On LinkedIn, Don Peppers is sharing his perspective on making better decisions with data. This got me thinking and I want to share with you what showed up for me. Why listen to my speaking? I do have a scientific background (BSc Applied Physics). I qualified as a chartered accountant and was involved in producing all kinds of reports for managers and saw what they did or did not do with them. More recently, I was the head of a data mining and predictive analytics practice. Let’s start.
Data and data driven decision-making tools are not enough
Yes, there is a data deluge, and this deluge is becoming down faster and faster. Big enough and fast enough to be given the catchy name Big Data. What is forgotten is the effort that it takes to get this data fit for the purpose of modelling. This is no easy-cheap task. Yet, it can be done if you throw enough resources at it.
Yes, there are all kinds of tools for finding patterns in this data. And in the hands of the right people (statistically trained-minded, business savvy) these tools can be used to turn data into valuable (actionable) insight. This is not as easy as it sounds. Why? Because there is shortage of these statistically trained and minded people: amateurs will not do, experts are necessary to distinguish between gold and fools gold – given enough data you can find just about any pattern. It statistical savvy is not enough you have to couple it with business savvy. Nonetheless, let’s assume that we can overcome this constraint.
The real challenge in generating data driven decision-making in businesses is the cultural practices. We do not have the cultural practices that create the space for data driven decision-making to show up and flourish. A thinker much smarter-wiser than me has already shared his wisdom, I invite you to listen:
On the whole, scientific methods are at least as important as any other research: for it is upon the insight into the method that the scientific spirit depends: and if these methods are lost, then all the results of science could not prevent a renewed triumph of superstition and nonsense.
Clever people may learn as much as they wish of the results of science – still one will always notice in their conversation, and especially in their hypotheses, that they lack the scientific spirit; they do not have the distinctive mistrust of the aberrations of thought which through long training are deeply rooted in the soul of every scientific person. They are content to find any hypothesis at all concerning some matter; then they are all fire and for it and think that is enough …….. If something is unexplained, the grow hot over the first notion that comes into their heads and looks like an explanation ….
- Nietzsche (Human, All Too Human)
It occurs to me that the scientific method never took route in organisational life. Put aside the rationalist ideology and take a good look at what goes in business including how decisions are made. I say you will find that Nietzsche penetrating insight into the human condition as true today as when he spoke it. The practice of making decisions in every organisation that I have ever come in contact with is not scientific: it does not follow the scientific method. On the contrary, managers make decisions that are in alignment with their intuition, their prejudices, and their self-interest. It is so rare to come across a manager (and organisation) that makes decisions using the scientific method that when this does occur I am stopped in my tracks. It is the same kind of unexpectedness as seeing a female streaker running across the football pitch in a league match.
What are the challenges in putting data driven decision-making practices into place in organisations?
Technologists have a gift. What gift? The gift of not understanding, deeply enough, the being of human beings. Lacking this understanding they can and do (confidently) stand up and preach the virtues-benefits of technology. If life were that simple.
Truth shows up as attractive to those of us who do not have to face the consequences of truth. Data driven decision-making sounds great for those of us selling (making a living and hoping to get rich) data driven tools and services.
The challenge of putting in place data driven decision-making practices is that it disturbs the status quo. When you disturb the status quo you go up against the powerful who benefit from that status quo. Remember Socrates:
The very nature of what Socrates did made him a disruptive and subversive influence. He was teaching people to question everything, and he was exposing the ignorance of individuals in power and authority. He became much loved but also much hated …. In the end the authorities arrested him for …., and not believing in the gods of the city. He was tried and condemned to die …
- Bryan Magee, Professor
Beware of being successful in putting in place a culture of data driven decision making!
With sufficient commitment and investment you can put in place a data driven decision making culture. Like the folks at Tesco did. And by making decisions through harnessing the data on your customers, your stores, your products, you can outdo all of your competitors, grow like crazy and make bumper profits. Again, again, and again. Then the day of reckoning comes – when you come face to face with the flaws of making decisions solely on the basis of data.
Tesco is not doing so great. It has not been doing so great for several years – including issuing its first ever profits alert in 2012. What is the latest situation? Tesco has reported a 23.5% drop in profits in the first half of this year. What has Tesco been doing to deal with the situation? This is what the article says:
Last year, Tesco announced it would be spending £1bn on improving its stores in the UK, investing in shop upgrades, product ranges, more staff, as well as its online offering.
