Thursday, July 23, 2015

Reflections from The Chair of Customer Contact 2015, Europe: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange

Reflections from The Chair:  “Obsessed with Tools, Toys and Technology!”

By Derek Williams

Chief Executive, The WOW! Awards
International Speaker and Author

Regular Frost & Sullivan Event Contributor

Derek Williams chaired Customer Contact 2015, Europe: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange. Read on as he reflects on the event and Big Data, (or is it just data?) outsourcing the customer experience, (why?) customer perceptions, (the reality?) the millennials (who will comprise 75% of the workforce by 2025) and more…

Friends and newcomers.  It’s always great to meet old friends at a Frost and Sullivan event.  And so refreshing to also meet the virgins; some of them not quite sure what to expect and maybe a little daunted by a packed schedule.

The schedule does appear daunting.  But everyone quickly gets into the swing of things and begins to realise that their time with Frost & Sullivan is going to be a fantastic investment.  Every part of the three days is carefully thought through and structured to maximise learning, networking and friendships.

“Obsessed with tools, toys and technology!”  Dr Phil Klaus explained how CEO’s see the functions of marketing and operations.  “You don’t speak in the language of the board!”  There is a challenge to understand our external customers and our internal customers so much better.

But marketing and ops are not totally to blame.  80% of CEOs say that their companies give a great customer experience.  Only 8% of customers say that they receive a great customer experience!  Spot the gap?

There is no Big Data!  Just data.  Trouble is that we are measuring the wrong things and don’t practice what we preach.  Touch point management does not match customer expectations. 

Why do we outsource customer experience?  Outsourcing increases probability of churn and negative word of mouth by up to 5 times.

Blame the Finance Directors.  Chris Brindley, Managing director at Metro Bank, accuses them of knowing everything about price but nothing about value.  As a former FD can I just add in my defence, if all you ever ask your FD to do is count beans then all they will ever do is count beans.  So my message to everyone here is bring your Finance Directors with you next time.  Let them see the technology, the systems and the best practices in the world so that they can make better investments.

Customer perceptions are reality.  Listen to your customers.  Perhaps what surprised me most is that so many senior managers are not listening to their customers.  Customer forums with senior management present are nothing new; are we really still thinking about it???

Understand that your people are your only differentiator.  Metro Bank use technology to do “the heavy lifting” so that their people can make the difference.

Are you B2B or B2C?  Don’t even think about it.  All businesses are People to People.  And if you don’t have a Director of Customer Experience then your customers don’t have a voice at board level.

We do stupid things!  Pens attached to the counter with a chain.  Car parks “FOR BANK STAFF ONLY”.  Do you have a Stupid Rules Policy; a systematic way of getting rid of stupid rules?

Did your customers ask for their calls to be answered by machine?  Think about your investment in marketing and communications.  Yet your ability to win business hinges on being able to answer the phone.  It’s not about how much you invest it’s about how you risk that investment.

It takes two people to say, “NO!” to a customer.  But only one person to say, “Yes!” at Metro Bank.

Is man challenging machine?  Stephen Loynd tells us that Toyota is replacing robots with people and productivity is increasing.

The millennials are coming.  75% of the global workforce will be millennials by 2025.  Employees of the future need to feel that their work is valued.  “They don’t want to climb a corporate ladder.  They want to play in a jungle gym!”

Tearing down the silos!  Fabien Pelous is creating a one stop shop at Air France – KLM by focusing on customer segments.  Will this only ever extend to Platinum customers?  We look forward to an update next year.  Customers only ever see one organisation and don’t understand silos.

“My problem is your challenge!”  Don’t blame marketing or HR says Jan Smets.  Life in unfair!  Remember that the contact centre attracts moments of truth.  It’s all about making the connection and bringing relief.  Service is what people buy.  Customer service is the complete experience including the human element.

Give your business two hearts.  One for workforce and operational excellence.  One for data analysis.  Test everything using the data and don’t be distracted by “Senior Management Opinion Syndrome – everyone is entitled to my opinion!”

Word of mouth might be your greatest opportunity.  Post purchase customer experience only produces 24% of revenues but 45% of profits.

Why don’t we ask “WHY?”  When we measure customer experience we typically ask what, how and when.  But we don’t ask, “Why do they buy?” and, “Why do they buy from us?”

E.ON are making it as easy as ABC.  Alignment; help customers get what they want.  Benevolence; be a force for good.  Competence; be able to deliver what you promise.

Do we measure the right things?  Too many organisations might be measuring and rewarding the wrong things.  Good to see daily Net Promoter Scores being use at the frontline in Europcar and contributing to both positive and negative bonuses at management level. Probably not enough measurement of Customer Effort Scores for my liking.  Making it easy has to be a focus for both external and internal customers.

Working smarter was the theme of Paul van den Berg’s presentation.  Using real agents, Plantronics attitude is… “We don’t want to distract our customers from distracting the enterprise.  We want to accelerate to engage with customers!”

Catching people doing things right!  Maybe not.  Most organisations still seem to be focused on catching people doing things wrong.  More celebration needed.  It doesn’t have to be big but it does need to be sincere and personal.  Ties very nicely into what we understand about the millennials wanting to feel valued.

“We’re sorry,” said Kenny Jacobs from Ryanair.  “We’ve not been listening to our customers enough.  We started to realise that we had a problem when we had lower passenger occupancy than other airlines despite being the cheapest.”  Ryanair’s “Always Getting Better” programme looks set to make Ryanair the world’s biggest airline.  “Applying much better service to the cheapest service becomes an unbeatable proposition!”

The Ryanair story is another illustration of customers wanting to be smarter in their spending.  Aldi, Primark, Hyundai and Ryanair are the fastest growing brands in the UK. 

Listen to your customers.  Know your place in the market.  Measure and reward the right things.  Engage your people.  Differentiate your service.  Use technology appropriately.  Be prepared to change.  Great learning and great networking with Frost & Sullivan.

Derek Williams is Chief Executive of The WOW! Awards.  He is an international speaker, author and regular contributor to Frost & Sullivan events.

For more information about The WOW! Awards and “Catching people doing things right!” call Derek on +44 (0) 1438 310191 or

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