Time to Leave Corporate Life

by Colin Shaw on April 27, 2015

I had achieved my goal. I had “made it” by corporate standards. I was a senior executive with a big corner office and a big salary to match. Over 3,500 people reported to me globally, and I had a budget of millions to “improve the Customer Experience.”

So with all of these great things going in my career, why did I want to leave? It’s simple, really. I wasn’t happy. After reading a great book called “Who moved my Cheese?”, I realized the fun was getting there, not being there. The fun was in the journey and the struggle to achieve.

Wanting to Leave Was Easy, Going Was Tougher

Yes, I had achieved what I set out to achieve at the beginning of my career. It was a real climb, especially when you consider my first job out of school was filling freezer food cabinets in a frozen food retailer. However, once I had achieved my goal, I realized I wasn’t challenged anymore. I had all the trappings of success but had lost my drive. I was turning the handle on the machine, as it were. Despite all the great perks, my job was just a job, in many ways just like the ones I had before it.

I’ll be honest. It was a little bit of a crisis for me. I had worked hard to get to this point, sacrificed much to “get on” in the corporate world. Now that I was here, I was disappointed. Had everything that I worked for been a waste of my time?

I had seen firsthand what could happen when a company decided to put the Customer first and listen to what they wanted when it came to doing business. At the time, no one was talking about Customer Experience as a thing and wouldn’t for a couple of years at least. Nevertheless, it intrigued me. When I was honest with myself, I knew what I wanted: To start my own business consulting on how to put the Customer at the center of everything you do.

The only problem was I was terrified to do it.

Deciding to Do It Anyway

Corporate life has positives and negatives like anything. One thing solidly in the positive column is that it felt safer than starting my own business. I knew the corporate ways of doing things. I was comfortable with the corporate perks I enjoyed. I felt more secure financially knowing that my salary would be there every month, which as we all know is no small thing.

I didn’t know how to run a small business. I didn’t even have the first idea of how to start one. Furthermore, my kids were about to go to university, meaning I was facing some serious financial responsibilities—not the best time to risk your steady income!

The sensible side of me said to “Keep Calm and Carry on” in my role. But the dreamer, the one who got me there in the first place wouldn’t stop needling me about starting my consultancy. This led to sleepless nights and some frank concerns about my state of mind.

However, the needling side of me knew that I had a good idea. I had the right experience at the right time to spread an important new idea. I knew deep down, that while it was terrifying, it was time. So I talked to my wife about it and we decided I would leave my corporate life and start my company.

I Never Looked Back

I am happy to report that it worked out for me, and, in fact, it’s been one of the best decisions I have ever made. I left corporate life, and founded Beyond Philosophy, a global Customer Experience consultancy. My passion for how human emotions affect the Customer relationship and the fascinating factors in the human brain that contribute to it have enriched my professional life in ways that I didn’t expect. Over the past fifteen years, I learned how important it is to do what you love because you believe in it. I am not turning a handle anymore, and it has made a huge difference for me.

I am sure more than one of you reading this is considering a big career move. Maybe you are going to change companies or maybe considering changing industries. Maybe, like me, you are considering striking out on your own. Like me then, you might also be struggling with the fear of failure and the unknown. I can sympathize and wish you the best. I believe that every person must make decisions about risk with which they are comfortable.

However, if I could offer you one piece of advice it would be this: Never let your fear be the reason you don’t try. If I had allowed it, fear would have stopped me from making a move that changed my life and career for the better. There are sometimes great reasons not to take a risk, but fear is never one of them.

I never missed my corporate job. Being your own boss is great. I quit corporate life to start my own business. I am happy to report I never looked back.

Is it time for you make a change in your career path?

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 offour bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.

Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX

Colin ShawTime to Leave Corporate Life

Mobility Infographic Confirms Mobility is the Future

by Colin Shaw on April 23, 2015

Two billion people now use smart phones, and in America, for at least two hours a day. Many Customers only Customer Experience with you might be a Mobile Experience. How will they feel about yours? What does your app say about you?

The Economist’s recent article, “Planet of the phones” describes the smartphone as the defining technology of the 21st Century. With startling statistics, including an estimate that by 2020 80% of the adult population will own one, it is clear that people love their phones—using them more and more each day. The average American spends two hours a day on their phone.

With so many people on their mobile phones, it’s clear that an organization’s mobile experience is critical to making a great Customer Experience. Chances are, many people might not have any other interaction with your brand or service that isn’t mobile. It is more critical than ever before to make sure that your mobile channel is in line with the Experience your brand promise makes.

What Makes a Great Mobile Experience?