There are a number of flaws on data driven decision making. For one data driven decision making assumes that the future will be a continuation of the past. Which is rather like saying all the swans that we have come across are white, so we should plan for white swans. And then, one day you find that the black swan shows up! The recession and the shift in consumer behaviour that resulted from this recession was the black swan for Tesco.
Furthermore, I hazard a guess that in their adoration at the pulpit of data driven decision making the folks at Tesco forgot the dimensions that matter but were not fed into the data and the predictive models. What dimensions? Like the customer’s experience of shopping at Tesco stores: not enough staff, unhappy staff, stores looking more and more dated by the day, the quality of their products ……
It looks like the folks at Tesco did not heed the sage words of one of my idols:
Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.
Marketing and Customer Experience: 6 Core Emotional Needs That Shape Human Behaviour (Part 2 – Control)
If you read the first post of this series you may remember that Mark Ingwer in his book Empathetic Marketing asserts that there are 6 core emotional needs of customers: control, self-expression, growth, recognition, belonging, and care. In this post I share my thoughts and Mark’s assertions-insights regarding the primary emotional need: CONTROL.
Satisfying the need for control provides the best access for building customer loyalty
Mark Ingwer is bold in his assertion when it comes to the need for control and the access it provides the smart business:
… satisfying the control needs of the consumer, more than any individual need discussed in this book, holds the most potential for a company to build loyalty to a brand, product, or service through intrinsic motivation, which is the internal sense of satisfaction with the purchasing process and the resulting purchase.
Through the iPod and iTunes, Apple handed control of music over to the music listener. Through the iPhone, iPad and the apps store, Apple handed over much more control over these devices to the user such that each iPhone, each iPad, can truly be customised to the user by the user. Please notice the genius here. By handing so much control over to the user and making it easy for the user to exercise this control, Apple has created a context where each iPhone, iPad is unique and thus irreplaceable. Hence, the value if iCloud.
Why is the need for control such a vital need?
Think for a moment about the last time that you did not have any control over an important aspect of your life. What showed up for you in your body? What emotions surfaced? Was it a pleasant experience? An experience you want to repeat? If you are human then it is likely that this experience was a deeply unsettling one when it occurred. Here’s what Mark Ingwer says on this matter
The need for control fuels our motivation in every aspect of our lives. Positioned near the individuality pole of the needs continuum, control is essential to our every day functioning. We see how this need influences our lives most profoundly when we’re not in control. Some of life’s worst and most stressful predicaments are colored by feelings of helplessness – events in which we are unable to prevent or alter the inevitable.
I invite you to consider the direction of human progress. Is this progress, as in increasing control over that which showed up an threatening for us or made life uncertain or merely difficult? Do you doubt that our ideal, even if unstated, is to have complete dominion (control) over that which shows up on planet Earth. And then our galaxy and eventually the universe. Why might this be? Here’s Mark Ingwer again:
Many situations that fall outside the purview of personal agency hit us in the gut. We feel insecure. We feel small. We fear losing control. And we strive to regain that control. Not only does that loss of control prevent us from achieving our specific outcomes, but it is also often wrenching evidence that signifies our relative insignificance in a large (and largely random) universe.
When we feel in control of external events, in control of ourselves, and in control of our core relationships, we have a broader and more satisfying feeling of contentment and confidence …. we can’t grow as individuals without attending properly to this need.
Customer service and the power of control
Why is it that I do most of my shopping online and do all of my banking online? Because I experience being in control of the shopping process, the banking process. Why is it that I dread having to call up most call-centres? Because, even before I pick up the call I expect a long-tedious-unpleasant experience where I am at the mercy of the IVR, long waiting times, call-centre agents who lack the expertise-will-freedom to actually help me ….. Here is what Mark Ingwer says on the matter:
Nothing reveals the power of control – and the destructive power of lack of control – than customer service situations. Companies that sell services or routinely interact with their customers in service settings must pay special attention to a customer’s sense of control.
Poor customer service results when proxy control is ineffective. If the proxy does not behave as the customer desires, the customer loses control of the situation.
If you are wondering what proxy control is then think about wanting to do your banking online and finding that the website is out of operation. Or imagine needing cash, turning up at the ATM and finding that it is out of order and there are no other ATMs available. Or imagine, ringing up the call-centre and coming face to face with an call-centre agent who speaks with an accent you find hard to understand. Or imagine going to the restaurant with the family, having eaten your meal, finding your young ones tired, looking for a waiter to pay the bill, and the waiter seems to take forever to come back to take your payment. You are desperate to go home and yet cannot do so until the waiter comes over to you and takes your payment.
