Travelex: 7 lessons for service excellence and the customer experience

Recently I had overseas friends come over and visit us.  It just so happened that they had a big problem and thus had to make contact with Travelex to get it sorted out.  How did things play out?  What was their experience?  And what can we learn about the customer|company interface/interaction/’relationship’?    Lets use the job-to-be-done approach and work our way through.

The job to be done: get access to the holiday money

My friends had an issue – they had loaded all of their holiday money onto two cash cards and they were not able to use one of these cards.  And that showed up in their world as a big problem that had to be sorted out .  Why were they not able to use the Travelex cash card?  Because they could not remember the PIN.   Why did this issue arise?  A random PIN had been issued with the cash card.  This PIN was not meaningful to my friends so they forgot it and were not able to reconstruct it through trial and error using meaningful dates/numbers.

Given this problem, my friends had a job for Travelex: sort out their issues so that they could use the card, get access to the money that was ‘stored’ on the card.  This job showed up as being particularly important – they were  at the start of their holiday and would need the money sometime during their holiday.  Probably soon.

Website: time-consuming and not useful in addressing the issue

Having access to the internet, my friends turned to the website.   They looked around the website and they did not find any useful information.  They looked around for someone to talk to / help them out on the website.  No luck – there is no LiveChat facility on the Travelex website.  At least they were able to get the phone number for Customer Service and so they were hopeful.

Call-centre:  your call is important to us yet not important enough to answer!

Struggling with getting help via the website they called Customer Service.  And then they waited and waited and waited.  Every so often they were told that their call was important to Travelex.  Five minutes went by, then 10 minutes, then 15 minutes, then 20 minutes.   How did they feel?  Frustrated.   What frustrated them the most:

  • the gulf between the reality of their experience and the voice which kept repeating that their call was important to Travelex…..;
  • not knowing where they were in the queue and how long it would take for Travelex to answer their call;
  • not being presented with the option of leaving a contact number and have Travelex call them back.

After 20 minutes my friends hung up the phone as time was running by and they had to get going if they were to deliver on their promise to their boys and make a day of it at Thorpe Park.

What can we learn from this

1. Companies generate wasted effort and poor customer experiences by failing to think things through from the customer perspective and designing accordingly.   If  Travelex had required my friends to come up with their own pin for the cash card then it is likely that they would have used a PIN that was memorable to them.

2. The cause of many service failures (and poor customer experience) is often zero empathy for customers as real human beings.  Travelex could have foreseen and adequately catered for two critical scenarios.  First, the customer is on holiday and loses his cash card.  Second, the customer is on holiday and has forgotten her PIN.  What makes these critical?  The customer is likely to be in a foreign country, no friends nearby, uncertain and thus stressed about not having access to their money.  Money that shows up as essential to the well being of the customer.

3. In a digital world, service failures hurt the company as well as the customer.  I know that my friends feel ‘unloved’ and are thinking twice about using cash cards and Travelex, in particular. And here I am sharing their story with the world.  Just this morning my wife avoided seductive sales talk (even though she is keen to buy the service offered) by googling and reading reviews by other customers.  In the digital world you cannot escape your reputation – how you treat your customers.  Your reputation acts like an accelerator for making sales or it acts as a brake – your choice!

4. Solutions are often not hard nor costly.   How difficult is it to allow  cash card customers to get access to their PIN via the website?  I say not difficult at all.  Travelex can provide the required  functionality through its website: customer logs in; security check takes place; customer gets to reset PIN on the card.  That is the basic structure – more sophisticated options can be built in. 

5.  Providing this type of critical functionality can help you attract more customers, make more sales – you show customers that you have thought about them, the worst case scenario and you have the right solution in place.  Thus you deal with the barriers, the skepticism, in the way of customers buying.

