Month: January 2022

Keeping up with changes in the CX world

The impact of COVID-19 has had a dramatic effect on the lives of people across the world. Not just in terms of the death toll, but also in the way that some people’s livelihoods have been shaken to the ground. The pandemic has also had a dramatic effect on customer experience and organizations have been forced to reconsider what customer care means.

During times of great fear and crisis, our emotions are heightened, as are our desires and expectations. A rude telephone call, a lack of support on a customer care call, items failing to be delivered, while irksome, pre pandemic would not have been the end of the world.

Fast forward to a time when we couldn’t leave the house, or access services without risk of serious infection, and how we get things delivered and dealt with became of critical importance. The organizations that successfully navigated the first waves of the pandemic did so by placing attention on their customers and services users in an empathic and concerned way. Going above and beyond to show they care and understand the difficulties presented by the situation.

Permanent shift

Although mass vaccination has helped dramatically reduce the numbers of people dying or requiring hospitalization , it looks like COVID-19 is here to stay, in one form or another. After two years of a global pandemic, organizations must realize the importance of becoming more adaptable in the face of a crisis, and the consequence of not doing this is potentially terminal.

A crisis like this clearly presents a challenge and when the pressure is on true values shine through. Better.com did not focus much on communicating its culture and values to the outside world but this was placed in a harsh spotlight when CEO Vishal Garg fired 900employees on zoom and the story went viral leading to a mass exodus of talent from the company including Mr Garg stepping down from his position ‘temporarily’.

Layoffs happen in the world of business, but how you handle them says so much about your individual leadership style and your organisation as a whole. The same is true of the way you treat your customers. In times of crisis or panic, your customers’ interactions with you will be emotionally heightened and much more long lasting than in time of safety and security. This means customer loyalty and trust will never be more fragile than it is during a crisis, and how you handle it can make or break the relationship.

Connection, empathy, and care

Building connections with customers and service users is of vital importance to any organization. Without meaningful connections, customer retention will fall, as they go in search of that ‘little something extra’, that sense of feeling more than just being another cog in a money-making machine.

Customers desire, and are almost desperate for, connection. To not reach back to them is a huge waste of relationship building potential. So how do you build and maintain these connections?

One answer is to share your organization’s experience in an open and honest way. Throughout each wave of the pandemic, the organizations speaking honestly are the ones that have continued to have the support of their customers. And speaking honestly includes admitting it when you don’t know or apologising when something has not gone as well as it should.

After two years, some organizations are just catching up to this idea, while others, at the forefront of best customer experience practice, have created strategies to adapt to changes at a moments notice. These strategies bring the customer on the journey, make them feel involved, supported, cared for, and understood. This level of adaptability and effort reinforces customer loyalty by connecting to the idea of trying our best.

When we are panicked, we struggle if we look around and see the people, we rely on panicking too. It is time for organizations to step up to their social responsibilities, to commit to caring for their customers’ needs over the desire to make a quick profit.

CX evolved

Customer experience has always been tricky to get right, there are many factors motivating a customer to shop, spend or become a service user of an organization. It is even more of a challenge now, as organizations have been forced to deliver on the customer’s terms .

Because of this, e-commerce sales have risen dramatically around the world, first as a result of the pandemic, and then as continued uncertainty abounds around how long we will have to live with COVID-19.

If your organization depends on quality and well-trained staff to interact with your customers, switching to a digitally led experience can be very challenging. What communicates well in person, doesn’t always translate well into online engagement.

In order to keep up, your customer experience strategy has to evolve, to provide more digital options for interaction with ever more homebound customers. Connecting with 3rd party businesses to make delivery an option for your products too, is a great way to maintain market share while you put your own delivery services together.

SERVICEBRAND

If you are struggling to keep up with the pace of change and need help building a customer experience strategy to help improve customers loyalty, trust, and retention, SERVICEBRAND Global can help. Care, empathy and understanding of customer needs are often the first things to go out of the window during a crisis, but there are ways to cut costs and streamline operations without damaging customer experience and customer relationships. Let us help you navigate these uncertain times with adaptable, specific, and tailored strategies for your organization!

Navigating Brand Identity

“Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room” Jeff Bezos

The terms ‘brand’, ‘branding’, and ‘brand identity’ are sometimes treated as interchangeable. The first ‘Element’ of the SERVICEBRAND approach is Brand Identity and we refer to this as the collection of all the brand elements that the company creates to describe its personality and character. The brand identity is what makes an organization instantly recognizable to different stakeholder groups (customers, employees, service partners, local communities etc), creates the connection with these stakeholders and determines how the organization is perceived.

Some leaders in organizations think that their brand is simply the name and logo. Of course, the name and logo are important parts of the visual identity and yet there is so much more to an organization’s complete brand identity. It consists of intangible elements such as the organization’s purpose and values as well as tangible elements such as visual identity and tone of voice. Ultimately, we think Jeff Bezos’ description above captures perfectly what a brand is.

