PeopleShock: The Path to Profits When Customers Rule
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Episode 64 Transcript:
Chris Curran: Growth Igniters Radio, episode 64: PeopleShock: The Path to Profits When Customers Rule. This episode is brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated, enabling successful leaders and companies to accelerate to their next level of success. On the web at www.BusinessAdvance.com. And now, here’s Pam and Scott.
Pam Harper: Thanks, Chris. I’m Pam Harper, Founding Partner and CEO of Business Advancement Incorporated, and with me is my business partner and husband, Scott Harper. Hi, Scott.
Scott Harper: Hi, Pam. As always, it’s just a pleasure to be with you again for another episode of Growth Igniters Radio. And if this is your first time listening, our purpose is to spark new insights, inspiration and immediately useful ideas for visionary leaders to accelerate themselves and their companies to their next level of success. So Pam, what are we focusing on today?
Pam Harper: How people, and especially customers, are dramatically changing the game of business in an increasingly digital environment. We’ve been talking about this over the past year with our friend Jim Blasingame, author of The Age of the Customer, since we launched Growth Igniters Radio. What’s become clear to me − to us − is that to some extent every industry and company will need to adapt their business models to become at least partially, if not, totally, a digital business in order to keep up with new customer needs and expectations.
Scott Harper: Yeah, that’s right. I think about all the ways that people and digital are already combined with business − we’ve got Uber, Airbnb, health care. I get emails and text messages from the dentist, even digital hair salons…
Pam Harper: Cleaners…
Scott Harper: That’s right.
Pam Harper: Digital cleaners. What this means is that to be truly responsive to customer needs we need a deep understanding of how customers experience and react to us digitally, and the implications that this has for every aspect of our business. That’s why we’re delighted to be speaking today with Tema Frank, Chief Instigator at Frank Reactions. Tema is a customer experience, digital marketing, and usability testing pioneer who put up her first website in 1995. She founded the world’s first omni-channel customer service testing firm, Web Mystery Shoppers, in 2001. Tema’s also a best selling author and will be releasing her second book, People Shock, The Path to Profits When Customers Rule, in May of 2016 − just next month. Tema’s clients have included Bank of America, Progressive Insurance and other financial, travel, retail, and non-profit organizations. She also shares her knowledge at universities in Canada and France and through her own weekly podcast, Frank Reactions. Tema, welcome to Growth Igniters Radio.
Tema Frank: Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Pam Harper: We’re so glad to have you. Now the shoe’s on the other foot; you’re our guest.
Tema Frank: Yeah, it’s fun actually.
Pam Harper: It is. It is. So let’s get started. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write your book?
Tema Frank: Sure, I’d be happy to do that. It really goes back probably quite a long time. My first career was in banking, and I saw this huge disconnect between what was going on in the back office and management and what was going on in the front lines. It got me thinking about customer experience and why is it so hard to deliver good customer experience consistently. An example from that era was we were working in a French language bank that was trying to move into the English part of the country [Canada]. In the head office they ran out of some English language brochures and they thought, “That’s okay. We’ll just send them French ones.” At the time there was a lot of pressure about separatism. It just set people on fire; they were so angry. That got me thinking a lot about, “Okay, how do we improve understanding of the people both inside and outside our organization?”
Then a few years later I wrote Canada’s Best Employers For Women, which got me looking at the human resources side − how do you increase employee engagement. The short version of that book is basically the best employers for women were great for men too because they really care about their people. Then, as you mentioned that I had set up Web Mystery Shoppers and so there I was doing this omni channel customer experience testing so were companies being consistent in what they were doing online and what they were doing in their stores and how their call center staff were behaving. The answer was often they aren’t. Then the final bit of the picture was I started reading and learning a lot more about automation and robots and thinking about where are the lines, what rules are left for humans in business. I realized that ultimately, the human factor is what can set you apart.
Pam Harper: Definitely.
Scott Harper: Absolutely. We read about that in A Whole New Mind by Dan Pink, and a few other books. Now, you have this very provocative title, PeopleShock. I love that “PeopleShock.” What is People Shock, and why is it emerging?
Tema Frank: Sure, People Shock is how people are changing the world of business and how customer expectations thanks to what I call the “Amazon Effect,” are going up. I mean, Amazon has set a standard that is very, very difficult to match, let alone beat, and so It’s becoming really hard for companies to cope. Yet at the same time, the people function − if they get that right − is really the ultimate way they can compete. So, right now, what is changed? Well, thanks to the internet, competition is now global for most businesses.
