Tag: Building a Customer Experience

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!

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.

Customer Service and Effective CX Strategies

Customer Experience on Modern Style Illustation. with Orange Arrow and Hand Drawn Icons Around. Customer Experience – Business Concept. Inscription on Brick Wall with Doodle Icons Around. 3D.

Customer service is one of those areas that seems to be written and talked about by experts and put forward as the key to business success. And yet how often do we experience outstanding customer service? Rarely. Outsourcing of customer service functions, poor understanding of the importance of quality service and limited ways to effectively resolve issues all play a part in making customers feel at best frustrated and at worst, invisible with no voice once an organization has taken their money.

This approach to customer service takes its toll because if customers aren’t having a good experience, they are more likely to try out a competing brand or service. It is good to remember that your competitor is only one mouse click away.

CX reimagined

Imagine a world where customer service is the key strategy… in practice; where customer service delivery shapes all decisions and choices by everybody in the organization; where the best measurement and insight tools create tailormade user profiles for each customer, specifically designed to give everyone the best possible experience and interaction with the organization; where the business leaders are obsessed with creating and improving purposeful interactions, that keep the customers feeling valued, in a sustainable but ever evolving way.

What is it and why should I care?

A customer experience (CX) strategy is a plan that focuses on a value-based holistic approach to customer service and interaction. One that places less important on making customers buy the product or service, and more on how they feel while they do it.

This is by no means an easy task. It requires a detailed understanding of not only the purpose of your organization, but a willingness to view customers through the lens of their values and emotions, rather than just their wallets.

Most important is a thorough understanding of the customers’ journey. Here are some questions to consider:

• How do customers find you?
• How are you making your products/services available to customers?
• What are your customers’ motivators e.g. necessity to buy, lack of alternatives, best value, ease of purchase/delivery/use, values alignment, loyalty to your brand or organization?
• If they are loyal, do you understand why?

Consider the simple matter of how easy it is for customers to make contact across a range of channels. If it is difficult and/or complicated to get information or to make a complaint, customers might become disengaged from your organization, and far more likely to change their brand allegiance.

Where do I start?

The world of marketing and advertising has evolved. Previously, the product or service was created and then ‘sold’ to the customer, not just on a rational (often financial) basis but emotively as well. But as the markets have become flooded with competing brands, creating positive differentiation has become more of a challenge.

The key to starting a good CX plan is to consider the customer experience, before the product, and work your way backwards. What do people value and what are they missing? How will they feel if they can get what they consider to be lacking or be connected to an organization that shares their values.

Start there and work your way back to the product/service you offer and then the processes necessary to create and implement it. When you not only meet, but exceed a customer’s expectations, they are far more likely to be repeat customers, and not only that, but are also more likely to become brand ambassadors, offering ever-valuable free word of mouth recommendation. Today, your organizational stakeholders are the new marketing department.

Listen to the people you want to serve

One of the common errors in effective CX strategy development, is a failure to effectively measure, understand and then implement changes on customer feedback. Profit is not a great indicator of customer service. When given competing options, customers have no reason beyond you having met a basic required need or service, to not jump ship when treated even fractionally better by another brand.

Creating multi-channel lines of engagement is a great way to not only gain vital feedback but to also give customers a freedom of choice in how they interact with you. Some may prefer social media, others email, and still others to speak to a human being on the phone. But the key to this is having as many ways as possible for customers to feedback about their experiences, if you can’t effectively measure their experiences, then how can you hope to improve their experience?

When you have taken the time and trouble to collect data, make sure that it is analysed and used to make decisions. If this doesn’t happen, what was the point in collecting the data in the first place?

Effective resolution

If you are looking to improve customer service, don’t wait until there is a problem to be fixed. Take a proactive approach, for example having a live chat assistant on your website to help deal with any queries about your organization before they become complaints. Or by having a dedicated customer support line for customers to voice their concerns before making a purchase. Two key points to remember with problem resolution: first, do everything possible to resolve an issue at the first point of contact; secondly, always view the problem from the customer’s perspective (and understand that this can vary from one customer to another).

