Want a breakthrough in customer-centricity in 2012? Start with ‘Integrity’

First put in place a sound foundation

If you want to make through in being customer-centric in 2012 then forget strategy, forget process redesign, forget technology, forget voice of the customer, forget customer experience design, forget social media – forget everything!   Why?  How much sense does it make to spend time, money and effort on the walls, floors, windows, roof, plumbing, electrics etc if you have not taken care to put in place a sound foundation in place to make sure that the house doesn’t collapse on you – sooner or later?

What is this foundation? ‘Integrity’

What do I mean by ‘Integrity’?  First and foremost ‘Integrity’ in the sense that I am using this word has nothing to do with morality – good, bad, being an upright member of the tribe (whatever the tribe is).  By ‘Integrity’ I mean the state of being whole and complete and in particular I am pointing towards the state where words and actions are in complete alignment.  For example, if you say you will give me a call tomorrow at 09:00 and you do that then your words and your actions are in agreement.   The foundational practice of ‘Integrity’ is ‘honouring your word‘.

What do I mean by ‘honouring your word’?  I do not mean keeping your word – doing what you said you would do when you said you would do it to the standard that we agreed (or the standard we can reasonably expect to have been agreed).  Are you thinking “How can one honour his word and yet not keep it?”  You honour your word by going full out to keep it. And if you know that you are not going to keep your word then right there and then you tell the person/s who are counting on you (and your word) that you will not be keeping your word.  And you clean up the mess that you have made.  This  could involve:

  • getting someone else to do what you promised to do;
  • renegotiating what you have agreed so that the other person is happy with the end result (of the renegotiation) and the state of the relationship does not deteriorate;
  • apologising and making restitution such that the other person is happy with the end result and the relationship is intact.

Why is ‘Integrity’ so important?

You might remember that I wrote about three amazing experiences before Christmas.  The third experience was at the Chemist (the pharmacy) where the dispensing Chemist issued me medicines even though I did not have a prescription signed off by my doctor.  Furthermore, the staff at the Chemists offered to get the repeat prescription signed off by my doctor and have my medicine ready this morning.  Whilst I was initially reluctant, I accepted when the Chemist told me that they provide this service, regularly, for many of their customers – it saves customers the inconvenience of first going to their doctor to get a repeat prescription and then going to the Chemists.

Well I turned up at the Chemists to pick up my medicine – which is incredibly important to my health and well-being.  How did things turn out?  I walked up to the counter and told the assistant that I had been promised that my Levothyroxine Sodium tables (56 of them) would be ready for pick up today.  The assistant could not find my medicine nor my repeat prescription.  She asked the dispensing Chemist (not the one that was there last time) and he could not find my stuff on the computer system.  To cut a long story short the Chemist (as a business unit) failed to honour their word to me:  the medicine was not ready to be picked up.  Instead I made my way to the doctors surgery, picked up my repeat prescription, walked back to the Chemists, handed in the prescription and then waited ten minutes for it to be dispensed.

I get that sometimes there are ‘breakdowns’ – I am totally ok with that as it is simply an integral part of this world that we live in even if you get to six sigma.  What stunned me was the attitude of the staff at the Chemists.  Let me be specific:

  • they were totally oblivious to the importance of the medicine to me;
  • no-one (four staff members) got that they had made a promise to me – no apologies, no effort to make right what had not gone right;
  • they side stepped any responsiblity and accountability by pointing the finger at my doctor – the doctor’s practice had failed to issue the prescription to them even though they had taken my repeat prescription to the doctor’s surgery to be signed by the doctor;
  • they acted as if it is totally OK to make a promise and then not keep it because a part of the system outside of their control had failed to function properly;
  • knowing that they would not keep their promise no-one at the Chemist had contacted – proactively – to let me know of the issue even though I live only two minutes walk away from them.

