Subex in Croatia October 2017

Customer experience, data, risk analysis, fraud prevention and employee empowerment – all in two days

Two great days exploring customer experience, fraud, risk and employee engagement – held together by data and Subex expertise. This must be the first time I’ve combined these elements in one sentence, but a couple of days in Zagreb at the Subex User Conference have convinced me that the combination is possible.

Too many companies consider CX as predominantly a service issue in any serious analysis, effort or practical application. But we have known for a long time that it’s better to get things right first time, rather than focus on costly service recovery.

As we listened to presentations and participated in workshops it became increasingly apparent that we now have the technology and the people to turn the right first time ambition into reality. As risk analysis develops in accuracy and reach, customer trust is being nudged into a true brand differentiator. And as we move further into the new world powered by the IoT this will become the true currency of success. Fraud prevention is moving in the same direction. Increasingly customers and the company being protected with more than the blanket rule approach. Long gone are the days when a credit card is blocked the first time we go abroad or shop on the internet. Sophisticated fraud prevention utilising honeypots, big data and AI are at last competing with, or in advance of the fraudsters.

The last piece of the jigsaw is the move to empowering employees to make quick and accurate decisions. This requires the data and its corresponding analysis to be presented in a logical and intuitive environment. We then have the best of all worlds with technology, data, AI and people working in harmony to deliver consistent customer experiences and business outcomes.

Thank you to everyone involved, particularly Subex for bringing us together. Everyone’s enthusiasm and ambition was truly inspiring.

Extract from Carl Lyon’s presentation at the Subex Conference in Croatia, October 2017 – shared with the prior permission of Subex

AI, Robotics and Automation Best Practice

AI predictions for the next 2 – 5 years range from, it doesn’t exist today and won’t, to 2018 game changer. Most think we will be deploying machine learning rather than AI. RPA is like pouring concrete on your processes, or the ultimate tool for enabling an agile business. Chatbots are with us now and performing well in certain circumstances but the ROI is difficult to prove. Messaging is the dark horse and we’re only just starting to realise the benefits, especially when done in tandem with communities.

As predicted, all are highlighting the need for a new approach to working practises and knowledge management. Finally, and painfully, the last question is often, do I really have to do this and who am I doing it for?

What are your views? And what will you learn from listening to the views of others? If you are interested in taking part in our best practice programme do get in touch.

More info here or email us to find out more

Recognise your employees as individuals


Recognition is a powerful motivator. Employees want to be treated as true individuals and they want to be valued, not just by their immediate team, but by leaders and others from across the organisation.

But many businesses are not aware of just how much the desire to be recognised and valued as an individual has grown as a result of the disruption discussed in Part 1 of the book. They see their employees just as people employed to do a job, and at best people to be nurtured by the culture and objectives of the business. They certainly don’t see them as individuals.

This waste of talent and energy is something that many companies acknowledge needs to be addressed, but the question is how to go about it. You only need to look at all the initiatives taken by all sizes of organisations to address this waste – employee engagement programmes, team development initiatives, and so on. All recognise the fundamental problem of the waste of talent and productivity.

Addressing people concerns has always been difficult for companies. There’s a tendency to bundle the issue into a seemingly manageable single topic, and the most common is ‘culture’. While attempts to improve culture aim to drive behavioural change, they often miss the basics. What people actually do is more often driven by the difficulty, or the experience, of completing a given task. Once again the company is confronted by the real-world, rather than the world it think exists.

This real-world experience and effort required to complete the task will determine the quality and efficiency, rather than the values of the individual. In fact, the more the company pursues value-based initiatives, the more it risks turning off its employees as it can be seen to question the participants’ values. Company initiatives would be better to demonstrate authenticity to enhance engagement. This is not to diminish the role of values, in fact I see it as completely the opposite: to suggest that values can be so easily manipulated is to understate their importance to people.

In a nutshell, if a business has the value, ‘put the customer first’ or ‘do the right thing for our customers’, then it must also, ‘put the employee first’ and ‘do the right thing for our employees’.

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.



Independent Employee Experience?


Should we be considering employee experience and customer experience separately?