SERVICEBRAND

At SERVICEBRAND GLOBAL our goal is to help you create the most effect CX strategy, regardless of your organization’s size. We can help you understand the limitation of your current strategies, and help you create and implement strategies that offer the best customer engagement possible, through measurement, insight, and optimization. When coupled with an ability to continuously learn and adapt to your customer feedback, your CX strategy will begin to take on a life of its own, one that will always be aimed at creating even better customer experiences.

Learning in the Values Economy

The world is changed, and the way we live and work is changing with it. The time when a fixed set of skills could guarantee consistent employment is almost over. The new skills currency is in our ability to learn and adapt to a constantly shifting and an ever-evolving working environment.

When things can change at a moments notice, those people that are the most adaptive and actively engaged learners are most likely to not only retain their employment but thrive in the kind of environment that puts positive pressure on their abilities and challenges their growth.

But this is not just limited to technical or specialist knowledge, how well a person can understand a company’s values and purpose, and then align with them, while maintaining their own fresh and unique perspective, will also serve as a determining factor for how well they fit in at that organisation.

Learning to learn

Career patterns are diversifying rapidly, as long-term positions are replaced by automation or refusal to pay a living wage. As a result our career paths take a much more winding route to financial security.

Resultant of these rapid changes, people are having to adapt, become more fluid and learn to quickly develop themselves in any direction needed to ensure their security and stability in the workplace.

But again, this is not just about our ability to take in facts, learn functional skills or change to suit any organisation that will hire us. It is about recognising our own inherent abilities and values, so that we may more quickly match ourselves in the direction of growth we naturally seek.

The majority of us have worked a job at some point in our life that we did not like. Outwardly, often no one could tell, but it didn’t leave us feeling valued or fulfilled. When learning to learn, it is important to place your values at the heart of the conversation with yourself, if you don’t, you’ll instead have to stay in a position that forces you to put your own development and growth on the back burner, it is likely your career will stagnant, and you’ll become stuck in that job, or on that economic pathway.

Finding Values role models

Cognitive diversity is important in any organisation, it is what keeps the business fresh and up to date with the culture of the society it rests in. If we want to improve our ability to work with others, we need to look at what the people who share our values or sense of purpose are doing and see what we like and what we feel we could innovate on. It is these collective collaborations that serve to solve any problem facing the organisation, as employees are no longer set to one task, but are challenged to contribute to all aspects of the business, its mission and purpose.

If you are an employee, seek out the people you perceive as successful, and don’t ask them to draw you a map of what they did to get there, but ask them what values they embody and identify with. This will give you a much better blueprint for individual success.

If you are an employer, understand your values and purpose, but create a diverse team of learners that can offer new ideas and perspectives on that purpose. If you don’t champion cognitive diversity, you are preparing yourself to run around in circles always wondering why you organisation isn’t performing at its best and having no one brave enough to tell you the truth.

Challenging purpose

Innovation comes at the boundary of stress and struggle, the more we are pressed, the greater our reaction to alleviate that stress, or find ways of doing things that create less of a struggle. When approaching the values economy, it can be easy to think of alignment as agreement, but this is not always the case.

There is a big difference between disagreement and refinement of values. Employees should serve as whet stones with which to hone and sharpen the quality of the organisation, not destroying existing purpose and values, but challenging them to ensure that they are truly lived, and not just words that pay lip service to a marketing campaign.

When you are able to find people who are active learners, capable of challenging the status quo in healthy and productive ways, it can only have a positive result on organisational identity, longevity and profitably.

SERVICEBRAND

At SERVICEBRAND we can help you identify and implement strategies to find people that have an infinite capacity for learning, people who already have a passion for service and authentic values driven behaviour. Moderated by their own sense of purpose and values that will contribute positively to your organisation in a learn it all way, rather than stagnating with a know-it-all mentality.

