Emotional Intelligence : When the customer experience generates added value.
Foreword “An adventure, perhaps even a minor revolution, to get back to profitability”
Emotional Intelligence: To introduce you to the notion of “building relationships”, we have chosen to tell you the story of the company RISQ IARD. Although it doesn’t actually exist, you all are familiar with this company: it might be the one that you’re working in at the moment, that you are managing or that you are advising. It is an honest firm in every sense of the word: honorable and hard-working, experienced, but unfortunately also slightly passive.
Customer experience: from tactics to strategy
And yet today, the customer experience is becoming the differentiating factor, if not to say the determinant factor, for the firm. An astute company will, therefore, shift the customer relationship from being a tactical tool to being a strategic concern, such as the importance it has taken on. And why wouldn’t it, with disruptive technology creating new needs? In the space of a decade, smartphones applications and clouds have reshaped the relationship between consumers and brands, paving the way for new models such as Me2B.
So what’s in store for RISQ IARD?
Definitely, an adventure, and perhaps even a minor revolution, to help it get back to profitability by progressing simultaneously in two areas: IT and the customer relationship. “Please refer the whitepaper for the team”
The tale you are about to read is the story of a company which, despite being well established in its business and being acknowledged as a credible market player, loses its added value in a very short space of time. Such is the disaster that befell the company RISQ IARD in 2017, not so much as a result of poor strategic decisions, but rather due to poor attention and a lack of self-questioning. I have decided to publish our ordeal because it could happen to anyone. Fortunately, a desperate situation can also be an opportunity to reshuffle the deck. What company can seriously expect to live forever? Things are changing even faster as digitalization continues to reshape human activity. Therefore, a crisis is also a signal to embark upon a period of change. Recovering your added value means being bold enough to challenge the job you do and challenge your professionals, to go and get reacquainted with your customers. In the end, it means sparking off a true revolution, as a beneficial journey back to your roots.
An overly-calm Board: 15 days before the Crash
Some CEOs get a kick out of making their staff wait. It is said that the quarter-hour delay which often comes at the start of board meetings enable some problems to solve themselves. Let things just unravel by themselves. With Stéphane, it was quite the opposite: he always made a point of arriving 15 minutes early. He even took care of the percolator so that everyone could have a hot coffee when they arrived. A way of taking care of his team, particularly with such a busy agenda. Franck only had the agenda on his mind as he settled into his seat, muttering an absent-minded “Hi”. The ritual sales report had become an increasingly unpleasant exercise since the indicators have started to wane. The job of sales was not like it used to be: consumers were well informed, hard to decipher, complicated to win over and impossible to retain. What could he do about it? All he could do was to sweat it out with an eye on the clock hanging over the door. Agnes was similarly minded to Franck. In fact, she sat down right next to him. For the troops, just like the clients, a sinister sense of disenchantment was distinctly setting in. And yet she felt that she hadn’t made any mistakes or at least, she hadn’t changed anything in her management. So why blame her? Arriving exactly two minutes before the start of the meeting, Laurie, Karim and Katia took their seats in a flurry of animation opposite the first two. What had become an unconscious habit was perhaps a reflection of their deep-seated disagreements on the company’s policy. It seemed that “wait-and-see” had become the norm, and everyone was hanging on to their old ideas, hoping that the environment would pick up again Stéphane opened the meeting. “Franck, can you give us the report on the last year? Just like the previous years, in fact, the figures aren’t good. “Well the indicators aren’t actually that bad, sir,” responded Franck. “I would even say that for the third year running, our activity has resisted well in a highly competitive environment and with a concentration of market players.” “We are stagnating!” Laurie suddenly cut in. “Our competitors aren’t just joining forces: they’re changing the way they do business. Today, having a good product isn’t good enough – you’ve also got to take the customer into consideration.” “There you go with the same old line, Mrs. Calfandre,” retorted Agnès, “but can I just remind you that we are short on staff and still under pressure, despite having agreed that we would only take customers’ phone calls in the morning so that we could free up…” “OK, so let’s talk about that policy,” interrupted Laurie. “While we cut off the channels by which they can join us, what you think our customers are doing? Waiting for the next day? No, they’re going over to the competition!” “Laurie, that’s enough thank you,” said Stéphane. “After all we’ve been doing our job in the same way for nearly 20 years now, and there’s no reason to change. Don’t you think? Our policyholders are loyal, our products are good… No, I’m sure things will start looking up sometime…”
