Customer Engagement customer experience

Purpose is the New Digital in Retail

We all need Organic Mango’s from Finca Los Pepones!

Purpose is the new digital in Retail

We all shop and spend our hard-earned cash, so everyone can relate to this, so thanks for opening and having a look, I thought I would share my thoughts on:

  • the changes in consumer behaviours
  • the trends for 2020 and beyond
  • my views on these, and why they matter
  • 5 things to add to your basket

Lounge suits are the new business dress, our lounges are for lunges J

2020 has seen a step change in consumer behaviours, due to convenience or really not having a choice due to restrictions, whether that be food shopping, clothes shopping or choosing a new car.  For some, spending has reduced or been paused due to worries about what the future holds.

For others the last few months has been a time to change: in wardrobes – more ‘comfy’ clothes as we spend our lives on video conferences; new cushions, or adding a few more pictures to make the house look nicer – as we are sick of staring at the same ones every day; and gardens which have been our staycations to replace vacations.  

There are various predictions about what 2020 will look like post the retail peak, with suggestions that the whole of UK retail will be down 4.6% versus 2019, and it will take to 2022 (for most) to recover to 2019 levels.  I am sure this will be a similar picture around the world.  Online has increased (no surprise there) by circa 17%.  

There’s no going back – this shift in our spending and our behaviours won’t revert

It’s become our new norms, some wish it would all go away so we can go back how it was at the start of the year, it won’t, but what is changing is our expectations.  We have experienced those brands that have really stepped up to the mark and given us great shopping experiences, our tolerance is now very low for ‘out of stocks’, ‘poor delivery’, ‘dreadful customer service’– businesses have had enough time to shift the dial, and in fact in the main, it’s the ones that were far behind the curve pre Covid that appear to have gotten worse and still using Covid as the reason for poor standards. 

Quite simply consumers won’t and don’t need to put up, as there is a vast array of choices and brands fighting for our money and I am sure like me, many consumers are really thinking about who and where they are spending the cash and the value it brings.

So what are the shifts? The re-inventions of retail?

According to the recent report published by Deloitte they refer to 3 trends:

  • Sustainability is the new paradigm shift
  • Re-invention of retail
  • Purpose is the new digital

Here’s the link if you want to read more on their report: Deloitte

KMPG has also shared their views and research too with 4 trends which are:

  • Business Models will evolve
  • Purpose to the forefront
  • Rethink the cost of doing business
  • Customer Choice is changing

Here’s the link if you want to read more on their report: KMPG

So, some similar themes between the two reports. 

It’s interesting, as I have reflected on an event that we chaired with a number of retailers over 6 years ago at Fortnum and Masons in London. A fantastic graphic artist sketched some the themes that came out of this – it feels a little bit sometimes like groundhog day, as some of the same themes, issues, trends are still being discussed today – and we can say this, as myself and my co-founder have come from many years working in retail and we have continued to work with many retailers over the last few years.

Retail Customer Experience

Emotionless Brands are simply products/services. This has always been the case, but it is now more important than ever.

So my 5 key things to add to your basket

  1. Everything has a Purpose – work out what yours is and see if that is what you want it to be
  2. Brand without emotion – is a product or service that adds no value to people – so how can you add more emotion?
  3. Think of digital in terms of how it can enable your purpose to reach to people who want it most
  4. Colleagues who deal with your customers (store, contact centres, delivery colleagues) understand most what’s not working, where investment needs to be made – so Listen to them, involve them in designing the changes
  5. Retail isn’t dead – it’s just the Old ways are, big adjustments (fast) matter

I hope you enjoyed this post, to read more go to  – A company founded and run by practitioners to get (the right) stuff done using the experience gained operating at board level in large UK retail, distance shopping, financial services, logistics and service organisations, covering all aspects of the ‘C’ suite remit, from brand /proposition creation, to service model creation/development & operational delivery.

Emotionless Brands are simply products/services. This has always been the case, but it is now more important than ever.

So my 5 key things to add to your basket

  1. Everything has a Purpose – work out what yours is and see if that is what you want it to be
  2. Brand without emotion – is a product or service that adds no value to people – so how can you add more emotion?
  3. Think of digital in terms of how it can enable your purpose to reach to people who want it most
  4. Colleagues who deal with your customers (store, contact centres, delivery colleagues) understand most what’s not working, where investment needs to be made – so Listen to them, involve them in designing the changes
  5. Retail isn’t dead – it’s just the Old ways are, big adjustments (fast) matter

I hope you enjoyed this post, to read more go to  – A company founded and run by practitioners to get (the right) stuff done using the experience gained operating at board level in large UK retail, distance shopping, financial services, logistics and service organisations, covering all aspects of the ‘C’ suite remit, from brand /proposition creation, to service model creation/development & operational delivery.

