Interested in a Free Book for your Summer Holistays?
Of course you are!
For those of us in the northern hemisphere, the days are getting longer and temperatures are becoming respectable again. Conversations are drifting towards the topic of summer holidays. Sitting on the beach; chilling out; reading a book. But which one? Or which beach? Given all that’s happening in the world at the moment, very few of us will be traveling long distances to get away this year. Holistays and staycations are going to be big in 2020.
Unfortunately, we can’t solve the issue of having to stay at home this summer. However we can provide you with a little light reading material for the back garden, couch or bathtub – you choose.
How to Enter Our Summer Giveaway
For the next 13 weeks we’re going to give away a few free Kindle editions of Customer At The Heart to one lucky winner each week.
OK, it’s not quite Sally Rooney’s Normal People or even Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera but it should be of interest to any CEO, Sales Director or Chief Customer Officer in a B2B company who is interested in increasing revenues and reducing customer churn.
If you’re interested if throwing your name in the hat for a free electronic copy, all you need to go to our Contact Us page and tell us that you’d like to enter. Easier still, just send us an email with the phrase Customer At The Heart in the subject of your message.
It’s as simple as that. Enter every week if you like! We’ll announce the winner every Friday and send out a Kindle voucher to the lucky winner the same day.
By the way, we take data privacy seriously – we’ll only use email addresses to send a copy of the book to the winner each week and we’ll delete all email addresses at the end of each weekly draw.
Stay safe over the summer months. John O’Connor
Have you ever wondered when the words ‘staycation’ and ‘holistays’ came into common usage?
a holiday that you spend at or near your home
“Turn off your phone and computer—you’re on staycation, remember?”
“UK holidaymakers opt for a staycation in Britain.”
I used to think they were both very recent inventions. I certainly never heard of the terms before the last global recession a decade ago. Well, it turns out that both words were in fairly common usage from 2003. There’s even some research from Merriam-Webster that suggests the word ‘staycation’ originated as far back as 1944.
The other thing I didn’t realise is that the words have slightly different meanings in Europe and the USA. Americans tend to use the term for activities that can be carried out within driving distance of their home where overnight accommodation is not required. Europeans – or British people at least – use the phrase to describe a holiday that is spent in one’s home country rather than abroad.
I was invited by Rob Baldock, the MD of Clustre to give a short webinar a couple of weeks ago on Love in the Time of Corona.
Actually, it was really about how some of our clients are maintaining business relationships while they are locked down at home but still have access to a telephone or the internet.
So here’s a summary of the 5 actions for maintaining long-lasting business relationships in the “time of corona”.
My Role as a Relationship Counsellor
Good morning. I’m John O’Connor, CEO of Deep-Insight. I sometimes refer to myself as a relationship counsellor. We set up and run Customer Experience programmes for large international B2B companies. Our clients are the likes of Atos, BT, Serco, Santander and so on. We also run Employee Engagement programmes and I’ll talk about one client in the course of the next 10 minutes but primarily it’s the MDs and Sales Directors of B2B companies that we deal with.
I call myself a relationship counsellor because our job is to help senior executives understand and enhance the relationships they have with major accounts. We do this by telling them:
Which of their accounts are in good shape and which are like to defect to the competition;
Which account managers are doing a good job at building long-term relationships within those accounts;
What is the one thing that they as senior executives need to address in 2020 because it’s an issue across all of the client base.
The theory is quite simple: people only buy from people that they trust. Long term commitment between two business partners is based on exactly that – a relationship built on Trust. Although B2B stands for business to business, I often say it’s really P2P (Person to Person). Organisations don’t buy from organisations. It’s people who buy from each other, even when they work in large organisations.
5 Actions You Need to Take
So keeping that in mind, how should we deal with our clients in the current environment? I’ve been reflecting on what some of our clients are doing with their customers and it seems to boil down to five things. These five actions are all based on building an emotional connection with clients and enhancing that client relationship:
1. Tell Customers how you are Contributing to Safety
2. Treat Customers with Care and Empathy
3. Communicate Constantly and Consistently
4. Treat Employees with Respect
5. There is no fifth action: Just make sure you do Actions 1 – 4
1. Contributing to Safety
This first point may not apply to every company but it probably does apply to most. Tell your customers what you are doing to contribute to their safety. After all, this whole COVID19 pandemic is primarily an issue of human safety. People out there are naturally concerned both from a personal and from a professional point of view.
