Blog Archives

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.

Do You Allow Your Employees The Space To Be Great With Customers?

What Happened to the Human Touch?

Think back to your last encounter with an employee of a retail store? Did that encounter meet your expectations? Did that encounter leave you ‘uplifted’ in some sense?  Did that encounter, elevate your view of your fellow human beings?  Did it make you feel good about this race of beings who call themselves human beings?

My suspicion is that your last encounter with the employees of a retail store showed up as rather mechanical. The human touch and the sense of aliveness that comes with the human touch was not present. And in not being present, all that took place was an interaction between you and the employee.  The kind of interaction that can be and is being replaced by digital technologies.

Have you wondered why it is that so many retail store employees show up as lacking the human touch?  What have you identified as the core causes?  Did you come to the conclusion that the retail store staff don’t care about customers? Perhaps you thought to yourself that these employees are lazy, want to do the minimum, take no pride in their work.  Did you determine that they simply do not have the soft skills?  Perhaps you concluded that they lacked training and so should be trained in customer service skills.

Are retail employees given the space to be great with customers?

If this is your position then I invite you to consider this question: are retail employees given the space to be great with customers?  Is it possible that retail employees want to do a good job, they want to be engaged in what they are doing, and they want to treat customers well. And yet often they find that they are not given the space to do this. Allow me to illustrate through real examples.

I know a young woman that has been working in one of the UK’s well known high street retailers for over a month. This high street retailer has been established for some time and tends to have a loyal customer base.  And this retailer stresses the importance of customer service. Let’s call this young woman (Miss).

One day, after only about a week in her job, Miss was called over by a customer. The customer was on old woman (70+).  The old woman was carrying a few bags, trying to get hold of her purse, and struggling to stay upright. The old woman asked Miss to help her. Miss provided the help that the old woman asked for: help her steady herself, help her walk over to the cashier, help her get her purse out of her handbag…..

The customer was grateful for the help that she received. She told Miss that. Miss was pleased with the way that she had conducted herself in helping the customer. What was her reward?  She was told off for breaking company policy. What policy?  The policy against touching customers. She was told that she should not have put her arm around the old woman to steady her. She was told that she should have simply walked the old woman to the nearest counter. And there the customer could have steadied herself.  When Miss explained that it had been necessary to put her arm around the old woman she was simply told that it was against company policy.

A week or so later Miss was stopped by another customer, an older man in his 60s. This customer could not find the clothes he was looking for. Miss told him where they were and offered to take him there. Once there, the customer asked for Miss help-advice in selecting certain products. Miss gave the help that this customer asked for. In all this encounter lasted  around 30 minutes. In that time Miss had learned a lot about the customer (articulate, lost his wife, son gone to Australia, lonely…) and had shared some of her life that was relevant to the conversation.  For most of this time, Miss was worried that management would tell her off for spending too much time helping one customer.  What to do, do what the customer is asking for? Or to make an excuse, walk away, and safeguard her job? Miss chose to stay and finish helping the customer.

Once the customer had completed his shopping, Miss walked him to the cashier.  At the cashiers desk the customer thanked her, wished her well, and gave her a hug. It occurred to Miss that the right thing to do was to reciprocate the hug. Even just a little touch on his shoulder to say ‘thank you’. Instead, Miss found herself standing still, arms hanging by her sides, mindful of the company policy, and fearful of what management would say. It showed up awkward for her and she is sure that it must have showed up as cold-distant-awkward to the customer – as if he had done something wrong. That was not the experience Miss wanted the customer to remember.

Reflections

It occurs to me that this is the way to turn human beings into automatons, drive the human touch out of the retail environment, and thus negate the one lever retail stores have to differentiate themselves against e-tailers: the human touch.  Look if social business means anything meaningful then it means this: putting our humanity into the game of business and there is nothing more human than the genuine human touch.

Next time you and I come across an employee that is going through the motions, it may be worth suspending our judgement and not blaming the employee. It may be more useful to look at the broader system in which the employee is embedded. And looking at this system, the smarter question may be: what is it about the broader system that calls this employee to turn and up and go through the motions as opposed to put himself fully into his job and thus show up with aliveness?

Empowerment: asking and facing the deeper questions

It occurs to me that empowerment matters. It matters enough for me to think about this deeply and search out those who have thought about this deeply.  If it matters deeply enough to you then continue reading. If it does not really matter to you then I advise you to go and do something that you care deeply about.  With that said, lets start.