Component parts

In practical terms, the Brand Identity is a combination of purpose/vision, values, brand attributes, unique positioning, SERVICEBRANDSignatures, visual identity and tone of voice. The starting point is to identify and articulate the organization’s purpose and values. The brand purpose or vision captures what the brand desires or promises to accomplish (usually for the buyer).

The organization can use positioning and differentiation to communicate the brand’s purpose and ultimately enrich the brand’s identity. And this purpose can transcend the functional purpose to also express the brand’s higher purpose or reason for being. The higher purpose suggests emotional and social benefits for the customer by choosing that brand. A strong purpose and values set the tone for the organization’s purpose and code of conduct.

The changing tide

In the past, it was commonly accepted that organizations owned their brand identity. The marketing function usually took the lead, deciding what the brand identity was and the used their marketing or public relations department/campaigns to ‘pump out’ directed messages to their target audience.

In the Values Economy, this is no longer the case and an organization’s brand identity is now co-owned by the various stakeholder groups e.g. customers, employees, service partner, local communities, investors etc. In the future, we believe that the most successful brands will not be focussed on direct control of brand messaging. Instead, they will invest energy in being true to their brand identity, led by their purpose and values. They will then focus on enabling their stakeholder groups to communicate how they feel about the brand with these stakeholders effectively acting as the marketing department.

“A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is—it is what consumers tell each other it is.” Scott Cook

Positive and Negative

When organizations have a strong brand identity, it gives them an edge of their competitors. When you successfully attract a customer or service user and give them a positive experience of your organization, they often become brand ambassadors, offering free marketing via social media and word of mouth, to encourage others to choose you as well.

Whether you put much time and attention into brand identity or not, customers and service users, will still get an impression from you, one way or the other. Considering the power individuals have in this day and age to influence others for or against you, it is well worth putting the time into creating a strong brand identity, one that raises your brand awareness in the minds of others, in a positive and lasting way.

When done well, a strong brand identity can generate a halo effect or a Midas touch, that makes launching new products or services much easier, as those that have already had a positive experience with your organisation are far more likely to trust you when it comes to new releases.

Your customers’ experience of your brand can also lead to damaging or negative effects. Once a brand is tarnished, customers and service users are far less likely to trust or engage with future products or promotions. This negative association can even lead organizations to rebrand and separate themselves from the core brand identity, consider Facebook’s recent name change.

SERVICEBRAND GLOBAL

Your brand lives in everything your organization does… whether you like it or not. If you treat your brand identity as a lip service campaign designed to attract people, but do not then offer consistency or substance, you will fail, sooner or later. At SERVICEBRAND GLOBAL, we help progressive leaders of organizations to create strong brand identities through careful examination of their purpose, vision, and values. From this we are able to create SERVICEBRANDSignatures, that set organizations apart from the competition. Your brand identity is what people say about you when you’re not there, so how important is this to you?

The Big Reframe

Thinking about New Year resolutions

Several people have been very kind about this year’s wall calendar. Specifically, comments have been about how beautiful the photographs are (in particular how uplifting January’s photo is to start the year), appreciation of the values related lyrics for each month, the practicality of the calendar as a useful ‘tool’, how pleased people were to receive a surprise gift, and curiosity about the ValuesJam card game (did you see what I did there? 😉).

At the same time, because it is the beginning of the year, there is a lot of commentary and advice being posted on social media about New Year resolutions and goals/targets for the year. A conversation with ValuesJam co-founder Lisa Birtles caused me to reflect on the 2022 calendar ‘project’ in the context of how we approach ambitions for the year ahead.

By way of background, twelve years ago I decided to produce a wall calendar to send to people I had been involved with during the past year or even in previous years (clients, service partners, collaborators, family, neighbours etc) as a small token of appreciation. I enjoy photography so the concept was simple: select twelve photographs taken in the previous year (usually!) to create a practical gift with a personal touch. Then after a couple of years, a values-related quote for each month was added.

Disruption

COVID-19 had already made the 2021 calendar more of a challenge because of fewer international trips and this was even more pronounced during 2021 (ie the 2022 calendar content). Nevertheless, I was able to select twelve photographs that I was pleased enough with and reckoned that people would understand the situation. Everything was sent to the design and print company, the proof was approved and an expected delivery date was agreed for early December.

The day before the delivery, I emailed the company to find out what time of the day to expect delivery and, because the photos had been uploaded onto my laptop, deleted the photos from my camera. The next day, an email reply arrived from the design and print company stating that there seemed to be an issue with the resolution of most of the photographs provided. When I checked the files on the laptop they were about 10% of the resolution they were supposed to be… and I no longer had the photos on the camera in case the problem had been caused when they were transferred.

Did I panic? Was I upset? Was I frustrated? Yes. Yes. Yes. But this did not last long because I realised what was done was done. Even if the photos on the camera were of the right resolution, they no longer existed so this was irrelevant. Not for one moment did I consider any possibility that there would be no calendar. I was intent that people would still be opening their 2022 calendars and be able to enjoy them during the year. Instead, the focus was firmly on how to produce and send the calendars in the new circumstances. The question was “In the absence of a selection of photos from 2021, what are the options?” The first answer was “A selection of photos from previous years” and the idea of a ‘back catalogue’ concept developed.