Nicola Collister

Nicola Collister – Co Founder of Custerian. Passionate about getting the right stuff done, through practical strategies and outcomes for the good of customers, colleagues and business. Creating alignment between purpose and outcomes through people. From a travel clerk to executive positions in FTSE 100 businesses. Now working with businesses who want to Transform for Good.

Customer Engagement customer experience

Messy Processes – Messy Customer Experiences?

Messy Processes – Messy Customer Experiences?

I am sure you have heard more than once in your life as a customer, in your businesses, or a reply from a colleague: “Sorry, it is against our policy” or “It is against regulations”.  How is it against regulations when others are doing it? No, it is just an easy escape from feeling you offer bad customer experiences. How many companies actually mix bad internal processes with regulations or policies? Quite a few I’m sure!

Hopefully, that isn’t the case in your company. It is actually easy to test. Find out how many times your clients hear phrases like “I’m sorry, our system doesn’t allow us to do that.” Or “It doesn’t work like that. The way our process works is ……” or “the system is telling me that….”. Those are clear indicators of messy processes leading to messy customer experiences.

And why would you care? Certainly not because more clients would spend more money in your business if those processes were functioning better? Or if your existing clients give you 60-70% higher profitability than the new ones? There is a ton of research now that shows this ‘value’ yet why are more businesses reacting faster to the changes needed? The latest UKCSI report published in July this year shows that overall customer satisfaction is the same as 12 months ago, but now 1.2 points lower that 2 years ago! In a world where digital is at the forefront, it is a lot easier to change the way we operate, and with the recent pandemic, there could be a burning platform that allows you to galvanise the changes needed.


I’m sure you find those as very good reasons to start aligning your organisation’s processes to customer experiences. It will actually increase your revenue; it is as simple as that. Removing waste from a lean perspective is great, removing it from a customer perspective can be remarkable.

Too many companies have “inside-out” focus, that is focusing on themselves instead of “outside-in” focus which is about putting the customer at the centre of everything. Journey mapping is one of the practical ways of putting customers in the centre.

So, what should you do?

Most companies can start from the basics. That is to map out all the relevant customer journeys, possibly by customer type. You can’t fix something you don’t understand first. Having a journey of what is going on makes it easier to plan the desired future state, that will respond to customer needs better. That leads to a second point, which is using the customer journey to see where the biggest pain points are – for people (customers and colleagues) and the business, and the opportunities for improvement, or innovation.  Then you can define how you want the future to look and build a roadmap to get there.


Your customer experiences are outcomes of your internal processes. Messy processes will lead to messy experiences, often for both customers and your colleagues. To fix your experiences, you have to fix your processes through the eyes of the customer – and that will take a much more customer-centric approach than traditional process methods may offer you (Lean, Six Sigma, BPM, etc.).

Here are some reflective questions you can use to evaluate your current situation:

  • Do you have a clear understanding of your different customer types & their needs? This is often referred to as Personas
  • Have you ever mapped their customer journeys? If yes, are they up to date? Are you using them to understand how they produce successful customer outcomes? And making it as easy as possible to interact with you?
  • Do you have a prioritisation model or framework to assess what will make the most difference, as you and your teams won’t be able to do everything at once!
  • Based on the priorities, do you have a plan in place, with clear activities, timescales, resource and the right governance to ensure that progress is made and activities are delivered?

It can help to get an outside in view – Many businesses get someone to help hold the mirror up to messy processes and less than perfect experiences. It’s important to ensure that you get a health check on your ‘Operational Fitness’ to deliver great experiences.


Custerian are expert practitioners having done this for lots of different companies across multiple sectors, often helping embed different tools, frameworks and skillsets into internal teams to continue on the journey of improvement.   Want to simply have chat or know more contact us on 01925 607060 or drop us an email at

By Beverley Stagg - Outcome Creation Specialist

Customer Engagement customer experience

Successfully engage customers and realise 50% higher productivity

Successfully engage customers and realise 50% higher productivity

Successfully engage customers and realise 50% higher productivity

I’m hearing lots about customer expectations & how they’re changing. According to a recent report, companies that successfully engage their B2B customers realise 63% lower customer attrition. They also achieve a 55% higher share of wallet, and 50% higher productivity.*


So how do you align operations to changing customer expectations? In this article I consider:

  • Why expectations are changing
  • How this could impact / what you should think about
  • How your operations may need to change
  • What you should measure to get to the right priorities

Customer Expectations are increasing

An ever-growing challenge that isn’t going to subside, is that we are always switched on & connected. At least 60% of UK adults use more than 2 devices with 87% of us using a smartphone*. We therefore have much easier access to organisations if things go wrong.

