Reward and recognition: time for personalisation?

Tuesday 8th August, Quo Vadis, London
Tuesday 12th September, Quo Vadis, London

Are you recognised for all the good work that you do? How should you reward your employees? And do these strategies have the intended effect?

If customer experience (CX) has taught us anything, it is that customers value personalisation. Personalised experiences are perceived as more authentic, and therefore have greater influence over behaviour and buying decisions.

Yet we are only just beginning to understand how employee experience influences CX. Our recent topics on the role of HR and employee experience in CX have revealed that reward and recognition strategies are a powerful lever in influencing employee behaviour. But approaches to rewarding and recognising employees have so far failed to reflect the increased personalisation experienced by customers, leading to a potential risk of disengagement and underperformance.

As customer, employee, and digital experience mature, reward and recognition strategies must also evolve to match the sophistication and personalisation that CX is achieving. While tried and tested initiatives such as ‘employee of the month’ have had some positive impact, these formats increasingly lack the personal touch expected by younger employees who want to feel genuinely valued for their work.

During this topic, we’ll be asking:

  • What is the difference between reward and recognition?
  • What do both terms mean for millenials, and how do they influence behaviour?
  • Should we be rewarding the person or the employee?
  • What role does ‘thank you’ have to play? Is this reward, recognition, or something else entirely?
  • Who should be thanking who? And should this be done publicly or in private?

Book your place at the table to remain at the forefront of customer experience.



How can HR amplify customer experience activity?


Tuesday 28th March RSVP Full day, Farnborough
Thursday 27th April RSVP Half day, London

For years now, we have known that the value proposition for employees is changing. While salary will always be a consideration, we are increasingly seeing the rise of fulfilment and purpose as important motivations for a workforce.

But can we even call them a workforce? Or are we just looking to employee people?

If customer experience activity is to bring about lasting change, the CX function must engage more effectively with Human Resources. The leaders in UK CX were combining customer and employee experiences several years ago by focusing on ‘people experience’, so this is not a new trend. But as experience increasingly becomes a key differentiator both within and outside organisations, there is a growing need to understand and fulfil the expectations of newer, younger employees in order to create a suitable value proposition.

This shift forces us to consider how we motivate people. While many companies have prided themselves in their pension scheme and their working environment, what behaviours do such considerations drive? And are they the behaviours that will drive the results we want?

At one extreme are companies with a frantic working environment – high pressure, high energy, and high stress. While some employees prefer this kind of environment and thrive in it, they know they will eventually burn out. At the other extreme we have the gigging economy, where workers are more concerned with flexibility and how much the role will strengthen their personal brand.

As experiences become the driving force of activity in organisations, there are opportunities for the CX function to become increasingly involved with the HR function. HR could well be the function within an organisation that is changing most quickly, and it is integral to the sustainability of all digital transformation initiatives. If companies are to deliver excellence in customer and digital experience, they must listen to the needs and expectations of new hires and learn how to respond effectively.

Discussions on this topic will focus on:

  • How can customer experience benefit from a closer relationship with HR?
  • How can we detect a changing landscape in our company?
  • How should we change our approach to recruitment?
  • How can HR help us bring about sustainable, lasting change?
  • How do we engage a broader range of employees in customer experience activity?

Book your place at the table to stay at the forefront of customer experience.

How community can drive digital transformation



Two problematic areas for today’s organisations are employee engagement and digital transformation.

Although organisations want employees to share knowledge, care about their work, and embrace digital ways of working, they often try to impose these desires on top of the existing culture of work. And attempts to impose culture change from above will always be met with resistance.

The problem is that we have two sets of forces pushing against each other: an outdated, hierarchical view of work based on a 20th century industrial model of organisation, and a ‘socialised’ view of work stemming from a desire to harness the power of online communities and networks.

These two opposing approaches to organisation are fundamentally incompatible, and this is a key reason why many organisations are struggling with digital transformation. Digital provides an entirely new way to approach work, collaboration, and organisation, but if transformation is undertaken with a 20th century industrial mindset then it will not reap the full benefits that digital offers. This is not a new problem, as Cham (2014) notes by referencing the argument made by Marshal McLuhan back in the 1960s:


“If we try to understand digital transformation with an industrial mindset we are ‘walking backwards into the future”


In the hyperconnected 21st century, we should be designing organisations around community, not work. Millenials have grown up in a hyperconnected age, they instinctively participate in a wide variety of communities, and they expect the modern workplace to function in the same way as their connected personal existence. So it is no surprise that they often become quickly disengaged when confronted with bureaucratic, hierarchical organisations using outdated technologies that bear little resemblance to the community-oriented tools to which they are accustomed.


