Tag: organisational alignment

Customer Experience and Growth

Research into the value of understanding the customer experience is consistently returning findings that show a huge percentage of customers are willing to pay more to have a better, easier, and more comfortable experience with the brands and organizations they interact with.

It is not just the customers benefiting from more care and attention being placed into the customer experience. Studies also show a huge increase in revenue in the three years after organizations have implemented a successful customer experience strategy.

Despite the positive research results, it seems many organizations are still reluctant to embrace the idea of investing in a quality customer experience strategy.

What is CX?

Despite customer experience (CX) being spoken of as the next frontier in business growth, many leaders and organizations don’t fully understand just how many elements feed into the experience customers have when they interact with a business.

CX can be considered as the journey your customer takes from the moment they become aware of your brand, to the moment they decide they want no other service but yours. It used to be that advertising companies would convince the customer of their need for your offering. But with such a competitive market in the present day, the onus is now on the organization to offer the best experience possible to customer, to keep them loyal.

When organizations are offering slightly different versions of the same thing, the experience becomes the key and defining factor in purchase decisions. If you don’t have a CX strategy, you are leaving it to chance and randomization as to whether your customers are all having the same positive experience.

Service or experience?

It is easy to think that the terms customer experience and customer service are the same or interchangeable. But they aren’t.

While it is true that most customers will engage with an employee as their first port of call, perhaps making a telephone call, or speaking to a service agent or sales assistant, this service is not the whole experience. These interactions just allow time in the customer experience journey to offer great service and hopefully leave the customer feeling like they had a great experience of the brand.

Customer service is what happens ‘in the moment’. Customer experience is what happens throughout: the comments and suggestions from friends or family to try a place they have really loved; a built understanding in the head of the customer that this is the brand for them before they’ve even had their first physical interaction; a strong preconception that is then reinforced by the excellent service they receive.

Anton, an attendee at a workshop I delivered summed it up so well “A service you receive, an experience you take away.”

If the service doesn’t align with their desired experience, then you’ll lose a customer. It really is that simple. What you say you’ll do, matters.

But it is crucial to avoid the mistake of developing a CX strategy at the heart of your business, that is never supported nor trained into employee behaviour. In the Values Economy, customers believe their felt experience and the experiences of other customers than they believe the official corporate messaging. If what you say is not reinforced by the experience you deliver ‘on the ground’, at best, customers will be confused, and, at worst, they will feel intentionally misled.

Should I stay or should I go?

Building customer loyalty is one of the biggest challenges for any organization. It is often organic in nature and will only be successful in a sustained way with sound underpinning intention. Designing a CX strategy around cheap tricks or financial incentives to achieve customer loyalty might deliver results in the short term but this will only last for so long.

It is much better to design and create a strategy that studies and understands the needs of the customer, and then creates a pathway to bring them true joy.

When you think of businesses you have loyalty towards, is it really because of the product, or is it because of the service? There is a great deal of power in knowing that, whenever you interact with a brand, you are going to get the same experience. It is why people only stay in one hotel chain, have a favourite fast-food restaurant, go to the same brand of coffee shop in every place they visit.

Customers ask for very little in the way of experience, and give their loyalty in return. If your business hasn’t been honouring that loyalty, are your surprised that your customers are happy to leave?

SERVICEBRAND

At SERVICEBRAND Global, we believe that customer experience provides the life blood for any organization. Without customers, organizations do not exist. We help progressive leaders to create and implement CX strategies to understand where they are now and help them get to where they want to be… in practice. If you would benefit from help to put an effective CX strategy in place, why not see how the SERVICEBRAND approach can help your business.

Experience-led workplace design

Building customer experience (CX) can be a real challenge, it requires a great deal of data, understanding and the right application of insights about your customers’ desired outcomes. Not only this, but also how to create the kind of experience that leads customers to a better perception of your offering that they may not have had before.

“You have to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology” Steve Jobs

Experience-led design is not new, and most people will have experienced and benefitted from this approach using any Apple product, hence the Steve Jobs quote above. However, in commercial real estate, the ‘customer experience’ is often designed and delivered subsequently within the confines of the physical design.

There are clear and obvious disadvantages with this: imagine a new office with a beautifully designed reception desk but where there is a desire to reinforce personal service and a hosting style reception service with no barriers. The best results and least waste can only be achieved by designing the workplace customer experience first and then using this to inform the design of the built environment.

In practical terms, the first step is to create a strategic vision brief, articulating the purpose of the project, the values and brand concept and a high-level customer journey experience, covering all senses and the aspiration for how ‘customers’ will feel, what they will know and do. The built design and service delivery model can then flow from this starting point.

Well-being

Another dimension of customer experience in a workplace environment is the topic of well-being which has gained traction in the last 5 years or so – organizations are increasingly investing time and energy in this area. The well-being topic is wide ranging and covers a spectrum of topics from physical wellbeing (diet, hydration, exercise, sleep), an array of mental health issues, spiritual well-being (prayer facilities), employment factors (adequate pay and working hours), environmental factors (office design, ergonomics, biophilia, air quality, temperature, light and sound), social wellbeing (interaction and collaboration with colleagues), and even the benefit of an adrenalin rush.

