Digital is about people, not just about data

Posted on 30 Sep 2015 by Carl Lyon

Digital is about people, not just about data

‘We need more tools!’ is a common response to poor customer experience. Tools seduce us with their whizzy user interfaces and their potential to make sense out of big data. We are in the digital equivalent of a sweet shop, surrounded by the tantalising temptation that there is a tool to suit every taste and desire.

But at the same time we are increasingly paralysed by our tools. There are so many, and they are so flexible, that organisations now need people who have specialist knowledge of these tools. But unless senior managers also possess some of this specialist knowledge, they are unable to ask informed questions of all this data.

Digital tools increase complexity. This recognition is largely responsible for driving the adoption of hothousing and Agile ways of working, as organisations increasingly appreciated the value of structured face-to-face activity. But we can’t simply bury our heads in the sand and rely on face-to-face, we need a better understanding of how to work effectively in a networked era.

Customer Experience prevents us from being able to hide behind our tools – it pulls us out of data and back into reality. Listening to our customers’ experience shakes us out of groupthink by telling us what is actually happening, not what we’d like to think is happening.

This is where digital tools can really help. It has never been easier for organisations to listen to their customers, and this information provides a valuable perspective from which to identify where failures are happening. Organisations often ignore a negative customer experience as a ‘one-off’ as it is at odds with the story coming from the ‘big’ data. But we live in a world of complex systems, and every single person in that system has the power to influence others. What happens it that ‘one-off’ happens to have 100,000 followers on Twitter?

Customer communities provide a route to simplicity. Organisations that understand this are using digital tools effectively to bring the outside in by actively engaging with their customer communities. This engagement not only provides opportunities to improve customer experience and net promoter score, it is also a rich source of ideas for innovation and new product development. Who knows better how to improve our products than our customers?

Our customers want simple, seamless, interconnected experiences that put them at the centre. But our organisations are often structured and measured by product, divided into silos and hampered by technical and political barriers. Engaging with customer communities to learn about their experiences provides a way to cut through the complexities of organisational structure and transcend these barriers.

This engagement enables customer experience professionals to bring a unique and valuable perspective to an organisation. By combining their detailed knowledge of organisational structure and strategy with real experiences from customer communities, customer experience professionals are able to make strong business cases to improve organisational behaviour

Many organisations avoid engaging with their customer communities because they are afraid of what they might hear. But this fear of ‘losing control of the message’ is indicative of a 20th century approach to communication. In today’s hyperconnected reality, listening to people is just as (if not more) important than just listening to data.

Data without context is just noise, and without context our tools just provide us with vast swathes of meaningless data. Customer experience professionals can help organisations use digital tools to harness the power of the network by listening and learning from customer communities. But achieving this requires us to adopt a mindset where digital brings us closer to people, not just to data.

Topic for September/October meetings

Posted on 8 Sep 2015 by Carl Lyon

Topic brief for Customer, Digital and Multi region Experience September to October 2015

Winning budgets and resources

Customer and increasingly digital experience is now being recognised as an important issue for  B to C and B to B companies from a wider range of markets. However obtaining the budgets and resources to getting things done still requires a huge amount of time and effort.

So what do we bring to the table and whose table? Should we focus on customer insight, measure, moral arguments or commercial outcomes? Where do we look to form alliances, and on what terms?

Whilst this isn't a new debate, the game does seem to be changing  -  and fast.

Dates and venues

Customer Experience - 16th September 9.30am at The Aviator, Farnborough GU14 6EL

Multi Region - 29th September 1pm London

iQoE Digital - 15th October 10am at The Aviator, Farnborough GU14 6EL

Please RSVP with which group(s) you would like to participate to Antonia

CXA Financial Services Experience awards

Posted on 22 Jul 2015 by Carl Lyon

The QoE was delighted to be asked to judge at the UK Financial Services Experience Awards again this year. Having done so on four previous occasions we see how aligned these particular awards are with our mission to continually push the boundaries of customer experience delivery.  Our approach is all about inspiring collaboration – individually people have good ideas, collectively they can be brilliant. We couldn’t find a better example than this year’s winners in the innovation category, Virgin Money.

This was the third time we have seen their entry and it gave us all real pleasure to see how the proposition has gone from good to great.  In many ways their journey represents the developments organisations have had to undergo in order to meet the demands of an increasingly knowledgeable and connected customer who still has a desire for good face-to-face service. This year’s entry highlighted how the principles of customer centricity drive key metrics around growth and sustainability.

One of the main challenges we continue to see as we talk to organisations, not only in the UK but also around Europe, is how they can inspire their own people to think beyond business as usual. A vital step if they are truly able to grow and retain the most profitable customers. Experience focused organisations become agile and effective as they focus on the needs of employees as well as their customers. The energy, enthusiasm and goodwill generated cannot fail to choose a more efficient and productive company and truly loyal customers.

Timing of course is everything as we move into a truly digitally connected environment where knowledge and opinion, both positive and negative, are freely shared. The experiences we generate will continue to have a growing influence on acquiring new customers and retaining loyalty.