Some of our clients deal with safety for a living. For example, one of our clients is a company called Survitec. It has over 3,000 employees manufacturing safety equipment for Defence and Marine clients. We’re working with the Marine division which manufactures everything from life jackets to the largest lifeboats you’ve ever seen. Their clients include cruise companies, oil & gas organisations, ship manufacturers, ship managers and so on.
Let’s take something like a lifeboat inspection. In the last few weeks, Survitec has literally re-written the manual for doing a lifeboat inspection. It had to, to make sure that it complied with WHO guidelines on things like workers practicing social distancing, the wearing of gloves and face masks, the basics of handwashing and use of hand sanitisers; on carrying out deep cleans after work has been completed. All shipments that are sent from Survitec’s warehouses are cleaned and wiped down before being dispatched.
But there’s not much point in rewriting the manual if you don’t also tell clients that you have done so. That’s what Survitec has been doing.
2. Treating Customers with Care and Empathy
Quite a few of our clients have customers that operate in industries that have been hard hit by COVID-19. I’ve already mentioned Survitec and the fact that it works with cruise companies. Now that’s a tough industry to be in at the moment.
We have another client called Timico which provides a range of IT services to UK clients. Many of these are operating in the restaurant and retail industry. These companies are hurting – both at a corporate level and at a personal level. A lot of what Timico has been doing in recent weeks is talking to their clients, understanding what their particular circumstances are and, in many cases, renegotiating deals and contracts based on the reality of what’s happening in their industry at the moment. For Timico it’s all about “providing confidence that they are doing everything they can to support their customers”.
I’m sure you have clients in a similar position. Be like Timico. Be empathetic. Go into listening mode.
3. Communicating Constantly and Consistently
Remember that communication is two-way. It’s about listening as much as it is telling. In fact, it should be a lot more listening that telling, in the current environment.
We have another client called Invenio that has about 1,000 staff deployed on large technical projects all across the globe – Americas, Europe, Middle East, Asia, Africa. Last Friday, we completed a customer feedback programme for them and while there was some debate at the start of April about whether we should go ahead, the CEO Arun Bala decided – correctly – that now was absolutely the right time to find out what his clients were thinking. As of this morning, we’re going through all the feedback with the various Invenio account owners. The next step is for those account owners to go back to their clients, share and discuss the feedback, and come up with action plans to address any issues.
4. Treating Employees with Respect
You might say this is not related to customers but remember that your staff are the daily interface your company has with clients. Treat them in exactly the same way that you treat your customers. Put it another way: “How can you expect your staff to provide a great customer experience when they are not having a great employee experience?”
Now, more than ever, your customers will judge how you deal with them currently when they consider who they do business with in the future. You probably know there are lists circulating in the UK naming companies who have provided bad customer and/or employee experience!
We have a Danish client called Pelican that operates a series of self-storage facilities for small businesses and for consumers all across the Nordic region. Most of their sites only have two staff so good communication with employees is again a key requirement for Pelican’s management team. Two weeks ago, we completed an employee assessment for Burkhart Franz, the CEO of Pelican, and I’m going to read you two comments that came back from staff in that assessment:
“Since Pelican has taken quick actions during this corona crisis, my trust in our company has grown. My score is higher than before due to this fact.”
“It’s really nice in this hard Corona situation that I can trust my employer. At the moment I have no worries about losing my job or salary, like many of my friends and family. Thank you for that!”
Now even if Burkhart wasn’t in a position to make any financial commitment to his employees, he’s the sort of guy who will let employees know exactly where they stand and what is likely to happen. And they really appreciate it. Be like Burkhart. List to your employees. Do it now.
So here are my key messages again:
1. Tell Customers how you are Contributing to Safety
2. Treat Customers with Care and Empathy
3. Communicate Constantly and Consistently
4. Treat Employees with Respect
If you need a fifth message, it to spend a lot of time thinking about the other four, because these are actions that companies need to take now, not just because they’re the right thing to do, but because they make sense commercially as well.
I’ll finish off with a message from a recent conversation I had recently with Ed Stainton, who manages the major government accounts for BT including the relationships with various police forces across the country. Based on their most recent customer assessment, we know that Ed already has a fantastic set of relationships with his clients but he’s convinced that in the next Deep-Insight assessment, the scores will be even better. Ed is convinced that this is the case because his teams have been working 24 x 7 throughout March and April on a whole range of activities directly or indirectly related to COVID-19. Ed believes that enhanced contact is going to lead to better and deeper client relationships. I think he’s right.
Thank you for listening and remember: be like Survitec and Invenio! Be like Arun, Burkhart and Ed!