What advice does Mark Ingwer have for marketers and customer experience specialists?
What I like about Mark Ingwer’s book is the practical suggestions that he provides at the end of each chapter. Here is his advice for marketers and customer experience specialists, as it shows up for me:
1. Review your core marketing message. It should say to customers: you can be in the driver’s seat – assuming products and service can deliver.
2. Examine the customers’ experience. Are prospects and customers in control throughout the path to the final sale and afterwards?
3. Simply after-sales processes.
If you want to learn more about these practical recommendations then you will have to buy the book and read it as I do not want to give away Mark’s secrets and deprive him of readers for his book.
If you remember only one sentence then remember this one
It occurs to me that when it comes to the end to end customer experience then this is the one sentence that captures it all when it comes to the human need for control:
From start to finish, customers must never sense that they are at the mercy of a company or product.
The last time I was in such a situation I walked out of the cinema, choosing not to watch a film that I really wanted to watch, rather than be at the mercy of the cinema and its staff.
In the next post, I will cover the human need for self-expression. It occurs to me whole industries are based on this need. I thank you for your listening.
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.
If you are regular reader of this blog you may remember that I set-up a business bank account with Barclays Bank and shared my experience:
- Barclays Bank: what are the customer experience folks up to?
- Barclays Bank: what are the customer experience folks up to? (part II)
If you read those posts and come away thinking that my experience was one of disappointment then you’d be correct. So where do I stand today with regards to Barclays Bank?
Barclays Bank: a customer experience that leaves me delighted and grateful
Recently, I changed the name of my consulting company to Bold Intent. Given this change I was expecting to have to get together various documents, make an appointment with a Barclays Bank branch, and then take in the paperwork to get the account name, cheque book, and credit cards etc changed. Being human, I thought about doing it when the official name change document came through the post. And I put off doing it as it just showed up as too much hassle.
A few days later I got a letter from Barclays Bank. Upon opening it I found myself surprised and delighted. Why? Barclays Bank had worked out that I had changed the name of the company and issued me with a new cheque book and a new paying-in book – both reflecting the new company name. What did I say to myself? “Wow, this is great!” A few days later I received another couple of letters. These letters contained the updated credit cards. How was I left feeling? Actually, a better question is how do I feel towards Barclays Bank, right now? I feel grateful. Why? Because Barclays Bank helped me out – saved me time, effort, concern – without me even asking them to help me out. They anticipated a need and met it.
So if you want to delight your customers then do the unexpected. Anticipate and meet customer needs in way that simplifies-enriches your customers lives. Take actions that generate gratitude and invite reciprocity. Like Virgin Atlantic did when they upgraded me from Economy to Business Class many years ago. Like Halfords did when they made it easy for me to return a product to the local store when I had bought it online. Like my local garage did by not charging me the quoted amount when the found the fault was simply a loose wire – which they fixed at no charge…..
Sky TV: how to use marketing to interrupt and disappoint a customer
I used to buy a landline, broadband, and TV services from Sky. Some time ago, I stopped subscribing to the Sky TV ‘product’. Why? Because Sky TV insisted on doubling the price. And this gave me a great excuse for not buying Sky TV. Thus, helping me obtain two objectives. First, giving me greater access to the lounge. Second, helping me ensure that my children watched less television (in the lounge).
Is Sky celebrating with me? No. Sky continue to send me direct mail with a view to enticing me back as a customer. At the start I used to open this mail just to see what the offer was. Now, I don’t even do that, the direct mail arrives and I put it in the waste paper basket. Whilst, I can live with this as it is not that intrusive, it is a different matter when it comes to the regular calls. What calls?
Clearly Sky has an outbound tele-marketing team and members of this team ring me regularly. Each time they have a special offer for me. Each time I tell them that I am not interested. I even spell out why I am not interested: I don’t watch television and when I did have Sky TV my children did nothing but watch Sky TV! Does this stop the outbound tele-marketing team from calling me? No. I continue to get calls. I continue to be made aware of a product that I do not want. I continue to be told about offers that I don’t care about.
What broke this camel’s back and prompted this post? This Monday it was Early May Bank Holiday here in England. I was outside doing some gardening in the glorious sunshine. Who calls? Sky! What does the young lady want to talk about? A great offer about Sky TV. I say, “Do you know that it is a Bank Holiday? How is it that you are calling me on a Bank Holiday?” I was expecting an apology for being interrupted once more about a product that I do not want, on a Bank Holiday. Did I get the apology? No!