What difference does empowerment make?

It really matters if the people in your organisation show up empowered. Empowered to do great work, to create products which show up as ‘magic’, to touch customers in a way that leaves those customers feeling welcomed-understood-validated-helped, to generate an end to end customer experience that simplifies-enriches the lives of your customers.

It really matters, if you, show up as empowered and create a context that allows the people in your business to show up empowered. And allows your customers to show up and experience themselves as empowered.  And creates a space for your suppliers to show up empowered – empowered to share their knowledge and expertise in contributing to the performance of your organisation.

It really matters, if as customers, we show up empowered. Empowered to do business with organisations that stand for purposes-values-behaviours that speak to us. And not do business with organisations that do not stand for and embody that which matters to us. Empowered to get together and apply pressure on regulators and those in government to put in place legislation that protects our interests as customers and to enforce the existing legislation.  We are also empowered to do nothing.  That is our choice; choice is that which comes with empowerment.

In short, empowerment or the lack of it matters.  It occurs to me that empowerment is rather like sunshine in the western world (in the depths of winter) or rain in a region of cursed with drought.  Empowerment creates possibilities which simply are not open-present without the existence-presence of empowerment.

Perhaps because I am so vividly present to the significance and possibility that inheres in empowerment, I chose to put my children in Montessori School.  It occurs to me that it is also the reason that so much of what is written on empowerment (employees, customers) strikes me as shallow and leaves me feeling disappointed-cheated.

Why all the bleating about the lack of empowerment? 

There are two particular aspects of the empowerment conversation that I particularly wish to highlight.  First, there is the assumption that empowerment is a thing to be gifted from the Tops to the Middles and Bottoms.  And from the Middles to the Bottoms. And from the company to customers. Second, is the assumption that empowerment is a blessing and people are yearning to be empowered.

It occurs to me that by virtue of being human you and I are always empowered. You and I are empowered because you and I are free – free to choose. It occurs to me that Sartre spelled this out rather pithily:

Man is condemned to be free: condemned, because he did not create himself, yet nonetheless free, because once cast into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.”

What shows up for me as being a more interested enquiry is this one, given that you and I are empowered why is it that you and I evade this empowerment?  Why all the bleating about empowerment – more precisely the lack of empowerment?  What is it that we are evading through this bleating on the lack of empowerment? Why this supplication at the feet of ‘leaders’?  And why is it that so few ‘leaders’ actually show us as being empowered to chart their own course, and thus lead?

Werner Erhard’s profound insight on empowerment

I share with you the profound insight and wisdom of Werner Erhard. And I encourage you (and I) to listen, really listen to his speaking:

If you are empowered, you suddenly have a lot of work to do because you have the power to do it.

If you are unempowered, you are less dominated by the opportunities in front of you. In other words, you have an excuse to not do the work. You have a way out. You have the security of being able to do what you have always done and get away.

If you are empowered, suddenly you must step out, innovate and create.

The cost, however, of being unempowered is people’s self-expression. They always have the feeling that they have something in them that they never really gave, never really expressed.

By simply revealing the payoffs and costs of being unempowered, people have a choice. They can begin to see that it is possible to make the choice to be empowered rather than to function without awareness.

Empowerment requires a breakthrough and in part that breakthrough is a kind of shift from looking for a leader to a sense of personal responsibility.

The problems we now have in communities and societies are going to be resolved only when we are brought together by a common sense that each of us is visionary. Each of us must come to the realization that we can function and live at the level of vision rather than following some great leader’s vision.

Instead of looking for a great leader, we are in an era where each of us needs to find the great leader in ourselves.”

– Werner Erhard

So what does it take for empowerment to show up?

It occurs to me that it takes the following for empowerment to show up in our way of being-in-the-world:

a) Getting that we are always-already empowered as spelled out by Sartre and so vividly illustrated by Viktor Frankl in his recounting of his concentration camp experiences (Man in Search of Meaning);

b) Caring deeply enough about our being-in-the-world to see-invent possibilities. Possibilities for putting our own ‘dent in the universe’.

c) Courage to put ourselves at risk and act – to live from and into the possibilities that speak to us, to give up comfort and embrace work, to let go of our existing identity and invent-create-embrace the identity that is needed to fulfil on the possibility that we have invented.

What do you say?

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