Amazon’s Destructive Culture Exposed – or Not?

by Colin Shaw on September 1, 2015

Amazon is in some hot water right now. The New York Times article appearing last Saturday has many people wondering if Amazon is the company they thought it was.

The article in the NY Times tells a story of an employee culture where workers are never off the clock. (Oh dear! Welcome to corporate America, I say!) People are apparently expected to work all the time. (Well, if you don’t like it the answer is simple: Find another job.) It also describes managers penalizing people for having family or medical emergencies, and encourage each and every employee to tattletale on their co-workers. One employee interviewed said that it was routine to see people crying at their desk. (In my view the answer is that he or she is in the wrong job). Maybe Amazon should take the Zappo’s example of paying people to leave the company after six weeks of training to ensure they get the right people.

A rebuttal posted by an “Amazonian” denies the validity of the claims published in the Times. However, I believe there is plenty of truth to go around for both sides, and the proof will be in the Amazon pudding as it were.

What do I mean by that? Simply put: if Amazon’s workplace culture is despotic as the NY Times article said it is, then their product and the resulting Customer Experience would be, too. For my part, I don’t believe it’s as bad as all that.

I have to admit, I raised an eyebrow during this litany of allegations. It sounded like Amazon was a house of horrors for those that called themselves “Amazonians.” I wondered how anyone would ever work at a terrible place like that.

But then I remembered Steve Jobs. I remembered the ad that they run:

“Heres to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo.

You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward.

And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Amazon is trying to break the mold. I applaud them as it is how change happens. Are there a few people that are poor managers in Amazon? When you have 180,000 employees that is a statistical certainty.

So could it possibly be that the culture at Amazon was so egregiously unhealthy as described? The truth is that it’s possible, but highly improbable.

Nick Ciubotariu, the Head of Infrastructure Development for Amazon.com’s Search Experience, said the article was complete rubbish. These examples of what employees experienced at Amazon were not the norm, but the side effects of the unfortunate history of what Amazon was guilty of in the past. He quotes a high-level executive in his article that admits they used to “burn a lot of people into the ground” but they had changed.

Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon also denies the work culture depicted in the article. In his letter to employees this past Sunday, he said:

“It claims that our intentional approach is to create a soulless, dystopian workplace where no fun is had and no laughter heard. Again, I don’t recognize this Amazon and I very much hope you don’t, either. More broadly, I don’t think any company adopting the approach portrayed could survive, much less thrive, in today’s highly competitive tech hiring market. The people we hire here are the best of the best. You are recruited every day by other world-class companies, and you can work anywhere you want.”

I couldn’t agree more.

While it says the right things about what Bezos hopes is the case, the question in many people’s minds might also be, “Is Bezos easy to work for?” I don’t know personally, but I have read he is not. Great entrepreneurs are all demanding, as it were. These big names (Bezos, Elon Musk, the late Steve Jobs) share traits that make them tough to work for or with. Did those characteristics trickle down to other managers and translate into some of the stories shared in the NY Times article? Possibly.

I admire Amazon and what they are doing with their Customer Experience. They continue to strive for excellence in the experience they deliver their Customers. They are always looking for a way to both surprise and delight them; two emotions that are know to drive value for any business. But “Amazon” isn’t a thing doing this; it’s a brand name. It’s the name of the company, which employs a group of people that make these things happen on behalf of the Customer.

The reason I ultimately doubt the validity of widespread employee exploitation and abuse at Amazon is because the employee experience and Customer Experience are linked. I always say, “Happy employees make happy Customers.” I say this because it’s true. When you provide a work environment that fulfills employees and empowers them to do their work, they get excited and inspired to do great things. They become engaged with the company mission and brand promise. And they deliver on it.

I have also seen what happens when management doesn’t have a great workplace. When the culture is dire, the Customer Experience is, too. Don’t believe me; just ask anyone who works at Ryanair where employees are abused in social media by the CEO.  Or maybe one of the employees at Wal-Mart.

The reality is that none of us outside the organization know for certain what is happening inside Amazon. What I do know is their Customer Experience is good. I doubt a culture built on the regular abuse of employees will yield their top performance in Customer Experience. And who can deny that Amazon delivers top performance in Customer Experience?

What do you think? Is Amazon a cruel environment designed to suck the life out of employees for the betterment of Customer Experience or did they suffer some bad publicity for sins of the past?

I would love to talk about this LIVE with you on Periscope. I will broadcast tomorrow at 12PM EST, @ColinShaw_CX, and am happy to answer any questions you may have about this and any other topic. Download the app for free, here: http://periscope.tv

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Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s first organizations devoted to customer experience. Colin is an international author of five bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.

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Colin ShawAmazon’s Destructive Culture Exposed – or Not?

