Tag: Representation

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.

Awareness: Part 1

Every human has four endowments – self-awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom… The power to choose, to respond, to change.
Stephen R. Covey

I had been ‘casually interested’ in the topic of NLP for several years and decided to attend an ‘Introduction to NLP’ session led by the wonderful Steve Payne. At the time, the co-authored book The 31 Practices had been published (to rave reviews 😊) and I had started to develop the my31Practices approach to help people translate their core values into day to day behaviour.

As I took my place at the beginning of Steve’s session, it crossed my mind that he might be interested to review the book through an NLP lens. By the lunch break, because everything that Steve had spoken about was so aligned to the my31Practices approach, I found myself suggesting the idea that we co-author the My 31 Practices book and this is what happened! This blog is based on Chapter 18 Awareness from the book.

Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is a way of changing a person’s thoughts and behaviours by bringing attention to their perceptions of the world. NLP is the science behind practices like mindfulness.

In NLP, awareness and something called calibration often go hand-in-hand. Calibration is described by NLP co-creator, John Grinder, as noticing change.


The awareness, calibration, and feedback loop

You cannot calibrate change without first being aware of what is changing. Awareness can be static whereas calibration has a more dynamic element to it. The figure above shows that without awareness and calibration, feedback is not possible.

For example, if you meet someone and his or her expression is neutral, you may “sense” or be aware of this neutrality. If this person then asks you who you are and you explain that you know a good friend of theirs, they may then become more open and perhaps start to smile.

You are likely to notice this change in their physiology and expression from neutrality to smile. In NLP, this dynamic awareness is referred to as calibration. In this example, as you realize the person is more engaged with you, you may begin to feel more relaxed. This relaxation is the result of the feedback you have given yourself based on what you have noticed about the situation and how it changed.

Robert Dilts developed a model as “a simple means to identify the key behavioural cues used by NLP to summarize the internal processes of others”. This model can help you communicate more effectively by raising awareness of internal shifts or processing in others by noticing their external cues. Noticing these shifts enables you to adapt your behaviour in order to communicate more effectively.

The model is known as the B.A.G.E.L. Model and consists of paying attention to the following:

• Body Posture – how you sit, or stand can indicate the level of tension you are carrying. In addition, the position of the head can indicate if you are processing particular information: tilted upward – visual; cocked to one side – sounds; tilted down – feelings.

• Accessing Cues – NLP Eye Accessing Cues posit that your eye movements can indicate whether you are processing images, sounds or feelings

• Gestures – gestures made above eye-level can indicate visual processing, gestures to the mouth, ears or jaw can indicate auditory processing and gestures to the chest, stomach or below the neck can indicate the processing of feelings

• Eye movements – automatic and unconscious eye movements can indicate visual, auditory, or kinaesthetic processing

• Language Patterns – the words you use can indicate more visual (see), auditory (hear) or kinaesthetic (feel) processing

The link between intention and awareness

The cognitive psychologist, George A Miller, proposed that we can only be aware of between five and seven bits of information at any moment of time. If we overload the seven +/- two, if we add more information to what we are consciously processing, something has to drop out.

Take the example of a waiter or waitress in a restaurant. They may have a long list of special orders for the day. As they begin to go through their list, which they may have repeated numerous times earlier that day, notice what happens if you suddenly interrupt them with an unrelated question, such as commenting on what they are wearing.

Usually this throws them so that they forget what they were saying or where they were in their list because you have put a whole new set of thoughts into their conscious awareness. What about you? Has anyone ever distracted you by asking a question unrelated to what you were doing and then suddenly you forgot what you were doing? This is a product of our conscious mind’s limited ability to process multiple tasks.

As the conscious mind is limited in its capacity to process information, there are some things that we simply cannot be aware of in any one moment. When we set an intention, we tend to focus on what is connected to the intention and we are not aware of other things. This certainly helps us focus and at the same time produces blind spots in our awareness.

When you are aligned with what is important to you (your values), your physiology, tonality and words are all saying the same thing. You walk the talk. You are congruent. When your physiology, tone and words are giving mixed messages, it could be that there is something that is not aligned, and you can explore what that is and act.