6. Call-centres and customer service needs radical rethinking and redesign.  What frustrated my friends the most?  Uncertainty.  “Where am I in the queue?  How long before someone answers my call?   Should I hang up or hold on?  If I hang up then when is the best time to call back?”   What would have worked great?  For the call-centre to have picked up their mobile number and rang them back.   Service is not just about the time it takes to answer a call nor about first time resolution.   Customers are multi-dimensional and context sensitive unlike the Customer Services function which seems to be context blind and two dimensional at best.

7. If calls are being deflected onto the self-service channels then these channels have to be designed for real human beings and they have to work.  I suspect that some companies are deliberately under staffing their call-centres to drive customers to use self-service technologies including the web.   The issue is that websites are often in the hands of the folks that want to do brand marketing or selling.   The service dimension is often not given enough importance, is not seriously grappled with and then acted on.  Furthermore, many companies suck at great self-service design.  Airlines, check-in, selection, electronic boarding cards – example of great self-service design.  Grocery stores and self-service checkouts are great examples of atrocious self-service design/thinking.

How to cultivate strong customer relationships: focus on the “sliding door” moments and ATTUNE

Don and Martha say practice the Golden Rule

In their latest post – “Empathy, Self-Interest and Economics” – Don Peppers and Martha Rogers spell out the importance of the Golden rule.  They point out that at a behavioural level only psychopaths conform to the view of human nature taken by neo-classical economics.  To business leaders they say:

“Companies that want to earn their customers’ trust have to be willing to act in their customers’ interest—sometimes even when the customers’ interest conflicts with their own (at least in the short term). This is why i-Tunes will remind you that you already own a song you are about to purchase, for instance. And it’s why USAA won’t sell you more insurance than you really need, even if you mistakenly ask to do so.”

“The point is that having empathy for others is a critical part of human nature, and if you want your business to succeed, then you have to show empathy for customers, also. That means treating a customer the way you’d want to be treated yourself, if you were that customer.”

Is the UK utility industry listening to Don and Martha?

It doesn’t look like the Tops in utilities industry in the UK are listening to Don and Martha.  Npower has been slapped with a £2m fine by the regulator Ofgem.  Why? According to Marketing Week:

“Ofgem says Npower failed to record all details of the complaints it received and did not put in adequate processes to deal with complaints. It was also accused of not giving dissatisfied customers enough information about the Energy Ombudman’s redress service.”

Now you might be tempted to think that this is a one-off, an aberration.   Well British Gas (the major player) was fined £2.5m back in July.  Why?  Well in the words of Marketing Week:

“Ofgem’s investigation found that British Gas had failed to re-open complaints when the customer reported and unsatisfactory resolution; failed to provide customers with key details about the service provided by the Energy Ombudsman and failed to put in place adequate processes and practices for dealing with complaints from small businesses.”

And Marketing Week goes on to write EDF Energy is also currently under investigation from Ofgem over the way it handles its complaints.”

So where are we at?  Two of the six big players that dominate the gas and electricity market have been fined for mishandling customer complaints and a third player (EDF) is under investigation for the same offence.  What does Npower have to say:

“A small number of processes were not correctly adhered to. Ofgem is now satisfied that all problems have been rectified and we are fully compliant with our obligations to our customers. We have zero tolerance for this type of issue and we’ll continue to work hard to make sure our customers are put first.”

I don’t know about you but to me that sounds like a load of bull: if Npower really did have a zero tolerance for this type of issue then it would have made sure that an effective complaints management process, team, system was in place.   When you lookmore deeply at the industry you see that the structure has been designed to extract profits at the expense of customers: complex pricing, too many confusing tariffs, bills that are difficult to understand……

Making the customer relationship work: what we can learn from John Gottman

I you do operate in a competitive industry then you might be able to learn from the research of John Gottman – he is been studying what makes marriages work (or not) for over 40 years.  In a recent article he sets out the key things that he has learnt:

“What I found was that the number one most important issue that came up to these couples was trust and betrayal. I started to see their conflicts like a fan opening up, and every region of the fan was a different area of trust. Can I trust you to be there and listen to me when I’m upset? Can I trust you to choose me over your mother, over your friends? Can I trust you to work for our family? To not take drugs? Can I trust you to not cheat on me and be sexually faithful? Can I trust you to respect me? To help with things in the house? To really be involved with our children?”

