Posts Tagged ‘Customer Experience’

Great Service Begins At The Top

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

 

If you aspire to or are a pre-eminent global service business, shouldn’t the CEO’s communication and feedback systems with its’ customers reflect its’ pre-eminence and branding? Here is a recent example of personal response times from constructive customer service letters to European CEOs:

3 days, in person Ewan Venters, CEO of grocer, Fortnum & Mason

14 days, in person Nigel Wilson, CEO of insurer, Legal & General

135+ days, zero response Dame Carolyn McCall, CEO of budget airline, easyJet

645+ days, zero response Keith Gibbs, CEO of insurer, Axa PPP Healthcare

795+ days, zero response Rickard Gustafson, President and CEO of airline, SAS Group

Letter writing might be unfashionable in certain quarters but when a customer today makes the effort to put pen to paper, it is a common sense assessment that they are serious about their intent to point out a superior or underwhelming experience. Based on my anecdotal research, a great experience buying a tin of biscuits will elicit a 4x faster response from the CEO than buying a cumbersome life insurance policy, 45x faster response from the CEO than being stranded late night in a desolate European airport or 219x faster response from the CEO to acknowledgement of proactive service in a healthcare insurer! Why would a CEO’s office operate like that unless it is seriously disorganised, it doesn’t hold itself accountable for the promises it makes to its’ customers or it is simply arrogant?

© James Berkeley 2017. All Rights Reserved.

 

Hot Airbnb

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

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A rocket-propelled growth trajectory creates a “siren call” to investors and garners predictable and less predictable media comment. Executives ride the bandwagon of super valuations (fame, inflated bonuses, celebrity) but all too often the focus on dramatic market expansion and top line growth outpaces risk mitigation initiatives (the boring stuff). Heat melts the shell of the rocket on re-entry and the business becomes highly vulnerable.

This past week, Airbnb came in to sharp focus with me. (1) A European CEO of a “bricks and mortar” global serviced apartment business pointing out that Airbnb is flagrantly allowing its’ hosts in many key European gateway cities to run full-time hospitality businesses (83,000 room listings in Paris) and (2) Personally experiencing their underwhelming response to a cyber hack on my own Airbnb account.

My observation is Airbnb are playing too fast and too loose. They are tripping up on common sense responses to foreseen risks (cyber hacks, hosts flouting local trading rules), not just unforeseen risks. I don’t believe they are alone, there are hundreds of “celebrity” high growth businesses, whose risk mitigation strategies are being lapped by their growth plans.

I am all for disruptive businesses helping raise the levels of customer service. That is capitalism. No business or industry has a “right” to survive. What isn’t acceptable is when a business is acquiescent or adopts approaches (cyber hack) that are so inadequate that trust and integrity is destroyed. Are management asleep while cyber thieves roam freely in their booking system, setting up fake bookings, lifting credit card information, conversing brazenly with hosts and potentially putting “hosts” in physical harm’s way with bogus guests? Are their customers solely responsible for alerting Airbnb to breaches and mitigating the immediate risks (financial theft, loss of personal data, potential physical harm to hosts)? Should  this matter to investors?

Yes, if you are an investor for whom reputational risk is equally as important as financial risk.

There are plenty of disruptive businesses (Ryanair), where executives have assailed their competitors, regulators and their customers for years while the growth trajectory dramatically outpaces the risk mitigation strategies.

The difficulty arises when growth slows, investors ask “why”?

Businesses aren’t in existence to be liked, they are in business to be respected. If you don’t believe that look at Apple, GE, Singapore Airlines and Virgin. When respect is destroyed by leaders failing to prioritise managing risk effectively, customers, shareholders, employees and business partners walk. No one individual or brand is insulated from that certainty.

© James Berkeley 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Idiotic Management: British Telecom (BT)

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

A call from a Jennifer Williams at BT, our broadband service provider’s security department, alerts us to suspicious activity. The call request details send us to their main customer telephone (30 minute wait) or their chat line function, hosted in some far fetched location, where you spend 30 minutes trying to get someone, who can input your account details accurately.  If BT’s management are truly serious about lowering the costs of fraud, and improved customer care, they would do well shopping their own business processes. They make the keystone cops look like MI5.

© James Berkeley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Avoiding The Regulatory Tailspin

Friday, July 29th, 2016

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Countless businesses today are being thrown miles off course in accomplishing their profitable growth goals (banks, financial services, insurance, gaming, healthcare, energy and so forth) largely because of their own inadequacies. They are like the pilot who hits turbulence at 30,000 feet, loses their bearings and temporarily or permanently is sent into a tailspin. If you are going to fly, you accept there is a high probability of turbulence. If you are providing essential products, services and relationships in society today, expect to be held to account for your standards and behaviour. Stop moaning.