Building Better Employee Engagement

A recent Mckinsey report highlights why it has never been more important to know how to positively engage employees. When done successfully, enormous previously untapped connection and potential can be uncovered, which leads to greater efficiency, increased motivation and output, alignment and integration across the entire workforce and far better customer satisfaction at the point of use or sale.

The internet and blogosphere is filled to the brim with lists and articles on improving employee engagement or removing the barriers that prevent good engagement in the first place. These are important because of how much of an impact engaged employees have on productivity, profitability, and retention figures.

Missed opportunities

The most critical of opportunities are sometimes missed because organizations fail to take engagement seriously, often having no desire to enhance the employee experience above government mandated baselines.

Employee engagement comes from the employee’s entire experience within the organization, lip services campaigns, a voucher or party once a year, or a prayer room that gets used as a stock room too, do not make for happy and productive employees.

If your organization is spending time trying to copy and apply generic fixes from a list, they are unlikely to deliver positive results. Nice one-off initiatives and job perks are not substitutes for a healthy and purposeful working environment and experience.

Employee Perspective

When starting on the engagement journey, it is important to first find out where your employees are underserved. This can require a lot of patience, an open mind, and an understanding attitude. It is not giving your employees everything their hearts desire; you still have an organization to run! It is about not wasting time or resources on benefits that employees haven’t asked for, that might feel condescending or belittling.

Put yourself in your employees’ shoes when you talk to them about how the organization could better serve them. Be respectful and show that you are open to connection, collaboration and including everyone in the journey. Employees that feel heard are twice as likely to engage with the organization in a positive way. It is those positive connections that keep the business cycle healthy, productive, and profitable.

Organizational Values

Just as important as knowing where employees stand, is for them to know where you stand. Having clear and communicable values is pivotal in driving engagement with your colleagues. When people are clear about where you stand, it is a lot easy for them to stand with you. When their values align with those of the business, deeper more purposeful work is undertaken, that creates a much more positive and strong organizational culture.

This kind of alignment is fantastic for your service users, customers, and clients as well. When employees are engaged and aligned with the values of the business, they exude those values to the customers. In turn, this builds your brand image in a positive way in the minds and hearts of your target demographic. When customers feel that employees are happy and engaged in their organizations, they feel happy too, and this builds trust and life-long brand loyalty.

Breaking down barriers

In order to fully understand engagement, it is wise to consider your own attitude. You could be inadvertently creating more barriers, by making assumptions about the people that work for you.

We believe that the vast majority of people are honest and hard-working., When given a clear mission and set of desired outcomes, they will get on with the job to the best of their ability if they feel valued and have something meaningful to work towards. If you think your employees are lazy, or only there for a paycheck, what does this say about you? Blaming employees for being poorly engaged is like blaming a car for running out of fuel when you didn’t give it any gas. Lack of teamwork, poor relationships with managers and a lack of opportunity for development and grow are all key areas that can act as barriers to effective employee engagement.

A shift in mind set is needed, from “what can I do to force these people to be productive for me or my organization?”, to “what systems and processes can I put in place to attract and engage the kind of people who are naturally going to do an amazing job?”

SERVICEBRAND

The SERVICEBRAND approach can help you achieve this shift in mindset, by helping you understand your current organizational culture, identify what barriers to employee engagement might exist, and help you to remove them. Our service can help get you on the right track, so that your employees feel heard, valued, and appreciated, which in turn can only increase your productivity, positive brand image and profitability.

Alignment And Governance

The last in our blog series on alignment, looks at governance, and the way in which conflict often arises when organizations move away from their values, causing misalignment with their service users, customers, and employees.

Governance is an amalgamation of policies, systems, and structures, along with a strategic, operational framework that aligns organizational leadership to take action, so that they can make effective decisions with accountability.

People over profits

In order to be successful organizations, need to move away from quantitative governance, towards a more qualitative model. When the discussion is always centred on quantity, alignment is at risk.

