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?
For those of you who view me as a customer service expert, you might be surprised to know that I have an avid interest in marketing and most of my work over the last 10 years has been with, and continues to be with, marketers and the Marketing function. So in this post, I am going to address what I see as two most important challenges facing marketers and the Marketing function.
Is technology the answer to the challenges facing marketers?
I recently attended and spoke at the Technology for Marketing & Advertising conference/exhibition in London. What I found fascinating is the love of new technology. I was reminded of the heady days of CRM. Do you remember those days? The days when Siebel sales folks would open up every sales presentation with “Siebel is the fastest growing software company ever.” And the point was that CRM technology was going to change the business world and put customers and their wallets at the feet of the organisation.
What is the biggest challenge facing marketing and advertising today? Is it the lack of technology to gather up all the data on prospects and customers and use this data to fire out marketing propaganda and offers, across a variety of channels; to turn prospects into customers and customers into repeat buyers and loyal advocates? If the folks in your marketing department believe this then your business is in deep trouble.
The first challenge is that of relevance
When it comes to effective marketing the first challenge is relevance. From the customer perspective the question is “Why should I listen to you? Why are you relevant to my life? What do you offer that simplifies/enriches my life?” Please tell me how technology is going to address this crucial challenge for you.
Look, Sky keeping marketing to me through direct mail, through email, and by telephoning me regularly. What does Sky want? Sky wants me to sign up for Sky TV; I was once a customer. I keep refusing. Why? My viewing needs are adequately addressed through a combination of Netflix/Lovefilm and going to the cinema. What Sky TV has to offer is no longer relevant even if it is being offered at half price.
The second challenge is that of the Customer Experience
Marketing is a profession that is tasked with manipulating impressions and emotions through the use of image, words, sounds and story. Put bluntly, marketing to date has been the discipline of propaganda. The big problem is that this propaganda does not work. Why? The most pithy answer I have ever come across is that put forth by Matt Watkinson:
No amount of marketing can compensate for an average one-star review on Amazon. You just couldn’t talk the talk anymore, you had to walk the walk.
If you get this you get the enormity of the challenge. What this means is the marketers and the Marketing function have to pretty much turn themselves inside out. They have to transform themselves from image makers to reality makers. Their challenge is to ensure that all the organisational actors that impinge on the Customer Experience do that which is necessary to deliver a Customer Experience that matches the brand promise, the value proposition, and the customer expectations.
Please tell me who the fancy technology is going to help you, the marketers, to influence the minds and shape the actions of all the people in the organisation that directly or indirectly generate the Customer Experience?
My advice to marketers
Technology is a red herring. Technology allows you to undertake marketing activities. Technology impacts the operation/mechanics of doing marketing. What technology does not do is address the strategic challenges. Worse still the pursuit of technology distracts you from the most important strategic challenges facing you, and your business. What are those strategic challenges? Brand relevance, and Customer Experience.
I acknowledge and thank Bob Thompson over at CustomerThink.com for being the genesis of this post. Bob asks the question, In B2B should Sales own the Customer Experience?
Is it possible to own the Customer Experience?
I am clear to own something is to have it, to possess it, to have claim-authority-dominion over it. Can one possess the Customer Experience? To answer this question, it helps if we have a good grasp of what Customer Experience is.
For the purpose of this conversation let’s assume that Customer Experience refers to the totality of what the business does, or does not do, to influence/shape the customers’ perceptions of the business. So the question that we have to answer is this one, who within the business has-possesses-controls the totality of what the business does, or does not do, to influence/shape the customers’ perceptions of the business?
I say that for any significantly large business no single person nor functional department owns the Customer Experience. Why? Because no single person or functional department can possess-control the totality of actions that the business takes, or does not take, to influence/shape the customers’ perceptions.
Is it possible to lead the Customer Experience?
