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How To Cause Customer-Centricity By Shaping The Work Context (Part 3 of 3)

This conversation follows on from where the previous conversation left off.  Specifically, I intend to share with you the theory behind the shaping the work context approach to changes organisational behaviour. And the limitations of using the traditional tools: hard and soft.  Let’s begin.

It occurs to me that the fundamental assumption is that human behaviour is always functional. Which is to say that there is correlation between the human behaviour that occurs in a work context and how that work context shows up for the human beings who find themselves there in that context.  Put differently, there is an ongoing dance between context and behaviour: each is influenced by the other on an ongoing basis.  From this flows the following ‘advice’ from the authors of Six Simple Rules:

1. Human Beings As Purposeful Actors Making Use Of Resources And Dealing With Constraints

Human behaviour can be understood in terms of three elements. First, the goal/s, the towards-which the human being ‘moves’.  Second, the resources-tools that are at hand to help ‘move’ towards the goal. Third, that which shows up as an obstacles-hindrance.  Collectively, these three elements in their unity (as one) constitute the work context as lived-experienced. Here is what the authors say:

Understanding what people do and why they do what they do is so utterly fundamental that it is our simple rule. Before you, as a manager, do anything to solve a performance problem, you can save yourself a lot of time and money by first applying this rule.

2. Understand How The Organisational Elements Affect-Shape The Work Context

Do organisational structures, processes, procedures, and systems matter? Do they affect-shape human behaviour?  Yes, they do affect behaviour and performance. But not in the simplistic way that most of us assume.  According to the authors (bolding is my work):

Their impact depends on how they combine with each other to shape the goals, resources and constraints  to which people adjust their behaviours.

If you do any cooking you will get that the impact that any one ingredient has depends on the other ingredients that constitute the recipe. If you manage stocks you will understand that it is not the risk of the individual stock that primarily matters – it is the impact of that stock on the risk profile of your portfolio.  Hopefully you get the idea.

3. Be Wary of Taking The Hard (Scientific Management) And Soft (Human Relations) Approaches To Improving Organisational Performance

Let’s consider each of these approaches to understand why it is that the authors advise caution in automatically and mindlessly adopting one or both of these approaches as the silver bullet for dealing with organisational challenges.

The Hard Approach And Its Limitations

Why is there is much emphasis in the hard approach on clarity – clearly specifying the rules of the game, the roles and responsibilities of the actors, the boundaries, the rewards and punishments….? Is it because the hard approach takes it for granted that performance is a direct consequence of what people are instructed and rewarded-punished for doing?  Let’s listen to the authors:

Structure defines the role, processes instruct how to perform it, and incentives motivate the right per on in the right role to do it. From this perspective, if there is a performance problem, then it must be because some key organisational element is missing or not detailed enough. So companies jump straight from identifying a performance problem to deploying new structures, processes or systems to resolve it. This error dumps a first layer of complicatedness into the organisation.

Let’s make this real by revisiting InterLodge. What did management do at the beginning? Did it not resort to restructuring and reengineering without actually looking into the work context that shaped behaviour?  And when management did look at the front line what did it conclude?

Receptionists were not selling rooms to latecomers. They were not engaging the customers in a way that made customers satisfied. They were not charging the right room rate.

If you focus on what your people are not doing does this help you understand what it is that they are doing and what leads them to do what they do? Clearly not. So the authors advise the following (bolding is my work):

Performance is what it is, because people do what they do, not because of what they don’t do. People do what they do precisely because of the organisational elements already in place (not because of the ones that are missing)…… 

The authors go on to provide what I consider the most valuable and most neglected insight into human behaviour in organisational contexts (bolding is my work):

Organisational elements do not combine with each other in the abstract, based on their supposed intrinsic pros and cons.…. It is only by considering the work context, and their effect in this context, the organisational elements can be appropriately analysed and designed.  The effect …….. depends on how people deal with these elements as resources or constraints. 