How can we design work around community?


If you look at start-ups, community happens automatically. Everyone knows everyone else, and has a good idea what they are working on. There are never enough people to do the work that needs to be done, so everyone has to help each other out on a daily basis. There is a strong sense of shared purpose, and an urgency that binds the team together. Each employee has to make important decisions under pressure, giving them a strong sense of connection to the vision and purpose of the start-up. Autonomy and initiative are essential.

And most of all, people talk to each other all the time. There is almost no hierarchy to quash the inherent creativity of the team. All ideas regarding how to improve the business are welcomed, discussed, adapted and implemented.

The challenge for larger organistions and businesses is how to reimagine their operational model around principles of community. If we designed our organisations around community, not just around work, things could be very different.


“Putting community at the centre of the organisation fundamentally changes the motivation to do work”


Communities develop around a clear purpose, and this purpose is what drives people to engage with the community. Establishing a clear purpose for an organisation (beyond simply making money for shareholders) is therefore a valuable way of tackling the problem of a disengaged workforce. Designing an organisation as a community turns it into a place where people are emotionally engaged, share knowledge instinctively, and collaborate on shared projects with a strong sense of purpose. And in a knowledge economy, these three factors are fundamental to an effective, engaged, and digitally literate workforce.

Digital transformation represents an attempt to harness the innate human desire to share useful information and participate in purposeful communities. But any digital transformation strategy that focuses on platforms instead of people is almost certain to fail – successful transformation is dependent on understanding what motivates people to participate in communities.



2014  Cham, K.L. “”Virtually An Alternative ? The Medium, The Message and The User Experience; Collective Agency in Digital Spaces and Embodied Social Change”, 5th LAEMOS Colloquium on Organization Studies Constructing Alternatives: How can we organize for alternative social, economic, and ecological balance?, Havana, Cuba

This post was co-written with Tony Reeves, Digital Research Lead (Customer Experience), The QoE.

Digital is changing human experience, not just customer experience



It’s increasingly evident that digital disruption is wreaking havoc across many sectors. But to understand how digital technology is changing customer experience, it’s useful to consider how digital is changing human experience in its entirety:

And my personal favourite:

I recently came across a story about gazeMetrix, an image recognition technology that scans photos online and uses social intelligence software to identify the context in which a particular product is most found. The implications of this are profound.


“It is becoming possible to search human experience in ways that have have not been possible before.”


This opens up a whole new frontier for our ability to understand how (and where) customers actually use products and services, and to engage with them in new and innovative ways. More importantly, it highlights how we need to think differently in response to the affordances of digital technologies.

This is why digital has to be at the heart of every customer engagement strategy, and increasingly every business model. If people are already talking about the ‘post-digital age’ in which digital technologies will become absorbed into the very fabric of our everyday lives, then the digital age is already firmly established.


Industrial Age vs Information Age mindset


But despite the rapid, radical digital transformation of human experience in the last ten years, many organisations remain stuck in an Industrial Age mindset. Gerry McGovern recently went as far as to say that the traditional organisation is not fit for purpose anymore, and that achieving a seamless customer experience is not possible without seamless organisations. Arguing that organisational models that encourage internal competition are no longer appropriate, McGovern highlights how internal silos create a disjointed customer experience that does not reflect the hyperconnected reality outside the organisation.

As far back as 2010, Harvard Professor Bill George highlighted that the challenges facing businesses today are “too complex to be solved by individuals or even single organizations”. George argues that “collaboration — within the organization and with customers, suppliers, and even competitors — is required to achieve lasting solutions”.

Digital has transformed human experience forever. Surviving the disruption of the Information Age requires a mindset that puts digital at the core of human – and customer – experience.

This article was co-written with Tony Reeves, Digital Research Lead (Customer Experience), The QoE.

Should we really put the customer first?


Customer experience is not just about customers.

Improving customer experience requires a focus on more than just customer needs. If we put the needs of customers before everything else, we ignore the needs of all the other people involved in the delivery of customer experience.

The aim of ‘putting the customer first’ can be misleading as it often prevents a business from focusing on the poor experiences of employees and partners. And without addressing these issues, putting the customer first is unlikely to deliver a sustainable improvement in customer experience.