Airways Fattist Policy is NOT about Safety

by Colin Shaw on August 27, 2015

Ryanair has an airline that’s giving it a run for its money—on being the worst airline ever! Uzbekistan Airways announced they would weigh its passengers pre-flight to determine the average weight of passengers and their carry-on luggage. They claim it is to aid the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in research for flight safety. I say that is complete rubbish and this new weigh in is just an excuse.

I am not the only one that calls this out as rubbish. CNN reported that the IATA has no such request and that the airline is not required to provide this information to them. In fact, the Manager of IATA corporate communications explained they issue formulas for airlines to calculate the average weight a passenger adds to a plane, including values for adults vs. kids. They even change these numbers to the season, presumably to account for heavier clothes.

Apparently, Uzbekistan Airways’s new fattist policy will direct their passengers to a weigh in station at the departure gate. But I say, why not just have it in the security line? After all, it’s the least they can do, as the passengers will already have their shoes off!

If this were about implementing a pay as you weigh structure, Uzbekistan Airways wouldn’t be the first ones to institute one. Samoa Air has been doing it since 2012. Their chief executive is non-apologetic about it, too. The page even says, “A kilo is a kilo is a kilo.” They are proud of the fact that they use real weights because “Real weights are for real people..[Stet].”

Being overweight myself (What? I’m big boned!) and flying a lot for business, I am likely to be a little more sensitive about this policy. I suppose I can count myself lucky I don’t have cause to fly Uzbekistan Airways or Samoa air.

A weigh in policy is the height of insensitivity. This policy is just another form of discrimination. We say, and rightly so, that race, ethnicity, sex, and disability should not be discriminated against. So why is it okay to discriminate based on weight? It’s fattist, a term coined by Amanda Platell on the Daily Mail a few years back. In the same column she describes fat people as having “a lack of self-control and even less self-respect.”

Let’s be clear, weighing passengers before boarding is clearly the thin end of the wedge. After all, why should it stop at body weight? If airlines need to introduce more obnoxious policies to make money why not add fees for bad flight behavior? Like a toddler-kicking-a-seat fee? Or a body-odor fee? Arm-rest-hogging fee? And don’t get me started on those people who use the bathroom a lot!

Of course, I am joking, as none of these fees are okay. My point is airlines with these types of policies are not customer-focused, but operationally focused. We call it an inside-out focus instead of outside in. Inside out means the airline thinks about what’s best for them in how they provide their flight experience. Outside in means the airline thinks about how to provide things that are best for the Customer.

It’s the height of an inside-out focus to charge passengers based on their weight. It’s simply bad manners, as my mum would have said. Treating passengers with respect is an important key to any person’s experience with an airline. I think we can all agree that paying more for being “big boned” lacks respect.

What do you think? Is it okay to be fattist? Should airlines charge you based on weight? I’d love to hear your opinions in the comments below.

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Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s first organizations devoted to customer experience. Colin is an international author of five bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.

Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX

Colin ShawAirways Fattist Policy is NOT about Safety

Improving Employee Experience with Better Results

by Colin Shaw on August 25, 2015

Performance reviews are part of most employer/employee relationships. However, recent developments show that improving employee experience involves finding new ways to give employees feedback to improve motivation and success.

Annual reviews are likely to get a resigned sigh out of most managers. After a less than insightful review, most employees might sigh as well. The traditional system used for annual reviews tends to resemble busy work, to generate less positive motivation, and, in more than one way, to seem outdated. If there wasn’t a raise attached to it, chances are most companies would skip annual reviews altogether.

Google understands these facts about the existing annual review tradition and came up with an ingenious new way to handle their employees’ reviews: they separate the review and the pay discussion by one month. Laszlo Bock, Google’s senior vice president of People Operations explained in his book, “Work Rules!” that Google hopes their employees want to improve for the sake of contributing more to the company, and not just to make more money.

It turns out that scientific research supports Google’s hopeful separation of review and raise. Bock refers to a study from 1971 that found:

“The first two experiments suggest that when money is used as an external reward for some activity, the subjects lose intrinsic motivation for the activity. On the other hand, the third experiment suggests that when verbal reinforcement and positive feedback are used as the external rewards, the subjects’ intrinsic motivation seems to increase relative to the non-rewarded subjects’.”

According to an article on Business Insider this week, Google use the OKRs, which stands for Objectives and Key Results. To make this OKR system work, employees first set a goal for themselves, and then, a series of quantifiable results that show they achieve the objective. (Larry Page does the same for the whole company, also.) This approach to annual reviews is another example of how Google empowers their employees.

What I like about this story is that Google understands the same goals do not motivate every employee. Money, while necessary and important in Western society, does not always evoke the same determination and drive to be better from individuals. Many times, people are inspired more by accolades and appreciation than by money (although, to be sure, money is important. Nice words don’t pay the bills, as it were).

