I get to experience many wonderful things plying my trade around the world. I often have to pinch myself as a reminder that the things I am seeing, touching, hearing, and smelling are real and that they are actually happening to me! Since I became an independent Customer Experience Practitioner in 2012, I have rigorously ensured that I am described as a specialist in my role – not an expert – a specialist. I personally believe that no-one ever becomes an expert. I believe that all of us, whatever our profession happens to be, develop our chosen specialism over time – that development never ends, which is why I choose to remain a developing specialist.
My development as a Customer Experience specialist comes in a variety of forms. Working with the hugely broad array of industries that I do exposes me to a never ending view of the roller coaster rides that all companies experience in their efforts to become more Customer Centric. The reality is that whilst they all experience a roller coaster, every one is different – it is seeing the differences that allows me to develop my specialism.
I am also incredibly fortunate to work with organisations all over the globe – in 2015, I have already worked in ten countries – Four more will be added by September. Seeing and listening to the challenges of deploying Customer Experience strategies in different parts of the world is eye opening and a significant contributor to my continuing development.
My third form of development comes through my continued learning from others. I learn on a daily basis from other practitioners, clients, business leaders, journalists, thought leaders and most importantly my wife and children! This particular post is inspired by one thought leader I had the fortune to meet a couple of weeks ago. I knew as soon as he said ‘hello’ that I would learn from him. This wonderfully inspiring man asked all the attendees of the session he was running to tell him the one thing that we would like to take away from his activities on the day. I said that I would like to be inspired to write a blog post about it!! This ‘specialist’ facilitator gave me that inspiration within minutes – he is that kind of guy!
Allow me to introduce you to Earl Lynch. I do not want you to get the wrong idea about a handsome man pictured wearing a sharp tie and suit!! Earl is one of the most welcoming, warm, encouraging and inspiring people I have met in recent times. The Managing Director of a company called The Kairos Experience, Earl is a professional trainer and developer of people, with over 20 years’ experience working with both national and internationally renowned “blue chip” and Fortune 500 companies including Microsoft, GSK, Fujitsu Services, KPMG as well as many others. Just out of interest, he used to be a professional musician in a Reggae band!!
The key words in this description of Earl is that he is a ‘developer of people’. Earl knows people. Earl knows how to enable people to get the best out of themselves. That is why I learnt a lot from him in a very short space of time. I want to share with you one of the nuggets of knowledge that Earl imparted. It is not something that was completely new to me, but Earl’s brilliant ability to drive learning, has compelled me to share his words.
One of the realities of life in general is that change is inevitable. It happens with everything we experience – personally and professionally. People deal with change or ‘transformation’ in radically different ways. It is our ability to identify and influence people in their different states of engagement that will determine how successfully change can or will be adopted.
When it comes to transforming the Customer Experience, how engaged people are with change is no different. To some, the need to become more Customer Centric is blindingly obvious. To others, it is completely unnecessary. The thing is, whether those who do not BELIEVE in transforming the Customer Experience are right or wrong is not the point when it comes to influencing change. The point is that if you are able to understand how people FEEL about change, you can then develop tactics and strategies to help them BELIEVE.
Every organisation contains broadly three types of people – using Earl’s words – Thrivers; Nose-Divers; and Survivors. Let me explain each one in turn:
Roughly 15% of your employees are Thrivers. These are the most highly engaged people in your business. Innovative and entrepreneurial, they thrive on change and trying new things. They BELIEVE that learning through trying is the way to succeed and they never give up trying to do things better – for their organisation and for themselves. Thrivers tend to understand the need for an organisation to be more Customer Centric and are likely to be your ‘early adopters’ of Customer Centric change.
The brilliantly entitled ‘Nose-Divers’ are at the other end of the spectrum. The only thing they share with the Thrivers is the fact that there will be roughly 15% of your employees who sit in this category as well. These are your most disengaged employees. They are likely to not like their job, their company and potentially even their colleagues. Nose-Divers spend most of their time moaning about anything negative they can find and will tell anyone that is prepared to listen. Unfortunately, every business has them – however hard you try, it is not always possible to eliminate them entirely. These people are unlikely to BELIEVE in the need for Customer Centric change. They are very likely to dislike customers as much as they do their job.
If you are adept at simple mathematics, you will have identified that the remaining 70% (roughly) of employees sit in the third category – the Survivors. The majority of people in a business sit in the middle of the two extremes. They are not disengaged, but they are not highly engaged either. This makes them the most likely people to be influenced by either end of the spectrum. They will be hearing messages from the Thrivers – messages of hope and of a brave new world. Some survivors will be drawn to these messages and want to go along for the ride. HOWEVER, the survivor is also very susceptible to influence from the Nose-Divers – the highly disengaged tend to have a very loud, very monotonous and very repetitive voice. The more a survivor hears the negative, the more likely he/she is to believe the negative may be true.
To stand the best chance for your organisation to achieve a transformation in your Customer Experience, you need to be able to transform the feelings of your survivors. To do that, you need to enable your survivors to BELIEVE in the Customer Experience. The best way to do that is to help increase the volume of the Thrivers voice, whilst at the same time nullifying the Nose-Divers influence. The more a survivor hears the good and the great from the Thrivers, the more excited they are likely to become with the opportunities that being more Customer Centric presents.
The key is to maximise the potential of your Thriving community – these are your activists. These are your believers. Give them a bigger platform to share their beliefs, the more likely it is that the activist community will grow and flourish. This is why communication in the deployment of Customer Experience strategy is so vitally important. The more you can communicate the positive messages from the believers, the more believers you will have.
Thank you Earl for inspiring me to write this. In the two weeks since we met, I have used your words a dozen times. Learning is a wonderful pleasure and an honour – I am delighted that I had the honour of learning from you.