Equally, new and emerging consumer technologies continue to become a core part of our lives (I sit here typing this on my Mac with phone and laptop close by & iPad downstairs. They are accessible to all ages for a variety of different needs and are easy to use, with great product design (that isn’t just apple products, a lot of consumer electronics now meet this human need).

Along with next day delivery, (now even same day delivery), for virtually anything becoming part of our shopping habits, are we just becoming intolerant of poor product and service design?

What is a day in the life of an ever-typical customer – more so now…

So if we can check our smart phone 350 times a day, find out ‘near time’ information about: what our friends ate for dinner; how a family members birthday celebration went (as we couldn’t attend); and what a random person we met at a conference a while ago thinks about everything. We can at the same time: book our holidays / staycations from our phones; order dinner to be delivered from a local restaurant; purchase an electronic item through ‘click and collect’ for collection at a supermarket; and download a book that other people highly recommended. All whilst travelling if you need to!

Is this becoming more typical of your customers too?

We are now even more used to online shopping / apps since that has been our main way to purchase over recent weeks / months –  is it any wonder that our service expectations are increasing?

We no longer tolerate stuff that’s not personal or relevant. We get far too many e-mails that we’re quick to hit the “Delete” button or even unsubscribe if we can be bothered to go through that process. So how do we almost stop that deleting or ignoring of things and make it feel real for customers?

We naturally work across multiple channels. I find myself watching TV whilst texting and doing a little bit of retail therapy on my iPad. We are fast becoming anytime, anyplace, anything. How do we deliver that ‘martini service’ for all our customers out there?

We know far more about customers, they are quite willing in most cases to give us information about themselves, you can determine more a more about their persona from their social media footprint. Tailoring services or messages based on this drives engagement. 

So how does this impact how you operate?

The aim for organisations should be to maximise revenue through engaged colleagues and customers. In order to achieve this, we need to understand them. If we do this, we can align what we do best with what customers want most through our people.

Once you know what customers and colleagues want and the issues they face, you can work to improve your processes and ways of working and importantly, measure your effectiveness. It isn’t just about what you do, it’s how you do it.

Finally, you should look at how technology can make it easier for colleagues and customers to deliver and receive the service. There is still a relatively low level of digital automation being used and so cost benefits are not being fully realised.

What does the research say?


The mean cost per inbound transaction by channel was shown to be: Phone (£4.53); Email (£3.89); Web chat (£3.39); Social Media (£3.18). For emails, it is therefore the case that if the query is not answered satisfactorily within a single response, the time and cost associated with multiple replies and possibly phone calls is soon greater than if the customer had simply called in the first instance.**

We can see that customers want to use different channels at different times and after all, we are all different – you won’t win by driving customers to one cheaper channel.

There can be strong patterns for contact based on age, but it does also depend on the nature of the contact, whether emotional, urgent or complex. Urgent queries will for example drive self-serve attempts – to get an answer quickly. For a product which customers really wanted to receive and had been delivered but was incorrect, the most popular option was to email the organisation (46%), with the second most popular (19%), was phoning the contact centre.**

What should you measure?

Based on research and experience, you need to measure use of channels based on contact types, look at time to achieve an outcome, also did all the people who started a process in a certain channel complete it?  If not, why? If they are dropping out or aborting, where and why – have you tried this process yourself, have your customer service colleagues tried it, as an internal test?  and look for opportunities to improve efficiency and effectiveness of how you serve customers.  There may one or two channels that would be better for a customer to use and it may mean you really do need to speak with them. 

Depending on your organisation this may involve a whole scale change to your operating model, or a focus on the areas of the business where customers are served.

A final thought…

As the green cross code used to say:

STOP – take a pause & think about your purpose and how you’re doing in delivering it

LOOK – at your measures and what they’re saying

LISTEN – to your customers and colleagues (outside in and inside out)

Then start your planning to achieve an effective, seamless service that works for all your people.