A common model for defining corporate governance is to describe it as comprising of four pillars: the board of directors, management, internal auditors, and external auditors. Gaining alignment among these pillars is not easy, but it is possible when you live your organizational values. People always have a sense of authenticity about the organizations they interact with. If the governance is strong, values-led and aligned purposefully, that message will permeate employees at all levels and out to customers, service partners and local communities.

“To lead their companies for the benefit of all stakeholders.”

The statement is so simple; it is easy to overlook its profound impact. With this statement, the Roundtable CEOs are acknowledging the impact their organizations have on all stakeholders (customers, employees, service partners, communities, and investors/shareholders) and linking the value they provide to these stakeholders to the success of their companies, communities, and country.

They have committed to deliver value to customers, invest in employees, deal fairly and ethically with suppliers, and support the communities in which they work. This is quite a change from the profit and shareholder focussed approach which (in the extreme) takes advantage of customers, pays employees as little as possible for as much performance as possible, intimidates suppliers to provide more for less and uses communities and environments as resources to be exploited, depleted, and consumed.

Shared values

The people who live most purposefully and boldly embody their values, are not always the best able to teach that value back to others. There are repeating and noticeable trends of the effect of misalignment, anytime a major CEO leaves the company they built; consider Steve Jobs, leaving the company he built when the governance? fell out of alignment with his purpose, only him to be re hired 11 years later, after consistent profit falls. He may not have been the best able to articulate his purpose, but he lived it consistently and his passion to live purposefully, helped build Apple’s cult-like following.

Today, people pay a premium for Apple products, in part because they relate to the company’s purpose of enriching people’s lives. This example should serve as a reminder to any governing body, not to fall out of alignment with the vision, purpose, and values of your organization.

That is not to say, you must live completely unrestrained and give everything away! More, it is about finding the balance between the head (governance and profitability) and the heart (Values and purpose). This is where alignment is key, when you are able to find a way to communicate purposefully, the profits come as a result of practicing authentic purpose. Lead with the heart but keep the head on track.

Governance evolved

The world is ever changing, the rigid reactive structures of old are being broken away, in favour of more active and fluid processes. These frameworks are more fit for purpose in the way they allow for quick changes to be made when things aren’t going right. Having a governing board that is not accountable to anyone else, will never generate meaningful results.

The same is true, when a board spends all of its time in conflict over the outcomes of misalignment, poor public image, low profit, unhealthy workplace cultures etc. It’s tough work, but if there is a problem with outcomes, it’s important to examine the root cause of those issues, not just talk about the issues themselves. Don’t get mad at the rain, understand why it’s raining.

When done right, governing bodies will not be waiting for the next crisis, they’ll be actively tackling the issues, to build trust within the societies they sit, rooting out unethical behaviour and giving people faith in their purpose.

SERVICEBRAND

The SERVICEBRAND framework can support governing bodies because of the ‘whole organization’ approach we are able to provide. Starting with how the organization’s purpose and values inform everything that organization does (the good and the potentially limiting).

We can help you realign your organization, from the top down, across all service partners to provide the best possible customer or service user experiences. Tailor-made measurement and insight processes will cut away procedures that do not add value and implement effective communication, reporting and corrective strategies to ensure everyone knows how to be the best brand ambassador for your organisation.

Alignment and Sustainability

The word ‘sustainability’ is often used with reference to renewable fuel sources, reducing carbon emissions, protecting environments and a way of keeping the delicate ecosystems of our planet in balance. Our SERVICEBRAND perspective is on organizational sustainability but, ultimately, the sustainability of all organizations is dependent on the sustainability of our planet, and we wholeheartedly support the urgently needed overdue efforts in this area.

Due to the vast scope and nature of the subject, there is no universally agreed definition on what sustainability means. Every nation, business, organisation, and individual has a different idea on what it is and how it can be achieved. Sustainability is not a new concept, with many indigenous peoples across the world having long histories of living in balance with their land and ecosystems. But the idea of global sustainability stems from the concept of sustainable development, which became common language at the World’s first Earth Summit in 1992.