What did the receptionists do with the “guest engagement” skills that they honed during the mandated training course?  They used these skills as a resource. But a resource for what?  A resource for their goal: avoiding stressful encounters with angry customers:

 … they used their skills not to meet the target price point but to proactively offer rebates and refunds. What’s more, their new skills combined with their clarified roles in an unexpected way that also provided new resources to the receptionists……: some receptionists used their newfound interaction skills to explain clearly to guests that their responsibilities stopped at the front desk and did not include back-office activities…

Now you know why I am not a fan of worshipping at the altar of lean, six sigma, process and reengineering. And in the world of consulting, the anal retentive fixation on methodology. I learned the hard way: spending years doing it and seeing the meagre and often counterproductive results.

The Soft Approach And Its Limitations

As this post is already long I recommend that you get hold of a copy of the Six Rules for a fuller-deeper picture. For my part I leave you with the following:

…. the soft approach views performance as a by-product of good interpersonal relationships. But this view confuses people getting along with genuinely productive cooperation. Real cooperation is not fun and games….. it always involved adjustment costs.

Indeed, the better the feelings among individuals in a group, the more people are likely to avoid straining the relationship by bearing adjustments costs themselves or by imposing them on others …. So they will avoid cooperation and make third parties bear the consequences, or they will compensate with extra resources to remove interdependencies… the extra resources teak the form of …. excess inventory stocks, time delays, interfaces and committees, and customer requirements unmet….

Here I draw your attention to the never ending challenge that almost every large organisation has in getting just the folks in marketing (advertising, website, email, direct…) to work together – cooperate. Or the bigger challenge of getting the folks in marketing, sales and service to cooperate to generate a joined up and attractive customer experience.

If you wish to learn more but do not wish to read the book then I recommend the following TED Talk by one of the authors of the Six Simple Rules:

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

On my LinkedIn profile I have written the following:

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

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

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

Shambles and Lack Of Empathy At Gatwick Airport

Yesterday, Ian Golding wrote the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Among the cases HMIC cites as wrongly written off are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Jean Jacques Rousseau, Discourses on the Sciences and Arts

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

Barry Schwartz On The Loss of Practical And Especially Moral Wisdom

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

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

And Finally

I leave you with these final thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Why Aeroplanes Don’t Fall Out Of The Sky; Why Business Screws Customers and Hospitals Kill Their Patients

I invite you to ponder the following

  1. Why is it that commercial aeroplanes don’t fall out of the sky?
  2. Why is it that terrorism did not take root, establish itself, and grow in the USA/UK?
  3. Why is that it is rare for criminals to kill a policeman in the UK?
  4. Why is it that the bankers lied-cheated-stole, brought the western capitalist system to its knees, and prospered whilst the rest of society has been paying the price of their actions?
  5. Why is it that hospitals in the NHS have been killing their customers (the patients) for ten years (or so) despite whistleblowing (by doctors and nurses working in these hospitals) and complaints made to hospital management, the regulators, and the politicians?
  6. Why is it that employees have no voice in large organisations and domination-intimidation of the less powerful by the more powerful is rife in these organisation – public and private?
  7. Why is it that large established businesses, and those who lead-manage-run them, continue to screw (cheat, swindle) their customers?

What did you come up with?  I suspect that you came up with the standard excuses and explanations – this is what we do when we show up from the taken for granted way of seeing and explaining.

What shows up when I look beyond the accepted excuses and explanations? 

I invite you to put aside the standard, commonplace, complaints, excuses and explanations.  Instead I invite you to grapple with the question that I have posed in a zen like manner. What shows up for you?  When I grapple with this question this is what shows up for me:

  1. When a commercial aeroplane falls out of the sky it is clear-obvious that the aeroplane has fallen out of the sky. When such an aeroplane falls out of the sky people die and often there is carnage.  Loved ones grieve and demand answers. The media is on the scene and gives voice to the grief-loss of the loved ones and vividly displays the carnage.  All of which makes it unacceptable for commercial aeroplanes to drop out of the sky.  Put simply, commercial aeroplanes don’t fall out of the sky because we do not accept them falling out of the sky!