Beverley Stag

Custerian Outcome Creation Specialist


*Statista, March 2020

** Contact Babel: The Inner Circle Guide to Contact Centre Remote Working Solutions, 2020

By Beverley Stagg - Outcome Creation Specialist

Customer Engagement customer experience

Customer Experience or Customer Engagement – what’s the difference and how do you truly engage?

Customer Experience or Customer Engagement – what’s the difference and how do you truly engage?

Customer experience is traditionally focussed on flexing what you do to meet customer expectations. Achieving a great customer experience and maintaining it, needs ongoing focus and visibility of:

  • Strong employee engagement with customer vision & strategy embedded into the DNA of the company
  • Multi-channel consistency
  • Always ‘Easy’ to do business with (for the customer and colleagues)
  • Fixes customers’ mistakes easily, often proactively
  • Continuous improvement culture with closed feedback loops, always looking to improve
  • Brand promise delivered every time
  • Wow moments where relevant

Customer engagement, which Custerian have been talking about for years, is about matching what you do best to what a customer wants most. Matching purpose with outcomes.

We actually talk about People Engagement, people being customers, colleagues, suppliers.

People engagement starts with a clear business purpose that everything can be aligned to. You need to have a strong view of what your purpose is, and this is something many companies struggle with. Customer experience focusses on the outcomes – process and priorities.

You need to create this alignment between purpose and outcomes through people.

  • People – they need to understand the purpose and how they can contribute in a way that allows them to feel good/great.
  • Proposition – why should people deal with you rather than another organisation?
  • Process – do you work as efficiently and effectively as possible to deliver what you do best to your customers?
  • Priorities – do you relentlessly focus on creating a great experience for customers and colleagues?

Colleagues play a massive part in customer engagement. More companies are starting to recognise this and are thinking about ways in which they can drive further engagement here.

Here are some tips to start you thinking about colleague engagement:

  • Clarity – this is about translating the purpose so that it makes sense to everyone in the organisation – this may be done through your strategy, plans, values etc.
  • Relevance – build the level of trust through regular communication, consistently re-enforcing messages.
  • Value – showing the value of your colleagues – gaining opinions and developing your organisation through them.
  • Meaning – this goes beyond your organisation – many people want to give back through communities and create relationships with customers in a different way – this makes people feel good – about themselves and their organisation.

So, let’s get onto what customers want in order to create that alignment and in turn, engage them. People just want to know something and want life to be more simple, life is too much in the fast lane.

In recent dealings with customers, they were very clear. In a service delivery organisation where things do go wrong for customers (and they expect it can happen), then they ideally want to be contacted pro-actively but if not, want it to be easy to make contact in a way that suits them, and then they want their expectations managed. Do what you say, and they will be happy with that. If you actually go above and beyond, such as the pro-active contact, then they will recommend you to others.

We heard some other great examples of brands that were achieving this engagement by offering discounts automatically based on spend (that weren’t expected) or by their amazing returns/exchange policies. These companies now have loyal customers.

So, we have brands/organisations telling us about their products and services and we have customers that want a need to be met easily, through their channel of choice. So, what brings the two together? Data!

We have more data than ever before, and brands use this to their advantage. GDPR regulations have, however, thrown a spanner in the works somewhat – we as customers, now have more control over our personal information and can ask for our data to be removed! We’re all so quick to remove Apps that we haven’t used in a while or unsubscribe from annoying communications.

A lot of businesses really don’t know their customers habits. Have you thought about personas for your company and how these could help to drive your strategy? Get your colleagues involved in creating them – it’s a fun thing to do and really gets you thinking about how you need to treat people differently. Knowing your customers allows you to prioritise developments – where to automate and reduce customer effort. As customers we’re becoming increasing capable of serving ourselves – if this is an option for us to use (and we want to) and then it’s quick and easy, we’re happy. One point here – we do need to be reassured that our transaction has been successful!

Technology is moving fast, and we need to stay close and use the developments to our advantage. Adobe released survey data in July 2019 that found 48% of consumers are using voice for general web searches. With 87% of people in the UK using a smart phone*, we need to consider such growth in our contact strategies as our expectations as customers are increasing and quickly.

Hopefully I’ve got you thinking… as we look forward, what are the things you need to plan for and do to operate more effectively and really engage customers? Now is the time to start the planning and then perhaps this time next year any impacts of Christmas, winter or any peak season won’t quite hit as hard and more customers will be raving about your organisation!