When designing your mobile experience, there are a lot of details to consider, both technically and practically. However, if you bear in mind the general principles of what makes any other channel great, it’s easier to focus your efforts, including:

  1. A clear and definite purpose that delivers your intended Customer Experience. Your Customer Experience should be the same no matter what channel your Customer is using. Use the Customer Experience Statement as your basis for the development of your mobile channel.
  2. An Experience evoking the deliberate emotions you want. Over 50% of any Customer’s perception of the Experience is tied into how they feel about your Experience, or what we call the Emotional Signature®. The Mobile Experience is no exception. You must start with the emotion you want your Customer to feel after your Experience, and build backward from that point to get there.
  3. An outside-in approach to function. Like all your Customer Experience channels, your Mobile Experience needs a Customer-centric focus. It’s not what makes the mobile experience work for your organization, or what we would call operationally-focused, but what works for the Customer’s needs on the go, or customer-focused.
  4. Deliberate use of cues that appeal to the subconscious needs and feelings of your Customers. Your Customers are using your Mobile Experience to satisfy a need or emotion they are feeling. Understanding what these are, and how it might be different when your Customer is mobile (as opposed to in a store or online), is an important way to make the Mobile Experience a great one for the Customer. Subconscious cues will help you create fill these needs and evoke these emotions the way you want.

Mobile Experience Might be the Most Important Channel

Part of what an organization must also consider is how a mobile device can facilitate their experience. Phones can do so much more than play cat videos or score a triple word score with “qintar” on Words With Friends.

Phones know a lot about the user and can help streamline an experience by mining that data effectively. In a doctor’s office, it can take vital signs and communicate information about physical activity. As I mentioned in a previous post, local SEO can help a potential coffee customer find your shop “within walking distance” or an errand-running parent on their lunch hour find your children’s shoe shop in “midtown.”

Your Mobile Experience matters. Today, over half of adults have a smartphone and by 2020, 80% of adults will. It is critical your Mobile Experience delivers your intended Customer Experience. Because apparently, that’s where most people are going to have any Experience with your brand at all.

Since over 50% of a Customer’s impression of your Experience is how they feel about it, what will they think of your mobile experience?

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 offour bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.

Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX

Colin ShawMobility Infographic Confirms Mobility is the Future

Negative Emotions & Their Positive Effect

by Colin Shaw on April 21, 2015

How you feel at any given moment has a big effect on what you do. When someone is feeling happy, they may react to a situation much differently than they would when they feel stress. This is why in my new ebook Unlocking the Hidden Customer Experience: Short stories to ensure remarkable success we discuss the design of emotions into a Customer Experience. Most people assume that negative emotions have no positive to them—however, that isn’t always true.

How Guilt Affects Spending Money

Dan Ariely discussed how guilt affects how people spend money. In particular, Ariely, a behavioral economics expert, discussed why people feel less guilty spending gift cards instead of cash. The reason involves the idea of limitations.

Cash works anywhere. Cash is good for paying the electric bill and also for paying for a new electronic gizmo or Bahamas getaway. The reason we pay the electric bill and skip the new electronic gizmo (and the Bahamian escape) is because we feel guilty spending money on those items. We tell ourselves that we can wait/make do/go next year and do something more responsible with the money. Well, at least most of the time we do.

Gift cards, on the other hand, limit what you can buy with the funds. If you get a gift card to iTunes, it’s not like you can use that to pay the electric bill. You have to spend it on iTunes. Eliminating your choice from the matter eliminates guilt about buying the next season of Penny Dreadful for a binge watching session on your new electronic gizmo (ahem).

Ariely points out the type of gift card matters. Visa or American Express gift cards don’t help, since they could pay the electric bill. But store specific gift cards have that effect, alleviating or eliminating the guilt of spending money.

Ariely is talking about an important concept called framing. How you frame a decision is critical to how a person perceives it. You can use it to present information and choices in a way that helps them feel better about their decisions. Just like people feel guilty if they use cash to buy something selfish, they feel fine spending a gift card at one of their favorite stores. The same can be true of how you ask a person to take on a new task at work, or migrate to a new plan of your service. When you frame the information in a certain way, you evoke an emotion that is deliberate and adds value to your interaction.

Envy: Hatred’s Cousin but the Father of Determination.

Like guilt, envy is another negative emotion. Negative or not, wanting what someone else has is universal. From the material to the physical, to the intangible, we all see things others have and wish we had those things, too. The problem, as is pointed out in the recent article from Bigthink.com, is envy often quickly descends into jealousy and then hatred. The author says envy is hatred’s close cousin. This negative emotion is hardly productive when you look at it that way.

However, if hatred is its close cousin, envy also has a familial tie with positive emotions as well: determination. Envy, or desire, is often the driver of determination. Many a revolutionary idea was born from an envious mind. Coupled with desire’s drive, they sire determination a key emotion to drive behavior.

What this says to me is that a little bit of envy can be a good thing. By showing others what is possible, you can create new possibilities. By creating carrots that if obtained, satisfy a desire, you can channel envy into creating behaviors you want, whether that’s in your employees, your Customers or even your kids!

