Blog Archives

What Does It Take To Access And Hear The Richness Of The Voice Of The Customer?

I invite you to take a zen like look into the whole ‘voice of the customer’ thing. By ‘voice of the customer’ I mean the practice of using customer surveys to get customer feedback.  And then turning these individuals customer surveys into tables, charts, reports, and presentations which are fed to managers. By zen I mean a simple direct looking into the concrete reality void of ideology-conceptualisation and self deception.

What do you see when you take that zen like look at this ‘voice of the customer’ thing? Here is what shows up for me: I do not hear the voice of the customer!  There is no voice of the customer! So what is there? Paper, ink, text, diagrams; no human voice speaks.

We, human beings, are masters of self-deception. We are told that being effective with customers starts with customer insight. We are told that being effective involves listening to the voice of the customer. We are told that being effective requires ‘walking in the shoes’ of the customer. What do we do? We get busy with technology centred services that keep Tops and Middles as distant, as insulated, from customers as usual. But now with the illusion of being in contact with the customer!

Before I go on, I wish to make it clear that I am not bashing ‘voice of the customer’ surveying. These surveys, if designed, implemented, and used correctly can provide some useful information. And if the limitations are gotten by those who need to get them (Tops and Middles) then they can be a useful tool. However, this is not what I have experienced. What have I experienced? It occurs to me that many managers use this tools to avoid actually listening to the voice of the customer. And to stay within their comfort zones: the office-corporate environment.

So what does it take to access AND hear the voice of the customer.  I invite you to read and ponder the following (bolding is my work):

How do your decisions affect customers and suppliers? It’s hard for us to imagine this well if we don’t really know the customers and vendors we work with. And we can’t know them if we hardly ever see them. This is one reason why it’s so important to give people a chance to get …., out of their offices, and out of the building, to visit the people they serve.

Whenever manufacturing or design people actually make site visits and see firsthand how customers are using their products, they develop a new insightful imaginative feel for the needs of the customer, and sometimes the plight of the customer. They come face to face with what really works well and what doesn’t work as it should. They hear from other real people what they like and don’t like about the product, what they need and what they’d really like to have if it were just possible. When the end user becomes a face and a voice, a genuine, three dimensional human being, it is much more difficult to ignore his or her interests and needs. This is a natural impetus for good decision making, with the customer’s interest at heart.

- Tom Morris, If Aristotle Ran General Motors

Is this all there is to get another human being – be s/he a customer, an employee, a partner or a supplier?  No. Even in my home I notice that some of us prefer not to be present to that which is so. Why? Because being present to the reality of the impact of our behaviour can be painful especially if we are committed to keeping our existing practices intact.

So what does it take to get another human being: his/her needs, his/her experience, his/her dreams?  I invite you to read-ponder the following:

we need to cultivate a perceptive imagination on two different levels. First, we need imagination on a small scale. We need empathy. You can’t know how you would want to be treated if you were in another person’s shoes unless you can imagine what it would be like to be in his shoes. It is hard to develop empathy in a robust form without getting to know in concrete and detailed ways the people with whom we need to empathise. One of the most important business commandments then should be: Know thy customer. And it’s equal should be: Know thy associate…… Service and empathy must flow through an organisation first if they are to flow out unimpeded to those with whom the organisation does business.

We also need to cultivate imagination on a large scale, a vivid vision for our lives and our businesses. We need an imaginative conception of what we are doing, a big picture for the contribution we are making to the world. We need a map with coordinates to guide us in our concrete day-to-day decisions….. With a powerful ethical vision directing all our thoughts, we don’t need long list of rules to guide us. We are both informed and inspired to do what is right.

- Tom Morris, If Aristotle Ran General Motors

Summing up, if I am to access and hear the richness of the voice of my customers, my associates, my value creation partners, then the starting point is dropping my ego which constantly calls out “Me, me, ME!”. And rigorously embracing practices that call forth fellow feeling; moving from an I-It way of showing up and travelling in the world to the I-Thou mode.  What I have found is that as I do this the workability of my relationships and my effectiveness-impact increases. So does my experience of being alive and being fulfilled.  What about you?

