Ian GoldingIan GoldingJuly 4, 2018
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6min643

Customer Experience specialist Ian Golding, author of new book Customer What: The Honest and Practical Guide to Customer Experience, writes for Customer Experience Magazine, offering his expert insight to help businesses improve their CX offering. 

To ask Ian a question on how to boost the Customer Experience provided by YOUR business, please email your question to editor@cxm.world. The best questions will be featured in future instalments.

Ian also leads the Customer Experience Masterclass and the CCXP Exam Preparation Workshop, both of which can be booked now for dates in October.

‘As a small business owner, time is limited for me, but I am very interested in charting out a customer journey map. How can I identify all my touchpoints and create an effective map on a tight schedule?’

What a lovely question! Lovely, because Customer Experience principles, methodologies, tools, and techniques, are as applicable to a small business as they are to a large corporation.

Creating a visualisation of the customer journey in the form of a map is one of the most important ‘tools’ of all. However, it is very important to recognise that creating the journey itself is only one component part of a bigger purpose – that purpose being to embed a culture of customer journey management (a continuous, never-ending cycle of activity).

Creating a customer journey map is not an exact science – there is no ‘standard’ or ‘right’ way of doing it. It is also not something that needs to be complex or difficult to do. In fact, I always argue that the ‘secret’ (if I can call it that) to effective journey mapping is to keep it simple.

As a small business owner, I would suggest the simplest way to do it is to quite literally to ‘put yourself in your customers shoes’. Spend a day doing exactly what your customer does throughout their experience with you.

Try and phone your company. Go on to your website to find the information you need. Do what your customer does. Instead of creating a ‘map’, you may want to ‘draw’ a typical day in the life of your customer. Understanding everything a typical customer does (not just when they interact with you) – from the minute they wake up, to the minute they go to bed, will enable you to understand how well (or not) you are fitting into their lives.

If you can, run your ‘day in the life of a customer’ past a real customer of yours – validate that what you think they go through is correct. Validate that you clearly understand their ‘pain points’ so you can identify the small number of opportunities that will have the greatest effect on their perception of your business and as a result, the greatest effect on your commercial performance.

Remember at all times to keep it simple. The key is to act on the priorities for improvement and to revisit the journey so you are able to manage its continuous improvement over time.


Ian GoldingIan GoldingJune 8, 2018
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4min632

Customer Experience specialist Ian Golding, author of new book Customer What: The Honest and Practical Guide to Customer Experience, writes for Customer Experience Magazine, offering his expert insight to help businesses improve their CX offering. 

To ask Ian a question on how to boost the Customer Experience provided by YOUR business, please email your question to editor@cxm.world. The best questions will be featured in future instalments…

‘What are some simple techniques for brands to engage with customers that makes the interaction feel personal and not ‘cookie cutter?’

What a great question. Personalisation has been a hot topic for a number of years now – both in terms of digital and human interaction. Whilst it is possible for extremely clever techno genii to make it feel that apps, websites, and other digital gadgetry actually know who we are and what we want, it is far more difficult to enable consistently personal and personable human interactions.

The fundamental reason for this is that for an interaction to ‘feel personal’, then it is essential to enable the human on either side of the interaction to behave in a manner appropriate for the interaction. Every exchange with a customer is different. If we ‘tell’ employees to conduct these exchanges in a specific, scripted, cookie cutter manner, then the exchange will not feel personal. We would never dream of ordering customers to speak back to us in a scripted manner, so why should we expect the same from employees.

As a result, if brands want to engage with customers to make interactions feel personal, they MUST allow their employees to THINK and ACT in the interests of the customer – every time! Just this morning, I bought my breakfast at a Pret a Manger in London. I was greeted with a pretty standard “good morning” – I would not have expected more.

However, the server calculated my bill incorrectly, and undercharged me. When he realised his mistake, I offered to pay the balance with cash.

“No problem sir – it was my mistake, have that on us,” he said.

That made the entire exchange feel very personal. This is what Pret a Manger empower their people to do. This is what so many brands do not trust their people to do.

To make CX personal, brands must trust their employees to do the right thing for the customer.


Ian GoldingIan GoldingMay 14, 2018
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12min559

Customer Experience professional consultant Ian Golding is well known to CXM readers thanks to his role as a Non-Executive Editor and a CX Masterclass leader, but his influence is expanding dramatically with the recent publication of his first book, Customer What? The Honest and Practical Guide to Customer Experience.

Now available to purchase from Amazon, this new work is set to become the bible for businesses keen to improve their CX offering, and the first port of call for Customer Experience professionals seeking to fine-tune their skills.

Customer Experience Magazine is proud to be publishing exclusive excerpts from the tome, beginning with an insight into why modern retailers are at a disadvantage to their historical counterparts when it comes to being able to provide a memorable experience for shoppers…

 

I have observed, and been part of, a tidal wave of focus on customer experience. It has always existed (although few realised it), and customers have always been willing to give feedback. But businesses have only recently started to recognise that doing the right thing by their customers, and actively managing the experience, might make sense.

A few years back, my family and I were honoured to take part in a BBC1 ‘living history’ programme called Turn Back Time: The Family. It was an experience like no other, and we were transported back in time to the turn of the 20th century to experience life as our ancestors lived it and understand how life for the family unit has changed over time.

Our experience started in 1914. Life in pre-war Britain felt much simpler than it is today. Although shopping by mail order had been invented, most shopping happened in person, in a physical shop, with real things in it! The overwhelming majority of people didn’t own a car, so most customers would shop locally with independent traders in the high street (remember them?). Payment was also pretty simple – cash or cheque, with no plastic in sight.