Pam Harper: True.
Tema Frank: You can no longer compete on price, not for very long. You’ll go bankrupt because there will always be some off shore manufacture who can do it more cheaply than you can. Innovation is great but you can’t rely on it. Ideas don’t just come out at regular intervals. Right? You’ve got to be investing and thinking about innovation, but you can’t count on that as your sole source of competitive advantage. Ultimately, customer experience, creating outstanding customer experiences all the time, is the only sustainable competitive advantage that’s left.
Pam Harper: That’s true; and of course the bar is moving − almost imperceptibly, as you’re saying. So what are some of the less obvious changes that can affect our customer’s experience of our companies?
Tema Frank: There are a lot of less obvious changes that are probably obvious in some ways to your customers, but not necessarily to you. I think a lot of times, businesses think everything’s going fine, and they wait too long to make the necessary changes. There are some that are really obvious. I mean, obviously, if you’re getting more complaints, if the numbers of calls or emails or live chats are increasing with complaints, you know you’ve got something going wrong. If returns or request for refunds are increasing, you know you’ve got something going wrong. If sales have flat lined or they are going down, it may be just largely that you’re in economy that’s in trouble, but it may also be an indication that you’re no longer quite connecting with the people you need to connect with − you’re not delivering quite what they want.
Pam Harper: Yes. I would definitely agree with that. In fact it’s interesting that you raise it this way. I had actually put some of those things into my first book, Preventing Strategic Gridlock − and strategic gridlock was that point at which so many things are creeping up that everything screeches to a halt. Now, you’re talking about it being digital, and it goes a lot faster too, doesn’t it?
Tema Frank: Yes, absolutely. There’s very little time, which brings me to some of the other indicators that there maybe problems. One of those of course is if people have started really complaining about you on social media. A lot of companies just have their heads buried in the sand. They are not looking at what’s being said on social media.
Pam Harper: Okay, we’re going to talk about that a bit more. We’re going to take a quick break right now and when we come back we’ll talk more with Tema Frank, author of PeopleShock, about people shock and how to handle it. Stay with us.
Scott Harper: You are listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper, brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated − on the web at www.BusinessAdvance.com. We enable successful companies to accelerate to their next level of growth and success, and if you like what you’re hearing, spread the good word. Go to GrowthIgnitersRadio.com, select episode 64 and use the share links for Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter at the top right of the page to tell your social media communities all about us. While you’re there, sign up for our weekly alert of upcoming episodes, so you’ll always be up to date.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper − that’s me − and Scott Harper. Scott and I are talking today with Tema Frank, author of People Shock, about how we can deal with people shock. We were starting to get into some stories about how customers are really impacting us in some not so easy to detect ways.
Scott Harper: Watch out for social media.
Pam Harper: That’s right; but before we get into that conversation − Tema, how can people find out more about you and your books?
Tema Frank: They can find out more about me by going to www.frankreactions.com, and there’s a lot of information there about me. Also, you can link to my podcast there if you’re not listening on iTunes or some other podcast listener. The book itself − you can find out more by going to www.peopleshock.com and actually if people go there they can download a free copy of the introduction and first chapter of the book. They can get on the People Shock insiders list where I’ll be sending out other materials to people who are interested even before the book comes out.
Pam Harper: That sounds great. Of course also you can go to GrowthIgnitersRadio.com, episode 64. Scroll down to resources and you’ll get a link over there too. Now, let’s get back to that discussion we were starting to have about some of the mistakes maybe that companies make regarding customer experience.
Tema Frank: Right, I would say that one of the biggest − really the biggest − mistake that companies make is just not listening. Not listening to their customers, not listening to their front line staff. They just assume everything’s fine. The fact is if you don’t understand how the people outside and inside your organization are feeling, there’s no way you’re going to be able to continue to deliver the products and services that they want with the right experience.
Pam Harper: That’s true; but if you’re getting feedback about whatever it is and it’s coming to you and it’s very real, are you saying people are just not paying any attention to it − that’s coming in they are ignoring it?
Tema Frank: I think in a lot of organizations, it comes in to the front lines and then it never goes anywhere. The person who’s at the store counter or on reception gets angry customers, but she or he has nobody internally who really asks them what’s happening or encourages them to volunteer that information.
Scott Harper: There’s a number of things that might be driving that. One could be if you’ve ever seen the movie, The Wiz − “Don’t nobody tell me no bad news **ZAP** − or it could be that people are just disincented in other ways.”