Wednesday 7th June 10am – 4.30pm, The Aviator, Farnborough
Thursday 6th July 12pm – 4pm, Quo Vadis, London

Our previous topic explored the potential benefits for customer experience of a better understanding of the HR function. During the sessions, it became evident that there is a growing need to consider how the experiences of employees shape and influence customer experience. Specifically we need to ask the question: should customer and employee experience be considered together or viewed independently of each other?

There are two trains of thought. The first is that happy employees make happy customers from the point of view of their interaction. But there is a growing perception that developing a more comprehensive understanding of employee experience can drive a more consistent approach to people, and therefore to customers.

The second perception is that employee experience has the potential to change HR in the same way customer experience has changed customer service. Using the same tools and methodologies, HR has the ability to generate the insight and understanding that could truly elevate employee experience as a company priority.

Several forward-thinking companies, most notably First Direct, have succeeded in elevating employee and customer experience to ‘people experience’. Businesses that acknowledge the impact of employees’ experience on customers can achieve greater clarity of purpose and understanding. Moving to people experience opens the door to the development of perpetual experience, an approach that helps you ask the right questions for your specific context. Exploring employee experience is therefore a valuable way to help businesses respond to a rapidly changing environment.

Some of the key questions we will be considering are:

  • What is employee experience, and what is its role in customer experience?
  • What are the factors that influence employee experience?
  • How can placing greater focus on employee experience help businesses achieve their objectives?
  • And lastly, should employee experience be viewed independently of customer experience?

Book your place at the table to stay 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.

Making digital experience work for you

Digital technologies offer almost limitless opportunities for customer experience. Which is great, but at the same time not terribly helpful.

At the QoE, we’re halfway through our first discussion of 2017 focusing on digital experience. A key observation emerging from the first session was how easily we jump to the extremes when discussing digital experiences.  Developments in artificial intelligence, drone deliveries, and driverless cars are all very well. But these extremes can make it difficult to focus on what digital means for our company and our customers.


Making good decisions

Should we strive to be bold and deliver state-of-the-art digital experiences? Or should we use digital to make marginal gains that will incrementally improve the lives of our customers? How do we identify what is the best course of action in the specific context of our business? To make effective decisions, we need to:

  • obtain a clearer picture of our customers’ evolving needs
  • understand the extent to which our business can fulfil those needs

If we align these two criteria, we can give customers what they want (a good experience) while also satisfying the needs of the business (a cost-effective and relatively easy response).


What is your experience?

So how do we get to a place where we can see clearly what to do next, and engage employees effectively in the process? Or, to be more precise, how do you do it?

We want to hear about your experiences in this area. How are you bringing your approach to customer experience into a ‘digital first’ environment? What specific challenges and opportunities does digital present for you, your company and your industry?

If you can spare a few minutes we’d love to hear your opinions. Book your place at the next discussion group on 23rd February in London, or just send us a quick email or message on social media.

One last thing – if you haven’t yet got a copy of Carl’s book Perpetual Experience and you’d like one, just let us know your address and we’ll put a signed copy in the post for you.

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.

Advocacy has to begin inside organisations

“If the challenges lie within a collective consciousness, so will the answers.”


Is consistent customer experience beyond the reach of large organisations?

Ownership of the consumer relationship and trust is an ever-increasing priority for organisations. As they look to be providers of content as well as delivery, trusted adviser rather than lender, or the consumers’ service provider of choice, customer experience is now a major concern.

At its simplest, each customer experience is a real time emotional reaction to “if” and “how” an issue is resolved or a purchase made, judged against the consumer’s expectation of both the “if” and the “how”.

At its most complex, the experience is established over multiple touch points with interactions via self-service and several different people. So where should organisations concentrate their resources, first time resolution, product quality and value, handling the interactions or managing expectations? All have their merits, supporters and numerous business cases built to promote them.

Expectations are continually revised as today’s information rich consumer interacts with an ever-increasing variety of purchase and service options delivered through low and high-tech channels. Many organisations see their opportunity to influence expectations with marketing and pricing strategies. This is OK for new customers but previous experience will dominate future interactions. Bad experiences of IVR or offshore call centres are good examples.

Overcoming an experience, whether generated by your own organisation or not, can be very difficult and expensive.