Facilities management plays a key role because the function delivers so many of these wellbeing related services and facilities. The BCO’s 2018 research report, Wellness Matters, states that employee wellbeing is intricately linked to employee productivity and is boosted by spacious, naturally lit offices with good air quality and amenities.

Built environment

The scope of the physical design can also be extended to how different styles of workspaces can support different types of work (e.g. confidential calls, deep concentration, collaboration, creative thinking etc) and the importance of areas to take a break.

Some workspaces are designed deliberately to create specific traffic flows or impromptu ‘meetings’. I remember an office I visited in Johannesburg where the CEO had escalators installed as a central feature – wanting to avoid the silence he had witnessed between groups of employees when they used the elevators. There has been an increasing interest in biophilic office design: bringing the outdoors into the workplace and results in improved productivity, increased concentration levels, greater creativity, enhanced wellbeing, reduced absenteeism, increased productivity, and improved employee retention.

The cost versus investment perspective is well demonstrated by looking at the decision about whether to provide catering and/or kitchen space in an office. From a pure cost perspective, this is often a large area of expensive real estate, especially if the space is only fully used at lunch time. On the other hand, the space can be a highly effective vehicle for organizational communications, a potential area for collaboration and informal networking, a way to provide healthy food for employees and is convenient, avoiding any need for people to leave the building. As we are now learning, employees that have time to make and build friendships at work are far more productive than those that don’t.

We also know companies who do not have catering space because they have made a strategic decision to support the local business community. You can see that what might seem to be a simple decision at face value can involve a complex set of considerations and COVID-19 has added a whole new dimension with the office versus work from home (or elsewhere) dynamic.

Style

The final layer is the style of service delivery. The combination of the style of service, range of services and built environment are a strong message to employees and visitors about what is important to the organization, and we recommend to clients that the area of corporate real estate services is given sufficient focus and attention.

Research shows that workplaces that have been designed in tune with employee sentiment deliver a significant upswing in pride. There is a commonly held belief that people who experience a certain level of admiration derived from the efforts and achievements of their employer are more likely to become brand ambassadors for the company in question, and this can only go on to have a positive impact on a customer’s experience.

The new ‘workplace’

This area has taken on a whole new dimension now that the scope of ‘workplace’ has been extended by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are two fundamental developments:
1) For many office workers, the office is no longer the de facto place of work. The organization leaders in workplace need to consider how employees can be equipped to be as productive and fulfilled as possible, individually and collectively.
2) Because there is a viable, and often desirable alternative to the office, the organization leaders in workplace have a challenge to make the office a place that employees want to come to work … with experience-led workplace design.

SERVICEBRAND

At SERVICEBRAND Global, we believe in experience-led workplace design. Twenty years ago, I moved from the commercial hospitality sector (five-star hotels, conference centres and restaurants) and used this experience to implement experience-led workplace design with an award-winning One Team supply chain approach. If you are looking to improve the design and service delivery in your organization’s workplace to attract and retain talent and maximise productivity and fulfilment, let’s explore how SERVICEBRAND Global can help.
This blog is based on Chapter 19, Workplace from The Values Economy

What is SERVICEBRAND Global?

“Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.”
Arthur Ashe

This month marks the 17th anniversary of the creation of my company, SERVICEBRAND GLOBAL Ltd. The SERVICEBRAND journey started with a classic, corporate, defining moment or series of moments. By way of background and context, in 2002, a major global facilities management company were looking for a senior leader to develop the account for a Big Four bank and their UK office portfolio.

A key criterion for the appointment was a five-star hotel industry background. And since I had successfully turned around a five-star hotel and country club, uniquely delivering three consecutive all-green balanced scorecards and receiving recognition within the company and industry wide. I was excited to be offered the opportunity to transfer my skills across sectors from hotels to the workplace environment.

The assignment was an all-round success, founded on implementing a hotel style service delivery model for the collection of service partner companies involved and their combined total of 5,000 employees.

Commercially, the account grew from an £8m turnover catering contract to a £150m turnover multi-services contract. Industry recognition was received by way of a CoreNet Global Innovation Award and a service partner Customer Experience award from the bank.

Both the facilities management company and the bank were keen to explore a co-owned joint venture arrangement to scale the business proposition and take it to the open market, targeting major global contracts. The small management team were set to become shareholders and the business plan revenue numbers were in the billions of pounds.

Defining moments

First, there was a change of the facilities management company UK CEO. The incoming CEO, who had arrived from the international division of the organization sent a lengthy introduction open email to all employees explaining how he was going to create a successful future for the company. Within a week, he had left the business over an alleged historic scandal and the company chose to ‘batten down the hatches’ to focus on the core catering business. The embryonic new business concept was shut down before its first breath and my role was made redundant.