As a father in 1914, I learned how important etiquette was. Manners and politeness were evident in all interactions – at home, at work, and as a customer.

Shops were very orderly places, staffed by smartly dressed shopkeepers standing behind tall counters. They knew most of their customers by name, and would pick, and wrap, products by hand while chatting to customers. Most of the Time the shopkeepers did not even have to ask what their customers wanted to buy – they knew already. There was not a great deal of variety in terms of the products on offer, but the shopkeeper knew each customer’s preferences, their family’s preferences, and their budget, and customers trusted them to help find just the right thing, just as they would trust their children’s head teacher or the family doctor.

Fast-forward 100 or so years. Today, customers do not just have two purchase channels to choose from. We have ten that I can think of – physical stores; the telephone; the web; mobile; live chat;SMS; mail order; TV; social; AI-assisted. I am sure I have forgotten one or two! Local availability is not a consideration either – we can buy anything and everything we want, in any way we want, from anywhere in the world. We can, in theory, live our lives without ever talking to anyone or setting foot outside our front door.

It is not at all uncommon to conduct an entire transaction without a human being involved, and even if one is, they are often just reading back a pre-written script. In shops, it is unlikely that anyone will know you personally. Trust isn’t the currency it used to be – it’s likely you are so well informed by technology that the people working in the shop won’t need to help you make your purchase. In fact, if you need help you are likely to turn to Google – you trust the wisdom of the crowd to tell you what others think about an item before you commit to buying it.

So, when was the best time to be a customer? The personal, simple experience of 1914 or the global, convenience-led experience of today?

I am not advocating that we literally turn back time – far from it. It is impossible to deny the remarkable ease and convenience afforded today’s consumer by the amazing connected world we are part of. However, the experience is less fulfilling somehow. It does not always feel good being a customer of the global corporations that distribute the products and services we buy. We create and share stories of organisations that fail to connect emotionally with us. Not only do they not know our names, but very few seem to understand us. Ironically, we’re looking for something we’ve lost: trust. And feeling known and understood and valued, a little like we used to feel in the food old days in 1914.

Is the customer always right?

Many will argue that today’s experience looks the way it does because consumers have demanded it, and will continue to demand more and more. Is that really true, though? The power consumers have today has definitely changed the relationship between business and customer.

“In the rush to chase convenience, efficiency, and lower costs, many businesses have unknowingly and gradually broken the bond of trust that existed between them and their customers.”

But some businesses have adapted to change better than others. These are the customer experience leaders. They offer all the benefits of today’s experience – choice, convenience, and speedy access at affordable prices – but they have done it without ever losing trust. They have consistently made it their mission to extend the personal, empathetic, emotional flavour of the sopping experience of 1914 to our modern day, connected experience.

Today, business leaders who have taken customers for granted in the past are reconsidering their strategy. Even Ryanair CEO, Michael O’Leary – infamous for his very public disdain for customers – claims to have had an epiphany, saying:

“If I had known being nicer to our customers was going to work so well I would have done it years ago.

A whole consulting industry has grown up around creating wonderful-looking customer journey maps. New roles are emerging with ‘customer experience’ in their job titles. Ten years ago, the CCO (or chief customer officer) did not exist. Today, increasing numbers of CCOs are appearing on the scene, alongside customer experience directors; heads of customer experience; customer experience transformists; customer experience futurologists; and VPs of customer success.

Now, more than ever, should be a wonderful time to be a customer

So why do I continue to be on the receiving end of inconsistent, uninspiring, and often substandard customer experiences? Why do I encounter more people who have no idea what customer experience is, than those who do?

Because organisational understanding of customer experience as a discipline is still in its fledgling state. Differentiating on customer experience requires you to embed customer in the psyche of your organisation and every individual who works within it. It is a long-term business strategy, not a quick fix. It requires strategic thinking, scientific measurement, and emotional intelligence. It is an organisation-wide collaborative effort, needing committed leadership and hardcore change management.

This is why group like the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA), founded by Bruce Temkin and Jeanne Bliss, are so vital to the development of our industry. And why a new professional qualification has been created to recognise our complex and ever-evolving skill set.

At times, being a customer experience professional can be lonely and frustrating. Putting the needs of customers and employees at the forefront of everyone’s thinking requires a bucketload of inspiration, dedication, and perspiration. I have seen and heard it all, and believe me I have developed a very thick skin!

No matter what role you play in your organisation (regardless of whether you have customer experience in your job title or not!) you can drive this change. Never give up. Remind yourself every day that our businesses exist to serve customers, and without them we would not exist.

 


Ian GoldingIan GoldingSeptember 12, 2017
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9min176

As we head into the middle of September, as many people are reaching towards the back of their wardrobes to find their winter jumpers as are looking for their shorts and t-shirts. Whether you are revelling in the thought that summer is coming or despairing at the reality of short days and long nights, the month of September is an annual signal of impending change.

Whilst most human beings see the 1st January as their annual calendar moment to make commitments (often hollow!), there is no reason why we should not consider doing so more often – make commitments that is (and not hollow ones either!). As the seasons change, and the natural world around us transforms, it is the perfect opportunity for us to take stock of progress and determine future direction.

Last week, I was fortunate (as I always consider myself) to be part of meetings with two clients in two completely different industries. Although the titles of the meetings differed, they were both essentially ‘Customer Experience (CX) Working Groups’ – collaborative, cross functional teams, brought together to drive their respective organisations approaches to CX. In both cases, these working groups form a vital part of wider governance frameworks, defining and embedding the sustainable focus on CX.

