Time to Hit Refresh on Customer and Employee Experience Design Efforts?

What Matters And Is Missing In Those Who Are Working On Improving The Customer/Employee Experience?

I’ve worked with folks working on improving/transforming the Customer Experience.  I’ve also worked with folks working on improving/transforming the Employee Experience. In the process, I have come across personas, customer journeys, voice of the customer surveys, design thinking, service design, process mapping…. Yes, I have come across plenty of stuff.  Yet, I say that I have not come across that which gives life to the work of designing/orchestrating experiences that touch human lives as lived.

What is it that I am pointing at?  Let’s listen to Satya Nadella talk in his book Hit Refresh:

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Richard didn’t give me an engineering problem to solve on the whiteboard or a complex coding scenario to talk through. He didn’t grill me on my prior experiences or educational pedigree. He had one simple question.

“Imagine you see a baby laying in the street, and the baby is crying. What do you do?” he asked.

“You call 911,” I replied without much forethought.

Richard walked me out of his office, put his arm around me and said, “You need some empathy, man. If a baby is laying on the street crying, pick up the baby.”

Yes, that sums it up well.  Most of the folks that I have encountered are intelligent like Nadella and have about the same emotional intelligence (empathy) as he had when this event occurred many years ago.

How Important Is Empathy in Experience Design?

Great design necessarily has to be human centred as only human beings can appreciate the presence/absence of great design.  Is any kind of empathy sufficient?  Or is a particular kind of empathy necessary?  Lets listen to the folks at IDEO:

Human-centered design is all about building a deep empathy with the people you’re designing for…..

In the Inspiration Phase you’ll learn directly from the people you’re designing for as you immerse yourself in their lives and come to deeply understand their needs..

Notice, that IDEO folks speak of “deep empathy” – the kind of empathy that arises only after one has spent enough time immersed in their lives.  It is that immersion (living in the arena in which life occurs) that leads to the deep understanding of their needs.

Yet, time after time I see folks ‘study’ their target (customer, employee) from a safe distance (sitting in the stands) through a variety of means – surveys, focus groups, interviews. Then use their intellect to come up with personas, journeys etc.  All intellect, zero empathy.

Can you just take these ‘intellectuals’ and turn them into empaths with some classroom training?  Or maybe an empathy app.  Is it this simple?

The Right Kind of Life Experiences Are Essential To The Presence of Empathy

I say that suffering is essential to empathy.  It is my own (personal) suffering in the arena of cancer that has led me to accept a request from a friend to reach out and talk with her friends father who is dying of liver cancer.  How about Satya Nadella?

I discovered Buddha did not set out to found a world religion. He set out to understand why one suffers. I learned that only through living life’s ups and downs you can develop empathy….

It’s just that life’s experience has helped me build a growing sense of empathy for an ever widening circle of people. I have empathy for people with disabilities. I have empathy for people trying to make a living from the inner cities and the Rust Belt to the developing countries …. I have empathy for small business owners working to succeed. I have empathy for any person targeted with violence and hate because of the color of his or hers skin, what they believe, or who they love.

My passion is to put empathy at the centre of everything I pursue – from products we launch, to the new markets we enter, to the employees, customers, and partners we work with.

So how did an ‘intellectual’ like Nadella turn into such an empath.  The clue is in the line “It’s just that life’s experiences …”  Is there a particular life experience that was the turning point?

Little did I know then how profoundly our lives would change. Over the course of the next couple of years we learned more about the damage caused by utero-asphyxiation, and how Zain would require a wheelchair and be reliant on us because of sever cerebral palsy. I was devastated.

Something awful like this happens. It brings your world to a halt and suddenly you ooze with empathy.  Right?  Not necessarily. Let’s listen to Nadella:

I was devastated. But mostly I was sad for how things turned out for me and Anu.  Thankfully, Anu helped me understand that it was not about what happened to me. it was about deeply understanding what had happened to Zain, and developing empathy for his pain and his circumstances while accepting our responsibility as his parents.

What Are The Implications For Your Customer/Employee Experience Efforts?

Empathy is central.

Yet, time after time, I come across Experience ‘teams’ full of Nadella’s – intelligent, hardworking, and self-centred.  Folks who treated everything an engineering (process, technology) problem. These folks even when they think/speak ‘walking in the shoes of the customer/employee’ are doing nothing of the kind. Mostly they are projecting themselves (their mindset) into the shoes of their customers/employees.  Worse, these folks are blind to this – so blind that when someone like me points this out it simply does not show up on their radar.

What’s missing is the Anu’s of this world – people who naturally feel/think and show up/operate in terms of the needs/suffering of the other – fellow human being.

Until the Nadella’s are teamed up with the Anu’s of this world, and listen – really listen, most of the experience design/improvement efforts will yield little of value.