In most people, most teams, most departments, most organisations ‘Integrity is out’ – it has gone walkabout

Take a good look and you will find that we as individuals, teams, departments, organisations, communities and society have a feeble relationship to our word.  We simply do not keep our word.  Because everyone accepts that it is OK to not keep our word then we give away our word willy nilly without real consideration.  Taken together I assert that our word is cheap and not worth the paper that it is written on.

That is an issue because when I, the customer, buy from you a set of promises (explicit and implicit) have been made.  And now you and your organisation have to deliver on those promises. How the heck are you going to do that if your relationship to your word is feeble just like the Chemist in the story that I told earlier.  Great leaders, teams and organisations have a fanatical, obsessive, relationship to their word – playing full out to honour their word as individuals, as team members and as an organisation. Amazon is a great example:  I have ordered many items and every time the items arrive on time, in the perfect condition and I am billed only what I expected to be billed.  Things went wrong only twice.  Once I did not get the travel books when I expected them (and by the promised date) and upon ringing Amazon they fixed it without any questions or hassle: replacement books were desptached that day and arrived the next morning as agreed.  The second time I bought a book from a reseller and it had a page missing the reseller did not quibble – he apologised and refunded my money.

Integrity being out compromises workability and performance

If you remember nothing else then remember this Integrity being out compromises the workability (the performance) of the system that is out of integrity.  It is not a moral issue. It is a performance issue.  And that is why you should start with Integrity – the performance of the system can never surpass the level of integrity especially across the system (the various players, processes, departments, organisations….).  Any compromise in integrity will impact the customer in terms of misleading advertising, misleading selling, products that do not do what it says on the tin, failed deliveries, inaccurate billing and so forth.

Investing in voice of the customer, in process redesign, in implementing complected CRM systems etc is simply putting lipstick on a pig or putting icing on a mud pie.  You are simply fooling yourself.  Incidentally, lack of integrity will impact the value you get out of any VoC program, process redesign or CRM technologies.  You can never escape the performance impact of the endemic lack of integrity – lack of integrity flows from the very top, the leaders of the organisation.  An organisation can never have more integrity than that of the leadership team.  What do you think?

Awesome people deliver awesome experiences: 3 tales of customer experience delight and a Christmas message

Panic – where is my medicine?

I have been diagnosed with an underactive thyroid.  That means that I start my day by popping a Levothyroxine Sodium tablet into myself. There is nothing good or bad about it – it is just so if I want my metabolism (and body/mind) to function properly.  This morning I woke up and found that I had used up the tablets in the kitchen.  No problem.  I headed up to my bedroom where I keep the ‘spare’ supply.  There should have been a box of 28 tablets there and I did not find them.  Panic!  Its Christmas, the doctors surgery will be closed.  How am I going to make it through the next five days?

The first delightful customer experience

Given that I need my medicine I rang the doctors office around 8:15 this morning.  Sure enough – the voicemail comes through and announces that the surgery is closed for the next five days.  Then the system puts me through to the out of hours service.  Within a couple of minutes I am talking to friendly lady and she takes down my details.  When I hand over my postcode she tells me that she used to live here – on my road.  Wow!  I ask her when she lived here and she replies “35 years ago”.  She did not know of my house because back then it was not there – it was simply a field with a rundown old abandoned house.  She goes on to tell me that they used to sneak in as they thought it was spooky.  I am totally immersed in the story and loving being on the phone to this lady.   Awesome!  I am left smiling and laughing.

After we finish sharing and laughing she asks me a few more questions and tells me that she cannot authorise a repeat (emergency) prescription.  The doctor has to do that and he will call me.  I ask her if I can get it from my local chemist.  She tells me that I should give it a go – they may be able to help me out.  I thank her, wish her a great Christmas.  I make my mind up to go the chemist as I do not believe that the doctor will ring me anytime soon and I need/want my medicine now.