Bringing people together for meetings like this in the UK, after a long, hot/warm, mostly dry (unusually) summer, does not come without its risks. With the memories of summer escapades still fresh in the mind, and many returning to overflowing email inboxes, the thought of having to spend a day in a room with other colleagues updating on activities that may or may not have been given any attention in recent memory, is not particularly appealing!

However, what I witnessed was really very different. If the people I observed were concerned about their workload, they did not make it apparent. If they would rather have been somewhere else, they hid it well. What I saw were people from two companies who shared a common desire – a common desire to make change happen – to influence change – to enable change – to be the change. What I observed, were a lot of committed, passionate business people who were willing to TAKE OWNERSHIP – a real key to the success of any approach to CX.

In one of the two companies, I listened to a presentation on the subject of TAKING OWNERSHIP – it inspired me to write this post. Like so many things, the concept is so very simple, yet too often we fail to see it being applied in a business environment. Taking ownership is something this particular company is trying to embed into the mind-set of its people. Darren, the chap who delivered the presentation, started by describing a definition of ‘ownership’:

Ownership means you take pride in what you deliver. Ownership means you care about the success of the project. You’re not just clocking in and collecting a pay cheque… you’re taking responsibility and placing value in the quality of your work

This is so easy to understand – but if you look at yourself in the mirror, is that the kind of person you actually see? To be a sustainable customer centric organisation, it is essential that your people live and breath the sentiment of this definition. However, Darren continued to explain the dilemma for most employees – what he called the employee crossroad:

Do you recognise with these two scenarios? Which direction are you currently going in? If you or any of your colleagues are going to be part of a successful organisation, working with well motivated, passionate, driven people, all striving for a collective goal, there is only one route to take.

Accountability is something assigned or given.
Ownership isn’t assigned or given. Ownership is taken.

Too often I am told that things are ‘not possible’, or just cannot be done. My standard response is always one word….. why? As the great Nelson Mandela once said, ‘nothing is impossible until it’s done’. Change is difficult. Transformation is tough. Neither are impossible. To become a sustainable customer centric business, you require both – not now; not for the next twelve months; not for the next five years. You will need to accept that you will be dealing with both change AND transformation FOREVER. It is not impossible, but to succeed and strive in an ever changing environment, we all need to take ownership of the things that need to change – attitudes, beliefs, processes, products, environments – everything!

So as the seasons change again, ask yourself this – when it comes to Customer Experience transformation in your organisation, what are you taking ownership of right now?

Interesting Links:


Ian GoldingIan GoldingJune 28, 2017
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8min227

Picture a room full of strangers at a party you’ve just arrived at, as you walk in there’s one voice you can hear above the rest, bragging about how they have the biggest house, the fastest car, the best job. Are you going to want to talk to that person? No – who wants to listen to somebody talk incessantly about themselves? Unfortunately, this is how a lot of businesses talk to the outside world and end up being ignored.

So why do businesses end up sounding like a self-obsessed party bore? Businesses are made up of people and all people have an ego – and let’s face it, we all like it stroked every now and again. The problem is that work allows egos to run riot. The reward that comes from recognition encourages self-perpetuating behaviour and boasting, which often goes unchecked. Communication within organisations is to a captive audience, professionally bound to listen – or at least feign interest (I know I’ve dutifully clapped many a sleep-inducing presentation). Businesses need to remember the outside world isn’t on their payroll, or duty bound to listen to their hype. As a general rule, egos should stay as a confidence boosting voice inside our heads, not the one we use to communicate with (unless you want a one-way conversation).

Putting our ego in check is part of everyday life. Much like we hold back on what we say to keep a conversation going; we need to apply the same restraint in our corporate communications. Companies need to remember the basic rules of communication to get people to care about what they say. If you want your audience to listen, what you say has to be interesting, relevant and useful to them.

The larger the business, the easier it is to forget they are engaging in a human-to-human conversation with their audience. Businesses tend to over elaborate, using sales speak and corporate jargon to impress their customers – a language nobody uses, or trusts, in the real world. The more clever adjectives you use to dress up a service, the harder you’re making it for customers to get to the facts they need to decide if it’s right for them. People want to know what it is you have to offer and how it benefits them, not what you think of it. Put simply, the harder you make your audience work to get the answers they want, the less they will pay attention.

While the digital world has given us great new ways to communicate with customers, the battle to gain their attention has never been harder. People are making faster decisions about what they do and don’t want to engage with. Research by Microsoft proved the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000, when the mobile revolution began, to eight seconds in 2015. Goldfish, meanwhile, is believed to have an attention span of nine seconds (yes, we’ve got that bad). Data scientists Chartbeat also analysed how people read online and found when people click on a story, most will only scroll through 60% of the article – so even if your customers are interested in reading about you, 40% of what you say is lost. For editorial ads online it’s even worse, only 24% will scroll at all.

Knowing you might only get a few seconds of your customer’s time, how much of that do you want to spend blowing your own trumpet? Put yourself in the shoes of your customer; go through your company’s communications and time how long it takes to get the information you would need to commit to giving your custom. Read your communications out loud, do they sound natural and human? Do your press releases get to the point quickly and still make sense for customers if they only read 60% of the story? Do your company’s vision and values set the right tone to engage your customers – or are they too focused on what’s is good for the business?

Ineffective, self-indulgent corporate communication is easily remedied when we ditch the ego. Businesses need to show some humility and remember they’re speaking to real people with little time to spare. If that’s too hard – just imagine you’re talking to a goldfish.