Tema Frank: I think often especially with small businesses, people are just so busy all the time that they are not …
Scott Harper: That’s another thing.
Tema Frank: They are not taking the time to step back and say, “What really is going on? What has changed?”
Pam Harper: That’s true. Also you get into the silos in some of the larger companies. “That’s not my job. I might hear about a problem in another area customer saying something but that’s not my area so I’m not going to talk about it.”
Scott Harper: There’s no ill intention here, but it accumulates and snowballs. As Pam says, people get really jammed up. That brings us back to this whole issue of social media and companies know that social media is very important and a lot of them are out there. They are tweeting; they are doing various things, but it can be a double-edged sword, can’t it? What’s the best way to become aware of and deal with social media − especially negative social media − because you mentioned that some companies aren’t aware of it?
Tema Frank: Right. I would say the best thing is first of all just learn about social media. What is it? How does it work? Not just Facebook, but Twitter and some of the other big platforms. Just start monitoring what’s going on there. What are people saying? How does it work? Really, the best thing you can do to prevent social media disasters is be proactive. Start joining the conversation. Start showing your company’s human side on social media before problems arise. If you do that then ultimately if there’s a problem, you’ll have a bunch of loyalist who will come to your defense.
I think of a perfect example of that when I was starting Web Mystery Shoppers. Given the nature of that work, because I wanted to match the mystery shoppers to the clients’ target market, I always had to have more people in the database than I had jobs for at any given time. Now there are a lot of scams in the mystery shopping business, and when people weren’t hearing from me with jobs they would naturally assume that this was another scam. Because my team and I had been active on forums there Mystery Shoppers chat right from the get go, it meant that any time anybody said, “I think this is just a scam because they haven’t offered me the job,” I’d have a bunch of people on there jumping and saying, “No way,” it’s not. It’s real. They are great. They’ve got good ethics. Being proactive in building those relationship early is very, very helpful.
Pam Harper: Absolutely. Of course we want to get really good quality customer feedback. That’s the only way we can improve products and services. Of course it’s a little bit challenging sometimes; what would you suggest for getting more − and more actionable − customer feedback? Certainly relationships are important; what else?
Tema Frank: First of all don’t punish your staff if they tell customers or if customers are asked to do a survey afterwards, don’t punish your staff if they don’t get perfect marks. That’s one of the biggest mistakes that I see and what ends up happening is you’ve got the staff members pleading with you to give them a 10 so they don’t get punished. That totally destroys the value because it’s no longer honest feedback but honestly I would say do a customer safari, which means get out there, observe customers in their natural state in the wild. See what they’re doing. See how they’re behaving. Talk to them.
Talk to your frontline staff and then start tracking what’s going on and analyze it regularly. Look for trends because you will ultimately be able to find them but once you’ve got enough volume and of course use social media to your benefit. Watch the conversation − not just about your brand but what are people saying about your competitors, about your type of product or service. Find out what sorts of issues people have, because that feedback will really help you with your product development and with the type of service that you offer.
Pam Harper: You know, that’s true. All feedback is good feedback, isn’t it?
Tema Frank: Pretty much, I mean it can be painful when it’s really negative and unfair…
Pam Harper: Good, but good in the productive sense, right?
Tema Frank: Yeah, yeah, absolutely.
Scott Harper: Because if you’re not getting it you can’t react to it.
Tema Frank: Absolutely.
Scott Harper: You make a very good point in your book that one of the ways to deal with feedback, and to get better feedback is to have processes in place that help people react to customers and deal with customers in a way that creates a consistent quality experience. Coming from an R&D background, I’m a big process guy; I really believe in it. However, one of the issues that people have with process is sometimes they say, “It’s handcuffs. It’s bureaucracy. It constrains us.” How can you create processes that add value without being too constraining?
Tema Frank: That’s a great question, and the reality is that good processes should be freeing, they shouldn’t be constraining. You need to balance process with empowerment and with training that’ll make staff feel comfortable exercising their judgment. Because really, process is about making sure that the things need to happen in the background, take place well, take place efficiently. But there are always going to be things that will go wrong or that weren’t foreseen. That’s where you need the guidance of − if we go back to what I call the three P’s of promise, people and process − the promise is what outlines your values, and if you’ve got that down and your people know and understand it they can use those values as guidance when they have to make a judgment call.