“.zero-sum game.” You’ve probably all heard of the concept. It’s the idea that in an interaction, there’s a winner and a loser. And by looking at ratings like this, I came to define a “betrayal metric”: It’s the extent to which an interaction is a zero-sum game, where your partner’s gain is your loss.”

“But how do you build trust? What I’ve found through research is that trust is built in very small moments, which I call “sliding door” moments, after the movie Sliding Doors. In any interaction, there is a possibility of connecting with your partner or turning away from your partner.

In his article John provides a good illustration of such a sliding door moment when he saw the sadness on his wife’s face.  Here is what he says about that:

“I had a choice. I could sneak out of the bathroom and think, “I don’t want to deal with her sadness tonight, I want to read my novel.” But instead, because I’m a sensitive researcher of relationships, I decided to go into the bathroom. I took the brush from her hair and asked, “What’s the matter, baby?” And she told me why she was sad.  Now, at that moment, I was building trust; I was there for her. I was connecting with her rather than choosing to think only about what I wanted. These are the moments, we’ve discovered, that build trust.”

ATTUNE: how you cultivate trust and build strong relationships

John Gottman’s graduate student has taken their work on trust and broken it down into the idea of being in attuenment and has come up with an acronym (ATTUNE).  If I replace “partner” with “customer” we have:

  • Awareness of your customers’s emotion;
  • Turning toward the emotion;
  • Tolerance of two different viewpoints – yours and your customer’s;
  • trying to Understanding your customer – to look at the situation through his/her eyes;
  • Non-defensive responses to your customer;
  • and responding with Empathy.

My take on this

How you handle a complaint from a customer is a “sliding door” moment.  It is also a great opportunity to practice ATTUNE as complaints are high emotion events that you can use to build or rupture emotional connection.  Given that is so I continue to be surprised at how few companies do well in the complaints process.  If Npower and British Gas had taken such an approach (call it a customer friendly approach) to the complaints made by their customers then they could have: gotten insights into customer needs; learned where their business practices were failing customers; built a better relationship with customers; and avoided a fine.

How to excel at Customer Experience and customer-centricity: 3 tips

Shift your perspective, embrace being wrong and practice radical empathy

Businesses can cut costs, keep more customers and win new customers (through word of mouth/mouse) if they focus on the customer experience.  That means designing customer experiences that fit customer needs and expectations and which make their lives easier and richer (not just in the money sense).  To do that all the people in the organisation (Tops, Middles, Bottoms) have to shift their perspective, embrace bring wrong and practice radical empathy.  What am I talking about?  All is explained/demonstrated beautifully in the following three TED talks: the first is about shifting your perspective; the second on embracing being wrong; and third on radical empathy.  I hope you enjoy and learn from them.

RavKK:  Shake up your story

Kathryn Schulz: On being wrong

Sam Richards: A radical experiment in empathy

You may be wondering why these practices are necessary and if I am correct in asserting that customer experience design can cut operating costs and protect revenues by keeping customers coming back.  Allow me to share two recent experience with you and give life to what I am saying.

Software4Students.co.uk – they made me work and created work for themselves

On the 10th of Sept I finally gave in and decided to update the software on my children’s computers so that it was the same as what they are using in school.  I placed the order with SoftwareForStudents.co.uk and was happy to do so because the price is reasonable and they promise to despatch it within 24 hours.  I received a package this Wednesday and on opening it I found only Office 2010 discs. That was a both a concern and a disappointment because I had placed an order for Windows 7 and Office 2010: one order, two items.

I emailed the company straight away – pointing out that the issue.  Immediately I got an automated email that told me that the issue would be looked into.  Four days later I received the following email:

“Hi,

Thank you for contacting Software4Students!   Please note the products you have ordered have been dispatched separately.

