Love in the Time of Corona

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”.

John O’Connor
CEO, Deep-Insight


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.


What is a B2B relationship?

Well, it’s largely built around two elements: Trust and Commitment.

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!


Liverpool F.C. has a Net Promoter Score of -45

When will Liverpool win the Premiership?

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.

Liverpool's NPS is -45%

Dave Hytner of the Guardian was in no doubt about the emphatic nature of the victory:

“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 -45 according 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.

Cultural Differences from Country to Country

I have written before about how benchmarking needs to be conducted carefully when you compare scores from customers in different countries.

I have also written about how people in different countries are culturally programmed to score in particular ways. The most obvious example is that Americans are more prone to score more positively than Europeans if they receive a good service.

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)