After leading PR and internal communications teams at the world’s largest bank, Nigel Owen now works as a freelance consultant, providing communication strategy to Government and the private sector.

Source: IJGolding

Interesting Links:


Ian GoldingIan GoldingMay 18, 2017
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10min169

Most human beings have a small number of people they consider to be their ‘heroes’. For some, it is a relative – their mother, father, brother or sister, husband, wife or partner – it may be a long departed uncle who flew Spitfires in World War II. Others may have heroes from the sporting arena, whether it be a football or soccer player; Muhammad Ali, or a multiple Olympic champion. Some even have heroes that hail from the world of business.

During my career, I have come across my own personal heroes – people who have inspired me to be the person I am today and to do the things I do. As an employee for 17 years in a number of different organisations, I still see two of the leaders I worked for as ‘heroes’ – I will never forget John Bush and Katie Ebberwein. Among the countless leaders I have come across in my working life, these two individuals, from markedly different backgrounds and organisations, remain the most inspiring, authentic, motivating people I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Both of them believed in people. They both believed in me. Their values aligned with mine and have played a huge part in my personal development.

I also have two other people I consider to be my heroes in the world of business. One is Jack Welch – the indomitable force behind the long-lasting, sustainable success of one of the world’s largest organisations, General Electric. Just reading some of his most famous quotes may give you an idea of why he is a hero of mine:

Change before you have to.

Face reality as it is, not as it was or as you wish it to be.

Control your own destiny or someone else will.

An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.

If you pick the right people and give them the opportunity to spread their wings and put compensation as a carrier behind it you almost don’t have to manage them.

Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.

If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.

I’ve learned that mistakes can often be as good a teacher as success.

Willingness to change is a strength, even if it means plunging part of the company into total confusion for a while.

The essence of competitiveness is liberated when we make people believe that what they think and do is important – and then get out of their way while they do it.

My four years working across two different GE businesses have also had a huge influence on what I do today. I often to say to people that GE ‘changed my life’ – it sounds rather evangelical – but from a business perspective, it absolutely did. The driving force behind that, was the culture Jack Welch embedded across the GE empire. Jack Welch believed in people – employees AND customers.

Jack Welch is not my only business hero. Although I have never met him, or worked for his company, perhaps my biggest business hero of all – especially from a customer experience perspective, is the founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos. I have written about Jeff (if I may be bold and call him by his first name) many times. It is no secret that I am a huge admirer of his. Creating one of the most customer centric brands on the planet is obviously a major reason why. Here are some of Jeff’s most famous quotes:

A company shouldn’t get addicted to being shiny, because shiny doesn’t last

If you’re competitor-focused, you have to wait until there is a competitor doing something. Being customer-focused allows you to be more pioneering

Part of company culture is path-dependent it’s the lessons you learn along the way

If you never want to be criticized, for goodness’ sake don’t do anything new

I strongly believe that missionaries make better products. They care more. For a missionary, it’s not just about the business. There has to be a business, and the business has to make sense, but that’s not why you do it. You do it because you have something meaningful that motivates you

The one thing that offends me the most is when I walk by a bank and see ads trying to convince people to take out second mortgages on their home so they can go on vacation. That’s approaching evil

We’ve had three big ideas at Amazon that we’ve stuck with for 18 years, and they’re the reason we’re successful: Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient

We’ve had three big ideas at Amazon that we’ve stuck with for 18 years, and they’re the reason we’re successful: Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient

If you’re not stubborn, you’ll give up on experiments too soon. And if you’re not flexible, you’ll pound your head against the wall and you won’t see a different solution to a problem you’re trying to solve

In the old world, you devoted 30% of your time to building a great service and 70% of your time to shouting about it. In the new world, that inverts

I would never say no to something the team wanted to do, but I might say yes to something the team didn’t want to do. You want there to be multiple ways to get to ‘yes’ because you want to encourage risk-taking

Not only are these quotes inspiring, they are also 100% genuine. Jeff Bezos believes in everything he says and will never be influenced in doing something he does not believe in. Only last week, I spotted an image posted by some on LinkedIn, it summed up for me why Jeff Bezos is an absolute role model customer centric leader:

A fascinating and hugely powerful image. Whilst someone quite rightly pointed out that there is no reference to employees in this, the clarity with which Jeff puts the customer needs above and beyond the needs of the business making money is seismic. There are not many business leaders who would have the courage to talk about their business in this way.

This is why for me, Jeff Bezos is not just a role model customer centric leader – he is perhaps THE most customer centric leader of all time. One day, I hope I do get the chance to meet him – as I have said in the past, if I ever do, I will give him a hug and thank him for changing the way the world thinks about the customer. I will thank him for being my business hero.

To read more about Customer Experience please visit IJGolding.


Ian GoldingIan GoldingMay 4, 2017
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13min189

Last week I wrote an article on the subject of ‘common sense’. To be more accurate, I wrote about the lack of common sense and how it’s absence was continuing to destroy customer experiences all over the world. One of the stories featured in the article was about United Airlines and their much publicised PR disaster caused by the practice of overbooking flights.

I am not about to repeat the story – do not panic! Nor I am about to launch another diatribe about an already beleaguered brand. However, the United ‘story’ did not end once they reached a settlement with David Dao – the unfortunate United ‘customer’ who was dragged from the aircraft in April.

Dr Dao’s unfortunate interaction with United, highlighted, once again, how the customer remains an afterthought in the minds of many organisations around the world. So much an afterthought, that in the aftermath of the incident, the United CEO, Oscar Munoz, used language in his statements that did little to reassure the watching public that his focus was on doing what was right for his customers. Mr Munoz’s first statement was as follows:

This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers. Our team is moving with a sense of urgency to work with the authorities and conduct our own detailed review of what happened.

