Agile customer experience

M&A or Stress Test your existing business – How to bring businesses together to create value

M&A or Stress Test your existing business – How to bring businesses together to create value

A lot of M&A activity tends to focus on legal and financial aspects but equally important are the operational and commercial elements, as they often show where the businesses can add value / improve efficiency and effectiveness by coming together (integrating) as little or as much as you believe will create value.

We have conducted many of these due diligence activities over the last few years (both face to face and virtually) and whilst our approach is generally the same, our expertise, findings and outputs are all bespoke to the situation. I thought it would be useful to show our approach and the benefits. This approach can also be used to stress test an existing business to help build a strategic plan for improvements or identify opportunities for revenue growth. 

What approach do we take?

  • We start with a kick-off meeting to understand more about the companies involved and objectives – this will help us to decide where / what we want to see and who we want to meet. We also agree the approach and messaging to stakeholders to maintain confidence (if required)
  • We request information (which we walk through also) – this will be adapted dependent on the organisation we are looking at – e.g. is it multi-site, how do they serve customers, how many years have they been operating etc. The request can be extensive for businesses with high volumes of customer contact, operational activities or customer interactions
  • We begin our stakeholder process (remote or on site) – conducting interviews with agreed colleagues from executives to operational leaders to ascertain insights into the proposition, the processes, people and organisational design, and the priorities – we do this in order to gain insights into how the business currently operates, the future strategy and plans and evaluate alignment or differences between peers, or colleagues within the organisation. Often the stakeholder process also includes interviews with clients, prospects, lapsed clients and partners too.
  • We attend sites and sit with colleagues to find out more about the organisation – getting a feel for how an organisation uses its buildings and runs its operations is insightful. We know what to look out for! We also use a question framework with front line colleagues and first line team leaders which supports the stakeholder interview process.

How does the approach add value?

It is important to have an experienced team leading any activity.  We use practitioners, (people who have run/led businesses and functions) and bring specialists in where required to use their more specific skills to review and interpret information and suggest improvements. This could involve workforce planning expertise (where there are contact centres to consider) and commercial contracting expertise (to review contracts commercially as opposed to legally). The team have well-honed skills in questioning and interpretation to get to what we need at pace.

Importantly, Custerian bring together what we see, hear and can evidence through data and insights and then align this to objectives / priorities and create actionable outputs. This adds another dimension that supports integration planning that many may not consider.

The other way we add value is by working closely with other partners such as legal and financial. By partners sharing key thoughts and risks / issues identified and agreeing the impact, you can really help to inform any offer made or for stress testing, ensure financial targets are achievable and then measured appropriately.

How quickly can this be done?

We have developed draft reports within a 3 – 4 week period for medium sized companies. This tends to be a requirement of due diligence activity, as often Letters if Intent (LOI) as issued with a 30-day window. For stress testing it is actually also useful to conduct the work at pace and then continue this into action planning whilst the momentum is there to deliver.

What kinds of things are considered in the approach?

We have delivered outputs incorporating views on many things. Here are just a few:

  • Commercial risks & opportunities
  • Efficiency & effectiveness of operations
  • Colleague engagement
  • Organisational design
  • Transformation capability and opportunities
  • Technology risks, issues and opportunities

We would also outline the priorities and roadmaps to improve and create further value and can even offer additional solution design if required to get the process of improvements and value creation moving!

The Top 4 benefits of our involvement summarised:

  • You get to understand more of the ‘how’ the business operates as opposed to what the financials say
  • You obtain valuable insights from your clients, prospects, and lapsed clients and partners about your proposition, processes, people and priorities
  • You gain a wider perspective from colleagues, a feel for the culture of the organisation(s), where challenges may lie, or opportunities exist to create better aligned organisations – that can be used to inform integration or business improvement planning
  • You gain roadmaps and prioritisation plans for improvement that you can pick up and start to work on now, with your own teams or with some ‘kick start’ support – especially for stress testing

It would be great to hear of any other thoughts you have in relation to this activity and if you would like to chat, please do get in touch via – or


Beverley StagCusterian Outcome Creation Specialist 

Agile customer experience

Changes Done, Well

Change Done, Well

Changes Done Well Custerian

We all experienced (been involved in, or seen) changes that have worked, but often we have seen change done badly (we tend to remember those well) and those are the ones we tend to remember.

Change is a given, a bit like death and taxes, but now the PACE is unprecedented – it’s like a roller coaster of a life time

I often hear people saying well change is a constant, so we just have to embrace it and get on with it, that is certainly true of the last 7 months, however often we are really just adapting to changes that are happening rather than driving it or embracing it.

