How Not To Engage Employees: Telecoms Lead The Way Again

by Colin Shaw on May 26, 2016

Nearly 40,000 employees from two unions contracting with Verizon have been on strike for a little over a month. Now, Verizon is learning firsthand the cost of not having a strong culture of employee engagement—in actual dollars and sense.

Unable to reach a compromise for the outsourcing and transfer of their jobs, employees from all parts of the organization walked off the job last month. Attempts to negotiate have deteriorated to the point of an armed confrontation in the Philippines. The federal government pressured both sides to return to the negotiating table in Washington D.C. with the help of a federal mediator.

Shares were down 3% since the strike began. Last Thursday morning, they were down 2%. Furthermore, the CFO reported that the installations and new orders of FiOS service had also decreased. Whilst the strike is mainly on the traditional telecoms service it is not just being contained there as you can imagine, with an overall brand perception at a 3 year low and this is having a negative effect on Verizon Wireless.

Employee Engagement and Customer Experience Are Linked

Employee engagement is crucial to Customer Experience. After all, if your employees don’t feel happy and pleased with their job and the mission of your organization, then how can they make customers feel happy and pleased with their experience?

Just like a Customer Experience, you have to design your Employee Experience deliberately. It doesn’t happen by accident, nor is it an entirely rational endeavor. Employees are people, and people are emotional. Therefore, you need to create a culture that makes the employees feel happy and pleased with what they are doing. When you have this type of environment, you create a culture that fosters employee engagement.

Nothing could be further away from engaged employees than employees on strike. Just reading some of the Facebook comments on Verizon Wireless Workers Rising shows the strength of feeling. Why did they strike? Verizon wants to hire more non-union workers, reassign union workers for up to two months in another city, and outsource more capacity to call centers in the Philippines and Mexico.

Telecoms Are Notorious for Their Internal Focus

However, both the Employee and Customer Experience are suffering for another reason. Verizon has an internal focus, just like the rest of the telecoms industry. Consider the outsourcing of the call centers. We all know that overseas call centers are less expensive (labor) than in the U.S. (or other unionized labor markets). It’s a cost-cutting measure to outsource this department—an operational focus by definition.

However, we all also know people don’t like to be put through to an overseas call center. Does that mean they can’t be used? Of course not, but ideally not for customer-facing roles. But they are cheaper, so Verizon wants to do it regardless, ticking off employees and customers in one fell swoop!

Business must focus on what the customer wants and needs and not only what the company wants and needs. As Customer Experience Consultants, we call this an Outside-in approach, meaning you are looking at your Customer Experience as if you were a customer. Not surprisingly, an outside-in approach is also remarkably effective at improving Employee Experiences. Perhaps that approach might explain to senior management how it feels when your boss says you will have to leave your home in Virginia to work in Arizona until August.

My personal background is in telecoms. I remain the eternal optimist and I firmly believe there is a massive opportunity for someone to get the Customer Experience right in the telecom industry and when they do Customers will flock to them.

 However, getting it right won’t happen without also having a great Employee Experience. But who will be the first to break the internally-focused, cost-cutting mold of the telecom culture? I’m not much of a betting man, but based on their latest contract negotiations, I’ll wager it won’t be Verizon.

What do you think? Can Verizon fix their broken Employee Experience? I’d be interested to hear your opinion in the comments below.  

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

The Big Mistake Most Organizations Make with Employee Engagement

Are You Inside-Out or Outside-In?

How to Measure Customer Emotions

Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s leading Customer experience consultancy & training organizations. Colin is an international author of five bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.

Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter & Periscope @ColinShaw_CX

Colin ShawHow Not To Engage Employees: Telecoms Lead The Way Again

You Don’t Have To Be Famous, Just Motivated: Anyone Can Influence Brand Behavior

by Michael Lowenstein on May 25, 2016

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

My friends at Keller Fay Group (Ed Keller and Brad Fay) have conducted research which once again demonstrates that everyday people, i.e. consumers, customers, suppliers and employees, can have a significant on the product and service vendor decisions individuals make in the marketplace. Ed Keller should know: he’s a world expert on peer-to-peer influence. He is co-author of a very informative book called The Influentials, identifying how, and why, certain people in society can leverage the behavior of others.

Keller Fay defines an influencer (as distinct from someone who makes, or is likely to make, a recommendation) as “a person who has a greater than average reach or impact through word-of-mouth in a relevant marketplace”. These are ordinary people, not celebrity actors or pro athletes, government bigwigs, or corporate executives.

