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.

 

Predict and improve, before customers churn

It has been a while since AI (artificial intelligence) and ML (machine learning) have been part of the discussions and conversations around how technology can help companies engage with customers, and ultimately earn their business by providing them with a better experience.

The more cocky software companies shout about how the AI and ML capabilities of their technology platforms “will completely transform” our businesses, and make us successful. Other companies, maybe more realistic, say their technology platforms “can enable transformation” and deliver improvements.

But if I’m honest, it always feels that they are exaggerating and over-blowing their own capabilities, and that is probably why many of us still struggle to see how, in reality and in practice, things work and could be applied to our case, and in our business.

One of the problems I see is people try to “run before learning how to walk”. Businesses must be at a specific level of maturity and readiness to adopt certain things, and my preferred approach is always to start with the basics, and make sure it’s done right, before “embarking in bigger adventures”.

And it is also extremely important to understand, that data is the key ingredient. No technology platform or capability (including AI or ML) will deliver any outcome without data. And if you have data, there are very powerful things you can do first, and that you are probably not doing, before trying to get robots to run your business.

An example: Predictive Analysis. Technology platforms with this capability allow you to perform statistical analysis and data mining, using current and historical data, to make predictions about future behaviors. They use ML and predictive modelling to find patterns in that data, and identify risks or opportunities.

Predictive analytics could be used by commercial industries, but also by organisations that serve citizens, students or patients, to determine their behaviour, predict future engagements (purchases or interactions), or even guess if they are about to stop engaging with you.

A use case: Customer Churn. Use technology to help you predict if your customers are in risk of leaving you, or stop buying from you. Understand when they are likely to do that. And, even more powerful, why they are about to do that – which could allow you to amend, correct or enhance things before they do!

If you are going to attempt this, the first thing you should do is define, what “churn” means to your business, as it could have different definitions. A few examples are:

  • A customer cancels a subscription
  • A customer hasn’t logged-in to the website
  • A customer hasn’t purchased over a period of time (e.g. 1 year)
  • A customer has reduced their purchases (e.g. by 50%)
  • A customer has stopped engaging in a community / forum

Once you have that defined, you need to gather a significant (maybe a few thousands of records) and relevant data set (maybe the last 12 to 18 months), which includes customer, operational and experience data, and where each and every record is tagged with “churn” or “no churn”.

You could then feed your technology platform, with this data set, and allow it to build a model, which will help you (with more or less accuracy, depending on the data set you used) predict your customer’s behaviour.

Curious about which technology allows you to do this kind of thing, or how to go about implementing this?… At Capventis, the company I work for, we have helped and enabled a few clients, using technologies like Qualtrics, Qlik or Alteryx.

Wanna be a CX Rock Star?

One of the most well known (and surely the funniest) CX specialists in the world, most famous for the series This week in CX(which you can find in Amazon), James Dodkins, has launched the CX Rock Storecxrockstore.com – where we can now buy some CX swag (hats, hoodies, t-shirts, phone cases and even back packs).

How cools is this?!… I’m definitely going to get some swag and proudly wear it!

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I will take two CX programs, please!

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Almost every week I see people who work in the Experience Management industry talking about Customer Experience (CX) Programs as if it was a standardised, mass-produced, product that you can just go and buy off a shelf.

I believe this is due to the fact that human beings have a natural incline to being lazy – i.e. if there is a way to accomplish something with a small amount of work or less effort, then that is the preferred option. Unfortunately that doesn’t apply to CX programs.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all CX program! In order to design, build, deploy and manage one, you have to put some work and effort into it. And with this, I don’t mean it is hard or that it takes a long time. Just that it is something you must create (make new).

And you cannot do it on your own! Or even think that someone with a job title of CX Consultant will do it for you. You have to work collaboratively and involve all areas of the company (customer-facing and otherwise), and drive, co-ordinate, orchestrate (or hire a CX Consultant to do that).

What made sense for a particular company may not suit yours. Even if you are in the same sector, industry, or country. Even if you have the same size, revenue or organisational structure. It is extremely likely that you will need a CX program that is specific to you.

More often than not, those who look for an out-of-the-box CX program are the ones who focus only on numbers, and forget that in the foundations of a CX program is the need to listen to customers, and then act on that Voice-of-Customer (VoC).

Don’t measure CX for the sake of it! You must be able to focus on what is really important – the voice of your customers and their feedback – and be able to derive insights and actions that will inform your product or service enhancements, as well as experience improvements.

Don’t obsess with the numbers! It’s so typical to find companies that are fixated in increasing their NPS or CSAT scores, as if that was the ultimate goal. They forget the purpose of a CX program, and the meaning of “C” in the acronym “CX” – it stands for Customer, not Company!

When it comes to CX, each and every company will be at a different level of maturity (if at any level at all), and the first thing you should do is assess that, and understand the readiness of your company to start a CX program.

Each and every company will also have its own business strategy – vision, mission, execution plan, etc. – and you should align the CX strategy with that, so that the board of directors and stakeholders understand how a CX program will improve financial performance.

And so on… and so on… everything in a CX program should be considered, thought trough, in context. And not copied from some other company or program.