  2. Terrorism failed to get established in the USA and UK because it was unacceptable to allow terrorists space to terrorise.  Because it was not acceptable, massive resources were mobilised and draconian measures put in place to deal with threats of terrorism.

  3. It is not ok for criminals, or anyone else, to kill a policeman in the UK. Killing a policeman is going to far and that is something we will not allow. Because we do not allow it, it rarely occurs.

  4. Bankers lied-cheated-stole and got away with it because we accept lying-cheating-stealing as business as usual. Greed is good. Lying is good. Cheating is good. Stealing is good. As long as this lying-cheating-stealing generates bumper profits, generates employment and yields the requisite tax revenues.

  5. A number of NHS hospitals have been killing their customers, the patients, over a period of some 7 – 10 years because we accept it. It is OK to kill patients provided the instructions of the Tops (the government ministers) are carried out. It is not OK to disobey our masters. It is OK to kill patients. Besides the killing of patients by neglect-negliance is not evident unlike the clarity of aeroplanes falling out of the sky.

  6. Domination, intimidation and bullying is common place because it is OK to dominate, intimidate and bully people. It is the way that the powerful get the powerless to do what they want them to do. It is the way to exercise control.  It is business as usual in public and private sector organisations.  It occurs because we accept it.

  7. Large established businesses, and those who run them, continue to screw their customers because it is not obvious when this screwing is taking place. And even when it is obvious it is perfectly OK to screw customers. We accept that business and those who run them will seek to and find way so screwing customers. This is simply business as usual.

Lloyds Banking Group is fined a record £28m by the Financial Conduct Authority

If it occurs to you that I go too far then I invite you to read the latest revelations as showcased in the following piece in the Guardian newspaper: Lloyds Banking Group fined record £28m in new mis-selling scandal.  This is what Tracey McDermott, the Financial Conduct Authority’s director of enforcement and financial crime is quoted as saying:

Customers have a right to expect better from our leading financial institutions and we expect firms to put customers first – but firms will never be able to do this if they incentivise their staff to do otherwise.”

Why has the FCA handed down a record £28m fine?

According to Guardian piece:

1. “for putting staff under intense pressure to sell products customers did not want – or face demotion and pay cuts”; and

2. “the fine had been increased by 10% because Lloyds failed to heed repeated warnings about sales practices and because it had been fined 10 years ago for poor sales practices. 

Summing up

It occurs to me that which shows up and continues to show up in our world, the human world, is that which we accept, that which is OK by us, that which we assent to in our way of being-showing up in the world. As customers we get what we accept – no more, no less. As employees we get what we accept – no more, no less. As citizens we get what we accept – no more, no less.

What Are The Two Antidotes to Sucking At CRM and Customer Experience?

“We’re not going to get a perfect solution in the short-term”

Talk abounds, advice abounds: the road to organisational nirvana is laid out by many a guru, professor and consultant. Talk about big data, customer analytics and customer insight. Talk about marketing effectiveness and marketing automation. Talk about sales effectiveness and sales force automation. Talk about great customer service. Talk about CRM. And talk about Customer Experience. Yet, little really changes: I see managers grappling with the same challenges that they were grappling with in 1999 when it comes to marketing, sale, service, and CRM. 

Given the abundance in talk why is it that so little changes when it comes to organisational behaviour and organisational effectiveness?  Let’s take a look at this question from the position of being on the court (in the organisation) rather than in the stands as a journalist/reporter (which is how many gurus, professors and consultants show up for me).

Working with a number of people grappling with the challenge of improving the sales process, improving customer service, enabling CRM and improving the Customer Experience across the entire customer journey one manager exclaimed We’re not going to get a perfect solution in the short-term”. What led to this statement?  Days of grappling with the challenge; coming face to face with the many and interlinked factors – culture, people, process, systems, data, metric, business priorities – in the way of making any significant changes-improvements.