Leaders have two options: embrace or resist regulation. Then adjust the speed, direction and ascent of the profitable growth plans to accommodate the proposed changes. Here is what sets apart my very best clients:

  1. Positive Regulatory Mindset. Business leaders, who maintain a perspective that says “there are abundant opportunities in front of us, we didn’t wish the regulation but we will learn to live with it”, empirical evidence suggests dramatically outperform others. Change is a constant and our futures are about embracing change (biotech, pharma). Contrast this with those business leaders, who only see fear, limited opportunities on the horizon, vent loudly at the negative consequences and create Domesday predictions (airlines, agriculture, bookmakers). Change is a threat to their cosy status quo and they do their level best to resist it until such that they wearily accept it or fold their cards.
  2. Impressive Regulatory Engagement. Seek to be on the front foot with regulators, actively maintain a presence in the regulatory dialogue within the industry, take positions on regulatory boards and consumer watchdogs.
  3. Superb Regulatory Antennae. Most regulation is reactive to events, changes in consumer perception, media perception and political perceptions. Rarely can you accurately predict the timing but you can sense the shifting of opinions and the force fields (changes in critical factors ‘+’, ‘-‘ or ‘neutral’) that create the momentum for change.
  4. Rapidly Mine Regulatory Motives. Behind every regulation lies an emotional imperative. Understand why a powerful voice(s) at the regulator or consumer body discernibly sees their self-interests best served in implementing the new policies and procedures, in the proposed time frame and manner (increased power, greater influence, greater control, greater political influence, greater credibility and so forth).
  5. Quantify Regulatory Value. “Value” in the form of tangible, intangible and peripheral benefits that arise from regulation (although sometimes they may be hard to discern) and the investment required to enact it. Tangible benefits over a defined time period (clawing back funds over trading or market abuse scandals). Intangible benefits and the breadth of scope (bankers behavioural changes and sweeping industrywide cultural changes to treating their customers fairly). Peripheral benefits (structural market changes such as the Dodd Frank Financial Regulatory Reform Bill and the impact on proprietary trading businesses in investment banks). Lawmakers and regulators are typically prudent risk takers, smart business leaders are keenly attuned to how they weigh up the risks and rewards (personal and professional) and act.
  6. Anticipate Regulatory Opportunity. Outstanding businesses have a regulatory radar system (Corporate Affairs) embedded into the upper and mid-level line management tiers that excels at alerting them to: Why there is a need for regulation? (public sentiment) Why now? (window of opportunity) Why on the basis proposed? (tried and failed with other legislative tools)
  7. Acute Sense of Regulatory Timing. Can you identify the priority that is driving the need to enact the regulation (political fall out, media outcry, changes in public opinion etc)? Timing is about regulators and lawmakers priorities. Stuff gets done because they need to be seen to be doing something (seriousness, urgency and gravity behind the issue). Inevitably, it is almost overpowering, ill-conceived and often off target but that is not the point. Lawmakers and regulators can show they acted. Don’t blame us.

Large or small businesses, the dynamics are largely the same but the consequences are often dramatically different. How many of these skills, traits and expertise do you Managers possess today? What do your profitable growth plans demand that you possess in future in order arrive safely at your desired destination? How do you best upgrade your regulatory response toolkit and when?

© James Berkeley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

PE’s Hidden Value At The Dogs

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

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How many times have you made an advance booking for an event ticket, a restaurant reservation or a hotel room only to arrive on the day to find your name is “not in the system”? How many times have the front line staff sought to caste blame on you or others rather than take immediate steps to resolve the problem and display empathy? How many times have you been turned away when you were eagerly looking forward to that experience vowing never to return in future? How many times has it been a major pain in the backside to ensure the charges have been reversed seamlessly to your credit card?

On Saturday night, I found an outstanding customer experience in the most unlikely of settings, Wimbledon greyhound track, host of the Greyhound Derby and owned by private equity firm, Risk Capital Partners. Arriving to find my family “not in the system” or in Wimbledon’s case, “not on the list”, two enthusiastic front line staff (Anita and Sonny) stepped in to help with simple proactive suggestions.

Sonny and Anita: “Pay cash for alternative tickets, we’ll run to our booking office and return with a receipt, personally email our central reservations with full instructions asking them to rapidly resolve the problem. In addition, we will follow up in their opening hours to ensure a rapid reversing of charges and you won’t need to do a thing. Is that OK? Is there anything else we can do to ensure that you have a fabulous night?

Me: “No. That would be wonderful if you can accomplish that.”

I am called this morning by their Central Reservations to be told that the problem was human error (incorrectly spelling our name) and all charges are being immediately reversed.

