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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):

Liberation Ethics

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…

- Tom Morris, If Aristotle Ran General Motors

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.

 

Looking Under The Hood Of Customer And Employee Engagement

A Skeptical Look Under The Hood Of Customer Engagement?

Why is Customer Engagement so fashionable?  Is that because Tops, Middles, and Marketers have found Jesus and come to love the Customer? I say “No!”

It occurs to me that Customer Engagement has become fashionable because marketers have found it increasingly difficult to get the customer’s attention long enough to exercise their dark arts of activating-influencing-manipulating human beings to want what the marketers are paid to sell.

Put differently, the purpose of the bag of tricks that falls under fine sounding rhetoric of Customer Engagement is to get customers to march in tune with the marketer’s agenda: tell us about yourself so we can sell your data and send you marketing messages; buy from us and buy more from us; and sell us, and for us, by recommending us to your social network.

I say Customer Engagement is a Taker’s way of taking whilst masking-disguising the taking that is going on. Is it then a real surprise that whilst there is so much talk of Customer Engagement, there is so little in the way of success?  Which might explain why the masters of the dark arts (those who advise-assist marketers) are busy inventing new tools-tricks for taking. And why marketers continue to fall for the latest tool-trick?

You may not be as skeptical as me; being skeptical as opposed to trusting-gullible is the norm, that is our default wiring.  So I invite your to play a mind game. Imagine that every company that is busy with Customer Engagement scraps their existing engagement tools-tricks. Instead, customers vote and choose their champion: the customer champion. This customer champion is invited to any-every discussion in the business which makes decisions that impact customers. And no decision can be made without the agreement of the customer champion.  In giving his/her consent the customer champion solicits the views of the people he represents: the customers.  Is this not real engagement with customers?  Then ask yourself if any business/organisation is doing this today. How many names have you come up with? Who even gets close to something like this?

What Is The Alternative To Customer Engagement?

If you showed up and travelled through life as a Giver how would you approach the Customer challenge?  I say that you would not be asking yourself  the following question: “How do I get the customers to engage with me and my agenda?”

It occurs to me that as a Giver you would be grappling with the following kinds of questions:

  1. How do I create superior value for my customers?
  2. How do I make their lives simpler-easier?
  3. How do I enrich the lives of our customers?
  4. What will it take for our organisation to leave customers feeling happy doing business with us and grateful that we exist?”

A Skeptical Look Under The Hood Of Employee Engagement?

Why is it the Employee Engagement is so fashionable? Is it because Tops, Middles and HR folks have found Jesus, recognised the universal brotherhood of man, and come to see the folks that work in the business as fellow human beings – of equal worth and value? I say “No!”

It occurs to me that Employee Engagement has become fashionable because the business place is so competitive. As such there is tremendous pressure on organisations to increase productivity and cut costs.  And for some organisations, there is the added pressure of generating knowledge and converting this knowledge into new products, new services, and better (cheaper) ways of doing things.

Imagine one of the Tops getting up and saying: “We are keen, even desperate, to get as much knowledge-innovation-work out of our human resources as possible whilst paying the absolute minimum that we can get away with paying.”  How much better, upstanding, uplifting, it sounds for a Top to talk about Employee Engagement.

I get that you may think that what I speak here is far-fetched. Let’s put that to the test. Imagine every company that is touting Employee Engagement goes to their employees and asks them to vote for and nominate an employees champion. And once this champion is appointed, s/he has to be presented in any-all discussion that affect the lives of the employees. And that no decisions that affect employees can be made unless the employees champion gives his/her agreement.  Now tell me how many companies that you know which practice anything like this.

I say Employee Engagement is just another term devised by Takers to disguise their taking. And I am clear that most employee are wise to this. Why might just explain why there is so little ‘engagement’ and genuine collaboration in the very companies that are touting Employee Engagement and devising-implementing the latest bag of tricks dreamed up by those passing themselves of as masters of manipulating people (psychologists, social scientists, academics, consultants, change agents..).