I have written before about the link between Employee Experience and Customer Experience. Your employees need to be in the right mindset to be receptive to your desired brand promise and Customer Experience outcome. Having a motivated employee who buys into that promise and outcome is the only way you will achieve the results you want.

Do you think giving them a review without any real value will get you there? Me either. And as Google hopes and the study from the 70s reports, most people aren’t motivated by money alone.  Separating the money from the review is an important first step, followed by a clear goal and measurement system for success. These final two are even more effective when the employee is empowered to have a say in them. Using this approach, you have a much better chance of making the annual review a value instead of just an annual waste of time.

Employee experience is a huge part of the success of your company’s culture. Also having happy employees leads to having happy Customers. And we all know to what Happy Customers lead (Hint: it’s got lots of these: $$$$).

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Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s first organizations devoted to customer experience. Colin is an international author of four bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.

Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX

Colin ShawImproving Employee Experience with Better Results

Changing Customers’ Habits

by Colin Shaw on August 20, 2015

Your brain makes up 3% of your total body weight. However that 3% of your body weight takes 20% of your body’s energy to run. As highly evolved humans, we are always looking for ways to preserve energy, and one of the ways we do this is relying on habit. It’s important for Marketers to understand customers’ habits when marketing to them.

We engage in habits every day. And we do these things automatically. Charles Duhigg wrote a book called, “The Power of Habit” exploring the habits we have as humans.

Here’s how habits work with Customers:

  •      First there is a cue. This term refers to the event that triggers behavior,
  •      Then there is a routine, or the activity occurring  on a regular basis.
  •      Finally, there is the reward, which represents the gift or satisfaction you feel from the routine.

But what is important to remember is this is easy. It’s automatic. It’s a habit. To put it another way, do you think about the particulars of cleaning your teeth? When you get dressed, do you consciously think about which items you put on first? Chances are, you didn’t think about either, you just did them. We do this to conserve energy in our brains.

Your lives are full of instances where you have habits. These things include the examples I gave like cleaning your teeth or doing your shoes up, but it can also be something like driving to work. How many times have you arrived at work and thought to yourself, “I don’t remember driving here! Did I get on the freeway or what?”

The answer is that clearly you did get on the freeway. The reason you don’t remember is because it was a habit.

The Evolution of Habits

Many of you reading this have gone to work today. You will sit there all day at your desk doing your work and when you go home at night you will feel tired. You won’t do any physical exercise to speak of, but you’ll feel tired nonetheless. You feel tired is because you used a lot of brain waves at work that day, and brain waves take a lot of energy.

Our brains evolved to do this. Our brains identified things we do on a repetitive basis, and learned to do them on a type of “auto pilot.” The autopilot mode of your brain takes far less energy.

So what does this have to do with managing people’s behavior? Everything.

Organizations doing an excellent job with people understand the brain wants to conserve energy whenever possible. They know people want things to be easy and don’t want to spend the energy thinking through things. So these organizations respond by supplying an option that occurs on autopilot.

When you want to manage what people do, you have to understand people’s habits. You need to know what they are doing, and why they are doing it.  The best leaders of organizations do this. They understand the cue, the routine, and the reward.

And they also understand to change Customers’ behavior you have to make an intervention to that cycle, usually to the routine.

Making an Intervention to Habitual Behavior

A great example of this is the airlines. I fly a lot and have for several years. I had my airport habits well set by the time the airlines introduced self-check in. So because self-check in wasn’t part of my habit, I skipped it. I wasn’t the only one; most people skipped it.

So the airlines intervened. They sent an agent to intercept habitually queued-up passengers such as myself and coaxed us out of our comfort zone and over to the kiosks. Then, the helpful agent guided me through the process. And guess what? I liked it! The reward was no more long, dull queue, so my routine changed almost immediately.

I predict this pattern with technology as well. Organizations want to digitize. Many are working to move Customers to an online environment. To be successful, understanding how they need to change a Customer habit will become key.

Great organizations with strong leadership see ways to make it easy for Customers to do what they want. They use the power of habit to create the behavior they want. The best part is, people are only all too willing to give them the behavior they want—automatically.

How are you using the power of habit to get the behavior you want?

If you enjoyed this post, you might be interested in the following blogs:

 

 

Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s first organizations devoted to customer experience. Colin is an international author of four bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.

Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX

Colin ShawChanging Customers’ Habits

3 Ways Customers’ Minds Plays Tricks on Them

by Colin Shaw on August 18, 2015

I often say people are irrational, but only because they are. We all do irrational things. We like to think we make logical decisions based on rational thinking all the time, but we don’t. The truth is, your mind plays tricks on you every day, and many times, it’s in one of three ways.