The use of the word ‘re-accommodate’, has come in for particularly scathing criticism. Customer centric? Perhaps not. Backing the actions of the staff involved whilst failing to acknowledge the significance of the issues for his customers has been indescribably damaging to both the United brand and Oscar Munoz himself. The following communication to his staff became public later the same day:

Like you, I was upset to see and hear about what happened last night aboard United Express Flight 3411 headed from Chicago to Louisville. While the facts and circumstances are still evolving, especially with respect to why this customer defied Chicago Aviation Security Officers the way he did, to give you a clearer picture of what transpired, I’ve included below a recap from the preliminary reports filed by our employees.

As you will read, this situation was unfortunately compounded when one of the passengers we politely asked to deplane refused and it became necessary to contact Chicago Aviation Security Officers to help.  Our employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this. While I deeply regret this situation arose, I also emphatically stand behind all of you, and I want to commend you for continuing to go above and beyond to ensure we fly right.

 

I do, however, believe there are lessons we can learn from this experience, and we are taking a close look at the circumstances surrounding this incident. Treating our customers and each other with respect and dignity is at the core of who we are, and we must always remember this no matter how challenging the situation.

 How dare a paying customer fail to do as they are told! As the heat continued to increase, Mr Munoz was forced into making several new statements, including:

This will never happen again on a United flight. That’s my promise. No one should ever be mistreated this way.

Better – but why should we believe him? So often when organisations do their customers a disservice, representatives of the ‘offending’ business deliver statements full of what I describe as ‘weasel words’. Ultimately, on the 27th April 2017, all United Airlines ‘loyalty programme’ customers received a letter by email from Oscar Nunoz – it is well worth reading in full:

Each flight you take with us represents an important promise we make to you, our customer. It’s not simply that we make sure you reach your destination safely and on time, but also that you will be treated with the highest level of service and the deepest sense of dignity and respect.

Earlier this month, we broke that trust when a passenger was forcibly removed from one of our planes. We can never say we are sorry enough for what occurred, but we also know meaningful actions will speak louder than words.

For the past several weeks, we have been urgently working to answer two questions: How did this happen, and how can we do our best to ensure this never happens again?

It happened because our corporate policies were placed ahead of our shared values. Our procedures got in the way of our employees doing what they know is right.

Fixing that problem starts now with changing how we fly, serve and respect our customers. This is a turning point for all of us here at United – and as CEO, it’s my responsibility to make sure that we learn from this experience and redouble our efforts to put our customers at the center of everything we do.

That’s why we announced that we will no longer ask law enforcement to remove customers from a flight and customers will not be required to give up their seat once on board – except in matters of safety or security.

We also know that despite our best efforts, when things don’t go the way they should, we need to be there for you to make things right. There are several new ways we’re going to do just that.

We will increase incentives for voluntary rebooking up to $10,000 and will be eliminating the red tape on permanently lost bags with a new “no-questions-asked” $1,500 reimbursement policy. We will also be rolling out a new app for our employees that will enable them to provide on-the-spot goodwill gestures in the form of miles, travel credit and other amenities when your experience with us misses the mark. You can learn more about these commitments and many other changes at hub.united.com.

While these actions are important, I have found myself reflecting more broadly on the role we play and the responsibilities we have to you and the communities we serve.

I believe we must go further in redefining what United’s corporate citizenship looks like in our society. You can and ought to expect more from us, and we intend to live up to those higher expectations in the way we embody social responsibility and civic leadership everywhere we operate. I hope you will see that pledge express itself in our actions going forward, of which these initial, though important, changes are merely a first step.

Our goal should be nothing less than to make you truly proud to say, “I fly United.”

Ultimately, the measure of our success is your satisfaction and the past several weeks have moved us to go further than ever before in elevating your experience with us. I know our 87,000 employees have taken this message to heart, and they are as energized as ever to fulfil our promise to serve you better with each flight and earn the trust you’ve given us.

We are working harder than ever for the privilege to serve you and I know we will be stronger, better and the customer-focused airline you expect and deserve.

With Great Gratitude,

Oscar Munoz

CEO

United Airlines

Wow!! What a remarkable turnaround. Such huge statements have been made; “meaningful actions will speak louder than words”; “our corporate policies were placed ahead of our shared values”; “Our procedures got in the way of our employees doing what they know is right”; “Fixing that problem starts now with changing how we fly, serve and respect our customers”; “redouble our efforts to put our customers at the center of everything we do”; “I believe we must go further in redefining what United’s corporate citizenship looks like in our society”; “We are working harder than ever for the privilege to serve you and I know we will be stronger, better and the customer-focused airline you expect and deserve”.

For a writer on the subject of Customer Experience, these statements are like ‘manna from heaven’. Whilst it does not give me pleasure for the CEO of an organisation to write about these things in these circumstances, I am absolutely delighted that he has had to do so – and that his statements are on public record. Yet for all the great intention (and weasel words), it means absolutely NOTHING unless the words turn into ACTION – not just in the short term, but the long term – indefinitely.

Oscar Munoz did not issue this letter because customer centricity is at his very core – he issued it because he had no choice. Yet now he has, he MUST stand by the sentiments within it. United Airlines continue to act as a real life case study of the effect a lack of focus on the customer, can, and will have on the financial performance of a business. Now they have had to eat humble pie, again, I only hope it triggers the start of a genuine, long term, indefinite focus on putting the customer at the center of everything they do.