Influencers are individuals who have the means to interact with others through their social network, who actively use multiple channels to seek information, and who are frequently sought out for their opinions. In ham radio terms, they actively send and receive brand-related messages. For marketers, understanding why influencers do what they do is a key consideration in communication planning and stakeholder strategy.

Over the years, we’ve seen decision-making influence almost completely shift from outbound, managed corporate print and editorial advertising to informal peer-to-peer communication, through digital contact, social media, and face-to-face. There is lots of current research evidence to support the roles, and power, of an influencer. A recent Keller Fay blog, for example, reported results from the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer, an annual survey which measures the public’s trust in business, government, and institutions. These latest results show that 78% trust family and friends communicating on social media, compared to 49% for company executives.

Ambassador, a word-of-mouth marketing company in Detroit, has identified other key b2c consumer trust and informal communication statistics:

– 68% of consumers trust online opinions from other consumers (Nielsen)

– 88% of people trust online reviews written by other consumers as much as they trust recommendations from personal contacts (BrightLocal)

– 74% of consumers identify word-of-mouth as a key influencer in their purchasing decisions. 32% feel this way if there are multiple customer reviews

– 72% say reading a positive customer review increases their trust in a business. It takes, on average, 2 to 6 reviews to get 56% of them to this point (BrightLocal)

– 77% of brand conversations on social media are people looking for advice, information, or assistance (Mention)

– Millennials and Baby Boomers ranked word-of-mouth as the #1 influence in their purchase decisions about big ticket items (travel and electronics) and financial products (Radius Global)

And, as also reported by Ambassador, word-of-mouth influence is perhaps even more impactful among b2b consumers:

– 91% of b2b purchasers are influenced by word-of-mouth when making their buying decisions (USM)

– 61% of IT buyers say that informal colleague communication is the most important factor in their purchasing decisions (B to B Magazine)

– 56% of b2b buyers use offline word-of-mouth as a source of purchase information and advice, which increases to 88% when online word-of-mouth sources are included (BaseOne)

Keller Fay has stated that, based on their evaluations, brands can generate up to four times more sales through campaigns which encourage ordinary individuals – you and me – to talk about preferred brands. And, brands that inspire more emotional response receive three times the word-of-mouth activity compared to less emotionally engaging brands.

The influential people exhibiting this connective and vocal communication behavior are amplifiers, what Keller Fay calls Conversation Catalysts, who can be highly persuasive when it comes to the behavior of others. In fact, they prove the economic value of word-of-mouth when, as amplifiers, they socially communicate with high volume, have authenticity and credibility, influence others who would purchase, and are actively involved in social media. This is supported by MarketShare, whose work has shown that word-of-mouth can improve marketing effectiveness by up to 54%. And the Word-of-Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) has also weighted in on the value of influencers and advocates. Their recent “State of Word-of-Mouth Marketing” industry survey found that, among marketers:

– 64% agree that word-of-mouth marketing is more effective than traditional marketing

– 70% are planning to increase their online word-of-mouth marketing spend, and 29% are planning to increase their offline word-of-mouth marketing spend

– 82% use word-of-mouth marketing techniques to increase brand awareness, and 43% expect this form of marketing to directly increase sales

We’ve often discussed, and presented compelling research and analysis on, how customers can be vocal advocates for a brand if their experiences have been positive. And alienated customers can be ‘badvocates’, even saboteurs, if their experiences have been negative. Likewise, employees can significantly impact customer loyalty behavior toward their employer through a range of attitudes and actions on behalf of the brand, company and customer. These attitudes and actions, like customers, range from highly positive to highly negative; and it is evidenced whether employees have direct, indirect or minimal involvement with customers. Employees have real influence both inside and outside the company.

Among employees, we most typically concentrate on what drives active, positive, vocal commitment to the enterprise, the value proposition, and the customers, i.e. ambassadorship or advocacy; however, it is at least equally important to identify where employee indifference and negative attitudes and behaviors exist, why they exist, and how they can be mitigated or eliminated. If employee ambassadorship is the North Pole, then alienation is the South Pole.

To summarize, stakeholder influence and advocacy are functions of human emotions and memory of experience. And, influence and advocacy is typically positive or negative, rarely neutral. Each component of the customer and employee journey needs to be analyzed and contextualized for its brand-building impact. The important thing for marketers is that ordinary people, especially employees and customers, can be a pivotal component of a campaign or communication strategy, an opportunity to drive profitability and growth for a brand.

