Too many rules: what the Corona crisis teaches us about Customer Experience

The police are asking for clear rules. But the population is slowly becoming tired of rules. The COVID-19 epidemic teaches us something about human behaviour. And from that we can also learn lessons for Customer Experience Management.

The principle is clear: don’t come near each other, so that we don’t infect each other. And if that’s not an option: stay in small groups with always the same people – with your housemates, for example. In a compartmentalized population, the virus spreads less quickly.

But principles give little hold. People want rules. Exactly how much distance should we keep? May I visit my lover? And how far may my walk lead me from my home?

Perverse effects

This demand for rules seems justified at first sight, but it leads to unintended effects.

It started with the announcement that events with more than a thousand participants would be postponed. Suddenly organizers announced that their event would take place anyway – with 999 participants. Interviews on this subject in the newsreel stunned many. And when the government announced that pubs would close at midnight, they were suddenly full for lockdown parties – until 11:59 pm.

Gradually, more rules came and existing rules became more precise. We’re not allowed to make unnecessary trips, but of course we’re allowed to take a breath of fresh air: walking, running and cycling are allowed. But can we also roller skate? That is not entirely clear. Can a couple that doesn’t live together have contact with each other? And is an adolescent allowed to visit his sweetheart? Even if she still lives with her parents? And so you can ask a question about each individual situation that has to be answered with a new rule.

The police in particular are asking for clear rules. Because then it’s crystal clear who they have to discipline – or fine.

More rules – less effect

In the last few days the accusation sounds that the rules have already been changed eight times. That is due to advancing insight: our virologists learned along the way that the virus survives quite long on some surfaces – like benches in the park. But the rules change mainly because we need a rule for every situation. In that sense, the accusation is quite unjustified. First we ask for clarification of the rules, only to blame the regulators for making too many of them.

As more rules come, we become tired of rules. Certainly if we get the feeling that reason is being lost. Like when Belgian Minister of the Interior De Crem announced that cycling trips of fifty kilometres were no longer allowed. Does a cyclist who rides 51 kilometres cause so much more damage than someone who rides 49 kilometres? And why is it forbidden to play basketball on a square alone? Or sitting on the grass twenty metres away from other people? How many people do you infect with that?

If the rules seem arbitrary, resistance will arise. Since De Crem’s statement, the question has appeared in the newspapers as to whether the rules are legally valid and enforceable. And that makes it harder for us to comply with them.

The speed makes it visible

That’s also what happens in our companies. Only much slower. And it has a detrimental effect on the Customer Experience.

It starts with simple principles. But you have to interpret them. People ask for clear rules, then there is no discussion. That’s why a manager spends his entire budget every year. That is not always necessary, but he has it. Doesn’t he use it? Then he’ll get less next year. And what if he wanted to use the money the next year for a project that significantly improves the Customer Experience? Then he can’t because that’s not how it works.

When there is a directive for each specific part of the service, the customer should call back for his next question. Because the customer service agent only has six minutes for each customer. And these are used up for his first question.

Even well-meaning rules miss their effect. For example, a customer receives an answer to his complaint within three working days. Because that’s how it should be according to the Customer Experience rules. And does that really help the customer? That seems to be of minor importance. Because the employee is accountable for the speed – and not for the quality of his response.

And in the end, there are so many rules that employees don’t see the point of, that they creatively bypass them. But without the boss noticing.

Why do we need the COVID crisis to realise that?  Because the speed with which these things happen makes the effect stand out. The rules are changing fast.

But the principles? They remain unchanged. Stay away from each other. Flatten he curve.

Maybe we should learn to deal with principles.

Horst-Remes-Customer-Strategy-Expert
Écrit par Horst Remes Customer Strategy Expert @ Onestone

Do you have to do what your customers ask?

Do you want satisfied customers? Just ask them what they want. That is the advice of many self-proclaimed customer satisfaction guru.

But have you ever crunched the numbers to find out what it would mean for the financial health of your company? Doing what your customers ask, doesn’t come cheap.

Customer feedback is not the best source of information

Is what your customers ask for that unreasonable? Of course not. Only, customers don’t need to make any considerations when they tell you what they would like, they’ll just hand you their wishlist. But you can only spend every euro once. So spend it to those things that really matter.

