On “Consultancy lesson from Winston Wolfe” I talked about how consultants are not, and should not try to be “must-know-it-all encyclopedias with a solution for everything” that “are available within the hour” and “make problems go away in no time“.
Another crucial principle that consultants should always follow is that technical mastery of their specialist discipline is not enough to come across competent, and deliver good service and/or advice to a client. You need to earn their trust and confidence.
To do that, consultants must value the relationship with the client, more than the transaction in hand. However big it may be, it could be the only one you get, in case you are not able to create a long-standing and trusted relationship with your client.
Consultants invest in improving specialist technical skills, focus on acquiring experience, and work hard on building a network of contacts. But rarely spare enough time creating and nurturing trust relationships with clients. Majority don’t even know how to do it.
Here are a number of things you should follow if you want to build trust and confidence:
Focus more on the client (and the problem), less on yourself (and your skills)
See your client as a person (John Smith), and not just a role (Head of Operations)
Listen more (understand challenge and concerns), talk less (don’t assume)
Do the right thing (for your customer), not what’s best for you
Personalise your delivery, don’t give “blanket” answers or on-size-fits-all solutions
Be honest and transparent (even if truth is hard), don’t hide issues or say it’s all easy
Make yourself always available, accessible and reachable
Customer-centricity, humanity, integrity, reliability, dependability, responsiveness (among other characteristics) are, more often than not, more important than technical mastery, when it comes to deliver outstanding service and successful outcomes to clients, creating long-standing win-win trust relationships.
The COVID-19 outbreak in Europe continues to spread, and it seems some countries have not seen the worst of it yet. However, businesses are already being impacted massively.
Some of the biggest impacts have happened in the Customer Service or Customer Care area, with many people trying to contact companies to ask for help – making contact centres very busy and stretched.
More than adding people to their contact centres (I heard some companies are adding thousands of agents) the challenge is to ensure they have all they need to work efficiently from their homes (no one is even remotely thinking of having hundreds of agents in an open-space now!)
What do companies need to provide agents, so they can work from home, without impacting the service delivery and customer experience?
Laptop – most contact centres still equip agents with desktops, and it is critical that all agents have a laptop they can take home.
Headset – a good headset (noise-cancelling, etc.) to ensure the kids screaming or the dog barking in the background doesn’t impact the call quality.
Connection – not all agents will live in an area with fibre, so might as well cater for the faults of a wi-fi connection, with an Ethernet cable.
Security – the majority of companies will have their systems (even if cloud) behind firewalls and only accessible from outside via VPN, so configure those.
Collaboration – agents will no longer be able to turn to their colleagues, or tap them in the back for help. So ensure they can have “offline” conversations.
Of course this all assumes you have a SaaS platform (cloud and web-based), that your agents can access, to manage and log customer interactions – what we would call a customer/service/ticketing management system.
If you don’t… then I would strongly recommend you look into Zendesk. I partner with them, and have helped many companies enable it. It is probably the quickest to subscribe, switch on and start using. And the easiest to adopt, as it is easy-to-use and user-friendly. Apart from that, it brings the necessary features to collaborate, take calls, etc. all in one app.
The COVID-19 outbreak is hitting our communities hard, and people’s health and well-being is paramount. But more than our present, this crisis is also affecting our future, because it is impacting businesses, putting the safety of our jobs at risk.
Companies are looking at income and costs very closely, trying to avoid unnecessary spend, in an effort to avoid lay-offs, salary cuts or letting people go. Doing so risks customers and employees’ trust and belief in the company, going forward.
When trying to find, and assess, unnecessary spend, should I consider “putting the breaks” on my Experience Management (CX or EX) programs and initiatives?
I don’t think so, and here are some reasons why you shouldn’t.
1. When it comes to Employee Experience (EX) and if you are a Commercial business, you cannot shut down completely, so you will have employees working from home. Remote work can be tricky due to many variables, so best practice recommends that you check-in frequently, feeling the pulse of your staff and ensuring they have all they need to work effectively. A similar approach could apply to Education organisations, accompanying students.