SERVICEBRAND

At SERVICEBRAND we believe understanding awareness is critical to healthy and positive self-development. (More detailed information about this can found in chapter 18 of the My31Practices book.) Many of the complex issues effecting organizations, stem from a lack of awareness around our behavioural impacts on those we work with and serve. If you are struggling to set the right tone and intention for your business, SERVICEBRAND Global can help.

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?

How to Deliver Sustained CX Performance

“You must get involved to have an impact. No one is impressed with the won-lost record of the referee.” ~Napoleon Hill

Customer Experience (CX) is about more than designing how you engage technically with your customers. It needs to focus on how each customer or service user feels about your organization. It is good to remember that, without customers, your organization would not exist.

The organization matters in its entirety, from the boardroom to the front line end even beyond, to service partner organizations, local communities and investors. A singular focus on CX can lead to poor employee engagement. Similarly, the most brilliant employee engagement strategy in isolation will not work. Achieving alignment across all areas, understanding the organization as one single entity, rather than a series of silos, is a critical step on the path to delivering sustained performance.

Never stop measuring

It sounds obvious, but many organizations miss out on vital data and understanding because of a lack of systems and processes to measure, track and improve the experience of everyone that has contact with the organization.

‘Measurement and insight are expensive.’ is often used as a reason or excuse for a lack of customer data. But this pure cost perspective misses the point because it is the value of this data that needs to be recognised. CX data is a critical component of understanding the financial health of the business. It can provide insight into how to sustain, scale and grow your business.

Measuring and understanding CX might seem expensive and time consuming, but the value of the data is priceless. Imagine creating a customer experience journey so that any problems that arise are flagged in real time, and dealt with immediately, before they can negatively impact your brand reputation. By continuously collecting and measuring data, you can deepen and widen your measurement pool. There is a caveat, always remember that data is only useful if it is used to make decisions. There is no value in collecting data for the sake of it. What decisions does your organization make with the CX data collected?

Little and often

It can be hard to know where to begin, there are so many different metrics to measure, how will you know which ones matter?

You won’t. Not until you start measuring, capturing, analysing and making decisions. Then it will become clear which data is useful in creating successful CX strategies and which is superfluous.

If you are really struggling, begin with direct customer feedback. Consider carefully how best to collect this information because the method will vary according to the setting, organization and context. This might be a customer survey in a hotel or restaurant (hard copy, electronic or QR code), it could be a push button smiley face rating as you leave the security area at an airport and some organizations hold customer events to proactively seek feedback in a less structured format. Any time a customer or service user engages with you, feedback about their experience is valuable, what was great and what could have been better.

If you can make this an integral part of the service delivery, customers will feel engaged and you will keep your fingers on the pulse of your organization. Once again, there is an alarm bell to be aware of: always think from the customer perspective eg customers might not appreciate being requested to complete a survey every time they use their credit or debit card!

Anonymous or not?

We don’t believe there is a right or wrong answer here. The focus needs to be on receiving honest feedback and there might be a place for both anonymous and attributed feedback. For example, in this age of social media, sometimes customers want a very public resolution to their issues, queries, and complaints. In this situation, the faster and more personally you deal with the situation, the better your customer’s experience is likely to be and other people will have a positive view of your organization.

On the other hand, some customers are reluctant to confront issues they find uncomfortable, and this is where anonymous ways to give feedback can be helpful. Take for example a regular guest at a global hotel chain. They might like the chain, generally but have issues with the behaviour of some service personnel in certain hotels. Having a way to share their feelings, without it becoming personal or facing reprisals, will give customers the courage to speak honestly about their experiences.

Happy employees make for happy customers

J. Willard Marriott said “Take good care of your employees, and they’ll take good care of your customers”. One of the best ways to improve customer experience, is to ensure your employees are happy and engaged. The feedback principles used for CX are just as relevant here. Survey and meet with your employees frequently, formally and less formally. Ensuring their feel heard and valued, will enable them to communicate that same feeling to every customer they meet.

SERVICEBRAND

At SERVICEBRAND Global, we believe in an all-encompassing approach to customer experience strategy. If you are struggling with aligning the whole of your business or just want to improve one area such as measurement and insight, get in touch to see how we might help you develop your customer experience strategy.