*Statista, March 20202

By Beverley Stagg - Outcome Creation Specialist


The Ultimate Burning Platform – How did you do?

The Ultimate Burning Platform – How did you do?

Let me start this article by saying that it should be read in the context of business impact as a result of the global pandemic. Many of us have had to deal with it at a personal level and for far too many the consequence has been awful. Here I am reflecting on it in our work lives only.

How we react to difficult situations is dependent on a lot of factors, not least of which is level of preparedness. But despite the sudden nature of this event, many have achieved remarkable things in a very short space of time, whilst others have floundered. This is what I’d like to explore here.

How do some make good decisions and others do not?

For me it starts with clarity of purpose. For many, COVID created a very clear and collective need to dramatically alter how we worked.

Getting anything right takes time?

So we like principles such as Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point because it resonates with us.

The feeling that nothing worth having comes easily, and even the most gifted have had to work hard (10+ years) to get a top quartile result. It just makes sense…. does it not?

Now that leads to a thought which I have been having a ponder on, which is – what sits at the heart of people who excel Vs those that don’t – besides 10 years of effort, and I think it is to do with Volume & Risk.

Those that do well have a clear goal (Purpose – be the world’s fastest/best) and work towards it in a series of small steps that allow for reflection, refinement and adjustment.

Custerian Model | Better Decision Making

Essentially, in my view, the way to get things done, is to do things. And today that means operating top right of this model. Making short iterative steps (using Agile New Ways of Working) to create and inform as you go.

But making decisions is risky?

I suspect that people who excel, do a lot more things than those that don’t. But I think there is another consideration other than volume, which is they are perceptive on the risk they are taking.

Now we know those that excel are capable of taking bold decisions. But I think this is also a function of the fact that they simply make more decisions, so have a better sense of what works, and what does not.

Of course, if they get it wrong, they simply iterate again.

So, we all just need to make more decisions?

The model above is underpinned by a couple of pre-conditions that affect the context (and again it is often the context we operate in that makes or breaks an outcome).

Risk Vs Volume – Historically there have been very good reasons to keep decision making ‘contained’ and that is because the consequence of getting it wrong was high. Either though the cost that was incurred, or the scale of effort involved in backing out. But that’s changing, due, in part to a fundamental shift in IT…

Business Vs Consumer Power – This is about how fast things were expected to change, and again historically business could move faster than consumers requirements, so expectations across a broad range of services could be set and met by the supplier. Clearly this has, and is changing dramatically – from business to consumer…

A thought for you – Do more ‘stuff’

So, my opening premise is that people who achieve things, do so by making more decisions, which creates an innate feel for backing more winners than losers (plus as they make more decisions they get better at ‘big’ decision making, because they don’t appear as big!).

Even better, it’s getting easier

Look around the various ‘insight’ streams that we all subscribe to, and you will see a growth in things like Agile Thinking. Articles like this one by Ryan Holmes of Hootsuite, which prompted me to write this. Thoughts from Elon Musk about using First Principles to challenge preconceptions about how things are done.

What these all say, to me, is that the relative ‘risk’ of any decision is falling, so you can make more as long as you adopt the right (new) ways of Agile/Accelerated working – Now please note all my thinking is prefaced with the statement that to be in business you need a clear Purpose, against which customers and colleagues can align themselves to deliver your commercial goals.

More importantly, because Customers are becoming more Socially/Technically’ empowered, you do need to pick up the pace of activity, or else you may find yourself playing catch up with the (customer driven) ever changing face of your own business.

It can’t be that easy. Can it?

Just because something is simple, does not make it easy. So please don’t think I am advocating that business is getting easier (believe me – it does not feel it). But what I do feel is that a number of things are lining up which mean the ‘context’ for meeting the challenge of change is less risky than it used to be.
Perhaps the biggest single driver of this lowered risk profile, is the movement of technology from inhibitor to enabler as I will discuss in another blog!

By Simon Norie - Co-Founder & Empathy Creation Specialist
Data led Board level Brand marketeer. Passionate about aligning Colleagues to a common purpose they can contribute too.


I want to make changes.. but they keep asking for a cost benefit case!

I want to make changes.. but they keep asking for a cost benefit case!

Can’t we just do what our customers want us to do?

Can’t we just do what our customers want us to do?

We get this comment a lot when it comes to putting change in. The “they have said I need a cost benefit case – surely they should just know we need to do this?” cry for help.

In todays world of agile, aligned ways of working, where billion £ businesses are created virtually overnight, you might think we would come out in support of a position that says:
If it’s aligned to Customer needs, then you should just do it.