This is true often in work life and our personal lives. Most people don’t like change, as they want to do what they have always done, it feels safer and so on …. we have all read the book on the ‘emotions’ that people go through during change.

There are a few personality types that thrive on change, but that doesn’t mean they are all great at getting change done well – you have the idea makers (lots of different ideas (scope creep), the planners and updaters (they love excel, to do lists) and the deliverers (who just want to get on and do it, hate all the talk, let’s just crack on).

Leading Significant Change is not for the faint hearted – as you have to be designer, negotiator, counsellor, planner, coach, auditor, communicator, motivator.

Covid created a ‘Burning platform’ – but it doesn’t necessarily mean it was done well.

Recently through discussions with various business leaders I have heard stories about how at the start of Covid there were significant challenges that had to be overcome, quickly and
that the teams: rallied together; were creative; focussed; resilient and got the tasks in hand done with a huge sense of pride.

From setting up homeworking, getting premises changes made, ramping up resources – for those businesses who have thrived (eg. online, distribution, food).

However, some of this now needs to be reviewed, as part of the future operating model not just a ‘temp fix’ – there are conversations about how inefficient or too costly some of these solutions may have been, or that for some it’s not sustainable.

Digital leaders – this put them on a pedestal – this became the only channel or the ‘promoted channel (not always best for the customer) this had a huge step up in focus. Many digital projects fast tracked and delivered from concept to production in a matter of weeks, some of which had been fighting for attention for months, even years.

So why don’t changes get done? Or done well?

In my personal experience, and our teams experience when working with companies whether that be for kick starting an existing change, or a new change there are many reasons as to why change fails from: cultural; leadership; governance; lack of focus; resources; skillsets; inadequate support, too complex, and many more.

However based on a recent poll that I did: 50% said this was due to inadequate change leadership; 25% due to the Purpose and Outcomes not being clear; 17% poor planning, 8% due to lack of engagement or support.

Adapting something should be simple, and often is, little adaptions feel easier. Changing is much more challenging but not impossible – often we make the change impossible

Change should be delivered with PACE, and this is not about the methodology you are using, which could be agile, prince and other methods. Using PACE framework is at the start, throughout and the end of change – ensuring that you have done this with PACE.

So, I will explain a bit more about this.

Custerian 4 P's approach

Purpose – creating a clear sense of why we are doing something – it’s about creating understand (if we understand it, we will get it quicker) – the reasons as to WHY we need to change. What’s the problem / opportunity? What do you want to achieve (objectives/outcomes), how would you describe once you have achieved it (Vision).

Agility – often mistaken for getting on with something quickly. That isn’t what working with agility is about. That would be like saying right we need to run ….. setting off running before you heard the end of the brief ! You still need a clear purpose, the journey of how you are going to get from A to D (depending on the change, this doesn’t always need a detailed line by line plan), break it down into bite sized chunks of time (so in the next 2-3 weeks we need to), and then having the ability to quickly react, adapt and evolve in response to circumstances – which maybe a business need, the effects of part of the change, or user research.

Contribution – three things are important about contribution.

1. Change Lead/Owner – at the outset it is important to define who is the change owner, some companies are calling this a Product Owner – this is the person who is accountable for making the change happen – they are there to who is going to give support, break down the barriers, galvanise the team. They are the Change Lead and Champion, typically there are less than 10% of people in businesses who can fulfil this role – this isn’t the project manager! Someone with a successful track record of delivering change, well.

2. Getting the Right Contribution at the Right Time, so who needs to be in the team? and when ? SME’s, partners, suppliers, who is the change impacting? What are their persona types – how do we get their input & involvement? Identifying some of this at the discovery sessions, and then ensuring you are reviewing this throughout for the weeks ahead.

3. Governance – where do you need to update or get contributions from the wider
business ?

Empowerment – often leaders and teams make the mistake of saying off you go you are empowered to make this change happen, or even worst just assuming the team knows what they can and can’t do.

It is important at the outset to decide what level of empowerment it warrants ?

a. Tame problem/Minor step change – something you can just let people sort it out

b. Wicked problem / new product – lots of collaboration to master the resolution or delivery

c. Critical – to the survival of the business, product line growth – important that someone take the lead and tells the team what they need to do now, next

and then what level of support do the team, members require…


So if you want change done well, remember PACE: Purpose, Agility, Contribution, Empowerment or if you have a struggling change programme or project – in order of priority CPAE ! 

Often an Outside In view can help – to get a fresh set of eyes, a different perspective, not teams who are familiar with your ways of working. 

That is why our clients get in touch with Custerian to work with a clients teams to get the right stuff done, brilliantly !

Customer Engagement customer experience

Custerian Backs Raise Your Hands

Custerian supports Raise Your Hands - Charity

It is hugely important to us here at Custerian, as an SME in the UK, and as a member of Business in the Community, that we continue to support very worthy causes at this extraordinary time.

