Relationship Sabotage

Trust is a reciprocal commodity in the future of work. Trust powers collaboration and facilitates exchange in networks. Trust is also reciprocal. Make sure your levels of trust of others are not sabotaging your relationships.

Part of any decision to trust another is an assessment of how they treat us. Trust is reciprocal. We can make finely tuned assessments on how much trust others put in us by simply examining how we interact, how well their goals are aligned to ours and how much reciprocity of trust we experience.

If you start from the assumption that your employees and customers are incipient criminals, it will show itself in your policies and processes. The levels of security and inconvenience that result will be a constant reminder to customers and employees that you don’t trust them.  Even if your levels of protection are in line with your industry peers, you will still bear the consequences of that action in the way your customers and your employees interact with you. Transactions will be more costly, loyalty will be lower and complaints & errors will be harder to resolve because you won’t have the benefit of trust to fall back on.

Are your levels of trust set for the real risks and opportunities in your relationships? Make sure you are not penalising everyone for one individual’s error. Remember if you distrust employees that will flow on to customers and if you distrust customers you employees will experience the consequences. Your customer and employee experience are one experience.

Too many organisations with persistent challenges in lifting engagement or customer advocacy continue to sabotage their key relationship. Make sure you are different. Trust a little more.

Responsive Retail Experiences Required

Retail stores must be as responsive as their digital competitors. The days of excuses are over.

I needed to buy a specific item today at a retail store in Hong Kong. I looked up the store address online and confirmed its opening hours. I went to the store at opening to be told it was closed for 30 minutes more. When I returned 30 minutes later I was told they wouldn’t open for 10 minutes. The staff were casually cleaning the store and decided to let me in anyway.

When I was finally admitted they were out of stock, their stock ordering system was down for its second day and there was no chance of them getting stock this week. The staff in store were full of excuses and very apologetic.

I ordered what I wanted online walking out of the store on my phone. I bought it from a digital retailer. It will be delivered to my hotel same day.

This experience was in a luxury goods retailer. Their store for out is incredibly expensive. Their rent is high. There were lots of staff waiting around. However all the money invested is wasted when the systems and employees are not responsive to customers.

The store lost any opportunity to add more to my basket. Worse, I’m unlikely to shop that brand of stores again.

If a retail store is not organised to be as responsive as its digital competitors, then it will lose more than business. Unresponsive retail stores inconvenience customers and lose their support.

The Rise of Effectiveness

In the last century management’s overwhelming focus was efficiency. An industrial mindset influenced our definition of effectiveness to be driven largely by delivering more for less.

The influence was straight forward. The efficiency of a machine is how well it turns inputs into its fixed outputs. If a machine’s quality is stable (a risky but common assumption), then a focus on efficiency works as a proxy for effectiveness. Effectiveness slipped from sight in a period of unmet consumer demand, long growth and expanding global markets. We focused our organisations almost solely on efficiency. When changes in effectiveness were required, they came in the form of new disruptive innovators and innovations that rewrote the quality definition and a focus on efficiency resumed.

Human effectiveness cannot be defined as simply as that of a machine. Our traditional industrial machines turn simple inputs through process steps into fixed outputs. Humans can be reduced to that work too. For many organisations it became the goal of human work to make it fixed, repetitive and predictable. It is not a surprise that they discovered that the quality of this repetitive work was rarely stable. 

Humans are capable of more than machine work. We are also capable of turning complex and diverse inputs into a simple open-ended output, like an action, a decision, a sentence, a service, a piece of knowledge or a song. Suddenly we can’t assume that inputs are consistent, quality is stable and that outputs are known. Our proxy has broken down and we need to return to a more direct focus on effectiveness.

The last decade has seen the slow rise of effectiveness as a management challenge and management grappling with new skills:

  • quality movements, continuous improvement and other disciplines have revisited the assumption around stable quality and even stretched to query whether the predetermined output matches what customers need
  • customer experience, design and similar disciplines have begun to look at the potential to shape new and better effectiveness of our products and experiences. 
  • increasing focus on disruptive innovation has raised the challenge of why the traditional model must break and new strategy models query the narrow focus on efficiency vs other ways to achieve greater effectiveness (see Blue Ocean Strategy, Roger Martin, etc)
  • realisations about the shifting nature of work has caused many to reflect on whether efficiency is the best or at least only model for connected knowledge workers or any other role.
  • consumers questioning the need, quality, sustainability, morality, environmental and social impact of the products of industrial machine models 
  • examining new models of leadership, organisation and development of people that encourage the development of true human effectiveness and realise untapped human potential.
  • rearguard actions to find ever more efficient machines (robots, big data, management algorithms, etc) that can replace humans in increasingly complex roles and work.