Serendipitously, the first calendar was produced in 2011 (photos from 2010) so this meant that there could be one photo from each year 2010-2020 and an additional photo from 2021. Also, there was a ‘fit’ with ValuesJam and the music connection. The concept of the 2022 ‘back catalogue’ calendar was borne and it took a week to approve the new design, for production and delivery. Dispatch was a little later than normal, but most calendars have arrived in time for the beginning of the New Year.

In addition, an unforeseen benefit was that it was really enjoyable looking back over photos from previous years which were a reminder of some great places visited and associated memories – it was an even more enriching ‘process’ than usual. And finally, it was much easier to deal with this year than if the same issue had happened in other years with more photos from a variety of international locations.

So what?

So what has this to do with New Year’s resolutions? My take-aways from the 2022 calendar experience are all about the mindset and perspective you choose to adopt to what you are aiming to achieve as follows:
1) Goals (actions to achieve a positive impact) are generally more motivating than resolutions (giving something up).
2) Understand that the impact you are seeking to achieve is the ultimate aim and more important than the goal itself.
3) Be committed to delivering the desired impact. As Yoda says: “Do or do not, there is no try”.
4) Be flexible eg the goal can be adapted to deliver the desired impact if circumstances change.
5) Sh*t happens – get over yourself and move on.
6) RoE (Return on energy) focus
a) invest in what needs to be done rather than waste energy on what can’t be changed.
b) remind yourself of what you have invested so far, which will be wasted if you do not complete your goal, or a variation of it.
7) Be kind to yourself – you can only do what you can do with what you have got (thanks to Padideh Tosti for this gem).
8) Hold yourself to account – be creative, resourceful, and persistent (rather than give up).
9) Consciously consider your values to make choices and decisions easier.
10) Keep track of your ‘performance’, recognise successes and take action to correct shortcomings.

Employee Engagement is a two-sided coin

In an increasingly technology dependent world, it is sometimes easy to overlook the fact that people (employees) are often the first point of contact your customers or services users have with your organization. When they are motivated and equipped to do the job, employees can be valuable ambassadors for your brand, but, at the same time, if their needs are ignored, they can become despondent and unmotivated, not performing at their best and having a potentially damaging impact; both of these outcomes have a critical effect on your organization’s image, and overall performance (including financial performance).

When you are able to establish a sense of shared values, engaged employees become the best asset you have for representing your organization and what it stands for to others and, in turn, this will create sustained performance over time.

The flipside of employee engagement

When done well, employee engagement will become a powerful tool. But when it is not managed well, it can cause serious challenges with an employee’s ability to cope and manage their workload and stressors. Burnout occurs when people reach a point of consistent mental or physical exhaustion; most commonly brought on by periods of prolonged stress.

How you implement your employee engagement strategy will play a key role for employees in determining the health of the relationship they have with the work they do. Engagement and motivation are achieved through connecting to an employee’s sense of worth and purpose. But this is a starting point rather than a silver bullet. Constant care and attention are needed in understanding the demands of day-to-day work and how different people respond in different ways. Stress associated with achieving results can have a positive impact on one person and the opposite on another. Managing the differences at a human level might be the single most important aspect of employee engagement and leadership.

Motivational balance

Having employees driven by purpose, aligned with your organization’s values will add consistent and positive value to your business. But purpose driven work can also create huge pressure where employees might not be able to switch off from their work, creating potentially destructive stress cycles. By way of example, consider some people who work in the health care sector. They are highly committed to providing the best level of care and service possible but sometimes this is at a cost to their personal wellbeing.

It is an employer’s responsibility to keep track of their employees’ wellbeing, to ensure that their engagement doesn’t come at the cost of their health. And sometimes employers might be tempted to take advantage of high levels of commitment. Do you know people who have worked when they are sick, not taken holiday they are entitled too, or worked on their days off? These examples should not be taken as examples of employee engagement because they are instead examples of abuse of employee engagement.

Sustainable practice

Correctly motivating and engaging employees is a complex process. In a world where stress can feel like a normal state of being, the sense of burnout that can occur from being in a constant state of anxiety, will more often than not have a negative impact.

The best employee engagement practices are those that focus on sustained commitment and performance over the long term rather than short term performance and financial results.

Responsible engagement

Responsible engagement begins with the employer correctly identifying the values and purpose of the organization, before communicating that to the employees. But it is not enough to tell the employees what they should value. It needs to be lived in the way everybody in the organization behaves when things are going well, and especially when things aren’t going well.

The key point is that motivation and engagement are not necessarily wholly positive elements in themselves. They need to be correctly managed and understood, so that employees have the time to give their best, to learn, grow and develop, and to feel a sense of fulfilment.

SERVICEBRAND

At SERVICEBRAND GLOBAL, our mission is to help organizations create effective employee engagement strategies, that don’t place profit over people. That help you find the natural grooves in your values and purpose to create excellent customer experiences for your customers and service users, while teaching your employees how to recognise their worth personally and as part of a larger organization.

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