I thank you for your listening and I hope you will cause-create a great weekend for yourselves and your fellow human beings starting with those with whom you are in most intimate contact. And if you happen to be a Top or a Middle and are serious about listening to your customers then leave your office and go talk with real flesh+blood human beings. And note that you will not have listened, really listened, until you humanity (the best of you) has been called forth and put into these encounters with your fellow human beings disguised as ‘customers’.  Incidentally, this is what social really is.

On The Centrality Of Ethics And Practical Wisdom To The Workability Of Our Lives, Our Organisations, Our Institutions

This is a conversation about ethics and wisdom.  As such it is unfashionable – not in tune with the cultural context amidst which we live our lives.

This conversation will not make you a smarter-more cunning marketer. Nor will it increase your close rate and drive up your sales effectiveness. It definitely will not help you to talk lyrically about the customer whilst doing everything in your power to reduce the level of service your provide to your customers after they have become customers.  If this is why you find yourself here then I suggest you leave now. 

Do Ethics and Wisdom Matter In A ‘Scientific’ Age?

On my LinkedIn profile I have written the following:

Inspired by the possibility of a world that works for all, none excluded. Committed to being a source of workability-performance-transformation. And travelling through life in a manner that elevates-honours all. Enjoy conversations of the authentic-human kind.

What is the scientific basis for this freely chosen way of showing up and travelling in this world?  What is the ROI?  The first question can only be asked by a man of ‘reason’ – one working in a laboratory, with no worldly entanglements, and a limited, possibly non-existent, moral horizon.  The second question is probably the fundamental question that every Taker asks himself: what is in it for me, personally?

I find neither of these questions relevant as I strive to show up and operate from an ethical stance. Not a scientific stance. Nor a ROI stance.  Does ethics and moral wisdom matter?  Can we live well, given that living well always involves living well with others, by embracing ‘reason’ and ROI?  Put differently, is ethics and moral wisdom mere superstition and as such can be jettisoned?  Let’s leave aside the theory and look at the phenomena.

Shambles and Lack Of Empathy At Gatwick Airport

Yesterday, Ian Golding wrote the following:

In all my years travelling to and from the UK, I have never witnessed a queue for passport control quite like it. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of people were snaking around the airport building. Everyone looked rather bewildered….

….. for the 50 minutes I battled through the queue, I heard not one announcement, and not one member of staff from either Gatwick Airport or the border force bothered to make themselves visible to help or advise passengers……..

The experience was not made any better by finally arriving at a desk. As my passport was taken out of my hand, I was not greeted by an apology, or even an acknowledgement of the wait. Instead, I was told that ‘this is not my fault, it’s the system’…..

I do not hold them responsible for there clearly being no contingency plan in place. However I do expect that they should be able to empathise with the people they are serving.

Now here is something that speaks volumes for those who have the listening for it:

Credit should be given to the thousands of customers who quietly and diligently stood in line. I personally did not witness a raised word despite the shambles – there was almost a sad acceptance that this happens in the UK

If you can read the following article and pay particular attention to the language of the several officials:

A government spokesman said: “We are currently experiencing temporary IT problems which may add to the time taken to conduct passport checks…. We are working to rectify this issue and are providing extra staff to get passengers through the controls as quickly as possible. Our priority remains security of the border. We apologise for any additional time this adds to passengers’ journeys.”

A Heathrow spokesman said: “There are some longer queues than normal in the terminals but we have spoken to border force and they are putting on extra staff… Obviously we want to sort the issue out but not risk the integrity of the border controls.”

Ask yourself if these words could be spoken by a robots. Better still ask yourselves whether these words are more befitting of robots or human beings?  Ask yourself where, in these words, there is any care-concern-empthy for the human beings who found themselves amidst the shambles, trying to figure out what was going on. And many of who will have missed their onward connections and found themselves fending for themselves.

How Did The Staff At Sports Direct Treat A Young Mother?

Yesterday, I came across this article about a protest by mothers at a Sports Direct store. What led to this protest?