Especially when you consider innovative interventions, customers are rarely a reliable source of information. You can not really blame them for not being able to imagine what you ‘re up to. You may be familiar with the witticism attributed to Henry Ford: “If I had asked what they wanted, my clients would have had said ‘a faster horse’.” It is far from certain that Ford has really made ​​that statement, but he could have and admit: it’s a good story. Conclusion? You can perfectly satisfy a need even when the customer does not even realize that he has the need.

Choose what you want to be the best at

It pays off to think about where and how you want to excel. Find out where the concrete needs of your customer match with your strategy. That is where you’ll find the most interesting candidate spearheads of your service concept: what you do and do not offer your customers. Are the other players in the market not yet addressing that need? Then you’re truely holding a master card in your hands.

Make clear to your customers why they should choose you

How to know if you’re on the right track? When your customers can articulate your strategy. Not because you told it to them, but because of the way you interact with them. That’s why it is important that customers know what they can expect from you. So, communicate explicitly why customers should choose you. That way, you will also communicate implicitly what expectations you will not (necessarily) meet.

A little pain increases the pleasure

The latter is very important. Although some experts are still discussing this, causing (a little) pain, would improve the pleasure of those things you want to excel at.[1] That is why the new iPhone makes you happier when you stood in line all night to get it and why club members are more loyal when it takes effort to get in. A handbag is more valuable because it costs more – and not vice versa.

Don’t turn grey

But there is also a more pragmatic reason to choose not to excel everywhere: the attention and resources that you spend on those elements of your services that are less distinctive, you cannot spend on your spearheads. Thus, you reduce the contrast with others and become an ‘average joe’.

If providing a quick service is not your priority, don’t invest in becoming quick. Just make sure your speed is acceptable. If fast service is your spearhead, be the fastest and make that promise true every time – without compromise. Colruyt is the cheapest. Always. If you like strolling through a cozy shop, there are much better options.

Read more about why we just don’t ask our clients what they want


[1]Kahneman, D., Diener, E., & Schwartz, N. (1999). Well-being: the foundations of hedonic psychology. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Horst-Remes-Customer-Strategy-Expert
Écrit par Horst Remes Customer Strategy Expert @ Onestone

The perverse effects of KPIs

Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted. 

– William Bruce Cameron

I weigh 62 kilograms. Five kilograms too much to my liking. Time for action! To know if I’m actually getting results, I weigh myself every Monday morning, right after showering and completely naked, to make sure that I can work with comparable results. I’ve been doing that for seven weeks in a row. Without any result. What am I doing wrong? I explain that to you in this blog because we all make the same mistakes in defining our KPIs.

Measuring what doesn’t matter

You use Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to analyse performance. Thanks to KPIs you want to induce change. And they are perfect for that, because a KPI impacts the behaviour of your employees. Someone measures it, so it’s important. You don’t even have to link an evaluation or remuneration to it. A KPI changes the behaviour of your employees. Point.

And that knife cuts both ways. Because when you define the wrong KPI, you get the wrong behaviour. And we still see that happening too often. Employees in a call centre know them well: the KPIs with perverse side effects. Managers in a call centre might evaluate their employees on the length of the phone calls they are doing. In an ideal world they would take less than 3 minutes, because then they can help more customers, keep the waiting time under control and have more satisfied customers. The annoying side effect? Employees who, after 2 minutes and 50 seconds, tell the customer they’ll call back in a minute. The KPIs are green. The customer turns red.

Measuring what matters and still overshooting the mark

Soon I found out that I’d rather weigh myself in the morning than in the evening, that I’d get a better result if I didn’t drink any water the night before, and that it was to my advantage to go to the toilet first. Once I saw the number 59 appear. And quickly disappear again. A typical phenomenon: measuring the intended result but not actually achieving what you want.

Your goal is customer satisfaction. So you show your employees on a weekly basis how often they make a customer happy. You measure what matters, and yet you create problems. A small selection of what we see happening: 

  • Employees who only send surveys to customers they expect to be extremely satisfied.
  • Assigning colour codes to the survey so that customers are well aware that a 7/10 or 8/10 answer is only ‘orange’.

  • An employee who asks your customer to give a high score, because he will be evaluated on it.
  • Or handing out gifts to customers, hoping for better scores.

Measure behaviour, not results

Most managers focus on results. Sales managers focus on sales, service managers focus on customer satisfaction, parents focus on report cards, people who diet focus on weight. But by measuring results, you won’t get there. In order to motivate your team and achieve success, it is better to do a behavioural measurement. Here is the difference:

A result measurement

  • tells you if you have achieved the goal
  • can’t be directly influenced by you
  • gives you information at a moment you can no longer change the result

A behavioural measurement

  • tells you how likely it is that you will achieve your goal
  • can be directly influenced by you
  • gives you information when you can still influence the result

Therefore, a behavioural measurement has a more motivating effect than a result measurement.

