If you conduct a customer survey only once, you capture a single ‘snapshot’ in time. That snapshot will usually give you valuable information including customer concerns that deserve remedial actions.
1. Will never know if those remedial actions actually resolved the customer’s concerns 2. Won’t know what’s trending. Are customers more loyal or less loyal? Are more of them actively considering defecting to your competitors? 3. Might never improve your customer relationships
Customer centricity requires continual contact with the customer. Hence the importance of iteration.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
Customer Centricity and Agile
There are many similarities between an iterative approach in customer centricity surveys and the Agile project management methodology.
“Agile is an iterative approach to project management and software development that helps teams deliver value to their customers faster and with fewer headaches. Instead of betting everything on a ‘big bang’ launch, an agile team delivers work in small, but consumable, increments.” (Atlassian 2020)
• Focus on people over process
• Embed customers and their feedback in order to continuously improve
• Deconstruct work into small segments and organize effort into short chunks (typically called sprints) in order to get quick feedback and make nimble (agile!) course corrections
• Dedicate people to teams and focus on one project at a time
• Experiment and learn continuously
• Ensure transparency of the work and continuity of the team
The Importance of Iteration in Customer Centricity
Iteration means adopting a cyclical approach to seeking customer feedback. You need to repeat regularly. At least once every year. And remember that first principle I mentioned. Focus on people over process. Get buy-in from the account teams as they have to own the customer programme. If they don’t, it will be seen as ‘just another Head Office initiative’ and will fail.
Benefits of Iteration in Customer Centricity
• Identifies trends and locates intransigent problems (that the customer perceives)
• Enables account managers to interact with customers in a non-selling mode, building trust
• Is seen to be consistently seeking customer feedback with the objective of continuous improvement
Consequences of Not Iterating in Customer Centricity
• Customers perceive that you no longer care about their opinions and that their past participation was a waste of time
• Your organisation drifts away from its strategy of achieving customer centricity
• Staff may feel they are no longer accountable for the quality of customer relationships
Peter Whitelaw is an Australian consultant providing customer relationship assessments, customer centricity guidance and change management services. He has a background in engineering, sales and general management with Hewlett Packard, Tektronix and Optus Communications. For 11 years he was CEO of project and change management training and consulting company Rational Management, training thousands of managers across the world. In recent years he has been lead consultant on several change management and customer centricity projects for both commercial and government organisations.
There’s an old saying that “the cobbler’s children are the worst shod”. In the past that definitely applied to Deep-Insight. We advise clients like Atos, BT and Serco to build customer centricity through:
– Annual strategic assessment of all clients
– Clear plan for choosing the right contacts and getting them to commit to giving feedback via an online survey
– Comprehensive review of the feedback to agree strategic initiatives for the next 12 months
– ‘Close The Loop’ meetings with each client to agree actions to improve the relationship
In Deep-Insight’s early days, we even struggled with the first point. We thought the survey couldn’t be completely independent and honest as it was not being administered by a third party. We got over that objection pretty quickly. It’s true that our scores are a little inflated because the survey is not anonymous, but that’s not the point. The numbers aren’t the most important thing. Any customer feedback is invaluable. We have now been running CRQ assessments with our own clients on an annual basis for several years. Last year, we got our best ever scores.
The only problem is that in 2019 we probably didn’t include as wide a selection of contacts as we should and we could have worked harder at getting a higher completion rate. Last year, our completion rate was 49%. That’s not bad but this year we agreed we wouldn’t be happy unless we hit 60%.
So how did we do? Were we still the cobbler’s children?
Deep-Insight’s 2020 CRQ results
We were definitely more determined this year in getting commitments from you to give us 10 minutes of your time for feedback.
It worked – we achieved a 66% completion rate so my first message is to say ‘Thank You’ for such a wonderful response. Our results were very good too: a CRQ score of 5.7 and a Net Promoter score of +44%. Not as high as last year, but I’m still really pleased by those scores.
Retaining our Unique Status
We also retained our ‘Unique’ status which means that we are in the top 10% of our own database of scores. Uniqueness requires a combination of a winning ‘Solution’ and a wonderful ‘Experience’ for the client.
Areas for Improvement
Even though our clients see us as Unique, there are still areas we need to improve upon. Our core product offering is seen as really good but, in some places, we’re not seen as innovative enough and there are a few areas where we could invest more in our technology.
Closing The Loop
At this point, we have been in touch with most of our clients and scheduled a ‘Close The Loop’ meeting to discuss their feedback on us, and to agree some actions. One of the areas we will be seeking further feedback on is where we focus our development efforts in terms of ‘Innovation’ and ‘Technology’. Here are the three areas that we are trying to prioritise:
1. Further development of Deep-Dive. Deep-Dive is our online analytical portal. It has become an invaluable tool for us to extract insights for our clients but it’s not as intuitive as it could be.
2. Integration with Salesforce. Many, if not most, of our clients use Salesforce as their corporate CRM tool. Some of our clients import the CRQ and NPS results (as well as verbatim comments) from our assessment into Salesforce so that account managers and service teams can see instantly what the most recent feedback was.
3. More Benchmarking & Industry Comparisons. We have 20 years’ worth of benchmarking data and although we’re not big believers in industry averages, many of our clients would like to know if they’re in a particular quartile or decile for their industry.
We’ve tried hard this year so hopefully we’re no longer the cobbler’s children. Thank you again for your time and input into this year’s CRQ customer assessment. I really do appreciate it and we will make changes based on your feedback – particularly around where we should focus our efforts in the next 12 months.
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.