Guest Blogger

We opened in the Blue Hall after coffee looking at how Voice of the Employee had been front and centre of the business for Formica’s European Business, where in 2015 engagement figures had ebbed to less than 50%.  Emma Dixon, joining Formica after a spell at BT, showed us how leadership development can support the culture change from a low skill, low accountability, them and us leader-worker climate to a much more communicative, ‘one team’ ethos-driven, performance culture. Key features of this great programme were the co-articulation of key behaviours with the workforce, and the use of storytelling and strengths psychology to get people bringing their real selves to work.

Moritz Dinger of Capita Transformation highlighted the critical balance needed when businesses implement their lean strategies for digital transformation with the need to get clear insights into the people impacts of such change – the need to get people on board with the change process. Taking the right steps to modernise the working culture with the deep level behaviour change that supports it can help achieve the desired CX in a way that is more complete and longer lasting.

At St. Andrews Healthcare, Martin Kersey, works with some of the more vulnerable people in our society.  He spoke about the challenges of getting and keeping people engaged when they can be on the receiving end of some rough treatment including verbal and physical abuse. Martin spoke about how he gets patients themselves playing a pivotal role in helping St Andrews pinpoint the best ways to help them as “no-one knows what it’s like being a patient than a patient”. Martin uses these insights to inform the design of the entire employee journey.

Moving away from VOE, we moved into the key role that culture plays in deploying CX strategy.

Do you work for a Unicorn or a Zebra company? You may have other animal metaphors but Peter Finding of Taylor Vinters used these two to differentiate companies with fundamentally different purposes. Some were surfing high growth through their monopoly, ‘high-flex’ reduced employee rights workplaces, aiming to scale up and sell out as quickly as possible (the Unicorns – Peter says think Facebook, Uber…). Others – those businesses that evolve and develop over time, with a ‘more-than-just-make-money’ purpose at heart, delivering clear community benefits and employee stake-holders at the core (the Zebras – such as Gett and Cadbury – who were founded on Quaker values). In Zebra firms, people are people not assets, they work with regulatory bodies rather than clash with them, they are proving that ethical business is not counter-productive. Peter explained how the ongoing transformation in company law is ensuring companies report on purpose – that they are generating their profit through purpose.

In her session ‘The Culture Code’, Blue Sky’s MD Sally Earnshaw, quoted the remarkable statistic that while 80% of companies say they deliver superior service, only 8% of customers think they do.

Blue Sky’s award-winning work with BT Enterprise featured strongly in her session as Sally spoke of how great stories and narrative helped get clarity and commitment to the why behind the change, helping operational managers get the climate right, to communicate what good looks like and how to deliver it (‘Cracking the Code’ and ‘Knowing Your Onions’) for front-line personnel and their leaders to shift NPS. Sally told us how they “avoided the corporate bullshit at every stage”, and had managers taking the narrative and making it their own to share with their people in their way to help their people climb the accountability ladder.  Another brilliant behavioural metaphor they introduced was the idea of being a Cow or a Rhino in how you went about your business (think saying ‘moo’ a lot versus charging through obstacles…).

Moira Clark of Henley Business School explained how at companies such as First Direct, customer experience differentiation is built through their people. Helping leaders and teams adopt the skills and competencies to do a great job and giving them processes to back them up, turning the organisational pyramid upside down to focus on servant leadership and watch out for the interesting dilemma between securing a high level of engagement – but not at the expense of NPS (“I’m so engaged, don’t spoil my fun please Mr Customer!”).  Moira spoke of the how high retaining organisations make sure the work climate focuses on the right common enemy – the competition, not each other.

As our focus moved towards Internal Communications…

Marketing Consultant Debbie-Bennett Jackson of Citibank showed us how she is helping get 34,000 people in EMEA engaged around a client first strategy by focusing on striking the right balance between having a culture of innovation with the need for ethical decision-making. Breaking down silos, cultivating a growth mindset, using World Café’s, Ideas Jams, bite-size learning, storytelling and pulling initiatives together around the #BeMore theme – wellbeing, work as a team, client-centered, empathic etc.

At M&S, Retail and Finance Ops Manager John Heatherington is helping 374 stores across 35 markets use dynamic customer feedback as a rich diet to inspire their performance improvement efforts. By using digital technology, John has helped the business get much closer to what customers are really thinking to drive up CX performance as well as inspire a raft of marketing programmes both through their wholly-owned businesses as well as their franchise partners. Speeding up the development process by stimulating focus and dialogue as well as using local language to help people feel fully involved and part of the process. A key theme here is MEMS – Make Every Moment Special.