The original definition of sustainable development is usually considered to be: “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Organizational sustainability

A lot has changed since that first summit, there have been many variations and extensions on this basic definition. Business sustainability may therefore be described as cohesively managing and integrating the financial, social, and environmental facets of the business to meet the needs of the present without compromising future performance. It is about creating ‘long-term’ value for all stakeholders (investors, customers, employees, service partner organizations, local communities… and some people consider the planet to be another stakeholder).

When taking a closer look at organisational sustainability, it often looks at two key areas sustainability practices have the greatest impact on. These being the effect on society and the effect on the environment.

The best outcome of a sustainable business strategy is to make a positive impact in both of these areas, by producing a product or service that is of benefit to society, while not negatively impacting the environment.

Often organisations will prioritise societal convenience over protecting or limiting their impact on the environment, and because of this, show no care or attention to either of these areas, while also failing to take responsibility for the damage they cause. It is because of this kind of behaviour that we find ourselves facing the challenges of deforestation, baron soil, water poverty, social injustices, and famine, to name a few.

Alignment

Societal and environmental stability don’t always have to be at odds with financial gains, there is space for them to align and provide the best possible outcome for the organisation and for the people and spaces it affects. This is what is known as a shared value opportunity. When you align your organisation with social and environmental needs, you will be able to drive positive financial outcomes with positive deeds. The more consistent and sustainable you are, the more likely customers and service users are to engage with you, and most importantly, stay with you.

Convenience has long dominated business focus because it works for short term profitability. But it is not good for the long-term goals of anyone involved. It can be harrowing to shift your organisational strategy away from a convenience led, fast profit model. But the long-term benefits far out way the short-term losses.

How to begin?

Realignment takes time and can seem overwhelming, but it will make a huge difference to the organisation’s future. Becoming a sustainable organisation requires being open to considering factors that previously hadn’t been a priority. How your decisions will affect the environment, the economy and social issues should always be considered when developing effective strategies. When you understand your impacts, it helps prevent the pile up of longer-term liabilities or crisis’s.

Thanks to dedicated climate and social scientists, it has never been easier to measure and reduce our impact on the world around us. From apps that help track and off-set carbon emissions, to water conservation, rewilding and forestry schemes, even renewable energy incentives.

Why should I?

Investors and rating agencies are increasingly considering businesses’ environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks, as sustainability moves up the political agenda. Social risks are typically those that affect the community in which a company operates, such as through health and safety, working conditions or economic opportunity.

As an indicator, ESG news in April had almost double the coverage compared to November. Investors are anticipated to spend $1bn on ESG data tracking by 2021 (20% per annum growth). BlackRock chairman and CEO Larry Fink has committed to making sustainability the new standard for investing (for the nearly $7 trillion in assets that the company manages) and has outlined several practical ways in which this will be progressed.

Global giants Google and WWF announced details of their environmental data platform, a joint initiative which aims to tackle harmful emissions and waste across fashion industry supply chains. This will allow fashion brands to source raw materials and track their sustainability, providing them with greater transparency over the environmental impact of their supply chains.

SERVICEBRAND

When you are able to align your organisation with sustainability goals, you establish a powerful narrative, one that connects you to your consumers and services users through mutual understanding of the responsibility we all share to make our planet a better and safer place to live. We here at SERVICEBRAND aren’t about lip service, we are here to help you create sustainability strategies that see you transform the way people recognise you, helping them to engage with you in a more long lasting and purposeful way.

Alignment and Inclusion

In this next blog exploring alignment in the landscape of the Values Economy, we’ll be looking at how inclusion can boost organizational alignment and consumer engagement by putting people first and empowering them through representation.

Inclusion

Being an inclusive organization provides significant benefits, from gaining a competitive edge by hiring from diverse pools of talent, to attracting a wider audience and consumer base from different communities.