Enough for today. I thank you for your listening and wish you the very best. Until the next time…

Maz Signature

What’s The Impact of a Shitty Employee Experience on the Customer Experience?

Can you deliver a good-to-great customer experience without paying attention to the employee experience?  If you forget theory and look at the practice in large organisations you might just see that the answer is a resounding “Yes!”  There is so much talk about the customer experience and in the process a lot of extra work is put on to the shoulders of the employees. There is almost zero attention to the employee experience. Almost nobody that matters grapple seriously with improving the lives/experience of the employees who face the customers. Especially not the folks in call-centres.

I say that if you provide your call-centre agents with a shitty employee experience then the costs (of this shitty experience) are inevitably passed on to the customers. First the customer experiences a lack in the interaction with the call-centre agent: something just doesn’t feel right. Second, the customer is left with an inadequate outcome whether s/he is aware of this or not: the question isn’t really answered; the advice given is less than optimal; or the advice is plain wrong.

Let me say this again: fine sounding words like customer focus, respect, empathy, customer-centricity, customer delight are not enough. On their own they represent icing on a turd.  I go further and assert this: if you recruit the right people and get the employee experience right then your customer facing agents will deliver good-to-great customer experiences without the need for the fine sounding words.

What happens when you have an environment in which the fine sounding words are in place and the call-centre agent experience is shitty?  Allow me share some experience:

  • The agent is aware that time it ticking and his performance is being monitored so he is keen to get on with the call and close it;
  • The agent is so busy navigating / accessing / viewing / updating many applications (that do not talk to one another) including spreadsheets and Word documents that s/he is not in the state necessary to really listen to the customer, to empathise, to make the customer feel valued;
  • The agent is dealing with a complex issue – which is what customers tend to ring in for increasingly – and he doesn’t know the answer. Under the pressure of the clock the agent finds the first plausible answer and gives this to the customer;
  • The agent is speaking jargon whether he s/he knows it or not. The agent is speaking to a sixteen year old who does not get the jargon. This sixteen year old asks for clarification on some of the jargon. The agent explains this jargon with more jargon all the time his/her tone implies that the customer is stupid;
  • This customer, this call, requires flexibility yet the agent is being monitored and managed on his/her ability to stick to the script. So that agent sacrifices the customer experience and his sense of what is appropriate in order do that which is clearly not appropriate – stick to the script. The customer pays the price in that s/he feels that s/he is talking with an idiot and dealing with an inhuman organisation.

Let me sum it up: If you provide your customer facing employees with a shitty employee experience then the best you can expect these folks to deliver is shitty-to-ordinary customer experience.  And no amount of find sounding words will make any difference. These fine sounding words are as effective as putting cream on a turd and serving it in a restaurant.  Nobody does this in the restaurant business, but this practice is common in large organisations.

Enough for today, I thank you for your listening. Until the next time….

State Of CX 2015 – Nunwood’s UK Analysis: What Are the Key ‘Findings’ (Part 1)

It’s the time of the year where I share my take on the latest CX research published by Nunwood. Worth pointing out that Nunwood has been acquired by KPMG so is now KPMG-Nunwood. Back to the research titled: A New Era of Experience Branding. You can download this by going to the KPMG-Nunwood website.

Today, I went to kick of this series of conversations by sharing what I consider to be the key ‘findings’  (conclusions and/or assertions) that come out in the research paper published by KPMG-Nunwood.  In no particular order, these are:

The UK is being outperformed particularly by the USA:

Our US report showed that the leading US firms are some five years ahead of the UK. The average US consumer is 10 times more likely to have an excellent experience than UK counterparts.

UK, as a whole, has made scant progress over the last two years:

This year’s analysis is a story of “diamonds in the rough”: shining examples of best practice surrounded by mediocrity.  The great customer experience project is failing for many organisations….the overall score remains static for the second year in succession.

No silver bullet that leads to CX transformation:

… there is no silver bullet, no single idea that will lead to transformation.

UK firms are failing because they are not doing the right things in the right order:

… much of the lacklustre performance in the 2015 UK results is due to the premature focus on rich, complex experiences at the expense of business basics…… It requires a progressive approach which, in NPS terms, deals with the causes of detraction first, before attending to the drivers of promotion

CX excellence is more of a marathon than a sprint:

Mistakenly, many UK brands promise to be ‘best in class’ within challenging timescales, damaging their internal and external credibility. Much like training for a marathon, the most effective focus should be on….

No substitute for a controlling idea that animates the whole organisation:

At the very centre of the most successful customer experiences lies an idea….. so powerful and motivating that it infuses and energises all it touches.

A controlling ideas is different to a brand idea because it shapes the mind-set of the whole organisation, not just the marketing and sales teams.

