It was great to be asked to co-chair the Winning with CX Conference at the British Film Institute in London. The event had been brought together by Awards International, Cranfield School of Management and Customer Experience Magazine and included presenters who had won awards at the UKCX Awards last year.

Paul Simon and Customer Experience are good friends!


So what do Paul Simon, the legendary music artist with albums such as Graceland and his latest album ‘The Ultimate Collection’, which topped the UK album chart this month and organisations who are leading in Customer Experience have in common?

Nothing I here you say, but you are wrong – as we listened to a Paul Simon track, we heard from Professor Maury Peiperl talk about the synergies between the Paul Simon and CX Leaders. Paul Simon started recording in 1957, Graceland (the album most of us remember him for) his best selling album was released in 1986 and in 2015 he has an album which has once again topped the charts, some 58 years later! His shows are always a sell out too. He has won a lifetime achievement award at the Grammys. How? He continues to do the old stuff – the songs that have flown off the shelves or into our itunes downloads – so the tracks that are still relevant and resonate with us, as well as mixing it up with the new.

He creates a great musical experience; he makes his songs and albums relevant, he innovates and collaborates with new musicians continuing to make himself and his music relevant to all generations, whilst not forgetting the great classics that we all love and remember.

Sounds like what the successful CX focussed organisations are doing!

So what makes an organisation successful according to Maury? It’s about having a shared vision, a willingness to discard standard routines, new thinking – trying new things, open communications without fear of criticism or punishment, sublimation of self interest to the shared vision. It’s about ‘Double Loop Learning’ – learning to learn – changing the whole way of how we work.

Throughout the day there were sessions from MBNA, Post Office Money, Cranfield School of Management , Northern Gas Networks, Standard Life , Nationwide, DPD and Jonathan Gabay. The sessions were all very informative and interactive. The audience certainly put the presenters through their paces with a variety of challenging questions. These questions ranged from: cultural challenges in an organisation; to the return on investment; to getting real insights and next steps on driving actions; about survey fatigue and how to overcome this in the future, plus many more – practical questions about the barriers and obstacles that these businesses have, or are facing.

The audience could really resonate with these stories, as many organisations across different industries are facing the same challenges.

So what has made those companies that were recognised in the 2014 UKCX Awards, special? What are the ingredients to their success? Here’s a ‘mash up’ of the themes from all the presenters and companies represented.

It starts from the Top!

The CEO fully supports the drive to giving a better customer experience, in some cases they have stated the objective and have shared it from the roof tops (well not quite, but they talk about it a lot). It’s on the agenda and a core part of their strategy. CX has a seat at the board table – not always directly but certainly indirectly – an executive has ownership for the CX agenda.

There’s a plan and a purpose …

Some have started by fixing the basics, the issues that irritate customers and colleagues most, then progressed to build the strategy and the roadmap. Other companies have started with a strategy, the roadmap, getting approval and then set off on their journey to fix/improve things. They have designed their ‘Future State’ – designed what the experience will be like. There is no right or wrong way. Some may say the latter is the ideal. It is what is right for that business at that time.

If you need to show the benefit of improving Customer Experience, then starting out by fixing and improving things whilst working out the strategy and the full roadmap, is often a good way of getting started.

Customer charters and promises aren’t just socialised internally (some start off this way to get buy in from colleagues), these are promoted and visible throughout the organisation, showing that they really do matter, along with a CX programme explaining what will be done when, thus giving real clarity to the journey for colleagues and customers.

Walking the walk and talking the talk…

There were great examples of how leaders and organisations had really stepped into the customers shoes, truly understanding how it feels to be a customer of that brand. We heard about the journeys that had been mapped with customers and colleagues from across the business who have been involved in the process.

We understood their different customers (the persona’s) that transacted with the brands and how some companies had also gone further to understand the different colleagues persona’s and how changes would impact or influence them.

What came through loud and clear from all the leaders and the companies represented, is that they really understood what it was like to be a customer of theirs; they understood what frustrated them and what pleased them. We didn’t hear lots of stories of how companies were WOW’ing their customers. In most cases, it was about getting back to basics and fixing the things that were broken, doing more of things that were working well or that they wanted to do in the future and really understanding how the different customer types would act and feel.

The Right Insights, Reflect, then Action

Cranfield School of Management hosted sessions on how to create the right insight at the right time to the right people. Organisations can fall into the trap of lots of insight but it’s all too old to be relevant – the constant rear view mirror approach. We heard stories of the different states of insight. Insight that is kept in an insight silo or bubble, lots of great information but nobody knows it – the black hole syndrome. Or insight that is scattered across the organisation like magic fairy dust, hoping that some of it sticks. Or the spray and pray approach – it’s sprayed out to everyone in the organisation – there’s that much of it, that is clutters the inbox never to be read.

Presenters gave practical advice into how they had changed they way in which they were collecting data and insight from customers, how they were engaging their colleagues in their views about the direct and indirect touch-points in the journey. A great story told about how a company used an SMS campaign to its colleagues to ask for the views on insight.

There were lots of stories about how some were moving from the survey at the very end of a journey, to asking bite size insights at the point of an interaction, to give a truer reflection of the customer thoughts and feelings, as well as combatting the challenge of survey fatigue. There were even great examples on how companies had real time dashboards in the board room.

All these sessions gave real insights into how leaders can help shape the CX story into relevant insight and translate this into the actions that matter most – not just about doing lots of stuff.

Your Customers are Your Colleagues and vice versa

We have all seen lots of journey mapping, lots of data about what customers love and hate – all of which is required but is very functional. What really came across throughout the day: from the presenters; from the networking conversations; from the questions asked – were comments about the ‘emotional journeys.’ Not just those of customers but more so those of the colleagues. These brands are doing some amazing things. We heard remarkable, emotional, heartfelt, stories of the journeys that leaders and colleagues had been through, throughout their Customer Experience journey. It’s not easy and it’s not a Revolution – there is never an end point, it’s an Evolution. Every session leader was honest about their journey: what worked; what didn’t and what lay ahead. The most commonly asked question “what would you do differently”? This is the question that as a leader, influencer or advisor you should ask yourself every day.

This brings my story of the Winning with CX day to an end and I would like to finish by thanking the presenters for their stories, for everyone that I met last Thursday – it was a real pleasure – and to Cranfield School of Management, Customer Experience Magazine, Awards International and the British Film Institute for bringing together this day. Here’s to the next one!

NJCpicNicola Collister MD, Custerian

MD of Custerian Custerian, a Strategic Transformation business who work with Retail, Utilities, Logistics, Education and Pharmaceutical industries. Nicola has 20+ years in the Service Industry, at RAC, Board positions in Retail & Logistics. Nicola was one of the first Customer Experience Directors in the UK at Shop Direct Group where she delivered a Strategic Transformation in cSat, retention, cost reductions & engagement. She has pioneered service with the UK’s first SEIVR & self employed Homeworkers. Nicola also chairs the CCA Global Customer Experience Council.


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