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” Epictetus

The beginning

It was August 2005, and the above experience was the encouragement to set up, for want of a better term, a management consultancy business. The decision was based more on intuition than on a considered business plan and was informed by the following:

• a personal passion for customer service, the importance of front-line people and creation of admired brands.
• success in several senior leadership roles, both with large corporate organizations and smaller entrepreneurial companies.
• experience at Managing Director/General Manager level with a deep understanding of operational delivery and several specialist support functions, particularly Marketing and HR as well as Sales, Finance, Health & Safety, Property Management, Revenue Management, and others.
• a wide network of business connections.
• a realization that frustration with the way in which decisions were made in large corporate organizations kept being repeated.
• a desire to work with progressive service organizations who wanted to be leaders in their market or sector.

The business name came easily. It needed to indicate a focus on people delivering great customer service and the strength of an organization’s brand identity. It needed to have potential to scale internationally and, ideally, would be a name with a unique quality. SERVICE BRAND GLOBAL was born, and quickly became SERVICEBRAND GLOBAL, and the invented word ‘SERVICEBRAND’ was registered as a trademark.

Initially, it seemed like a good idea to offer support and advice to senior leaders of service sector organizations in a wide range of areas to improve their businesses, but it soon became clear that this ‘jack of all trades’ approach was not compelling when people were usually seeking a solution to a specific challenge or problem.

A three-month contract to lead a cultural transformation for the corporate real estate division of an investment bank for their London office provided some thinking space to develop a more coherent, packaged, or productised service offering, rather than basing the proposition on personal expertise, knowledge, and service.

The creative thinking process to develop and articulate the offer was a replay of the approach used in various leadership roles over the previous twenty years. Significant business impact and success had been achieved repeatedly so the task was to draw out the common threads of how this had been achieved.

Core themes

One strong core theme was a combination of theory and practice: understanding the theory which helped to underpin successful practical outcomes, applying theory in practice and, finally, understanding the relationship between the two.

Personal experience of working with various business models or frameworks (e.g., EFQM Excellence model, Hospitality Assured, IiP, and the Service Profit chain) had also been beneficial. The key insight was the value of having an overarching organization framework to support general management of the business instead of allowing an approach more reliant on individual functions and the organization structure.

These frameworks helped to join up the functions of business horizontally and vertically i.e., actively involving all members of the team and keeping them focussed on the priorities for the business as a whole. Other areas which had helped to create improved business performance were putting in place various common operating systems and processes including communication channels and employing methods to capture measurement and insight.

Evolution

The concept development process helped to identify that the first time the SERVICEBRAND approach had been used in its (almost) full form was at the City of London’s leading conference venue in 1996 (yet without knowing it) and then at a five-star hotel and country club. There was more conscious application with the facilities management company operating one of the Big Four bank’s UK offices portfolio.

In the seventeen years since the ‘beginning’, the SERVICEBRAND approach has been refined and developed alongside the use of a set of associated tools, some proprietary and others in collaboration with partners. Various projects have been delivered at different levels across industry sectors.

At one end of the scale, the framework has been applied in its entirety in large corporate organizations on a global or regional basis with a variety of workstreams over a two to three-year period. At the other end of the scale, much smaller, sometimes single location organizations have chosen to focus on one ‘Element’ of the SERVICEBRAND approach and perhaps even one specific tool e.g. 31Practices.

What all of the clients in these organizations have in common, is a progressive mindset and a recognition that a values-driven approach to a team of brand ambassadors delivering a memorable customer experience can be an immensely powerful way to achieve sustained performance. Both larger and smaller projects have received industry awards.

In 2018, the word SERVICEBRAND became trademarked in US and in EU.

It has been quite a journey so far, time flies when you are having fun. And there are still more adventures to be had with a retreat concept, a customer experience training program partnership and a global visual arts initiative all forming!

Building a Community at Work

We are social beings and find isolation challenging. This simple statement is well understood, yet the damaging nature of a lack of interaction and connection with others seems underrepresented and underestimated.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic brought to the forefront issues of isolation and loneliness. It highlighted the stress we feel when our sense of community and connection is taken away. The impact can be immediate and is detrimental to varying degrees. Our mental health and sense of well-being is affected as well as our personal and professional relationships.

Hybrid work is now becoming a new reality for many organizations. So how can we build a sense of community among different people that aren’t necessarily inhabiting the same physical space?

Why stress matters

Stress comes in many forms and is a natural reaction to feeling threatened or under pressure. The great philosophers suggest we need a certain amount of eustress to feel pushed and driven to overcome the challenges of life. However, too much stress seriously impacts our health, both physical and mental.

We might feel anxious, doubt our self-worth, feel irritable and be unpleasant to be around. All these things affect our ability to work well in teams and further push us towards greater isolation and loneliness. Loneliness and lack of connection are distressing, causing greater levels of stress that, in turn, create behaviours that result in further isolation. It is a vicious downward spiral.

Even before the Covid pandemic, stress related illnesses were a leading cause of hospital admissions in the UK, costing over £8bn in 2019.

