5 steps to fix issues and kill lousy excuses

One of the things that annoys me the most in hotels (when traveling for business) is when the key room stops working.

After a long day (typically travel and a full days’ work) you finally get to the hotel, swipe/touch the card on the reader, and the red signal displays.

It can only be worse if it happens every single day of your stay, more than once a day. Forcing you to go back down to reception again and again.

It happened to me recently at the Herbert Park Hotel in Dublin (Ireland). A quite nice and well located hotel, where I stayed 3 nights and had an unexpected below-average experience.

What made it worth a blogpost was the fact that the reception staff blamed it on me, every single of the 4 times it happened: “The problem is that you put the card next to your phone”, without even asking if I had done so – it’s clearly the pre-default lousy excuse!

The fact is my card-holder is always on my jacket’s right-pocket, and phone always on left-pocket. So no, it wasn’t my fault! But even if that was the case, it’s down to the hotel to upgrade/change technology, to avoid it.

This situation frustrates in equal measure customers – forcing them to put unnecessary effort on up/down hikes to reception – as well as staff – who constantly need to deal with annoyed customers and spend time resetting keys.

Clearly something is wrong with the keys’ system. And it happens repeatedly. Why haven’t they fixed it? Simple: Herbert Park Hotel is not focused on the experience it delivers to guests and staff, nor on its own brand reputation.

If they were, they would have put in place:

1. a functioning process for customers to feedback

2. a functioning process for staff to report issues

3. a functioning process to review and action on both

4. a functioning process to fix issues and improve services

5. a functioning process for closing the loop (with guests and staff)

7 best practices for closing the loop

I had stayed in the Iveagh Garden Hotel before and enjoyed it very much. A modern, comfortable, quiet, well decorated and located hotel in the centre of Dublin (Ireland) – where I travel frequently to visit Capventis HQ and clients.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to try their new “City Pod” rooms – which are a carbon copy of the CitizenM hotel rooms (if you know them). It was really nice, and very cost effective, but there was a detail I didn’t like.

The water from the shower would run down into the room, even reaching the bed area. Something wasn’t right, and I fed that back in the customer satisfaction survey, that the hotel sent me 3 days after my stay.

I was pleasantly surprised by the lightning-fast and candid response from the hotel (see in below picture). The response to my feedback followed every single best practice for closing the loop:

  1. Responded within a few hours, with a personalised email
  2. Thanked customer for taking the time to feedback
  3. Emphasized improvement can only come from voice-of-customer
  4. Acknowledged customer’s specific feedback (the shower issue!)
  5. Confirmed it was sent to relevant team for correction and improvement
  6. Showed desire to recover below par experience by offering upgrade
  7. Closed email with personalised signature and job role (accountability)

Despite being a bit more expensive than the various hotels in the same street (there are a hand-full of choices in a few hundred yards), Iveagh Garden Hotel is definitely differentiating itself by focusing and putting some effort in the CX side of things.

P.S. – This reminds me of another similar experience I had and shared in this blog post Close the loop with clients, but mean it! – where, again, you can see how important it is to have personalised and timely closed-loop

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Closing the loop with Qualtrics and Zendesk

Bill Gates has a famous quote “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning“. He was spot on. Gathering feedback from customers, in particular those who are not quite satisfied, is crucial for any business.

It is extremely important to use that information to improve products or services, but even more important to close the loop with the customer.

Most businesses send transactional CSAT surveys to customers, after interactions. And then digest, analyse and act on the feedback provided. But many still fail to come back to customers, leaving them to think they were ignored.

Technology can be the enabler, and this video shows how it can be done, using two of the most powerful technologies platforms in the market. On one side, Qualtrics (the XM platfom) and on the other Zendesk (the Customer Service platform), working seamlessly together.

In the scenario shown in the video, a customer receives and responds to a (Qualtrics) CSAT survey. It’s response automatically creates a (Zendesk) ticket, allowing the customer care team to close the loop.

