Change Only Works When…..

The shift towards an authentic customer-centred orientation is a huge shift for just about every large organisation.  That means organisational change. At the heart of all effective organisational change lies effective communication.  Effective communication is radically different, I say distinct, from what passes for communication in the workplace.

If you are going to make the kind of organisational shifts that are necessary to cultivate customer relationships, call forth the best from your employees, and excel at the customer experience game, then I advise you to listen to the wise words of Danny Meyer, in his book Setting The Table:

Communication is at the root of all business strengths and weaknesses. When things go wrong and employees become upset ….. nine times out of ten the justifiable complaint is, “We need to communicate more effectively.” I admit that for many years, I didn’t really know what this meant……… I thought I was a pretty good communicator, but then it dawned on me: communicating has as much to do with the context as it does content. ……. Understanding who need to know what, when people need to know it, and why, and then presenting that information in an entirely comprehensible way is a sine qua non of great leadership…..

People who aren’t alerted in advance about a decision that will affect them may become angry and hurt. They’re confused, out of the loop; they feel as though they’ve been knocked off their lily pads.  When team members complain about poor communication, they’re essentially saying, “You did not give me advance warning or input about that decision you made. By the time I learned about it, the decision had already happened to me, and I was unprepared.” Team members will generally go with the flow and be willing to hop over ripples, as long as they know in advance that you are going to toss the rock, when you’ll be tossing it, how big it is, and – mostly – why you are choosing to toss it in the first place. The key is to anticipate the ripple effects of any decision before you implement it, gauging whom it will affect, and to what degree. Poor communication is generally not a matter of miscommunication. More often, it involves taking away people’s feelings of control. Change works only when people believe it is happening for them, not to them.  And there’s not much in between…..

At Your Service and With My Love

This is personal post and a philosophical one. If you consider yourself a hard-headed business type focussed on the bottom line, nothing but the bottom line, then I suggest that you stop reading now.  If you are open minded then it is possible that this post will find a listening in you.  Let’s start.

Shopping with my mother

My mother is elderly.  She finds it hard to get up, she finds it hard to move about, she finds it exhausting to go up  stairs, she has to be careful coming down the stairs…. She needs help buying the weekly groceries.

This week, I was with my mother for a day and took her on her weekly shop to her favourite grocery store. Whilst there, I had to put patience into the game. Let her walk slowly, let her take her time.  Some of the products were to low for her so I bent down picked them up and let her touch them to see if they were good enough for her.  Her eyesight is not that good and she struggled to read the prices. So I read out the prices for her.

I also found myself protecting her. How exactly? There were many people in this small supermarket and they were in their own worlds: busy focussing on their tasks, rushing by, and oblivious to the needs of an old lady.  More than once I stood between my mother and someone’s trolley or brisk – shoving – walk.  Finally, we got to the cashiers till and stood in line.

An old man struggles with his shopping

There was an elderly man in front of us. His hand-held shopping basket was full. He found it hard to carry so he placed it on the floor while he waited for his turn. When his turn came  he bent down and started taking one item at a time from the basket and putting it on the conveyor belt. Just watching him I got his situation. I felt for him as one human being for another fellow human being.

So I walked up to him, looked him in the face, smiled and said “Allow me to help you with this!” Then I picked up his basket from the floor and placed the contents on the conveyor belt.  The old gentleman had a huge smile on his face whilst saying “Thank you!” Someone standing in the queue, came up to me and said “It’s great of you to help out this old man. This just does not happen anymore.”  I replied, “Thank you. I was brought up to help those who can do with help.  This is my mum, she’s the one that bought me up that way.”

Now here is what gets me: the cashier saw the old man’s struggle and did nothing; many others standing around queuing saw the old man’s struggle and did nothing.  Where is our humanity?  Have we disconnected from our empathy – our natural way of being?  Have we locked up our natural compassion and thrown away the key? Is all our talk about service, experience, relationship simply empty talk?