Our research shows that the keepers of the flame have to be the CEO and the executive team.

Employees matter, they are the gateway to CX excellence:

The employee experience precedes the customer experience. Culture, engagement and enablement all play a vital role.  The great organisations start with these factors first.

Organisations which aspire to be CX leaders must master omni-channel:

.. the US corporates have a largely different approach to the adoption of digital technologies. In the US, it is simply an extension of the business model – an additional way to engage with the customer – in an integrated ecosystem with the customer at the centre. In the UK, by contrast, digital…. seen … as a separate line of sight to the customer, a different channel with different products, prices, and costs.

The next conversation in this series will be about the five customer experience themes (trends) that KPMG-Nunwood consider to be key.  Until then I wish you the very best and thanks for listening.

2014 State of Customer Experience: Who Are UK’s 2014 Leaders And What Can We Learn From Them? (Part 2)

In this post I continue the conversation I started in the last post. The focus of this conversation is the customer experience themes that Nunwood call attention to in their 2014 UK Analysis Report.

What Are The Primary Customer Experience Themes?

I shared one of these customer experience themes with you in the last one. So let’s start on that one and flesh it out.

1. Employees Come First, Customers Come Second

Let’s start this theme with a few paragraphs from the Nunwood report (bolding mine):

These excellent companies realise that value is created commercially and reputationally at the interface between the employee and customer – and it really does happen in that order…… So it is no accident that members of the top 10 also feature highly in the Sunday Times best places to work survey. 

As such, the management lesson for brands aspiring to join the top 10 is clear: those responsible for the employee experience need to be fundamental and genuine partners in building customer experiences. Internal values, behavioural frameworks, competencies, training plans and recruitment principles are fundamental determinants of CX success. 

 

I find myself in full agreement with that which Nunwood articulate. And I acknowledge Nunwood for talking straight and pointing out the Achille’s Heel of just about every Customer initiative (strategy, CX, CRM, customer service) that I have been involved in since 1999.  It continues to be an Achilles Heel because there is no listening for the soft stuff, the human stuff, and certainly not for treating employees right.  That which Nunwood is pointing out has been pointed out before. It even has a name: Service-Profit chain. 

If this is the challenge then what is the ‘solution’ that Nunwood proposes? Let’s listen (bolding mine):

…. HR are seen as playing a role in implementing some customer journeys, but are not genuine partners in the overall strategy. Putting in place a progressive customer governance, which unites marketing, operational and HR professionals, is an important consideration ….

Is that enough? Is it enough just to get the marketing, HR operational folks and let them cook up customer and employee experience excellence? No. Why not? Because technology plays such a critical part. Technology enables or constrains, it facilitates or hinders, it can liberate or enslave. So this is what Nunwood says (bolding mine):

… the CIO will also have representation in this group – as systems and technologies become a vital determinant of the kind of employee and customer experiences that these brands are seeking to forge.

2. The CX Champions Benchmark Themselves Against The Best Organisations In The World

Industries can be meaningful ways of looking at the business world. And  looking at and across the players in a particular bucket, category, can be a useful exercise – if you are financial analyst or the like.  When it comes to excellence in Customer Experience staying in these artificial silos is limiting. Why? Let’s listen to Nunwood (bolding mine):

…. experienced, well-informed consumers have expectations that are no longer industry-specific. A consumer’s experience with Amazon or Appliances Online resets their expectations for all digital experiences. The same for the purchase experience in Lush – for all retail experiences…… the excellent companies are simply following their customers in expanding their field of vision to discover what great looks like and then building that into the experiences they create, fuelling a constant cycle of setting and resetting expectations.

In Which Domains Are The CX Champions Shaping-Setting-Resonating With Customer Expectations?

1. Standing For Something Meaningful and Facilitating Values Based Buying

In an age where ‘God is dead’, an age of nihilism, an age where one can buy just about everything, what is it that many yearn for and cannot be bought? Meaning.  Let’s listen to Nunwood (bolding mine):

Lush and before it Body Shop, are indicative of a shift toward value based buying. The increased expectation that, not only are the products and services great, but they also bring with them some form of attached meaning. Consumers buy into what the firm stands for as much as its products.

Reading that paragraph, I find myself reminded by Simon Sinek. He has been saying pretty much the same thing for a couple of years. And using Apple to illustrate this thought.  If you haven’t watched his TED talk then I urge you to do so.

Just in case you think that meaning and values are only for the likes of Lush or the Body Shop then Nunwood has this ‘warning’ for you (bolding mine):

Marks & Spencers Plan A still strongly resonates with customers, as does the Waitrose green token that apportions local charitable giving. Conversely, Amazon’s reputational issues manifest itself in a slightly weakening …. customer experience. In 2014, customer’s expect ethics as standard. 