Emotions are a huge part of the answer to “why” we do things as I discuss in my new eBook. We normally associate good things with positive emotions and bad things with negative emotions. The truth is there are many positive things that can come from negative emotions.

What do you think? Can negative emotion be a gateway to positive behavior or is it a certain descent into more negative reactions? Please share your opinion in the comments below.

“Unlocking the Hidden Customer Experience: Short Stories of Remarkable Practices that Ensure Success” is designed to help organizations take their Customer Experience to the next level.Read more about the book here.



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 ShawNegative Emotions & Their Positive Effect

Improving Your CX One Employee at a Time

by Colin Shaw on April 17, 2015

Employee Experience and Customer Experience are linked. What is affecting one will affect the other. They are like an old married couple—when it works it is beautiful and inspiring; when it doesn’t, it is ugly and bewildering.

Both members of this marriage have a voice. The Voice of the Customer (VOC) refers to the feedback you get regarding a Customer’s expectations and their experience with your organization. The Voice of the Employee (VOE) refers to how employees participate in the decisions at your organization. If you employ an effective listening program to each, the voices will tell you exactly how one affects the other.

In the past couple of years, more organizations have been listening to their Customers. More have realized that the best way to decide what to do to make a Customer’s Experience better is to figure out what your Customers expect, what they appreciate, and what they want to avoid.

These same organizations would be wise to listen to their employees as well. Too many ignore their own employees’ opinions. The VOE is just as pertinent as the VOC, and for organizations wishing to improve their Customer Experience, an invaluable asset for specific action to take.

Who better to tell you ways to improve the various moments of your current Experience then the people who have those moments with Customers every day? You may not like what they say but invariably they know the problems you are causing Customers and also know how to fix it. Who better to see the problems and pitfalls in your process creating negative emotions for the Customers than the people who walk that process day in and day out?

And guess what? By listening to them and acting, you improve employee engagement and what the VOE is saying.

Engaged employees believe they contribute to the company’s success. They also believe in the company’s brand promise and will see to it that they go above and beyond in their efforts to ensure this promise is fulfilled. Engagement at an employee level is critical to creating a good Customer Experience.

Employees are uniquely qualified to tell you ways to improve the Customer Experience. When we undertake our Journey Mapping, we always involve front-line employees. They know what is happening and the issues that result as they speak with Customers everyday. Making their voice part of your strategic planning encourages them to take ownership of their work. During what can be a painful Customer Experience implementation process, it encourages them to meet the challenges change can present, however difficult, because they helped design it.

We can see what happens when employees’ voices are ignored. Last summer, Wal-Mart employees were striking all across the nation demanding better pay and benefits, more full-time employment opportunities, and a safe environment in which to voice their complaints to management. I’m sure many of you would agree that the experience in Wal-Mart as a Customer isn’t a shining example of what’s possible in Customer Experience today, either.

We can also see what happens when employee’s voices are valued, rewarded, and empowered. Consider the employee environment at Google. Google is routinely on the top of “Best Places to Work” lists. In fact just look at the organizations in these surveys and you’ll see they all provide a good employee experience and Customer Experience. They connect it there for all to see.

It’s great that more companies are listening to the VOC. Be sure to also listen to the VOE. As you can see, they two are inextricably linked–and equally important to creating an excellent Customer Experience.

For more important Customer Experience concepts, register for our AdvancedCustomer Experience Management (CEM) Certification Course beginning on April 20th.

Please click here to learn more.

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 offour best-selling books and an engaging keynote speaker.

Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX

Colin ShawImproving Your CX One Employee at a Time

Could You be Left Behind by The Experience Economy?

by Zhecho Dobrev on April 15, 2015

Seventeen years after the prophetic Pine & Gilmore book and HBR article “Welcome to the Experience Economy” published, we see their concepts gaining momentum. In the past, companies embracing the concept were the exception; now embracing the Experience Economy is the rule. In other words, the idea of the Experience Economy is not just for organizations like Disney, Apple, and the Rainforest Café any more. Companies are wise to make their Experience their competitive difference today.

Forbes had an interesting take on how the concept is important to all businesses, including yours. More Customers are craving an adventure. They might even desire risk. This can culminate in trying a new food truck or shopping at a new pop-up store with no reviews to support its reputation. The idea is the adventure of discovery is worth the trade off in security.

The idea of creating a sense of adventure for Customers isn’t for solely no-name, pop-up stores either. Big names like Virgin Airlines, who is focused on creating a unique flight experience (not adventurous or dangerous for goodness sakes!), embraced the concept. The Ritz Carlton in Tucson, Arizona, leverages its desert landscape and the related activities it provides to enhance their guests’ stay.

Restaurants also recognize the importance of making something more out of the dining experience. Some restaurants provide you with an option to cook the steak yourself, guided by the chef. Others give you not one dish, but three little dishes at once. There are also those who invite funny chefs to make a show for you while they cook at the same time. Consider this hilarious video from Benihana:

What about this video regarding the “new assistant” for the KLM Lost and Found service:

Man’s (and forgetful man’s especially) best friend indeed!