Getting connected

In a pre-pandemic world, in countries like UK, we are likely to spend 9 and half years over the course of our lifetimes in the company of the people we work with. If workplaces no longer provide this connection, we will become distanced from one another. The part of us that desires a sense of community, that doesn’t want to be isolated, might start to feel stressed in this situation.

Good company culture isn’t just about employees doing a job. Its about connecting employees to an overarching sense of meaning and purpose, that makes them valued, involved, and fulfilled, while working with others to achieve a goal.

There is nothing wrong with having a strong individual work ethic. Some people are better equipped to work alone. But individualism has its limitations. No matter how frequently you might hear workplace rhetoric about being ‘the only person for the job’ or ‘doing it myself, because others won’t get it right’, ultimately, performance is delivered by people working with other people.

Building community

Building community within any organization is about more than an office pizza day or a zoom coffee morning check in session. Henry Mintzberg highlights the importance of ‘communityship’ Rebuilding Companies as Communities (hbr.org) and shares these lessons:

1. Community building in an organization may best begin with small groups of committed managers.

2. The sense of community takes root as the managers in these groups reflect on the experiences they have shared in the organization.

3. The insights generated by these reflections naturally trigger small initiatives that can grow into big strategies.

4. As these initial teams promote change, they become examples for other groups that spread communityship throughout the organization.

5. An organization knows that communityship is firmly established when its members reach out in socially active, responsible, and mutually beneficial ways to the broader community.

In summary, Minzberg refers to a healthy society balancing leadership, communityship, and citizenship.

I can relate this concept of communityship to several roles in corporate organizations and cultural transformation projects. In all these situations, the goal was to create a strong sense of community spirit, for every member of the team to feel a sense of belonging and value, and to be proud of what the team was achieving. There were several pillars that enabled this. They might have looked different for different situations but shared these common underpinnings:

1. A clear, well communicated statement of the team vision
2. The importance of every person’s contribution
3. Interdependence
4. Everybody had a voice even if not everyone could decide
5. Acknowledgement of the person (not just the role they performed)
6. Respect and support collective decisions (even if you do not agree personally)
7. Recognise and celebrate achievements
8. Share disappointments and learn for next time
9. Equity and no ‘seniority privilege’

These principles have been applied and been effective in a single business unit, multi-site organizations, a large global organization in different locations around the world and even in ‘extended team’ settings such as supply chain service partner groups.

This collection of research in the area will be an interesting follow on read for those who are curious to know more Workplace Communities: The Research (cultivateall.com)

SERVICEBRAND

At SERVICEBRAND Global, we believe in creating a sense of community in organizations. The SERVICEBRAND approach and associated tools and techniques enable this. When your business runs in an interconnected way, your employees will be happier, more motivated, and far more efficient and productive. They will be loyal and proud ambassadors for your business. If you are struggling to build a strong company community, why not see what SERVICEBRAND Global can do for you?

Engaging Employees

“When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.” – Simon Sinek

Everybody has days of low motivation and energy from time to time. But in some organizations, for many employees this is the norm rather than the exception. They are content to set themselves on autopilot – not to do bad work, but not focused, engaged or directed to excel either.

It is not that disengaged employees are intentional in their desire to reduce your organization’s efficiency, reputation, and profitability. They just aren’t motivated and passionately engaged to give their best.

The Plague of disengagement

When have you experienced that contagious feeling of disengagement? It might have been as a customer, dealing with a disengaged employee, or as an employee yourself, perhaps excited to begin a new role, only to discover that your colleagues are not as engaged or connected to fulfilling the same purpose.

In these moments, the lack of motivation and engagement is palpable, and spreads easily. It can spread seeds of doubt, dash hopes and make people reconsider and re-evaluate their choices. People become less focused on being the kind of employee they thought they’d have the opportunity to be, instead focusing more on if their choices are right, or even if they matter. Disengagement is powerful and not to be underestimated.

Why engagement matters

Having the ‘right’ people is only as good as their level of engagement, motivation and alignment with your organization’s purpose and values. When your employees are engaged, they stand ready to do more than just the bare minimum. They will be excited to face challenges, to innovate and foster creativity, all the while having a high level of pride in the work they do.

One third of employees are leaving their jobs to seek new challenges that better engage, motivate, and align with their values. If you don’t take action to address how you are engaging your own, your top talent will leave in search of a more meaningful existence.

Engaged employees are around 21% more efficient and productive than their disengaged counterparts. This translates to tremendous added value in terms of performance, efficiency, profitability, retention, and customer satisfaction.

Employee Experience

Employees are organizational stakeholders in the same way as customers are. In both cases the objectives from the organization’s perspective are similar: attract and retain, engage, make productive, and create advocates of the organization. The term employee experience and the abbreviation Exis being used increasingly in a similar way to the use of CX was adopted in the field of Customer Experience. In Chapter 7, Employee Engagement in our book The Values Economy, How to Deliver Purpose-Driven Service for Sustained Performance we identify eleven stages of the EX. In the SERVICEBRAND approach a critical feature is the alignment of brand identity with employee engagement because, just as with customers, the employee experience does not exist in a vacuum. The experience is more relevant and meaningful when it is rooted in the organization’s brand identity.