Is your goal customer satisfaction? Then your result measurement shows how many satisfied customers you have. Your behavioural measurement, on the other hand, measures what your team does to ensure that customers are satisfied.

Why is it that we so often use the wrong KPIs?

If it’s so simple, why do we always use result measurements? There is one simple reason for that: they are easy to implement. You don’t have to look for them, they are often delivered to you automatically.

Measuring behaviour is a lot more difficult. And there are two reasons for that:

The behaviour with a direct impact on the result is difficult to determine.

How do you determine which behaviour has an impact on your intended result? Many managers do this intuitively. They start from assumptions and select those elements that they think have a direct impact on the goal. Like answering customers quickly, for example. If we do that, customer satisfaction will increase. And so we measure the speed with which we solve customer questions. Employees adjust their behaviour and focus on the speed, not on what they should do to make the customer satisfied. A world of difference, because satisfaction is rarely about how fast you do something for a customer. Your customer just needs to know who is going to do what and when. No vague promises. Customers like it super concrete.

Behaviour is difficult to measure.

Have you figured out what your employees have to do to create satisfied customers? Then it’s a matter of measuring how often they behave in this way. How often did your employee give the customer insight into when his question will be answered? Quite a challenge, because this data is seldom available and collecting it takes some effort.

How do you determine a good KPI?

Find the desired behaviour

First, determine your goal. What should your customer say about your organisation? Then, experiment to find out what the behaviour is that your employees have to display in order to reach that goal. Are customers more satisfied when we call them, rather than emailing them? Do customers want a fast solution? Or do they prefer to be kept informed while we take some time? You only know the answer when you test it on a number of customers.

Most important criteria? Your employees must be able to have a direct impact on the desired behaviour. Whether they do it or not, depends solely on their own will to do so. 

Measure the desired behaviour

Is it clear which behaviour is needed to achieve the desired result? Then you have to measure it. And you have to make sure that your employees have an overview of the status. Not a monthly report with the results, but a direct view on how your employees behave.

Do I want to lose those kilos? Then I’d better stop measuring just the result. I have to measure my behaviour. And that’s why I first determine which behaviour has a direct effect on the kilos that appear on my scale. In order to lose weight, I can take two actions: eat healthy and exercise. 

And I can measure those two. How many calories do I eat every day and how many calories do I burn? Do I keep a good record of these two things? That way I focus on what really matters. Not an easy exercise, but better no KPI than a bad one. 

By now I weigh 57 kg. I practice what I preach.

Intrigued by this subject? Then be sure to read The 4 Disciplines of Execution van Chris McChesney, Sean Covey en Jim Huling

Anneleen-Vanlommel-Customer-Strategy-Expert
Écrit par Anneleen Vanlommel Customer Strategy Expert @ Onestone

Responding to complaints? Avoid financial compensation

An estimation error, client communication gone wrong, or a promise you didn’t fulfil? Despite your efforts to deliver exceptional services, products and effective contact, you’ll eventually find yourself responding to complaints. Exactly how do you tackle them? Rule one: You don’t handle complaints with financial compensation. Ever. I’ll explain why and how to bend complaints to your advantage.

But first: what exactly do we mean by financial compensation? It’s a sum of money with which you respond to the ‘psychological’ damage caused by an error. Are clients demanding this sort of compensation? Then they’re usually asking for more than the damage actually suffered.

What isn’t financial compensation? It is not damage compensation, because that actually does cover the exact amount of damage actually suffered. For example: your internet refuses to work for a day, so your provider takes one-thirtieth off the total of your invoice for the month.

Now, do you offer your clients financial compensation after a complaint? Because if you do, you’re encouraging a certain type of client relationship— a transactional. And risk falling into the commodity trap.

Build an emotional relationship with your client

We differentiate between two sorts of client relationships: transactional and emotional.

  • In a transactional relationship, the entire focus is on the transaction—the sale. In this context, discounts, financial allowances and compensations work perfectly. At least, until the competition comes along with an even better price … What then? Do you give an even better discount? Lower your prices even further? Before you know it, you’ve landed with both feet in the commodity trap. Because there can only ever be one that’s the cheapest …
  • Would you like to avoid this? Build an emotional relationship with your client. You do this by offering your client the total experience. And to understand what the total experience is, we suggest taking a look at Starbucks. They’re not exactly the cheapest place to go for your coffee. But we still go there in droves. Why? Starbucks works on offering their clients the complete experience. From the personal touches to the total atmosphere of the shop itself. You don’t just trade this experience in for a cheap cup of coffee.