What Is The Alternative To Employee Engagement?

I say that if you genuinely care about your fellow human beings you would never refer to them as human resources. Just get present to this term: where is the dignity in the term human resource?  When you get home do you refer to husband/wife/partner and children as human resources?  Do you view-call your friends and members of your social network human resources?

So how would you treat your employees if you showed up and travelled in this world as a Giver?  Allow me to ask the same question differently. What are the kinds of questions you would be asking yourself if you genuinely cared by the wellbeing of your employees and the business?  I say that you would be grappling with the following kinds of questions:

  1. What kind of workplace is most likely to show up as a great place to work for the people who work (or we want to work) in our organisation?

  2. How do we involve our employees in the key business decisions especially those that affect them and their interactions-relationships with our-their customers?

  3. How do we shape what we do and the way that we do it such that this resonates deeply with that which provides genuine meaning, uplifts our employees, and calls forth the very best they have to offer?  What is it that we are doing-causing in the world that is speaks to and is worthy of the very best that lies at the deep core of our employees?

  4. How do we make sure that we share, equitably, the fruits of the creativity-knowledge-innovation-work that flows from our employees?

I welcome your thoughts on the matters I have touched upon here.

Hall of Fame: Waitrose Creates A Delighted Customer

Based on recent experiences I find myself moved to create a ‘Hall of Fame’. And a ‘Hall of Shame’ for well known brands based on how these businesses treat their customers.  My commitment is to share the great practices of the ‘givers’ as well as the deceitful-manipulative practices of the ‘takers’.

Let’s start the ‘Hall of Fame’ with Waitrose.  Why Waitrose?  Yes, the stores are clean, spacious, well presented, well stocked. And our local store even has a cafe-restaurant and ample parking.  Yes, the staff in the store are helpful.  Yet, these are not the reason that I am choosing to place Waitrose, as the first entrant, into the ‘Hall of Fame’.

Recently, I found wife telling me that she was surprised about the quality of the tangerines: some of the tangerines were hard (too hard) and others were soft (too soft).  Now, I found this interesting. Why?  It was the way she talked about it. I think it fair to say she was shocked.  What this suggest to me is that Waitrose, in her experience, delivers great quality products consistently.

Despite the relatively small price and the hassle involved, she decided to take them back. Why?  This is not the kind of product quality she expects from Waitrose.  And she was wondering how she would be treated.

Later that day, my wife couldn’t wait to tell me her experience. I was clear by the way she had a huge smile on her face that the experience was positive. What did she say?  Something along these lines: “The staff at Waitrose were great. They apologised, I could tell they were also surprised and genuinely sorry about my experience. And they refunded twice the price. Not just the price of the tangerines, twice the price.”

Waitrose enters my ‘Hall of Fame’ because of the following:

Reputation for product quality – I cannot imagine my wife giving up half an hour of her time to take back a product that only cost her £3 to the likes of Tesco;

Great customer service – the staff in the store have always been friendly and helpful;

Design and condition of the stores – the Waitrose stores are clean, white, spacious, inviting, natural and for some even uplifting; and

An equitable-fair-collaborative-generous business philosophy – Waitrose lives-exhibits a philosophy of generosity and in so doing shows up as a ‘giver’. A ‘matcher’ would simply have refunded the purchase price. And a ‘taker’ would have put all kinds of hurdles in her way so that it was not worth her while even thinking of asking for a refund.

Most of all, Waitrose enters my ‘Hall of Fame’ because my wife told me she “can’t see herself not being a Waitrose customer”.

In the next post, I will kick-off the ‘Hall of Shame’ with anti-virus vendor BitDefender.

 

In The Age Of Technology Do People Still Matter?

Why Not Replace People With Technology?

In the second half of the 90s I was involved in consulting in the area of shared services.  Being a sidekick I got to witness the sales pitch.  What was the sales pitch?  No human beings.  Everything in the back office was subject to business rules. The business rules could be codified, programmed and back office work could be automated.  No human necessary. Nirvana: 24/7/365 nirvana of efficiency guaranteed to deliver the same outcome each and every time.