In “Thinking Fast and Slow,” Professor Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences recipient in 2002, explores why our mind plays tricks on us. He wrote the book because he wanted to understand why he was frequently wrong about things. What he discovered is that our “intuition” is not what we thought it was. Instead, it’s a system of lazy thinking based on emotion, not logic.

Kahneman describes our brains as having two ways of thinking, which he refers to as System 1 and System 2. System one is fast, doesn’t take much energy to do, and is based on emotion. System 2 is slow, takes much energy to do, and is based on logic. Because thinking with System 2 takes more energy, most people rely on System 1 thinking far more often than System 2. This fact is the foundation for why people get things wrong.

Like many of you, I don’t like to be wrong—especially because my intuition was so sure I was going to be right. I feel, well…stupid and stupid is not a way I like to feel. So when I read this book, I was interested in how this System 1 thinking was leading me to false conclusions, leading me to false beliefs, and making me look stupid. The following three concepts struck me as important to understand and how they affect my decisions as a leader:

#1 The Anchoring Effect: This term refers to instances where a person assigns a value to a quantity unknown before they make an estimate, i.e. like when you hear the asking price of a house, your estimate is not in relation to that price, or the anchor.

Lesson:

There are many applications of the anchor effect on leadership, but I’ll limit my discussion to two. First, it’s important in a negotiation to understand whoever first mentions a number (or the anchor) is likely to get something close to that number; so be first. Second, be careful about introducing an anchor when you want to know another person’s opinion. If you suggest a value, you implant that in your audience, limiting the candor you might have received without that anchor.

#2 Availability Heuristic: When a person can think of many examples of a category quickly, they believe the overall frequency of that category is large. This is largely influenced by the fact the examples were many and easy for the subject to access.

Lesson:

This one shows me that just because I recall similar circumstances doesn’t mean the circumstances are trending. In other words, the availability heuristic cautions leaders not to jump to conclusions; use System 2 to confirm what System 1 suggests is frequent (and obvious).

#3 Availability Cascade: Biases form when something minor becomes inflated to the point it becomes something major. The media is the typical culprit for overinflating the minor event in many cases, i.e. Snowmageddon 2015, or winter storm Juno, now simply called the blizzard that wasn’t.

Lesson:

Be sure to engage your rational thinking when you feel pressure to act quickly to react to a situation. My guess is Governor Andrew Cuomo wishes he’d watched a little more weather channel coverage before he shut down the subway for the first time in its 101 year history.

The thing about these three concepts is everyone is victim to them from me to you to the Governor of New York. We all defer to System 1 thinking more often than System 2. It’s true of people who you work with and for people with which you do business. People think this way and it affects what they do.

The good news is that once you are aware of them, you can address them and change it for the better. The key to overcoming this thinking stumbling block is first accepting that it happens, and then recognizing when it happens in your thinking. Your mind is playing tricks on you; learn to play the game better and you win.

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Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s first organizations devoted to customer experience. Colin is an international author of four bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.

Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX

Colin Shaw3 Ways Customers’ Minds Plays Tricks on Them

Are Experience Consistency and Reliability Emotional Drivers?

by Michael Lowenstein on August 17, 2015

As customer experience consultants who focus on the emotional elements of service and product customer experience and value delivery, we are often asked about the behavioral role of tangible, rational, and functional elements of value and experience.  These include the factors we typically associate with quality:  completeness, timeliness, cost, functionality, accuracy, etc.   What we typically find in our client experience assignments is that there is almost invariably an emotional underpinning to these value components.  These aren’t the big ‘wow’ elements of experience and value that seem to get a lot of attention, but they help to create customer trust when delivered well, and tend to undermine trust and value perception when there are issues which may cause concern.

A bit more esoteric, but no less fundamental and important, are those elements of experience and value which we identify as gray areas between strictly emotional and strictly tangible.  These include product and service reliability and consistency, delivery of an experience and value, per customer perceptions, that fall inside of emotional, sometimes subconscious, parameters the customer considers as acceptable.  Reliability and consistency, delivered to a customer’s expectations or better, build a ‘bank account’ of positive memory and trust.  One of the things most well understood about reliability and consistency within expectations is that, when these delivery components fall outside of, i.e. below, customer expectations, they often trigger emotional responses, which drive strong memories and downstream behavior..  

Think about it.  On the consumer side, many of us can remember expectations of experience at a restaurant, supermarket, hotel, rented auto, insurance company, department or discount store, etc. that haven’t been met.   It’s often the elements of consistency and reliability with the experience that are most dominant in our memories.  They actively contribute to emotion and downstream behavior.  Poorly trained retail staff, dirty hotel rooms, hot food delivered cold – – the list goes on and on.  In services, cable customers seem to get the most emotional on those rare occasions when their system goes down; and this can diminish confidence and trust in their supplier, sometimes enough to drive switching behavior.  On the b2b customer side, it is things like consistent and reliable product quality, delivery timing, order completeness, service and the like that contribute to memory.  As an example, a fast food distribution client once expressed disbelief that their 99.3% order completeness rate and 99.5% delivery timing rate did not drive higher customer loyalty.  When their customers were interviewed, it was not the high order completeness and delivery timing rates that mattered, it was the emotion behind the memory of inconvenience and other problems caused by incomplete orders or delivery that was earlier or later than expected.