But we don’t and that is because doing a cost benefit (or business case, or return on investment etc) has a lot of merit.

Here are a few reasons:

1. It encourages cross functional working – no bad thing for creating alignment between a brand and its customers through its colleagues – a big driver of Brand Empathy & Customer Loyalty.

2. You should know what it ‘costs to serve’ your brand to your customers. How else can you focus your efforts correctly on doing things that add value to the customer?

3. The basic tenant of all business is simple – create something at a cost of Y, sell it at a price of X. As long as the amount you spend on ‘selling’ your product is less than X minus Y, then you’re making money.

And finally it has another major bonus – The plans you have for change are significantly more likely to get approved because most of us work in businesses where the final arbiter for approval is ROI (Return On Investment).

As with many things, it’s not about if you should do something or not, it’s about how.

So how do you go about building a cost benefit case?

So a bit like our thin strategy approach (keep it clear, customer centric, emotionally engaging & with a clear financial outcome), we have a view on cost benefits. You should be able to quickly access the cost, and therefore the benefit of any changes you wish to make, on an ongoing basis. It should be a core part of your decision making process.

Here are some tips on how to do this:

1. Involve your finance team – especially anyone who has a title such as Cost Accountant. Finance are all about helping business make sensible decisions – especially improving the
X- Y equation stuff.

2. Create a high-level view of the major steps involved in ‘selling’ your product (or service) to the customer. It helps to do this as an internal Process Map and not a Customer Journey map initially.

3. This Process Map will usually involve actions within discrete areas of the business and will be focussed on hand over points. A good way of doing it is a quick huddle with your peers to work out the input/output, handovers and metrics.

4. Once you have got the high level process & metrics, the finance team can look at the cost incurred in each stage. There is usually more to this than taking the departmental budget and dividing it by the ‘product’ volume. But often, it is that simple.

5. Now you will have a high level map of the ‘process’ your business goes though to sell its product or service. You will also have the steps, metrics and cost – in short you have a Cost To Serve Model that details the process, measurement & cost for getting from X to Y.

Is it really that easy?

In short… yes. But as with most things in business, what can be an easy thing to outline in 5 steps, proves a bit more difficult in real life. Usually because a lot of informal internal process builds up to protect functional budgets.
But don’t be distracted and again this is where Finance come in. They have a cross functional remit, so they can help look across functions and ensure the end result has credibility.

But how does this help build a benefits case?

Once you have a Cost To Serve Model (specifically the metrics by process step aligned to the cost), you can used it to test the outcomes of different ways of doing things.

The biggest gain you can get to quickly using this approach is to look at the true cost/impact of failure. This can be both the downstream (perhaps a logistic failure) or upstream (bad service experience) impact of getting something wrong. Because you can see how much cost you have wasted, or how much you are going to have to expend rectifying it.

And guess what, the same peer group that helped create the cost to serve model, will almost certainly know what could be done to flex the model to improve it. More than that, you will be able to look at what the ripple though effect is of changes in one area on others.

Even better. This team, who will have a business wide view of the process used to ‘sell’ your products to your customers, can also then use Customer Experience methods to identify what areas of the process should be looked at to create even greater benefit – but that is not for now.

Surely this is too simplistic a view of things

I understand that thought. But equally I have worked for a lot of very large companies, in both the service and product sectors and my general experience is this:

  • Sophisticated modelling – when it exists – is deep at a functional process level. Business has tended to develop a lot of ways of working (for what used to be and can still be, good reasons) that are functionally orientated.
  • Business wide modelling – when it exists is remote from the main business and done as part of a directorate level strategic planning process, so may not filter far enough down a business.

My view is few companies have a got a workable view on their cost to serve model at a level of visibility and understanding that means the colleagues working in the business day in day out, can make a significant impact.

It is also worth saying that even at this high level, you need to maintain a rigour over the metrics and costs that are being used. The old adage of rubbish in, rubbish out, is always true and high level does not mean lots of ‘best guess’ variables will be ok.

But getting your Cost To Serve Model into this format, means the people who can make the biggest difference every day, have the means to do so.

By Simon Norie - Co-Founder & Empathy Creation Specialist
Data led Board level Brand marketeer. Passionate about aligning Colleagues to a common purpose they can contribute too.


An Agile Approach To Change

An Agile Approach To Change

Can you really use technology as focal point to drive rapid  business wide change?