Today, I notice the same love of technology as regards the front office: where the customer meets the enterprise.  In this age of technology do people still matter?  Do we need sales people given that content marketing will generate the interest, product demos can be put on the web, and the ‘inside sales’ people can take the orders?  Do we need to have any people in marketing given that big data will generate the insights, decision engines will contain the heuristics, market resource management systems will hold the marketing assets, and marketing automation will take care of the execution of marketing campaigns?  Do we need people in the call-centres taking calls given the extensive self-help that can be enabled through digital channels and every customer would prefer to interact via Twitter?  Do we need people in the stores? Why not rebuild the stores so that they resemble a combination of a website and a vending machine?

What Do These Two Women Say On The Matter?

Allow me to share a conversation that I overheard the other day between two women.  Before I do that let me set some context.  Waitrose is supermarket chain in the UK and it is owned by The John Lewis Partnership.  The John Lewis Partnership has been and continues to do well despite tough times for retailers. Tesco used to be the darling of the CRM press and used to be the dominant supermarket chain. It has not been doing so well since austerity hit.  Morrisons is the fourth largest chain of supermarkets in the UK.

As promised here is the gist of the conversation (between two women) that I overheard at the weekend:

Mrs A: “Waitrose is known for their great customer service and rightly so. It’s easy to find someone to help you. And when you ask for help in finding something, the Waitrose person walks you across the store and takes you right to the item you are looking for.  They are so helpful.”

Mrs B. “I was in Waitrose this week and wasn’t sure what ingredients I needed for eggs Benedict; I haven’t cooked them before. So I asked for help. The Waitrose man didn’t know either but he told me that he would find out. I saw him walk to one of his colleagues. Then he came back and told me what I needed and how to cook eggs Benedict. He was so helpful: he made my problem his own. That’s such good service.”

Mrs B. “The staff in Morrisons don’t walk with you to the item you are looking for. Yet, I always find them  warm, friendly and helpful.”

Mrs A. “I don’t like Tesco. It is hard to find people in the store to help you. And when you do find someone to help they tell you where you can find the item, point towards it, and then leave you to it. They don’t walk with you and show you where it is.  They don’t care – not at all like the Waitrose people.”

Mrs B. “I used to do all my shopping at Tesco. Then Tesco got greedy – pushing up prices and cutting down on the customer service. Now, I shop for the basics at Morrisons and the rest from Waitrose.”  

My Take On The Situation 

I’ll leave you decide whether people matter or not in the age of technology.  For myself, I am clear that humans are simply more at ease in dealing with other human beings. And there is no substitute for great customer service – the way that the folks in Waitrose (and John Lewis) stores interact with their customers, and amongst themselves.

Before you rush off to revamp your customer service remember that one ingredient does not a dish make.  A great dish always consist of the insightful application of a recipe – and the recipe requires a mix of ingredients, in the right measure, and sequence, cooked for just the right amount of time.  How does one generate such insight? Through experience: on the battlefield of life.  What is the recipe?  The business philosophy and organisational design: what matters, who matters, the operating principles, how conflict is handled, how rewards are shared, how people are structured into groups, and how interactions-relationships-differences-conflicts are handled…

Please note: I am not in the business of giving advice (in this blog). So you shouldn’t take anything in this blog as constituting advice. In this blog I find myself involved in sharing my thinking and experience.  That is all. Then you make of it what you make of it.

Beyond The Nonsense of Employee Engagement: What Truly Calls Forth ‘Engagement’ and Generates High Performance?

What Occurred Over The Last Week

It occurs to me that I have not been well for at least a week.  Almost every night for at least the seven days my sleep has been fitful and I have been luck when I have been able to get 3 – 4 hours of interrupted sleep. Some nights I have slept downstairs so as not to disturb my wife.

