Daydream Nation

I recently blogged on the deluge of disengagement among U.S. employees and stated that major achievements in productivity and customer experience will not be achieved until organizations tap into this 70% pool of disengaged employees and convert them to motivated employees.

A further breakdown of the data is now available which shows that levels of engagement are even worse in Western Europe. If the U.S. is experiencing a deluge of disengagement, Europe is already sandbagging and sending out the lifeboats. The highest engagement level is in Denmark with only 21% of employees engaged and France leads the way in levels of employee disillusion and apathy with only 9% of employees engaged.

As previously stated a host of social, economic and cultural reasons probably lie behind these figures. Undoubtedly however a large number of these employees are trapped in roles where they have little autonomy to influence how their work gets done. Locked into fixed inflexible processes in the restaurant, checkout or at a keyboard. From a customer service and experience point of view this 70-80% pool of disengaged employees is a well to be tapped. To begin eroding these levels of disengagement organizations need to become empowered organizations.

What does the employee empowered workplace look like? I’ll talk about that in the next post.

Daydream Nation

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UK Banking – The Great Customer Experience Swindle

Like your aunt dancing to Daft Punk at a family wedding, when older established companies attempt to plug into the zeitgeist the results are often embarrassing. Across industry established organizations are experiencing a midlife crisis as younger more agile startups begin to erode their customer base. Instead of buying the sports car and dyeing their hair many established companies have lurched towards customer experience as a way to remain cool or relevant with predictably embarrassing results.

Interest in customer experience has been driven by lifestyle brands such as Apple, Disney and Nike, brands we enjoy using because they are associated with leisure experiences. The word “experience” gives the impression that we enjoy using the product or service, yet in our day to day lives we engage with many organizations on a purely transactional basis. Whether it’s a bank, an insurance provider or a utility, most of the time we are simply looking for process or transactional efficiency. Nothing more. Failure to understand this has led many organizations down the wrong path that views customer experience from a leisure rather than a process excellence perspective. I certainly don’t need my bank to start giving me discounted hotel bookings (they do), my ISP to give me tickets to the football (they did) or my dentist to give neck rubs (not yet).

The Great Customer Experience Swindle

The Great Customer Experience Swindle

In financial services and insurance it’s very easy to see the attraction of trying to focus on customer experience in market sector with few other product differentiators. UK banks have been quick to jump on the customer experience bandwagon but are mistakenly taking the leisure rather than process excellence route. Today UK banks currently offer lifestyle benefits such as movie downloads, cinema tickets, hotel booking discounts, airport lounge access, concert tickets and will writing services. The availability of these “benefits” poses a number of questions. First of all why are banks even offering these benefits in the first place? Cinema tickets, movie downloads and hotel discounts are benefits completely unrelated to their core business. Secondly why are banks providing these dubious benefits while they continue to suffer embarrassing outages, IT problems and customers struggle to talk to a human advisor? Also who joins a bank because of their will writing service?

Customer experience is often defined as how customers perceive their interactions with an organization. Each one of these interactions is a business process. Many customer experience leaders just execute their business processes better than their competitors. Take for example customer experience leaders; Amazon, Apple and First Direct. All three organizations execute their key business processes with precision and better than their competitors. Amazon excels in logistics processes, Apple in supply chain and research and development. First Direct show that by focusing on core customer processes and not gimmicks banks can transform customer experience.

This week more service outages hit the UK banking industry. Offering lifestyle benefits while struggling to keep the lights on shows a complete or deliberate misunderstanding of customer experience. A classic case of fur coat and no knickers as my mum used to say. Forget the VIP lounges and the tennis tickets if banks want to transform customer experience they need to focus on process excellence. Instead many UK banks are participating in a great customer experience swindle.

It Was, Is and Always Will Be about Empowerment

Does anyone pay for mobile ring tones anymore? A few years ago it was usually the first thing I tried to do when I got a new mobile.  Now I can change my ring tone in seconds and choose from my own music catalogue.

Does anyone still rent DVDs? We’ve moved from watching films in a cinema, to watching them at home, to being able to choose from a catalogue of movies and TV programs and stream them on demand. Each step has been about increasing consumer choice and providing more options about what, how and when we choose to consume.  The music industry has followed a similar journey of increased consumer choice. Successful IT companies don’t deliver new features; successful IT companies give customers more choices. The iPhone would have been just another expensive phone were it not for the explosion in choice driven by the App Store.

Chocie = EmpowermentEmpowerment is the process of increasing the capacity of individuals or groups to make choices and to transform those choices into desired actions and outcomes. As humans we’ve always searched for empowerment. Whether its civil rights, politics, medical care or in our personal relationships it’s a basic human instinct to try to strive for right to make choices. It seems that with choice comes personal freedom.

While empowerment is a hot topic in the IT industry to date almost all of the focus has been on the customer rather than the employee. There are no shortage of analysts, consultants, speakers and quacks out there ready to bore you to death and tell you what you already know, that consumers are more powerful and connected than ever before. Yes we all know it’s never been easier to research buying decisions or switch suppliers. Yes we all know that a single tweet or review can have a long term negative impact on a business. Yes we all know that our customers are increasingly using mobile as their first choice system of engagement with organizations. We get it. Enough already.

We read much less about employee empowerment. Why, because at heart most businesses still view many of their employees as a cost center rather than as a value center. Yes even those zeitgeisty new technology firms with pool tables and bean bags all over the foyer are quick to reduce the cost of their service desks by focusing on a web only strategy that funnels all customer problems down the same fixed process. Chances are you’ll struggle to find their call center number.