The Experience concept is getting so much momentum there are even Death Cafés, establishments where people drink tea, eat cake and discuss… death! It’s not just a cafe, it’s an experience! They also sell memorabilia, as Pine and Gilmore suggested/predicted in their article nearly 20 years ago.

Movie theatres don’t want to be left out, either. Vienna’s old cinemas, struggling to compete with more modern theatres, tap into retro charm to create a distinct and memorable experience only they can. In London, artisan cinemas create experiences that stimulate not only the visual and audio senses but also taste. Why? Because the best experiences engage all the senses.

Even police can create a better experience–when writing you a ticket no less!

Take for example the fate of Michael Porter’s Monitor Group. Monitor, a consulting firm that ruled the business world in the 1980s founded by Harvard Business School’s Michael Porter, built their business on the concept that business is a matter of defeating the competition, not making a better product or experience for Customers. We studied Michael Porter in the b-school. He believed that your best strategy was to protect yourself from your business rivals. There were five forces involved in the image to the right:porters-five-forces1

Source: Forbes.com. “What Killed Michael Porter’s Monitor Group? The One Force That Really Matters.” 20 November 2014. Web. 29 January 2015.

The main problem was his basic strategy. It was about avoiding competition and seeking profits that were protected by barriers to entry into your industry. He was all about figuring out how to do these things without actually improving your product or service.

Porter’s strategy ruled for decades. Many of you reading this know it well. However, some things changed, and they made a big difference. A world economy took over, and the Internet changed the way we get our goods and services. As a result, barriers to entry were crushed, competitive pricing bottomed out, and Customer’s decided they would pay more for a better experience. The best product, yes, but the best experience, too. Monitor couldn’t adapt the way they consulted their clients. Not surprisingly, their Customers decided that the Monitor experience wasn’t worth it. And they filed for bankruptcy in 2012.

Whether you like it or not, the Experience Economy is here. Customers want you to add value to their experience, from outdoorsy activities in the Sonoran desert to tossing a freshly grilled shrimp in your mouth! Everyone down to law enforcement is embracing the concept. If you are not, you might be in danger of being left behind the Experience Economy.


The question is are you designing processes or experiences? Will you be left behind like the Monitor group by the Experience economy?

Zhecho Dobrev is a consultant and project manager for Beyond Philosophy. He has worked with a wide array of large corporate companies. Zhecho’s expertise inludes Customer behavior analytics, Customer loyalty, complaints management, and journey mapping. He holds an MBA and Master’s degree in International Relations.

Please follow Zhecho on Twitter @Zhecho_BeyondP

Zhecho DobrevCould You be Left Behind by The Experience Economy?

8 Ways to Tell Whether Your CEO Supports You

by Colin Shaw on April 14, 2015

Getting the CEO’s support for any initiative is vital, but how do you tell whether his or her commitment is genuine? Over the 13 years I worked on Customer Experience, I learned the tell-tale signs of authentic commitment. Here is my check list of ways to see if your CEO is committed to your initiative.

How to Check the Commitment of Your CEO:

  1. Count the number of times the CEO mentions Customers in any communication. If you don’t hear your CEO talking, emailing, or meeting about Customers, he or she isn’t focused on them. In all fairness, there are only so many hours in a day and the CEO does have responsibilities. However, if you can convince the CEO his or her responsibilities are part of what affects the Customer’s Experience, it will weave into the culture of the organization and the decisions the CEO makes for it.
  2. Keep track of how much time is devoted to Customer issues in meetings.When a one-hour meeting spends five minutes or less on Customer issues and the other 55 minutes on sales, marketing, product development, and operations (with no mention of Customers at all), then it’s not a priority.
  3. Compare the amount of time your CEO reviews Customer feedback to the time he or she reviews spreadsheets. Most organizations have some channel that feeds Customer comments back to their organization. If these comments are never viewed or shared with the C-suite, it’s because they don’t want to hear about it.
  4. Examine the CEO’s schedule to see what he or she values. I like the phrase, “You are your schedule.” What you have on your schedule reveals what you think you need to devote your time to. If you don’t see Customers there, they didn’t make the cut.
  5. Ask yourself, does the Customer Care Center receive accolades publically? Many times Customer service employees are treated like second-class citizens. Sales get all the accolades or even marketing for the latest campaign. Consider the past few Atta-boy (or Atta-girl) messages you heard at your organization. When was the last time it highlighted the work of the call center or Customer care reps? If you can’t recall, it’s because they aren’t considered drivers of the company’s success.
  6. Notice whether he or she only talks to you about processes. Is your CEO process-obsessed, which is about efficiency, or does he or she talk about the Customer experience? There is a big difference between the two. Many think your job is to fix the process so Customers are happier, but the process is only a part of their experience. If they don’t recognize that, you must have to educate them on what the Customer Experience entails.
  7. Note which type of KPIs are tied to Incentives. What gets incented gets done. Many times Customer Experience is a goal, but it isn’t tied into incentives for performance. Until it is, it’s a nice-to-have, not a got-to-have concept.
  8. Examine whether you have any authority to go along with your responsibility. If you don’t have authority, this is a halfway house that shows the lack of commitment by the CEO. He or she wants change and you are responsible, but you have no authority to make change happen. My advice? Look around for another job. In my experience you will spend your time hitting your head against a brick wall. Everyone is happy doing strategy work and talking about concepts, but when it comes to actions they run a mile. I have found everyone is happy until you ask them to do something.