Applying common sense, taking ownership, displaying empathy and disciplined follow up are all very simple human tasks. Yet what Sonny and Anita displayed is so rare in my experience today.

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Even more so, if I told you that they are working in a business, whose private equity owners want to shutter the business and is in the midst of a political fire storm.

None of us want to swap jobs with their predicament. Indeed, I would go as far to suggest that their responsiveness to my problem had little or nothing to do with their circumstances. They are two enthusiastic, proactive and hard working employees, who have the skills and volition to do the right thing at the right time. To use their eyes and not rely on redundant operating policies and procedures.

Many seemingly successful companies get in the way of their employees displaying their talents. It destroys customer goodwill, which in turn harms loyalty, repeat business and value creation.  When you see a business fighting for survival but with a bedrock of enthusiastic employees displaying great customer service perhaps there is value where the existing owners don’t see it?

If you are a Sponsor with a penchant for a turnaround, you could no worse than organise a night out at Wimbledon dogs. Is that helpful Mr Moulton?

© James Berkeley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

 

RPM II: The Cornerstone Client Walks

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016

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In the second in our weekly series of Resilient People & Momentum (“RPM”), James discusses how to lessen the impact of a key client exit on the firm’s profitable growth plans. No seriously, clients aren’t for life!

Situational Overview: The Cornerstone Client Walks – you have done a fabulous job. It is not personal but the buyer has decided that they can live without your product, service and relationship. You have a cashflow problem. You have a potential reputation problem within (direct reports and peers) and outside the firm (customers and business partners). You have a potential employee problem (productivity and morale). You have a potential investor problem (earnings and value). Is your first thought to seek blame or come up with a great response? I’d say in 80% of these situations I have been privy to the former explodes virally.

Resilient People & Momentum Mindset: I subconsciously expect this to happen in a growing business when I least expect it. How I respond is more important than what has happened. I earn others respect by displaying the right mix of skills, behaviour and expertise. I am willing to be intellectually honest about my own performance. I will listen to and respond sensibly to solicited feedback while ignoring unsolicited feedback that is largely for the other party’s benefit.

Resilient People & Momentum Questions:

  1. Cashflow: where can we create more short-term revenue, not where can we take money from?
  2. Reputation: where can we earn more respect (new ideas, reciprocal opportunities, return the favour), not how can I save face or pass the blame?
  3. Employees: where can we more productively deploy and offer more gratifying work to our employees, not who needs to be harangued or worse, fired?
  4. Investors: where can we display and exude greater confidence in our talent and judgement to investors such that a short-term set back, is just that, a blip on a road to riches, not a mind numbing defeat that forces investors to thrown their hands up in the air?
  5. Development: what can I learn from the treasured client’s reasons for the decision to walk away that I can apply for the future benefit of the firm (better client communication), its’ existing clients (prioritising investment) and our prospects (market positioning)?

© James Berkeley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Idiotic Management: Britanic Industries, Newquay Town Council & Fistral Beach

Monday, February 15th, 2016

Fistral Beach in Newquay, Cornwall is a world famous magnet for surfers. Yet a hidden danger with a shark’s bite lurks on arrival for the unsuspecting visitor, particularly foreigners. The car park is run by a ruthless management, Britanic Industries and its’ operator, Smart Parking, with zero interest for the visitor experience and for the express purpose of making hundreds of thousands in car parking penalties. In the height of season the local Town Council receives 40 complaints for unfair practices and doubtless 100s of people are ripped off daily. Visit Britain, the UK’s marketing arm has invested millions behind its’ “GREAT BRITAIN” campaign, yet the experience at Fistral Beach is designed to encourage a “HATE BRITAIN” thought in the mind of visitors.

The management of the large car park, Smart Parking, provide a perfect experience where the use of high technology enables a low touch customer experience. Reliant on camera sensors and nothing else, they keep electronic records of entry and exit to the car park. They daily fine innocent families, who are unable to find a car parking space in this half mile square beach, gather their beach equipment, walk 800 yards to the sole parking meter and have the right payment within 10 minutes. They rely on signs that don’t make clear payment is due from the time your car passed the entry sensor to the time you return to the car, pack up and physically pass the exit sensor, which can be half a mile from the place you are parked. They then issue penalty charge notices upto 16 days after the event, by which time you have no doubt destroyed the parking ticket if you have paid by cash. If you seek to Appeal, wait you are in for a 6 month determination of whether your claim is legitimate. You will receive the plaintiff, Smart Parking’s boilerplate template 24 page document, usually copied and pasted with hundreds of factual errors. It is death by a hundred shark bites.

If you think that this is a great way to encourage first time visitors, build tourism revenues and attract investment into a town, which outside of the holiday season has a number of severe social and economic issues, you are deluded. However that is precisely what the idiotic management of Britanic Industries, the leaseholder, think makes sense. Their decision-making process is flawed. The Newquay Town Council are impotent. Indeed the Mayor won’t even respond to written offers of help with smarter parking ideas.