Appreciation

In my experience, the best return on investment in business is appreciation (including recognition). When employees feel appreciated, the levels of engagement, happiness, and productivity increase, sometimes dramatically.

Appreciation (and recognition) works best when it is intrinsic. This is not to say that you should not consider some form of financial or material reward, but this should not be the dominant element. It also needs to be proportionate, so, if your company achieves record profits because of your employees’ hard work, consider how to express your appreciation of their efforts. This can be from a whole range of options from a personal thank you from the CEO, some form of team based ‘reward’ or more tangible compensation and benefits ideas.

The role of hierarchy is an interesting area. There is often a focus on recognition from senior leaders and we know that this instils a great sense of pride. On the other hand, if you want to boost your employee engagement, encourage peer to peer recognition. This will incentivise your employees to support one another, feel more connected, and be more engaged with the organization as a whole.

Peer to peer recognition frees senior management from being the gatekeepers of praise, and highlights behaviour that is valued ‘on the ground’.

Finally, people have an excellent ability to sniff out disingenuousness. If you aren’t being authentic with your thanks and backing this up with credible action, your employees disengagement can slide from passively unmotivated to actively malicious. The bottom line is to express appreciation for your people, or they’ll seek it elsewhere.

SERVICEBRAND

At SERVICEBRAND Global, we believe in engagement as a powerful tool for productivity, employee satisfaction and retention. Why not see how the SERVICEBRAND approach could be tailored to help the leaders in your organization to build a more satisfied, engaged and productive workforce?

Values as a Competitive Differentiator

“Authentic brands don’t emerge from marketing cubicles or advertising agencies. They emanate from everything the company does…” Howard Schultz, Pour Your Heart into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time

It is no secret that we live in an oversaturated market for many products and services. Every day, businesses and organizations compete for our attention. We are constantly bombarded by advertisements, product placement and subliminal messaging.

As a result, the majority of us forget a brand’s advertising attempts within three days of seeing it. The functionality of intelligent tools that let us search for whatever we need, whenever we need it, also plays a roll in this mass forgetting. We don’t need to remember where anything was or if it was good, because we have tools to access all that information.

So, if people aren’t really connecting to the branding and marketing for your products and services, how can you maintain their loyalty for the long term?

Setting up for success

Brand awareness can be complicated to measure correctly. Especially if you are unsure about what to measure in the first place, or how to properly extract meaningful insights from the data you gather.

Your connection to your customers and service users is about more than the product or service you are trying to sell them. People need a sense of feeling that they can connect with. They like to feel like their purchasing decisions matter and are more likely to support organizations whose values align closely with their own.

Do you know what your organization values? Is there a set of well thought out and simply defined values that are core to the way you do business? Critically, are those values communicated in a consistent way, not just verbally, but in every action and behaviour across the organization?

Benefits of knowing your Values

There is near limitless choice for customers. Anything we want we can get, and from multiple organizations.

We are motivated by story lines and remember them far longer, for the way they made us feel, than if we are told a series of facts about the product or service. The cost or functionality of a product or service can be replicated easily by competitors. When your organizational values are the foundation of every interaction your customers will have with you, they become a powerful differentiator which is not easily copied.

Consistency is key

Having values that set you apart is only as good as your ability to send that message to your customers and other stakeholders in a consistent way. The experience someone is having of your organization should reflect your values in action and behaviour and it should be the same at every point of service. As you can imagine, this is no easy task, but when your organization gets this right, it will help you to improve stakeholder loyalty and performance and drive sustained profitability.

Finding the flow

Imagine a time when everyone in your organization is in full alignment with your values. Your employees don’t have to wait or go through countless steps of approval before acting. They embody and live your organizational values in every moment of their working day. They are clear about the behaviours expected and what is not acceptable. They are trusted to do the right thing without micromanagement.

The key to achieving this outcome is alignment across the areas of Brand Identity, Employee Engagement and Customer Experience, supported by Systems & Processes and Measurement & Insight. This is the SERVICEBRAND approach which has delivered measurable success across a balanced scorecard of business measures for organizations in different sectors, of different sizes and in different geographies.

SERVICEBRAND

At SERVICEBRAND Global, we believe that your organizational values set you apart. We can help you figure out the values sitting at the heart of your mission and show you how to bring these to life with all stakeholders. When used well, values can build transform business performance. Why not see what we can do for you?

Tools to Manage Customer Unhappiness

Is it admirable to pursue a business model or strategic plan that aims to ensure all your customers are happy all the time? Or is this approach unrealistic, leaving your organization open to criticism and self-doubt when faced with genuine customer dissatisfaction and unhappiness?

It is perfectly natural for customers and service users to be upset, frustrated, or annoyed from time to time. Sometimes this will be because of a specific incident with your organization. Other times, their interaction with you, was merely the last straw, before they reached their tipping point. The building frustration might have been caused just by your organization or by your organization and others. And sometimes, the issue might be related to other factors the customer is dealing with that has nothing at all to do with your organization.