Not everyone understands what Customer Experience is, how deep it goes, and what affects it. They might think it means the Customer has a great experience with the organization, but often that’s where their understanding stops. They aren’t aware of how the Customers feel both consciously and subconsciously about the experience is a huge influence on whether they think it’s “great,” nor do they realize how company-centered, operational processes can create negative feelings. This lack of understanding can create a situation where words say one thing, and actions say something else.

The Chief Customer Officer has a unique position, often battling across silos. They are a C-level executive with all the prestige that letter provides. However, they are also the champions of Customer Experience, which is a concept of which CEOs are not always in support, even if they think they are.

What are some other ways to tell if the CEO is on board with your agenda? I’d love to hear your signs in the comments below.

To learn more ways you can detect buy in on your Customer Experience Agenda, register for our Advanced Customer Experience Management (CEM) CertificationCourse beginning on April 20th.

Please click here to learn more.

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 offour bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.

Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX

Colin Shaw8 Ways to Tell Whether Your CEO Supports You

Do You Master The Power of Storytelling?

by Zhecho Dobrev on April 10, 2015

Stories are a fascinating subject.

I like this post from Bruce Kasanoff. He shares with us the story of a skiing excursion he took with his client 20 years ago. He presents it as a story, an exciting one, to “show you—rather than tell you—how memory works.” He goes on to explain how stories are an essential way to lead others, raise money or sell an idea or product. I couldn’t agree with him more on this point.

We’ve seen that stories are powerful and can make executives move. Stories often have the power to get executives to do something—without having to bother with “fill a business case template and go through the company process of prioritizing ideas for the next budget year blah blah….” You know, all the stuff that gets in the way of getting things done!

Why do stories elicit this response? Unlike “data & stats” that people can argue about for days and contribute to death by analysis, stories appeal to the right brain. It is as the Canadian Neurologist Donald Calne said:

“The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions.”

I’m sure we can all agree action trumps conclusions when it comes to Customer Experience.

To make a decision, we often need to feel an emotion. Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio studied people recovering from brain injuries, in which only the part of their brain impaired was where emotions were generated. The result was in practice they found it very difficult to make decisions about where to live, what to eat, etc.

Stories could be the means to inject emotion into decision-making. A study from Princeton University, where a speaker would tell a story to a listener found “when the two people communicate, neural activity over wide regions of their brains becomes almost synchronous, with the listener’s brain activity patterns mirroring those sweeping through the speaker’s brain, albeit with a short lag of about one second.” So by telling a story you can portray the emotions from the story to the audience and make them empathetic to the Customer. In other words, you can make executives feel the same way as Customers.

This clip by Paul Zak explains how this works:

For this reason, as “evangelists” of CX inside the organization, Customer Experience professionals need to use stories.

Stories can also “sell”. Here’s a story credited with $2 billion of revenue. I am sure many of you reading this would rather be the president than the middle manager. If only you could have read this letter, huh?


So what makes a great story? According to Kasanoff, it needs to evoke emotion, spark mental images, be shocking and visual, it should tell a story, and it should exaggerate. Author Roger Dooley, consultant and entrepreneur, lists other attributes, including how you deliver the story (with pauses and pacing and what not), the imagery you create, as well as including realistic associations that have a universal understanding to name a few. You probably have a few tricks for story telling up your sleeve as well.

In our work with companies we often hear an anecdote, a story that circulates the organization by word of mouth and portrays the importance of CX. We heard such stories from FedEx, Orange, Caterpillar, and others we have worked with over the years. We use them all the time to illustrate for others the importance of what we are trying to achieve, and also to inspire them to commit fully to the principles we are teaching them.

As the CX champion in your organization, don’t forget the power of stories when you are trying to affect change. Using a powerful story might be the difference between getting assigned to a committee for death by analysis or getting swift action to accomplish your goal.

If you have great stories that led to change, we’ll be interested to hear them. Please share your STORIES in the comments below.

Zhecho Dobrev is a Senior Consultant at Beyond Philosophy. He has worked with a wide array of large corporate companies. Zhecho’s expertise inludes Customer behavior analytics, Customer loyalty, complaints management, and journey mapping. He holds an MBA and Master’s degree in International Relations.