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.

Jumpstarting Customer Trust

Building customer loyalty requires trust. On the surface this sounds simple and the anonymous quote “Trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair” reinforces this one-dimensional approach. Here, we will explore why trust is important but more complex than is often portrayed.

The power of the customer

While the act of selling a product or service has become intensely personal, the reputation of your organization is still a collectively understood entity. The impact of how you treat and respect your customers is not limited to their own purchasing behaviour. It can also spread to existing and potential new customers via reviews and word of mouth. The internet and social media have turned up the volume regarding communication. We can now share our feelings and comments with millions of people all over the world in a heartbeat.

Developing a trusting relationship with your customers and service users is made even more difficult by the ever-changing nature of the customer market. Mass-marketing started in the 1980’s, where organizations hired advertisers to convince the consumer of their needs and desires. This has been replaced to a certain extent with more tailored, individual, and personalised customer experiences.

So how do you get customers to trust you, when by their very nature, they all have different ideals and expectations of the services they seek?

Putting the customer first

Over 75% of customers and service users expect a personal service when engaging with any brand or organization, not only during their first interaction, but in all subsequent ones. Using outsourced, cheap AI, or call centres, shows a lack of desire to create a customer first, service driven business.
More money is lost every year through ‘money saving’ schemes and cost-cut outsourcing than would be lost over the lifetime of an organization that focused on building lifelong loyalty from fewer, but trusted customers. You might gain substantial profits in the short term, but these businesses rarely have real long-term viability.

Hiring employees that are customer focused and customer friendly is key. Yes, every customer might have different desires. Well trained and adaptable customer facing employees can create a bond with each individual customer.

If customers and service users can’t get in touch with your organization, can’t log or register complaints, or can’t get their queries resolved easily, don’t be fooled by the silence. These customers might never use your service again, they might become negative ambassadors, actively talking down your business to everyone they meet.

Take care with your data collection strategy. What message are you sending if, for example, you don’t give customers the ability to customize the data you collect from them, or the ability to decide which tracking cookies can follow them around the internet after using your service? It might appear that your ability to mine personal information is more important to you than the customers’ awareness, choice and privacy. If, on the other hand, you are open and provide clear choices, and behave appropriately with the information, the customer will begin to develop a trusting bond with you.

The customer is always right

This is not in the sense that you should always do everything your customers demand. However, 9 in 10 people trust what other customers say about an organization, more than what the organization says about itself. Customers are therefore potential brand ambassadors… as well as potential brand destroyers.

This is why it is so important to collect customer and service user feedback and be transparent with this information. Your customers can trust you have nothing to hide.

The good and bad, reflect the true experience each customer has had with your organization. In some cases, it might have been a one-off, in others it might indicate a further ingrained systemic issues that needs to be trained out.

Either way, by championing transparency, customers are more likely to trust you. Especially if they have had a really positive experience despite a few negative reviews, it will communicate that you actively listen, address, and resolve those issues for future customers.

Some businesses are tempted to manufacture or ‘manage’ the feedback, but, once again, the truth will get out, probably faster than you thought possible, and where will that leave your customers’ levels of trust?

The wrinkle

We believe that the impact of time on trust is overstated. Instead, the key driver is the quality of trust gained and trust lost.

Also, reputation and trust are often confused. Having a “good reputation” doesn’t say much about trust. For most of us, ‘trusting’ a company just means we like their products, or ‘trust’ them not to violate laws. That’s a pretty low bar.

When an organization becomes involved in a scandal, we lose trust in those companies quickly – not because trust loss is quick, but because there wasn’t much trust there to begin with. Take a very personal example of a long-term trusted friend who doesn’t show up for a meeting as planned. Depending on their level of responsibility and the impact on you, you might choose to brush it off or you might treat the matter more seriously. The key point here is that whether loss of trust happens quickly or slowly is a function of how much trust we had, the impact of the violation and where the responsibility lay: it is not a function of the calendar.