This article was republished from Ian Golding’s website.

Interesting Links:


Ian GoldingIan GoldingDecember 16, 2016
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11min138

As a child growing up, no birthday party was complete without a rousing rendition of the Hokey Cokey. Also known as the ‘Hokey Pokey’ in some parts of the world, according to Wikipedia, it originates in a British folk dance, with variants attested as early as 1826. The song and accompanying dance peaked in popularity as a music hall song and novelty dance in the mid-1940s in Britain and Ireland. The song was a chart hit twice in the 1980s – first by The Snowmen which peaked at UK #18 in 1981, and then Black Lace who reached #31 in 1985

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If you are one of the few who has never heard the Hokey Cokey (or Pokey) before, the lyrics go something like this:

You put your right arm in
your right arm out
In, out, in, out,
You shake it all about.
You do the Hokey Cokey and you turn around
That’s what it’s all about…

[Chorus]
Woah, the hokey cokey,
Woah, the hokey cokey,
Woah, the hokey cokey,
Knees bent, arms stretched, ra ra ra!

 

The song and dance continues with the left arm, right leg, left leg, and ends with participants putting ‘their whole self’ in and out! It is all good, harmless fun. So what on earth has this got to do with the subject of Customer Experience?! If you have not yet guessed, the Hokey Cokey has actually become the perfect analogy for the way organisations around the world are attempting to put Customer Experience at the forefront of their strategic thinking.

Over the last twenty years, Customer Experience as a strategic way of working has steadily increased in prominence. With the creation of the Customer Experience Professionals Association in 2011, it is only in the last five years that the skills and competencies required for an organisation to become continuously and sustainably customer centric have come to the fore. In that time, more and more businesses of all shapes and sizes across multiple industries have ‘dipped their toe in the water’ of Customer Experience.

It is becoming harder and harder to find a company who has not put ‘their left arm in’, so to speak, in attempting to focus more on the customer. Most businesses now measure some form of ‘Voice of the Customer’ for example. Just because most measure it, does not mean they do so correctly or well – but most are doing it nonetheless. However, using the analogy of the Hokey Cokey, whilst most have put either an arm or leg ‘in’ at some point over the last twenty years, very few have been able to get to the point where ‘the whole self’ of the organisation has made it!

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Committing to Customer Experiencing continues to be one of the significant challenges organisations face today. This is a subject I have written about before – in April last year, I described sustaining the approach to Customer Experience as the hardest challenge of all – over eighteen months later, that continues to be the case. Increasingly, I am coming across more and more businesses who are either changing their approach to Customer Experience; amending their framework or model of applying it; or in many cases, starting all over again from scratch. The analogy of the Hokey Cokey makes more and more sense, as it appears the world of business puts a little bit of effort into Customer Experience….. stops….. and then starts all over again….. without ever getting to the point where it completely commits to putting ‘its whole self in’.

This inability to commit to Customer Experience, or sustain a focus on it, is the reason why we as consumers continue to have so many unsatisfactory, random experiences with the companies we interact with on a daily basis. So few businesses have been able to genuinely transform the way they work, it is still difficult to cite examples of organisations who are genuinely customer centric – other than the obvious. The big question is why? Why are so many still finding it so hard to commit?

Earlier this year, I wrote on this subject yet again – although I am in danger of sounding repetitive, it is so important to keep bringing to the fore the significance of the challenge. Here are my top five reasons behind the failure to commit:

  1. Leadership failing to ‘operationalise’ Customer Experience – as the saying goes, ‘talk is cheap’ – no-one ever changed anything just by talking about it. Too often I see businesses all too happy to talk a good game when it comes to Customer Experience, but the game ‘pauses’ when decisions need to be made to actually change something. Failing to ‘operationalise’ Customer Experience will make it impossible to sustain a customer centric approach – if there is a desire to become more customer centric, then make it happen!
  2. Lack of organisational stability – the word ‘restructure’ strikes fear in many a battle weary employee. It is remarkable just how many organisations seem to have a restructure as an annual event. Every time a restructure occurs, whilst it not only creates instability, it often leads to a change of direction and priorities. Sustaining a customer focused strategy is extremely challenging in these circumstances. Like a soccer team changing its manager after one poor result, all organisations need stability to stand a chance of delivering any form of sustainable success.
  3. Short term focus – Customer Experience is a long term business strategy. If you want short term results, then Customer Experience transformation will not be the way to achieve it. In any transformative environment, patience, belief, courage and a resolute temperament are required to deliver the ultimate vision. Too much short term pressure applied by stakeholders who are not bought in to a customer centric strategy will ultimately lead to failure.
  4. Lack of skills and competencies – I have said many times that a lack of education is holding many businesses back from become more customer centric. It is very challenging to start a focus on Customer Experience, let alone sustain it, if your organisation does not possess the skills and competencies to enable you to get there. And when it comes to developing knowledge, I mean at all levels of the organisation. Leaders are not exempt from continuing to learn, yet too many are absent when faced with the opportunity to increase their understanding of a skillset that is relatively new to most.
  5. Failure to put ‘people’ first – sadly, we still live in a world where businesses are failing to put people – both employees and customers at the forefront of their thinking. Failing to put your own people first is a sure fire way of making it impossible to become customer centric. It always amazes me how many employees would not choose to interact as customers with the companies they work for – largely this is down to the fact that they do not believe in their own organisations ability to deliver the experience. Too many ’employees’ are just ‘doing their job’ – acting as completers of tasks, whilst unable and unempowered to use their very capable brains.