Providing consistent resolution, the right product at the right price and the appropriate delivery depends on knowing your customer and aligning your capabilities to deliver to their needs – all affect the way the business design model is constructed and carried through strategy, culture, process and implementation. This takes place against a background of different personalities and their dislikes, compulsions, and passions, which ultimately require variations in approach and response.

The debate initially divides the participants into two opposing camps, “people people” and “process reliant”. Each has a valid but conflicting argument, a complaint due to a bad process can be recovered with good people skills, but how many times can you say no to the customer?

However nicely you say it, in the end it is a bad experience. Inevitably a customer centric organisation with great people skills will provide a superior customer experience at the optimum cost. How much you need from each camp will vary, depending on the product or service, its value, its quality and the customer you are talking to.

It is also important to consider the effects of the experience on an organisation’s own people. All the above is just as relevant to staff satisfaction, turnover and cost. There is also a great deal of evidence to show that advocacy has to start from within.


The clues are within us all


The basic elements of the experience are familiar to everyone. Are they listening? Are they interested in me? Is this fair? Do I trust them? Can this add value for me? How easy is this? Do they like me? Do I like them? Which of these questions will drive satisfaction, advocacy, abandonment or churn, will be determined in many cases by a gut feeling and yes, first impressions do count for a great deal. This is a scientific fact, a basic instinct, but also something with which we can identify as human beings.

Whilst easy to identify, these elements are extremely difficult to measure. The common short term measure is satisfaction and the long term effects are increasingly measured as advocacy. Real time measurements of, for example, empathy, are very effective but are seen by many as too transient to help us guide our businesses. As people we are able to measure, assess against expectations and make judgments in a very short space of time. So, how do we set our expectations and what do we measure?

The key skill is social interaction; the ability to participate in a debate and learn from others’ experiences rather than our own, and collective learning, these are the skills that distinguish us as human beings. Many would argue that the quality of these conversations has a greater influence on our development than our formal education. So conversations with friends and relations promote a consensus on common standards, providing a check on ever growing expectations.

The basics of what we as individuals measure also derive from these interactions. We unconsciously assess honesty, education, class and the health of everyone we meet within only a few seconds. We are judging how they look, (colours, neatness, coordination) how they move (agility, stature, body language) and how they sound (volume, tone variations) and how they introduce themselves, above all we are looking for consistency. A very scruffy, highly energetic and meekly spoken individual will not normally generate trust when he introduces himself as Captain John Smith since it falls outside the standards we would expect from our accumulated experiences. To change this initial opinion he will need to demonstrate a consistent message over many meetings.

The same is true for every organisation at each touch point with every customer, an impossible task without common expectations and personality traits. The message seems to be that we need to work with, not against, our instincts.


So every organisation contains the answer


Identifying when and how large organisations are influencing these feelings is of course a huge challenge – except that any one of its employees could tell you exactly how they “feel” about their own and a whole host of other companies during conversations with friends and relations. In most cases their view will be balanced by the group consensus. If the conversation develops into a debate, it has a good chance of producing ideas on how to enhance the experience. These will range from the fanciful to simple practical solutions. We can all bear witness to the censure and creativeness of the group dynamic.

If this group of friends were all actively engaged in the day-to-day delivery of services and products in a range of organisations, it would have the ability to identify the strengths and weaknesses in the ”if” and “how”, balance “people” and “process”, challenge the internal view – stimulating solutions that individuals or groups from one organisation could not begin to conceive.

How often do we win an argument on “this feels right”? We need comparisons with other experiences and a logical argument built on examples of good and bad practice.

Establishing such groups, representing a cross section of industries, is, I believe, the key to unlocking the power of a great customer experience. Every individual will be able to use the collective knowledge and experience to help them find answers to current and future customer experience challenges – and win approval for implementation.

The opportunity to be part of a group, not just to listen or talk, but to engage and challenge the collective view, benefit from the collective learning and be stimulated by its creativity is also vital to the implementation of the delivery of a consistent experience. Organisations are as individual as the people they contain, the customers they serve, and the experiences they generate. If the challenges lie within a collective consciousness, so will the answers.