Category Archives: Customer Service

Are we ready for real 24×7 connectivity?

We’ve had the key note and it was impressive – I’ve never had my family members watch one with me, and all be excited by the new technology!  What technology you say?  The Apple Watch…

Apple Watch

Yes I’ll admit I’m an Apple fanboy at heart – it’s their whole customer experience and the simplicity of the Apple ecosystem that does it for me.  It’s the idea of a “service bubble” again (as I’ve blogged about before – i.e. when you’re there with a brand and the whole experience is just right – from every interaction you have and you know it’s them), it just works.

The Apple Watch won’t be the first smart watch on the block (just like the iPhone wasn’t the first smart phone), but it will work and it will sell and it will have the same consistent simple experience we expect and that we want.

I don’t wear watches any more and I haven’t now for probably 30 years, but I’ll be one of those looking at spending £300 on an Apple Watch when it comes out.  Yes it will tell the time like a traditional watch but I don’t need it for that (when in 2014 are you somewhere where you can’t find the time out?).

It’s the ability to do so much more without having to find your phone and pull it out.  Maps telling you the direction to go, a heart rate monitor (that you don’t have to strap around your chest and get friction burns from – that’s another story), messages from friends and family, access to my photos, online shopping, a camera and access to passbook (boarding cards, loyalty passes and more), to name a few.  It will ultimately replace my trusty Garmin Forerunner 305 (that’s beginning to drop the signal a bit more than it should) but maybe when v2 comes out with GPS included (running with the Apple Watch and having to have an iPhone on me, doesn’t work for races just yet).

Apple Watch apps

But – and this is the big question – am I prepared to never be offline?  Never offline – this was the title of Time Magazine this week – have we even considered what this means?

Time Magazine Never Offline

You may say that you’re never offline now, with a smart phone always near by.  But you can put it down.  How often do you take a watch off?  Rarely if ever.  Always reachable, location always known and apps reacting to you realtime giving advice and directions – 24×7 365 days a year wherever you are (yes assuming you have a mobile data connection).  We’ll get to a point when retailers know where we are and can automatically make recommendations on what to do, where to go and what to buy.  We’ll see consumer behaviour changes that we’ve not even thought about yet.  A lot absolutely will make sense and after a while we won’t know what we did without them (just like smart phones).  But we need to consider the implications of some and work to make sure we don’t create a situation where having a smart watch becomes a necessity and if you don’t have one you lose out, to some extent.

We need good – no make that excellent – mobile data coverage everywhere as well, to make most of the use cases for smart watches work.  Not just global coverage, as in in all countries around the world, but even within countries and regions.  Even near the great city that is London, solid 3G and 4G coverage isn’t there yet.  And then there’s good old network roaming – just imagine travelling around the globe as we do, and suddenly being hit by extortionate data charges – it won’t work.  Telco’s and other businesses will need to rethink their existing business models and come up with ones!

It’s an exciting time!  I can’t wait to see how things go when the Apple Watch hits the streets in 2015!

Apple Watch this space!

Are you delivering excellent service?

I too often hear the phrase service excellence used these days when describing technology delivery services, and in most cases there’s no definition of what this actually means.

Service excellence word cloud

Let’s go back to basics then and look at we mean by excellence in this context.  From the Oxford dictionary, we have “The quality of being outstanding or extremely good”.  Another definition is as a quality that people really appreciate, because it’s hard to find, and as being the quality of excelling, of being truly the best at something.

I like this last one – being the best at something and excelling – so going above and beyond the normal expectations, and importantly setting new standards.

It’s this excelling at something that hits the mark for many customers when it comes to service.  Many of the organisations I’ve worked with and for, have been in challenging situations around their customer service, customer experience etc, and one of the focuses for my role there has been to revitalise their approach and work to transform the way they engage with customers, be they internal or external customers.

In this day and age, we’re all consumers (outside of the normal workplace) of goods and services and our expectations have changed significantly over the last few years.  It’s now all about a truly anyhow, anywhere and anytime culture, and this has a huge impact on how organisations need to work and change and adapt.