And it was great to see the financial services district really starting to mature in their thinking and delivery, not only of customer, but also people experience. Perhaps some other industries have been quicker to appreciate the role of employees in the design of a great customer experience, rather than just its delivery.  It is a shift that helps businesses to understand the true return on investment.

More good news witnessed at the awards is that the financial service industry is continuing to innovate with real pace and enthusiasm. We are seeing an increasing number of experienced focused people in key roles who have the influence to permanently change even the largest organisation.

Talking to contestants, both winners and finalists expressed their desire to come back stronger next year inspired by what they had seen and heard others had been able to achieve so congratulations on the running of the awards and the quality of the participants. Together we can continue to push the boundaries of what is possible and reap the rewards.

Find out more info at

Judge CXA

Topic brief for The QoE July 2015

Posted on 8 Jun 2015 by Carl Lyon

Our next main group discussion will be on Thursday 9th July9.30-4.30 at The Aviator, Farnborough GU14 6EL

The topic
Turning theory into practise (tools specific)

Inevitably a debate on turning theory into practise will need to cover many different scenarios, some simple and others complex. Studying output from our previous session would indicate there are three main areas to be considered - implementing strategy, engaging people and identifying and employing the right tools.

Due to time restraints and the interest in both strategy and people engagement we rarely do justice to the tools debate. In order to correct the balance, in this discussion we will attempt to take a selection of challenges and the desired outcomes, theories for their resolution and people engagement as accepted facts. This should allow us to concentrate on identifying and implementing practical tools and technology.

The combined knowledge and experience at the table will allow some challenges to be quickly shared and addressed by the group. It would also be good to have visibility of others before the debate and your suggestions are welcome.

Some of the areas already suggested are :

  •         Workshop ideas and aids
  •         Customer insight and measurement
  •         Online learning and post workshop support
  •         Multi-channel implementation
  •         Internal knowledge share

As always personal views are also appreciated, as are unique ideas and practices. The more we share, the more we take away.

iQoE Reflections April 2015

Posted on 1 Jun 2015 by Carl Lyon

How is the network era affecting large organisations?

iQoE networked

Slavery was a terrible thing, but for thousands of years it remained a convenient way to get work done. Mass slavery persisted until enough people decided that dominance through fear was no longer an ethical means of organising people.

 The widespread abolition of slavery heralded a paradigm shift in consciousness. The advent of the industrial revolution brought with it the emergence of the first large organisations. Command and control became the best way to coordinate the masses, and the profit motive became the new organising principle.

As large organisations became more complex, often through mergers and acquisitions, a more subtle variant of the command and control approach emerged - that of ‘conformism’. Groups and departments within the same organisation often adopted an ‘us versus them’ mindset as they sought to defend their perceived territory from the new arrivals. The resulting blame culture that emerged gave rise to a silo mentality, and inter-departmental politics became the control mechanism.

So what’s next?

We are now thirty years into the digital era, and fifteen years into an age of hyperconnectivity. Digital technologies are fundamentally changing the ways in which we work, think and socialise, with ‘search’ and ‘share’ becoming central to the human experience. Mass connectivity has brought with it mass transparency, shining a spotlight onto the internal workings of large organisations.

While this has liberated the individual, it has caused terror for many businesses and governments as they are no longer able to hide behind traditional marketing and communication strategies. Not only are the masses getting much better at reading the intent behind the message, they are increasingly able to broadcast their own in order to challenge previously unchallengeable power structures.

We are seeing the emergence of a new organising principle: the network. But what does this mean for large organisations?

  1. Reputation is now becoming as valuable as the profit motive. According to Thomson Reuters and Interbrand, 75% of the value of today’s average corporation is intangible. And in a survey by the World Economic Forum, three fifths of CEOs felt that brand and reputation were responsible for more than 40% of their company’s market capitalisation.

  2. The power of collective opinion can increasingly determine the fate of any organisation. Whereas ‘old power’ models were based on the ability of a person or an organisation to control information and people, ‘new power’ models are grounded in sharing, co-creation and the potential of the crowd.

  3. People – both inside and outside the company – matter more than ever before. As the global population becomes increasingly connected through social media, people are rapidly changing their expectations of large organisations. From customer experience to recruitment to marketing, digital and social are forcing transparency and accountability on an unprecedented scale.

  4. There is significant opportunity for an organisation to innovate by empower its workforce through networking and socialisation. And the potential to innovate is no longer confined to employees: digital and social now make open innovation - crowdsourcing ideas from outside the organisation – both possible and profitable.

But navigating these opportunities and challenges requires a new mindset, one that acknowledges the limitations of command and control, rejects the fear of socialisation and embraces the power of the network. If you can no longer tell people what to do – even if they work for you – then you need a new approach to leadership. If you want to inspire loyalty, trust and engagement, you need to create the conditions in which people can and want to relate to the values of your organisation. And if you want to reduce complexity, you need to appreciate that a socially empowered workforce capable of asking and answering informed questions can be a powerful partner.

Inevitably this new era will challenge organisations to produce, store and share intelligence in ways that were unimaginable only a few years ago.

But, like it or not, the future is network empowered socialisation.

Source: The QoE April 2015, Carl Lyon Written: Tony Reeves, University for the Creative Arts


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