Last weekend was Valentine. Together with many others, my wife and I celebrated the love that has come to define the 25 years that we’ve been together. But as we did, I also started thinking about that “other” relationship you tell me I should have. The relationship with your company. Your brand.
Reflecting on the way that you treated me over the past few decades, I could only conclude that in spite of all the process-overhauls, consultants, good intentions and business transformations, you don’t really care about me. You’re too addicted to your organizational silos, your KPI’s, your industry habits.
Yesterday, I had little choice but to put up with this. My choices were TV with ads, or no TV. Eat brand or eat cr**. Live with bad service, or don’t buy.
But today, things have changed. This is my age, and I do have a choice. For everything you sell I have alternatives which either cost less, or come with more service. In fact, I sometimes wonder whether I need to buy your stuff at all. So when last week one of your over-worked, under-trained and probably badly paid call centre employees pushed one of my wrong buttons, I snapped.
Today, I am calm again, but I am seriously considering a divorce. Not just because the kid on the other end of the phone didn’t know how to treat me, but for all the other reasons your brand keeps showing it doesn't really care about me. In case you forgot, let me sum them up one last time...
#1 You talk talk talk talk talk … and talk.
When I want to talk, you never listen. But when you have something to say, there’s no shutting you up. You interrupt my movies, my music, my life. Not for something valuable, but just to tell me about yet another life-altering product. And if I try to tune you out because I want a moment to myself, you just shout louder through another medium.
# 2 You don’t respect my privacy
When I visited your website, I didn’t give you permission to stalk me with adverts everywhere I go. And when, in a moment of weakness, I liked you on Facebook, this wasn’t an invitation to start harassing all my friends. And now we’re on the topic, why do you want to know my birthday as part of your data strategy? It’s not like you remember it ?!
# 3 You take me for granted
There was a time when you created experiences which swept me off my feet. You turned my world upside down and sparks flew at every encounter. But as time went by, you invested ever less in surprising me. Today I don’t think you even try. But don’t be mistaken, I still want to be wooed. Not every day, but occasionally. And you’re simply not doing it.
#4 You only call if you want to sell me something
In fact, you make it even hard for me to call you. Before you’ll even talk to me, I have to enter all sorts of codes to explain what I want from you. And when after fifty rings you finally pick up, I’m put on hold, transferred and often rerouted to square one. Not to mention that every minute, you charge me for the privilege.
#5 You have a wandering eye
You know, it’s not like I mind that you’re promiscuous. You’ve got to make a living, and that’s fine. But I do mind that every new love in your life seems to get a better deal than I do. Last month you even started giving away for free something I paid for six months ago. And no, a discount voucher for my next purchase will not do the trick.
#6 Your love is conditional and hollow
It really makes me feel warm and cuddly to know that I’ve accumulated another 100 points towards that water heater I’ll be able to buy in 3 years. And by the time I get there you probably change the system so I lose most of my benefits anyway. This doesn’t feel like rewarding me for my loyalty, it’s just an optimised approach to get me to give me more of my money, but not give anything in return. Have you ever considered just saying thank you?
#7 You don’t know me
I don’t just mean that as a figure of speech. You REALLY don’t know me. I walk into your stores or onto your website and each time I come to the conclusion you forgot all about me. Who I am, what I like, what I bought last. And if I want your help, half the time I need to pull out our prenup to prove that my request warrants your attention.
#8 You only notice me when I threaten to leave
Last month, when I said I had enough and told you I didn’t want to buy from you any more, you suddenly took notice. In fact, you called me twice and offered me all sorts of benefits to stay. Things I didn’t even know you had. And while you almost had me fooled to come back to you, it was just too little too late.
# 9 You keep putting my stuff in different drawers
And now I think about it, there’s another thing that annoys the hell out of me. Every time I’ve gotten used to one of your products or propositions, you change it or outdate it by doing an upgrade. You claim this is for my own good. But you never asked me about it. If you had, you would have known that I actually “liked” things the way they were. That I didn’t want to “change”.
# 10 And then there’s all the other stuff you do
Like treating me like I’m stupid enough to believe that eating your cookies is going to make my family healthy and happy. Like using transparent ploys to get me to forward your viral jokes. Like making hollow promises which somehow don’t get fulfilled. Like …
So what do you say? I don’t want to be the lover scorned. If I’m really honest, I still want our relationship to work. And if you’ve read to this point, you probably still care. So here’s my challenge. I won’t leave, if you work with me.
If you truly start putting the interests of your customers - of me - at the heart of everything you do, I’ll give you another chance.
The production age is over. The customer age has come. Get with the times. Make it happen.
To deliver a great customer experience, a solid customer strategy is indispensable. Customer economics, good journey and dialogue maps, a Net Promoter System, advocacy moments, are all building blocks without which a company is flying blind.
But when crafting this strategy, many executives implicitly assume that the employees in their organisation can’t wait to implement it.
This is a dangerous game. Sure, sometime things go smooth. But usually these same executives quickly realise that there are groups of people in the business that just don’t get it, are slow to adopt the new ways or even want to sabotage the efforts to progress.
More enlightened managers may seek the root cause for this behaviour in their own lack of preparation for rolling out the strategy. But regardless where the blame goes, the damage is done. The company loses money. Programme champions get demotivated. The strategy gets discredited. The customer loses out.
To prevent this from happening in your business, you need to focus on overcoming the three biggest hurdles to strategy implementation:
Lack of Willingness
Some people will embrace change, but the majority of people like their life and environment to remain stable. This doesn’t mean they’re not open to new directions. It just means that they won’t rush into changing their ways without a good explanation. This explanation, they need to be able to:
Only when all four angles are covered, your people may be willing to take your shiny new strategy for a spin.
Lack of Skill
Willingness alone is not enough. People also need the skills to do what you ask of them. They may want to have an empathic conversation with that unhappy client, but may not know the questions to ask. They may want to do a root cause analysis, but they may lack the techniques to investigate.
Willingness without skill only leads to foolishness, stress and a waste of company resources. Every new strategy should therefore be accompanied by a development programme. This needs to provide each employee with the know-how needed to fullfil their specific tasks in the organisational puzzle AND display the behaviours that go with it. It also should pro-actively and humanely cater for those employees of which it’s clear they will not be able to make the switch.
There is no point in needlessly creating human dramas in which everyone loses.
In doing the above, it is important to not just focus on the “front line”. Especially when implementing customer strategies, everyone in the organisation who is affected should be part of these skill development efforts. After all, in my experience front line changeonly happens if the back lines lead the way.
Which brings me to my third and final point.
Lack of Ability
Even when carefully explaining your strategy and setting up the right skill development programme, the implementation of your customer strategy may still fail. Not because people rebel or refuse to learn. But simply because your business itself may get in the way.
KPI’s may prevent doing what is right for the customer. Information systems may not provide the customer data that is required. Performance reviews may incentivise exactly the behaviour you’re trying to avoid. Or people may simply have so much on their plate that they just won’t get round to the fun, new tasks you’ve given them.
That’s why the final (or first?) part of every customer strategy implementation is to do a gap analysis of all the processes, KPI’s, reward and information systems that affect it. Without a clear plan to close those gaps (or mitigate them in some way), all the best intentions may go to waste and you remain stuck on square one.
Taking the above actions, will not guarantee that your strategy will bring you riches (after all, it needs to be the right strategy :-).
But it will make sure that your people implement what’s on those precious PowerPoint slides. And that’s more than half the battle.
About this blog
Whenever inspiration strikes, I use this space to share my thoughts on customer experience management, storytelling or what ever else crosses my mind.