Second delightful customer experience

Its around 9:15 and I am getting ready to go to the local chemist and try out my persuasion skills.  The phone rings, I pick it up and a calm, relaxed, good natured and humorous voice asks “Mr Iqbal what is the emergency?”  It is the doctor calling.  I tell him that it is not an emergency and I need to get the Levothroxine tablets today.  He tells me that he has already prescribed seven tablets and I can collect the prescription from my local hospital.  What really gets me is the being of this man as evidenced in the tone of his voice and his language.  Here is a man at ease.  It is clear that he has a way with people:  I bet he loves his job and in doing his job he is coming from the context of ‘being of service – taking delight in being of service’.  Awesome!  I am left smiling and inspired.

Third delightful customer experience

I don’t want to spend 40 minutes driving to the local hospital and back.  So I make my way to the local chemist – only two/three minutes walk away.  Its almost empty and so I walk straight into the arms of a beautiful smiling face.  I say “I’d like to speak with the dispensing chemist please”.  She smiles back and get the dispensing chemist.  I share my predicament and make a request “Please give me seven tablets to get me through until the doctors surgery opens” and I show her the paperwork that shows that I am authorised to take this medicine.  She says “That’s fine, you can have your medicine, it will take two minutes. By the way we can take care of getting the paperwork done at your GP and have your 56 tablets ready by next Friday.  Would you like us to do that?”  WOW! I say “Yes, please”.  Two minutes I have the medicine in my hand and am looking at two smiling faces.  I thank them both and wish them a great Christmas.  I walk out of the pharmacy with wings.  How awesome people (our fellow human beings) can be!

Lesson: I, You, They, We, Us are awesome even if our behaviour does not show up that way all/most of the time

That is right I totally get that I, You, They, We, Us are awesome.  Really we are awesome.  That is not the same as saying our behaviour occurs as awesome all of the time.  This is where context and environment come in and play a huge part.  When I, You, They, We, Us operate from supportive environments and the right (motivating, inspiring) contexts our behaviour tends to be awesome and we leave people feeling/saying “WOW”:  we are elevated and we elevate all who come into contact with you. When the environment and/or the context are not threatening, invalidating, uninspiring (not touching the human ‘soul’) our behaviour shows up and occurs as “Yuck” – the people who come into contact with us are left disgusted to some degree.

I thank you for listening and taking part in the conversation

I thank you for listening and taking part in the conversation that is The Customer Blog – without you I could ask the question “Is there a sound when the tree falls down and there is no-one there listening?”.   If you do not know what that means then let me spell it out:

I thank the people who inspired me to write this blog.  I am thinking of you – Stefanie O’Meagher and Kevin Smith – old colleagues and friends.  I am also thinking of my wife, my brother in law and my sister.  You are the people who are responsible for this blog – you are the ones that told me that I had something to contribute to the conversation.

I thank the person who spent two-three hours with me showing me how to set-up a blog in WordPress.  I am thinking of you Alex – my old colleague and friend.  You may not realise this but you are the foundation of this blog.  Without you it is quite likely that my voice would never have been expressed and there would be no conversation called The Customer Blog.

I thank each and everyone of you that subscribes to this blog. Each of you has inspired me to continue to write. How/why?  Often I think that I have nothing new to add to the conversation and why the heck would anyone want to take part in this conversation.  Yet what is so is that there you are – you subscribe, you read and you comment.  You make it possible for me to see what I can so often not see – that I have something to contribute.  With you I know that as a result of your listening my speaking is worthwhile.  You say to me “I see you; you exist”.  Thank you.

I thank each and every person that has reached out to me, told me that he/she likes what I have to say and invited/enabled me to make a contribution.  In particular, I am thinking of you Bob Thompson.

I thank each and every person who has recommended The Customer Blog on Twitter.  In particular I am thinking of Colin Taylor the first person who got me present to the significance of the #FF tag.  I am also thinking of you Nancy (of Vovici).

I thank each and every person who follow me – I mean really follows me as opposed to follows me – on Twitter.