Small charities transform lives every day. Which is why at Custerian we proudly support Raise Your HandsRaise Your Hands exists to increase the impact of exceptional small charities.

Their work has impact and yet they still struggle for funding so please head over to their website below and see how you too can help out!

Raise Your Hands Charity Website Link

Custerian supports raise your hands
Customer Engagement customer experience

Why Customers (Don’t) Choose You!

Why Customers (Don’t) Choose You!

I recently supported the Awards International CX Awards as a judge for the second time. It’s great to see the ongoing focus on customer experience of the entrants and seeing some of their reactions to Covid impacts. Some of them however stood out more. Those that have truly brought their employees with them and created solutions together.

Recent months have affected us all in different ways from both a business and personal perspective. Habits have changed. I’m shopping more locally but also thinking more about what I need and what I don’t and more consciously trying to keep in touch with friends and family as it’s easy to lose that when there are no gatherings. I for one miss that interaction.

So let’s put this into customer thinking….

Are you in touch with your customers?

Ask yourself the following (honestly):

  • Are you keeping in touch with your customers?
  • In a way that they want you to?
  • About the things they want from you?
  • Are you making it easy for them to get in touch?
  • Ae you monitoring their needs and expectations?
  • Are you considering emotions – how your interaction makes them feel? (Don’t forget this as it’s a key element to engagement)


  • When they contact, is Covid being used as an excuse for long wait times or lower levels of service?

Are there things you instantly think you could do better now you think about it?

Can your own experiences shape your approach to customers?

This is something I feel is a great way to drive improvement. I often think about what I like / don’t about the service I receive and how I would support the improvement given the opportunity…..

Here are some examples of my recent experiences:

  • Car service booking – long wait time to answer with a Covid message being played (many times!) to justify the holding. I sat there thinking – is there a staffing issues, are they trying to save costs, are there really many more calls etc and of course – I could be doing something better!
  • Delivery due between 3&5pm. Changed on the day to between 1&3. That’s fine. Never arrived or attempted & received an email that I’m not in (I was sat in the window!!) and then tracking stated there was a problem (really!!). I then had to contact the retailer – who would accept my query 7 days after the product was due. Trying to find contact details was equally frustrating – anyone would think they did not want me to complain!!!
  • Telecomms company – received an email regarding my package a couple of weeks before renewal. Sent messages prior to renewal date for more information and followed up twice – still no response weeks on!!! If I knew others were better, I would have moved. I have contacted them to offer support!

I don’t know about you, but with some many things on the go – isolation, home schooling, work, entertaining children – I want other things to be easy.

How fast are expectations changing?

So are my expectations greater now than in the past – yes. The leaders in service set our expectations and we expect others to follow – across all sectors.

I’m not asking for same day delivery – I’m asking for the product I want, to be right, to be delivered on time. Or for a services – for my contact response time to be minimal and my query answered first time ideally. That’s not a lot to ask.

Expectations are changing as fast as the leaders are driving them. You only have to look at Amazon this year, accounting for around 47% of retail sales I believe. It’s not the cheapest anymore, but it’s simple, convenient and reliable.

If you’re not doing the basics well, you won’t be chosen.

People don’t want to spend more time than they have to – if it takes too long, they won’t come back – unless they have to. But once they don’t, they will leave.

Meeting or exceeding expectations is the way to retain. So now for the great things I’ve seen over recent weeks – I’ve spent much more time remembering these (key point!)

  • Co-op App – I received a leaflet to ask me to sign up. It was quick and easy and I receive weekly offers to choose from (relevant to me) so I now make savings most time I shop. The other thing I love is that I am reminded to choose a local charity that I will support by shopping at the Co-op. The charity changes and this week I needed to choose again. I feel that shopping locally is helping others locally too.
  • Local Retailers – In my local town, a number of stores have taken to thanking you for shopping with them, every time you visit. Again building your engagement with them. Linked to this I ordered some personalised notebooks for a gift and received a personalised message on the box and inside thanking me also. Nice touch!

So what can we learn from our own experiences?

  • I feel it is the recognition of brands of what we are going through, of being nice, of saying thank you, you’re making a difference of making it easier. We can all do this in some way.
  • Know your customers and their needs and follow their experience with you and think about what you know could be better and make it happen.

I could go on – but I think you get the idea.

Think outside in….

  • follow the journey your customers do, use your own experience to improve theirs
  • find their needs and their frustrations (colleagues can help here),
  • fix what you can now
  • plan for the rest

and you’ll be on the right track

Beverley Stag - Custerian Outcome Creation Specialist

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.