Let’s accept the definition of lead as being “to guide” and/or “to cause to go with one”. Using this definition the question becomes, is it possible to cause people in the organisation to do, or not do, what it takes to bring about the kind of Customer Experience one wants to bring about? Clearly, the answer to this is yes. It is logically possible and some organisations – USAA, Zappos, SouthWest Airlines, John Lewis - are doing this well.
Who is best placed to lead the Customer Experience in a B2B organisation?
I have spent the bulk of my business life working for B2B organisations. And I have acted as advisor-consultant to a number of B2B organisations. To date, I have not come across a single B2B organisations that had crafted the Customer Experience it wished to generate for customers. And then communicated this experience to the people in the organisation. Please note vision and values do not constitute a blueprint of the desired Customer Experience.
Let’s assume the Marketing function has taken the lead and crafted the desired Customer Experience. So now there is something to guide the rest of the organisation by. Is the Marketing function the best one for leading (guiding, causing) the rest of the organisation in generating the defined Customer Experience? I say no. Why? Because in just about every B2B organisation I have worked with, the Marketing function lacks respect, lacks clout.
How about the Sales function? Whilst this sounds like a great idea because the Sales function tends to be the most powerful function, there are issues to contend with. The most significant of which is that the sales reps are usually into ‘one night stands, not affairs, and certainly not marriages’. Second, once the sale is made the delivery of the service moves to another functional department say the Service Delivery function. It is the people in this department that have a huge influence on the Customer Experience. They are the one’s that staff the engagement, the ones that do the work, the ones that determine whether the work gets done on time, on budget, to the expectations of the customer. It is worth remembering that the Service Delivery phase of the customer journey runs from months to years.
Does this mean that the Service Delivery function should lead the Customer Experience? In the real world this does not work. Why? First, because the people in this function don’t have clout. In many B2B organisations that I have experienced, the service delivery folks are seen merely as a channel for servicing clients not different to captive prostitutes who have to do what they are told to do. Second, the customers expectations have often be set, incorrectly, by the organisations Marketing function (marketing messages) and the Sales function (promising the world in 30 seconds).
Let’s take a look at the role of the Account Manager. Some B2B organisations appoint Account Managers, especially for significant customers, and hold them responsible for the customer’s experience and the relationship. I have filled that role on more than one occasion. What can I tell you? I can tell you that my effectiveness in shaping the customer experience depended on the willingness of many players in the organisation agreeing to do, and not do, what I requested. Was this easy? No, not at all. Ultimately, the players in the customer experience chain were focussed on their personal-team-functional objectives and priorities not my concerns or commitments to my customers.
Should the CEO lead the Customer Experience in a B2B organisation?
My experience of CEOs is that they are into growth, revenues, costs, profits, and dealing with internal conflicts between powerful parties in the organisation. I have yet to see a CEO that was into the Customer Experience. Yes, I have seen CEOs turn up for the PR events and that does not mean that CEOs are into the Customer Experience thing.
I am clear that the CEO can, personally, lead the Customer Experience for a relatively small professional services organisation. The organisation has to be so small that the CEO knows everyone and sees just about everything. I am also clear that in large organisations the CEO cannot directly lead the Customer Experience simply because he does not have adequate visibility nor control of what goes on in the organisation.
Can the CEO lead the Customer Experience indirectly? Yes, he can. How? By setting priorities. By formulating and communicating the right policies. By putting in place the right practices. By putting the right people in the right positions. By being a visible exemplar of the kind of behaviour that is being asked.
Bake the Customer Experience into the structure and relationships that drive the organisational behaviour and performance
Do you notice what is going on here? The indirect approach to Customer Experience is not about owning the Customer Experience. Nor is it about leading the Customer Experience. No, the indirect approach is about shaping the ‘system’ so that it naturally does that which needs to be done for the desired Customer Experience to be delivered. Some people refer to this as the culture of the organisation. Those who study complex systems like bird flocking keep pointing out that amazing order/alignment can occur without a central commander issuing commands. Instead all the players in the game follow simply rules. And it is these rules that allow order to emerge without needing anyone to do the ordering.