Because experience and value delivery are so often multi-channel, even omni-channel, the consistency and reliability we’re discussing must, today, extend across all modes of communication and conveyance..  Customers expect experience reliability and consistency, irrespective of channel. . This makes experience with these factors exponentially more impactful on customer behavior.  When experience reliability suffers, consumer emotion and memory will trigger offline and word of mouth, usually negative.  The stats on this, and their behavioral impact, are well known.  And then, irrespective of the channel, consumers’ trust bank account will quickly be depleted; and, in the process, they will influence the bank accounts of other consumers.  When consumers openly complain, telling others about lack of consistency and reliability and how it makes them feel, there is always the threat that this will ‘go viral’.

Execs seem to focus more on what will drive the engaging, unexpected ‘wow’ elements in experience and value delivery; however, it is well to remember that a strong structure is built on a solid foundation.  Reliability and consistency, as much as other components of value, can strategically differentiate a business.  Stephen Covey offers us some good guidelines for how to achieve this.  In his Habit #7, Sharpen the Saw, he said “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”   He also said “   Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships”  This tells us a lot about the emotional power of consistency and reliability..

Michael Lowenstein, Ph.D., CMC, is Thought Leadership Principal for Beyond Philosophy, an international customer-centricity and customer experience consultancy (www.beyondphilosophy.com), based in the U.S., member of Advisory Council, Customer Value Creation International, and CustomerThink Advisor. He specializes in customer life cycle management, strategic/profitable customer relationships, customer experience research/strategy, and employee performance research, consulting, and training, and he is the author of six customer-centric strategy books and over 200 white papers and articles.

Michael LowensteinAre Experience Consistency and Reliability Emotional Drivers?

The Power of Servant Leadership to Build and Sustain Stakeholder Value

by Michael Lowenstein on August 13, 2015

Michael Lowenstein, Ph.D., CMC, is Thought Leadership Principal for Beyond Philosophy

During a recent series of stakeholder behavior instructional workshops conducted for our clients, one of the strongest areas of interest among workshop participants was how to gain senior management support and sponsorship for various customer-related and employee-related initiatives. For both inspiration and answers regarding the best and most effective approaches to apply, I turned to trailblazing ideas of the two “Fathers of Servant Leadership”, Max De Pree and Robert Greenleaf.

De Pree and Greenleaf have long been considered the most original thinkers in the art, science, and pure knacks associated with the power of leaders to shape and direct an enterprise for the better. One of De Pree’s most memorable quotes, for example, is “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say ‘thank you’. In between, the leader is a servant.” That’s almost Zen-like in its simplicity, accuracy, and application, and they have inspired such well-known CEO’s as Jack Welch, Jan Carlzon (Scandinavian Airlines), Horst Schulze (Ritz-Carlton Hotels), and Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines) in their thinking and management styles. We can also see servant leadership in the ideas of Ken Blanchard, Steven Covey, Peter Senge, and M. Scott Peck.

For those unfamiliar with De Pree and Greenleaf, and the leadership concepts they represent they, here are some brief facts. Greenleaf, who died in 1990, is generally acknowledged to be the founder of the modern servant leadership movement. He worked for AT&T for over 40 years, researching management, development and education of employees. What he observed during that time was that the top-down, authoritarian leadership style prevalent in U.S. companies was not effective in providing value for stakeholders. He took early retirement in 1964 to establish the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership, which is still active today.

In 1970, Greenleaf Greenleaf identified ten principles in his essay, The Servant As Leader, all of which can apply directly to how leaders help generate a customer-centric culture and create lasting value for all stakeholders:

– Listening – being receptive, and understanding stakeholder needs

– Empathy – accepting and recognizing stakeholders as people

– Healing – being a force for transformation and integration

– Awareness – helping create open and personal self-awareness

– Persuasion – building consensus rather than forcing decisions by coercing others

– Conceptualization – ability to both manage, and look beyond, the day-to-day

– Foresight – understand lessons learned, present realities, and view the future

– Stewardship – all stakeholders hold the enterprise in trust for the greater good

– Commitment to the Growth of People – intrinsic value beyond basic contributions

– Building Community – shaping and reinforcing relationships within the enterprise

If these ten principles seem like they would be applicable to customer-centricity in operations and experiences, and humanistic approaches for building relationships and value for all stakeholders within an enterprise, it’s not an accident. Today, though many enterprise leaders still believe in, and practice, a paradigm which depends on controlled communication and power rather than mutually beneficial agreements, Greenleaf strongly believed otherwise. His ‘best test’ for any enterprise effectiveness was to ask how leaders could serve people, help them grow as individuals, become more autonomous, healthier, wiser, and freer, and, themselves, become servants.