There are few, if any, business processes that don’t have exceptions and that’s when you need your employees. Your employees fill the gaps business processes can’t reach.  At some point customers will engage directly with employees. However what’s the point of spending all that money optimizing digital customer engagement channels if when the customer reaches an employee they are greeted by a person who is disengaged, demotivated and tied to inflexible business processes. All that work you’ve done to address the needs of the customer goes up in smoke. It is estimated that 70% of us are disengaged at work, using business processes and software applications into which we have had no input and which may not suit our working style.

Employees Fill The Gaps Your Process Can't Reach

Employees Fill The Gaps Your Process Can’t Reach

Most of us are both customers and employees.  It was thus inevitable that our personal quest for empowerment would extend to how we use information technology in our work environment. Trends such as the consumerization of IT and the rise of enterprise app stores are the manifestation of the desire for employee empowerment. Tech savvy knowledge workers are no longer prepared to wait for or accept IT driven business software and hardware decisions and are bringing their own hardware and software to work. Increasingly we’ll do the same with business processes. We want the same choices and experience in our business IT environment as we have in our personal IT environment. Personalizing the color and layout of our home screen is no longer enough. Instead we want to be able to choose both the hardware, software and the business processes we use to carry out our work.

Understanding the business user need for empowerment is essential for the successful future adoption of new products, services and business processes. If you are looking at transforming customer experience within your organization avoid organizations that focus only on the needs of the customer and ignore the needs of the employee. Look for products features that provide new choices for employees and recognize that how work gets done within an organization varies between employees. Evaluate new products not on features but on the choices they provide for both your customers and employees because the IT industry was, is and always will be about empowerment.

Have You Curbed Your Enthusiasm? – The Disengaged 70%

A recent Gallup opinion poll makes grim reading for U.S. organizations. It finds that 70% of American workers are either “Not Engaged” or are “Actively Disengaged” from their workplaces. One of the most interesting things about the survey is how little the results have changed in the 12 annual surveys since 2000 with consistently between 70 to 74% of employees either “Not Engaged” or “Actively Disengaged” from their workplaces.

Disengaged

Disengaged

Is this therefore a problem that can’t be fixed? Is the very nature of the modern work place one where only about 30% of us are really interested in what we do? The scary thing for organizations is that on average 7 times out of 10 your customers are coming face to face with employees who just don’t give a damn.

Now there are probably a wide variety of social, psychological and economic reasons for why the level of disengagement has stubbornly remained around 70% but I think we can safely state two things;

  • Technology has not, yet come to the rescue. It’s pretty obvious that even with the rise in productivity  brought about by the internet and mobility that employee engagement levels have not been impacted and have remained static.
  • Addressing the disengaged 70% is a huge business opportunity. Major achievements in productivity and customer experience will be achieved by the organizations that can tap into this 70% pool and convert them to engaged employees. This will not only require changes in managerial techniques and soft skills but also in the design of flexible IT applications that engage and empower employees rather than lock them into fixed business processes.

Intelligent Process Applications

Check out my new blog Intelligent Process Applications. This blog will be about the future of business process, what I refer to as Intelligent Process Applications.

This blog will continue to be focused on transforming customer experience and employee empowerment using BPM and Case Management.

Intelligent Process Applications

Does Customer Experience Exist?

I had the great misfortune of visiting the UNIQLO clothing store in Paris a couple of weekends ago. Dragged into the store by my other half on a Saturday afternoon what greeted me was pretty much man hell. The store was stuffed to the gills with shoppers. The aisles were too narrow. Lines for the changing rooms wound around the store and queues for the tills were about 20 deep. People were having sex just to make more room. (Ok I made this bit up.) Even my wife, who could shop for Ireland, gave up after a few minutes and suggested we leave.  Rather than simply walk out it felt like we were guided to the exit by human peristaltic movement and defecated from the store. On any customer experience metric this failed big time. Yet the store was packed?

This experience also reminded me of a recent article about Richard X. Bove, a noted bank analyst, who pulled his money out of Wells Fargo Bank because of poor customer experience and went on to trash the bank via social media. The very same Richard X. Bove however in his capacity as a banking analyst said, “I am struck by the fact that the service is so bad, and yet the company is so good”. The bank retained a strong financial status in sharp contrast to the poor customer experience it was providing. Bove continued to recommend the bank as a safe investment to his clients despite the fact that Bove himself would not keep his own money in that bank as a customer.

So here we have two examples of businesses where customer experience stinks yet both businesses are thriving. We could easily come up with others. We are told by customer experience evangelists that businesses must make every customer interaction count. That customer experience lip service just doesn’t cut it anymore. The examples above appear to reject this theory.

There are a number of ways we could try and interpret this. Is customer experience just another victim of the recession as more and more consumers are becoming more and more price conscious? Does price alone explain why Uniqlo is packed to the rafters?

Is customer experience simply irrelevant in some markets for example financial services? The Richard X Bove example above can be easily explained by the focus of many banks on their investment rather than retail arms. Why would Wells Fargo invest in an improved retail banking customer experience when it will have little impact on their bottom line?

Finally and more controversially does customer experience even exist? Are we not talking about process excellence here? UNIQLO for example focus on process execution as their key differentiator;

UNIQLO has established a SPA (Specialty store retailer of Private label Apparel) business model encompassing all stages of the business–from design and production to final sale. By continuously refining this SPA model, UNIQLO successfully differentiates itself from the competition by developing unique products.

Apple and Amazon are often cited as customer experience leaders but both also excel in process execution and supply chain excellence.

Many organizations are doing perfectly well without focusing on customer experience. So does customer experience even exist? Is customer experience really just process excellence?