Some questions to consider about business, about our lives

I have a deeper questions for you, me, us.  What are our lives about?  What are our businesses about?  What are our organisations about?  What is our society about?  Is selfishness, greed, and money-making the best that we can aspire to?  Is “profit maximisation” the most noble purpose that we can aspire to? Is that how we want ourselves and our age to be remembered?

If business, if Customer Experience, is merely the pursuit of profit maximization then count me out.  I am not inspired by that game.  And, I doubt that many people in your organisation are inspired by that game. How many people do you know that get up in the morning fired up by the idea of filling the pocket of nameless-faceless shareholders with gold?

I yearn to live a noble life: to make a contribution; to generate connection and touch lives; to contribute to co-creating a world that shows up as a kinder world – a world that works for all.  How about you?  Are you happy with a life, a tombstone, that reads “Here lies X s/he did a great job of maximising profits for shareholders.”

If you find yourself called to life a noble life, like the one that I have described then I’d love to hear from you, to know you better, to connect with you, to work with you if that is a possibility.

At your service and with my love

Maz

(e: maz@maziqbal.com)

Transcend The Process Mindset To Excel At The Customer Experience Game

Before I launch into this post, I want you to know that once upon time I was deeply immersed in business process design and business process re-engineering. I was process mapping in the late 80s before process mapping became a huge hit and became expert at it in the 90s.

You cannot excel at the Customer Experience game with a process mindset

I say process thinking occurs at one level of consciousness. I say the process mindset fixes one’s consciousness at the functional level: the level of work. Which means that the process mindset become permeated by mechanical/activity thinking and fixated with throughput, time taken, speed, cost, and efficiency.

What happens when the process mindset has infected the organisation?  My experience is that the process mindset drives out humanity and all that goes with human beings: empathy, flexibility, creativity, adaptability, responsiveness to the unique human being, the unique situation.

What happens when you take process people and get them working on the Customer Experience?  They inevitably focus on optimising the process: throughput, speed, efficiency, and standardisation. In such an organisation quality becomes adherence to the process/script/standard.  What gets missed is that if you are playing the customer relationship-customer experience game then quality can only be measured in terms of quality of connection with the customer.

I say that if you want to excel at the game of Customer Experience then you have to transcend the process mindset.  Why? I say that there is one level of consciousness associated with the process mindset. And another, different level associated with Customer Experience. Think in terms of an elevator that stops at different floors of consciousness. On one floor is the process mindset and all that goes with it. The Customer Experience mindset is on a different floor. You cannot be at both floors at the same time.

You object, you say that they are similar.  To which I say that rugby and soccer do have similarities and yet are distinct games. And what makes for a winning combination in soccer does not make for a winning combination in rugby.

Example: from ‘Registrations’ to ‘Welcome to TelcoX’

Can you make dramatic improvements in the Customer Experience without changing the people, without doing lean to business processes, without changing the IT systems?  Yes, you can.  How? By operating from Customer Experience consciousness. Allow me to give you an example.

One of my friends, a Customer Experience professional, told me this story. His organisation was helping a telco to improve the customer’s experience at the very start of the customer journey: when the customer signs-up and has to be registered on the various systems so that he can use his mobile phone.  What was the name of the team doing this work?  Registrations.  Makes perfect sense if you come from a process mindset.  From a process mindset the job to be done is the job of registering the customer on the system.

What happens when you look at the world from a Customer Experience consciousness?  You end up renaming the team Welcome to TelcoX (I am not at liberty to name the telco).  Notice the difference?  Stop and really notice the difference in emotional tone.  Do you notice that Registrations is flat, devoid of emotion, generates a focus on the task?  Do you notice that Welcome to TelcoX generates emotion?  I bet you can even notice a difference between “Welcome to TelcoX” and “Welcome to TelcoX!”