Can you really use technology as focal point to drive rapid business wide change?

Increasingly we are using new technology aligned to an agile development and user centric development pathway to create incubator solutions that develop from need, to paper concept, to live system in a matter of weeks – In fact we have created a 30 Day Plan for this because it is entirely possible to do it that fast.

However first it is worth setting a bit of context. Especially as most peoples first reaction is “you can’t create a live solution in 30 days”. However I will say we have previously done so now for 2 utility companies, a logistics business and one of the UK’s largest retailers.

Let me be clear. Change delivery is a function of hard work & detail. But the start is simple

We adopt a pretty simple model to change. This is because whilst driving change is a very complicated, involving and detailed activity, the actual components of it are not. Now this quick blog is not about our whole change approach, but in a nutshell you need to:

  • Be very clear about what you do better than your competitors (and what commercial value you are looking for. This is usually your Purpose/Proposition & Marketing/Business Plan
  • Engage all of your Colleagues in your brand in a way that allows them to contribute to it and feel good about themselves whilst doing so
  • Ensure all of your internal processes & procedures support your Colleagues in delivering the brand to your Customers
  • Make it a priority focus on, and continually refine how easy you make it for customers to get at the things you do best, that they want most and drive the greatest value

The trick of course is to do this whilst breaking down not only the horizontal silo’s, but the vertical barriers that most business put in place to de-risk & control decision making.

The role of ‘Agility’ in change

I have written previously about agility and on change. The main thing you need to remember is it really is best only to do agile change once you have a clear Purpose and Marketing/Business plan. This informs the direction of travel for any agile activity.

Once you have this ‘Agile’ becomes a very powerful way of working as it creates momentum in Colleagues against a common purpose, and this can transform a business in a very short amount of time – again easy to say, but hard to do and the devil really is in the detail.

For me ‘Agile’ is NOT an IT/IS approach. What it is, is a collaborative, iterative, visible and outcome focussed way of working that enables you to de-risk (provided you cover the steps above) any change programme because you are harnessing the greatest asset your business has, your colleagues, within a framework that focusses the change on the things that deliver greatest business value. 

Using technology as part of an Agile approach – A 30 Day Plan
If you want to unpick the implications of things like: Cloud; Big Data; Web Services Architecture; App Driven Development; .Net Code. Then simply adopt the following as a generic approach and you will not go far wrong:

What used to be very expensive and high risk to deliver single application solutions that took years to create, can now be used as part of a highly Agile – “Don’t Tell – Show” approach, which is a good thing, because technology drives more than 85% of all off business activities.

So what is holding us back?

Oddly quite often it is IT/IS. This is because whilst business capability can and does change quickly, culture does not and this is because people, not capability, create the business culture. This is why we often see ‘disrupter’ businesses as a generational thing, when in fact it is simply a function of education.

In IT/IS terms, it is like not updating your operating system. Just think how fast you’d become out of date if you did not update your Microsoft or Mac operating system (Ok it can get irritating updating every 3 months). You would soon be out of date.

Giving your Colleagues an update

We have come across this on nearly all of the engagements we have had since we founded Custerian. It is why I think we have developed specific skills in this area.

It is why we use technology and various service design principles, all under the umbrella of agile change, to help our Clients to move about talking about new CRM applications or Warehouse systems or multichannel cross platform solutions.

What we always find is Colleagues who, whilst initially hesitant (ok sometimes resistant) soon warm to the fact that rather than spend weeks ploughing through requirements specifications for something that will have changed by the time it is developed. They can quickly create a paper prototype of the application, which can then be developed in a ‘Live’ application within days and then put back into user testing and use.

What does ‘Live’ Mean?

Just for clarity Live in this context often means that the application being created is done so using real data, is integrated with internal systems and data sets, is operating in a fully resilient data.

architecture/systems and can therefore be sent live if desired once the testing is finished.

Or put even more simply. Rather than talk to you about how a system requirement can be met. You can look at it and test it in the real world to see if you want it or not.

We would like to share Our 30 Day Plan

We have set out our 30 Day approach and you can download it by giving us your email HERE.

This is an approach we have developed and used and it can take 30 days. The reason it will take longer is down to the culture shock that it creates internally. However this is a shock worth having as increasingly we are finding that internal functions are specifying end point solutions without involving their IT/IS function.

This is a function of the fact that a lot of these teams sit in areas that have a more external face and as such are exposed to constant Customer (& often board level demands) to increase the speed and capability against an app technologically enabled world.