Your client’s perception changes in the blink of an eye

Imagine your client has an emotional connection with your company. What happens when something goes wrong? Would compensation strengthen this relationship? Or would you run the risk of transforming the emotional relationship into a transactional one? How quickly would this happen?

Take a look at the following research into childcare centres. Children are often picked up late. It’s a fact that they used as the basis of an experiment in Israel:

  • The idea? Ask parents to pay a fine when they’re ten minutes late.
  • The goal? To make sure that fewer children are picked up late.
  • The result? More parents arrived late. A lot more in fact.  And worse yet: the fines were abandoned after three weeks but the parents continued to arrive late.[1]

What happened here? Two things:

  1. By executing a financial transaction, the client’s perception of the relationship changed. And that happened almost instantly. Parents saw the relationship as ‘transactional’.
  2. This perception remained even after the fine disappeared. The damage was done.

What do we want to show through this example? Perception can change very quickly from emotional to transactional. It’s then very difficult to turn the tide. There’s a great chance that you’ll head straight into the commodity trap.

How to escape the commodity trap

Once a transactional relationship with your clients, always a transactional relationship? Fortunately, that’s is not the case. No one is doomed to be or remain a commodity forever. At least, not if you differentiate yourself from the competition in a positive way.

When something goes wrong and results in a bevy of complaints, don’t play the compensation card. Because a complaint is an excellent opportunity to set yourself apart from the competition.

After the correct handling of a complaint, a client will be more satisfied than they were prior to the issue that resulted in the complaint. This may look like a contradiction—which is why this phenomenon is called the service recovery paradox. But everything has to do with the perception that remains in the memory.

Focus first on the person, then on the complaint

What does the ‘correct’ handling of complaints actually mean? Keep the steps of the following process in the back of your mind:

1. Take care of the person first …

Your client calls and is angry or disappointed … It’s our natural reflex to want to solve the problem immediately. We prefer to ignore the emotion involved. After all, what should we do with it? However, it’s in this lack of attention for emotion that the problem lies. Because it’s the emotion that determines how a client feels after the handling of the complaint.

Respond to the emotion first. Let your client know that you understand they’re frustrated. A simple “That sucks” can be enough. A client will only be ready to discuss possible solutions after they feel like they—and their emotions—have been acknowledged.

2. … and then solve the problem

Satisfaction depends more on the effort and creativity you show when solving the problem than it does on the problem itself.[2] This is in contradiction to what we often do: think of the ultimate solution and then propose it to the client. What happens if they’re not satisfied with that? We’re stuck there with nothing to say. And the client ends up feeling that we haven’t put in enough effort.

What are you better off doing? Brainstorming out loud. Think together about what possible options are. A client who appreciates your efforts to solve the problem is a happy client.

Don’t cross the bridge with money

Does financial compensation belong on this list of possible options? In the short term, it may appear to be a good way to calm the situation down. But in the long term, you’ll benefit by focusing on different ways of responding to complaints. Set yourself the goal of strengthening your emotional relationship the client. And keep following this time-honoured adage: money doesn’t make you happy.

Read more about how to deal with angry customers


[1]Gneezy, U., & Rustichini, A. (2000). A fine is a price. Journal of legal studies,vol. XXIX,                       http://rady.ucsd.edu/faculty/directory/gneezy/pub/docs/fine.pdf.

[2]Marinovan, D., Singh, S. & Singh, J. (2018), Frontline Problem-Solving Effectiveness: A dynamic analysis of verbal and nonverbal cues. Journal of marketing research.

Marijke-Houtman-Customer-Strategy-Expert
Écrit par Marijke Houtman Customer Strategy Expert @ Onestone

Débarrassons-nous du Service client !

Mettre à disposition toute une équipe de collaborateurs pour traiter tant et chaque fois les mêmes problèmes ? Pour traiter des clients frustrés. Et, en général, ne pas réussir à les rendre moins frustrés après l’appel. Et pour les clients à qui nous voulons parler ? Ceux-là n’appellent pas. Et quand ils nous appellent, nous sommes injoignables.