.….. staff members allegedly told Wioletta Komar that she could not breast feed her baby because it was “against company policy”.  She was then made to leave the store and continue feeding her child in the rain while she waited for her husband, according to the Nottingham Post.  Mrs Komar claims she has complained to the store five times since the incident, but has received no response…

Do we have so little regard-love for our own mothers so that we can accord no consideration-respect to this mother?

Where is our sense of decency, of fellow feeling, of moral wisdom?  What would it have taken for a member of staff to go up to Wioletta, invite her into the staff room, offer her a chair?  And in the process connect with her as a fellow human being.

What does the law say on this matter?  According to the article:

Breastfeeding in public is protected by the Equality Act 2010, which states that businesses must not discriminate against a woman who is breastfeeding.

The Nonsense of Scientific Management: What Gets Measured Gets Done, Really?

I can think of no better example of the folly of mere ‘scientific’ thinking-acting than the exclusive focus on metrics, incentives (rewards) and punishments. Some are so lacking in practical wisdom that they loudly proclaim: what gets measured gets done!

Successive UK government’s have made a big play of how crime is coming down. Metrics driven crime recording and performance management systems have been put in place. And the figures have consistently showed a drop in crime.

What does the first official inquiry into the accuracy of the crime figures provided by the police have to say?  Here are the highlights from this article:

The police are failing to record as much as 20% of crime – equal to three-quarters of a million offences – including 14 cases of rape and some serious sexual offences…..

The interim report also shows that some offenders have been issued with out-of-court fixed penalty fines when they should have been prosecuted instead…

…… police failure to record crime properly may stem from poor knowledge of the rules or workload but adds that he can’t rule out that it might be the result of discreditable or unethical behaviour by officers.

Well are the crime figures being deliberately fiddled or is it just pure incompetence?  One way of answering this question is to ask how did this official inquiry come about?  According to the same article:

The interim report by Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Tom Winsor, was ordered by the home secretary following claims of widespread fiddling of the police recorded crime figures by a whistleblower which have been endorsed by MPs.

Let’s take a moment to get present to what is happening here!  The very people who are charged with upholding the law are not.  Why not? I say that the ethical foundation and moral wisdom that is the essential ground for effective policing and the just rule of the law is no longer present: if it not dead then surely it is on it’s deathbed.

Does this fiddling of crime figures matter?  Does it really matter?  It seems rather academic doesn’t it?  What is the big deal if the police are failing to record up to 20% of crime.  Now I invite you to step away from the deliberately bland language of academic-managerial-political speech and look at the phenomena: the human impact. What is the human impact? Here are examples that bring the human back into the conversation:

Among the cases HMIC cites as wrongly written off are:

• An allegation by a 13-year-old autistic boy who told his parents he had been raped by a 15-year-old male friend which was wrongly written off by the police as sexual experimentation.

• A report to the police of rape by a doctor on behalf of a female patient who had consented to sex but told the man to stop when it began to hurt. A supervisory officer ruled that no crime had occurred.

This is not the only case of unethical behaviour, lack of integrity, and the lack of moral wisdom.  Just this week I came across this article: Department for Work is government’s worst at providing a living wage.  Why is this a big deal?  Because it is the government department that pays taxpayer funded top ups for those of our fellow human beings on low pay. And this government department was the first one to ‘commit itself to paying a living wage, a voluntary scheme under which employers pledge to supplement the legally binding national minimum wage.’

Case after case suggests that the lack of integrity, unethical behaviour and the lack of practical-moral wisdom is now the norm: the default setting at all levels of society. 

What Is The Cause Of The Loss Of Moral Wisdom And Lack Of Ethical Thought-Behaviour?

In the age of enlightenment where ‘reason’ and science were being embraced and the old world order was collapsing some saw the perils down the road.  Let’s listen:

What conclusion is to be drawn from this paradox so worthy of being born in our time; and what will become of virtue when one has to get rich at all costs. The ancient political thinkers forever spoke of morals and virtue; ours speak only of commerce and money.