The status dispatched applies to orders that have been validated and approved as per software manufacturers requirements. Orders are dispatched the following working day. Most customers receive their orders within 3 to 5 working days. However, due to varying factors out of our control, there may be occasions when deliveries are delayed. We are confident that delivery will be made shortly and appreciate your patience.

Should your software not arrive after 21 days from the order date please notify us by email.

If you require any further assistance please do not hesitate to contact us.

Kind regards,

Customer Support Team “

Lets just take a look at what has happened here and the consequences:

  • I place one order for two items and they despatch them separately – the company has doubled its postage costs.
  • Because I was not informed that they were sent separately I became worried.  And  hunted around for the contact number (on their website) and then emailed the support team.  There is just work and concern that I can do without – it is simply a ‘cost’ that the company has put on to me.
  • Software4Students.co.uk incurred costs in dealing with failure demand (demand the company brings upon itself by failing to do right by the customer) because someone in the Customer Support Team had to read my email and then write a response back.

Now look at the email response itself because it is a window into the mind/culture of the company:

  • They have my name and they do not use it to address me even though research shows that your names are dear to us.
  • The email provides only one piece of useful information – that the products have been despatched separately;
  • There are absolutely no commitments on when I will get my order – just vague words around what might happen – and what I can count on them for;
  • It ends with the line that says if your order does not arrive after 21 days then contact us by email.

It is all about the company – about Software4Students.  They simply do not care about me – the customer – and my situation, my needs, my perspective.  Will I continue buying from them?  That depends on what alternatives are open to me and the cost of those alternatives.

Memorybits.co.uk – they make me put in extra work and increase their costs

I placed an order for 4 memory cards (for cameras) and 4 USB flash drives handed over my credit card details including putting in my pin (‘Verified by Visa’) and received a confirmation of my order on Sunday 11th Sept.  So all they had to do was to deliver the goods right?  I thought the same.  The next day I received the following email:

“Dear Customer

We have received your order, unfortunately due to our security procedures we require confirmation of your details before we can dispatch your order.

Please email our verification help desk on sales@memorybits.co.uk to verify your details.

Department opening hours are 09.00 to 17.30 Monday to Friday

Kind Regards

The MemoryBits Customer Service Team”

This email did not create value for me so I sent the following email: “I have received an email from you stating that you need me to confirm my details for security reasons.  Here is the order I placed – please fulfil it or cancel it and refund my money.  Thank you.”  Almost immediately I got an email response back: “Thank you for your email we can confirm that you order is being processed”.  Which left me wondering: “Why did they write the email in the first email?  If there was a genuine security issue then how was it cleared by me writing and telling the company to fulfil the order or refund my money?” Why did they waste my time?  And why did they create work for themselves.

And the next day (Wednesday) I got two emails (received at the same time) confirming that my order had been despatched and was on its way to me via first class post.  The following day, I got the same two emails again which left me wondering what is happening here?  It did not inspire confidence in MemoryBits.

When the order arrived I was expecting to issues a flash drive to each of my children for their schoolwork.  Yet, the tiny package contained only one USB flash drive.  Which left me wondering: “Where is the rest of my order?  And why did they just send me this one flash drive?  Have they made a mistake / misread my order?”  As I had been through the Software4Students experience I decided to check my email confirmation and this is what I found: “Please note that for our own processing reasons, your order may be split into more than one package. If this happens you will not have to pay any additional shipping charges, and you will receive a dispatch email for each package.”

What can we learn here:

  • MemoryBits has a process in place that can and does result in multiple deliveries for a single order – thus increasing picking and postage costs.
  • I suspect it then invites emails and telephone calls from customers wanting to know where the rest of the order is.
  • It fails customer expectations because when we order multiple items – especially small ones – on one order many of us expect to get them in one delivery.
  • Furthermore, multiple deliveries set up multiple failures – what if no-one had been at home?  Then I would have had to make multiple trips to the local post office depot to collect my stuff.
  • You can lose customers by creating work / hassle for your customers – I will not be buying from MemoryBits again.