2. Ease Through Seamless Omni-Channel Integration

I prefer to do business with those organisations which make it easy for me to do business with them. Turns out my wife and children are very much like me. In fact, I have yet to come across anyone who will admit to preferring doing business with the folks that make it really hard to do business with them.  Here’s what Nunwood says (bolding mine):

John Lewis has set the benchmark for online retailing. Customers are empowered to purchase how they want, in the way that they want – without being pushed to low cost channels. First Direct works seamlessly across online and telephony, as does Appliances Online.

Here, it occurs to me that it is worth pointing out that First Direct is No 1 on the 2014 list of CX Champions. John Lewis is No 2. And Appliances Online is a new entrant at No 6. So making it easy for customers to do business with you through an integrated omni-channel experience makes some impact with/on customers.

3. Making It Easy For Customer To Quench Their Thirst For Useful Information

I have gotten so much into conducting some due diligence before buying that it has become an automatic reflex. Looks like there are many like me. Here is Nunwood again (bolding mine):

…. pre-purchase research has become its own form of entertainment as consumers educate themselves and each other. Amazon has led the way in equipping customers with a vast database of reviews, but Appliances Online has gone one step further, publishing reviews of its performance online, as have FirstDirect. 

If I had to sum all of this up I’d sum it up as follows:

  • Stand for something meaningful – that which resonates with you and your customers;
  • Provide solid products and services and ensure that you pass the Ronseal test;

  • Make it easy for your customers to do business with you by providing them with honest-useful information (that helps them in their buying decisions) and by ‘integrating your people-process-technology’ so as to provide an effortless omni-channel customer experience.

Enough for today. Let’s pick up this conversation in the next post where I propose to focus on highlighting some key features of the 2014 CX Champions.  I wish you a great weekend and thanks for listening.

Mazism 2: It Comes Down To People And Relationships!

This conversation follows on from an earlier conversation: Mazism 1: There Is Always A Price, It Is Always Paid.  

What lies at the source of organisational effectiveness? Is is strategic planning in the guise of strategy?  Is it process standardisation / reengineering in its many disguises?  Is it restructuring the business, offshoring and outsourcing?  Is it about embracing and making good use of the latest information technology?  Is it about embracing the latest management fashion: customer-centricity, customer experience, digital business?  Is it leadership? Or organisational learning?

After 25+ years spent engaged in the challenge of improving organisational effectiveness and business performance, I am clear that the access to organisational effectiveness and superior performance does not lie in any of these domains. Why?  Because they do not get to the heart of the matter: of what is actually so about organisational life and the game of business.  What is so?

I am clear that organisational effectiveness (team, function, business unit, corporate) comes down to the people and their relationships with one another.  By ‘relationships’ I mean the communicating-relating that has occurred and is occurring between people.  If the job of ‘leaders’ is to cultivate organisational effectiveness then it occurs to me that leadership involves-requires a focus on people and relationships. I invite you to read-consider the following passage (bolding is my work):

The lone warrior myth of leadership is a sure route to heroic suicide. Though you may feel alone at times with either creative ideas  or the burden of final decision-making authority, psychological attachments to operating solo will get you into trouble. You need partners. Nobody is smart enough or fast enough to engage alone with the political complexity of an organisation or community when it is facing and reacting to an adaptive challenge. 

Relating to people is central to leading and staying alive. If are you are not naturally a political person, then find partners who have that ability to be intensely conscious  of the importance of relationships in getting challenging work done. Let them help you develop allies. Then, beyond developing your base of support, let them help you relate to your opposition, those people who feel that they have the most to lose with your initiative. You need to stay close to them to know what they are thinking and feeling, and to demonstrate that you are aware of their difficulty. Moreover, your efforts to gain trust must extend beyond your allies and opposition, to those folks who are uncommitted. You will have to find appropriate ways to own your piece of the mess and acknowledge the risks and losses people may have to sustain. Sometimes you can demonstrate your awareness by modelling the risk or the loss itself…..

Ronald A. Heifetz and Marty Linksy, Leadership On The Line

Time after time I have witnessed promising ‘strategies’ and plans come to nothing during the implementation phase because those leading change have been blind to the importance of people and relationships – during the strategy development phase, the implementation phase, and/or the post implementation phase.  

I say look at any effective organisation (team department, business unit, corporate, society) and you will find healthy communicating-relating occurring between the people who collectively constitute that organisation. And healthy communicating-relating occurring between members of that organisation and the people who they interact with in the broader environment in which that organisation organises and executes its work.

I continue to be amazed that some Tops and Middles want to work on improving customer relationships and the Customer Experience. Why? Because they and their organisations have little appreciation-consideration-feeling for the quality of communicating-relating that is occurring in the organisation. And no lived experience nor appreciation of the the Employee Experience: whether on the front line or the back office.