The young lady clearly had a mission and a script. She ploughed on with the pitch/script. So I told her what I had already told her colleagues: I don’t want Sky TV, it is a blessing that it is gone, I cannot be tempted to buy it even if you offer it to me for free. Finally, she got the message. She ended up by wishing me a great holiday. That would have been a great way to end the conversation if she had come across as sincere. She didn’t. She came across as inauthentic: what was clear from her tone was her disappointment that I had not taken up her offer…..
So that is how you disappoint a customer and rupture the bonds of any relationship: ignore what matters to your customer; ignore what your customer has told you; continue sending direct mail even though you have had no response to many mailings; and back up that with intrusive tele-marketing calls that create no value for the customer!
From CRM to CEM: is it as easy as it sounds?
With CRM’ organisations took an’ inside-out’ approach to doing business with customers, though I doubt they knew that is what they were doing when they were doing it. When this didn’t work out as planned, some shifted to advocating an ‘outside-in’ approach and called it Customer Experience Management. I get that when it comes to writing or talking it is easy to shift from ‘inside-out’ to ‘outside-in’. What is it like in practice? What does it take to truly see the world through the eyes of our customers?
My experience is that really takes something to see the world through the eyes of another. My experience is that it is a huge ask to experience the world as another experiences it. My experience is that it is all to easy to be persuade oneself that one has shifted from an ‘inside-out’ view to an ‘outside-in’ view and yet be firmly stuck in an ‘inside-out’ view.
Aravind Eye Hospital: where ‘free’ costs 100 rupees!
What does it really take to see the world through the eyes of our customers? Allow me to share this example which I came across in a wonderful book, which I throughly recommend reading, called Infinite Vision:
While giving away free services might appear to be easy, Aravind’s experience proved to the contrary. “In the early days, we didn’t know better,”……”We would go to the villages, screen patients, and tell those who needed surgery to come to the hospital for free treatment. Some showed up, but a lot of them did not. It was really puzzling to us. Why would someone turn down the chance to see again?” Fear, superstition, and cultural indifference can all be very real barriers to accessing medical care, but Aravind’s leaders were convinced that there was more to it than that. After a few more years and several ineffective pilots of door-to-door counseling, they arrived at the crux of the issue. “Enlightenment came when we talked to a blind beggar,”….. When pressed on why he had not shown up to have his sight restored, the man replied, “You told me to come to the hospital. To do that, I would have to pay bus fare then find money for food and medicines. Your ‘free’ surgery costs me 100 rupees.”
…….. The research found that transport and sustenance costs, along with lost wages for oneself and accompanying family member, were daunting consideration for the rural patient. Aravind learned a valuable lesson: just because people need something you are offering for free, it does not mean they will take you up on it. You have to make it viable for them to access your service in the context of their realities.
Aravind Eye Hospital: it is not enough to see the world through customer eyes, you have to be moved to act
So that is the first step, genuinely seeing the world through the context of the lives of your customers. And it is makes no difference at all unless your organisations acts on what it has learnt. What did the folks at Aravind do? Let’s read some more from the book:
So Aravind retrofitted its outreach services to address the chief barriers. In addition to the free screening at the eye camps, patients were given a free ride to one of its base hospitals, where they received surgery, accommodation, food, postoperative medication, return transport, and a follow up visit in their village, all free of charge……
What difference did this make? Once more from the book:
“Once we did that, of course, our expenses went up,”…… “But more importantly, our acceptance rate for surgery went up from roughly 5 percent to about 80 percent.” For an organisation aspiring to rid the world of needless blindness, this was tremendously significant….
Aravind: two things are critical
What do the folks at Aravind say about this experience of theirs? Let’s listen and learn:
“In hindsight, we found two things are critical,”…..”You have to focus on the nonuser, and you have to passionately own the problem. You can address the barriers only when you own, not shift, the problems.” Paradoxically, that mindset led to what is perhaps the most collaborative outreach system the world of eye care has ever seen.
How does your organisation measure up? Do you really get how your organisation, your offer, shows up for your prospects? Do you really get how your customers experience your organisation across the customer journey? Is your leadership committed to doing what it takes to make it easy for prospects to buy from you? And for customers to keep doing business with you? Is your organisation up for passionately owning the problem or is it designed to hide and/or shift the problems on to customers and others?