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People – The Bit That Customer Experience Misses

People - The Bit That Customer Experience Misses

Customers & Colleagues Are….. People

So what I am talking about here is the growth of purpose led, or the need for emotional engagement in, brands/products/services etc…. which should be:

  1. Of absolutely no surprise to anyone
  2. A really great basic for us all to grasp

Most people come to work for, and like to buy from, organisations that they feel represent and/or enhance something they feel intrinsically represents themselves (or in reality the best version of themselves).

So in this article what I am going to explore are some of the things you might want to consider. As with many of my postings/musings much of this has been about for a while and I can be a bit contrary about about it being presented as ‘exciting and new’.

However the bit that perhaps I have not really paid due consideration to is the fact that until only recently most people have not had the remit, capability or permission to stray outside of their functional silo, but if ‘digital’ is doing one thing… it is exposing those that do not adopt a true Outside In view of creating and delivering their brand.

And that leads me to what is wrong with (philosophically & practically) Customer Experience.. it should be People Experience.

Before We Get Started

Straight out of the box I just want to get this clear:

By People Experience I am NOT talking about the bit HR are increasingly doing. I AM talking about the bit Customer Experience, in my view, gets wrong. Wrong in the context of only considering one stakeholder’s needs when trying to create an enduring business in a competitive marketplace.

I do have a lot of time for CX. In fact, our Co-Founder Nicola Collister was the first UK top 100 CX Main Board Director more than 10 years ago. But for us CX thinking is fundamentally flawed, which is why we pioneered People Experience. NOT as a methodology – we are far too interested in creating outcomes for that – but as a mindset and approach to getting and maintaining competitive advantage.

The Only Goal That Matters

To succeed in a competitive marketplace, and to be honest provide a more enjoyable place to work, you need to:

Provide an emotionally compelling reason for people to ‘deal’ with you in preference to a competitor.

You do this by working out what you do best (your proposition), that ‘your’ customers want most, and then delivering it as consistently, efficiently & effectively as possible. It’s a 360 degree all stakeholder thing… not just a customer thing…

Context Is King – Or a Camel will only beat a Horse in a desert

Before I do share my thin thinking one-word strategy approach, a bit of context.

We ask the CEO’s we come across – honestly you can talk to them, after all they are People just like you and me – how much time they spend on strategy, and the usual answer is not much. 

They are universally more focussed on the delivery of strategy and looking for accountable ways of ‘directing’ the business to do so, than they are in creating new strategies!

I say this up front as I do not want to denigrate strategy, just put it into context. Oh, and as an aside, if you are spending ages on your strategy (time & money), you most likely don’t have a compelling Proposition you believe in. Or you are engaged in vast amounts of political infighting between siloed business functions Vs delivering stuff your customers want.

A Good Place To Start 

The reason why a step to considering your Colleagues and Customers as People (as long as you then go onto recognise how they might behave differently in certain context – hence why you create ‘Persona’s) is because ‘People Buy From People Like Themselves’. 

Also, every single transaction we have as humans irrespective of a physical product changing hands, is a purchase/exchange – “I’ll do something for you, if you do something for me”.

And they make this judgement based on something often referred to as intuition, which can be better articulated as – I’m likely to feel better (or worse) about myself by dealing with this person/company.

Fig 1 Why People Buy – Or Talk to – Or Socialise With – Certain People

And just for absolute clarity if anyone states you can trust them… Do please start looking for the small print. Trust is earned by one party and bestowed by the other. It’s not a value that can be stated.

So Emotion Is Present In All Transactions – So It’s A Given?

Here is the odd bit. Many companies find emotion at work a really hard thing to allow though the door. I suspect most associate it with either conflict (something often associated with change – and unavoidable + necessary by the way). Or woolly rubbish best left to Marketing and their overcharging agencies.

But if you are going to leverage the next big differentiator which is your Colleagues – don’t forget they are people – then you are going to have to spend significantly more time and effort of understanding how they can feel a lot better about themselves by coming to work.

The Easy Bit

Luckily identifying this is very easy to do. It’s the execution bit that gets hard because we exist in a ‘doing loads of stuff differently all the time‘ culture and most executives are penalised for finding new and exciting and engaging ways of doing the same things differently – you know, like promoting the core values in ways all employees can understand and contribute to so that they can help the managers & directors deliver exceptional service intuitively to the Customers, who spend more, for longer, so driving shareholder value.

Fig 2 People Centric Change

So simply put, the emotion that ‘People’ should be engaging with comes from your Business purpose via your Proposition. And the engine house of emotional engagement are your Values.

The reason it’s easier than you think to get at these, even if like most you are sceptical, and/or can’t remember your brand values because (completely wrongly by the way!) most organisations again feel Values are the woolly stuff marketing come up with, is that the values that make up your ‘Brand’ can be found in the People – Customer & Colleagues – who transact with you now.

Why… Emotionally… Should I Buy From You?

If you only ponder one question on you, please try to give the above one some headspace. And do so in the context of Customers, Colleagues, Managers, Directors & Shareholders… after all, are we not all people.

Simon Norie

Co-Founder

Custerian.com

PS: As a final thought Simon has done a short (3 minute) video which you can view below or by  CLICKING HERE

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. www.custerian.com

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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. www.custerian.com

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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. www.custerian.com

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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 www.custerian.com

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