Managing the unhappiness of others is complicated enough at a personal level, let alone in a professional setting. Knowing how to de-escalate difficult situations, with understanding, empathy, and emotional intelligence, gives the best chance of even the most unhappy customers being willing to give you another chance and remain loyal to your brand. To encourage you to strive for this, research indicates that customers who have had a problem resolved well are more loyal than customers who have had no issue in the first place.

What not to do

We have all had a bad customer experience and you can probably think of recent examples with little effort. Some businesses and brands seem to have a mindset that you can’t please everyone and don’t try very hard to mitigate customer unhappiness (anyone thinking budget airlines here?)

“Expectation is the root of all heartache.” This explains why we feel unhappiness to a greater degree when let down personally or by an organization or service that we believed had good character. Our values play a key role in how we align ourselves to others. When something we trusted to behave a certain way lets us down, we feel that far more acutely than with an organization we know has a poor track record.

Set the tone

It is often the case that we don’t recognise what matters to us until we feel the lack of it. Empathy is one such critical value, whose absence is felt deeply. 83% of people want to feel connected with organizations in a compassionate and empathic way. Lack of empathy is cited as a motivating factor in switching business to a competitor.

Before you can resolve any potential issues, your customers must be able to trust that you will listen to them when they try to voice their dissatisfaction. Becoming confrontational, adversarial, aggressive, or rude to customers that are unhappy, risks losing them forever. One way to communicate this within the organization is that complaints, dissatisfaction, and constructive criticism are precious and welcomed. This feedback is what helps the organization to improve the service delivered to customers. If you know about it, you can take action. If you don’t know, you cannot take action. The following six step model has been used in demanding customer service environments with remarkable results:

Listen

The first step in dealing with an unhappy customer is to listen to them. Don’t talk over them, rush them, or immediately try to prove why they are wrong. Foster a deeper understanding by truly listening to why they feel so hurt and unhappy.

When people feel heard, they feel valued. A customer that feels valued and understood is far more likely to be forgiving and remain loyal to you. Keep yourself open to hearing their truth. We all interpret truth in different ways. Even if you immediately know the customer is mistaken, they will likely have been holding a great deal of tension around talking with you. If you cut them off before they can explain and release it, that angry, sadness and frustration are likely to come out anyway, often directed towards the customer service agent or call handler instead.

Empathize
Once you have listened to the customer and understood how they feel about the situation, you can show empathy. Put yourself in their shoes. Demonstrate how you care about their feelings and the situation and want to help them. Customers respond to honesty. When you act with humility and understanding, it becomes easier for them to understand that even if you aren’t sure, you are actively willing to help them resolve their issue. It shows you care and will work to achieve the best possible outcome for them.

Apologize
This does not mean that you and your organization are accepting responsibility for every situation. It is your apology for the customer experiencing an unpleasant situation with negative emotions. Of course, if your organization is clearly at fault, it is best to own up to this.

React
Respond quickly, so that customers feel someone is watching out for them. Even a simple acknowledgement to buy time to diagnose the customer’s issue can help. Second, don’t shy away from responding to unhappy customers, even if you can’t immediately resolve their issue. Finally, even small gestures such as having agents sign their names or initials creates immediate value for your business. How Customer Service Can Turn Angry Customers into Loyal Ones

Notify
It is of limited benefit for customer issues to be resolved, even successfully, if other customers continue to experience similar problems. There needs to be a process in the organization to capture the details of what has happened, identify the root cause and take corrective action.
It can also be helpful to notify the customer of the improvements made so that they understand how the issue they raised has been dealt with and other customers will not have the same poor experience.

The above approach is referred to as the LEARN model and at a working session with a group of hospitality managers one of the attendees suggested a final additional step which has been added to form the LEARNT model. This is to thank the customer for raising the matter in the first place, expressing the importance of knowing about issues so that action can be taken.

SERVICEBRAND

At SERVICEBRAND Global we believe in dealing with customer unhappiness and frustration in an open, empathic, and honest way. We recognise the importance of customer loyalty and consider lifetime value rather than focus on short term costs. We also strive for customers to play the role of advocates for organizations rather than the role of a saboteur. This is of particular importance in our super connected world of the internet and social media where customers can communicate their thoughts and feelings in a heartbeat to millions oof people around the world…. And you have no idea of their reach.

You might be experiencing high levels of customer complaints or low levels of customer loyalty. Or you just might be curious to know what the positive impact on business performance could be of improved customer service and loyalty. Either way, get in touch to see how we could help you build better practices in your organization.

Cultural Alignment


Understanding the terminology around Culture, Values and Alignment can be a challenge. This is a highly subjective area and, as such, every leader, employee, service partner and customer might have a different perspective on what certain words mean and which behaviours are appropriate or not.

Can your Values align with that of the organization without being a cultural fit? Or do you have to fit in with the company culture to be aligned with the organization?

What do you mean?