Make it an awesome Christmas conversation and experience

You are awesome – really you are.  Be awesome.  Make it an awesome Christmas conversation and experience for you and all the people that you will meet and interact with this Christmas.  Need a powerful context?  How about operating from the following context: love of yourself and love of the people around you.  Love is letting people be just as they are and just as they are not.  Love occurs when you give up your point of view on how people should be, how the situation should be, how the relationship should be, how the world should be.

From a zen perspective, don’t believe what I say, don’t discuss it, don’t argue against it, don’t just accept it, don’t file it away in your mind.  Do try it out in a spirit of lightness, fun, experimentation and experience what shows up for you and for others.  If it works use it, if it does not work then discard it.

What is there to say?   I am beautiful, you are beautiful, they are beautiful, we are beautiful.  This is a beautiful world – we really can experience it if we give up “shoulding” and see, really see, what is there.

I love you and I thank you for taking part in the conversation that is The Customer Blog.  I wish that you be great this Christmas and create a great Christmas conversation and experience for yourself, your loved ones and our fellow human beings you come into contact.

Ultimately it is all about people, relationships and experiences

As we are heading into Christmas I want to share some thoughts with can help each of us to cultivate better relationships with people – be that people in business lives or people in our personal lives.  I hope that you find something of value, I thank you for reading this blog and I wish you a great Christmas and all the best for the New Year.

“Indifference towards people and the reality in which they live is actually the one and only cardinal sin in design”  Dieter Rams

I’d go further and say that indifference towards people and the reality in which they live is actually the one and only cardinal sin in business and in life.

It is the indifference to customers and the reality of their lives (including experiences with your organisation) that leaves the door open to more open-minded competitors .   It is the indifference towards our channel partners and the reality of their lives that is the source of mistrust and friction in doing a better job of taking care of the end customer. It is the indifference to our people and the reality of their lives that is the source of most failed change initiatives and the rampant alienation/demotivation in the work place.

It is the indifference towards the people in our lives and the reality in which they live that is the cause of difficult relationships in our lives.  The trouble is that we do not realise that we are being indifferent towards people and the reality of their lives until and unless we have walked a mile in their shoes.

“To understand a man, you must first walk a mile in his moccasin”  North American Indian Proverb

Intellectual understanding is a world apart from lived-in experience.  If we want to understand our fellow human beings (to really get their world) then there is absolutely no substitute for walking in their shoes.  Allow me to share a personal example that came home to me, vividly, this week.

Last Friday my son was sick with an upset stomach – at one stage he was doubled over in pain clutching his stomach.  How did I respond?  I listened to him as someone who had brought about his own misery by not eating healthily.  Instead of soothing the pain through words and acts of kindness I heaped on the pain of criticism.  I was totally convinced that I was right and he was wrong.  Then on Sunday night I got to experience what he experienced: burning sensation in the stomach, stomach pain, vomiting……. For most of Monday I felt like I had been in a boxing ring with Mike Tyson.

When I had a purely intellectual understanding I responded with my intellect – mainly judgement.  Once I had experienced what he had experienced  I got his discomfort, his pain, his situation.  I’d go further and say ONLY when I had experienced what my son experienced was I in a position to understand how he felt, what he was likely to be thinking and how I should have behaved to meet his needs.  Furthermore, only after I had experienced what he experienced did his needs occur as being reasonable to me.  There is profound lesson here: what occurs as reasonable or unreasonable depends on what you have or have not experienced.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around”  Leo F. Buscagalia

When I had experienced what my son had experienced and then reflected on how I had behaved towards him I rang him to apologise.  This is what he told me “Don’t worry Papa.  I know that you love me by the way that you washed my hair.”  On Saturday morning my son had been weak (after throwing up for much of the night) and had soiled his bed linen.  He needed to have a shower yet felt too weak to stand so I ran a bath for him.  Then he asked me if I would wash his hair as he did not feel able.  So I took a few moments out of my day to wash his hair gently so that he would feel loved – that single loving act made all the difference to my son and our relationship.  Leo has it right when he counsels us to never underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment or the smallest act of caring.  This philosophy can be applied just as well in business as it can in our personal lives.