I ate one light meal on Monday. I ate one light meal on Tuesday. I ate one normal meal on Wednesday as I was really hungry. Shortly thereafter I found myself in the bathroom throwing up. I ate a light meal on Thursday. And I ate nothing on Friday lunchtime even though I was hungry and my two colleagues did their very best to persuade me to eat something!

In amidst all of this: I turned up at client sites to join my colleagues and do the work that was necessary; accepted the responsibility for generating the structure and writing most of the final presentation deck (40+slides); worked at least 8 hours  a day whilst often in pain or just uncomfortable; and sat amongst my colleagues on Friday whilst the three of us finalised and delivered the final presentation to our client.  Once it was all finished, I told one of my colleagues that I was looking forward to going home, eating something, and resting.

Why did I not chose the easier option of just calling in sick?  In fact, my wife seeing my state encouraged me to take care of my health: phone in sick, visit the doctor, rest-recover and then get back to work.

Please notice that nobody had to devise mechanisms (rewards and punishments) or engage in propaganda (empty misleading talk in tune with most marketing communications) to get me motivated and engaged.  I did not do what I did because of fear of punishment. I did not do what I did because of money – bonus. I did not do what I did because someone was call me onto the stage and say great words about me and hand me trinkets.

Why Did I Do What I Did?

I did what I did because it was never an option to let my friend and team leader (Richard Hornby) down!  I knew that there is nobody else (with the appropriate skills) available to take over that work that is my domain – except for Richard. And I knew that Richard was already overstretched due to working on multiple engagements. I did what I did out of love:

“What we will do for love will always be far more powerful than what we will do for money. What we can do together will always be far greater than what we can do alone.”  Pavithra Mehta

Money, no amount of money, can buy genuine care-love-meaning-community. And that is what most, or at least many, of us yearn for, live for, and ultimately allows us to face death.  Interestingly, what Richard, Matthew and I were able to do together, and indeed did together as one team, was more than what each of us did alone.  This became clear when we put our presentation together from our individual pieces, and took what did not work and reworked it (by contributing, listening, debating, building on one another’s insights-contributions) and ended up with a great presentation: a sentiment share by us and our client.

Please notice that I did not need anybody to preach to me on the value of social, or collaboration. Nor did I need people to provide me with social/collaboration tools.  Indeed, I did not use any.  Email and the phone were sufficient to keep in touch with my colleagues and do that which was necessary.

The Poverty of The Workplace

It occurs to me that the workplace is a place of poverty.  What kind of poverty?  A poverty of relationships of genuine caring (for one another as fellow human beings), mutual respect, and collaboration.  A poverty of that which calls forth the very best of us: beautiful workplaces, meaningful work, climate of solidarity, and a context of love.

Am I alone in this? Look into yourself, look into those whom you know, and answer the questions for yourself:

  • would you prefer to work in a beautiful environment or an ugly even bland environment?
  • would you prefer to work in an environment of love or one of fear?
  • would you prefer to do work that shows up as meaningful work or meaningless work?
  • would you prefer to be enmeshed in caring-respectful-collaborative relationships or find yourself enmeshed in relationships of blame-judgement-competition?

Ask yourself what you want to have inscribed on your headstone? “Here lived someone who was loved and loved others, one that made a contribution, touched lives, left behind a better world.” Or would you prefer “Here lies a person who spent their days and their life doing meaningless work in bland/ugly environments full of people who did not care for one another….”?

An Invitation

I share with you two quotes which show up as worth reflecting on:

“What you do today is important, because you are exchanging a day of your life for it.” Unknown

“Living life without making a difference is to be amongst the living dead.” Ron Travisano

I invite you to put love into your relationships, into the workplace, and into the world.  I promise you that if you do so then you will enrich existence: yours (as lived-experienced) and all whom you touch.  How do I know?  Because amidst all the pain that I experienced over the last week, my existence was also rich: all that I was doing was doing for my friend who was counting on me.

If you find that which I write her speaking to you then I invite you to check out this blog.

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