To add to this challenge, some of the more legacy technology services that we’re delivering – as well as the new innovative solutions an services – just have to work.  Email is a great example.  If your email service is 100% available, 24×7, and can be accessed wherever you are on any device, is this an excellent service or is it just expected?

I read an interesting article a few weeks back, on cio.com, titled “7 Steps to Excellent Service Delivery“, by Phil Weinzimer – do take a look, there are some really good ideas here.

7 steps to excellent service delivery

Phil sets out a 7 step plan that CIOs can use, to improve the delivery of their services to the business, and the core theme is understanding the business objectives better and delivering to meet those.

In summary the 7 steps that Phil’s lists are:

  1. Identify the business and commodity services required by the business units
  2. Identify the key stakeholders and priority for each business service
  3. Build and develop the enterprise list of business services, for each unit
  4. Socialise and communicate across the enterprise
  5. Develop and execute the work plan, and get stakeholder buy-in
  6. Continuously measure the service delivery – and build and use business focused SLAs
  7. Continuously improve – regularly evaluate the service with the stakeholders and users

I really like this approach.  It’s critical as I’ve mentioned to engage more with the business and key stakeholders, and to be able to respond in a very agile manner to their needs!

How does your service measure up?  And what does excellent service mean to you?

 

6 great customer success principles to live by

… and you learnt them all in pre-school. A great article that I read today and well worth a re-post.  Written by Dennis Hennessey – Six Great Customer Success Principles To Live By – and published on the BUSINESS2COMMUNITY.

Customer success

The first blog post I’ve written in 6 months, far too long. Busy with a a new exciting position and opportunity with Appirio in our London head office, helping to drive and build customer engagement and customer success, with some great customers, helping them innovate and transform their businesses with cloud technology.  And working with an amazingly talented and passionate team.

This article really resonated with me and as principles they’re very simple to remember, understand and build into your own customer success and customer engagement teams…

  1. Listening
  2. Empathy
  3. Honesty
  4. Be polite
  5. Keep your promises
  6. Be helpful

Customer success workshop

Not rocket science by any stretch of the imagination but very powerful principles and all key to helping build, improve and take your customer relationships to the next level.

What customer success principles do you use and are any of these missing from your organisation?

CIO-DNA part 1 – an event hosted by BCS

British Computer Society

I attended the CIO-DNA event earlier this week, hosted by the BCS Elite Group, the BCS London South Group and the IOD.  It was a 1/2 day session with technology leaders from different organisations speaking and with some very thought provoking discussions around what makes an effective CIO and CTO, and some of the speakers’ personal journeys to becoming technology leaders.

I’ve summarised some of the key takeaway notes – the fundamental drivers behind what makes a good CIO – from the session below .  Let me know what you think – do you agree?