Pam Harper: Right, they have to internalize that.
Tema Frank: Right, and have to have been given the comfort of knowing that even they make a judgment call that turns out to have been wrong, they’re not going to have their head chopped off. It’s about training. It’s about making sure they really understand the values and also then encouraging and empowering them to recommend changes to process so that that issue doesn’t happen again.
Pam Harper: We’re going to take another quick break and when we come back we’ll talk more with Tema Frank author of People Shock about actionable ideas for minimizing it. Stay with us.
Scott Harper: You are listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. Brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated, on the web at www.BusinessAdvance.com. Pam, some of our listeners have told us that they want to review our podcast series on iTunes, but they aren’t quite sure how to do it; it’s a little complicated.
Pam Harper: Oh no!
Scott Harper: Yeah. We appreciate your feedback, and we want everybody who listens to raise our profile by spreading the word through iTunes reviews so more people can find us. That’s why I’ve created a short tutorial video which removes mystery from the process. Go to GrowthIgnitersRadio.com, look over at the sidebar at the right of the page and see the headline, “Subscribe to Growth Igniters Radio.” Click on the blue button under that that says, “How to review Growth Igniters Radio on iTunes;” that will open a page where you can play the video, which spells out everything you need to know about reviewing our podcast in just 84 seconds.
Pam Harper: Problem solved!
Scott Harper: Problem solved. Thanks again for helping us spread the word about Growth Igniters Radio.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. Over the last two segments Scott and I have been talking with Tema Frank, author of PeopleShock, about how companies can really make the most out of customer feedback, and for customers to get the best experience from their companies that they’re working with. Tema, how can people find out more about you and your new book?
Tema Frank: They can find out about the book by going to www.PeopleShock.com, and there they’ll be able to download the beginning of it and sign up to be on the early notification list so they’ll know exactly when it’s coming out. They’ll also get some extra bonuses and an invitation to the launch party, should they happen to be in Edmonton, Alberta at the time.
Pam Harper: Yes.
Tema Frank: Which I realized a lot of them probably won’t be …
Pam Harper: Virtually, we’ll all be there virtually.
Tema Frank: Thanks. Hey now − there’s a thought; I should setup a virtual link.
Pam Harper: A virtual launch party − we’ve got it!
Tema Frank: Exactly, I like that. I like that.
Pam Harper: There you go. Always value here.
Tema Frank: Exactly.
Pam Harper: Of course you can access links to Tema’s new book and everything else by visiting GrowthIgnitersRadio.com, episode 64. Let’s get back to our conversation. This is the part of Growth Igniters Radio where we like to talk about the immediately actionable advice that we as listeners can begin to do immediately. We’re all juiced up to do something differently. What would be the first thing that somebody could immediately do?
Tema Frank: Let me put it in terms of the three P’s − the promise, people and process. From the perspective of the promise, the first thing you should do is really think through what are you doing with your business and why are you doing it. Because I think often people slip into patterns, and they haven’t reassessed. Are you even happy with what you’re doing, because if you’re not it’s probably time for a change. Now, that doesn’t mean toss out your business and do something radically different; it might mean that but probably doesn’t.
It may mean it’s time to take a closer look at how you’re doing things. Pull your staff together. If it’s a small business, get everyone involved; if it’s larger, you might have to do some meetings with sub groups, but make sure you’ve got people from every department in every meeting and find out if they share your vision for the company. Do they even know what that is, and if they don’t get them involved in rethinking it and developing something that everybody can really care about.
You know, it’s easy to imagine that if you’re creating widgets for example − how can that inspire people, but really any business can come up with a mission that will inspire people. For instance, I think of one company that I interviewed called Jancoa Janitorial Services.
As the co-owner said to me, “Nobody grows up wanting to be a janitor. How do you make that inspirational?” What they discovered was that the people who were working in these jobs were typically from backgrounds where they were leading pretty sad lives, and they didn’t have hope even for a better future; they weren’t thinking about it. It was just a grind to go from day to day, and they decided that their mission at this company was really to give people the opportunity to pursue dreams and to even have dreams and ultimately to graduate people so they were no longer working as janitors. The irony of course is that by doing that and by refocusing on their people in that way they ended up with their turnover rates dropping dramatically. Even though ultimately people would move on − that was going to happen anyway − meanwhile you get them for longer and the best of them.
Pam Harper: I have a question though. How did this connect with the customer experience that people were having of this service?