We use the term Inclusion rather than ‘diversity’ because we believe that just having diverse people is not enough. Diversity and inclusion are not synonymous and, to be worthwhile, the two must go hand in hand. This means that while organizations can work hard to hire people from different backgrounds at all levels, it is all meaningless tokenism unless these people’s voices are heard.

Time and time again, research into the benefits of inclusive organisation has shown a positive result across the board.

· Inclusive teams make better business decisions up to 87% of the time

· Teams that follow an inclusive process make decisions twice as fast with half the meetings

· Decisions made and executed by diverse teams delivered 60% better results

More diverse companies are better able to attract top talent, improve their customer orientation, employee satisfaction, and decision making. This is likely to become even more important in the future as demand will grow for skills such as analytical thinking, innovation, active learning, creativity, collaboration and complex problem-solving, while rote skills and easily repeatable tasks will be shunted off to automation.

Inclusivity can be a challenging area, if your organization has only focused its attention in one direction for a long time, the changes necessary to include others can and often do challenge the most toxic parts of organizational culture. Marginalised peoples and communities have long been the subject of water cooler talk, an exercise in bonding as the butt of a joke.

Why inclusion matters

“Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the perfect present for the test of our civilization.” M K Gandhi

Values-driven inclusion is so important because the effort will not succeed if people in the minority don’t feel safe to be themselves. It is estimated that over 50% of people who identify as LGBTQ remain in the closet or diminish their true selves to fit in better at work, to avoid being the subject of rumours, gossip, and workplace bullying.

Several HR and D&I leaders struggle, to the point of paralysis, to have a conversation about race at work. Sometimes they either do not know where to start or are unable to convince their leaders of why this is so important. Other areas of diversity and inclusion such as age, disability and social class seem to receive less attention and others such as neurodiversity are receiving long overdue recognition due to increased levels of knowledge, understanding and awareness.

Inclusion encourages a wider perspective across all stakeholder groups (customers, employees, service partners, local communities etc) to consider the benefits for individuals, organizations, and wider society beyond the traditional business performance metrics.

As mentioned in the previous blog on the Fourth Revolution, data collection and management processes can play a powerful role in equipping organisations with the right information to understand, support and include everyone from the ground up.

Aligning values with inclusion

A recurring theme we have noticed is a tendency for diversity and inclusion initiatives to stand alone or exist in isolation and not reflect the organization’s purpose, values, and priorities. Including people is not a gimmick or marketing tool, to create inclusive rhetoric, when the organisation does not build and live practises designed to support consumers, service users and employees, and will always result in the minority being further marginalised, while empowering the majority to retain toxic workplace cultures that promote exclusion and division. This not only has a social impact but a definite financial one.

Bringing your values into alignment with inclusive practices requires patience, mutual awareness and understanding. It is not a race to collect the most tokens, but instead it is a sincere effort to recognise the unique humanity of everyone that will engage with your organization.

Avoid box ticking, while acronyms for protected characteristics like BAME and LGBTQ, are important and necessary, intersectionality is far more individual and complex. Asking someone to speak for their entire ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual identity is reductive and limiting. When you align your organization with the values you truly represent, it will build an atmosphere of inclusion, one where everyone that uses your service will be aware of being valued for their unique humanity, not begrudgingly served because they have to be.

SERVICEBRAND

The SERVICEBRAND approach can help you to align your values with inclusive practises that allow everyone to feel respected and treated fairly. We believe in a holistic and individual approach to build employee engagement initiatives that go beyond the stand alone, unconnected one day seminars telling people what to do, rather than showing them the benefits of full and proper inclusion.

Alignment and 4IR


The fourth revolution

Over the coming weeks, this blog will explore the relevance and importance of organizational alignment against the landscape of the new paradigm we refer to as the Values Economy. Starting us off this week is the fourth revolution and its potential impacts in an evermore and ever rapidly advancing techno-society.