Qu’il faut réduire les coûts ?  Eh bien, l’option de supprimer le Service client va de soi, non ? Prenons du recul. Pourquoi, à l’origine, voulions-nous mettre en place un Service client ?

Instiguer l’amélioration continue

Qui d’autre est mieux placé pour identifier les déficiences (des produits et services), que votre collaborateur au Service client ?  Il est le premier à savoir lorsque quelque chose ne tourne pas rond. Et lorsque ça tourne mal, c’est lui qui tente le tout pour le tout pour solutionner ‘l’incident’.

Ce genre d’incidents demandent de la ‘gestion d’incidents’ : alerter le reste de l’organisation et ‘s’armer’ pour répondre à l’avalanche de coups de fils de clients insatisfaits (à juste titre).  Nous nous préparons pour savoir ce que nous allons dire – et comment. Nous ‘absorbons’ les incidents.

Est-ce alors surprenant d’avoir des collaborateurs stressés ? De les voir passer leur temps avec des conversations que ni eux, ni les clients, veulent ?

Résultat des courses ? La création d’une charge de travail que le Service client ne parvient plus à absorber. Et les clients auxquels nous voulons parler ? Eh bien, vu le temps d’attente croissant, ils finissent par abandonner. Jusqu’à ce que le Service client tire la sonnette d’alarme et perturbe le reste de l’organisation avec une demande pressante de main-d’œuvre.

Le Service client a tellement plus de potentiel ! Et s’ils réagissaient de manière proactive en cas d’incidents, plutôt que de laisser l’initiative auprès des clients ? Qu’ils prennent contact avec le client. Avant même que ce dernier ait l’occasion de nous ‘accabler’.

Eliminer les contacts clients ‘sans valeur’

Mais la situation est pire. Car même quand rien ne ‘foire’, le Service client traite un tas de contacts clients ‘sans valeur’.

Avez-vous déjà compté le nombre d’appels clients concernant des questions simples, auxquelles nous pouvons formuler des réponses simples ? Via d’autres canaux, moins coûteux et souvent bien plus accessibles pour les clients (tel qu’Internet). Avez-vous déjà chiffré toutes les questions que les clients posent, suite à des communications incomplètes ou imprécises ? (Pensez notamment aux factures incompréhensibles aux yeux des clients) Vous seriez surpris !

Votre Service client connaît ces problèmes. Mais souvent ça s’arrête là. Votre organisation, est-elle prête à faire face à ses défaillances ? A établir les causes premières, et à les résoudre dans le fond ? Commencez par mesurer tous les ‘contacts sans valeur’. Et prenez des mesures pour les réduire (à néant).

Fidéliser les clients

Éviter tous les problèmes et n’avoir plus aucun client insatisfait ? C’est une utopie. De nouveaux problèmes surgiront toujours. Et le Service client les détectera en premier. Résignez-vous : les clients mécontents continueront à contacter le Service client.

Et c’est alors que cela se gâte. Le collaborateur au Service client est humain après tout. Et lorsqu’un humain se sent attaqué ? Il contre-attaque. Vous connaissez la suite : le client se fâche d’avantage, le collaborateur passe en modus défensif, … Et en moins d’une, tout le monde est contrarié.

Pourquoi la situation se dégrade t’-elle si vite ? Tout commence par le premier réflexe du collaborateur : “la plainte, est-elle justifiée ?” Et souvent, il se fait la réflexion à haute voix … Pénible pour le client. Se donnerait-il tant de mal si sa plainte n’était pas justifiée ?

L’alternative ? Cela peut vous sembler étonnant, mais un client fâché est une opportunité en or ! Ne laissez pas filer votre client (chez votre concurrent). Faites-en votre plus grand fan.

À ce propos Richard Gallagher a écrit un livre fantastique : The Customer Service Survival KitL’essentiel ? Toujours laisser le client dans sa dignité – quoi qu’il arrive. Faites-lui ressentir que toute personne normale réagirait comme lui (même si vous êtes convaincu du contraire). Vous ne mettez pas en défaut vos collègues ni votre entreprise. Vous acceptez tout simplement son vécu – sa perception de la réalité. C’est la condition sine qua non pour obtenir un client prêt à vous écouter, à s’ouvrir aux solutions que vous lui proposez. Et concentrez-vous sur ce que vous êtes en mesure de faire pour le client. Pas sur ce qu’il exige.

Fermer le Service client?