Customer loyalty: disgust, elevation and the categorical imperative

CRM has failed to deliver customer loyalty, is Social CRM headed the same way?

In Bob Thompson’s latest post he asserts  that CRM failed to deliver the primary objective of CRM: customer loyalty.  Bob goes on to say that he doubts that Social CRM will cultivate customer loyalty despite all the promise and hype that surrounds it.  Why?  Because the focus of CRM has been value extraction and not value creation as illustrated by the following definition of CRM in an IBM paper:

“CRM strategy, enabled by processes and technologies, is architected to manage customer relationships as a means for extracting the greatest value from customers over the lifetime of the relationship.”

Bob is saying that in his world he is a person what wants to be treated as a person yet organisations embedded in the CRM mindset are likely to view him as a “lead” or a “deal” or an “incident”.  Bob is pointing out that as a person he wants an “I-Thou” relationship and not an “I-It” relationship:  Bob wants to be treated as a fellow human being, treated with dignity worthy of a fellow human being, not just an economic object to be managed by the organisation for its purposes.  It looks like Lior Arussy agrees with him.

Disgust and delight: tale of two customer experiences


In contrast, Elizabeth Glagowski is delighted with the way an eBay seller has treated her, so much so that she titled her post “Customer Service Blunder Leads to Holiday Cheer”.  Why?  Because the eBay seller responed within an hour, apologised profusely for sending over the wrong T-shirt, promised to send the right one straight away, told her to keep the wrong T-shirt as it is similar to the right one, and he told her to pick another item in a certain price range and offered to send that to her free of charge to compensate her for her troubles.

What is going on here?  Why is Lior so upset and Elizabeth so delighted that she is being an advocate for Paul the eBay Seller?  We are in the realm of human emotions and particularly the emotions of disgust and elevation.

Disgust: its role in social relationships and the moral order

In “Wired to be Inspired” Jonathan Haidt writes:

“..when my colleagues and I actually asked people in several countries to list the things they thought were disgusting, we repeatedly found that most people men­tioned social offenses, such as hypocrisy, racism, cruelty, and betrayal”.

“When we find social actions disgusting, they indicate to us that the person who commit­ted them is in some way morally defective. In this light, we seem to place human actions on a vertical dimension that runs from our conception of absolute good (God) above, to absolute evil (the Devil) below.”

“Social disgust can then be understood as the emotional reaction people have to witness­ing others moving “down,” or exhibiting their lower, baser, less God-like nature. Human beings feel revolted by moral depravity, and this revulsion is akin to the revulsion they feel toward rotten food and cockroaches. In this way, dis­gust helps us form groups, reject devi­ants, and build a moral community.”

Read this article on how some insurance companies who have bought into the McKinsey system are generating bumper profits by deliberately causing delays and hardships for customers – especially when they are at their most vulnerable.  How does this make you feel as a human being?  Are you disgusted?  If you are wondering about the power of disgust then think about the News International phone hacking scandal.  News International had successfully muffled the politicians, the police force, the information commissioner etc for years.  Yet, when the public became aware that a dead schoolgirls (Milly Dowler) phone had been hacked the public disgust meant that the politicians had to take action.

Elevation: its role in social relationships and the moral order

Have you ever been moved, touched, inspired by seeing, reading about, or hearing of a stranger doing a good deed for another stranger?  If you are like me then you might even have noticed tears streaming down your face combined with a strong desire to do good deeds and be a better person.  Why are human beings so powerfully affected by the sight of one stranger helping another stranger?   Here is what Jonathan Haidt has to say on the matter:

“I have defined elevation as a warm, uplifting feeling that people experience when they see unexpected acts of human good­ness, kindness, courage, or compassion. It makes a person want to help others and to become a better person himself or herself.”