DNA

  • The CIO and CTO roles are now primarily about innovation.  The focus is no longer about keeping the lights on.
  • As technology leaders we need to advocate the creation of an environment in which the team feels empowered to create sparks of innovation.
  • You need to be fundamentally close to the business and to the customers.  They need to help drive the priorities for technology.
  • A great quote from one of the speakers – “The death of the mouse is only weeks away” – in reference to how important touch is becoming and will be.  Interesting point.  Yes touch is critical but I think there’s a longer transition for a lot of core technology products and platforms.
  • Related to touch, devices that are touch enabled remove barriers to entry for C-level executives and help get wider buy-in to new technology services.
  • Communication and visualisation are key for the CIO to raise their profile.  And as part of this we need to be recognised as equal contributors to business transformation.  The CIO needs to be the agent of business transformation.
  • See technology as an enabler to open up new markets and do things the business wasn’t doing before.
  • The key areas where there are new opportunities, are – smart machines, capturing the real world, mobile computing, touch and cloud.  Where cloud can be seen as more about provision and delivery.
  • Knowledge management will continue to be a challenge for technology leaders, with retiring staff taking know-how with them.  This isn’t a new problem though and can’t be changed.  Focus instead on the new guys coming in and give them an environment that they can be most effective in – and that doesn’t just mean yes to BYOD.  New recruits – and the work force of the future – now have very different expectations for IT and technology.
  • Develop techniques for managing different streams of inputs and see where they match and where they conflict.  Where they conflict, dig deeper – these places show the most interest.
  • Move away from being a pure technologist and focus on the business transformation agenda.  And get proportionately more focus on the profit side of the business – technology is no longer just about costs.
  • Technology does not have users any more – something I’ve been saying for a good number of years.  We need to shift our way of thinking to see them as our customers – whether external or internal ones.  We as technology are providing our customers with a service!
  • Understand what your customers want from the services and systems, and move then to create and deliver that!
  • Create a clear future workspace vision – that allows the business and teams to be more flexible, work smarter and to work faster.  And get the inputs from the business for this – don’t drive with technology.
  • Technology is about change management with the business, and utilising technology to do that.
  • Test the vision with the business – and use visualisation tools (e.g. storyboards and animations).  See a great example of this by Gavin Walker at NATS below – this part of the session was from Gavin….

 

  • Position technology as the enabler – to help your customers work better and more efficiently.  Get the decisions pushed into the business – to give them greater accountability.
  • Don’t see IT as a cost centre – the business own the costs and budget.  Technology spends the budget on behalf of the business, with the business making the choices.
  • Focus on change management, not technology.
  • Focus on information, not systems.

These last 2 very nicely summarise where the focus needs to be for technology.  A very pleasant afternoon at the BCS with a good theme and great sessions and as always great networking.

More thoughts soon!

Technology leaders

A guide to understanding customer success

Two relatively recent formal functions within businesses are those of customer engagement and customer success.  Clearly not new as in we’ve not been focusing on success or engagement before but in that it wasn’t someone’s job title or sole function.

Customer success

Or was it?  Customer success and customer engagement have clearly been critical to businesses, since commerce first came about and it’s always been – or should be – part of everyone’s job and the function of every department.  But what has changed is that a need has been identified to have individuals and teams who focus just on success and engagement, particularly from a leadership perspective – and ensure all other teams are working in a customer focused joined up and collaborative way, that results in the best experience and service for our customers!  All great to have.

There’s a great blog post from last month that looks at the role of someone heading up the customer success function from Dan Steinman (Chief Customer Officer at gainsight).  Dan highlights the key traits that are needed for a successful customer success leader and does so by asking his team about him in his role – a very interesting and insightful exercise.

Do read Dan’s post for full details but in summary the key traits are:

  1. A passion for customers.
  2. A willingness to get their hands dirty.
  3. A philosophy.
  4. An understanding of what the customer success team do each day.
  5. A knack for influence management.

Influence management

Passion makes perfect sense.  You need to have be focused on the customer and making things right for them and caring about them being successful.  And your team need to share the same passion – and then let it spread beyond just your team!  It can be a cultural shift but a critical one.

Getting involved when there are customer issues and challenges, means getting stuck in and doing what is needed and engaging with the customer and team.  And not just taking a back seat overseeing it all.  It’s about credibility.

As a new field, it is evolving fast and there are lots of new ideas.  You need to be committed to what your phillosophy on customer success is and what that means for your customers and your teams.

The better you know your team and what they are doing, the better informed your decisions are – not rocket science, but all about good leadership.

The last point is the big one I think – influence management.  You need to be working across all the functions and teams in your company so that they understand their roles in customer success – from sales to operations to development to product management to admin to support – so they can understand what and when changes are needed and implement them.

As an evolving new function, there is no commonly agreed standard definition of what customer success (or engagement) management is.  Having a team focused on customer success, has a strong message for both internal teams and stakeholders and customers.