Certainly, we can see Greenleaf’s legacy in organizations identifying themselves as agents of conscious capitalism. In a later essay, The Institution As Servant, Greenleaf wrote: “If a better society is to be built, one that is more just and more loving, one that provides greater opportunity for its people, then the most open course is to raise both the capacity to serve and the very performance as servant of existing major organizations by new regenerative forces operating within them.” That may feel squishy to some, but it should be recognized that such organizations have the capacity to become engines of growth and profitability, and many of these companies have done exactly that.

Max De Pree, soon to be 90, was the CEO of the Herman Miller office furniture company, his family’s business, through the late 1980’s. His 1987 book, Leadership Is An Art, has sold more than 800,000 copies; and this was followed up by Leadership Jazz in 1993. He established the De Pree Center for Leadership in 1996. Like Greenleaf, De Pree believes that leadership is not about telling others what to do, running their lives through pressure, and narrowly defining their world. It is about creating circumstances that allow individuals to assume responsibility and giving them the freedom to participate, collaborate and work in the best possible way, fitting to who they are and focusing on personal responsibility.

As De Pree has wisely stated: “The signs of outstanding leadership appear primarily among the followers. Are the followers reaching their potential? Are they learning? Serving? Do they achieve the required results? Do they change with grace? Do they manage conflict? Leaders must understand who should be listened to and when. Leadership is liberating people to do what is required of them in the most effective and humane way possible. Leadership is much more an art, a belief, a condition of the heart, than a set of things to do. The visible signs of artful leadership are expressed, ultimately, in its practice.”

The core precepts, and benefits of servant leadership, have been understood for centuries. In the Tao Te Ching, attributed to Lao-Tzu, it was written: “The highest type of ruler is one of whose existence the people are barely aware. Next comes one whom they love and praise. Next comes one whom they fear. Next comes one whom they despise and defy. When the servant leader’s task is accomplished and things have been completed, all the people say ‘We ourselves have achieved it!” Leaders of organizations desiring to be customer-centric, and managers wanting to help leaders achieve that worthwhile goal, would do well to follow these ideals and the principles of Greenleaf and De Pree.

Michael LowensteinThe Power of Servant Leadership to Build and Sustain Stakeholder Value

How You Feel Is Not Unique to You

by Colin Shaw on August 12, 2015

Should I feel like this? New Research

Wouldn’t it be great to know exactly what your Customers were feeling when they experience your products or services? Well, that day has come a bit closer as a new study out of Cornell University discovers that the brain has certain codes that it uses to interpret our emotions. It turns out that these codes are not unique to the individual. Instead, they are like a language all of our brains speak. In other words, how you feel, is not unique to you.

We know that 50% of a Customers Experience is about how a Customer feels. So understanding how your Customer feels at your various touch points in your current experience plays a critical role in their decision to come back to you.

Despite this, many organizations choose not to keep track of emotions because they are too hard to fit into a spreadsheet. They have difficulty giving time and resources, (and by resources I mean money) to something they can’t quantify.

These findings out of Cornell show us that emotions are not as nebulous and hard to measure as popular opinion believes. In fact, the study showed that brain processes emotions in the same parts of the brain and in the same way even when it’s by different people. In other words, the emotions that you feel are not as unique and are more comparable than you probably thought.

What the Study Discovered about Emotions

The study claims that even though your emotions are personal and unique to you, our brains interpret the signals in a similar way. The different senses and situations share a “standard code” by the brain. This is true whether the experience was pleasant or unpleasant. In essence, the study says that our brains all speak the same emotional language.

The study results came out of Cornell University’s Human Ecology. Published in Nature Neuroscience online, the study presented participants with a series of different images and flavors while taking images of their brains. They then analyzed the results to come up with their conclusion that the patterns were a sort of code that is not unique to the individual but the same for all humans as far as the sensory experience.

What I find fascinating about this research is that it indicates that if you and I both enjoy watching the beautiful sunset, it’s because our brains are interpreting them similarly. Likewise, if I am annoyed by my hold time with Company ABC and hear that you had the same experience, it means that our brains interpreted that unpleasant experience the same way. Our brain codes were in sync.

In addition, I love the idea that the brain has codes for the emotions. So when you are feeling emotion of feeling valued by an employee in a Customer Experience you know that the others feel this same emotional pull have the same code pulsing around in their orbifrontal cortex.

So What Does This Mean for Customer Experience?