Being a cultural fit can be interpreted in different ways, but at its heart, the meaning is about how well an individual fits in with the rest of the organization, while retaining their authentic and normal self. The trouble starts when different individuals champion their understanding of what fits as the only right way or feel forced to change their everyday behaviours to fit in with other people.

It is a fine balance, but the bottom line is that speaking to the nature of your culture doesn’t make it so. This is especially the case if customers and employees are having a different experience entirely.
On the one hand, leaning too heavily on one idea of what organizational culture should be can cause problems. Sometimes it helps to investigate the true personality or nature of the organization’s culture from all perspectives. On the other hand, leadership need to grasp that it is their responsibility to create the desired culture and can have a strong influence. We love the quote from Steve Gruenert and Todd Whitaker that “The culture of any organization is shaped by the worst behavior the leader is willing to tolerate.”

The right people

The happier and more connected employees feel while working, the more likely they are to remain with your organization and to be consistently productive. Just because someone is occupying physical space doesn’t mean they are interested or engaged to be there. Take the time to find people that really connect with and love what they are doing. It is not rocket science that this investment of time is paid back over and over again.

Employees that aren’t a good cultural fit can also be damaging to the overall health of the organization. When people don’t mesh well together, conflict and toxic behaviours arise that can spread quickly. In a short time, there can be a widespread bad feeling about engaging with the business, even with those who are a good cultural fit.

What culture fit isn’t

Organizations seeking to create culture-based hiring strategies often look to the skills and personalities of their ‘successful’ (through one lens of success) people. They think it will be a simple process to identify those traits and then match external applicants against them.

The big problem with basing culture fit on skills and personality is that you end up with carbon copy employees that think and act in incredibly similar ways. Diversity is a proven generator of innovation. Having a wide mix of differing personalities, skills, and abilities, creates the ideal melting pot for continued growth and longevity within an organization.

Desiring a specific kind of culture, should never amount to creating barriers that certain people cannot pass. When companies like Abercrombie and Fitch for example created their ‘look policy’ a toxic culture of exclusion was created for anyone that didn’t fit that mould. Now this policy has finally been removed, it opens the way for innovators to rebuild the brand into something that can be enjoyed by everyone.

The Value of Values

So, if designing culture around personality can lead to problems, and the same is true for skills, what can you do?

Values are the best starting point for any cultural design. When you study and understand what it is you truly Value and how your organization wants to bring that Value to the world, you create the perfect beacon with which to attract other likeminded people to share in your vision.

People can share common Values while embodying a multitude of different skills and personality types. If your organization designs its cultural fit around Values alignment, you’ll end up with the best people for you, all working towards a common goal.

In this way the gender divide, the age gap, reductive beliefs around people with disabilities in the workplace, all fall away in pursuit of finding people that live the way of being you value the most.

SERVICEBRAND

At SERVICEBRAND Global, we believe in placing Values at the heart of everything an organization does. Whether you already know what your Values are, or if you are at the beginning of your journey and would like to identify your values, we can assist in the creation and implementation of strategic designs that see your organization create the best cultural alignment possible. The key is alignment across the organization, vertically and horizontally. We have specific proven tools and approaches to do this. If you are stuck in a toxic situation or just wish to understand a bit more about the Value of Values, why not connect with us and see what we can do for you?

Sustainable Organizations and Values

“A sustainable business is resource efficient, respects the environment and is a good neighbor.” (Phil Harding )

The word ‘sustainability’ is often used with reference to renewable fuel sources, reducing carbon emissions, protecting environments, and keeping the delicate ecosystems of our planet in balance. Our 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.

There is no universally agreed definition of what sustainability means. There are many different views on what it is and how it can be achieved. The idea of sustainability stems from the concept of sustainable development, which became common language at the world’s first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The original definition of sustainable development, according to the Brundtland Report of 1987, 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.” Since then, 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, etc. – and some people consider the planet to be another stakeholder).

Sustainability on the move

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 2020 had almost double the coverage compared to November 2019. Investors are anticipated to spend $1 billion 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. In June 2020, global giants Google and WWF announced details of their environmental data platform, a joint initiative that 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.

The triple bottom line theory expands the traditional accounting framework to include two other performance areas: the social and environmental impacts of a company. These three bottom lines are often referred to as the three P’s: people, planet, and profit. B Corps are businesses that give as much consideration to their social and environmental impact as they do to their financial returns. B Corporation certification (assessed by the not-for-profit B Lab) is given to for-profit organizations that achieve at least a minimum score against a set of social and environmental standards. B Corps have been around in the USA since 2007, with brands such as Ben & Jerry’s and Patagonia achieving certification.

To date, there are over 3,000 Certified B Corps in 150 industries and 70 countries, and over 70,000 companies use the B Impact Assessment. B Lab was named in Fast Company’s prestigious annual list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies for 2020, landing at number five in the not-for-profit sector list. Since UK B Corps was launched in 2015, members have experienced an average 14% year-on-year growth rate (national economic growth 0.5%).
Values are the key

We believe that the reason this movement and B Corp companies perform so well is because they are creating a sense of shared values with all stakeholders, especially customers and employees. There is a growing body of research showing that there is a strong link between financial performance and values-driven organizations.