If you and I had been on the court grappling with the challenges that this manager was grappling with then I say that it is highly likely, almost certain, that we would have arrived at the same place: this is too much to take on, let’s focus on what is doable in the short-term.

A history of short-term local fixes leaves room only for short-term local fixes 

Given how everything is interlinked to everything (the systems nature of organisations) and the desire of Tops for ‘instant solutions’ to specific problems, Middles get busy on the short-term fixes and the quick wins. What is missed is that today there is only room for short-term fixes and quick wins because previously management took the route of the short-term fix instead of doing that which was necessary for generating longer term effectiveness.

Every time we intervene in the organisation we make a choice. What choice?  The choice to leading the organisation to higher performance or generating a drift to low performance. In fixing the pressing local-functional problem, focusing on the short-term, and going after quick wins, the Tops and Middles are generating a drift to low performance. How/why? Let’s listen to a noted systems thinker, Donella H. Meadows.

“Some systems not only resist policy and stay in a normal bad state, they keep getting worse. One name for this archetype is “drift to low performance”. Examples include falling market share in a business, eroding quality of service in a hospital, continuously dirtier rivers or air ….. state of …… schools…..”

How does this drift to low performance occur? 

“The actor in the feedback look (… government, business, hospital….), has …. a performance goal or desired system state that is compared to the actual state. If there is a discrepancy, action is taken……

But in this system, there is a distinction between the actual system state and the perceived state. The actor tends to believe the bad news more than the good news. As actual performance varies, the best results are dismissed as aberrations, the worst results stay in the memory. The actor thinks things are worse than they really are.

And to complete this tragic archetype, the desired state of the system is influenced by the perceived state. Standards aren’t absolute. When perceived performance slips, the goal is allowed to slip.  “Well, that’s about all you can expect.” ……. “Well, look around, everybody else is having trouble too.”

The lower the perceived system state, the lower the desired state. The lower the desired state, the less discrepancy, and the less corrective action is taken. The less corrective action, the lower the system state. If this loop is allowed to run unchecked, it can lead to continuous degradation in the system’s performance.

Another name for this system is “eroding goals”. It is also called the “boiled frog syndrome”……. Drift to low performance is a gradual process. If the system is plunged quickly. there would be an agitated corrective process. But if it drifts down slowly enough to erase the memory of (or belief in) how much better things used to be, everyone is lulled not lower and lower expectations, lower effort, lower performance.”

Here I ask you to be present to what the manager said after grappling with the challenge: “We’re not going to get a perfect solution in the short-term.” Do you see, how it is that if one takes this reasonable approach the organisation almost never gets around to creating-putting in place the ‘perfect solution’?  How/why? Because it is never the right team to make difficult decisions, create-accept short-term pain in order to generate longer term effectiveness!

What are the antidotes to eroding goals and the drift to low performance? 

In her book, Thinking In Systems, Donnella H. Meadows points out that there are two antidotes:

One is to keep standard absolute, regardless of performance. Another is to make goals sensitive to the best performances of the past, instead of the worst..….. if one takes the best results as standard, and the worst results as a temporary setback, then the same system structure can pull the system up to better and better performance.

This reminds me of my father. When I was young my father insisted that a) I finish whatever I started no matter what; b) do the best that I was capable of doing; c) strive to do better than I did the last time; d) set my sights on the best performer in the class; and e) take the short-term pain in order to generate the longer term gain.

Customer Experience: What Can We Learn From An Organisation That Kills It’s Customers?

I am coming out of my self imposed August retirement to write about something that calls to me, deeply. And to share with you insights and learnings which show up for me as being valuable if you are up for improving service, orchestrating a caring customer experience, and improving organisational effectiveness.

What can we learn from an organisation that kills its customers?

The NHS is more than an organisation it is an institution. Like the BBC, it used to be an institution that was held in affection and even revered. It was an organisation and institution to be proud of. It is also an institution that has been draining resources and has been subjected to the management mindset obsessed with targets, measures and an obsession to drive down costs.  The result? This institution has been killing its customers and driving out employees (managers, doctors, nurses) that raised concerns about the functioning of the organisation and the treatment of customers – the patients.

