Adam PowersAdam PowersAugust 19, 2020
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6min1304

None of us volunteered for it, but we’ve all been a part of a global customer experience prototyping exercise. Locked down in our homes, with severely limited or zero physical interaction with other humans. All the while digital platforms or services increasingly became a lifeline rather than just a pastime. 

How would we all cope?

As the lead of Tribal’s CX practice, I have spent the past few years espousing the ever-increasing importance of considering the convergence of physical and digital experiences that shaped our clients’ businesses. Only to be confronted with a situation where those physical experiences were pretty much eradicated.

Obviously, circumstances were different for key workers and those that had little choice but to continue going out to work. However, I think all of us have had pause for thought about connecting and communicating with other people, about how we use digital services and about our relationships with businesses and brands both locally and further afield. The regular person on the street might not have considered it as such, but I believe we have all been compelled to evaluate the balance and quality of human and digital touchpoints.

In the UK, many who had never considered buying anything on the internet were looking to buy their weekly shop online. Those who had online grocery accounts felt pretty smug there, for a minute, until they saw that every delivery slot was booked for weeks ahead.

Online grocery specialists OCADO received an unprecedented adrenaline shot, “as a result of Covid-19 we have seen years of growth in the online grocery market condensed into a matter of months; and we won’t be going back,” said Ocado chief executive Tim Steiner, in an interview with CITY AM.

One could see that for every business that had only dabbled in digital, the ability to transact online was now an urgent consideration, not an experiment. There is no going back. Digital touchpoints, that may have been considered enhancements, can no longer be viewed or invested in as secondary workstreams.

At a local level particularly, I have witnessed first-hand as business models were reinvented and new partnerships formed. Within a week or two of lockdown, a local restaurant set up a table outside their premises selling basic groceries like flour and eggs – leveraging their trade suppliers who saw their B2B clients rapidly shutdown and loyal staff committed to keeping the business afloat and their jobs alive.

News got around and villagers quickly formed a line, relishing the human interaction of those inventive staff; at 2 metres of course. A week later, they had adapted the website, which had historically been just a simple online menu, to enable a click-and-collect service. The next week, they went further and started home delivery of meals. They have repeatedly evolved ever since. Their determination to develop digital touchpoints and leverage a passionate brigade of staff has also transformed the standing of this business in the community.

Just Eat have only a handful of restaurants in my village. Their service reported 33 percent growth in online order YOY in April and May. In the tiny instance I’ve described, neither a big brand with massive ad campaigns nor a monolithic software giant was involved, but this was truly iterative customer experience innovation all-the-same. A hyper local example of successfully balancing human and digital touchpoints.

The best instances of this balancing act see technology enhancing and supporting humans, and humans enhancing digital experiences. As an example of the former, we have developed a whole suite of digital tools for Volkswagen UK retailers connecting them with their customers online activity and making a much more satisfying dealership experience as a result.

Noel Lyons of Barclays talks compellingly about their digital assistant and how identifying when and how the hand-off to human call centre staff has been critical to overall success. Using the tools and technology available to create the optimal total experience is something customers are increasingly coming to expect, even if that is as simple as an app-based chat function rather than sitting on hold to make a minor change to their bank account. This then has the dual benefit of freeing up call centre phone lines to deal with the most urgent or complex customer requests.

Digital experiences are constantly improving and the love affair with them continues for many of us, with smartphones now one of the most prolific pieces of technology in history. However, I’m inclined to think the importance of human touchpoints is in the ascendant. And with metres and masks between us all, they will need to be completely re-evaluated and reimagined.


Adam PowersAdam PowersJanuary 30, 2019
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7min2462

Richard Branson is famously quoted as saying: “I have always believed that the way you treat your employees is the way they will treat your customers, and that people flourish when they are praised.”

Although Mr Branson’s well-used pearls of wisdom might not have the caché that they once did, I would suggest that this view is as valid now as it ever was. A more on-trend leadership guru also agrees with this perspective, Simon Sinek says: “Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.”

Customer Experience has increasingly been touted as the battleground for modern business success. In a world where great product or lowest price are simply not enough for sustainable growth, it’s the CX of a brand or business, at every touchpoint, that is shaping success.

While we’ve been focussed on an outward looking perspective, there are far fewer businesses that have taken all this strategic thinking, creative passion and financial investment through 180 degrees, directing it within their own organisations.

Whatever the North Star ambitions for the Customer Experience, it’s the workforce, the colleagues, and the employees that will either deliver it or derail it. A modern, connected business is only as good as its weakest touchpoint, meaning greatest success will come from a holistic approach that includes a good deal of effort given to communicating with, enabling and empowering staff.

It is also critically important to recognise that the people who will be delivering the total experience are not some generic horde. It’s essential to understand the different needs and motivations of employees.

When communicating with staff, think about how you can effectively adapt communications in order to engage – that includes both the message and the medium. The all-hands email on a Monday morning really doesn’t cut it. It’s also important to consider and develop tools and technologies that recognise context of use and are genuinely empowering.

So many systems and solutions in businesses today are there because of decisions made a very long way away from the people required to use them.

Don’t underestimate what a sense of purpose can do for employee morale. Again, a well-used tale that talks about the power of having a sense of purpose in an organisation. When US president John F. Kennedy visited the NASA space centre during the height of the space race, he saw a janitor working a broom and walked over and asked him what he was doing.

The janitor responded: “Mr. President, I’m helping put a man on the moon.” When optimising the Employee Experience look for tools that connect staff, make them really feel part of something bigger and enable the business to leverage their collective power. This might well be through technology, but could equally be driven by a radical change in the format of business meetings. Additionally, consider how all that data you’re gathering (You got the memo about Data, right?) can translate into actionable, valuable insights which will empower the whole workforce to understand what they are a part of and how they can better connect with customers.

“Do not be afraid to empower your employees. Empowerment results in happy employees and happy customers,” says John Cashion, Corporate Director of Culture Transformation at the Ritz-Carlton.

They take employee empowerment to the next level by enabling every employee, irrespective of their level, to spend $2000 on meeting a guest’s unmet needs. This doesn’t require the approval of a senior member of staff, it is absolutely at the discretion of each employee.

Cashion goes on to say that, although that is a lot of money, it’s actually the symbolism of the act that’s really huge. Don’t be distracted by the amount, what’s really important is the trust that this shows. The trust in them to resolve a guest issue brilliantly, and to think of creative and memorable ways to elevate the experience.

This activity ladders back up to the top, to the leadership of a business and how it talks and behaves. Getting Employee Experience right is not a project or a one-off event. It is dependent upon persistent and consistent behaviours. It is also heavily dependent upon the accessibility and visibility of leadership. Just as your employees need tools to help them, look for organisational enablers that support leadership in sustaining a highly engaged and high performing workforce delivering a successful total experience.




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