Finalement, non. Déterminez clairement ce que vous voulez signifier pour le client – et pour votre organisation. Formulez une vision client claire et mobilisante. Au plus concrète votre vision client ? Au plus que vos collaborateurs sont en mesure de la mettre en pratique.

Encouragez vos employés à maîtriser des techniques pour surprendre vos clients mécontents. Et non, ne vous leurrez pas, ces techniques ne s’acquièrent pas en suivant une petite journée de formation. Donnez-leur l’autorité de proposer des solutions ‘second-time-right’. Et soutenez–les avec des processus et des systèmes qui leur facilitent cette tâche.

Alarm bells are ringing. Are you paying attention?

Marleen Strubbe, auteur invité,
Freelance Interim Manager, Change Manager, Project Manager.

Marleen est notre ancienne collègue. L’esprit critique est sa deuxième nature. Et les chiffres font battre son cœur.

Completely ignoring warning signals: how is that possible? On the 10thof April 2010, the Polish presidential airplane crashed. The president and his delegation, all killed on impact. It happened less than a kilometre from the airport.

National Geographic devoted an entire episode of Air Crash Investigationto the event. The investigators came across a very intriguing fact. During the descent, a cockpit alarm indicating a loss of height was howling away. Oddly enough, no one really responded to it. Even more disturbing: the only way the crew did respond was in manually turning off the alarm.

Allow me to explain why they did that. Flying an airplane too low when there is no airport in the neighbourhood is enough to set the alarm blaring. The Polish presidential airplane was a passenger airplane, but it often landed at military airports. As these military airports are not included in the database of passenger airports, the system interpreted the situation as if there was no airport. And so, any time the airplane was landing at a military airport, the alarm would sound. Pilots often landed at these airports. It’s understandable that they weren’t completely shocked by the howling siren. Of course, it was still an incredibly bothersome sound. And this explains why they would reset the altimeter alarm. Which is exactly what happened on this flight.

Ignoring alarms. It happens a lot. Especially in the corporate world. An alarm signal on a dashboard is almost always linked to a response such as, ‘Yes, but that’s just temporary, because …’ or ‘This doesn’t take … into account, so …’ What are the consequences?

It’s not just the value of the alarm signal that is nullified; the details of the other measurements or assessments also lose a great deal of their credibility.

We expect our measurements and assessments to reflect reality. But is this really the case? Whenever we assess or measure something, we run the risk of a possible error in the process. And then we need to decide: are our measurements accurate or not? To make this decision, we often set an arbitrary cut-off score. This score determines whether the measurement or assessment is positive or negative. Whether the dashboard display is red or green.

This cut-off score, in combination with our error, leaves us with four possible outcomes. And to explain the situation, we are using cancer screenings as an example:

  • Our measurement was correct and we have a positive score (true positive) e.g. we checked for cancer and the patient has cancer.
  • Our measurement was correct and we have a negative result (true negative) e.g. we found no sign of cancer and the patient does not have cancer.
  • Our measurement was incorrect and we have a positive score (false positive) e.g. we found no sign of cancer, but the patient does actually have cancer.
  • Our measurement was wrong and we have a negative score (false negative) e.g. we found cancer, but the patient doesn’t actually have cancer.

Where do we set our cut-off scores? We decide this ourselves. The settings for our cut-off scores determine the ratio of false negative and false positive outcomes. In the example that we gave, we would clearly prefer a false negative result to a false positive one. It’s better to mistakenly believe that someone has cancer and to have them examined more carefully than to send them home when they are actually sick. In order to avoid this happening, we set a higher cut-off score. If we set this threshold incorrectly? We end up with constant false negative results, and our measurements are then worthless.

In the example of the Polish airplane, the number of false positives was too high. The alarm lost its effect.

In these examples, there are human lives at stake. This is fortunately not the case in the corporate world. But the dashboard shouldn’t be turned into a pointless colour picture under any circumstances.

The French Liars: why don’t we just ask our clients what they want?

Do you want to research the needs and experiences of your clients? Ask them. You’ll rely on their willingness to answer your questions. And you’ll have to assume their answers are accurate and sincere. But are they?

Bad questions, dishonest answers

You don’t need to have a great deal of experience as a researcher to recognise that you’re best not asking just any questions. ‘How long are you prepared to wait?’: the answer to this question is easy to predict. No one wants to wait. Are your questions contrary to the interests of your clients? Because if they are, you shouldn’t expect to receive honest answers.