This study means a few things to me for the customer experience. One of the biggest things this study reinforces for me is that it isn’t impossible to measure and compare emotions between individuals. While each of us is an individual with an unique perspective, our emotions are not in and of themselves unique. It also gives more rational evidence and scientific fact regarding what emotions are for Customer Experience champions to present with skeptical adopters of the importance of emotions in the Customer Experience. It helps them have the conversation that starts with the doubt-ridden question, “But how do we even know how to interpret what emotions a Customer is having?”

The practical use of this finding is important also. If you find a person who is a good representative of a sample of one of your Customer personas, you can get a pretty good idea of how your experience is being interpreted by that whole group based on the feedback you get from that individual. For others with those characteristics and similar tastes, the emotional reaction will likely be the same. And changes to improve that reaction will also get the same response.

The brain and the field of neuroscience are always striving to better understand the way we think. Whether that’s how we interpret our emotions in different lighting conditions or how we create a new chapter for our experience, these discoveries make it easier to move emotions from the “touchy feely” sector of our thinking. This understanding is critical to making emotions a more natural part of the conversation in business and more specifically, Customer Experience.

If you enjoyed this post, you may be interested in the following blogs:

Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s first organizations devoted to customer experience. Colin is an international author of four best-selling books and an engaging keynote speaker. To read more from Colin on LinkedIn, connect with him by clicking the follow button above or below. If you would like to follow Beyond Philosophy click here

Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX

Colin ShawHow You Feel Is Not Unique to You

The High Cost of Emotional Labor

by Colin Shaw on August 6, 2015

A definite link exists between Employee Engagement and Customer Experience. In spite of this, many organizations choose to keep their Employee Engagement programs and their Customer Engagement programs separate. However, linking the two areas is key to having success in both.

Aetna made headlines when they gave their lowest-paid workers a raise to $16/hr. Who are these lowest paid workers? They are the call center employees, or, in other words, some of the most (if not the most) Customer-facing employees. And these employees aren’t facing happy Customers either. One of the employees described how many of the callers they talk to are angry and the calls can be challenging. Their job is to help calm Customers down, and then help them better understand their insurance policy.

However, the challenges of their job weren’t the only thing that caused these stresses for employees in a day. Personal challenges affect how employees feel at work. An example of these personal challenges can be not making the bills or needing help to feed their families. The executive team at Aetna discovered that many of their call center employees were in public assistance programs, including Medicaid and food stamps.

Aetna’s CEO Mark Bertolini believes the investment in his employees will improve their state of mind at work, and because of that, improve their productivity levels. He made the move “to make sure that they were bringing their best selves to work every day.” While he can’t say for sure if it will increase profits, he felt it was the right thing to do. Bertolini believes it is important to do this, to help restore the middle class by paying employees a fair wage. In fact, he sends packets to other CEOs to encourage them to do the same thing with their compensation plans.

Investing In Employees Helps Prevent Emotional Burnout

So, why is raising wages for employees key to creating a good Customer Experience? It comes down to emotional labor. In a service-based job like the one where these call center workers are employed, they are required to manage their own emotions to project a certain image on behalf of the company, a concept known as emotional labor. In many ways, the company culture and emotional labor expectations dictate how they want their employees “to feel” while they are at work.

You know as well as I do if you have stress at home, it translates over to work. In the case of a low-wage earning employee on public assistance because he or she has medical bills or can’t feed the family, it’s safe to say the employee suffered significant emotional distractions at work. When employees are distracted, they can’t manage their emotions as well. It makes it significantly harder to maintain the emotional management required for the job.

I always say that happy Employees make happy Customers. This is not just a quaint slogan; it’s a fact. When an employee is friendly and smiling, it’s contagious. It spreads, like a happy virus and it infects Customers.

However, it takes energy on behalf of the employee to sustain the happy demeanor they display to Customers. And if they don’t have the resources to maintain it or time to recover, they will burn out over time, suffering from emotional exhaustion.

The Experience Economy Requires a New Way of Thinking

We are living in the Experience Economy today. What that means is that Customers want the companies they do business with to make it worth their while, to give them more value and a better experience than the past. It is not enough to have a great product, price, and placement. You now must have a great experience to go with that product. And who provides that experience? The employees do.

Therefore, linking Employee Engagement and Customer Experience is key to getting the Experience you want for your Customers. In other words, it’s not enough to win the Customers over; you need to win your employees over, also. Investing in your employees, giving them a foundation for a positive emotional state at work is a basic element of creating that positive emotional experience for Customers. Ignore the employees’ emotional needs, and they will ignore the Experience expectations you need them to deliver.

 

How can you invest in your employees today?

If you enjoyed this post, you might be interested in the following blogs:

 

Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s first organizations devoted to customer experience. Colin is an international author of four bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.