“Most people don’t want to rape, steal, and kill. What they really want is to live in a moral community where people treat each other well, and in which they can satisfy their needs for love, productive work, and a sense of belonging to groups of which they are proud. We get a visceral sense that we do not live in such a moral world when we see people behave in petty, cruel, or selfish ways. But when we see a stranger perform a simple act of kindness for another stranger, it gives us a thrilling sense that maybe we do live in such a world.”

“The most commonly cited circum­stances that caused elevation involved seeing someone else give help or aid to a person who was poor or sick, or stranded in a difficult situation”

“Love and a desire for affilia­tion appear to be a common human response to witnessing saints and saintly deeds, or even to hearing about them second-hand. If disgust is a negative emotion that strengthens ego bound­aries and defenses against a morally reprehensible other, then elevation is its opposite—a desire to associate with those who are morally admirable.”

What’s the lesson?

If you want to cultivate customer loyalty (an emotional bond) then heed the words of Immanuel Kant:“Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time, as an end”

If that is difficult to understand then imagine that the Customer is present inside in your business – she is sitting on your shoulder.  Is she left disgusted or elevated by how you are thinking, what you are doing and your motivations behind your actions?

A final thought

For as long as the Customer is simply a means to an end, and greed and fear are the driving forces behind Customer initiatives, companies will fail to cultivate customer loyalty in the social sense of a heartfelt allegiance.

Brand Experience: highlights from the 2011 Best Experience Brands Global Study

I have read the Best Experience Brands report published by Jack Morton Worldwide and want to share the highlights with you.  For the purposes of the report and this post a ‘Brand Experience” is defined as “any of the interactions (direct, indirect) you have with the specific company or its products and services”. The findings of the report are based on 1,603 consumers (USA, UK, Asia, Australia) completing an online survey during Aug/Sept 2011.

Which brands deliver unique experiences?

It is probably no surprise to you that Apple comes at the top of the list.  Who else is on the list?

  1. Apple
  2. Disney
  3. Google
  4. Microsoft
  5. Mercedes
  6. Coca-Cola
  7. Sony and IKEA
  8. BMW
  9. Amazon
  10. Louis Vuitton

I find it interesting that this list is made up of such a diverse range of companies: industries, business models, value propositions etc.

Three key insights emerge from the research

I doubt that the key findings are any surprise given that research study after study points towards the same direction:

  • The brand experience drives consumer purchasing decisions.  60% of consumers agreed with the statement “My overall experience with  a brand is the single biggest factor in whether I decide to purchase a product or service” – only 5% disagreed.
  • Consumers will pay more for unique experiences.  44% of consumers agreed with the statement “I am willing to pay a premium price for a product or service if I know that I will have a unique experience with that brand in some way”. Not surprisingly the consumers that have more money (are the least affected by the recession) are the ones that are more willing to pay this premium: 58% of consumers in Asia v 28% of consumers in the UK.
  • There’s a big gap between what matters to customers (in terms of the brand experience) and what brands provide in terms of unique experiences. Only 26% say that their past experiences have been unique; 62% are looking for that unique experience.

What are the top experience drivers?

Given that customers have jobs to do / get done (including elevating their status or looking cool) and that is the primary reason that they interact with companies it is not surprising that the product/service  should be the top experience driver.  What are the other experience drivers?  Here is the most important experience drivers:

  • Products and services that meet your needs
  • Understands your needs
  • Continues to serve and engage you after you’ve become a customer
  • Exceeds your expectations
  • Makes it easy to find information and buy their products, wherever and whenever I shop.

What is interesting is that the experience drivers that deliver a UNIQUE brand experience are somewhat different:

  • Initial impression the brand makes on you
  • Continues to serve and engage you after you have become a customer
  • Understands your needs
  • Differentiates from similar products
  • Employs people who anticipate your needs

I find it interesting that consumers do not want to be forgotten (or taken for granted) once they have become customers -they want brands to continue to serve and engage them.

Which experience categories matter the most?