Please follow Zhecho on Twitter @Zhecho_BeyondP


Zhecho DobrevDo You Master The Power of Storytelling?

At A Fork In the Road: As a Customer Relationship Driver, Where Is Branch Banking Headed?

by Michael Lowenstein on March 31, 2015

Baseball great Yogi Berra has been quoted as saying “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”  He also said “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.”  Both quotes seem to apply to what is currently transpiring with retail branch banking, and where it seems to be trending.

Banks can’t quite make up their minds about what branches are supposed to be.  Are they technology centers, with increased reliance on self-service devices, speed, and with minimal customer interface?  Are they central, and primary, points of contact and interaction, where well-trained branch staff can build relationships and long-term value?  Are they both?  Are they neither?

At a time when banks are closing branch locations at a record pace (over 1,400 in 2014, with Bank of America, alone, closing more than 140) that is likely to continue, the need for the services they offer remains pretty much the same.  The largest banks appear to be all about building branch relationships through technology.  And, we’re seeing a new term for the branch experience:  ‘shadow banking’.  One industry consultant said that the new, high-tech branches are aimed at three customer personas:  busy, gadget-centric millennials, Gen X soccer moms, and baby boomers who own small businesses.

Not many actual “bankers” are involved in this new concept; and, going forward, customers are more likely to be dealing with a self-service electronic avatar than with a teller or a financial service representative, and they’ll have ATMs with access through smart phones and palm scan or thumbprint identification.  And, if the branch avatar isn’t functioning properly, sophisticated software will identify the issue and switch the customer to a live professional.  Reflecting this sea change, another industry expert was quoted as saying:  “The majority of transactions are now processed electronically, reducing the need for physical branches.  This does not mean that bank branches will go the way of video stores or carriage shops, however.  Branches allow for direct contact with individuals and businesses important for the sales of financial services.  However, legacy branch networks are unlikely to be changing as quickly as their clients’ use of electronic versus paper financial transactions.”

The big banks are claiming that saving the money historically allocated to managing a chain of local retail financial units, and investing more in marketing through electronic media and high-tech service will offset the truncation of branch networks.  They are looking to improve their branch models as customer behaviors, and needs, change.

Smaller regional banks, like Umpqua, Republic, and Metro (in the United Kingdom) have increased the focus on generating relationships through memorable, emotional branch experiences: http://customerthink.com/bring-your-kids-bring-your-pets-how-metro-bank-u-k-and-republic-bank-u-s-win-hearts-and-minds-of-customers-and-their-families-and-friends/

Portland, Oregon-based Umpqua Bank has created a branch banking experience that is more like the local Starbucks.  Or, like staying at a Ritz-Carlton, shopping at an Apple store, or flying Southwest Airlines.  It is a concept that they began several decades ago, and it is built on a successful recipe of community service and employee-empowered customer service.  The concept even has a name:  the Neighborhood Store.

Umpqua understands that the employee, knowledge, and technology go hand-in-hand in hand.  Branch staff are both well-trained and equipped with high tech devices (they have “mobile concierges”, with iPads and headsets) for making customer inquiries and transactions go smoothly and efficiently.  What really sets Umpqua apart, though, is that they really put ‘community’ in community banking.  Branches are purposely designed to serve as gathering and event spaces, hosting things like movie nights, yoga classes, small business expositions, and art exhibits.

As an Umpqua SVP was quoted stating in a recent magazine article:  “Finances are challenging enough  –  why are bank branches formal and intimidating?   Why does banking have to be a chore?  Why can’t banking be an enjoyable experience?”  Umpqua has created that enjoyable experience, making customers comfortable in attractive spaces, and interacting with empowered staff looking to build a meaningful relationship. And, beyond design and comfort, relationship-building and being trusted advisors to their customers is mostly about culture.  That’s where Umpqua excels.

Some of the larger institutions, like TD Bank for example, are not directly following the shadow banking, local branch-closing mantra seen with many of the other bigs: but they are also reframing the customer’s branch experience to be more like Umpqua Bank, that is they’re making visits about personal, individualized, “human” interactions:  http://customerthink.com/td-banks-human-initiatives-marketing-strategy-or-marketing-tactic-powerful-marketing-success-or-expensive-marketing-radar-blip/

Like Metro and Republic have recognized, another emerging branch banking trend is that they are also beginning to think about how the next generation of customers, who are even more tech-savvy and less institutionally-oriented than millennials, will use their branches.  Teens and pre-teens have grown up with digital, mobile social connections and apps.  They are, as a consequence, early adopters of new tech devices, and their life priorities are different from those of their parents, and unique to this age group.  As quoted by Tyler Sherman, a 16 year-old high school student from Belair, MD (and newly minted driver): “The future is technology, and you can take that to the bank”

So, which vision of the branch will win out going forward?  Once again, Yogi Berra has the best predictions and perspectives to offer:  “The future ain’t what it used to be.” and “If you ask me anything I don’t know, I’m not going to answer.”

