the winner simply because it did the basics of clothes retailing right: store design (size-layout-signposting), the right product, ability to trial the product, good customer service, and pricing that is in tune with product quality and customer expectations.
I also notice, that I have a stronger bond to Gap and Gap did not have to engage in any customer loyalty or outbound marketing programme to generate that bond. How has this strengthening of the bond come about? By stocking the kind of products that I am looking for, by asking the kind of price I am willing to pay, and by making it easy-pleasant to buy from them: not just once, but every time I have bought from them.
If Gap does want to do something other than get the basics right then here is my advice. Gap should consider storing my preferences in terms of the products that I have bought from them. And allow me to order those products from them. Why do I say that? Whilst I like their latest Chino trousers (the ones I brought from them recently) I prefer the ones that I bought several years ago. The fact that those trousers are no longer available makes them that much more attractive to me. I wonder how many others are like me. If there are enough of us then there might be a market for listening to and catering to our needs. Back in the days when I was a consultant with Peppers & Rogers, we would put this idea into the mass customisation bucket. This is where information technology would be useful, even essential, for improving the Customer Experience.
I wish you a great week, thanks for listening – your listening calls forth my speaking. And if you have thoughts that which you wish to share then please engage in a conversation with me by commenting.
What Does It Take To Be Given A Position In The Hall Of Shame?
What does it take to be given a position in my Hall Of Shame? It takes more than averageness, indifference and/or mediocrity. For those that show up this way, for me, I have created the Hall Of Mediocrity. And I shall be inducting CapitalOne into the Hall of Mediocrity in a follow up post.
To be accorded a place in my Hall Of Shame, you have to show up as a ‘taker': one focussed on furthering one’s interest at the expense of the customer without any consideration for ethics or just plain decency. It occurs to me that a great exemplar of this way of showing up and travelling in the world is Bitdefender, the antivirus firm.
What has Bitdefender done to earn it’s place on the Hall of Shame?
On 20th February I got the latest email informing that my antivirus subscription was due for renewal. Noticing that the renewal date was in the next 10 days, I logged onto my account (via the website) in order to cancel the renewal of the two subscriptions. Whilst I could see the details of both of my subscriptions, I was not able to cancel the renewal. Why not? Clearly, to stop me (and other customers) from cancelling renewals easily thus ensuring that some subscriptions would be renewed automatically as some customers would not go to the trouble of calling Customer Services.
Looking around the Internet I managed to find the telephone number and called Bitdefender’s Customer Services team. I provided the details that allowed the call-centre agent (let’s call him Mathus) to log into my account and see my subscriptions. Then I told him about the renewal emails, my failed attempt to cancel renewal online, and asked him to cancel the renewals. Mathus went into sales mode. I responded by saying that I was not interested in renewing and asked him to cancel the renewals.
Mathus asked me to hold on whilst he cancelled the renewals. I kept hanging on for at least ten minutes (I was counting them) despite being tempted to hang up. Why? I got that this was a deliberate ploy: keeping customers hanging up long enough and some of them will hang up thus limiting the number of renewals that get cancelled.
When Mathus came back on the line and apologised for taking so long I called him on it. Like a naughty boy who is proud of what he is doing and gets caught cheating, Mathus laughed immediately. Noticing some humanity present, I asked Mathus to do the decent thing, stop running me around, and just cancel the renewals.
Mathus told me that only the Sales team had the authorisation to cancel the automated renewals. So I asked to be put through to the Sales team. Mathus told me that he couldn’t do that and that he would raise a ticket to ensure that the Sales team would cancel the automated renewals. I asked Mathus to create the ticket there and then. He told me he had done it, so I asked him to email me the ticket number, when I got that email I hung up the phone.
What I wish to convey her is this: if I had been dealing with Amazon, I would have logged on to my account and cancelled my order within 1 to 3 minutes. With Bitdefender I had spent at least 20 minutes only to get an email with a ticket number. And that only because I had persisted and insisted. Was this the end of the story? No.
On the 24th February I got an email from Bitdefender’s Support Team informing that I had an open ticket with them, that they had not heard back from me for a while, and that I should contact them in order for them to resolve my issue.
On the 25th February, I emailed the Bitdefender Support Team with the following message: “Please confirm that you have cancelled the automated renewal of the annual subscription. That is what I rang you about and asked you to do. The agent told me that could not do it as he did not have the rights. He told me that only Sales could do it. And he told me that he would set up a ticket to ensure that the cancellation took place.”
What happened? Did the folks at Bitdefender cancel my automated renewal?
A few days later I got an email from Bitdefender informing me that my antivirus subscriptions had been renewed.
This automated email was followed, the next day, by an email from Mathus informing me that the automated renewals had been cancelled.
When I got my credit card statement I noticed that I had been billed two sums of £43.96 – double the amount if I had been allowed to cancel the automated renewals and buy the same product, online, from Bitdefender or another antivirus vendor.
If Bitdefender had played fair and offered to renew the subscription at the market rate of £24 I would have renewed. And as such Bitdefender would have earned £48 (2 x £24) at zero marginal cost.
If Bitdefender had played fair and made it easy for me to cancel the automated renewal of the subscription via my account on the net, they would have not incurred any costs.
Clearly Bitdefender has some kind of CRM system in place. And yet this system has not forged a closer relationship between myself and Bitdefender. That is the limit of all systems. A tool is merely a tool. The effect that any tool has in the world is who uses it, how it is used, and most importantly why it is used.
What was once a sound business practice from a rational actor/value maximisation perspective is no longer such a sound practice. The transparency enabled by the internet and social media allows customers like me to point out ‘takers’ as ‘takers’ and thus enable those who do not wish to be taken, to stay well clear of ‘takers’. So unless you have a killer (must have) product and/or deep pockets, it is time to wake up and act decently towards all stakeholders – especially customers.
By acting purely in their selfish interests with no consideration for decency or ethics, Bitdefender have earned themselves this post. In dealing with CapitalOne (credit card company that I use) I found myself writing this of Bitdefender:
“I am clear that Bitdefender is dishonest, manipulative, organisation intent on doing everything possible to stop it’s customers from exercising their right to cancel the renewal of subscription.”