We don’t talk anymore


Cliff Richard didn’t have a smartphone when he wrote his Number 1 hit.

But ‘we don’t talk anymore’ is a problem that is affecting both our social and professional lives. In an age where the quantity of communication has expanded exponentially, it’s funny how we spend less time talking with each other. We even spend more time on our devices than we do sleeping.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my smartphone and I couldn’t live without it. But I increasingly find myself working with businesses who think they are dealing with an issue, when in fact they haven’t established the full picture because they haven’t spoken to the right people.

This is a costly problem and wastes both time and money.

In the digital age it is easy to think that we are communicating more effectively. We have more data to inform decision-making than ever before, and more tools to crunch the data than we could wish for. But we also need to identify and talk to the right people to contextualise the data with real experiences.

An evolving response

The needs and experiences of customers, employees and partners are perpetually evolving. An effective response is only possible if a business knows what is actually happening, not what it wants to believe is happening.

Talking with the right people gives us a real-world, real-time assessment of a given problem or situation.

While the signposts to the solution will exist in the data, externalising the needs and experiences of the individuals involved will reveal what actually happens. And accessing these experiences is only possible by identifying and bringing together relevant people from across a business.

Once these valuable experiences have been brought to light, they need to be examined in a non-judgmental manner. This is where perpetual thinking groups can help, as they remove politics and ego to create a constructive, trusting environment in which experiences can be analysed. By encouraging participants to share and reflect on their personal experiences, perpetual thinking groups enable businesses to get to the root cause of a given problem.

Digital tools can trick us into thinking that we’re communicating effectively and efficiently. But in an increasingly digital environment, spending time talking with the people involved in the delivery of a product or process to understand their needs and experiences is more important than ever.

Although Cliff’s ‘We don’t talk anymore’ may have been written about a disintegrating relationship, it’s a problem that is just as applicable to the modern business environment. But if we bring the right people together in the right environment, we can obtain an informed understanding of the real-world issues that are affecting experiences across a business, its customers and its partners.

And that is something worth talking about.


Problems with measuring customer experience

Measurement is often used in the following ways:

  • To represent an aspiration or, better still, the purpose of an organisation
  • To be divisible into collective and individual objectives and targets
  • To be a cultural and behavioural guide
  • To influence a reward and remuneration structure
  • As a customer engagement tool
  • As a brand component
  • As a marketing message


But there are some common problems with measuring customer experience:

  • Variability and fluctuaIon are difficult to interpret into direct actions
  • Organisations who use it on a tactical level find the link to action easier to find
  • Measurement is often responsible for driving the wrong behaviours
  • The outcomes of measurement are constantly challenged by statisicians and intuitive thinkers, undermining its authority
  • It is probably the most controversial subject in customer experience development
  • In too many cases it’s a hypothetical question
  • The drive for a continuous upward trend can result in considerable manipulation that is often recognised by customers
  • Some people question the need to translate emotions into a tangible outcome


Why is Net Promoter Score challenged so regularly?

  • Statistical viability, 1 – 10 scale and variability in the point of engagement
  • NPS tells you what customers will say they will do, not what they actually do
  • ManipulaItion is rife, you get what you tolerate not what you hope for
  • Free or anecdotal comment is vital, but available from many other sources
  • Every time you think you have it straight in your head something changes
  • How often is 9/10 score a reasonable expectation? Is anything 100 recommended?
  • Customer experience should remain an emotionally based discipline
  • Difficulty in demonstrating insight, action and reward
  • Fluctuating scores
  • Scores inevitably plateau

From The QoE, January 2014, ‘Is Effort the New Loyalty?’

Using the tools provided by science

Personality profiling is undoubtedly one of customer experience’s most commonly used tools ‐ however recent evidence shows that it should come with a warning.

The good side of profiling is undoubtedly its ability to raise awareness of the differences, strengths and weaknesses that helps the majority to be more understanding of others’ needs and improves influencing skills.

The not so good is the potential for some of the more dominant and single minded amongst us to use this as further evidence that ‘this is the way they are’ and they cannot change. Even more worrying is that this is often accepted.

Another area where science is at odds with common practice is leadership, management and team building.  All three desperately need to be reviewed and brought up‐to‐date in many of our leading organisation, as our present day understanding of motivations, behaviours and leadership highlights some current practices as having their roots in the industrial revolution.

Science also gives us the ability to understand one of the fundamental debates in experience management. Do we use hard evidence or gut reaction to guide our thoughts and decision? The answer would appear to be gut reaction (intuitive thinking) but only when we have been exposed to sufficient experiences and evidence. Blink by Malcolm Gladwell is a good source of knowledge on this subject.

The challenge for customer experience practitioners is that we may have  the ability to make intuitive decisions where others don’t.

Strategies that may help in this regard are increasing the exposure of others to experiences and evidence, but also by building trust and alliances through inclusive pilots and trials.

From The QoE, September 2012, ‘Tools of the Trade’

Note: A good read on viral change is The Alternative to Slow, Painful and Unsuccessful Management of Change in Organisations by Leandro Herrero.

The problem of too much insight

There seems to be plenty of evidence that too much insight, especially when represented as data, frequently drives emotionally inept behaviour.  For example, the data shows that customers like to be greeted with a smile, the outcome is a customer facing notice that states as a minimum we will greet you with a smile.

Insight is good when it contributes to strategically focused decisions and fine tunes tactical delivery but most importantly when it promotes and rewards behaviours.

Achieving the right balance between tangible evidence and emotional intelligence has always been, and will continue to be, a major challenge.

Striving to quantify customer emotional output can distract us from accepting the effect of our input.  We have all witnessed organisations debating the difference between very and not very satisfied, completely missing the point that they have delivered, and continue to deliver a bad experience.

This also supports measuring ease of use as it breaks down the cumulative effect that is otherwise recorded as a one off emotional outburst.

From the QoE, September 2012