Want a breakthrough in customer-centricity? CARE, deeply

In the West we are taken with that which is visible (the surface phenomena that can be detected and measured) that we lose sight of that which gives rise to the visible (the invisible).  In my last post I disclosed one aspect (Integrity) of the invisible that makes a huge difference to the workability and performance of our lives, our organisations and the impact (customer experience, loyalty or otherwise) we make on customers.  In this post I want to look at another dimension that is critical – to workability, performance and experience – and which is hidden from view and often neglected in organisations: CARING.

CARING is an invisible quality that we bring or do not bring to everything that we do – from something as simple as saying hello to something as complex as creating a harmonious prosperous society – as individuals, as groups, as communities, as organisations and societies.  There is noticeable difference in QUALITY in the level of caring behind a simple “Hello”.  That difference in quality is picked up and experienced by the Customer.  This difference is also present for the person who is communicating with / being of service to the Customer.

The CARING (or the lack of it) that has been put into the design of an office building in present – as an experience – even if this experience cannot be expressed adequately verbally and often it cannot:  the people working in the building know if they are cared for or not.   The CARING (or the lack of it) that has gone into designing and manufacturing products is experienced by the people who touch and are touched (or not) by these products.  The CARING (or the lack of it)  is present in the design of websites – some websites occurs as being useful, easily usable and even inspiring at a deeper level and others do not have this experiential impact. CARING (or the lack of it) shows up in business policies – some policies give rise to phenomena that leave us (as employees, as partners, as suppliers, as customers) moved, touched and inspired so much so that we find ourselves thankful that these organisations exist and we willingly give our loyalty without thinking about giving our loyalty: loyalty simply shows up without conscious effort or decision making.  The CARING (or lack of it) is experienced through the business processes – some make it easy for the Customer to get his jobs done, others make it difficult – even impossible.  The CARING (or lack of it) shows up in the technology that is implemented and how it is implemented.  The people and organisations that CARE ensure that self-service technology is easy to use, that it makes customer lives simpler, richer, easier and they take the time and make the effort to educate/train customers in using that technology.  Many people and organisations do not CARE enough and so use technology badly – the technology occurs as a pain for customers and often staff.  Just go and take a look at the technology that many call-centre agents have to use under intense time pressure – most of it makes the lives of the call-centre agents hard and stressful rather than help them to do their job quickly and professionally.

When CARING is being put into the game of business it shows up in the form of policies, products, service, solutions, processes, technology, people etc.  When CARING shows up in phenomena it is picked up and experienced by: all the people in the business (leaders, managers, back office staff, front office staff); all the people who serve/supply the business; and all the people who interact with and buy from the business.  When CARING is experienced by Customers then ‘customer loyalty’ simply shows up: customers find themselves being loyal (as evidenced by their behaviour) without any thinking on their part on whether to be loyal or not.  Customers are people – not rational machines – and they are hard wired to behave in certain ways.  As human beings living in a uncertain (even dangerous world) we want to / need to believe that we live in a benevolent world.  CARING shows up as phenomena (e.g. keeping promises,  products that do what it says on the tin, apologies and restitution for poor service….) that make us feel that we live in that benevolent world – something that we want so much. Don’t believe me?  Take a moment and experience what your living would be like if you were not able to trust anyone and really did not know what was around the corner – no certainty and danger everywhere.  How long would you want to live like that?  What would your stress levels be like?  What would it be like – the experience – of being around you?  How rapidly would you age?  How long would you live?  What would be the quality of your life? I doubt if it would be anything other that wretched.  CARE is the difference between a wretched and a joyous existence.

There is no escaping CARING.  As human beings we bringing CARING or the lack of caring to everything – absolutely everything.  And that CARING shows up in all the phenomena that we can experience with our five senses and with our sixth sense – sensing what we sense but without being able to put our finger on it and certainly we cannot point to the commonly agreed upon five senses.

If you want to breakthrough in customer-centricity then CARE deeply.  Who can I point you towards so that you can see what I am pointing towards.  Steve Jobs – he cared deeply about ‘putting a dent in the universe’ and about ‘the customer experience’, beauty, simplicity, flow and great design.  He cared so deeply that he refused to compromise – to go with second best even if that would have been more than enough for staff, distributors, customers, the industry pundits, the stock market.  Jeff Bezos – he is stated that his intent is to make Amazon the earths most customer-centric company.  He means it and to that end he plays the long game – making sacrifices today – again and again – to act in accordance with and realise his dream, his intent.  Tony Hsieh – his intent is captured in the simple saying ‘Delivering Happiness’.  Chris Zane of  Zane’s Cycles – read “Reinventing The Wheel” and you get clear that Chris CARES deeply about: the community he lives in, the customers he serves, the people that work for him……James Dyson – cared deeply enough about his ideas for the vacuum cleaner that he risked everything and many years in inventing the bagless vacuum cleaner and today his business is a roaring success. Julian Richer of Richer Sounds cares deeply about what the business is about (the products, the service, the people who serve the customers, the customers themselves) and so Richer Sounds has some of the highest sales figures per square foot of retail space and more and more Richer Sounds stores blossom over the UK.

Do you CARE so deeply that anything less than perfection leaves you feel dissatisfied, in pain?  If not then you do not CARE deeply enough and that means that the arena is wide open for someone that does to reinvent the ‘playing field’ and thrive – most likely at your expense.

Hint:  you cannot CARE deeply enough about a product, a proposition, a mission, an organisation that you are not proud of.  That is simply what is so:  at best you will operate at the minimum level that you need to get by.

What do you think?  Heck if you disagree or you have a different point of view then share it with me – educate me, I am open to being challenged and educated.

Author: Maz Iqbal

Experienced management consultant working at the intersection of strategy, customer, and technology. Combine a tendency to think strategically with a penchant for getting my hands dirty at the coalface of implementation.