P.S. – This demo was created by the Capventis team (Lydia Castano, Sergiu Ardelean, Adrian Remedios)

Airport Pricks and Starfish Experiences

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Since the attacks of “September 11” security in airports has become the most important thing, surpassing any other aspect – including the most basic sense of inter-relational behaviour between two people.

Those of you who travel quite a bit are surely fed up of being treated like starfish – and by that I mean brainless, irrational and emotionless animals. I have my fair share of airports and I sure as hell am tired of being treated badly and unfairly.

It’s not really due to the way we need to move inside the airport (always between queue and belt barriers) as I appreciate that’s done to manage large amounts of passengers. It’s due to the way staff, in every role, mistreats us.

From security to passport control, or from check-in to gate. We are constantly being treated in a condescending, discourteous, indelicate and even rude way. By staff that, in some instances, wear Customer Ambassador vests (see picture) or Customer Service badges.

I can only think of two reasons why staff behave the way they do towards passengers. Either there’s a hiring policy in airports that require people to be pricks, or a complete lack of awareness for passengers and their experiences.

I’m almost sure it is the latter. Which puts the focus entirely on the operational processes. Leaving the staff, from management to front-line, imbue a culture where they feel empowered to do whatever it takes to enforce “the rules” regardless.

This ends up in a significant amount of situations where staff is completely unreasonable towards people, in particular those who are most vulnerable. Not long ago, at Dublin Airport, I witnessed a disgraceful situation.

A 10-12 year old girl who suffered from schizophrenia didn’t want to pass the metal detector without her mother. And even after both parents explained the situation to security staff, they forced her to do it.

Crying and visibly upset, the girl passed the metal detector running only to hug her mother on the other side. Unfortunately, the metal detector went off. The girl was hugging the mother crying whilst the security guard grabbed and pulled her, so she could search and scan her.

Voices were raised, some were screaming. I don’t know what happened after that. I was too upset and outraged to see more of it. And there were already enough people (the parents, the older brother, and other passengers) manifesting their dislike.

Airports and other organisations, should know that sending surveys to people, installing happiness-meter/smiley panels, or dressing staff with Customer Ambassador vests or Customer Service badges, does not mean they care about passengers and their experiences at all.

If they really want to be customer-centric, they should not only change their strategy and approach, training their staff, but also, and above all, look at the information they have to make passengers’ experiences much more agreeable, smooth and seamless.

After all, they are in a unique position – as my friend Ian Golding pointed out in a recent CX workshop. Unlike many other organisations, airports know exactly how many people are going to be at the airport, and when. And if they work with airlines, they could even know who those people are, and where they are going.

Does the NHS have any Promoters?

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After a visit to the St Thomas’ hospital A&E department, I received a request for feedback via SMS. For the second time this year (the first was with Rosa’s Thai Cafe) I was surprised with what was clearly the NPS question, but with a scale of 1 to 6.

It seems that the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK is so bad that they assume, straight off the bat, everyone will be a detractor!

Despite all efforts from CX specialists, we still see misuse of well designed, considered and established CX metrics, created to measure customers experience, but also to ensure the market has standard and consistent metrics, that allow comparisons.

I’m all for people being creative when measuring customers experience, and using whatever scores and calculations work for their organisations. Ultimately, the goal is not the metric, the calculation or the score itself, but the actions or improvements they trigger.

However, certain metrics are used for more than that. And they should serve the important purpose of benchmark. NPS was created, and is a trade mark of Bain and Satmetrix. The way it should be used is well explained in the official website – with Detractors (0-6), Passives (7-8) and Promoters (9-10).

I’m unsure if there are CX guidelines from the NHS, or if each of the NHS agencies has its own program (NHS England, NHS Scotland, NHS Wales, HSC Northern Ireland), or even if each trust does as it pleases.

A quick Google search throws things like “Patient experience book” or “Patient experience improvement framework” where lots of right things are said “Good experience of care, treatment and support is increasingly seen as an essential part of an excellent health and social care service, alongside clinical effectiveness and safety“.

However, there doesn’t seem to be a joined up and consistent approach to measuring the patient experience, which will surely make it harder for the trusts, and the NHS as a whole, to improve the experience of patients – as well as their families and the staff.