U P D A T E : I originally wrote “Who is Kim and where is she based?” in February 2020 just after Atos restructured itself into market-facing units. In June 2022, Atos announced that it was looking into an even more fundamental restructuring of the business. If the plan gets approval, a brand new company called Evidian will be spun out of Atos.
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Becoming more Customer-Centric
Don’t be confused by the title. This is actually a personal blog post about global organisational structures and why companies sometimes change them to serve the customer better. It’s about becoming more customer-centric. Honestly!
What triggered me to write this blog was today’s announcement of a new global organisation structure for Atos, a client of ours and a true leader in the IT and digital world. Atos is also a great case study in how leaders change their organisation to become more customer-centric.
Today, the new CEO of Atos Elie Girard announced a major global restructuring of its operations. You need to read between the lines to figure out how dramatic this change actually is. No longer will counties the UK, France, Germany and other countries be responsible for their own P&Ls. These will now be run by six global industry heads. The axis of power will shift and the shift is seismic.
Paris, 19 February 2020
Moving the Group to an Industry approach
As of 2020, the Group initiates a transformation, called “SPRING”, aiming at reshaping its portfolio of offerings, reinforcing its go-to-market approach, and setting-up an Industry led organisation. In this context, six Industries are created:
– Financial Services & Insurance
– Public Sector & Defense
– Telecom, Media & Technology
– Resources & Services
– Healthcare & Life Sciences
At the same time, the Company gathers Global Business Units into 5 Regional Business Units (RBU), each of them under a single leadership:
– North America
– Central Europe: former Germany, and Central & Eastern Europe excluding Italy
– Northern Europe: former United Kingdom & Ireland, and Benelux & The Nordics
– Southern Europe: former France, Iberia, and Italy
– Growing Markets: former Asia-Pacific, South America, and Middle East & Africa
It all sounds a bit complicated: GBUs, RBUs, Industries and so on. And yet Atos is moving to this new organisation structure in order to become more customer-centric. Here’s why.
Atos’ customers are typically large international organisations. To serve them better, Atos needs to move to a more global organisation structure, with deeper industry skills that can be deployed across international boundaries for the benefit of those clients. If your clients are global, you need to be global. This change is absolutely the right thing for Atos to do. That said, there will be challenges along the way. I’m only saying this because of personal experiences in a previous life.
Becoming more customer-centric requires four elements to be in place: Leadership, Strategy, Execution and Culture.
Atos has shown leadership and determination in making such a significant restructuring of its business. That leadership has driven a new strategy for delivering more effectively to global clients. Profit & Loss will no longer reside in each country. It will reside in an Industry or Global Business Unit (GBU). Now Atos is in the Execution phase. This is where the new organisational structure must work for both clients and employees. If Atos gets this right – and I’m sure it will – the culture of the new company will be changed utterly. And that’s good for Atos’ clients. The trick in the Execution phase is to involve both customers and employees in transformation. In other words, don’t just think of Execution in terms of ‘hard’ activities such as processes, technology, targets and KPIs. The human side of the equation is arguably more important. We call this Investing in the “Soft Side”.
A Personal Experience
More than 20 years ago I used to work in Andersen Consulting (since rebranded as Accenture) at a point when it was moving from a country-based organisation structure to a global GBU structure just like Atos is now doing. It was a painful experience for a number of reasons but – no different to Atos – it was absolutely the right thing to do. Accenture’s clients were large global organisations and that required Accenture to become a truly global organisation as well.
More than 100,000 Atos staff are now going through the very same restructuring process as I did all those years ago. For most, the impact will be small; for many it will have a significant impact on their lives and careers. As for Atos itself, the impact will be transformational.
So here’s a small personal perspective on what it’s like to be a small cog in a large wheel going through a global organisation restructure. In the late 1990s I was working with Accenture in Dublin, having transferred from its London office a few years earlier. My boss in Dublin was a guy called Mark Ryan. We both worked in the Irish Financial Services practice – our clients were the local banks and insurance companies. When the new organisational structure was announced, Mark called me in to his office. He said: “John, you’re no longer working for me. We’re now part of a European group within Financial Services. Your new boss is Kim Zimmer.”
Who the Hell is Kim and Where is She Based?
I don’t remember my exact response but it was probably something like “Who the hell is Kim and where is she based?” Mark laughed. At the time, I didn’t really see what was so funny.
After a while, Mark stopped laughing and said “Kim’s actually a guy. And he’s based in Oslo.”