Nonetheless, we regularly see surveys that include questions such as: ‘Are you prepared to pay more for the same service?’ About 2% of respondents answer ‘Yes’ to the question, effectively demonstrating that a section of the respondents did not understand the question. Or that they didn’t even read it. And of course, this doesn’t mean that the other 98% wouldn’t accept it if we were to raise the price.

Questions based on fact … Answers based on anything but fact

Even for highly factual questions, where the respondent has no direct interest in giving one answer or another, the reliability of answers is disappointing. Orange, the third largest supplier of telecommunications in Europe, has experienced this first hand.

In a survey of the roaming habits of their French clients, they established that of all clients who claimed to use roaming services ‘very often’, more than 60% had not actually used them even once in the past year. The respondents were given the nickname ‘The French Liars’, a notion that serves in many research teams as a warning not to assume too quickly that respondents give honest answers. Not even to highly factual questions.

As such, only ask the questions that you are really interested in seeing answered. If you don’t gather answers and feedback, you may feel as though you’re making decisions blindly. And that may be the case. But you’re sometimes better being blind and using a cane to find your way than it is to think that you can see, only to run off a cliff.

Horst-Remes-Customer-Strategy-Expert
Écrit par Horst Remes Customer Strategy Expert @ Onestone

Shortcuts in company processes

Marleen Strubbe, auteur invité,
Freelance Interim Manager, Change Manager, Project Manager.

Marleen est notre ancienne collègue. L’esprit critique est sa deuxième nature. Et les chiffres font battre son cœur.

No shortcuts in your company processes!

Did you know that an elephant will always march to its destination via the shortest possible route? There aren’t any obstacles in the savannah big enough to stop a seven-tonne animal. An elephant isn’t worried about keeping to the track you want it to travel along. Like elephants, people tend to take the quickest routes too. We create shortcuts and ‘desire paths’ to reach things more quickly. But do we know enough about the impact they have on our organisations?

The search for shortcuts and back doors is an inherent part of human nature. Let’s pay a quick visit to the local school. In front of the main entry is a roundabout surrounded by a hedge. Pretty. At least it’s pretty on paper …

But what happens in reality? The roundabout functions as a drop-off point. With the hedge being used as an unofficial entry to the school. Against all the rules. The result? The hedge is looking bald and battered.

We are so lazy! Or is it better to say efficient?”

The owner of the hedge wasn’t having it. They put some poles in the ground and stretched some wire between them:

And just like that, the shortcut was closed off! And the hedge slowly grew back. But this wasn’t the end of the story. A lot of people now had to walk around the hedge every day. Against their will and natural inclination. We are so lazy! Or are we just grumpy because we’ve seen our efficient route taken away from us?

Company processes with detours?

We all want to reach our goals quickly and easily. This is why we don’t hesitate in creatingdesire paths. Much to the consternation of the designers of parks and gardens. Because why would we follow gracefully winding paths if we can quickly cut across the grass?

Back doors in processes lead to bad consequences

The same thought process appears when employees are confronted with lengthy or complex company processes. They quickly discover the back doors … that often open onto unexpected consequences for your organisation.

This is how you create company processes without shortcuts

What do you do as the architect of good processes?

  • Consult everyone involved. Leave your ivory tower and sit around the design table with everyone. You’ll open the door to valuable insights and solidify your support for change.
  • Understand and accept the natural human preference for shortcuts.Draw up the most efficient route from the outset. And keep in mind the person who will actually be carrying out the process: a person of flesh and blood, with challenges and expectations, goals and frustrations.
  • Obliterate myths. Don’t expect to be able to spoon-feed difficult processes to your employees if you only organise bare-bones training. And don’t assume that you’ll be able to weld shut the back doors in your processes. Makeshift solutions won’t stop your staff members from taking shortcuts, just like nothing will stop an elephant from taking the path it wants to take.

The result? A professional flow that allows everyone to be comfortable and productive.Or: a peaceful roundabout. A beautiful hedge. And well-thought-out access routes that allow parents to save time in the morning rush. Everyone wins!

Loyalty is a two-way street

Loyal clients? They’re a dream come true. They’re the clients who aren’t seduced by attractive offers from competitors. The ones who think of you first, every time they need to make a new purchase. Clients who recommend you to everyone who’s prepared to listen … And even some people who aren’t.

You probably have clients like this. But they shouldn’t be taken for granted. They will leave if they believe you aren’t returning their loyalty. Unfortunately, two-way loyalty is an issue that comes up far too regularly.

Clients get little loyalty back

Loyalty is an emotion. And you don’t hold emotions for ransom.