And finally

One practice I have failed to mention is that of Gratitude – not taking people (and circumstances) for granted.  Let me practice gratitude right now.  I thank you for reading what I write.  I thank you for writing to me and encouraging me to continue writing.  I thank you for educating me.  And I thank you for letting me into your world by commenting on what I write and thus entering into a conversation with me.  I wish you well and look forward to our next conversation.

If 80% of spend is driven by women then is it not time we had a better understanding of women?

If there is one guiding principle behind the customer-centric philosophy it is simply ‘treat different customers differently’.  In my Peppers & Rogers days (some 10 years ago) we used to call it ‘1to1 marketing’ and it was rarely practiced.  Often it became ‘treat different customer segments differently’.  The human race is naturally segmented into male and female and you will have noticed that we are different.  Back in 2010 I listened to Prof. Moira Clarke of the Henley Management Centre spell out that some 80% of spend is made by or influenced by women.  So should we be thinking about, engaging and treating male and female customers differently?

One of the most interesting books I have read in recent years is called ‘Inside Her Pretty Little Head’ by Jane Cunningham & Phillipa Roberts.  Allow me share the highlights of this book that you can use in marketing and customer experience design and employee engagement.

The Six Key Differences

The authors argue that “The ways we react, the ways we behave, the goals that motivate us and the strategies we develop for achieving them can all be illuminated, if not explained, by these deep-rooted and hard-wired tendencies.” So let’s take a brief look at these six differences.

Intellectual function: the female brain is wired in a way that there is a much richer integration between the two sides of the brain. As a result, women tend to get a much richer / fuller / rounded view of the situation at hand because their brain picks up and integrates the subtler aspects such as non-verbal communication, aesthetics and feelings.  Which in turn explains why women are more intuitive and better communicators.

Base reaction: men are wired to respond to external stimuli by acting  whereas women are more likely to react by feeling. This happens outside of conscious awareness – it can be said to be an automatic way of being. The wiring of the brain is such that females experience intense and complex feelings.  Men don’t.  “Biology…protects males from experiencing intense and frequent emotions in order that they can take action when they must….”  This explains why men are less ‘soft’ (insensitive) about people and situations.

Stress response: men and women respond differently to stress. When men become stressed they fight or withdraw whereas women ‘tend and befriend’ one another.  Higher levels of oxytocin (the love hormone) in women induces calm, connections and community.  Men produce testosterone under stress and this triggers a ‘fight-flight’ response characterised by alarm, aggression and individualist behaviour.   “When things became stressful the men went off to different parts of the lab and worked away on their own’; by contrast when things got heavy the women scientists got together, cleaned the lab, and hand a cup of coffee and a chat about it.”

Innate interest: men tend to interested in things (stuff) whereas women tend to be interested in people. “The female tendency is to want to connect, to bond and to understand other people and their motivations.  By contrast, the male tendency is to want to understand things and how they work.

Survival strategy: what are the basic influences that drive men and women?  Men compete with other men to get access to female mates.  Therefore, the male imperative is to compete and win. So the male tendency is to demonstrate strength, see of the competition, climb and dominate the hierarchy.  The female tendency is to cultivate relationships that they can rely on: form bonds, make connections and build community.   Male dominated organisations tend to value self-assertion, separation, independence, control, competition, focus, rationality and analysis.  In contrast, females tend towards inter-dependence, co-operation, receptivity, merging, acceptance, awareness of patterns-wholes-contexts, emotional tone, intuition and synthesis.

Mental preference: men and women understand and process information differently.  “Men understand the world by constructing systems: breaking a thing down into its component parts in order to establish how it works and what underlying principles govern its behaviour.  Women…. understand the world by putting themselves in the shoes of others, feeling what they are feeling and seeing what they are seeing.”  Why is the male brain attracted to deconstructing/reconstructing systems?  Because the understanding of how the system works promises the ‘systemiser’ control.  Women on the other hand are built to understand people by empathizing.  The ‘whole brain’ aspect of the female brain enables women to pick up all the nuances and intuit how others are feeling.  A women is more likely than a man to read the face and figure out how the person is feeling inside.  This systemising:empathy difference has huge implications and explain a lot of male/female behaviour.