The report subdivides the “Brand Experience” into categories: Product Experience; Shopping Experience; Customer Experience; Discovery Experience; Community Experience; and Digital Experience. If you put the experience drivers into categories and then look at which ones matter the most to customers (listed earlier) then it becomes clear that the Product Experience, the Shopping Experience and the Customer Experience categories are the ones that matter the most.  Lets take a closer look at each of these three categories – specifically what they are made up of and how highly they are rated by consumers.

Product Experience

  • Products and services that meet your needs (6.1 out of 7)
  • Invents new ways to enhance their products or services, after you have become a customer (5.6)

Shopping Experience

  • Makes it easy to find information and buy their products wherever and whenever I want to shop – store, online, mobile  (5.8)
  • Provides an efficient shopping experience (5.8)

Customer Experience

  • Understands your needs (5.9)
  • Continues to serve and engage you after you have become a customer (5.8)
  • Exceeds your expectations (5.8)
  • Educates you about how to use their products and services and become a smarter customer after you have become a customer (5.6)
  • Employs people who anticipate your needs (5.3)

Other key highlights

If you have read my posts you will know that I am of the view that there are important differences between women and men when it comes to needs and wants.  Here is what the report has to say on that and other demographic differences:

Women are more responsive and receptive to experience.  Women are more likely to agree with the statement that the experience influences their brand choice.  They are also more likely to be willing to pay a premium.  Furthermore, women rank some experience drivers much higher then men: “Understands your needs” (73% v 65%); “Continues to serve and engage you after becoming a customer” (71% v 62%); “Exceeds expectations” (72% v 60%).

People over 55 are a less willing to pay a premium for brands that offer a unique experience.

Affluent consumers value experiences more and are more willing to pay a premium for unique experiences.  The experience drivers that particularly important to these people include: “Understands your needs”; “Continues to serve and engage you after you have become a customer”; and “Educates you about how to use their products and services and become a smarter consumer, after you have become a customer”.

US consumers (of all the consumers who took part in the survey) have the highest expectations around the “Customer Experience” categoryof the “Brand Experience” as defined in this report.

UK consumers are much less demanding than US consumers – they are much less likely to cite “Exceeding expectations” as an experience driver that motivates/influences their purchasing decisions.

Asian consumers are the ones that are most likely to say that the experience is the single biggest factor in brand choice and they are the ones that are most willing to pay a price premium for unique brand experiences.

My point of view

All research should be handled delicately.  Bias is present in most research in a number of ways some deliberate and some unintentional.  Also there can be a big difference in what say, what people do (and will do) and what people say they do or will do.

The research ‘supports’  my point of view that the most important lever for improving the “Brand Experience” and growing your business is to make/sell great products/services that create superior value for your customers – allow your customers to get their jobs done cheaper, faster, easier, better.  A little while ago I wrote a post titled The Missing Piece of the Customer Experience Puzzle – to point out that the product/service was being neglected by the Customer Experience movement.

What men and women want is different and women are more experience driven – the softer (caring) dimensions of the ‘Brand Experience” matter more to women.  I wrote a post on what matters to women: how to engage the female customer and deliver the right experience

“Exceeds expectations” is a key driver – which tells me that just delivering to expectations is not enough.  Does that mean that the ‘just get the basics right and forget about delighting customers’ school of Customer Experience is wrong?  I’ll let you make your own decision.

We do not need more research to tell us what matters to consumers.  What is missing is the Tops who are willing to act on what the numerous research studies tell us.

Marketing and Customer Experience: the value of tapping into diverse sources of ‘insight’

The world is messy and we are creatures that like to fit the world into boxes.  Why?  Because one we have put the world into boxes then we feel able to orients ourselves in the world and to act upon the world.  This is particularly so in business especially in the areas of marketing and customer experience.  After all we need to know about our target markets and our customers if we are going to pull the right levers and shape the world to attain our desired outcomes.

