Tag Archives: Employee engagement

Business is personal. Exploring the 4 Hs : Humility, Humanity, Humour and Honesty

27 Feb

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The bigger the business, the more freedom is curtailed as governance, processes and procedures take over.

This is just one of the points made in a fascinating slideshare presentation from a few years ago on the culture at Netflix. And the upshot of all this? It becomes harder to be ‘human and the threat to freedom means you end up losing great people.

Which is ironic, really, considering that companies are mostly just collections of people. In the same way that without customers, there is no business, without workers there is no business too. And, when businesses try to put straight-jackets on great people, businesses ultimately fail. 

Introducing the four ‘H’s

So, treat people well, give them the freedom to be themselves and customers will feel the difference, and everybody wins. It may be a cliché, but it’s no less true for all that, that people buy from people, whatever the business. How then, can businesses be more like people?

Consider then the 4 Hs. Done well, they reveal real – and therefore engaging – personality and help humanise the company, for customers

HUMILITY

This is about how great companies fess up to highly visible problems and failures. Put simply, there’s the old way – hide behind Ts and Cs, never admit anything, push failure behind the scenes and starve it of the oxygen of publicity – and there’s the new human and personal way, that involves someone very senior – typically the CEO – saying sorry and meaning it, and broadcasting the mea culpa too. 

For example, check out two classic (and well handled) cases from the airline industry:  

Here is an email and website message from the Singapore Airlines CEO, following a botched website launch in 2011. (See it here). It’s well written, personal and honest, and signed by the CEO. Job done! 

In 2007, when bad weather disrupted air travel, flight delays and communications SNAFUs at Jet Blue caused a public outcry against the company. Soon after, the then-CEO issued an apology and also went onto Youtube, with “Our Promise To You”. This is the film, a very public and humble apology from the top. And the best quote? “We’ll be a better company, for the very difficult things our customers have had to endure”.

Admitting you’ve screwed up can be good for business. “Doing a Domino’s” became part of the language 3 years ago after Domino’s acknowledged that its pizzas “tasted like cardboard” and promised to do better. Read more about this classic and creative apology here at the CEB. The lesson? As the author says, “Humanize your apology. Domino’s had its CEO apologize and commit to making changes on TV commercials.  By personalizing the mistake, it seems more human, and consumers are more likely to be forgiving”.

HUMANITY

This is about a brand seeking to show its generosity and kindness to brighten up peoples’ days, in the normal course of business.

I’ve written about this before in my post on Random Acts of Kindness, and profiled the good work from Virgin Media and BUPA International. To give a couple of other good examples, my previous company, Aviva, in the US used to give away Aviva umbrellas on rainy days. They would simply head out to the city, and hand out brollies to those that needed them (and regardless, of course, as to whether the lucky recipients were customers or not). Trendwatching.com reports that Interflora did a similar thing, via social media, by sending bouquets of flowers to people in need to cheering up. For more examples, and some useful guidance on RAK 101, check out the briefing from trendwatching.

HUMOUR

It’s fascinating how social media in particular (but why only here?) gives switched-on organisations an opportunity to show their personal side in a service context (usually when it goes wrong). O2 in the UK are a past master. Consider the skill they showed in handling the anger they experienced at service outages last year:

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This example also suggests to me there’s a (very) thin line between getting the tone right and it all going horribly wrong. It hasn’t yet though for O2, and maybe that’s the key point here, that if you at least try to be human, and inject a bit of humour (and know your audience!) then  forgiveness for when someone does step over the line is probably far more readily forthcoming.

As a Telegraph article on O2 concluded at the time, “O2 used Twitter to deliver fast, professional customer service, and still maintained their brand image by adding humour and personality to their tweets.” 

HONESTY

The above examples of Humility are public responses to very public failures. My last category, Honesty, is the flip side, visible gestures that ‘correct’ or fix something largely hidden from public view, but which speak volumes about the internal culture and what the business is unwilling to tolerate. I’ve written about this before too (about Costco’s jeans pricing policy, and Amazon’s reduced pricing on Harry Potter books in China – the link to my earlier post, which includes the Amazon film, is here), so I thought I’d end by sharing a personal example of my own from LoveFilm, now an Amazon company, and in the same business as Netflix.

Here is an email I received in December, alerting me to an over-night film despatch problem.

Now my point is, chances are most people (me included) would never realise there was a problem, and we’d have carried on blissfully unawares. A few subscribers might have suspected a problem, and some of those might then have got in touch to ask or even complain.

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Now, LoveFilm had a choice; wait and see, and deal with complaints as they occurred and offer to make up for it to those contacting them. Or, be more proactive and reach out to everyone affected, regardless of whether or not they were aware of the problem. LoveFilm chose to do the latter. Why? Because they, like other businesses building themselves around the customer, recognise the business value of a positive proactive gesture, in short, of letting the personality shine through.        