So what are the implications of these differences?

Men and women are wired to want different things in life and to have developed different ways (strategies, tactics, techniques) to get them.

Men have a tendency to survive through self-interest, hierarchy, power and competition.  “Ultimately life is about finding ways to win.  This gives men a powerful impulse ….. to do better and be better.”  The authors call this the ‘Achievement Impulse’; the great technology centred achievements and how we live today are a direct result of this male achievement impulse.  In living this achievement impulse men employ the following strategies:

  • Focusing on hard rather than soft measures
  • Creating hierarchies
  • Focus on the headline, not the detail
  • Politics – figuring out and playing the game
  • One upmanship
  • Status symbols that assert position

Women adopt very different strategies because they way that they survive in the world is very different to men.  “Women are driven by the need to create a safe environment in which they, their offspring, and other people on which they depend, feel safe, secure and happy.”  The world is a not an arena where on competes.  It is place where one collaborates to arrive at a place where ‘I win, you win, we win’.  The authors label this the ‘Utopian Impulse’ because women are driven to create a better world for us all.  Here are the strategies that they use in their daily lives:

  • Working for the greater good.  Women have a much stronger sense of right and wrong, of moral order and of justice.  This is a direct result of their tendency and heightened ability to empathise.  Because women survive by building a wide network of relationships they are more conscious of the greater good.  “Women believe that social programmes and issues like education, healthcare, childcare, poverty, joblessness, the environment and world hunger are of primary importance.”
  • Improving physical surroundings.  Women go beyond the functional. They want to create an environment which is pleasing to be in and which is safe and secure.  An environment which is physically and emotionally pleasing and comfortable. This quest is never ending because something can always be improved: women notice the details – all of them.
  • Self-enhancement.  A woman’s identity is shaped by her appearance (her looks) in a way that the ordinary man cannot comprehend.  “… for women, making themselves look better is vitally important and again, it’s a never ending process of continual developement.  Women enjoy shopping.
  • Searching for new answers.  In search of utopia women jump on the bandwagon of the newest / latest fad or fashion.  Anything that can help to create utopia or get closer to it is embraced.
  • Anticipating pitfalls and laying off risk.  Women are risk averse and they consider other people not just themselves.  “While a man may not feel that a bad or boring night in a poor restaurant is a big risk, for a woman it is a source of anxiety. She’s trying to create a utopian night………Anything that risks or undermines the enjoyment of the group must be anticipated and quashed.”
  • Assuming responsibility for everything.  Women take the responsibility for making everything work in their own and their family’s lives including moving house, finding new schools, planning holidays, birthday parties and so forth.  This is hard work, it is never ending and it is exhausting.  There is never enough time to do all that needs to be done.
  • Improving relationships.  “It’s not just the surroundings or themselves women seek to improve.  Their quest for Utopian perfection also extends to wanting to improve their relationships with other people…Think of the fuels that feed relationships: keeping in contact, remembering important moments in another’s life, conversation and communication, sharing confidences.  All these are primarily female activities.”  Also women want to cultivate (grow, enhance) relationships by sharing personal information.  Men simply establish relationships by trading views and opinions – they do not share personal information.  Broadly speaking it is the women that want to put relationship problems right.  It is women that tend to form communities and friendship networks around the stuff that matters to them.

Some questions for you

Is your customer experience design team balanced? Does it have the right blend of people (male, female) on the team?  Do the women have equal say?

Are you differentiating the customer experience?  Are you treating men and women differently?

And finally

I will be drawing out the implications of these difference in more detail in a follow up post.

Why companies are wasting time and money on the Voice of the Customer

I have an issue with the VoC thing

Many large companies are busy tapping into the VoC.  In principle this is a great thing to do because the majority of companies do not have a good enough understanding of their customers.  In practice, I am left feeling that we will see a repeat of the technology centred CRM love fest:  these companies will collectively spend billions, the software companies will get fat and customer satisfaction will stay pretty much the same.   So what is my issue with the VoC thing?