2. When it comes to Employee Experience (EX) and if you are a Healthcare organisation, your employees will be overwhelmed with work and increasingly stretched. These challenging working conditions can affect staff’s physical and mental well-being, impacting judgement and ability to deliver. Staying connected and understand their pains and needs is crucial. A similar approach could apply to Manufacturing organisations, which will have higher demand.
3. When it comes to Customer Experience (CX) and if you are a Commercial business, you will be compelled (this time not advised, but forced!) to adapt to customers’ different needs and expectations. What products or services are considered essential, what challenges or options for payment or delivery/collection. And the only way you can understand those, is by reaching out and listening to them.
4. When it comes to Customer Experience (CX) and if you are a Healthcare organisation, your patients (as well as their families and friends) will now, more than ever, need your attention. You will need to ensure they not only understand the restrictions and limitations of these challenging situation, but also empathise and contribute to their mental health balance.
However, it is not recommended that you continue to do what you have been doing so far. You should definitely make an effort to readjust your CX or EX program to the current situation.
So what changes should I do to my CX or EX program, what kind of initiatives could I deploy, and how can I make that happen?
I’m delighted to work for a company, Capventis, that partners with Qualtrics – more than just a technology vendor, they work with leaders and subject matter experts to bring their customers the best insight and advice around the XM category.
I’m not only proud to be part of that network, but also extremely proud of what our teams have been doing to allow businesses and organisations to improve and deliver better experiences to their employees and customers.
As consultants, we are led to believe that we are must-know-it-all encyclopedias with a solution for everything. Indeed most consulting companies tend to sell our services as if it was magic – you hire us, we are available within the hour, and we will make your problems go away in no time.
The issue is, that type of consultancy doesn’t exist, and can’t even be delivered by the likes of Winston Wolfe – the infamous character created by Quentin Tarantino in Pulp Fiction. Truth is, consultants don’t have an answer for everything, and can’t turnaround businesses with a snap-of-a-finger.
And to be honest we shouldn’t. Any business is a complex entity, and our job is a labored one. It requires investigation, assessment, consideration, creativity and thinking. The other day I read “thinking is one of the hardest human occupations, which probably explains the fact that so few of us like doing it too often”. So true!
I see so many consultants rely on instinct. Others shout the first thing that springs to mind. Only on the basis of what they already know, or have done once before. This is halfway to a solution that will not have the positive impact or results businesses are looking for. Consultants like us need to stop and think.
I have witnessed some of my peers in the consulting world being afraid to tell their clients they need time. When in reality, letting people know we are thinking about their business and challenges, not only indicates that our response will be measured and thorough, but it also lets them feel that they are taken seriously and deserve respect.
Furthermore, we need to understand, and make clear to our clients, that our job cannot be done by one person. Even Winston Wolfe needed “associates” to clean up the mess (played by John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson) and support from his “client” (played by Quentin Tarantino).
They helped Winston Wolfe gather information, assess the problem, understand the timeline, create a plan, as well as find tools and means (blankets, soap, old clothes) to sort out the issue. And notice how even Wolfe takes its time, and needs a coffee to think and consider the situation.
If we do our job properly, making sure we don’t skip any steps and don’t rush into any half-baked solution, our clients will not only appreciate our services, but also respect us as much as Winston Wolfe was respected by his clients and the public in general.
The definition of a consultant is: someone who advises people on a particular subject, on which he is considered a specialist. As consultants our job is to work alongside our clients and our teams, to jointly find answers, a way, a solution, an alternative, a workaround, to reach a desired outcome.
I have been reading quite a bit about Employee Experience (EX) and Engagement (EE) and this has triggered a lot of thinking about my own position as a manager, a team leader, and a colleague.
As a manager, my efforts should be put towards building “A Team” – yes… “one team” and ideally the “A-Team”. It is a journey in itself, with various steps, some of them (but not all) are below.
1. Hire the right people
It all starts by whom I hire. If I hire smart and talented people, and provide them with the tools they need to do their job, they will certainly perform well, and I don’t need to worry about delivery, or coming in to cover for them.