4IR

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is the banner name covering advances being made in areas like artificial intelligence, augmented reality, biogenetic engineering, and the internet, to name a few. More simply put, 4IR covers the way in which our world is moving from a purely physically industrial planet to one in which the lines between digital, biological, and physical technologies are overlapped.

Data is king

With the advent of social media, businesses and organizations found a main line directly to their customers consciousness. Now all our decisions are tracked across the internet, every time we search for something on Google, like a photo or make a comment, that data is collected and fed into algorithms that in turn offer more targeted ads, based on what we like to see and our predictability of making a purchasing.

The amount of data being collected is enormous, even in some instances the time to the micro-second we spend paused on an ad or picture while scrolling, and factors into what we are likely to be shown next.

Individual alignment

At one level, this might be of great benefit for advertisers and data gatherers, and even for the general public in terms of accessibility to desired content. However, the conversation might be different if we begin to centre it around the concept of values. It has never been easier for organisations to reach us with their messages, but to what extent does their influence apply to the things we believe in and value?

There is proven power in brand alignment. When we feel aligned with an organization’s values, we are more likely to spend with them, talk about them and remain loyal to their brand. But are we aligned to the authentic reality of that brand image? Or merely to a carefully tailored presentation that targets us cleverly and, perhaps, individually.

Do you see your favourite brands in the same way as somebody else and is it possible that you falsely assume that the same picture is being shown to everybody in a consistent way when it might not be?

Putting Data to Use

Use of data isn’t always an insidious erosion of our personal freedom. Often, people accept the data being gathered as the price they pay for better and more intuitive services. They trust and feel aligned to that organization’s purpose. Businesses like Netflix for example, spend millions on data collection and algorithm generation, to offer better content choices to their customers.

This kind of personalisation means almost everyone is individually seeing the kind of content they are likely to watch without having to do a lot of scrolling and searching for it.

Developing features like ‘continue watching’ also help develop customer experience by making us feel more in control of the platform, and thus able to drop in and out at our leisure; if it makes us feel good, we are far more likely to do it. It serves Netflix too, in the billions of dollars in savings they achieve through retaining loyal customers. For some of Netflix’s competitors. where content is not as accessible and intuitive, this is a serious disadvantage.

Customer Alignment and Trust

As more people become aware of the volume of data being collected about them, they begin to feel more uncertain about whether or not their trust has been put in the right places. With 83% of people believing that trust is the cornerstone of the digital economy.

‘Hard to build, easy to break.’ This phrase sums up the experience of building trust in any business or organisation. They need to be able to prove that they have the customer’s best interest at heart; that the data they are collecting is only used to tailor customer experience for the benefit of the customer, not for the organization to profiteer on.

People feel aligned with Netflix because they get offered the content they desire and are reassured their money is going back into creating the kind of content they want to see more of. This ‘trust us and we’ll keep giving you want you want’ business model has served Netflix well.

The case cannot be made the same for other organisations that make no attempt to align with their customers beliefs and values, instead choosing to push content and products on them that they don’t want or need. Or worse still use the technology to alter public opinion.

Focus

4IR is changing the world, the way we live, work, and express ourselves is shifting, as the line between reality and the online space blurs. Organizations that navigate this frontier successfully will be those that move and grow with a clear sense of shared values. Values practically applied to align with consumer and service user needs in a positive way, focusing on them as people and not as profit.

There are repercussions for developing the appropriate leadership skills and education and training systems in a world where skillset will become an increasingly transient commodity. There is also a shift from traditional organizations with fixed structures to ecosystems which are networks of organizations involved in the delivery of a specific product or service. Unexpected alliances are forged, sector boundaries blur, and long-standing strengths count for less.

SERVICEBRAND

This is where the SERVICEBRAND approach can create significant value because, irrespective of the various stakeholders, the focus remains: delivering a brand aligned customer experience through one team of brand ambassadors, supported by effective and robust systems and processes, and measurement and insight. The framework helps to keep technological advancement ‘in check’ and viewed as a support tool rather than one that takes on a life of its own.

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