Michael LowensteinAt A Fork In the Road: As a Customer Relationship Driver, Where Is Branch Banking Headed?

Creating Successful Relationships

by Colin Shaw on March 23, 2015

Over the years, I realized relationships in business mean everything. Whether it’s a new employer or a new Customer, the beginning of a relationship sets the standards for how the two of you will interact moving forward. With so much riding on this new relationship, it’s important that you are clear and detailed about these standards.

To that end here are 8 important tips regarding establishment of the parameters for a new business relationship:

Tip #1: Be yourself.

Too many people try to be something they aren’t. They try to be too clever or too much fun. I learned over the years people can see through it when you are putting on an act.

Tip #2: Do as you would be done by.

My mum taught me this. Treating others as you want to be treated is the first and foremost concept that applies to all relationships, business or otherwise. In a business relationship, it means you treat your contact as you would like them to treat you.

Tip #3: Be sure to give positive reinforcement to behaviors you prefer.

Many studies have shown the best way to get more of the behavior you like is to acknowledge it with positive reinforcement. Rather than blasting a subordinate, co-worker, or client with criticism when they cross you, you should instead compliment the behavior you like.

In addition to remembering to acknowledge it, be sure that you give the positive reinforcement in the moment or directly after the incident. The happy feelings associated with the exchange are likely to make a better impression in their mind, improving your chances that you will enjoy the behavior again. For example, to the employee who presented both a problem and solution with an account: “I like how you came in with a proposed solution for that problem we had with the account. It makes my job easier when I have solutions presented to me instead of just problems.”

This does not mean, however, negative feedback is never warranted. It is important to also acknowledge the problems when they occur. When you do this, however, be sure to focus on the “the behavior” and not the individual. If you attack the person instead of the behavior, you can damage the business relationship.

For example, when a Customer emails your manager about a shipping problem instead of you, you might say something like, “When emails go to my manager about shipping problems first, there is a delay before I hear about it making it take longer to fix the problem. Can you please email me directly with those complaints?“

Tip #4: Be realistic about what you expect from people.

You can’t expect a new employee, co-worker or Customer to know all the rules in the first week, and in some cases, even in the first month. You must give them time to adjust to the new system and take in the feedback they receive. If you are consistent with positive reinforcement, it will work. Don’t give up too soon.

In addition, they might have expectations as well. Be open to what they bring to the table, as it might be a great way of doing things you hadn’t considered. I always tell my team, “None of us is as clever as all of us.”

Tip #5: Be Honest.

Don’t lie. I don’t need to say any more.

Tip #6: Accept the fact you will argue.

Relationships are not always smooth sailing. Conflict resolution is all part of building a relationship. Accept the fact you will argue, but when you do make it short lived. If you are in the wrong, apologize. Discuss what caused the argument and work out how to avoid it for the future.

Tip #7: Make time for the person.

Always make time to just chat to the person. Do this without any ulterior motive.

Tip #8: Help them when they need it.

If they need help. Help them. Don’t think, “What’s in it for me?” It’s the times like this my mum would say, “You know who your friends are.” It’s funny when I have experienced hard times, the people I thought were my friends and I had a relationship with faded into the background and other people came to the fore. This is a great test of a relationship.

What are your tips for establishing the rules of your new business relationships? We’d all love to hear your insight in the comments below.

To learn more ways you can build better business relationships, register for ourAdvanced Customer Experience Management (CEM) Certification Course beginning on April 20th. Please click here to learn more.

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 offour bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.

Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX

Colin ShawCreating Successful Relationships

“U.S. Employee Engagement Reaches Three-Year High.” Where Customer Experience and Value Delivery Are Concerned, Shouldn’t We Ask: ‘So What?’

by Michael Lowenstein on March 19, 2015

A recent article by a major employee research and engagement consulting organization led with the above headline.  They were reporting on results of their national workforce tracking poll, the highlight of which was that employee engagement had risen 1.2% between January and February, 2015 (to 32.9%) and that this new level was the highest engagement rate reported in the past three years.

The consulting organization went on to conclude from these findings that “Recent trends suggest that improvements in engagement coincide with improvement in unemployment and underemployment.”, with the bottom line statement that “A decline in the percentage of unemployed and underemployed Americans may have some influence on the percentage of engaged workers.  As the job market becomes more competitive, it is possible that companies are putting more effort into engaging their current workers.”  At best, this conclusion feels like a major s-t-r-e-t-c-h of correlation analysis results.

This same organization believes that “Employee engagement is a leading indicator of future business success….”; and, to the degree that engagement level can impact staff turnover and productivity, both key contributors to profitability, this is a fair statement.  However, when this organization, and others in the employee engagement research, training and consultation space, makes claims that engagement, in and of itself, contributes to customer value and loyalty behavior, two important questions need to be asked.  Those question are: 1)  Really? and, 2) Where’s the consistent proof for individual companies?