“Welcome to TelcoX” is rich with meaning, with guidance, it orients attitude and calls forth a certain kind of behaviour whilst ruling out another class of behaviour.  Do you notice that it taps into a human stereotype of welcoming guests to our home? What do we do when we welcome guests to our home? Do we simply register them? Let them in and hand them a drink?  Or do we make sure we connect with them, show the right emotion, offer them a drink, get them a drink, introduce them to a guest they are likely to enjoy talking to, make sure they are comfortable. And then go and greet the next guest?

What else happens when you operate from this frame, the human frame of relationship?  You ask yourself what is the equivalent in the telco world of welcoming your guests and getting them to the emotional state where they are comfortable at your home or party.  This led to the folks at this telco realising that the end point of their interaction with the customer was not an account registered on the system. No, the end point was a happy customer who was up and running using his phone.  This meant bringing additional work steps in the Welcome to TelcoX team; steps that had until then been in another team; steps that had caused problems for customers and driven customers to call in and getting them addressed.

By transcending the process mindset and operating at this human-empathic-storytelling level of consciousness, customer satisfaction rose, employee engagement rose, and the telco saved money by not having to take calls from dissatisfied customers ringing up to say that they could not use their phone. And asking for help. Notice, the telco did not have to undertake a culture change programme.

Summing Up

I say that one of the biggest hurdles to excellence in the game of Customer Experience is the process mindset which is endemic in large organisation. I say that it is a big mistake to hand over the Customer Experience to folks who are gripped through and through by the process mindset. I say that if you want to excel at the game of Customer Experience then you have to involve and listen to people who excel at the human game: the people who excel at empathy and have sound business sense.

Is This The Fundamental Quality of Effective Leadership?

“I am not a human resource; I’m a human being.”

It occurs to me that there is no outside without an inside. It occurs to me that there is no hot without cold. It occurs to me that there is no high without low.

You might be wondering what my point is. My point is that there is no customer experience without an employee experience.  My point is that it is futile to strive for engagement with customers without striving to engage employees. My point is that it is pointless to strive for access to the Voice of the Customer and disregard the Voice of the Employee.

A couple of quotes that Bruce Temkin shared in his latest post, speak to me.  Quotes on the critical importance of treating employees as human beings. And engaging them in a worthy purpose. First, is a quote from a young worker. I say this quote goes to the heart of the matter when it comes to employee engagement and organisational effectiveness. Here is what this young worker says:

…give employees a voice… create a place where people want to shine… I’m not a human resource; I’m a human being.

It occurs to me that business is run as if it is manufacturing operation, or a game of chess. What is forgotten is that human beings are not chess pieces nor widgets. Human beings are conscious. Human beings are amazing With this exquisite complexity come complex needs.   And these needs go beyond mere survival and power over others.  These needs include a powerful need to have a voice, to be listened to, to matter, to be involved in something noble/worthy of a human life.

Does the prevailing management need to change?

What does Bruce Temkin have to say? He says that the prevailing approach to management must change.  Here are his words:

Rather than imposing layers of strict controls over employees in an attempt to ensure financial success, companies need to engage employees and reap the benefits. While this may seem like a subtle difference, it leads to a profoundly different approach to management—from controlling to leading.  Employees aren’t a fungible commodity that you burn through on the way to success, they are your critical assets.

A leadership parable

After 25 years in business, I am struck by this, in our organisations we pay little or no real attention to what really matters, what drives organisational effectiveness, what generates workability and enables high performance, what really makes the world wonderful for us.  I say the key quality of effective leadership is to listen for, hear, and act on what really matters.  Allow me to share this leadership parable with you, it was provided by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgine back in the 1990s.

The Sound of the Forest

Back in the third century A.D., the King Ts’ao sent his son, Prince T’ai, to the temple to study under the great master Pan Ku. Because Prince T’ai was to succeed his father as king, Pan Ku was to teach the boy the basics of being a good ruler. When the prince arrived at the temple, the master sent him alone to the Ming-Li Forest. After one year, the prince was to return to the temple to describe the sound of the forest.