They are desperate to move the discussion and capability along and our 30 Day Agile approach facilitates this.

By Simon Norie - Co-Founder & Empathy Creation Specialist
Data led Board level Brand marketeer. Passionate about aligning Colleagues to a common purpose they can contribute too. LinkedIN

Agile agile business align business intelligence customer experience empowerment engage new ways of working operating model proposition thoughts value

Agile – But where are the people?

Agile - But where are the people?

Agile working has been talked about for years but now, the conversation moves to virtual agile working and how you can make this effective. 

Agile working has been talked about for years but now, the conversation moves to virtual agile working and how you can make this effective. The team at Nimble have provided their thoughts on this at: We have also been practicing far more virtually than in the past an have honed our processes accordingly.

We are big advocates of working with Agility, almost as much as we are fans of getting the most done, with the least amount of effort. Creating great outcomes by liberating the people potential contained in all business, within a very commercially orientated framework. So as you might imagine I have a view on this debate.

A view does not mean I think I am right by the way. A view is a way of looking at something… I just thought i’d say that before getting to the meat of this post… which is many of these things sort of miss the point for me.

It’s not the methodology. It’s the people

One of our meme’s is “In this increasingly virtualised world – It’s people that  make (and will continue to do so) the biggest difference”. I introduce this as the Agile Vs Prince – which may or may not encompass Waterfall etc – debate often seems to exist in a process vacuum and therefore misses the things that for me define the very essence of a successful project or not.

Leadership style


Before you look at which project method to adopt, consider what the leadership style (which by the way will define the culture – it always flows top down) is. There are two simple camps on this, and this has also been done to death by a lot of people, but you really should consider the following:

– Purpose driven – Is the business driven by a common, widely understood (this is different from agree with by the way) sense of what the business exists to do, that people feel able to contribute to and understand their role in creating value for Customers, Colleagues & other stakeholders. People here come to work because they feel they make a difference. 

– Process driven – Is the business focussed on how things are done, with people having an understanding of what their specific role is and are measured and rewarded on the basis of delivering tasks that they, and the teams they are accountable for, need to get done. People here come to work to move things along.

I don’t really have a strong view on which is better of the above in terms of achieving outcomes, and in effect most business’ don’t present in such a black and white manner. I do however know which I prefer to work in.

What I would absolutely say is one of these requires less management effort (which means cost by the way) and is in my business experience more likely to create sustainable value over time. It does this because it is built on emotional engagement and as I said at the head of this an emotionally engaged team can move mountains. I will leave you to work out which one it is.


In my humble option Context (capital ‘C’ of course – I used to run a Direct Marketing Agency, what can I say – type as you speak!) is more important that talent, insight and process for creating correct outcomes. Again though this has been done to death by a lot of others, which of course may not mean we take heed of it.

But here are two factors that again get missed by many in the which approach wins debate (either, neither, or any combination being the real answer of course). Again I think these should be understood with crystal clarity before you ascribe any approach:

Technology – Put very simply the cost and consequence of any change – which of course will involve technology as almost everything does – has fallen though the floor and is continuing to do so at an accelerated pace. Business used to be quite rightly very risk averse as you were often banking the business future when making service/operating model changes. That is very often not the case today. Interestingly though it is mostly people capability that holds this one back – Legacy Systems = Legacy Mind/Skillset.

Enviromental – When you look at how business is being done today, it is at a crossroads, with the internal ways of working increasingly looking at odds with the widely connected, personalised and increasingly ‘try, keep, dispose’ culture. The important it here is not that people who have been in work for a while need to change. It’s bit about the fundamental shift that new (and not so new) work entrants are bringing with them. For them it’s not a change. It’s how they expect things to be.

Final thought

I remember sitting in a board meeting when I was working in Home Shopping (subsequently re-invented as on-line, then e-commerce and now morphing into Digital first) and presenting about the potential impact of a new retailer called ZARA (yep.. that long ago). We were talking about how the pace of things were changing – Zara had 4 week lead times, ours were 18 months – and that we needed to adapt or die.

So perhaps the question is not what methodology, but do you understand the leadership style and the current context you will be delivering in.

What ever you decide the one thing that is absolutely certain is if you don’t approach change with agility, then there is a high chance you will not adapt in time and the business could die.

By Simon Norie - Co-Founder & Empathy Creation Specialist
Data led Board level Brand marketeer. Passionate about aligning Colleagues to a common purpose they can contribute too. LinkedIN