As we approach the end of another calendar year, a key reflection of 2016 is that there is no let up of the increasing chatter about Customer Experience and Customer Centricity. Yet although the volume keeps getting louder, more and more businesses are still putting themselves continuously ‘in’ and ‘out’, without ever immersing the whole organisation in a sustainable approach to Customer Experience.

Maybe in 2017, an increasing number of organisations can get to the point where they do finally ‘shake themselves about’ and settle on focusing on the customer and their people as a core element of the business strategy – not just for the short term, but indefinitely into the future.

Interesting links:


Ian GoldingIan GoldingNovember 3, 2016
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9min176

Even the best specialists in their fields of work; the most experienced; the most decorated; will continuously look for ways to evolve their knowledge and learning. Often, a glaring sign of a leader who is unlikely to be able to successfully and sustainably lead their organisation, is the stark reality that the leader does not think there is anything left to learn.

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As people, our journey of learning starts from the minute we enter the turbulent, exciting, scary and surprising world that we all live in. The better able we are to embrace the thoughts and ideas of others, the better a leader we are likely to become. Whilst I do not proclaim to be a shining example of leadership myself, I am constantly looking for new ideas, knowledge and inspiration that will help me to become ever more effective in my specialism.

Learning from others is often the inspiration we need to maintain our own momentum. I like to relate learning in our specialist fields as being told a good joke. Think of the number of jokes that you have been told in your lifetime – there are only a few that we actually remember. Typically we remember a small number of jokes because they are brilliant – they make us laugh out loud, sometimes bringing us to tears (of joy rather than sadness).

Every now and then I am told something about Customer Experience; or I hear someone speaking; or I read an article; and I get goose pimples all over! Akin to the brilliant joke (that you know you will use over and over again), finding something that touches you as a leader is a fabulous feeling.

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Last year, someone brought something to my attention that achieved just what I am describing. David Marquet is a former Nuclear Submarine Commander for the US Navy. A colleague of mine told me that I had to see a YouTube clip of him describing his perspective of Leadership – using his naval experience as the context. The clip is actually an animation – an animation of David delivering a conference speech. Within two minutes of hearing David speak, I was hooked. Despite the fact I was looking at an animation whilst listening to a man talking about Nuclear submarines, everything David was describing resonated with me – his description of the need to ‘shift control’ within an organisation – shifting control to your people (or where the knowledge is, as David describes it), is core to any organisation aspiring to thrive in a ‘people centric’ (customers and colleagues) culture.

Mid way through David’s speech, he talks about the two ‘pillars’ required by a leader to ‘give control’ to others. It sums up what is absolutely necessary for any leader to understand in my opinion. Here is my own personal take on it:

1. Technical Competence

To be able to deliver the experience you WANT your customers to have, it is critical that you have people in the organisation who possess the ‘technical competence’ to know what to do and when in bringing the experience to life. If you have people with technical competence, it will mean that they should not have to ask permission to do things. Their skills enable them to know what to do and when to do it with regards making decisions in the interests of the customer. Some organisations recruit people specifically with technical competence in mind. Others invest in people through learning and development programmes so that they build the required level of technical competency.

The important part about this is as follows – if you have people in your business with the required level of technical competence, then they should NOT need to seek permission to do what is right for the customer. However – there is always one of those – that leads me on to the second pillar:

2. Organisational Clarity

As a leader, to be able to shift control to those who deliver the experience to customers, it is not enough to simply survive on technical competence alone. Without a clear understanding of exactly WHAT it is the organisation is trying to do, you can have all the technical skills in the world, but you may not know if the decision you are taking is the right one to achieve organisational goals and objectives, or the wrong one.

Lack of organisational clarity is a remarkably common phenomenon – I would say that at least 80% of the employees I talk to across the world have no idea what the strategy is of the organisation they work for. In honour of David Marquet – let’s stick with a naval analogy. If you employ an experienced captain of naval boats – he is likely to know how to captain it. Yet without organisational clarity, he will have no idea what direction you want him to take it!

So often I am faced with businesses who have remarkably capable people – people with absolutely the desired levels of technical competence to deliver the desired Customer Experience and as a result, deliver the desired commercial goals. Yet without the clarity of understanding what they organisational strategy is, they are failing to achieve either.

I recently had a discussion about this with a good friend of mine, Stephen Marney, in Dubai. Stephen described how last Christmas he attempted to book a table at a beachside restaurant for his extended family. Stephen arrived at the restaurant and was met by a polite and articulate receptionist. This lady was fully armed with the technical competence to reserve a table for 20 people. However, before Stephen was prepared to confirm the reservation, he wanted to know whether or not there would be any festive entertainment on offer. The receptionist had absolutely no idea. After a protracted conversation, the restaurant manager was summoned – he proceeded to describe the entertainment programme in great detail. Stephen wanted to know why he had not told his own people about it – the manager could not answer that very simple question!

What David Marquet taught me was not something I was unaware of before – but a better, more effective way of being able to describe it. David’s take on leadership applies to any organisation – anywhere in the world. I am thankful to have come across his words of wisdom and hope that you take inspiration from the principles I learned from him yourself.


Ian GoldingIan GoldingSeptember 20, 2016
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11min199

During my career as a Customer Experience Professional, my opinions, points of views and suggestions have been rebuffed on many an occasion. I have been accused of being lots of things over those years – from being ‘emotionally immature’, to ‘ignorant’, to perhaps the most humiliating of all – ‘insignificant’!