Republished with permission from

Michael Lowenstein provides strategic consulting, research design and in-depth, leading-edge analysis that helps clients deliver outstanding business results through deeper customer experience, communication, relationship, employee and brand equity insights. Beyond Philosophy provide consulting, specialised research & training from our Global Headquarters in Tampa, Florida, USA.
Michael LowensteinYou Don’t Have To Be Famous, Just Motivated: Anyone Can Influence Brand Behavior

Putting Lipstick On A Pig: Time Warner Merger Goes Ahead

by Colin Shaw on May 24, 2016

It’s official. After two years of working on the deal between Charter and Time Warner Cable, Inc., Charter officially owns the most hated brand in cable provider brands, for $55.1 billion. Charter will phase out the Time Warner Cable brand, as well as Bright House Networks LLC, over time.

Here’s the thing:

Changing the name doesn’t change the service.

Changing the name doesn’t change the leadership or the customer centricity of an organization. So changing the name will have no effect. It’s like ‘putting lipstick on a pig’. It will still be the same leaders, people and poor culture that has led Time Warner to have this unenviable reputation.

Charter’s CEO Tom Rutledge agrees that changing the name isn’t enough to change the problem. In a recent interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, he said, “Obviously, just changing the name of a company…it’s not a solution. You’ve got to run a good service operation. And we do at Charter, and we are getting better every day.” So here’s my challenge, did the previous people know this? Sure they did, they just didn’t care.

This merger will not be good for the customers. Why? In the short term, the two companies will become more internally focused than they already are. People worried about their jobs, management will be obsessed with cost cutting, eliminating the duplication of departments and switching out all those service van logos! In addition, the merger reduces the competitive field, which is never a great thing for customers.

Being better, however, is what this brand needs to be. Time Warner has performed badlyon the American Customer Satisfaction Index for years, scoring just 51 out of 100, representing the worst overall rank of any industry.  I am a  customer of Bright House. After 18 months of attempts to fix my service, I finally demanded compensation for all my lost time and productivity due to shoddy broadband service. In their estimation, my loyalty came to a fat total of $23.29. Needless to say, they failed to address my frustration at feeling undervalued by them as a customer. They are not a customer-focused operation.

It isn’t just cable companies. Telecoms continue to fail to focus on the customer. I have both worked for and consulted with Telecom companies for over 20 years. In my experience, customers come a distant second to what is good for the organization.

Two specific examples of the lack of customer centricity in Telecoms come to mind. The first occurred when I worked at a major UK Telecom company. I remember complaining at a meeting that no-one did anything anything about the appalling Customer Satisfaction we provided despite it being measured in regular surveys. There solution? Stop measuring it, it was a waste of money as they weren’t going to do anything about it anyway! The second happened at the end of my tenure when I saw the budget for the next year. Not one initiative on the budget was focused on improving the Customer Experience. Everything was focussed on cost cutting.

As Customer Experience consultants, we see this kind of behavior all the time, in many different industries. When an organization focuses on internal issues—like cost-cutting and improving profitability—instead of the customer, the demonstrated lack of customer focus from the leadership spills over into the behavior of the rest of the employees. I’ll bet most of you can guess what that means for the Customer Experience.

If Charter Spectrum wants to effect real change, they have to change the way they view their customers. Instead of looking for ways to get more margin in their interaction with them, they need to look for ways to get more delight from their interaction with them. Moreover, they should do this anytime between 8 and 5 p.m.!

A leopard doesn’t change its spots. Nor does a cable company change its operationally-focused ways. Renaming your company with a bad reputation doesn’t fix it; it just hides it. Now it’s simply a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

What do you think? Will the merger fix the experience for Time Warner Cable and Bright House customers? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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

Hypocrisy Revealed of Major US Company

Comcast Needs a Culture Shock Not More People

Why are Telecoms So Bad at Customer Experience?

Read positive accounts of how companies improved their Customer Experience in our latest ebook: Unlocking the Hidden Experience.

LinkedIn followers receive 50% discount with promo code Hidden50.

Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s leading Customer experience consultancy & training organizations. Colin is an international author of five bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.

Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter & Periscope @ColinShaw_CX

Colin ShawPutting Lipstick On A Pig: Time Warner Merger Goes Ahead

Profit-Killing In Malls: Shocking Results!

by Colin Shaw on May 19, 2016

When Macy’s cut its sales and profit expectations this week, some analysts blamed consumer spending patterns and the difficulties facing department stores generally. But as the New York Times reports, at least one analyst placed the blame squarely on Macy’s failure to deliver a compelling customer experience.

“The blunt truth is that Macy’s does not give consumers a reason to visit its stores,” said Neil Saunders, CEO of Conlumino, a research firm. “In many locations shops are simply not up to par; they are poorly merchandised, hard to shop, lack any inspiration, and have fairly mediocre customer service.”