- Jean Jacques Rousseau, Discourses on the Sciences and Arts

I get that you may not have the same interest-passion for dead philosophers as I do. So allow me to share with you the voice of Barry Schwartz – a psychologist and professor of sociology.

Barry Schwartz On The Loss of Practical And Especially Moral Wisdom

Barry Schwatz has delivered a number of TED talks. This talk was delivered in 2009 and TED describes it as follows:

Barry Schwartz makes a passionate call for “practical wisdom” as an antidote to a society gone mad with bureaucracy. He argues powerfully that rules often fail us, incentives often backfire, and practical, everyday wisdom will help rebuild our world.

And Finally

I leave you with these final thoughts:

First, as Heidegger pointed out we do not live-operate in a scientific laboratory an ‘objective’ observers looking at the world.  No, we are an intrinsic part of the world: a human being is ALWAYS a being-in-the-world even when s/he dies.

Second, a human being is never just a being-in-the-world. S/he is always and necessarily a being-in-the-world-with-others. Ask yourself in what sense you could possibly be a human being if you were magically born into a world without human beings. Ask yourself where you would be if upon birth there was no human being there to care for you.

Third, a human being is being whose being is to necessarily take a stand on his being. Another way of saying this is to ‘existence is our essence’ or ‘custom is our nature’. Which is to say we collectively make ourselves through our vision of what it is to be a human being. Each age is characterised by a particular vision of what it is to be a human being.

Fourth, we have, on the whole and for the most part especially in organisation and institutional settings, become heartless, self-interested, calculating-manipulative, creatures because we have bought into and been conditioned into this way of thinking and operating as human beings..

Fifth, look around and get present to that which is so. The flowering of the scientific view of man and the world has not brought us to lived experience of nirvana. What it has brought us is longer lives and more comfort.  And on the whole and for the most part we do not find ourselves happier. We do not find ourselves experiencing aliveness-fulfillment-joy.  We find ourselves living in a world devoid of the basics (compassion, empathy, kindness, brotherhood) that make a human life truly worth living. 

Sixth, you and I have a choice to bring ethical living and practical-moral wisdom back into the worlds in which we show up and travel. How? Be expanding our definition of ‘reason’ to include ethics and practical-moral wisdom.  And by so doing we will be giving back to the term ‘reason’ to its original fullness – that which was so before the modern age reduced ‘reason’ to its current understanding-practice

If you have made it this far, I thank you for the generosity of your listening. And I invite you to show up and travel as a leader in life by taking the lead in embodying ethical practices and moral wisdom.

 

Marketing and Customer Experience: The Six Core Emotional Needs That Shape Human Behaviour (Part1)

My primary interest is human beings. The value that I most value is empathy. I find myself moved by the kindness-connection-helpfulness that flows when empathy is present. I have noticed breakthroughs in relationship often generate breakthroughs in performance. Which is why I was happy to take up the offer to read-review-share Mark Ingwer’s book Empathetic Marketing.

Let’s start with a passage that gets to the heart of the challenge:

The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds.

- Daniel Goleman, Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self Deception

What is it that we fail to notice? I say that we fail to notice that human beings are not just automatons, computing algorithms, merely rational beings. We fail to notice that human beings are emotional-rational-social-embodied human beings.  And this has consequences for how we treat customers, treat employees, treat suppliers, treat ourselves. It has consequences for the quality of our relationships and our performance.

Mark Ingwer says we fail to notice the nuances that make us human

What does business psychologist Mark Ingwer say? He says:

What we fail to notice is the powerful effect of our unconscious on behavior and personalities.… To truly understand why people say what they say and do what they do, we must look at the psychodynamic context surrounding consumer decisions.

…. when faced with many options and advertisements ….. we often decide what’s best for us by gravitating towards what feels right (or frequently away from what feels wrong).

Even when they claim to desire lifetime relationships with their clients and customers, many businesses tactically distance themselves from the humanity of their interactions. The systemic nature of marketing and business strategy inadvertently depersonalises their audience by using language that groups customers into market segments and targets. People are commonly referred to as “buyers,” shoppers,” “payers,” “non responders,” “early adopters,” and “eyeballs.” But too often what is lost is the nuance that makes them human.