Whilst there is nothing ‘wrong’ with that approach there are downsides associated with the way that we go about it.  Often we do not ‘push and prod’ the world at large in various ways to get a rounded picture of our customers, our target markets, the world at large.  As a result it is easy to get a one-sided, distorted, view and then we leave ourselves open to ‘failure’ because we have created an inaccurate map of the territory.  Lets, make this real by looking at the CMO – particularly what is on the mind of the CMO.

IBM’s CMO 2011 Study

In October 2011 (this year) IBM published a global CMO study and according to this report CMO are grappling with complexity with the following top ten factors being the ones that they are struggling with / concerned with the most:

  1. Data explosion
  2. Social media
  3. Growth of channels and devices
  4. Shifting consumer demographics
  5. Financial constraints
  6. Decreasing brand loyalty
  7. Growth market opportunities
  8. ROI accountability
  9. Customer collaboration and influence
  10. Privacy considerations

Convinced that you understand the world of the CMOs and what is keeping them awake at night?  Of course you are especially as the IBM report reads:

What’s hurting most?

So, what are the main sources of concern?  We probed more deeply to find out whether CMOs feel equipped to manage the impact of 13 key market factors…..”

Findings from the CMO Exchange Conference

In July 2011 the  CMO Exchange conference held in London.  If you were at this conference you might be forgiven for thinking that the following are the “Ten challenges keeping CMOs awake at night:

  1. Convincing powers that be to support an idea
  2. Getting resources and budget committed to a campaign
  3. Clarifying expectations and budget of the CMO
  4. Keeping up with changing times and tools
  5. Long term focus versus company’s short term view
  6. Proving that value was created to justify spending
  7. Leveraging digital marketing to engage target audience
  8. Convincing company to embrace new techniques
  9. Lack of understanding of marketing within the company
  10. Challenging the status-quo without losing support

So who should you and I believe?  IBM’s study or the write-up from the CMO Exchange?

The six blind men and the elephant

Have you heard of the parable of the six blind men and the elephant?  If not then it goes like this:

Once upon a time, there lived six blind men in a village. One day the villagers told them, “Hey, there is an elephant in the village today.”  They had no idea what an elephant is. They decided, “Even though we would not be able to see it, let us go and feel it anyway.” All of them went where the elephant was. Everyone of them touched the elephant.

“Hey, the elephant is a pillar,” said the first man who touched his leg.

“Oh, no! it is like a rope,” said the second man who touched the tail.

“Oh, no! it is like a thick branch of a tree,” said the third man who touched the trunk of the elephant.

“It is like a big hand fan” said the fourth man who touched the ear of the elephant.

“It is like a huge wall,” said the fifth man who touched the belly of the elephant.

“It is like a solid pipe,” Said the sixth man who touched the tusk of the elephant.

They began to argue about the elephant and everyone of them insisted that he was right. It looked like they were getting agitated. A wise man was passing by and he saw this. He stopped and asked them, “What is the matter?” They said, “We cannot agree to what the elephant is like.” Each one of them told what he thought the elephant was like. The wise man calmly explained to them, “All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all those features what you all said.”

What is the Lesson?

If wish to understand an aspect of the world then tap into a variety of diverse sources.  If you are seeking to understand your customers, formulate a customer-centric strategy and/or improve the customer experience then you should consider tapping into and integrate the ‘findings’ from a variety of sources including:

  • Stepping into and walking in the shoes of the customer;
  • Observing customers interacting with your organisation;
  • Listening to your front line employees and their views;
  • What customers (and other influential people) are saying about your organisation online;
  • Customer complaints;
  • Converting call recordings into insight through speech analytics;
  • Mystery shopping;
  • Interactions through the website and web analytics;
  • Financial models including CLV (customer lifetime value);
  • Loyalty programmes;
  • Responses to marketing campaigns;
  • Market research;
  • Customer surveys etc.

Do you have to tap into each of these sources of insight? No.

Yet it is important that you tap into a variety of listening posts that collectively allow you to see the ‘elephant’ rather than simply pieces of the elephant.