2. Communicate clearly
Making sure I have a steady and clear cadence of communication is also extremely important. One that never lets the team forget about “why” they are doing what they are doing, “how” they are contributing to our success, and “what” they need to do to ensure continuous improvement.
It is crucial that I keep reminding them (and myself) of our many successes, which should be celebrated; our gaps, which should be filled; our constant challenges, which we should face with no fear and great determination; and the fantastic opportunities in front and ahead of us.
It is also very important to give them the company’s perspective – “why“ we are in business and offer our customers a particular set of products and services, “how” we can contribute to the success and growth of our customers, and “what” we can and need to do to help them achieve that.
3. Instill a feedback culture
Being able to implement a two-way feedback culture is one of my most important tasks. On one hand having a team of “Yes-man” is one of the biggest dangers for the business. They allow people to win arguments due to power or position, rather than the merits of opinion. And ultimately we will all be impacted by bad decisions.
On the other hand, if as a manager, I hold off giving tough feedback to one of my team members, I’m putting unnecessary pressure on myself, and the rest of the team, to cover for the poor-performing member, and I’m also cheating that person of a chance to actually improve.
Almost every week I see people who work in the Experience Management industry talking about Customer Experience (CX) Programs as if it was a standardised, mass-produced, product that you can just go and buy off a shelf.
I believe this is due to the fact that human beings have a natural incline to being lazy – i.e. if there is a way to accomplish something with a small amount of work or less effort, then that is the preferred option. Unfortunately that doesn’t apply to CX programs.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all CX program! In order to design, build, deploy and manage one, you have to put some work and effort into it. And with this, I don’t mean it is hard or that it takes a long time. Just that it is something you must create (make new).
And you cannot do it on your own! Or even think that someone with a job title of CX Consultant will do it for you. You have to work collaboratively and involve all areas of the company (customer-facing and otherwise), and drive, co-ordinate, orchestrate (or hire a CX Consultant to do that).
What made sense for a particular company may not suit yours. Even if you are in the same sector, industry, or country. Even if you have the same size, revenue or organisational structure. It is extremely likely that you will need a CX program that is specific to you.
More often than not, those who look for an out-of-the-box CX program are the ones who focus only on numbers, and forget that in the foundations of a CX program is the need to listen to customers, and then act on that Voice-of-Customer (VoC).
Don’t measure CX for the sake of it! You must be able to focus on what is really important – the voice of your customers and their feedback – and be able to derive insights and actions that will inform your product or service enhancements, as well as experience improvements.
Don’t obsess with the numbers! It’s so typical to find companies that are fixated in increasing their NPS or CSAT scores, as if that was the ultimate goal. They forget the purpose of a CX program, and the meaning of “C” in the acronym “CX” – it stands for Customer, not Company!
When it comes to CX, each and every company will be at a different level of maturity (if at any level at all), and the first thing you should do is assess that, and understand the readiness of your company to start a CX program.
Each and every company will also have its own business strategy – vision, mission, execution plan, etc. – and you should align the CX strategy with that, so that the board of directors and stakeholders understand how a CX program will improve financial performance.
And so on… and so on… everything in a CX program should be considered, thought trough, in context. And not copied from some other company or program.
GDPR came into play 3 months ago, but companies are still struggling. One of the main concerns is related to the systems and databases where they hold customer data – be it personal, operational or experience data.
A significant number of Oracle Service Cloud (OSvC) administrators and super-users have recently contacted me, asking what actions to take to ensure they are GDPR-compliant. Like so many other technology vendors, Oracle is developing the platform.
Last week the OSvC product/development teams at Oracle and the OSvC All Stars got together to review the features available, look at the roadmap, and discuss what other solutions or developments could help the companies who use OSvC.
The truth is that the features that will help comply with GDPR are being released since 17C (Aug 2017), and there is a very busy roadmap, with other features coming.