Pay as you go technology

As technology moves more and more to a utility based – pay as you go – model and more focus is on long term relationships and not the legacy models where there was a huge upfront cost (as CAPEX – capital expenditure), customer retention becomes more critical.  This is where customer success and customer engagement both come in – ensuring customers are retained.  And key to this is ensuring customers can easily see the commercial value of the platforms and services you are providing.

These new technology models, have created a need to formalise and structure the customer success function, but it’s not just in technology companies where it applies.

The more value your services provide, the more successful your customers are and the more successful you are.  Customer success can be the focus of your VP of customer success, or your chief customer officer, or your customer success director, but their role is to make sure everyone understands what customer success is all about and everyone’s own role in it, and to make your customers successful.

Customer success

CIO Connect 2013 conference – thoughts, ideas and observations

I was invited recently to attend the CIO Connect 2013 Conference in London, billed as the IT leadership conference in 2013 and this year with a theme on the gaming changing CIO. It was a great 2 days spent listening to global technology and business leaders’ key note sessions, attending workshops and networking with IT leaders from around the world.

CIO Connect

Most definitely a conference that should be in your diary if you’re a technology leader and more importantly if you share an interest in the major business changes and disruptions, that are happening now and how technology can play the best role in them – and add the value to your business it should.

CIO Connect 2013

They had none other than Brian Cox presenting last year – sadly I couldn’t go – and the final presentation this year on day one was by Dr. Steve Peters, author of the Chimp Paradox (billed as a mind management programme to help you achieve success and almost gospel for the Team GB Cycling team and many other leading sports teams and players). Day 2 was rounded off with a session from Fraser Doherty who founded Super Jam.

Super Jam logo

I always find it useful to capture comments, thoughts, notes, observations and light bulb moments from conferences like this and play them back after the event. A blog gives you the ideal forum to do this with and to share them with a wider audience. Any comments and questions are very welcome!

The thoughts and more…

  • Kevin Segall was presenting on the idea of keeping things simple and reflecting on his time at Apple and working with Steve Jobs. I had the privilege of seeing Kevin a few years ago and he’s a great speaker and very entertaining. The simpler things are the better and simplicity never fails. People love simplicity. Even in the organisation structures we see in business these days, the simpler they are the better and more powerful. A great example of Apple and how Steve Jobs was the ultimate decision maker and could make or break ideas. It might sound harsh but at Apple it works.
  • The “I” in CIO is no longer just about information.  It’s now far broader and covers innovation, integration, intelligence, implementation and imagination.
  • CIOs need to be compelling in improving the digital customer experience.
  • As CIOs we need to work with our peers to define the business decision making criteria. Help build and maintain a “make $ and save $” register to record technology successes.
  • The concept of the PR of IT as people, processes and best practices and CIOs working to ensure these are all aligned.
  • We must see how the overall customer experience works for the business and how this fits with technology. How do we serve the customers (better)?
  • Big themes in 2013 for the CIO are (and continue to be) the cloud (and moving services to the cloud), BYOD (good old bring your own device into the business), big data and security (which ties in to all the above).
  • View IT as a benefit centre, not a cost centre. And as a benefit centre IT is then a value contributor to the business. This represents a big shift for many businesses where IT can still be viewed as a back office service provider for the business. But this is changing and there was a general consensus on how this change is accelerating now.
  • With IT as a benefit centre, prioritise what will get these benefits as early as possible.
  • Focus on people, not on technology and be compassionate.
  • CIOs and their (technology) teams will be the engine rooms for major business changes, over the next 3-5 years.
  • The new norm for how technology teams need to be focused is as 50% strategic, 30% tactical and 20% operational. This is a big shift from now where only 20% is strategic and the vast majority of time and energy is spent maintaining the status quo and keeping the lights on (i.e. BAU). This is all about looking at the commoditisation of IT and moving the BAU parts to be run as lower cost (well) managed services.
  • For business programmes and projects, move to working with the key stakeholder at the business owner, not just the project sponsor. And with the programmes being business investments, not IT projects.
  • The CIO needs to be viewed a business leader. And as CIOs we have a unique understanding of the complexity of the business processes.
  • In many companies there is a vacant seat on the board for the “Chief Customer Officer”.  This is someone who acts as a bridge between the CMO, the COO and the CIO divide, and most importantly this person owns the overall end-to-end customer experience.
  • We need to test the public view of stuff (services that we provide) and to get out and be a consumer of our services. Do they work like they should? And like we expect?
  • The “Chief Customer Office” is the new board member who represents the customer experience in the market.
  • Stop talking about something called digital, as something different. It’s all one now. Platforms, channels and media. We need a more holistic approach – something I’ve blogged about before.
  • We are now in an exponentially changing world, no longer a place where business is linear. Technology is a critical game changer in this new world.
  • And finally from Dr. Steve Peters, the two key areas to focus on for performance and success, are emotional skills and impulse control, and everything is about probability.

 

Has your service bubble burst?

Continuing the theme of the last post, and some good conversations that followed, I want to think about what happens when service goes wrong and the service bubble that was working bursts.

Bursting bubbles

And specifically what can you do to stop it bursting.  Like any bubble once the process starts, the burst is quick and more often than not catastrophic – there’s no going back!

Bursting bubble

I love the shot above – the bubble is actually made up of millions upon millions of individual droplets of water.  Your service bubbles are no different – they’re made up of different teams of people, multiple customer interaction points and channels, the overall customer experience and all your social conversations, and they all need to work together to provide your service bubble.

Don’t forget – the whole thinking behind the service bubble, is that it’s all about great service, in the bubble.

It takes just one of these different parts to falter and the bubble is at risk of bursting unless action is taken very quickly.  Once the bubble bursts, you lose customer loyalty, that repeat business you relied on before is at risk and your company reputation can be threatened.

To stop the service bubble bursting, you need to focus on two key components – making sure the customer experience works (by constantly listening to what your customers are saying, wherever they are saying it – as part of this you need to be listening and engaging with them on the different channels) and by having the right customer service focused staff on your team, who share and understand the company values (and believe them), and who are empowered to make the right decisions to help your customers.

Service bubble - about to burst

And yes, customers will be willing to pay a premium for service bubbles that deliver and provide the expected service levels.  Just make sure you’re investing sufficiently in the team behind the scenes and that service is one of the core values of who you are and what you do, as a company.

Thanks Bill Quiseng (@billquiseng) for your thoughts on this.

Have you been caught in a service bubble?

Bubbles everywhere

Service bubbles?  So what are they?  They’re the places you are when you’re being looked after and experiencing a brand’s great and amazing service – and caught in their bubble.  You may have never thought about it before, but we’ve all been there.

You’re shopping and having a great experience in the shop, or in a hotel and being looked after by their team – and getting great service.  The service is personalised to you, it is provided by service professionals whose job it is is to understand what delivering great service means and what makes it special, and it’s specific to that brand.

Apple Store

Take Apple – yes one of my favourite service brands:  you step into their Apple stores and are greeted by their Geniuses – easily recognisable, all smiling and friendly and all there to make sure you are helped in the way that you need.  And they’re proactive in providing good service.

Shangri-La Hotels

Another great example – is good hotel chains, like Shangri-La (well known in the Far East but with some great hotels now in Europe as well).  You arrive at the airport in a different country, quite often tired from a long journey.  You’re met after security by a hotel representative to take you to the hotel and you’re then in their bubble.  Again, friendly staff, personalised service (often greeting you by name) and with a smile.  Whilst you’re staying with them – as their guest – and being looked after, you’re in their care and their bubble.

The usual result of the bubbles?  You go away a happy customer, you remain loyal to the brand and come back for more, and you tell people about it.

Bubble

So what makes them bubbles?  They’re normally temporary for you – you step into them when you start an experience or journey and step out when you’ve done (a good example being when you leave a hotel, are taken to the airport and dropped off – everyone knows that feeling that it’s back to normality), the bubbles normally grow whilst you’re in them – with the service getting better as you complete your purchase or transaction and there is a only a thin line between the bubble and the outside world.