Responsive organisations recognise that the proxy of efficiency for effectiveness is fundamentally broken. The skills of efficiency remain relevant but they can no longer replace a focus on effectiveness.

The rise of effectiveness is on us. Our challenge is to adapt our approaches to work to make the most of our opportunities, not just to minimise our waste.

Confusion is the absence of Design

Yesterday I had to deal with an unnecessarily confusing customer experience.  All I wanted to do was pay for my parking.  It was a great reminder that in the absence of design you generate confusion.

Here are some observations on what happens when you forget to design:

  • The insides of this parking machine would fit in a shoebox, but it’s a big machine.  That means that it is actually very hard to keep all the machine in sight at one time. When the interface is confusing, having to scan the whole thing repeatedly to find your next step is hard work.
  • The screen draws your attention but it is not where the action happens. In fact the screen, tells you little of interest and mostly distracts from where the action happens.
  • Every function has a light or a sign which adds to the confusion. The signs look like later additions to improve the usability but the signage is neither consistent nor supports the process the machine requires users to follow.  The range of different coloured lights is distracting.
  • The blue P lit up is prominent, but purely decorative. 
  • The red laser light top left is for museum membership card discounts, a second process step for a small proportion of users, but it is by far the brightest light.
  • The slot for inserting a ticket to pay, the first process step, is a solid yellow light at bottom left. This is the last place anyone looks, especially when the screen shows the slot and you assume that the image shown must be near the screen.
  • The screen is below normal eye height. As there is no shade on the screen, the lights above make it unreadable unless you crouch.  This matters if you want to know what you need to pay or want a receipt and need to push a button below the screen to confirm your request.
  • The paypass reader doesn’t work though it appears to all intents that it does with a shining light. After several failed attempts, I realised that I needed to insert my card.

The odd functional arrangement and the lights create a sense that four separate divisions of Skidata all said ‘we want a bright flashing light and a sign. We want to be prominent’. Politics and engineering determined where the various bits went on the machine rather than any designed order of a customer experience.

For a simple process this is an unnecessarily confusing customer experience. That says to me Skidata and those who installed the machine weren’t designing a customer experience, they just installed a parking payment machine.

The Responsive Bank. Feature article in Q factor Oct 2014

Responding to a disruption and applying the Responsive Organisation principles to financial services

Note: the reference to an MBA in the bio at the end of the article is an error.

The Responsive Bank. Feature article in Q factor Oct 2014

Celebrate Outcomes

The process is just a process. Often the process is one of many competing paths. Outcomes matter more.

In a recent conversation about customer experience, we were discussing the way people fixate on processes. Processes appeal to our industrial management mindsets. Processes are an engineering challenge of neat inputs and defined steps delivering an outcome in a mechanical fashion. Processes are so easy and alluring.

As a result we see troubling signs:

  • people compete for the beauty of their customer journey map. Have a look at Pinterest there are hundreds that are so gorgeous they reflect no real customer experience ever
  • organisations obsess about adoption over value creation because adoption is far more susceptible to a process
  • change management becomes an exercise of templates and measures rather than a series of changes in human relationships and mindsets
  • leadership is discussed an exercise in steps or processes to be managed rather than work to realise of the potential people in real complex circumstances 
  • measures, averages and other abstractions of the process mindset take precedence over human considerations.

Raising process to an exalted state devalues the complexity of humanity. The computer does not need to say no. Putting process over outcome leads to the outrage economy as people try to fight their way out of a narrow industrial mindset.

We need to focus on real human relationships. We need to allow for the mess and power of human emotions. We need to consider networks with learning, change and feedback, not just linear processes. Importantly, we can allow for human scales, learning and flexibility. Most importantly, we can allow for human conversations. That is the path to achieving the real messy and complex outcomes that we need.

Our organisations, our customer experiences and our relationships will be better for a broader more human approach.