This is what characterises all the examples here of the 4 Hs; the conviction that the human touch will reap rewards. After all, businesses are only people, so let good people be good people. 

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Listening to employees shouldn’t be a big deal

19 Dec

At a recent  event run by the Customer Engagement Directors’ Forum, the HR Director of M&S got me thinking when she said at one point,  “You wouldn’tBLOG tennis balls only ask your customers for feedback once a year, so why do you think it’s acceptable to only ask employees once a year?”.

This reminded me of an article I’ve blogged about before, “Employee engagement is not an event”, where the authors, Switch and Shift describe the all-too-common way some companies handle The Employee Survey;

Each year or every other year an employee engagement survey is delivered via email to all employees. Its arrival is trumpeted by an email from the CEO explaining the survey’s importance. This is the event. It’s followed by survey results disseminated to managers and some messaging shared with employees”

To this I’d add, that after the results are published, the ‘process’ then requires (seeing as engagement is being treated as a Project), that the team sits down to discuss and create an action plan, that then, well-intentioned as it is, is all too often consigned to the shelf.  After a few months, it becomes all too easy to dismiss the findings from the survey as out-of-date, because, well, we’ve moved on, and things – and people- have changed since then. Better wait for the next survey for a more accurate snapshot of how people are feeling. So much for the standard process.

Surely, listening to employees and acting on it shouldn’t be such a big deal. Nixon McInnes, a Brighton-based social business consultancy take a different tack with a blindingly simple approach using tennis balls and buckets.

Each night, as you leave, you simply lob a ball in one of two buckets, the happy bucket or the unhappy one – see photo. This enables team leaders to get an instant ‘temperature check’ on the team, and discuss with the team.  Simple, immediate, cheap and low tech. In fact, Nixon McInnes has recently taken it to the next level with an electronic traffic light system but the principle is the same: find a fun and simple mechanism to engage easily and continuously with the team, a mechanism that is woven into the rhythm of the day, and that takes away the formality and unnecessary weight and significance of the annual engagement initiative that tends to get seen for what it is, yet another ‘project’ to be scheduled in on top of an already crammed workload.

I’ll finish with another great quote from the event I was at, that underlines the problem with this engagement-as-a-formal-event approach, that it tends to drive the wrong behaviours, “we hit the target but missed the point”!

Fair play to Nixon McInnes, then, where simplicity is all the more engaging.

How to lose customers. A handy checklist.

6 Dec

Great piece from Jeff Haden in Inc on how to lose your best customers, and what to do about it, short of fencing them in with barbed wire, that is.

(www.dreamstime.com/barbs-imagefree249952)

It’s al good thought-provoking stuff, but there are two types of no-no’s listed in the article that I find really interesting. Firstly, what you might call ‘strategic’ mistakes driven by the relentless hunger for profit from customers, and secondly, those to do with failing to recognise the critical role played by the firm’s own people.

So, in the first category you’d have to put focussing on price (“good luck maintaining that advantage”), pushing too hard to grow revenue, and the classic trap of exploiting-existing-customers-and-hoping-they-don’t-notice! (See also my earlier piece on the Penny Dreadful customer experience, a tale of seduction ending in betrayal).

It is this kind of corporate world-view that leads to blood-chilling statements like ‘our customers are our greatest assets’ where the unvoiced part of this sentence feels like it ought to be…“…so let’s make sure we sweat those assets hard while we can”.

Personally, when I choose to place my business with a company, I don’t consider that I’ve somehow acquiesced in becoming an asset to be henceforth ‘owned’ by the company. Or, ‘prey’ to be targeted and hunted down.

In the second group of mistakes, we have those to do with the ‘people’ side of the business (or… ‘human capital’, a phrase I heard yesterday at a conference). So, yes, madness does lie in the direction of the seventh mistake : asking for one behaviour – let’s respect and love our customers – but rewarding a different behaviour, selling, for example.

But it’s the first and fifth points that are particularly important, I think. It’s a useful reality check to be reminded that “It’s tempting to assume long-term customers love your brand. More often than not they love your employees”, which is why high turnover – especially in the front line – is such a challenge to the business.

There’s a load of research out there that constantly reinforces the importance of consistency – plain boring reliability – as the cornerstone of a successful customer experience strategy. And, the more often the cast changes, the more inconsistent and unpredictable the experience. Which is why, for example, I sometimes find it hard to fill in Net Promoter surveys; while I might be willing to recommend the person I just dealt with, and I consider them a great ambassador for company X, how confident am I that I, or my friends, would have the same experience tomorrow, with a different person?

Why 98.7% customer satisfaction isn’t good enough. Safelite CEO on Net Promoter.

30 Nov

It’s always good to hear CEOs talking with passion about their own business. This is a useful belt-and-braces film of  the Safelite CEO (windscreen replacements) talking at a 2012 satmetrix event about how Net Promoter has been “the catalyst for cultural transformation across the company”.

