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Guest Blogger

As always, such a pleasure to be chairing a great set of speakers at the 2018 Customer Engagement Summit. Inspired by the plenary speakers, especially Gavin Ingham giving us real insight into what gives us the edge at work, we started straight in on our Customer and Employee Engagement stream in style!

Our first speaker was David Wales, of Kent Fire and Rescue. Bringing our conference theme in straight away (The Human Face of Engagement), David gave us a really thought provoking case study of the moment his organisation had an epiphany about their customers. They hadn’t really thought of the public as customers, and perhaps worse, they had assumed that public behaviour during incidents was at best foolish and at worst, irrational. The turning on its head of that assumption, as they started to really talk to, connect with and understand their involuntary customers, has transformed the way they work. Their focus has moved to how to minimise subsequent damage and stress, for example by ensuring that they deal with burns victims immediately (as they have the water and the expertise to hand) rather than handing them off to a hospital service which often doesn’t have the equipment or special knowledge to prevent further injury.

We then hear from Ben Orme of Hawk Incentives, and they’ve made the connection between customer and employee – realising their employees are their best customers. The key moment came for them when they actually asked what was going on – and started to say thank you.

It was then a pleasure to me to introduce my boss Deb Oxley to the stage! We are hearing much more about alternative business models these days, and the Employee Ownership Association is leading the way on this. The recent announcement that Aardman Animations has transitioned to being owned by its employees is just one of many examples of forward thinking organisations investing in shared endeavour, and then reaping the benefit in increased purpose, productivity, profit and performance.

We then moved on to our first stream on Customer Experience Design. Angel Lozano of the American School in England (TASIS) challenged our preconceptions again, this time about how we tell our story to our customers. He showed us a brief advert, very moving (there was much surreptitious sniffing and eye wiping in the audience) but we couldn’t guess what the ad was for. It was for Kleenex! We all needed one… The indirect approach was really effective, it told a great story that we felt involved with.

Oisin Lunny then educated us in the ways of the digital disrupter. How the intelligent use of big data can give us big insight into our customers behaviours. And how perception is so important – we might think we are doing the right think, but if we bother to ask our customers the likelihood is that they will tell us something quite different. He then wowed the geeks in the audience (most of us, including me) by showing us RCS in the context of Virgin Trains at Euston. I can’t wait for Rich Communication Services to hit my phone. As a customer, I think it will transform my experience positively. As an organisation, it’s a really effective, interactive channel. More on RCS later, with one of our afternoon speakers.

Terence Sorrell of Centrica Hive then presented us with another ‘ah ha’ moment, talking about how to impress your customers when your products have been designed to be seamless, efficient and ultimately forgettable? Hive have done that, and their journey was fascinating.

Gosh, we were ready for lunch by then!

We started back in with a series of case studies on Engagement in finance, public sector, retail and media. An incredible breadth of experience and expertise from all across those sectors, that once again stressed the need to ASK PEOPLE how they feel, to be brave about doing the right thing, to build fans rather than customers, to use data and behaviour together to understand the customer, and to build trust, loyalty and connection with our employees.

We finished the day back in Customer Experience Design, hearing from Samsung about making things simpler, and from Promoderation around creating behavioural loyalty.

For me, the theme running through the whole day was that of not making assumptions, but about asking for proper feedback and blending that intelligently with data to enhance both the customer and the employee experience.

We boned back in raring to go on Day 2 – with Voice of the Customer and then a strong Engagement finish.

Another eye opening presentation, this time from Sarah Sargent from Lowell. Lowell’s customers again are involuntary, but the organisations attitude towards them is caring, non judgmental and above all, practical and effective. Once again, a mix of feedback, behaviour and data had been used to create and improve customer journeys throughout the organisation.

Douglas Mancini was entirely customer focussed too, giving us some great retail examples of how they were changing the local experience of customers on the fly as they started to give real feedback. Because they could see action was being taken, it drove the quality of the feedback given, allowing even quicker, better transformation.

Julia Barbosa talked to us about how Save the Children view failure as a learning tool, and she very honestly talked us through some personal points of failure so we could follow her learning.  She encouraged us to not be afraid to start all over again if necessary.

Alvin and Diane from Southestern Railway started our final set of talks with a stirring case study. Their focus on autonomy and empowerment resulted in the formation of Station Master posts, where there was no job description. People were recruited for altruism, told that they had the power to do whatever would sort out the problem for the customer, and allowed to get on with it. Complaints are down, customer satisfaction is up, productivity in general is up on the stations, good practice is now being shared and everyone is happy!

We then moved to Jo Moffat, of Engage for Success, the UK’s movement for Employee Engagement. Jo stressed to us the need for autonomy again, a common theme throughout the day. And she covered the Four Enablers of Engagement – having a great, purpose driven, authentic story of the organisation that people connect to; managing people well, trusting them and treating them as individuals; giving them a voice, and welcoming what they say; and behaving with integrity.

Our final speakers finished us off with hard facts and cute animal pictures – Teresa and Nichola from London Zoo – again an organisation surprising in its breadth of work and with a tough story of transformation on a budget.

An incredible amount of experience, expertise and enthusiasm was on display from all our speakers. Once again a great conference – thought provoking, challenging, illuminating.