But what do you do if a loyal client has been paying on time, year after year, before one day leaving it a little too late to pay their most recent invoice? Right. You send them a reminder. With a ‘reminder cost’. And it’s usually paired with some threatening language about what will happen if they don’t make the payment straight away.

The issue isn’t just related to late payments. It’s also far too common when you offer extras, bonuses and rewards. Because your older clients, who took the risk of doing business with you, back before you had proven your value, are often forgotten.

What will they think when they see that you reward new clients for their wait-and-see attitude? What will they think if you’re offering new clients benefits you never offered them? Exactly. **** ***!

And why would you only solve a persistent problem at the moment that a loyal client lets you know they’ve decided to take their business to a different supplier?

Make sure your clients feel your loyalty

It might seem like loyalty is only a one-way street. You put so much energy into new clients. And in detecting clients who are likely to head to the competition. You forget those quiet, loyal clients. It’s crucial to pay attention to them if you want to work on genuine loyalty.

For every marketing promotion, process design and all your communications, think about the possible effects on those clients who have been with you for a long time, but who barely make a sound.

What do you offer them to show you appreciate their loyalty? A birthday card is probably not the answer.

Horst-Remes-Customer-Strategy-Expert
Écrit par Horst Remes Customer Strategy Expert @ Onestone

No clear service concept? A missed opportunity!

Are your clients disappointed with your service? This means it’s time to examine your communication. Being extremely clear about what you offer makes a radical difference to the experience of your clients, your patients or your citizens.

A service concept describes exactly what you offer and what you need from your client so that he can enjoy or benefit from your services.

We frustrate clients when we aren’t clear about what they can expect

In the following example, there is no lack of friendliness or action. Yet the citizen is still dissatisfied with the service. And the process has wasted valuable taxpayers’ money.

Imagine a typical family outing to the water park. After a bit of fun in the water, you discover your iPhone is no longer with the rest of your belongings. You head to the police post; after all, it’s what they’re there for. ‘No,’ they say. ‘We haven’t found anything. Sorry.’ Bother.

You arrive home and fire up the ‘Find My iPhone’ app. What a great tool! You see the exact location of your iPhone marked on the map. It’s in an apartment building less than a kilometre from your home. You inform the police. The response: ‘Before we can do anything, you’ll have to come down to the station to make an official statement. Sorry.’ Bother. Again.

Once you’re there, your ‘case’ is closed: the police are not allowed to search an entire apartment building for your iPhone. This is understandable.

But what was the point of all that running around and standing in the queue? Why did you have to waste both your own time and a police officer’s? Just for the sake of an administrative declaration? And how did it benefit you or the police? Was contacting them even worthwhile?

The next day, you receive a message from the ‘Find My iPhone’ app: your iPhone is now in the park. Time for action. You call the police again. With your heart thumping and eyes glued to the computer screen, you give the exceptionally friendly police officer the exact location. ‘We will send a team and call you as soon as we are there.’ A little later, the police officer calls you back and tells you the team is on site. You provide the current location of your iPhone: ‘500 metres further along the road at the library.’ The police officer calls back just moments later: ‘My team is there.’ While you’re on the line, you see the iPhone moving on the screen: into a tram, out of the tram, across the street … You once more give the new address. And then, in the middle of all this action: ‘Sorry, but we simply can’t keep on doing things this way. There are other tasks we have to attend to. Unfortunately, we can’t keep chasing after thieves for an iPhone. I hope you can understand this.’

What?! Why did we just go to all that effort? What service does the police actually offer in the event of a theft?

A good service concept leads to satisfaction and efficiency

Being customer-friendly and taking action is important, but it’s not enough. For your services to be genuinely customer-friendly, you need a clear service concept: what can the client, patient or citizen expect from you? And what is not possible? What does a client need to do to make the most of your services?

Would you like to have satisfied clients? You’ll have to make a few choices: where do you want to excel? What practices do you want to leave behind? And why?

In this example, the service concept for the police would have answered the question: when do the police intervene in the event of theft (e.g. as from what value?) and when don’t they? What does the citizen need to do? Etc.

A structured service concept, communicated clearly, leads to satisfied clients, gives the employees direction and results in efficiency. This way, a half-intervention with no result makes room for a satisfied citizen and a worthwhile use of taxpayers’ money.

Stéphanie-'tFelt-Customer-Strategy-Expert
Écrit par Stéphanie ‘t Felt Customer Strategy Expert @ Onestone