1. The Bulk Delete API was released in 17C for Incident and Opportunity objects, expanded in 17D for Contacts and Custom objects, and expanded further in 18A for Accounts and Organisation objects. It allows you to efficiently delete large data sets, having the flexibility to select the data to delete using ROQL queries.
2. Until now, when you created a test environment, you would get a clone of your instance with all your data. The difference is that the emails had a .invalid suffix. Having real/production data in a test environment could be a GDPR breach. Since release 18B it is possible for administrators to create a test instancewithoutstandard transactional data.
3. Various enhancements to the Audit Log are going to be released in the next few versions of OSvC. 18C provides the ability to capture viewing of Contact records, as well as report downloads. 18D and 19A will introduce Field Level Audit Logs on individual attributes of the Contact object. And to answer your questions re. space, the Audit Logs will be written to a secondary store, unloading the primary database.
4. A Bulk Data Extract capability will be available from release 18D, for Incident and related sub-objects. This would be supported by an asynchronous REST API that will allow you to extract large volumes of data, into compressed .csv files. Enabling organisations to archive data that is old or not needed, but needs to be retained.
5. Deleting OSvC interfaces was something that companies struggled with, as it usually went wrong, impacting other interfaces. Since 18C this capability was enhanced by Oracle, allowing you to contact Customer Care and request interface deletion, to reduce database size.
6. The Data Lifecycle Policies user interface is available since release 18A, and allows you to easily manage data lifecycle policies for objects. In 18A it supported a limited number of transactional objects, 18B brought it to Incident archive/purge, and 18C for Custom Objects and indexed system attributes on Incident and Contact objects.
7. Finally, in release 18C you can redact or anonymise sensitive information in Incident Threads.
This week I decided to close a bank account that I have in Portugal and don’t use anymore. Expecting it would be quicker, I went to a Santander Totta branch, where I was greeted by one of the employees. In order to identify the account in the system, she asked me for a card associated, and then printed a few forms for me to sign. So far, so good.
To close the account, she said it was mandatory for me to provide both the credit and the debit cards associated with the account. As I don’t use the account, the credit card is in a drawer in London, and I was in Portugal. “Can you just inactivate the card in the system?”, I asked, only to see her face frown.
She continued to click and type on the computer, and until the end of the meeting never referred the credit card again or the obligation to hand it over. What followed was a request for me to sign two forms, which I did. “Sorry sir, can you please sign as per what I have in my computer”, she said, turning the screen in my direction.
I almost didn’t recognise the signature. My wife said, “Is that your signature?”. The signature was over 20 years old. Naturally, my writing had changed since, and I wasn’t able to recreate that. Her face frown again. “Well, you can check my id card. My signature is there”. Reluctantly, she accepted, and asked to copy the id card for proof.
Despite a few hurdles, all items in the close-bank-account list seemed to be ticked. But I had €2.19 in the account. She put the options to me: a) I could deposit €7.81, go to the cash machine (ATM) and withdraw €10. Or b) I could go to the teller and pay €5 to withdraw the €2.19. Needless to say, it was my turn to frown. I don’t usually like to be treated like a fool.
In any case, I didn’t want the €2.19 but could not contain myself and said the second option was non-sense. She responded “It is just the way it is. Rules are rules”. Again, I could not stay quiet, and told her it didn’t need to be that way, and it shouldn’t be that way. And that certain rules are just idiotic. She didn’t empathise with me.
I decided to try and explain. Put a smile on my face, and said “You know, it is not your fault. You’re just following orders. But the person that is comfortably sitting at a desk, on the 30th floor of the bank’s HQ, very well paid to come up with these rules, would probably need to come down, and visit the gemba”. Finally, she got me!
“Sir, if you don’t do anything, when the account is closed, they will send you a letter asking you to come in and get the €2.19. Then, you don’t have to pay or deposit anything to get the money”. She thought I would be happy with this hidden option c) and was disappointed when I frown again. “Really, and you think that makes sense?”, I asked.
At this point she was confused and probably thinking that I was one of those who is never happy. I tried to explain again. “You see, the bank will spend around €5 (paper, printer, post) to send me a letter, so I come and withdraw €2.19. Isn’t this non-sense?” Again, she got me, and nodded.