Just as satisfaction has little proven connection to customer behavior, employee engagement was not designed to drive customer behavior.  To build on this statement, let’s begin by looking at the results of satisfaction on downstream customer action.  Beyond extremely macro connection to sales, customer satisfaction (as expressed through the ACSI) has been shown to have little direct connection to purchase behavior, to the tune of 0.0% to 0.1% correlation.  Many companies are still measuring customer sat in hopes that learning about its drivers will help build customer loyalty, but satisfaction isn’t contemporary regarding decision-making or reflective of what is going on in the customer’s real, emotional world.

‘Employee engagement’ has many meanings and interpretations, but relatively little of it has to do, by conceptual definition, specifically with impact on customer behavior.  Thorough analysis conducted by The Conference Board in 2006 showed that, among twelve leading engagement research companies, twenty-six key drivers of engagement could be identified, of which eight were common to all:

            –   Trust and integrity – How well do managers communicate and ‘walk the talk‘?

            –   Nature of the job – Is it mentally stimulating day-to-day?

            –   Line of sight between employee performance and company performance – Do

employees understand how their work contributes to the company’s performance?

            –   Career growth opportunities – Are there opportunities for growth within the


            –   Pride about the company – How much self-esteem do the employees feel by being

associated with their company?

            –   Coworkers/team members – How much influence do they exert on the employee’s

level of engagement?

            –   Employee development – Is the company making an effort to develop the employee’s


            –   Relationship with one’s manager – Does the employee value relationship(s) with

manager(s), and is there trust and credibility between the levels?

Typically, there is little or no mention/inclusion of ‘customer’ or ‘customer focus’ elements either in measurement or analysis of employee engagement.  Though customer experience, and resultant behavior, is impacted by engagement, it is more tangential and inferential than purposeful in nature.

As noted, employee engagement can impact corporate profitability at the macro level (as much as three to four times higher for top-scoring engagement companies compared to those on the bottom half of companies using this measure); and that’s one of the really valuable results it provides.  A major 2012 collaborative secondary research effort, Engage for Success, by the University of Bath School of Management and Marks and Spencer in the U.K. concluded, as we’ve seen with other research into the benefits of employee engagement:   “As well as performance and productivity, employee engagement impacts positively on levels of absenteeism, on retention, and on levels of innovation….”

Where customer behavior changes are reported as a result of employee engagement, they were (like satisfaction’s impact on customer behavior) also at macro and rather weak tea, incidental levels:  “An earlier (2006) Gallup report that examined over 23,000 business units showed that companies with engagement levels in the top quartile averaged 12% higher customer advocacy than those in the bottom quartile.”  Like the “So what?” question, the consistent financial impact of engagement on individual companies and their customers, i.e. on a micro level, needs to be addressed, understood and reported.

Now, we come to employee ambassadorship and how it builds on the useful alignment and productivity represented by engagement.  Employee ambassadorship, or employee brand ambassadorship, has direct connections to – yet is distinctive from – both employee satisfaction and employee engagement.  Its impact on customer behavior can be, and has been, proven at the individual company level.  As a research framework, and method for understanding employee behavior, its overarching objective is to identify the most active and positive (and inactive and negative) level of employee commitment to the company’s product and service value promise, to the company itself, and to optimizing the customer experience.  The ambassadorship thesis, with its component elements, can be displayed as follows:

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 9.45.04 AM

  • Commitment to company – Commitment to, and being positive about, the company (through personal satisfaction, fulfillment, and an expression of pride), and to being a contributing, loyal, and fully aligned, member of the culture
  • Commitment to value proposition – Commitment to, and alignment with, the mission and goals of the company, as expressed through perceived excellence (benefits and solutions) provided by products and/or services
  • Commitment to customers – Full commitment (by all employees and the enterprise)to understanding customer needs, and to performing in a manner which provides customers with optimal experiences and relationships, as well as delivering the highest level of product and/or service value

Ambassadorship is linked to the key productivity and empowerment elements of employee satisfaction, engagement, and alignment research, and related training and operating approaches.  However, it more directly contributes to business results, experience optimization, and value delivery because its key concept is building customer bonds through direct and indirect employee interaction.  As companies strive to become more customer-centric in all things they do, we believe that the emphasis on building strong employee ambassadorship will  continue to increase as a core objective.

‘Happy people give you happy customers’, is the foundation insight that now drives many employee engagement initiatives including our founder, Colin Shaw, who lived by this when he was SVP of Customer Experience & leading 3,500 people. Now he will be presenting a FREE webinar “Employee Engagement & Ambassadorship, Optimizing Their Impact on the Customer Experience”, Michel Lowenstein. Register here.

Michael Lowenstein“U.S. Employee Engagement Reaches Three-Year High.” Where Customer Experience and Value Delivery Are Concerned, Shouldn’t We Ask: ‘So What?’