Because the film is over 50 minutes long, it’s broken up into chapters so you can browse the headings, and I’ve also produced a brief guide to its greatest hits. And, to see the videos onscreen, it’s best to press the Switch Views button:

Safelite Autoglass, Boise

(Photo credit: markhillary. via Flickr.com)

6.30 mins

Nice summary of Safelite’s old days and old ways, a familiar world of short term focus, where cost and efficiency were paramount, and where a customer satisfaction score of 98.7% just wasn’t good enough (because as all NPS folk know, mere satisfaction is a low bar and a score like this tends to breed complacency).

8.15 mins

It’s worth noting that, as he says, this is a tough business to be in. It’s hardly Apple. It’s a low interest, low frequency, low involvement and low awareness business, like say, insurance where you’re only needed (and really tested) when things go wrong, or, most utilities. All the tougher then, given this, to create real connections with customers, and as he says later, the positive feelings and goodwill dissipate quickly too.    

21.30 mins     

Some useful stuff here on their actual feedback-gathering process. The figures quoted here feel pretty good, which means large volumes and low survey costs. They manage to obtain 77% of email addresses from customers, email 100%, and achieve a 25% response rate.

23.10 mins

Everyone has a ’roadmap’ these days (in much the same way that everyone is on a ‘journey’) so here is Safelite’s. And, yes, it’s good see the twin pillars of people first and customer delight. Even though the cliché counter may be in overdrive here (sorry), just as for every other business on the planet, there is no business without people. Great customer experiences begin with great people experiences.  

26.10 mins

OK, If you’ve made it this far, you’ve got through the vision, the ambition and the nice words like focus, caring and talent. The real question is, how to make these words live? So here are the core competencies. Again, pretty familiar stuff at first glance and the real differentiation comes through actually meaning it and doing it. But, to me, the third and fourth points – have a passion for creating customer delight and understand the business and your role in it – are interesting, as is the fact that to help spread the word and connect the dots, they also use Net Promote to measure support staff internally.   

The next five or so minutes focuses on the How of how they train and embed the right behaviours, and then recognise and reward (clue: money).

Results section to 46 mins

Show me the money! As he says earlier, adopting Net Promoter does require faith and in particular, trusting that if you do the right thing by the customer, the results will follow. A 12 point increase over 4 years, to 85% NPS is impressive in anyone’s book. He then goes on to outline the financial impact. Making the connection between happy customers and the bottom line is tough, and it takes time too. But it’s the Holy Grail when it comes to getting the whole business aligned behind the Net Promoter discipline. Once you have it, it’s priceless because then everyone – the finance team, the CEO and the customer-facing folk – are all talking what is essentially the same language. This CEO clearly feels it’s working for him.    

51 mins

Let’s end on some great closing words. The key to achieving customer centricity lies in how you think, whether you think internally, starting with systems and processes, or whether you start with the customer, and think externally.  

Employee engagement is not an event

24 Nov

Whilst employee engagement is everybody’s hot topic (witness the “employees are our greatest assets” platitudes common to many an Annual Report), it doesn’t seem to happen that much in the real world.  

But it’s not rocket science, is it?

This is a nice post by Shawn Murphy of switch and shift in the teamster blog that is hugely quotable. I can’t help smiling (and grimacing) at his description of the annual employee survey process: “Each year or every other year an employee engagement survey is delivered via email to all employees. Its arrival is trumpeted by an email from the CEO explaining the survey’s importance. This is the event. It’s followed by survey results disseminated to managers and some messaging shared with employees. End of event. Now go about your work”.

The bottom line? Engagement is a leadership act. Not a management task, and nor will it thrive when it’s handled like an event, a tick-the-box exercise.

Click here to read the post. Role of Meaning-Makers in Employee Engagement | Switch and Shift.

“We have the world’s best customers and the world’s best employees” : USAA CEO on film

22 Nov
USAA

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

USAA is one to follow with interest;  a stellar performer in customer experience, as measured by Net Promoter. Here is the CEO on the CEO TV show talking about leadership, mission and surviving in dire economic times.

It’s always good to see a CEO use the c-word, customer, and hear him articulate what is in effect the classic ‘service profit’ chain. When asked about the key to success he talks about having a strong team around him, all focused on taking care of the customer…..and if you do this, your customers provide the profitability you need.

And he signals his respect and appreciation for his customers with the statement, “we have the best customers in the world”, and says the same of his employees too, because of course, you can’t have great customers (and great customer experiences) without great employees to begin with.

http://videos.ceoshow.com/usaa-effective-leadership-by-creating-a-mission

Making Net Promoter real in ING

20 Nov

Nice short film from satmetrix of the (ex) NPS lead at ING on how they engage their own people on the NPS journey.

I love the small but highly symbolic signals they send out internally; for example, the London phone boxes for people – including the CEO – to go back to customers and ‘close the loop’ on their feedback and issues. 

Great quote: “celebrating success costs us nothing but it has such an impact on people”. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LtBHT8vyEa0&feature=related

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