Tema Frank: That is an excellent question, and the answer is that if you’ve got happy motivated staff they give better service. These people were janitors; one of the things for instance the company realized is that a lot of them had trouble even getting to work. They were showing up late because they were relying on public transit that didn’t run reliably. They set up a company shuttle to help people get to in from work. It meant that people weren’t already exhausted and stressed when they got there. Because the people felt that the company cared about them they cared about the company and its customers. The quality of workmanship really went up so it wasn’t just about, “What can I do? What’s the minimum I can do to get through this shift?” It was, “I want to do a really good job here because I want my company to be one that I can be proud of.”
Scott Harper: Okay, that’s really living up to the promise. Simon Sinek calls it the “why” of a company.
Tema Frank: Totally.
Scott Harper: Great. What’s the second P?
Tema Frank: Okay, the second P is the people.
Scott Harper: Okay.
Tema Frank: I’ve sort of talked a little bit about getting your people internally involved in what the promise is, but also talk to your staff about what would make the workplace better for them. Then go talk to your customers about what they think would make your offering better and get really specific with them. Find out what exactly you could offer that would make it better − what is it that’s frustrating them about how they currently do things? Even if it may not be something that you currently offer − it may be tangential − but find out what their frustrations are and figure out ways that you can serve them better and give them a better experience.
Pam Harper: It’s interesting that sometimes customers don’t really know [what could serve them better]. If you think about it, wasn’t it BlackBerry that started out … Nobody said, “I wish I had a portable phone that I could get my email on.” How do you get that information, that insight from them when they don’t even know themselves?
Tema Frank: I think there are a couple of things. One, is it does come back to the customer safari − watching how people behave in the wilds will give you some insights about what their frustrations are. Also, just the conversations about what their frustrations are, yeah, we might not have realized that we wanted a telephone we could be doing our email on. By talking to people you may have discover that people are trying to be at their kid’s soccer game at the same time as keeping in touch with their boss. They can’t really be talking on the phone because people are cheering and it’s really noisy. What some other way we could help them do that?
Scott Harper: Yeah, you’ve got to be a bit of a marketing anthropologist.
Tema Frank: Absolutely.
Scott Harper: Go out there, and it’s fascinating what you find.
Tema Frank: Yup.
Scott Harper: Last P − I remember this one; it’s process.
Tema Frank: Of course you would, yeah. The process again − then pull your staff together again and do what … If we want to get really simple and a good starting place is to do what some people call a stop, start, continue meeting. Talk to your staff about, “Okay, let’s take a look at all the things we’re doing in our department,” or in one particular topic area. What are things that we aren’t doing and we should be doing? That’s the start. What are things we are doing that really don’t add any value or it may even be negative. Those were the stop and what are the things that we should continue doing that we’re doing pretty well. Doing that process can actually you come up with a lot of new ideas that can improve your processes.
Pam Harper: Absolutely. It sparks a lot of important conversations that really need to happen.
Tema Frank: Absolutely.
Pam Harper: This has been great. Tema, do you have any final thoughts about PeopleShock that you’d like to leave us with?
Tema Frank: Yeah, I do actually. I think that growing a business is a lot like raising a family, and may be I just come at it that way because I’m a mom. Ultimately in either case it’s all about the humans involved, and you do need to get those three 3 P’s right. The promise − when it comes to your family it’s probably raising happy, healthy kids and producing productive human beings. That would be the family equivalent. The people side − as with the business, you’ve got to concern yourself with the people both inside your family and outside because they’re having a big influence on what goes on in your family. The process − you’ve got to keep checking to see if what you’re doing is still valid and you got to keep fine tuning. Like a family, a growing business can be fun but it can also be frustrating, it can be exhausting, it can be exhilarating; but if you get the three P’s right, I can assure you that you will sleep better at night.
Scott Harper: Enormously rewarding.
Pam Harper: All good thoughts. Tema, thank you again for being our guest today.
Tema Frank: My pleasure. Thank for having me.
Scott Harper: Our pleasure as well Tema, and thanks to you out there for listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. To check out resources related to today’s conversation, share on social media, find out about upcoming episodes or a conversation with us, go to GrowthIgnitersRadio.com, and select episode 64.
Pam Harper: Until next time. This is Pam Harper…
Scott Harper: And Scott Harper…
Pam Harper: Wishing you continued success and leaving you with this question to discuss with your team:
Scott Harper: What is one thing that we will start to do today to learn about how our customers experience us so we can become more responsive to them in return?