Relentless Focus On Engagement

On a bright sunny morning, CCA Global held their annual MBA day for customer service and engagement leaders at RBS site in Gogaburn, Edinburgh. Hosted by Kaye Adams, who normally appears on our TV screens in Loose Woman, Kaye asked the audience and presenters about the biggest challenges in terms of customer service delivery today. I was delighted to be presenting along with Chris Popple, Digital & Omni Leadership, RBS, Professor Alan Wilson, Strathclyde University and James Walker CEO, Resolver.

Customer Experience is widely talked about today, most companies have it on their agenda’s. Customer Experience or Engagement isn’t new – it is another attempt to get us to do what all successful businesses have always done…..Which is to:

Create an emotionally compelling reason to buy from you in preference to a competitor!

It’s the convergence of Marketing and Customer Services – click here to read more bad-maths-or-the-way-forward

We obsess about telling customers what a business is all about through big marketing campaigns, often created by some of the world’s most famous advertising and creative agencies. In the UK alone we spent £20b on brand advertising, despite the growth in social media, this is still growing at >5% per annum. All of this external expenditure, designed to make Customers emotionally engage with the Brands. Yet a Brand is what a Brand Does – right? Not what it says it does!

So should we turn more marketing energy internally to emotionally engage colleagues in the Brand? Those colleagues who are responsible for delivering the Brand promises, they are customers in their own right. An interesting challenge, especially when you consider that 0.1% of employers, employ 43% of all employees & account for 53% of revenues – probably the companies that you and I interact with most often! The average number of facebook friends is now 338 and instagram creates 58 times the brand engagement than facebook does, apparently.

So let’s do the maths:

If we spent 1% of the UK’s marketing budget on colleagues = £200m

Divide that by 1m contact centre colleagues who spend all day interacting with customers in UK every day = -£200 per colleague – that is probably more than the training budgets allocated per year to employee development

So why don’t we hear or see more CEO’s talking about this stuff, shouting from the roof tops about it? I haven’t yet met a CEO that has said that Customers don’t matter, even Ryanair has had a customer strategy since it was created – perhaps just one in the earlier days we didn’t like and now they are changing that.

I went to see a CEO recently to understand his purpose, as many of his senior team said that CX was not that important to him and that he would not invest in it – they simply couldn’t get any investment or agreement to make the changes happen. I had a nice long chat and a coffee to understand what his strategy was and why and this is what he told me …

“Of course we are here to serve customers, but no-one has given me a compelling business case for the investments, we have changed things in the past and it’s not improved anything, I don’t have a open cheque book, I have to invest shareholders money wisely – I need a clear, compelling plan”

– He is not alone!

The CCA’s 4th benchmarking activity at the end of 2015, looked at the prime motivators to put Customers at the heart of the organisation and the demands this places on C Level Execs. The research highlighted increasing engagement of Executives with frontline or contact centre colleagues, how service is being aligned with corporate objectives and impacts on revenues and the continued challenges of silo’s and legacy systems.

“There is only one boss – the customer,” Sam Walton – Founder of Walmart once said. “ and he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” The fundamentals of business have remained unaltered in the half-century since Mr Walton delivered this blunt assessment after founding retail corporation, Walmart, in 1962. What has changed is the way in which companies interact with their customers and how customers interact with them.

Customer Experience should cost less and increase revenues and yet alot of companies and leaders still struggle to create a business case for it. We seek seamless experiences and yet few companies deliver these, we are now obsessed with digital strategies and yet we crave human interactions when we need help. This is because these changes are being classed as a project or a programme, or compartmentalized into one departments responsibility. The fundamentals of business haven’t changed, just the way we execute them through advanced technology, different learning & communication methods. Our 4P’s framework exists for whatever your business is, whatever you are trying to change or embed.

The role of creating a common Purpose, is the necessary start point

Driving People engagement, the key enabler

How to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of all your Processes (systems, policies and processes)

Intuitive focus on making your business easy for your customers to deal with you, a Priority

I will take each of the 4P’s and talk about these in a bit more detail and a bit about how we have applied this in organisations.


Create the reason WHY your brand in preference to a competitor, simply.

Some of the biggest challenges in organisation’s now are cultural ones (environmental, regulatory, technology changes are all key factors), common place now to be in an organisation where practices are accepted, we have made it complex and created inconsistencies, as we have added more and more stuff. Simple and Consistent doesn’t sound sexy – we like to keep changing things we like to make things complex. Ask yourself and ask your teams to challenge “Why you do what you do” – do that every day.