As it turned out that Kim Zimmer was a wonderful man. Kim and his fellow partners had built a great business for Accenture in Norway based on long-standing relationships with senior leaders in the local banking and insurance community. For me, it was a great opportunity to work in a more European role (and spend more time on a plane). The European aspect of the work was great but the time spent in airports and hotels eventually got to me. A few years later I resigned from Accenture after a wonderful 13 years in what was always a very international company. I ended up in Deep-Insight where I’m still travelling but on a more manageable basis.
I was going to name this blog “Who Do I Need to Buy Drinks For?” One of the most important aspects for anybody in a large multinational company is knowing who to talk to in order to help you develop your own career. Mentoring is important in any large organisation and organisational changes disrupt the linkages that people build up over time. It’s something that senior managers need to bear in mind when they suddenly find themselves with a brand new team of people reporting into them. Being customer-centric also means being employee-centric.
Similarly, for staff, it’s important to get facetime with new bosses. You don’t need to ply them with alcohol but it is important to engineer the opportunity to spend time with them to understand what their motivations are and how you fit into their plans.
Peter Whitelaw and I wrote a book last year called Customer at the Heart. It was a fun experience interviewing CEOs and sales directors from large B2B companies across Europe and Australia.
One of the consistent messages we heard in those interviews was the importance of investing in the ‘Soft Side’. In other words, focusing on people as much as on process.
This is a really important point: if you are responsible for running a customer experience (CX) programme in your organisation, don’t under-estimate the importance of investing in ‘Soft Side’ activities if you want to generate real long-lasting results.
This means spending significant amounts of time with both your leadership and client-facing teams planning for success.
1. LEADERSHIP. The most important quadrant. Good Customer Experience (CX) programmes are ALWAYS led from the top
2. STRATEGY. Good CX programmes link customer, product, operational and organisational strategy explicitly to customer needs
3. EXECUTION. Success requires properly resourced CX teams that are brilliant at executing the Strategy
4. CULTURE. Finally, Customer Excellence must become integral to the DNA of the organisation: “it’s how we do things around here”
All four quadrants are necessary for a successful CX programme. The ‘Hard Side’ quadrants of Strategy and Execution are all about metrics and processes. ‘Hard Side’ activities lend themselves to key performance indicators (KPIs) and while the activities in these two quadrants are important and easily measurable, the quadrants of Leadership and Culture are actually more critical.
In our experience, Leadership is the most important quadrant while Culture is the most challenging. And yet, here’s the strange thing: in most CX programmes the ‘Soft Side’ is often overlooked and almost always under-resourced.
We have a different approach at Deep-Insight. We spend a lot more time with leadership teams and sales or account teams BEFORE we think about asking our customer’s clients for their views. If you want to run a customer survey in a hurry – “I need to get the results back by the end of the month…” – we’re probably not the organisation for you.
At Deep-Insight, the first 14-16 weeks of our process are critical and must be done properly. If you don’t invest the time up-front, your CX programme will not deliver the results that Management and the Board expect from it. More than likely, it will end in failure. It’s as simple as that.
Planning & Onboarding
The first phase in our approach is ‘Onboarding’ the organisation; The very first step is to secure the buy-in from the senior leadership team to the journey that they are about to embark on. And it is a journey because cultural change takes time. The second step is to onboard the rest of the organisation, primarily the sales and account teams. They own the customer relationships and if they don’t embrace the programme with gusto, the entire programme is at risk of being seen as a box-ticking exercise.
We typically work with dispersed sales and service teams in online workshops, and always with senior leadership support and involvement. These onboarding workshops are critical to driving up response rates and completion rates, as well as delivering action and improvements.
Insights to Action
The final phase is where the rubber hits the road. The online survey is complete. We have gathered some key insights from the feedback. Now it’s time to assemble the sales and account teams again. This time the focus is on their role in ‘Closing the Loop’ with the client. This is arguably the most critical part of the entire process. The account manager – sometimes with a member of the senior leadership team – must meet the client to discuss the feedback from all individuals in that client’s organisation.
The key outcome of these ‘Close the Loop’ meetings is agreement on the appropriate actions that are needed to improve and deepen the relationship. This gets built into the Account Planning process for that client.
Investing in the ‘Soft Side’
If your CX programme isn’t working the way you hoped it would, it’s probably because you’ve under-invested in the Leadership and Culture quadrants. The symptoms will be clear: disengaged account teams; limited insights; complete absence of action.