Ouch. I’m not personally a Macy’s shopper, but to me, department stores feel like throwbacks to an earlier time. I’ve heard women who came of age in the 1950s talk glowingly of the department stores of their youth. They describe fashionable downtown shops with special items you couldn’t find anywhere else. Chic salespeople helped you choose just the right thing. And you could have lunch in the tea room on the top floor.

Somewhere along the way, department stores lost that air of elegance and superior customer service. A Macy’s store today is likely to be in a suburban shopping mall. It probably used to be a local or regional department store but became Macy’s after a merger or acquisition. Store layouts are confusing and don’t have a unified look, and you’ll probably have to search for both a salesperson and a cash register if you want to make a purchase.

Perhaps more significantly, the online experience is no better, even as Amazon threatens to overtake Macy’s as the nation’s top clothing retailer. I went to Macy’s website and was quickly overwhelmed. At the top of the home page there were three different types of discount offers, followed by promotions for Father’s Day, a summer sale, donations to veterans, free beauty gifts, fine jewelry, furniture and mattresses, a swimsuit finder, something called “American Icons,” a collection by Elton John and Lady Gaga, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles items for kids.

This confusing hodgepodge is unfortunately common. By seemingly not knowing who their customers are, department stores target everyone.

They try to attract customers by offering discounts and a wide variety, but this does little to differentiate them or give customers a reason to be loyal to one particular retailer. If department stores aren’t building customer loyalty online, it may be harder than ever to get people into the physical store.

In our customer experience consultancy, we’ve found the customer experience management is one of the best ways to build customer loyalty. When we design a customer experience program, we take a hard look at the customer’s journey – both online and in store – and the emotions they experience that create or destroy customer attraction and retention.

Consider, for example, the customer experience at the Apple Store. The store and the Apple website both have a clean, uncluttered layout. There aren’t actually that many different products in an Apple store, but there are a lot of salespeople. They wear colored shirts so they’re easy to spot, and one person handles an entire transaction – from answering questions to retrieving the item to ringing it up on a handheld device. Shopping online is just as easy. Apple knows that its customers want the latest technology, but probably aren’t computer geeks. It has made purchasing complex electronics as simple as possible, and it has amassed a loyal following.

Department stores like Macy’s can’t remake themselves as the Apple Store, but they can identify their target customers and work toward providing them with a positive, rewarding, memorable experience instead of a confusing and forgettable one.

Do you shop at department stores? How would you improve the experience? Share ideas in the comments below.

To find out more about improving your Customer Experience and Customers’ emotions read our latest ebook: Unlocking the Hidden Experience.

LinkedIn followers get your 50% discount with promo code Hidden50.

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

Changing Customer Behavior With A Little Nudge

Triggering Happiness in Your Customers

8 Worst Mistakes You Don’t Want To Repeat

Colin ShawProfit-Killing In Malls: Shocking Results!

Comparing Perceived Value Drivers For Employees and Customers

by Michael Lowenstein on May 18, 2016

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

Some may remember an episode of ‘90’s sitcom ‘Murphy Brown’ in which Candace Bergen, as Murphy, is viewing a focus group about her news program, FYI, through the two-way mirror. In a key scene, focus group participants are asked to describe the personalities and presentation styles of various members of the program – beginning with Corky, Frank, and Jim; and they do so in positive, glowing terms. When they get to d escriptions of Murphy, however, the perceptions turn to sharply negative. Murphy is identified as abrasive, abrupt, and insensitive, just a few of the unflattering characterizations of her interviewing and reporting style on the program.

Hearing and seeing this, Murphy jumps from her chair, bursts out of the client viewing room and emotionally confronts the focus group members, asserting that, deep down, she is really warm and caring, and questioning – pleading, really – why viewers don’t see her in that light. Though played for laughs, this scene is all too representative of the value delivery perceptual gaps which often exist between suppliers and their customers. Simply stated, employees frequently see both the importance and the performance of key rational and emotional value drivers very differently when compared to customers.

Michael LowensteinComparing Perceived Value Drivers For Employees and Customers

The Secret To Being Happy At Work

by Colin Shaw on May 17, 2016

Are you unhappy at your job?

Do your Sunday night blues last until Friday at 5 pm?Do you have an elaborate fantasy that involves telling your manager off shortly after winning the state lottery?

If you answered yes, then are you reading the right article. I am about to reveal the secret to being happy at work.

Happiness is a topic that gets a lot of discussion. It’s so important that Thomas Jefferson wrote it into the founding fathers’ missive telling (Mad) King George off, declaring that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is an inalienable right.

Colin ShawThe Secret To Being Happy At Work