“Without exception, the dominance and coherence of culture proved to be an essential quality of the excellent companies.” (Tom Peters and Robert Waterman )

The key point here is that values must be alive to add value. We use the phrase ‘values are for living, not laminating’ because all too often in organizations, values are just words (and the same ones from one organization to the next) but they do not translate into practices or ‘the way things work around here.’ A recent study revealed that there is no correlation between the cultural values a company emphasizes in its published statements and how well the company lives up to those values in the eyes of employees. The SERVICEBRAND framework helps to make this happen at several levels:

• The Brand Identity Element identifies the organization’s purpose and values
• The activities in the Employee Engagement and Customer Experience Elements are explicitly informed by the purpose and values
• The activities in the Systems & Processes Element are consciously designed to support the first three Elements
• The Measurement & Insight Element helps to identify a range of whole-system metrics to monitor, assess and guide performance

This is how using the SERVICEBRAND approach can help to deliver sustained performance over time.
What implications does the topic of sustainability have for your implementation of the SERVICEBRAND approach and each of the five Elements? What opportunities does it present? What challenges and obstacles will you need to overcome?

SERVICEBRAND

If you are struggling and battling with the creation of sustainable strategies and processes, why not see what SERVICEBRAND Global can do to help. We believe in connecting people with their true values so they can be of service to the world around them, while still turning a profit.

Organizational Alignment and Growth

Organizations are becoming more aware of the value alignment can bring in increasing profitability, employee retention and customer satisfaction. Research suggests that highly aligned organizations are 72% more profitable and grow revenue 58% faster than non-aligned ones. When your strategic plan, company culture, employees and customers are all aligned with your purpose and values, the chances of growth are significantly enhanced.

So how do you choose which area to focus on first? Knowing where to start building alignment can be a challenge.

Slow down to arrest momentum

Understandably, many leaders start with energy and enthusiasm to develop new strategies to create improved alignment. However, one area that is frequently overlooked is the impact of the ‘status quo’. How are your current strategic plans affecting organizational culture, customer experience and employee engagement? If misaligned strategies have been pulling your business off course, it is important to deal with these. ‘There’s no point hoisting new sails if you’re still laying anchor.’

The key here is to understand the impact of a change in one specific area on other parts of the organization. For example, if you put in place a productivity initiative to enable call centre team members to handle more calls, what is the knock-on impact on their behaviour and, ultimately customer perception/satisfaction?

When you begin to understand the interplay between all parts of your organization, it makes it easier to identify points of friction and drag. These challenges can be expensive in terms of money, time, effort, morale, and employee turnover and impede growth and development of the organization.

Building on strategies

Having a clear strategy will help provide direction for everybody in the organization. A focus on the purpose and values of the business will provide a strong foundation to build a strategy on. It will create a compelling reason for employees to want to work with you, and for customers and service users to want to engage with you. However, an inspiring vision on its own is not enough. It must be supported with a strategic plan that is believable and achievable.

There will be issues with an alignment approach if leaders are not honest and transparent about their motivating factors. For example, it is fine to have a focus on profitability but, if this is the case, avoid stating your vision and purpose as being one of service to the community just because you are trying to create a harmonious and aligned culture.

Take time to consider deeply what it is you are offering, and why. When you truly know the why, finding people that are interested in achieving that same purpose will become easier. Once employees are in alignment with your purpose and values, they can become the best sales force and brand ambassadors you could ask for.

Alignment and Culture

One of the reasons alignment fails is the lack of harmony between the espoused culture employees and customers think they are engaging with and how things operate in reality. Time should be taken to capture measurement and insight about the perceptions of various stakeholder groups (customers, employees, service partners, investors, local communities) and their behaviour (through monitoring and observation).

Organization culture exists, whether this is by default or by conscious design, is up to you. How can you expect to scale your business as successfully as brands like McDonalds or Starbucks, if you don’t understand how everything is planned? Why would anybody expect to create alignment, assist flow, and make scaling and growth a natural and inevitable result, rather than something that is a constant struggle?

High performance needs high performers

Growth comes when we find the right people to tend to our vision. People that share the same or similar ideals and values to us, that can find a home and purpose by aligning themselves with our organisation.

Values are difficult to teach. It is far easy to make it clear what you stand for and let people who feel the same come to you. How you attract employees and engage them will play a key role in driving their performance and thus your growth. If you’re company culture or strategic planning are lacking, alignment will quickly dip, as the employee realises your organisation isn’t the beacon, they had been looking for to help achieve their own desires for a meaningful and purposeful life.

SERVICEBRAND

At SERVICEBRAND GLOBAL, we believe in fully understanding the relationship between alignment and growth. We want to help organizations understand what is holding them back and how to create strategies, cultures and performance that will keep them on the cutting edge of their chosen industry. If you are looking for help in understanding how to elevate your organization to one of consistent alignment and growth, why not see what we can do for you?

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