When Prince T’ai returned, Pan Ku asked the boy to describe all that he could hear. “Master,” replied the prince, “I could hear the cuckoos sing, the leaves rustle, the hummingbirds hum, the crickets chirp, the grass blow, the bees buzz, and the wind whisper and holler.” When the prince had finished, the master told him to go back to the forest to listen to what more he could hear. The prince was puzzled by the master’s request. Had he not discerned every sound already?

For days and nights on end, the young prince sat alone in the forest listening. But he heard no sounds other than those he had already heard. Then one morning, as the prince sat silently beneath the trees, he started to discern faint sounds unlike those he had ever heard before. The more acutely he listened, the clearer the sounds became. The feeling of enlightenment enveloped the boy. “These must be the sounds the master wished me to discern,” he reflected.

When Prince T’ai returned to the temple, the master asked him what more he had heard. “Master,” responded the prince reverently, “when I listened most closely, I could hear the unheard—the sound of flowers opening, the sound of the sun warming the earth, and the sound of the grass drinking the morning dew.” The master nodded approvingly. “To hear the unheard,” remarked Pan Ku, “is a necessary discipline to be a good ruler. For only when a ruler has learned to listen closely to the people’s hearts, hearing their feelings uncommunicated, pains unexpressed, and complaints not spoken of, can he hope to inspire confidence in his people, understand when something is wrong, and meet the true needs of his citizens. The demise of states comes when leaders listen only to superficial words and do not penetrate deeply into the souls of the people to hear their true opinions, feelings, and desires.”

And finally

I leave you with this quote from Herb Kelleher, founder of Southwest Airlines, a quote that Bruce Temkin shares in his post:

“If you create an environment where the people truly participate, you don’t need control. They know what needs to be done and they do it. And the more that people will devote themselves to your cause on a voluntary basis, a willing basis, the fewer hierarchies and control mechanisms you need.”

It occurs to me that this quote and the leadership parable point at the true nature of what constitutes a social orientation in business.  Social as in co-operating with one another, to get our human needs met, and co-creating a world that works for us all. What do you say?

 

What Is There To Be Loyal To?

It was my birthday recently and during the course of it I got birthday cards.  I want to share one that I got from one of my sons:

To Papa

I wish you a happy birthday. Love you lots and thank you for all the things you have done for me over the years especially taking me back and forward to college.

Thank you for being a great, caring and loving papa.

As I read this card I got present to the “…especially taking me back and forward to college.”  Why is it this matters so much to him?  Why is it that this leaves him feeling cared for and loved?

To make sense of this it is worth pointing out that my son is responsible for getting himself to college and back home.  Most of the time (90%+) this works out great.  And there are times it does not.  There are times that the bus does not turn up on time. He rings me and if I can do so then I drop everything and take him to college. There are times when there is simply is not enough time to get from college to work.  When this is likely to occur he asks me if I would be willing to collect him from college and drop him off at his place of work. And, when I am working from home, I say yes and help him out.  There is the odd occasion he gets up late and asks me to take him to college and I take him to college and start the day 15 minutes later than I had planned.

This got me thinking about business and customer loyalty.  What is it that businesses do to cultivate customer loyalty?  What is it that businesses do beyond ‘business as usual’ to generate goodwill with their customers?  Where do business go the extra mile when it matters to the customer?

I want to share with you with this assertion by Matt Watkinson in his book The Ten Principles Behind Great Customer Experiences:

Customers churn between suppliers to find the best deal, not because we are all extremely price sensitive, but because there is nothing to be loyal to.

Let’s look beyond customers and consider employees and ask the same question.  What is that businesses do to cultivate employee engagement and loyalty?  Where and in what ways do businesses go the extra mile to enrich the lives of their employees? What is it that businesses do to generate goodwill with their employees?

I say let’s not stop here. Let’s look further and consider suppliers and ask the same question.

As I reflect on the question of loyalty and ask what is the equivalent of “…especially taking me back and forward to college.” I find no compelling answers. Yes, there are a handful of businesses that come to mind. And, they are only a handful.