I often ask Execs “do you have a Strategy?” and I always get the reply “ Yes “

“Do you have a simple one that everyone gets” – answer “Yes” … yet often I walk out of the room, and go to ask colleagues, getting several different answers sometimes supported by a 60 page slide deck explaining the strategy.

Create your Ambition on a page! Your Purpose: by setting out your Mission; Vision and Goals. We have created this now several times over, for ftse100 businesses through to SME’s, for those who had a Strategy but too complex to communicate, to one’s that needed their Strategy refreshing and for those who didn’t really have one. It works and it doesn’t need to be anymore complicated than that, it may need background research into your market but you do not need to justify why you created the Why or if you do, you don’t need to tell everyone about it.


Engage your colleagues in your brand, so they know intuitively what is right.

The 2016 Global Human Capital Trends report states that companies have increased readiness to deal with culture & employee engagement by 13% since 2015. Colleague Engagement as with Customer Experience is on the conference circuit as a hot topic, again it’s nothing new but it is increasingly being focussed on more. Kaye Adams asked me a question about why this is? My reply “in 2008 since the recent recession businesses slashed their non discretionary spend as well as putting capital expenditure on hold. So not only did the big fat Exec bonuses go, so did the training budgets, colleagues conference, incentives, developments, investments in IT and so on. It feels like the capital investment train is now leaving the station again, but have the colleague development & engagement budgets returned? Now that is the question ….

So a few recommendations around building your People engagement approach:

Colleague Engagement is not something that just happens. Research consistently shows that it reduces the further away from the CEO you get

You should look to recruit ‘likeminded’ people and focus on brand centricity, as well as skills and capabilities

Your structure, rewards, objective process & internal communications should celebrate collaboration, encourage engagement & champion brand fans internally & externally

I would strongly suggest Colleague Engagement or should be one of your key metrics, for me its’ more important than NPS

There have been a number of successes and one where it is hard to imagine, in a industry that might not be classed as sexy but we all use it – Gas Distribution, here is an extract from Mark Horsley, CEO of NGN, one of our clients in 2014-2015.


Does your process, policies and technologies enable change.

We have grown up with it’s too complicated, costs millions, will take years.

Your board are probably not going to throw away the things they have spent years justifying so don’t throw the baby out of the bath water, leave it in the corner, in a darkened room – pop in and makes sure it working okay but don’t try and change it.

Layer new capabilities on top, focus on user experience – define the capabilities you want to deliver, start with the outcomes you want to achieve and work back

Legacy’s focus on resilience is being replaced by ‘cloud’ agility.

Gartner has reported that the winners will be those that react to the change in Technology landscape with pace and agility.

Data Winners – 2016 – New platforms are available now that allow you to perform online transaction processing (OLTP) & online analytical processing (OLAP) without requiring data duplication. This means you can react real time seamlessly to customers changing needs ‘in flight’

This is not easy, as this looks to change the way in which companies operate but this can be effectively done, read more here about how this can be deployed

More on this to come in future blogs, the successes, the OMG here we go again moments and the grey hairs to prove that it isn’t simple but it is worth every effort.


Focus on the priorities that give the greatest value, no-one can do everything.

Often businesses get lost in the lists of projects or activities that have to be done, or having to do everything that customers say they want, or we have to justify every last penny before we can invest in the 117 things of this major strategic programme – which simply creates the ‘we simply have too much to do and not enough resources, time or money’. We all have to prioritise and the best way for businesses to do this is through some form of Value Stream analysis – what gives the greatest Customer value and what is most beneficial for the Company?

We have used this simple four box matrix time and time again and it works, this can be applied to Customer, Stakeholder and Colleague improvements. This is not about just focusing on the top right – Leverage – this is also about getting some quick wins, so choose some of the ‘Stop’ doing which add no value to you, the customer nor the company. The savings from these plus those from automate can often fund investments in Leverage – what do we want to do more of but can’t as the business cannot afford it.

We have practised this approach with £2b turnover businesses to £20m turnover business and this helps to prioritise. The Stop, Automate & Simplify generates between 15% and 45% returns, giving a sizeable sum back to the bottom line, some of which can be re-invested in ‘Leverage’.

Driving Transformation is a Total Business Activity:

It’s not rocket science, but a simple and effective approach through the 4P’s framework. You can spend less delivering a better journey for everyone, by focussing on doing more of less, by:

Starting with a clear Purpose – delivered simply

Engaging your greatest differentiator – your People, start with daily stand up’s

Leveraging your Process through user friendly interfaces, fast

Focussing on the Priorities that deliver the greatest value – align both business & customer value

Good luck on re-inventing yourself, your teams, your department or your organisation – it’s an exciting one and worth the grey hairs! After all that why we invented hair colour ….

Nicola Collister – Founder & Managing Director