The Berwick report on patient care and patient safety in the NHS

How does the Berwick Report on patient care and safety begin?  It begins with this assertion:

Place the quality of patient care, especially patient safety, above all other aims.

Engage, empower, and hear patients and carers at all times.

Foster whole-heartedly the growth and development of all staff, including their ability to support and improve the processes in which they work.

Embrace transparency unequivocally and everywhere in the service of accountability, trust and growth of knowledge.

How is this relevant to business and the customer experience?

When I read this opening passage it struck me that the same is true for organisations who genuinely want to compete with the likes of Amazon, USAA, and John Lewis.  As such I have modified this opening passage so that it speaks to business:

Place the quality of customer care, especially the customer experience, above all other aims.

Engage, empower, and hear customers and customer facing employees at all times

Foster whole-heartedly the growth and development of all staff, including their ability to support and improve the processes in which they work.

Embrace transparency unequivocally and everywhere in the service of accountability, trust and growth of knowledge.

Who killed the customers? And what can we learn about what drive organisational behaviour and performance?

When breakdowns occur our temptation, those of us who live in the West and speak the English language, attribute agency and cause to people.  Put differently, we blame people for the breakdowns. In the world of business the blame gets placed on the employees. In the NHS the politicians, the managers and the media have placed the blame on doctors and nurses.

What does the Berwick report say? It says “NHS staff are not to blame.”.  It goes on to say:

Incorrect priorities do damage: other goals are important and the central focus must always be on patients. 

In some instances……clear warning signals abounded and were not heeded, especially the voices of patients and carers. 

Fear is toxic to both safety and improvement.

In the vast majority of cases it is the systems, procedures, conditions, environment and constraints that the NHS staff faced that led to patient safety.

As I read these words my experience working in and consulting with many businesses comes to mind. And I say that these sage words apply equally insightfully to the world of business.

I draw your attention to the assertion “Incorrect priorities do damage”.  And the recommendation that “the central focus must always be on patients.” Now I ask you, is the central focus of your organisation on the needs/concerns of your customers?  And how do the real priorities of your organisation match the talk about customer focus and customer experience?  Is there a big gulf?  That has been the case with the NHS for many years now. The Tops speak the right words, their actions have not been alignment with their words.

What are the recommendations? 

Recognise with clarity and courage the need for wide systemic change.

Abandon blame as tool and trust the goodwill and good intentions of the staff.

Make sure pride and joy in work, not fear, infuse the NHS.

Reassert the primacy of working with patients and carers to achieve healthcare goals.

Use quantitative targets with caution. Such goals do have an important role en route to progress, but should never displace the primary goal of better care.

Recognise the transparency is essential and expect and insist on it.

Let’s rewrite that for business and private sector organisations which genuinely want to excel at the Customer Experience game:

Recognise with clarity and courage the need for wide systemic change if you are to orchestrate and deliver experiences that work for customers and call forth their loyalty.

Abandon blame as tool and trust the goodwill and good intentions of your staff. 

Make sure pride and joy in work, not fear, infuse your workplace even the call-centres. 

Prioritise working with your customers and customer facing staff to achieve your business goals.

Use quantitative targets – like first call resolution, AHT, NPS etc.- with caution. Such goals do have an important role en route to progress, but should never displace the primary goal of taking care of your customers. 

Recognise the transparency is essential and expect and insist on it.

Summing up

Excellence in customer experience is no easy matter for most organisations. What is required is courageous leadership and wide systemic change that involves the entire organisation. It is easy to work on the people. And it is also stupid because organisational performance is driven by the priorities, structure, systems, processes and practices that exist and are maintained by the Tops.

How much VoC work-investment-feedback will it take for your organisation to get off its backside and act?  Honestly, how much of VoC is really eye opening as opposed to already known within the organisation?

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