Saturday, 19 October 2019

Lifelong relationships

"Mesh businesses are well positioned to constantly improve their customers’ convenience by refining the overall experience, while offering them long-term savings and near-term happy surprises."

Lisa Gansky

Recent events continue to challenge us all to consider our role on this planet, and the importance of thinking about the 'common good' and developing lifelong relationships.

Here in Australia the Royal Commission into Financial Services challenged the attitudes, behaviours and actions of entities and individuals. In the United States, the presidency of Donald Trump, and the actions of his family members and associates, are being questioned as to whether they are truly for the good of all. In the United Kingdom Brexit has divided nations and challenges us all to what is for the 'common good'.

This is a unique time in history, where we need to ask ourselves the question of the individual good versus the 'common good'.

Lisa Gansky's book, "The Mesh: Why the Future of Business is Sharing", is an excellent exploration of the role of enterprises in delivering to the 'common good'.

The book explores a number of key topics, including the conflicts of interest that twist and distort actions and behaviours due to incentives, principles, and what is defined as "great performance".

"The ethic of doing well while doing good has already created wildly successful companies"

Lisa reflects that "the company doesn’t push; the customer pulls". Over the last 30 years the corporate veil, and in particular the 1980s focus on "greed", has left many consumers experiencing terrible service with organisations.

We recently travelled to the United States for a holiday. It has been almost 20 years since I was last there. We understood the expectation of "tipping" when out, particularly at restaurants and hotels (knowing that a key factor in this is the salary levels of those serving). However, we had 3 significant experiences (amongst other ones) that highlighted that the individuals and the enterprise had no interest in providing customer service, yet expected the incentive. 

"Create and embrace teams, tools, and practices that enable a fresh, responsive, and authentic voice"

The first experience was at a restaurant where the employees talked to each other whilst we waited to give our order, then when we got our order they missed a number of items (I am still waiting 3 months later for my drink), and when providing our food they literally shoved it across to us. During this whole time, right near where we were seated, they chatted with their friends and each other the whole time. You could easily think we were inconviencing them in their "home". When we left without providing a "tip", we could hear them judging us for not being nice!

"People relying on your service need to know one thing, first and foremost—that your business can truly deliver on its promise"

The second experience was at a hotel which we attended an expensive event (concert). The concert was extremely disappointing, with the sound muffled & uncomfortable and the performer appearing to lip-sync parts of the performance. Due to the personal impact of the sound, we left early. We wanted to ensure we provided feedback, not to request money back but to help for the next performance. We were passed 3 times to different people, with the ultimate person telling us that "it was not his area" and explaining the structure of their business. I am not kidding, he actually provided the hierarchy of roles and departments! Ultimately I stated, "Regardless of this, you are capable to taking down our feedback and arranging for someone to call us". He stated, "That was a good idea". Once again we did not tip, and once again we heard the conversation with another staff member as we left.

During the whole conversation and as we were leaving, the employee literally showed us he did not care.

"Give more value than the customer expected for the time and money she spent. Tease out ideas for better service and mild complaints from happy customers rather than waiting for loud, unhappy comments with social momentum"

The third example was again in a hotel. In this case we had tried twice to talk to the "Concierge" but due to their work hours were unable to catch them. In each case the referring person again told us about the hierarchy and departments in their business, as to why no one could help. When we did catch the "Concierge" he decided to make a phone call after having finished with the person he was helping before us. With a raised single finger, telling us to wait. When he got off the phone, there was no positive greeting but rather a "What do you want". It is safe to say the rest of the conversation was not much better, with him unable to help us. 

And you can guess what happened as we left this person.

"When a company makes each and every interaction with a customer feel special, she will want to come back and share her delight with her friends"

It is safe to say that we are not planning to return to any of the 3 places in future holidays to the United States.

Lisa's book outlines that there are seven keys to building trust in the Mesh to deliver amazing customer experiences: 

1. Say what you do—manage expectations and revisit them frequently. 
2. Use trials. 
3. Do what you say. 
4. Perpetually delight customers.
5. Embrace social networks and go deep. 
6. Value transparency, but protect privacy.
7. Deal with negative publicity and feedback promptly and skillfully.

These keys are all focused on the greater good and not on our individual goals, objectives or incentives (or tips). Lisa is highlighting that successful businesses truly believe that every customer interaction is important. 

Using our 3 experiences above, it is not about being perfect, but rather in delivering to and above the expectations of those that we interact with, be it customers, family, friends or acquaintances. Things go wrong, we all know that, it is how we engage to deliver the seven keys Lisa outlines.

"...the aim is not to focus only on a single sale. It’s to continually engage with the customer over her lifelong relationship with the brand and its services"

In particular, traditionally many businesses do not want customers to know anything about "how the sausage was made". In particular, transparency with customers was avoided, sometimes aggressively. But Lisa highlights that this attitude is changing rapidly. Customers demand to know more. They want to understand what they’re signing up for. Most importantly, they want to feel they can trust organisations with their information and the experience they will receive.

"When bad things happen, companies should simply come clean immediately. They need to explain how the problem will be corrected. Honesty allows people to give companies another chance. Being straight with the public builds trust"

"The Mesh: Why the Future of Business is Sharing" is an excellent book for all Executives to read and consider. Perhaps through reading this book, and exploring some of the ideas Lisa outlines, all organisations around the world will be for the 'common good'. We will not focus on personal objectives and incentives, and we will all "delight customers".

For if we all do this, then we will have "lifelong relationships" with our customers for the 'common good'.

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