Technology is a powerful enabler when it is used effectively to enable a higher touch customer experience (Uber, Amazon and Spotify). Equally, when it is used poorly it can have serious and catastrophic consequences.

Does your organisation’s decision-making process give sufficient thought to the desired outcomes, the benefits and risks of technology and the appropriate course of action? Does it solely look from your firm’s perspective or that of its’ customers? Fistral Beach has shown what happens when the sharks are left to run riot with technology and the lifeguard is asleep.

© James Berkeley 2015. All Rights Reserved.

No Xpense Spared

Friday, January 29th, 2016

We cannot live without technology but there are times when the interaction is so appalling you just scream “Give me Fred Flinstone!” On the flip side, you have a stellar experience resolving a user problem, often self-inflicted (!) and you want to rave about the service. XpenseTracker is an ingenious iPhone app, created by Silverware Software. If you are user you won’t need me to say it but it is an incredible time saver for anyone, who hates the tedium and time consuming process of collating and processing expense reports. I guarantee that you can create an extra day of working time for a $5 investment!

My settings for reasons I cannot fathom prevented me exporting the finished expense report to my cloud server. I emailed Scott, the app’s author, we are on friendly terms in a virtual way of doing things. He immediately responded in 2 minutes with a brief “here is how to solve the problem” email, succinct and on point. So far, so good until I pressed the wrong button and the screen froze. A quick email to Scott in his Boston office, and within 3 minutes, no blame attached, “this is what you do”. Boom, solved.

I don’t know about your firm or its’ clients standards in resolving clients problems but ask yourself honestly, does our access, response times and success in permanently resolving our clients’ problems match our brand? If you don’t know the answer I suggest you test it immediately. If you do, and you are happy with the results, ask yourself, how can we reinforce those results such that there is a discernible gap between our competitors and us in future?

Today, HSBC’s online banking incurs a cyber attack, zero customer notification beyond a brief badge on their site. A call to Hiscox, a market-leading global insurer, goes unanswered for 7 hours. Telefonica, a leading European telecoms operator, asks me to wait on “hold” for 22 minutes or use their online chat room, which takes a further 19 minutes to get to the heart of my difficulty with someone, who struggles to assemble an audible sentence in English.

Large global brands are being disrupted by smart, small technology firms in almost every product or service line because the latter have better organised themselves to provide a “high touch, high tech” customer experience.  It is not about size or scale, it is about how smart your people are.

© James Berkeley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Eccentric Behaviour

Friday, January 8th, 2016

I love living in London because you sees displays of eccentric human behaviour that defy all logic but are in equal measure very funny. This morning I hopped on a London bus in a rainy Mayfair to be followed in by a well-spoken English gentleman struggling to haul a 7 ft loosely bubble-wrapped, early 19th Century British masterpiece procured from an eminent Bond Street gallery. The sought of place where the red dots on the gallery wall demand a large five or six figure sum. Poor man, wouldn’t his budget stretch to hailing a taxi or the Gallery’s to delivering the piece to his home or workplace?

When we deliver services to our clients, do we seek to save pennies (demand our people spend no more than £25 on a bottle of wine at dinner) or promote overly cumbersome client processes (onboarding) for no good reason, after we have been paid pounds? Is our mindset and self-talk one of abundant opportunity or desperately fearing poverty? Is that reflected correctly in how we ask our people to behave and act with our clients’ best interests at heart (exemplars, policies and procedures)? You would be surprised how often that there is a huge misalignment, which instantly dilutes client and employee trust and weakens loyalty to top management and the firm.

© James Berkeley 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Profitable Feedback

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

An email survey request lands this morning in my inbox from the UK’s Conservative Party Chairman, Andrew Feldman (I am not a member), titled “I want to hear what you think”. It asks a friendly and logical set of “screening” questions about my future intent to become more involved in supporting the Party. What the questions fail to  address are my emotional imperatives (the “why” questions) in getting involved.

It is a common shortcoming of so many feedback or consultative initiatives in businesses, large and small, who are encouraged to “get closer to their clients” or “better understand their client needs”. Face-to-face dialogue, focus groups, surveys and third party feedback that stops shorts of eliciting the really valuable responses due to weak questions or questioning techniques. The result is a low value process, which moves the questioner an inch, not a mile, closer to gaining the other person’s future commitment.

Do you want to know what your customers think or do you want to better understand what might motivate them to act upon anything you might suggest they do? The former gives you information, the latter gives you the expressway to cash or increased commitment. That’s a huge difference.

© James Berkeley 2015. All Rights Reserved.