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At the time, the branding of me and my profession in this way was very hard to take. I found myself constantly questioning whether or not they were actually right. My mind continuously challenged my ability.

The early years of any career are testing for a whole variety of reasons. Those who have been working for longer than you, will often deem themselves to be ‘superior’ – irrelevant of knowledge and capability. Experience IS vitally important. Until or unless you have ‘been there and done it’, you will be unable to truly understand and empathise with certain situations and the people involved.

When we take on a new role in an organisation, there are occasions when we just expect others to listen to us as a result of the job title that has been bestowed upon us. ‘I am responsible for Customer Experience’ – ‘You have to listen to me!’. I have heard these two sentences uttered by someone in a Customer Experience role (note I do not describe them as a Customer Experience Professional) – they wondered why no-one wanted to listen to them.

It does not matter who you are; where you have come from; how prominent your education was; what your job title is; how much you are paid – EVERYONE must understand the need to EARN authority within their business. From the CEO down, EARNING authority is the difference between trying to do your job and continually bashing in to brick walls; and trying to do your job with the support and enthusiasm of others.

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I have been involved in the fields of business improvement and Customer Experience for over twenty years. In the early days of my career, I was responsible for teaching Lean Six Sigma methodology to a US owned reinsurance business. With a corporate wide mandate to train as many people as possible all over the world, I was faced with transferring knowledge to actuaries, underwriters and marketers’ in the UK, Germany and Asia/Pacific. When I was recruited into the role, the hiring manager wanted someone with ‘more experience’. I was the only person who wanted the job!! From the minute I started, it was vitally important to develop and EARN the authority for highly skilled and educated people to listen to me.

I will never forget sitting in my hotel room in Munich on the morning of my first class. I am not embarrassed to say that I cried. I was petrified. Yet as soon as I started speaking – as soon as I confirmed in my own mind that I had nothing to be afraid of – I relaxed. The bottom line is that I knew what I was talking about; I knew my subject; I knew my material. What I needed to do was to ensure that the people in front of me believed me and bought in to what I was telling them.

My two years in that role had a profound effect on who I am today. I will always say that if you can convince an actuary of the benefits of a methodology like Six Sigma, you can convince anyone of anything! I EARNED authority during that two-year period – to the point where those who attended my training were telling others of the benefit. I do not want to sound naïve, but prior to this period of my career, I had not really understood just how important that is.

Since that time, EARNING authority has become a core element of my personal strategy in any situation. During my time as Head of Group Customer Experience for an online retailer, the only way I was going to get any traction at all, was through the building and EARNING of authority. This was an environment where very few actually understood WHAT Customer Experience was or WHY it (and indeed I) was necessary. This scenario is remarkably common for anyone starting a job for the first time. It is almost certain to be the case for someone in a Customer Experience role. Building a tactical ‘personal’ plan to EARN authority is extremely important – for a Customer Experience Professional, it is vital.

There are many things that you can do; need to do to EARN authority. Perhaps the most important thing is to bring to life what you are trying to achieve by actually doing it – and demonstrating the benefit to the organisation and its people. Spending too long ‘spouting’ theory is not going to get you anywhere. There are two other things that always sit in my personal plan and that I encourage others to do as well:

EARN authority by getting the credibility of a professional qualification

When you work with a subject that is still relatively new, there will be many who just do not understand it enough to ‘give it the time of day’! These people sometimes view what they perceive to be new ‘theory’ as just that – theory. Most Customer Experience Professionals will have been accused at some point of dealing with the ‘soft and fluffy’ – this could not be further from the truth.

With the evolution of the Customer Experience Profession and the creation of a global professional qualification in Customer Experience, the ability of those dealing with the ‘soft and fluffy’ to turn their subject into the ‘hard and factual’ has become a reality. The CCXP (Certified Customer Experience Professional) accreditation is having a huge effect on the ability of Customer Experience Professionals to EARN authority – and anyone with those letters after their name has absolutely EARNED it!! This is not an easy qualification to get – these people have genuinely ‘been there and done it’. With this accreditation, it is much easier to get others to listen and learn than without it.

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EARN authority by getting external recognition

In 2010, I was overjoyed to see my team win my organisations first ever UK Customer Experience Award. It had taken five years of blood, sweat and tears to EARN a huge dollop of authority by getting recognition for what we were doing – from outside the company. That award completely changed the way many leaders inside the company thought about the things we were doing with Customer Experience. Getting this recognition was a big milestone in our progress.

Since that time, I have been an avid supporter of the UK Customer Experience Awards. I have spent the last five years judging others. I have seen some quite amazing people do some quite amazing things – all with the effect of EARNING authority for themselves and within their organisations.

This Friday, I am excited to be judging another crop of talented, committed and passionate Customer Experience Professionals at the 2016 UK Customer Experience Awards. This year, the awards will be the biggest ever. It is so humbling to be a part of it and so inspiring to see how the profession that Customer Experience has become continues to get ever stronger.

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It has taken me a long time to EARN the authority to talk with confidence about Customer Experience. I will never take for granted just how hard it is to do. Yet it is also critical for me and others to understand that EARNING authority is actually never-ending. I, like anyone else, must continuously develop and evolve my specialism to KEEP EARNING the authority that I have taken so long to build. This is why EARNING authority as a Customer Experience Professional will always be so important!

I am writing this blog post in honour of all those who have worked so hard in their organisations to EARN authority in Customer Experience by becoming finalists at the 2016 UK Customer Experience Awards. Whatever happens on Friday, you and your teams can rightly be hugely proud of what you have done and the authority you have EARNED. I look forward to celebrating with you all.

Interesting links:




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