Why does this matter? It matters because when we do not keep ‘the nuance that makes us human’ at front and centre of our business decisions then we create products and services which flop. We spend fortunes in business to get people to buy our products – become customers – and then we neglect their emotional needs for the rest of the ‘customer journey’. This is what Mark Ingwer says:

I contend that emotions and resulting behaviours are the foundation for satisfying complex psychological needs…. And individual’s needs are satisfied when he or she is connected meaningfully to others, and through these connections comes to find his or her own unique value and identity. It is a ceaseless, evolving, lifelong endeavour.

.. businesses must have an intimate and conceptual framework for understanding these emotional needs and a passion for meeting them every step of the way.

The heart of the matter: putting full bodied humanity into business?

It occurs to me that Mark Ingwer is pointing at that which shows up for me as the heart of the challenge: putting humanity into business so that the one dimensional picture of human beings becomes alive in all of its many dimensions.  There are three  sentences in particular that resonates with me and I wish to share with you:

Physical needs create life and keep us living, whereas the emotional needs alluded to earlier are what make life worth living.

Meeting needs is not like climbing a mountain. It’s more akin …. to a lifelong game of tug-of-war.

We are beings in conflict, individuals attempting to engage with our many needs outwardly and subconsciously.

What are the fundamental needs that drive shape-drive human behaviour?

Which begs the question, what are these fundamental human needs that shape-drive human behaviour? Mark Ingwer calls attention to two needs in particular: individuality and connectedness.  This is what he says:

Throughout life’s stages, we balance our primary needs for individuality and connectedness…… These two needs underlie most all human motives and serve as the polar forces of a needs satisfaction model, which I call the Needs Continuum.

Sitting on the left-hand side of the continuum, our need for individuality finds a way to sneak into almost all of our behaviour. Western society values the stalwart, self-reliant man….. We subconsciously take and borrow from every one of our relationships and connections in the world to arrive at a better sense of self.

Sitting at the opposite pole of the continuum, the need for connectedness moves hand in hand with individuality …… The need for connectedness motivates us to prioritise friends and family. We often want to buy higher quality goods and services ……. for them them than we do for ourselves. Connectedness …. defines our role as social beings. It’s impossible to live our lives without others with whom to share it. We must be cared for, loved, nurtured. We must be recognised. We must belong to something larger than ourselves.

We need to seek and achieve connectedness in order to thrive and truly know ourselves. Other people are mirrors through which we develop and sustain identity…..to be connected to others is to open the door to sustained personal growth and happiness.

On the continuum between individuality and connectedness are the following six core emotional needs: control, self-expression, growth, recognition, belonging, and care. 

When approaching customers or prospects, a business must understand which of the six core needs its products or service addresses and then tailor its marketing and product development to best address that core need

In the next post on this series (based on Mark Ingwer’s book Empathetic Marketing) I will explore the powerful human need for control.

Want to Cultivate Great Customer Relationships? Take the Road Less Travelled

Is there a secret to great customer service? Is there a secret to great customer experiences? Is there a secret to cultivating genuine-meaningful-profitable relationships with customers?  Is there a secret to authentic customer centricity?  I say there is. I also say that it does not lie in the places where almost all organisations are focussed on: data, analytics, process and technology.

Data, analytics, process and technology are content.  Think of these as the walls, floors and roof of a house.  What do they rest on?  The foundation. What happens if the right foundation is not in place?

Using an organic metaphor, I say that data, analytics, process and technology are seeds. What if they are being planted in a desert? If you want to genuinely connect with your customers and cultivate mutually beneficial relationships then you have to cultivate the right ‘soil’ for such a relationship to sprout.  What kind of ‘soil’ am I pointing at? I am pointing at the very ground of your being-in-the-world, the way that you automatically show up in the world.  Think of it as the presence and possibility that walks into the room when you walk into the room.

I am also pointing at the very ground of your organisation’s being-in-the-world.   I am not talking here about brand values cooked up by marketing nor about cultural values cooked up by the Tops or HR. I am pointing at ‘what is so’ in terms of your organisation’s people, priorities, policies, practices, products, processes and platforms.