After all, the NHS is not as bad as this “bastardised” St. Thomas’ NPS question scale question makes it. I, for one, am a Promoter of the services of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.

Consultancy lesson from Winston Wolfe

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As consultants, we are led to believe that we are must-know-it-all encyclopedias with a solution for everything. Indeed most consulting companies tend to sell our services as if it was magic – you hire us, we are available within the hour, and we will make your problems go away in no time.

The issue is, that type of consultancy doesn’t exist, and can’t even be delivered by the likes of Winston Wolfe – the infamous character created by Quentin Tarantino in Pulp Fiction. Truth is, consultants don’t have an answer for everything, and can’t turnaround businesses with a snap-of-a-finger.

And to be honest we shouldn’t. Any business is a complex entity, and our job is a labored one. It requires investigation, assessment, consideration, creativity and thinking. The other day I read “thinking is one of the hardest human occupations, which probably explains the fact that so few of us like doing it too often”. So true!

I see so many consultants rely on instinct. Others shout the first thing that springs to mind. Only on the basis of what they already know, or have done once before. This is halfway to a solution that will not have the positive impact or results businesses are looking for. Consultants like us need to stop and think.

I have witnessed some of my peers in the consulting world being afraid to tell their clients they need time. When in reality, letting people know we are thinking about their business and challenges, not only indicates that our response will be measured and thorough, but it also lets them feel that they are taken seriously and deserve respect.

Furthermore, we need to understand, and make clear to our clients, that our job cannot be done by one person. Even Winston Wolfe needed “associates” to clean up the mess (played by John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson) and support from his “client” (played by Quentin Tarantino).

They helped Winston Wolfe gather information, assess the problem, understand the timeline, create a plan, as well as find tools and means (blankets, soap, old clothes) to sort out the issue. And notice how even Wolfe takes its time, and needs a coffee to think and consider the situation.

If we do our job properly, making sure we don’t skip any steps and don’t rush into any half-baked solution, our clients will not only appreciate our services, but also respect us as much as Winston Wolfe was respected by his clients and the public in general.

The definition of a consultant is: someone who advises people on a particular subject, on which he is considered a specialist. As consultants our job is to work alongside our clients and our teams, to jointly find answers, a way, a solution, an alternative, a workaround, to reach a desired outcome.

We’re not magicians!

EX: 3 steps to build A-Team

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I have been reading quite a bit about Employee Experience (EX) and Engagement (EE) and this has triggered a lot of thinking about my own position as a manager, a team leader, and a colleague.

As a manager, my efforts should be put towards building “A Team” – yes… “one team” and ideally the “A-Team”. It is a journey in itself, with various steps, some of them (but not all) are below.

1. Hire the right people

It all starts by whom I hire. If I hire smart and talented people, and provide them with the tools they need to do their job, they will certainly perform well, and I don’t need to worry about delivery, or coming in to cover for them.

2. Communicate clearly

Making sure I have a steady and clear cadence of communication is also extremely important. One that never lets the team forget about “why” they are doing what they are doing, “how” they are contributing to our success, and “what” they need to do to ensure continuous improvement.

It is crucial that I keep reminding them (and myself) of our many successes, which should be celebrated; our gaps, which should be filled; our constant challenges, which we should face with no fear and great determination; and the fantastic opportunities in front and ahead of us.

It is also very important to give them the company’s perspective – “why we are in business and offer our customers a particular set of products and services, “how” we can contribute to the success and growth of our customers, and “what” we can and need to do to help them achieve that.

3. Instill a feedback culture

Being able to implement a two-way feedback culture is one of my most important tasks. On one hand having a team of “Yes-man” is one of the biggest dangers for the business. They allow people to win arguments due to power or position, rather than the merits of opinion. And ultimately we will all be impacted by bad decisions.

On the other hand, if as a manager, I hold off giving tough feedback to one of my team members, I’m putting unnecessary pressure on myself, and the rest of the team, to cover for the poor-performing member, and I’m also cheating that person of a chance to actually improve.