SERVICEBRAND

Building customer trust is not easy. If it was, everybody would be doing it much better. At SERVICEBRAND GLOBAL, we can help you understand a true and honest picture of the state of your organization. Let us help you get connected to the heart of your business. A little trust goes a long way, why not see what we can do for you.

Engagement Focused Leadership

Whether you are new to a leadership role or have been in one for many years, finding the right tone and balance with your team is crucial. Sometimes you might have been leading the same team of people for a long time. Other times you might have more change in the team. Whatever the situation, it is important to be able to assess each person’s abilities and motivation, and balance that with your own and the pressures of delivering on achievable goals.

This blog looks at three key areas for leaders to consider improving engagement with their employees.

1 on 1

Far too often, 1 on 1 meetings are viewed as a waste of time. Something to get through that doesn’t really contribute anything meaningful to the organization. 67% of employees feel like meetings inhibit their ability to get on with being productive at work.

As a manager and a leader, it is your responsibility to come to 1 to 1 meetings prepared to engage and get the most from your employee. Use this valuable time wisely eg avoid giving organizational updates that could be sent en masse in an email or given in a group huddle.

Also remember to respect your employees and that it is not their responsibility to manage your time. Setting up meetings that you frequently rearrange or cancel at the last minute due to other ‘priorities’ will send your employee engagement plummeting. If employees don’t feel like their time is being valued, they will disengage.

Word of mouth spreads quickly in any organization. If your employees feel like their time is being wasted in these meetings, be sure that everyone else will rapidly hear about it. On the positive side, the news of productive meetings will also spread fast.

Leading with the right questions

Knowing what questions to ask members of a new team can be a challenge. As Stephanie Perkins says, “You only have one chance to make a first impression.” These early experiences
will often set the tone for your team’s perception about the kind of leader you are going to be. When you are in a one-to-one conversation with an employee you can be business-like and make it personal at the same time. You and the employee are both performing roles for the organization… and you are both people.

A critical mistake that is often made is trying to give the employee too much time to share their views and opinions, out of a desire to be a good listener. This can put pressure on the employee and result in them talking for the sake of it and in different directions. As a leader, you can lead the conversation with questions that are designed to get the most from the interaction.

If you are coming to a new organization or team, here are some general work-focused questions you can consider beginning with:

What brought you to this organization?
More importantly what is your best hope for working here?
In your opinion, what do we need to start doing here?
What do we need to stop doing?
What is important that we continue to do?
What one change would improve the customer experience most?
What one change would make this a better place for people to work at?
What are you most proud of about working here?
What irritates you about working here?

The most important way you can build engagement is by showing your employees that you trust their knowledge, experience, and opinion.

The Value of listening

Once you know the right questions to ask, it becomes a matter of practicing truly concentrated listening. Managers often get stuck on the first level of active listening. Have you been in a 1 to 1 meeting, that feels like you are talking to a parrot? The other person just repeats back what you are saying. Repetition shows that you have been heard, but that doesn’t mean the person you are talking to has really listened.

If you want to engage your employees into deeper and more meaningful conversations, you must show them you fully understand what they are trying to say to you. Take what they have told you and reflect it back them in your own words. Show them how you understand what they have said and make sure your way of understanding it, is in line with what they were trying to express.

Self-expression is complicated. Youmight feel like you are the best explainer on the planet and yet someone else might not understand what you are explaining. There is no harm in being sure that what has been said is what was actually meant.

This applies even if you don’t agree with what you are hearing. The goal is to build a trusting relationship that is more likely to keep your employees engaged and willing to share their views and opinions with you.

By actively listening, employees will trust that they can bring issues to you while they are still small. This can be so much more beneficial than employees holding off until it is a big problem before being able to count on your attention.

SERVICEBRAND

At SERVICEBRAND GLOBAL, we believe in the power of values-driven employee engagement to improve retention, productivity, loyalty, and advocacy. We help managers and leaders appreciate the value of listening to and understanding what their employees have to say. Too often businesses fail because of a poor attitude to the importance of having employees engaged, motivated, and directed towards achieving your organization’s mission or purpose.

If you feel like you are struggling to connect with your team, or your employees, we can help you create effective planning strategies to greatly improve the way you interact with them. This can only have positive and beneficial results!

`