I get that you are not likely to be used to my way of speaking. So allow me to give you a concrete example of what I mean by ‘the very ground of your being-in-the-world’.  Please read the following quote by Mahatma Gandhi:

A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependant on us. We are dependant on him. He is not an interruption on our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider on our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so.

I invite you to read it again. Now ask yourself, how true is each of these statements for me, for my team members, for my organisation?  Now take a look at the many organisations spending money on VoC, customer analytics, customer journey mapping, process redesign, and technology implementation in the name of customer focus, customer experience and customer-centricity. How true are these statements for these organisations?

I say that the access to great customer service, great customer experience, and authentic customer-centricity is empathy, generosity, and compassion.

I have a question for you to ponder. What becomes possible if you:

  • truly treat your customers as if they were the most important visitors on your premises?
  • showed up in the world in way that honored your customers and never treated them as interruptions to your business?
  • truly embraced your customers and considered them to be an intrinsic and essential part of your business?
  • focused on simplifying and enriching the lives of your customers in a way that contributed to their wellbeing?
  • treated the people who constitute your organisation with dignity and respect where each person was listened to as a person of worth?

Does all this sound unrealistic to you?  Would you rather be working on the getting access to the voice of the customer, talking about ROI, changing processes, outsourcing, and implementing CRM and other technologies?  That’s totally OK by me. You probably wasted a ton of money on CRM. And I am totally OK with you wasting another ton of money on Customer Experience stuff.  It is your money!

If, however, you have some listening to what I am pointing at here then I wish to share, with you, this quote from Mahatma Gandhi:

Love is the subtlest force in the world.

Yes, I am a dreamer. I dream of a world that works for all, none excluded. I dream of you and I working together to co-create this world. And with that thought I leave you with this final quote from Mahatma Gandhi:

It is beneath human dignity to lose one’s individuality and become a mere cog in the machine.

The vital importance of empathy and kindness to customer experience design and employee engagement

How far can you get in cultivating enduring customer relationships, delightful customer experiences, and ‘employee engagement’ without empathy?

What kind of world shows up when we put aside empathy?  What kind of world shows up when we put aside kindness?  The kind of world that arose as a direct result of the ‘age of machines’ – of the Industrial Revolution.  When our way of life is centred on and around machines, we worship machines, and we go about life asking and expecting one another to be-act like machines.  We have become great at showing up in the world as machines. And as result we have lost sight of kindness, generosity, empathy.

Why do I bring this up?  Because it occurs to me that our age is calling out for empathy, for kindness, for the injection of the human back into business and our way of life.  Also because, you cannot get far in cultivating meaningful relationships with customers nor designing customer experiences that delight customers, nor generating ‘employee engagement’ without grappling with these topics. Look you and I can make the world accessible, convenient, hassle free and fast.  And, if such a world is missing kindness, generosity, empathy, friendship and love then it is a world that is not fit for human beings.

Empathy is central to customer experience, customer-centricity, and employee engagement

With this context I share with you the following video that was brought to my attention by LinkedIn where Tim Brown, the CEO of IDEO shared it:

If this video speaks to you, if it stimulates your interest in empathy then I invite you to take a look at the following posts:

What Does It Take To Generate Deep Contextual Customer Insight?

Customer Loyalty and Advocacy: what can we learn from Jonathan Ive and Zappos?

What does it take to generate ‘employee engagement’? (Part IV)

Is this the access to profitable revenues, loyal customers and enduring success? (Part I)

Is kindness born of empathy fundamental to cultivating customer loyalty and employee engagement?

I say it is. What kind of kindness am I speaking about?  I am speaking what Werner Erhard refers to as “ruthless compassion”.  If you want to dig into this a little more then check out this talk.

I want to leave you with a quote of a hero of mine, Albert Schweitzer:

Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.

A Final Word

I am putting together a course on communication-empathy-relationship. And there is one slide that I wish to share with you:

Being Empathic Listening.jpg

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,354 other followers

%d bloggers like this: