Dan Ariely Thanks - http://danariely.com/
The words we use, how we use them and how they are understood by others, can and do, frequently make the difference between success and failure.
We live in a world of maximum communications where many people appear to be glued to one devise or another, yet all this communication efforts is not creating clarity, but rather a "fog" of dysfunction.
All aspects of business are now being reduced to ever smaller areas of expertise and instead of calling them "silos", I hear them referred to as "towers of expertise".
You can elect to call them whatever you like, you can call a cow pat a flower, but it will create zero clarity and only add to the "fog" of discombobulation, lack of clarity and a decline in any effective communications.
The impact on the real world is dramatic, yet we now take it in our stride, shrug and accept that's just the way it is. We have learnt that it is beyond our control.
Last week there was a report out of the ACT stating that the NAPLAN school literacy results for the past 10 years have been steadily declining, despite vast amounts of additional money being poured into education.
This week the E-safety watchdog ( no kidding ) was reported as stating ( Courier mail 11 Feb ) Parents should ask their toddlers for permission before taking a photo, the Federal Government's esafety watchdog warns, in the wake of "over-sharenting" on social media.
A new lexicon, completely new levels of BS while the house burns down and education is failing at every level. Still, they have time and money for this woke BS, no doubt supported by large numbers of people on the public payroll.
Another one from Last week - we have a report that the QLD government scrapped an IT system, after spending some $ 22 mil. As usual, nobody is to blame, it was probably caused by climate change..
Depressingly I can fill pages with such examples and THAT is a problem.
We assume that because it is the government, it is somehow only to be expected and inevitable. We accept this very low bar, because we know we can do nothing about it and we know the politicians will do nothing about it.
Unfortunately this is but the tip of the iceberg, a report from Deloitte, dating back to 2014, shows that the private sector is twice as bad as government at creating self-imposed rules, regulations and red tape at huge expense.
While we are powerless to change Government behaviour, we surely are not powerless to change our own behaviour and that of the organisations we work for.
Maybe that is our challenge for 2020. We must all start to speak out loudly at every opportunity we have, as the alternative is to shut up and accept ever lower standards and service.
We will get back to the communications issue, but first....
Years ago we had a simple concept called "customer service" but nowadays we have "Customer Experience", where all manner of very senior people have titles to this effect.
They enter and participate in events where organisations and senior executives ( we no longer have managers ) receive awards for their fantastic efforts at improving "Customer Experience".
Not to forget that we now also have a "Customer Interfaces", "Customer onboarding" and who knows how many other "customer" towers of expertise, in large organisations.
There is only one problem with this it has nothing to do with Customers, as all the efforts appear to be inward looking and the customer is experiencing the organisation from the outside.
What they experience is the dysfunction of useless communications, deaf leadership, poor systems and processes, blind marketing departments plus rules and regulations that often makes no sense to anybody.
Last year a survey at a major Australian Financial institution showed that two out of three employees rated senior management as a failure. That is reality, at a staggering cost to the business !
While all this navel gazing keeps departments busy, organisations have forgotten their primary purpose in business. To run a successful business that generate a profit with due care to the people that work for the organisation and their customers.
A simple, not easy, but simple formula is to enable and challenge the people in your business to succeed, find new customers, deliver great service or products, make sure you look after ALL your customers and staff, retain your customers by delighting them to the point where they will send you new customers. I know this is simplified, but you should get the point.
Below I have included a few links and surprisingly one link ( marked with a ** ) repeats part of my simple prescription above. Yet they fail to translate this to the real world, where we live.
What is the reality we face in our normal interactions with the large organisations?
I will use my own interactions during the past few months to illustrate the point.
For 20 years I used the same company for electrical supply. Every year they would send me a letter explaining that a discount I have been receiving will terminate in a few months, unless I contact them to find out what the new discounted rates would be. So each year I contacted them and much the same discounted rates continued.
It would be fair to say that a "discounted rate ( % )" that runs for years cannot really be called a discounted rate. It is just one of several sets of rates they apply in some strange undefined way.
Their websites do not add clarity and is all about them and how fantastic they are.
Towards the end of last year I received the same letter and as always I found it intensely annoying to have to deal with such nonsense. After 20 years I thought they might do a bit better, but then I am probably unreasonable I suspect, 20 years is such a short time!
About two weeks later a man knocked on my door. He was promoting another energy supplier and as this subject was top of mind, I invited him in.
I asked for information on paper, not some clever sales process. He handed over a rates schedule and explained how it works. After a friendly chat he gave me his card and left.
I hauled out my previous electricity bill and started doing some calculations. The result showed that I would have saved $ 135 during that quarter. Using the new discounted rates from my current supplier showed that I would save around $ 150 that quarter.
After contacting the man from the new company he came to see me and I gave him my previous bill to do the same calculations I did and he came up with the same numbers I did.
Signing up with the new company was very easy and all done on the phone and details confirmed by email and normal mail.
Two weeks later I received a call from an overseas call center and the lady wanted to know why I was leaving and could she offer me a better deal or match the offer from the other company. I explained that they had 20 years to deliver service but failed to contact me or offer me anything other than the annual demand that I contact them. This being the best they could do, I had reached a point where almost any alternative would be an improvement.
I have checked and my old supplier has the full army of "customer experience" and "customer everything" departments and staff, only they had no interest in me as a customer.
So despite massive communications abilities, no doubt very expensive software systems, loads of staff and countless "customer" and "marketing" meetings, they have forgotten all about the customer.
Complete Communications and Experience failure!
Maybe this is the season for change, so one down several to follow, as I have decided to not continue supporting companies that are indifferent to me as a customer.
This company also maintains a healthy group of "Customer ?" people and one of the senior execs even won an award for their Customer Experience efforts, as best I recall.
Once again, for 20 years I have had the same communications supplier.
A few years ago I moved all my mobile phones to a new supplier due to ongoing poor service and total insanity when it came to attempting any resolution to these problems. It just became too much hard work, so it was simpler to move to another supplier.
They did not care, did not contact me and I discovered that they call clients departing their services "churn". New customers in one side, and old customers out the other side. Business as usual, but hey, they can brag about all their investment in "Customer ?".
My internet access has worked almost perfectly for this entire period, as I am on cable with a current speed of at least 110mbps, at any time including evenings.
During the past eighteen months I have received a range of letter informing me that I would have to change to an NBN connection "soon".
Each time I visited one of my supplier's shops and each time they looked up my details, only to advise that I did not have to do anything yet.
Early January I received another letter advising that I will have to change soon as the NBN is now ready in my area.
Before I could visit their shop, I received a call from a person ( salesman ) who explained that he was a representative from my supplier and he was calling regarding my connection to the NBN.
Now comes the bit that makes me angry every time, as this is their standard routine and must clearly be part of their "Customer Experience Strategy". The part that says "how to annoy your customer".
First he wanted to confirm that he was talking to me and I suggested that as he called me on my mobile phone, the chances were pretty good for that to be a correct assumption.
Here comes the kicker he then explained that for security purposes could I please give him my Date of Birth. Really !
I explained that any security expert would advise one not to give that information to some strange person who calls you and claim to be from some organisation you do business with. It is one of the key items of information required for Identity theft.
He offered to give me his company ID number but did not offer to also give me a number where I could call him back, or a number where I could check this ID number that he would give me. He could also not give me a general reference number should I call back on the number he could not supply.
For years I have received marketing calls from this company and every time they asked for my DOB. Each time I would have the same conversation and explain that they called me and that I had no interest in talking to them. Each time I explain the DOB problem in detail and suggested that they talk to somebody in management. Nothing ever changed and the conversations never continued.
He acknowledged that the DOB issue was a problem and then proceeded to quote my payment history to the company over the last few months plus some other information.
It occurred to me that this company appears to have little data security because clearly this sales person had access to all my information. Maybe I should worry more !.
Eventually I agreed to give him my DOB and the call went downhill from there.
He enthusiastically explained that the new NBN plan would cost the same as I was paying at the moment, so I did not have to do anything.
He informed me that the maximum internet speed between 8pm and 11pm would be 45mbps.
They would send me a new modem and a technician would install a new connector to the incoming cable, job done.
At this point I explained that my internet connection was currently running at 110 Plus mbps at any time of the day, so they are now offering me this fantastic deal where I will get half the speed for the same price?
He stated that the difference in speed would have no impact on my usage !
Either he believes this or has no idea what he is talking about, so I did a short explanation of what it really meant.
He said once I am signed up for the NBN I can contact their service center to maybe overcome this speed problem. I would rather have a prostate exam than try to talk to their service call center.
We are now in a position where we have no choice but to move to the NBN so I said ok, go ahead but I will do some homework on this and if I find a better offer I will cancel this.
He gave me a reference and phone number, made an appointment a few weeks out for the tech to come and do his thing and explained that they would mail a new modem to my home address. He would also email me all the details, this email I am still waiting for.
Are you tired yet ?
The very next day I received a call from the same company, this time speaking to a lady call center person.
She kicked off the conversation by asking whether she was talking to me ( same script ). I once more explained that she called me on my mobile number so the chances were very good that it might be me.
She stated that her call concerned the "order I placed" yesterday. This was a surprise to me because at no time did the guy from yesterday mention an order.
You guessed it, for security purposes, please can you give me your DOB.
I was tired by then, but repeated the conversation I had with the company yesterday.
Well she said, unless you give me your DOB this order will be cancelled, to which I responded "great saves me the trouble", at that point she hung up on me.
What a fantastic customer experience !
Once again I went off to one of their shops, where I had to do the usual 30 to 40 min wait before I could speak to anybody.
A very helpful young man listened to my story and explained that once I have signed up for the new "plan" I could call their service center and explain that I am now getting less than half the speed I had before. They might then switch on the speed booster that would normally cost an extra $ 30 per month.
Having done some homework on available services I showed him a competitor offer at the same price, providing unlimited access at a guaranteed peak time speed of 80mbps or more.
I then suggested for him to contact whoever he had to and determine whether they can offer me a better deal before I sign up to a new plan.
He was also not able to tell me by when I had to switch to the NBN, they just want people to sign up now. As to what might happen should I not resolve this NBN issue now, he said the service could be suspended any day without notice. More great service !
He undertook to do this and you guessed it, nothing happened.
One week later, after waiting the usual 40 minutes, I was able to discuss this matter with the same friendly young man.
He explained that he had passed a request to some internal entity, but had as yet not had any response and said that it would normally mean they are not prepared to do anything about this matter.
They appear to have an internal communications system where not receiving any response to a question means the answer is No. I wonder whether this is just - No or We don't give a damn or Go away we are busy saying no to others and need a break.
As he is unable to achieve anything from inside the company, it stands to reason that I have no chance at all from the outside.
Once again, brilliant communications and a "customer experience" designed to fail.The entire street I live on has this same experience to look forward to and eight of us have been researching alternatives and will all sign up with the same provider.
Not only will they lose me as a customer but at least half the other chaps are with the same company, so they too will depart the pleasure of this "customer experience".Can any company be this indifferent? The answer is clearly yes and they don't care, if they did, maybe by now they would have addressed these obvious issues..
PS Yesterday I received a card in the mail, addressed to me personally not just a general mailshot.
This card is from the NBN and informs me that I will have to connect to the NBN by the 9th of October. A bit of a contrast to my internet providers message of having my service cut with no notice.
2 down 1 more to go
Example 3, last one and short one.
I have used an overseas bank for about 30 years and not much has changed that could impact this account or my details.
At odd times I would arrange to transfer some money to a local account.
Years ago I only had to complete a simple A5 size little form, email it to them and wait for a phone call. Once they confirmed that it was all in order ( they never asked me for my Date of Birth ) the transaction would be processed.
About two years ago they rejected a transfer request and advised that a new form must be used. This turned out to be a 5 page document, all manual with no simple automated way to submit this information.
After some effort I eventually managed to fill in all the boxes correctly and so the process continued including the phone call.
Early in January I repeated this process and had no feedback from the bank.
One strange thing about this process is that I have to send the completed request to an individual, not a department in the bank.
Over the years I struggled when people are off sick or go on leave, as I would not even receive an auto-response from them, just silence.
After several more emails and no response, I tracked down a customer service email address, with great difficulty I might add, and sent them a request for clarity regarding my transfer transaction.
Two days later I received a response from a person advising that the people I sent my request to are no longer with the company or in their previous roles.
Brilliant systems and processes, just what we need to make us love them more !
This person advised that he had passed the documents to the department responsible for processing the transaction.
Many more emails followed and I received the usual zero responses, by now this had dragged on for about a month.
Surprise, I noticed an overseas call had come in the night before at midnight and realised that bank person did not have a handle on different time zones.
Another email to provide a table of comparative times and the response I received now suggested that they would call me the next day at 8pm my time.
I confirmed that to be fine and surprisingly they did not call at 8pm or at all.
Instead I received another email to confirm that they would call me the following day at 8pm.
Once again I confirmed this to be fine and they actually called at 8pm on the correct day.
The following morning I received this email sit down for this one.
Thank you for taking my call earlier on today to confirm the payment.
I have just been advised that our Systems have been merged and the attached Application form is now the only one that is being accepted.
Can I kindly ask that if you can complete it sign and initial where required and send back to us for processing.
This email was sent only a few hours after our phone conversation.
The new form is three pages long and clearly not designed for overseas use even for simple items such as address details and so on.
You can imagine my delight in trying to figure out the new form and new terminology, but I managed to get this done and sent it off.
A range of follow-up email to confirm that the form is as they expect it to be and a request to advise when this transaction is processed, resulted in an assurance that it is with the correct department.
As of this moment, nothing has happened and we are reaching the one and a half month mark.
More fantastic "Customer Experience" ?
There is a simple lesson for all of us in business.
Just because you have systems and processes in place, dedicated departments, dedicated staff, senior execs and great words on your websites, will never mean that you are delivering anything beyond frustration, when the Customer is not part of the equation.
It has always been simple, flatten your "Towers of Expertise", listen to your Customers, Listen to your staff and stop employing Aholes via dysfunctional, box ticking HR departments. Change your lexicon and remove all the weasel words that are repeated as though they have meaning, when all they convey is pure wind.
Stop believing your own PR, stop using political language and question everything.
As always, the answers are all simple, once we ask the right questions.
The promised links
** Customer experience
Improving customer advocacy remains our number one strategic priority. By providing great customer experiences we can change the way our customers talk about us. Customers who become advocates for Telstra will stay with us longer, buy more of our services, and recommend us to others.
Telstra sets new strategy to improve customer experience, simplify structure and cut costs
This is all about Telstra and saving money the customer is invisible and irrelevant.
ABOUT ORIGIN ENERGY
Origin Energy wanted to enhance the experience of LPG customers. The team required the tools and techniques to identify key customer touch points, as well as current pain points and improvement opportunities.
Delivering great customer experience
"I always put myself in the customer's shoes and think how I would want to be treated. They are at the very heart of everything I do."