A simplified look at the VoC process and issues

First, let’s take a look at the VoC process:

  • Determine listening posts;
  • Set up listening posts (platforms, tools, people);
  • Collect and consolidate the data;
  • Interpret (make sense of) the data;
  • Sell the interpretation of the data to the various Barons inside the enterprise;
  • Get the Barons to take action in their respective areas; and
  • Monitor/assess the impact on customers (and the business).

If you take a deep look into this you will notice an array of issues:  First, when it comes to surveys how do you know that you are asking the right questions and not ‘leading the witness’?  Second, how do you get access to all the customers that don’t want to complete surveys and make complaints?  Third, how can you be sure that the data you have collected is information and not noise?   Fourth, how do you know that your customer insight team is interpreting the data correctly?  And so on…..

The real issue: VoC can act as a barrier to connecting and empathising with the customers

These issues hide a much more important issue that VoC is a rational solution to an emotional issue.  What do I mean?  The challenge is to get the Baron’s out of their offices and shoes and experience the world  by walking in their customer’s shoes.

Put differently, the challenge is to get the Baron’s to emotionally connect with their customers by experiencing what these customer experience.  And if you accept this  then you will get that VoC programme gives these Baron’s the illusion that they can and do understand customers by reading the reports produced by the customer insight teams.

The problem with this intellectual understanding is that it is purely intellectual.   Intellectual understanding is dangerous because it leaves us thinking we have got it when we have not got it.  What do I mean?

I mean that we have not get it emotionally. That we are not touched, moved, inspired to take action because of having experienced our customer’s lives.  There is a whole body of neuroscience research that shows that the seat of all human action is the emotions and that we can feel/experience what other human beings feel/experience through mirror neurons.  To empathise with our fellow human beings we simply have to connect with them in the context of their day-to-day lives and then let the mirror neurons do the work.

What happens when an industry has no empathy for its customers

Why is that important? Frankly, if the Baron’s cannot or do not empathise with their customers then you end up treating your customers the way that the UK banks treat their customers.  Upon reading this article two paragraphs caught my attention:

“The fine reflects BOS’s serious failure to treat vulnerable customers fairly,” said Tracey McDermott, the acting director of enforcement at the FSA. “The firm’s failure to ensure it had a robust complaint-handling process in place led to a significant number of complaints being rejected when they should have been upheld.”

“We have fallen short of the high standards of service our customers should be able to expect of us and we apologize,” said Ray Milne, the risk director at Bank of Scotland. “We are in the process of contacting affected customers and will pay compensation where it is due.”

It is not hard to treat customers fairly.  The failure to do so by the banks and hide behind platitudes is simply a reflection of the gulf between the Baron’s who make policy and the customers who are impacted by the policy.

How do you cultivate empathy?

Empathy is the route to the human soul and any person who strives to get a meaningful insight into customers lives has to excel at empathy.  So how do you cultivate empathy?  I urge you to watch and listen attentively to the following TED video:   http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/sam_richards_a_radical_experiment_in_empathy.html

Just in case you do not have the time here is a key extract from this presentation:

“Step outside of your tiny little world.

Step inside of the tiny little world of somebody else.

And then do it again, and do it again, and do it again.

And suddenly all of these tiny little worlds they come together in this complex web.

And they build a big complex world.

And suddenly without realizing it

you’re seeing the world differently.

Everything has changed.”

To sum it al up

To exaggerate I would say that an ounce of empathy is worth a mountain of VoC data.  Yet, I do not have fame to my name so I will let one of the worlds renowned business strategists (Kenichi Ohmae) say the final words:

“Personally, I would much rather talk with three homemakers for two hours each on their feelings about, say, washing machines than conduct a 1,000 person survey on the same topic.  I get much better insight and perspective on what customers are really looking for.”