Many bubbles

You can imagine different service bubbles coexisting for different businesses and organisations, and moving from one to another and receiving different experiences in each – some good, some great, some maybe not so good.  Businesses that work well together as partners can even have bubbles that join together and your journey from one to the other, is seamless and there’s no need to step outside of them.

Airlines (and other forms of transport – e.g. trains) are another great example of service bubbles and they differ widely from good old economy, business class and first class!

How do different companies bubbles differ from each other?  How can you rate and compare them?  Quality and size?  Does and should good service demand a premium price tag?  Stay tuned for more on this in a future blog post.

Whose service bubbles have you be in and what were they like?  Do let me know…

And that is how you do good service – thank you Apple!

Apple Store

My trusty iMac (from 2008) decided to not play ball earlier this week.  It was way outside Apple’s warranty (even Apple Care) – by over a few years – but trying to fix it was beyond me and I needed help from Apple.  A call through to the local Apple Store (in the Bentall Centre in Kingston) and they advised that they had no Genius appointments that day but to come in with the iMac and they would see what they could do.

When we got to the store we spoke to one of their guys who said all the iMac tech team were busy all day with no slots, but to hold on and he would see what they could do.  A very friendly iMac Genius then came to have a look and ran a series of quick tests on the iMac.  As typically happens in these situations, everything worked fine and the iMac passed all the tests.  A number of restarts were done – where the problem had been before – but all working fine.

Apple Genius

The guy took down all the details of the problem as I’d seen it and advised that I could leave it there for them to take a more detailed look (which would probably take a few days) or take it back home and see how I get on (which I did and typically again the problem has re-occurred and I’ve booked to go back in tomorrow).

But, the whole point to this post is the exceptional level of service that Apple provided here, going way beyond what they were obliged to do, going out of their way to help as best they can, to listen to the customer and check and test accordingly, to offer options when the standard response (booking a slot for that day) was a no-goer and doing all of this in a friendly professional manner.

This level of service is what makes Apple so great and why people – like me – will now go back and go nowhere else.  It is exceptionally good service and yes you do pay a premium for Apple products but this is one of the major reasons why; it’s not just a great product, you’re buying it’s a full service experience.

It’s not the only reason of course, there are 3 reasons generally why you are willing to pay extra for a product or service.  These are:

  1. The quality of the product
  2. The level of service received
  3. The overall experience of using the product or service

These 3 are the major drivers to creating loyalty for you business and Apple yet again are are leaders here.  Fingers crossed that my visit tomorrow fixes the problem once and for all.

Bentall Centre

Bad service is not far behind…

Only a day after my good service is everywhere experience and post, I had a day of bad service experiences – mainly across companies in one particular industry/market.  I’ll leave it to the reader to guess where…

Mobile mast

Service doesn’t need to be not good and it can easy to do it properly, but it does require some thinking about and a strategic view on what service is all about.

Bad service

In this day and age, giving bad or poor service is really inexcusable.  It says so much about the person and company giving it.

There are a few simple points to take service to next (and better) level:

(1) Empower the guys providing the service – let them make some of the decisions as they see fit.  They’re the ones sorting out issues and queries on the front line.

(2) Give everyone training in good service – it’s a culture shift and mindset change.  And requires an investment to do it properly and making sure people know what is expected and what good looks like.

(3) Define good service or even better, excellent service.  Reach out to the teams providing the service and find out from them what feedback they’ve had from customers and what changes they suggest.

(4) Listen, listen and listen again, before you say anything.  This is so important.  Too often these days people want to tell their story or their version or side.  Listen first though.  The more you listen, the more you can understand and be better informed to make the right decision.

Decision

And smile – it makes a big difference to the person you’re speaking to.  Again as per the last post, start thinking in all the interactions you have with other people, “How can I help this person?”.