It’s good to finally see some high-level acknowledgement that improving customer experience involves moving beyond touchpoints and focusing on journeys. But my question is this: why stop at customer journeys? If customer experience represents the entirety of a customer’s interactions with a business, then there is a clear need to realign every business function in support of customer experience.

Everyone’s experience matters

McKinsey’s advice for CEOs to redesign the business from the customer back is encouraging. But doing this requires a deep understanding of the context-specific problems and work-arounds of everyone involved.

Using customer journeys to redesign organisations will only ever provide us with a limited understanding of the complex cross-functional problems that impact on customer experience. This is why we need to extend the journey further into the organisation to not only reveal the root causes of these problems but also engage with those responsible for delivery.

People Experience Journeys extend the customer journey into a business

By analysing the needs and experiences of customers, employees and partners, people experience journeys bring to light all the tensions and weak links that create obstacles to seamless customer experience. In doing so, they also reveal invaluable local knowledge and work-arounds that employees have developed to get around legacy structures and systems. Take this example:


Delivering a sustainable improvement in customer experience requires an understanding of the needs and experiences of everyone involved in a product or process. Viewing customer experience through the customer’s eyes isn’t enough, we need a real-world, real-time assessment of experiences across the business. Only then can we isolate and systematically address each need and experience to improve the resulting outcome for the customer.

Achieving exceptional customer experience won’t come from simply putting the customer first. It will come from an authentic evaluation of the needs of everyone who’s work has an impact on the customer.

Should we be educating our customers?


To what extent should a business attempt to educate its customers?

Historically, many businesses have taken it upon themselves to try and educate their customers about their products and services. From pensions to paracetamol, most products come with some form of impenetrable instruction manual that customers are expected to read in order to understand what they have purchased.

Attempts to educate customers often stem from a desire to minimise complaints and bad press by managing their expectations. Sometimes a business needs to educate customers about why their request might not be in their best interest – particularly in an increasingly high tech environment. Those 100-page policy documents might make sense to the underwriters, but they will mean very little to the customer who needs a 1-page summary in jargon-free language.


We don’t need no education

But do these attempts to educate customers work in an era where the customer resorts to an internet search as soon as they have a problem or query? Prior to the Internet (remember that?), the business was the trusted source of knowledge. But the speed at which knowledge is now created and shared makes it increasingly difficult for a business to manage its knowledge effectively.

The employee responsible for doing the educating may themselves never have experienced the problem that a customer is facing, leading to a perceived lack of authenticity. And, rightly or wrongly, the customer often believes that the best person to ask for advice is another customer rather than a representative of the company.

The problem of educating customers is just as difficult for B-2-B as for B-2-C. For example, business A may procure a new product from business B, but there is a significant danger that the former can overload the latter with too much training and documentation. However, if business A holds back on educating business B about the full range of options afforded by its new purchase, it may be accused of not delivering value for money.

Changes made by third-parties also cause a headache, as Facebook’s decision to start auto-playing videos demonstrated. When a large number of mobile customers found they were suddenly consuming more of their data allowance, they accused their mobile providers of over-charging them. And in some cases, it was the customers who first informed the mobile operators of the problem – the customers were ‘educating’ the business.

So do businesses have a responsibility to push information to customers to inform them of such changes? Should customers have to opt in to or opt out of these ‘helpful’, paternalistic communications?


Who should be educating whom?

In a hyperconnected era, the flow of information between company and customer is dynamic. Knowledge is no longer the exclusive possession of the company: the customer can – and should – educate the company just as much as the company educates the customer.

How? This mutually beneficial relationship can be developed by making customer communities as integral to a business as the board, the finance department, and the sales team. Customer communities and forums are a largely untapped resource, and businesses should be employing more open business models to co-evolve with their customer communities – incorporating their feedback and insights into both problem-solving and product development.

For what purpose? The answer is: to build confidence. We attempt to educate customers to give them the confidence to make better decisions about our products and services. Our customers can do the same for us – their feedback gives the company the confidence that everything is aligned and working as it should be.

The networked era is changing the role of the organisation from an ‘all-knowing parent’ to a ‘trusted advisor’. Trust and confidence are increasingly integral to brand value, and there is great value for organisations in making this transition. But navigating this change requires businesses to treat customers as adults, and be prepared to demonstrate greater trust, openness and authenticity.

Our customers can help to educate us and are prepared to do so, but only if we are prepared to listen and respond with the same objective: to increase understanding and build confidence.

Source : The QoE discussions November 2016 ‘Should we be educating our customers?’