Emotions are intrinsically linked to decisions we make every day.
Join us August 18th to learn why emotions are a crucial part of your customer experience.

 

 

Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX

Colin ShawThe High Cost of Emotional Labor

The Role of CX in a Sales Culture

by Colin Shaw on August 4, 2015

You can win more friends with your ears than with your mouth. People who feel like they’re being listened to feel accepted and appreciated. They feel like they’re being taken seriously and what they say really matters.”

– Harvey Mackay, Sales Expert, Author and Columnist

Quality sales cultures are the ones where the Customer comes before the close, like Mackay’s quote indicates here. Ricoh Canada has a real world example of making this kind of change to their sales driven culture and making it work.

Back in the 80s, I used to work for Xerox, a competitor of Ricoh’s. I was only there for a couple of years. If I think back at my days at Xerox, there were people there that would sell their grandmother for 20 cents. Not all mind you, but enough that I knew it wasn’t a culture where I wanted to hang about.

The interesting bit for me is that a sales culture or the sales focus is bound to have this kind of effect on an organization. When all that is rewarded is getting the sale, then why shouldn’t selling a matriarch at a profit be a possibility?

I wrote about Key Performance Indicators (KPI) and their role in the Customer Experience.  When your KPI is based on sales, you are rewarding an internally focused action, the transaction. A Customer Experience, however, is about how they feel about the transaction, not the transaction itself.  If you reward the transaction, why should employees care about how the Customer feels about it? In some ways, this system can make your best salespeople the biggest problem for your Customer Experience.

The challenge for businesses today is to get the sale and make an excellent Customer Experience. When we talk to senior executives about their sales culture mentality, we use the following model to explain what type of sales culture/salesperson drives the most value:

As you can see there are two axes: Customer Experience and Revenue. The four boxes represent the salespeople and where they are with both axes.

  • The Job Seeker is the salesperson who is neither achieving revenue nor a good Customer Experience; the name represents what they will soon need to do!
  • The Misguided represents the salesperson that puts the Customer first, even to the detriment of the company. While it’s laudable they put the Customer’s needs at such a high priority, it’s not good for business to do everything a Customer wants.
  • The Money Machine describes the people that hit the numbers, even over-achieves their numbers every month and quarter, but they don’t focus on (or care about) the Customer in the transaction. In my post about this model, I share a story about how a company we worked with fired their best money machine because he or she couldn’t adapt to the new ideal.
  • The Business Person is the new ideal. They not only hit their numbers, but they also provide an excellent Customer Experience for their accounts. They balance the needs of the Customers and the needs of their organization. They understand what Mackay was saying about people and use it in their everyday approach to business.

Many organizations today operate with a sales culture. In many ways, this is smart. Selling things, after all, is the point of business, isn’t it? Ricoh Canada is a self-professed sales-driven organization, just as Xerox is. What they discovered in their Customer Experience Improvement journey was that selling was important, but making sure the Customer felt good about the sale was just as important, if not more important.

Mary Ann Sayers, Director of Corporate Sustainability and Community Relations, explained the importance of spending time on the Customer Experience design. They developed over the course of several years a culture at the company that put the Customer at the center of everything they did. One of the many things they employed over the years to do this was to show how everyone at the company was part of the Customer relationship through their My Customer program and Customer Experience training.

Ricoh Canada also added compensation to their Customer Experience goals. Everyone has a 25% value connected to objectives in Customer Satisfaction and quality experience. This comp plan is another way in which they are enforcing that Customer Experience is a KPI.

And it’s working. Last year’s third quarter score was nearly 68 (67.81), a number slightly higher than where they have been averaging for nearly eight years. In addition, they enjoy year over year sales growth in an economy that suffered two recessions and in a shrinking industry as copier use is on the decline.

Can a sales-driven culture also have a Customer-Experience driven culture? Absolutely. Ricoh Canada is a great example of exactly that. It requires an enforcement of the principles, a focus on the needs of the Customer, and a KPI that is rewarded for achieving these goals.

RICOH Canada had a vision: to be the most trusted brand with irresistible appeal in their market. To listen to the webinar, “Ricoh Case Study: How We Moved Our Loyalty Score by 34 Points in 30 months” and learn from CEO Glenn Laverty how their focus on a customer-centric approach improved their Net Promoter Score by 34-points and grew their business 115%. Click here.

 

I will be going LIVE on Periscope for the first time next week! Join me as I answer the questions “What is a Customer Experience really about?” .

Download Periscope for iOS and Android, here, and follow me @ColinShaw_CX to be notified when I start broadcasting!

If you enjoyed this post, you might be interested in the following blogs:

Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s first organizations devoted to customer experience. Colin is an international author of four bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.

Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX

Colin ShawThe Role of CX in a Sales Culture