Peter Cronie, General Manager Energie Fitness, shared a great story about the difference between what leaders think and report is being done, and what employees are actually doing, or not doing – but not letting their leaders know! He showed how uncovering the absence of a simple process that employees saw as something “we don’t have time” for made £800,000 extra revenue in a year. Peter spoke about how customers as people are each driven by emotion rather than facts and how we need to understand them to develop a customer experience plan to win their loyalty. After all, why do we buy things and do things that may not be good for us?

Moving on to Artificial Intelligence and Robotics…

Eliska Dockalova of spoke about making travel better, affordable, easier and safer through applying technology such as ‘virtual interlining’ and ‘interactive voice assistants’ to get a number of key transactions automated – her virtual assistants are only seeing 0.002% complaints – but, having quick response action to ‘transfer to the floor’ anything that needs a human touch from a real person – missed connections, guarantee cases etc.

Martin Taylor of Content Guru spoke about how technology can help in getting a consistent omni-channel customer experience and reducing agent churn by using chatbots, data analysis, keyword recognition, and natural language processing. Some of the attainable benefits of adopting these technologies are reducing agent workload, as well as helping upgrade customer experiences to meet the increasing expectations of modern customers. Research suggests that in just 2-3 years up to 85% of our CX interactions will not be with a human – where the complexity of the call demands it. With contact centre staff turnover running at 73% and the most common reason for leaving being workload, these new technologies may support a much better future says Martin.

Simon Foot of CX Company spoke about the emerging role of chatbots as 72% of people surveyed believe that chatbots will increase customer ease. Other opportunities include reduced non-value contact, overall volume, better CX, reduced costs, better contact centre efficiency and enhanced data insights. To achieve these benefits however, Simon spoke of the need to get past customer aversion, make sure information is accurate and achieve transparency when dealing with people to ensure their buy-in.

Our final session of Day One focused on Training, Learning & Development. Adrienne Gault, of the Food Standards Agency spoke about the company’s introduction of OWOW – Our Ways of Working. The programme was designed at helping people fit their work around their lives – not the other way round. Adrienne shared initiatives around physical spaces, ways of connecting, type of work contracts, that had helped transform working life for many employees and drive up engagement scores.

Day Two in the Blue Hall opened up after coffee with a session on Engagement in Retail.

Iselin Lovold of Just Eat shared with us how important it is to make people feel cared for and engender a sense of belonging – as pivotal in a high-performance environment – high challenge + high care. As a leader, Iselin values authenticity and vulnerability as well as having the courage to say when you don’t have all the answers – as a way on inspiring people to step up themselves. Unpacking the end-to-end customer journey with her people, agreeing what really needs tracking, plus the odd bento box of great sushi and jelly babies all come into the leadership mix with Iselin.

Chris McGrath of M&S showed us how Natural Language Processing has transformed the way calls are handled – taking the operation from a switchboard service to an automated NLP approach and all the benefits this has revealed the business.

Final session was Cross Sector Customer and Employee Engagement…

Sean McMahon of Belron International explored the whole idea of 100% self-service at Autoglass, where customers’ only in-person contact would be with the technician. By mapping the end-to-end customer experience by recording events as they happen, a record of a ‘whole customer conversation’ can be established.  The ultimate vision of this work would seem to be a world where as a customer, the business knows me so well, it can’t help but get things 100% right every time.

Tom Cleaver of Policy Expert spoke about the big challenge of retaining online customers – giving people a reason to come back year after year to the same provider. Staff driven customer charter, sharing positive feedback, focusing on engagement, mining customer feedback, monthly review meetings, benchmarking…have all helped the business get 95% of customers recommending them with average scores of 4.6/5.

Wrapping up and excellent two days, was Tata Consultancy Services with Ramkumar Chandrasekaran. With a global workforce of 400,000+ and close to $20billion revenue, the challenge of radically transforming the skills and capabilities of his team to handle all the transformations in service provision that go with digital meant comprehensive strategy was needed. The use of a social media collaborative platform (Knome) to help build a new narrative for change – where a sudden increase in  transparency of how people were feeling about pay rises and other issues, as well as digital classrooms, assessment, nano courses, iClasses (online instructor with 1000’s of students), videos, internal accreditations, chatbots, gamification – all combined to drive a learning organisation to meet the strategic challenges it faced.

A great two days, a terrific diet of possibilities to digest…

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