This is a very good and real example of where a bank is making up rules and policies that serve no real purpose, and sometimes make absolutely no sense. Killing the customer and employee experiences.
Rules and policies that will only increase customer effort, distrust, irritation and disloyalty. Also creating friction between customers and employees, who then get increasingly frustrated and feeling powerless.
We bump into similar things in retailers, telecom providers, hospitals, public services, etc. CX and EX killers which make no sense but amazingly aren’t eliminated, simply because there isn’t a process in place, to actually find them and measure their impact.
The first step to o find these CX and EX killers is definitely to put in place Voice-of-Customer (VoC) and Voice-of-Employee (VoE) initiatives. Without feedback, how will the policy makers understand the impact of their ideas? And how will the Experience Managers improve CX and EX?
It’s winter holidays time and just like most emigrants or expats, I came back home to spend Christmas with the family and friends. Living abroad means that there’s a lot of people I haven’t seen for a while, many things I want to do (refuel with delicious portuguese food), others I must do (take care of documentation). Time is short to do everything and spend quality time with everyone. Plus, this time of year, I still need to buy the last presents. So, I need to be as effective as possible, and maximise my time.
Holidays didn’t start well. My 8:45 PM flight from London was delayed for 1 hour and 30 mins, meaning that when I landed in Porto (Portugal) it was already 12:30 AM and by the time I got home the family was already asleep. To my tweet TAP Air Portugal replied “Please accept our sincere apologies for this situation“. Unfortunately this doesn’t make it up. Why? Because apologies are not sincere when TAP’s flights are consistently delayed, and the on-board experience is below average.
Lesson 1: If you want customers to believe and trust you and your brand, make sure you take the feedback and, more importantly, act on it to improve your products/services.
With so many things I wanted to do, despite the late night, next day’s morning was early. Me and my wife got a lot of things done (including her hair – she can be very picky with hairdressers!). Before lunch I found some time to schedule an important doctor’s appointment and called the clinic. “Sorry we’re closed between 12:00 and 2:00 PM, please call later or book online“. It was literally 12:01 and online I could not choose the doctor I wanted.
Lesson 2: As Shep Hyken says “don’t have a clock-in/clock-out mentality“. If you’re there, take ownership, as every interaction with a customer will make an impression. And it could be a lasting one (positive or negative). Don’t risk losing a customer to the competition because of what it says on the “Opening Hours” sign.
After lunch we had to take care of some last minute presents and went to a local shop. Spent a fair amount of time with a nice and attentive staff member, selecting the right product, and decided to take what were three expensive ones. At the till we were told “we don’t accept card payments, any card, only cash“. These are the local shops that have owners who complain about being smothered by big shopping malls. Then they sell expensive items and expect people to carry big amounts of cash!?
Lesson 3: If you want to be in business and overcome fearless competition, you need to get rid of policies that don’t make sense and make it as easy as possible for your customers to do business with you. Plus, be mindful of bad profit (e.g. those who charge additional fee if you want to pay with card)
That evening, I decided to tick one of the boxes in my “when-at-home” list: eat roasted piglet. After a busy day it was 4:00 PM when we arrived to the restaurant. “Hello, do you have table for 4?” I asked with a smile on my face. “Lunch time has passed and dinning room is now closed until 7:00 PM” the grumpy person replied. “Kitchen is closed?!” I asked with puppy eyes. “No, it’s open but only for take away“. In desbelief I walked to the counter to take a piglet sandwich for the go – truth was smell is irresistible and the opportunities to eat this delicatessen are scarce. But next time I will certainly go to the competition.
Lesson 4: Customers are like your puppy. If you show him the snack, and let him smell it, only to then take it away, he won’t come back to you next time you call for him. So if you want to conquer (hearts, minds and mouths) of your customers always be available to give them the best you have, and don’t disappoint.
This hasn’t been the best intro to Christmas, but I’m confident all will end up well. Happy Christmas everyone!