It’s still January but Liverpool are already 16 points ahead of the chasing pack in the English Premier League. This been a phenomenal season for Jürgen Klopp’s team so far: 21 wins out of 22 games. No defeats. They even have a game in hand over their nearest rivals Manchester City and the club’s position look unassailable. So it might seem a little strange to claim that Liverpool’s NPS is -45%. Yes, that’s a Net Promoter Score of MINUS 45. It’s true. Sort of.
Liverpool have been English champions 18 times but have never won the Premiership. The last time they won was way back in 1990 when the old First Division had a lot more teams than it does today. Three decades on, the discussion is not around whether Liverpool can win the Premiership this season.
The question being posed is when? And with how many games to spare?
And yet, Liverpool’s NPS score is -45%.
Honestly, it really is Minus 45. Well, sort of.
Liverpool 2 – 0 Manchester United
Last weekend, Liverpool beat Manchester United 2-0 in a game that was far more one-sided that the final scoreline suggested.
“This was a game in which Liverpool’s superiority was so pronounced for most of the first half and the early part of the second it would have been no surprise had they led by five or six. The intensity of their football coupled with the surgical nature of their incisions were enough to take the breath.”
Now here’s the interesting thing, and the central point of this blog.
Given the imperious nature of Liverpool’s victory over Manchester United, one might think the Guardian would give all the Liverpool players ratings of 9/10 or 10/10 for their performances. Absolutely not. In the UK – in fact, all across Northern Europe – we just don’t do that. It’s not in our nature. Our internal scoring mechanism doesn’t allow it. We are conditioned to reserve 10/10 ratings for performances in the Superhero category. Excellence just gets you 8/10.
So if we were to apply a Net Promoter Score-type rating to the Liverpool team after last weekend’s defeat of Manchester United, the Liverpool team would have received a NPS score of -45according to John Brewin of the Guardian.
Liverpool Player Ratings
Here’s John Brewin’s full list of Liverpool player ratings:
Alisson: A watching brief for much of the first half, busier but never truly troubled in the second 6 (Remember that 6/10 is a ‘Detractor’ in NPS terminology)
Trent Alexander-Arnold: Prevented from getting forward as often as he likes to, usually by United’s split-striker tactics 6 (Detractor)
Joe Gomez: Another solid performance as the junior but now regular central defensive partner to Van Dijk 7 (7/10 and 8/10 are ‘Passive’ scores in NPS terminology)
Virgil van Dijk: Headed in an opener against the early run of play, and marshalled the backline in style 7 (Passive)
Andy Robertson: His usual influence was muted in the first half before normal service resumed after the break 6 (Detractor)
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: Something of a passenger in first half, his substitution was little surprise 5 (Detractor)
Jordan Henderson: His energy kept his team driving forward, hit the post early in the second half 8 (Passive)
Georginio Wijnaldum: Had a goal disallowed for offside and his darts from deep wreaked havoc on United 7 (Passive)
Mohamed Salah: Missed a golden chance in the 48th minute then broke United duck in added time 7 (Passive)
Roberto Firmino: Had a goal disallowed by VAR, and he is still yet to score a goal at Anfield this season 7 (Passive)
Sadio Mané: His best chance, just before half-time, was well saved by De Gea. Otherwise unusually quiet 6 (Detractor)
Liverpool’s NPS is -45%
The best ranking went to Jordan Henderson who only managed to get 8/10 from the Guardian correspondent. Even goal scorers Virgil van Dijk and Mo Salah could only manage a paltry 7 out of 10.
11 Players; None achieved a score consistent with a ‘Promoter’ ranking of 9 or 10s; Six Passives (scores of 7 or 8) ; Five Detractors (scores of 6 or below).
Net Promoter Score = % of Promoters (0%) less % of Detractors (45%), hence a Net Promoter Score of -45.
This is an important point to remember if you are running a Customer Experience (CX) programme across a global client base. An average NPS score for Northern European B2B customers is no higher than +10. For American customers, it’s more like +20 or +30, a score that would be seen as ‘excellent’ in a Northern European context.
So be careful when comparing NPS scores across different jurisdictions. If it helps, just remember that Liverpool’s NPS was -45% in a year where they ran away with the Premiership title!
UPDATE (2 February 2020)
I am happy to say that following their 4-0 demolition of Southampton yesterday, Liverpool’s NPS score has improved to -9 (MINUS 9).
Alisson – 7 (out of 10)
Trent Alexander-Arnold – 6
Joe Gomez – 6
Virgil van Dijk – 7
Andy Robertson – 7
Fabinho – 7
Jordan Henderson – 8
Georginio Wijnaldum – 6
Mohamed Salah – 9
Roberto Firmino – 8
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 9 (Man of the Match)