The confession: 12 months after the Crash
Transcript of the interview between Stéphane Valin, CEO of RISQ IARD, and Kevin Dubois, senior consultant at Leclerc et Navarre Consulting. Kevin: You have asked for this interview to be recorded. Why not, but… Why? Stéphane: So that people know! So that they know that an honorable company that hasn’t made any mistakes, that’s familiar with its market, that… (He cuts himself off) no, in fact, that’s not it. In fact, that’s precisely what it’s about: it’s about certainties. Certainties can be dangerous. It was our certainties that put us in this predicament. They almost destroyed the company. Kevin: That, and a negative press article. Stéphane: (annoyed) That article really set things off, you’re right. It was an uncompromising piece about our customer relationship policy. Or rather, and I quote, our “absence of customer relationship”. The journalist gave his account of his own experience as a customer. He told a story, his story, about an insurance claim he was making, and his battle “get his insurance to work”. Kevin: Something to do with a washing machine leak in the flat upstairs, wasn’t it? Stéphane: Yes, that’s right. A story about a leak, wallpaper coming unstuck and damage to a wood floor. Stuff you see every day. It took him six months to receive compensation after getting a consumer group involved. It was a bit of a shambles on our part. (in a dismal voice) And yet it’s not as if we didn’t put any resources into it. On our website, a portal in actual fact, the customer could administer their claim by themselves; they could find their claim form for water damage online to print out and fill in. They also had fact sheets on what to do in an emergency, and what documents they needed to prepare for the loss adjuster if necessary. We even have an application for that, I think. So basically, we’d done everything to help the customer help themselves and manage their own case. For us, this meant less work. Fewer customer relations, meaningless customer contacts, giving us more time for our teams to manage the cases of customers. Kevin: But if the customers manage their own cases, that should make your teams more available. Stéphane: Yes, in theory, but you wouldn’t believe how much back-office work the portal demanded. We had to manually collate the information supplied by our branches in the front office, cross-reference the data and feed everything in the file back up to head office. We had to do that because of our IT infrastructure. This dates back to when the company converted to computerization, in the 1980s. Kevin: And did it work? Stéphane: (sigh) No, of course not. We limited ourselves to what we knew. We weren’t aware that we were actively destroying the company’s added value by cutting ourselves off from our customers. We thought that added value came through customer autonomy. But it was an illusion, unfortunately.
A bad memory : 12 months after the Crash
Continuation of the transcript of the interview between Stéphane Valin, CEO of RISQ IARD, and Kevin Dubois, senior consultant at Leclerc et Navarre Consulting. Kevin: So when this dawned on you – when you discovered that the company was working on the basis of certainties, ironically the situation got worse… Stéphane: (nervous laugh) Yes indeed. A cure which was worse than the disease, as they say. When our indicators went from green/orange to bright red, we stepped up our model. Kevin: Meaning? Stéphane: Well, I believed that the cause was our teams’ lack of motivation. So we turned up the heat: we reinforced our B2B and B2C actions to take control back. And to rise to the technological challenge, we added more online solutions to those that already existed. And finally, we started actively communicating to respond to our critics online. Kevin: And what happened? Stéphane: It was a total fiasco. In every area. Take B2B and B2C for example. Our unilateral actions towards our customers did not have any of the desired effects. It was like talking to a brick wall. Customers and partners alike. Similarly, when we reinforced our portal, we merely created a terribly slow and bug-infested IT monster. There were lots more channels, but they still didn’t communicate with each other. And so requests ended up nowhere. As for our communications, you might as well try and put a fire out with petrol. And meanwhile, internally, we turned up the pressure on our employees, who felt that their work had become totally meaningless. This wasn’t anything particularly new: it had already started back when we placed the emphasis on customer autonomy, but it just got worse at that point. And so we suffered the knock-on effects such as absenteeism, sick leave, etc. Kevin: A final act of bravado before the collapse, then? Stéphane: You could say that. Your company’s added value disappears off the radar screen overnight. There’s nothing left: you’re no good at anything at all. That’s what your customers say, or that’s the message they send you when they leave you to go across to the competition. You aren’t providing the right service anymore, in spite of how good your contracts or policies are. Because that’s not what people are looking for.
WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY
Peter Massey Managing Director – Budd “Focusing on the right emotions for customers”
— How are customer relationship business models evolving today? The notion of models is convenient and comfortable for companies and groups of people because it allows us to think about customers through a traditional B2C or B2B customer relationship lens. But we need a different model to see things the way the customers do. Customers don’t have relationships with the majority of their suppliers. They just get things done. They might have a great relationship, but they will still go elsewhere. We are dealing with humans, who are complex in their thinking and behavior. Seeing things from inside the customer’s head is nothing particularly new. The notion of buyer-centric, rather than seller-centric, behaviors, or “customer-managed relationships” has been around for twenty years! The direction of the thinking is reversed: it’s not B2C or B2B, but it’s the individual’s view of the company, or “Me2B”. Essentially their experience is about their conversation with the company: a complex individual engaging with a front-line employee, who is also a complex individual. Or more and more, with their technology, which needs not to be complex. — How should firms be acting to take this new mindset (Me2B) on board? Management should be listening to their frontline staff because they are the ones who know customers the best. If leaders believe in and act on what their frontline staff says, then people start to believe in their leaders and work becomes enjoyable. The role of leadership is to change people’s mental models and the way the business works to this customer-focused perspective. Using customers’ language to describe what customers want is a simple but powerful shift. Focusing on the right emotions for customers so that they can feel that the firm knows them, values them and wants to make things easy for them. If management is listening to staff, then scoring and surveys are much reduced. Customers are bored of them anyway, and often they create more effort than the original interaction. Instead, resources should be deployed on fixing issues and taking opportunities, on practicing and testing better conversations and constantly adjusting them to obtain the desired outcomes for the customer and therefore the business.
Grégoire Dufournet Collaboration Architect – Cisco “Leadership is what really matters”
— Multichannel, omni-channel, emotional intelligence, can you tell us more about these ideas? These are all technologies that we plug into the classic B2B and B2C models and which will collate information in one place which arrives from different sources. This applies both on the customer side and on the business side. The customer benefits from a smoother experience by getting access to a service through the channels of their choice: voice, video, conference, chat, etc. The business centralizes customer requests and responds to them appropriately. It can also use these tools to break down the silos between the different areas of expertise of its internal resources. — To what extent are they essential to remain competitive? This may sound counterintuitive, but the leader of a market is not the one that has the best product. Rather, it is the one which succeeds in combining a good product with the highest customer satisfaction. At a stretch, you could say that the added value of the company is a direct result of the customer experience before/during/after the product consumption, combined with how it manages its reputation. — What type of difficulties are obstacles to their adoption? Leadership is what really matters. A structural transformation will lead to the company’s skill areas being transformed. The aim is to embed the customer experience into the enterprise culture, and this type of change cannot be the concern of just one department. To drive the necessary cross-company collaboration, you need a Chief Digital Officer (CDO) who can rely on the full support of the top management and the Board. — What do you recommend for our fictional company? Carry out an audit of the tools that are already in place, then objectively assess what can be improved and what should be scrapped. Form a steering committee, assisted by a CDO, which will instill “building relationships” at the very heart of the company.
Chapter – 4:
A quick word : 7 days after the Crash
Laurie had started to consult people on her own initiative. The situation was critical, and yet it seemed impossible to be able to face up to the obvious: the Board was paralyzed, and in the meantime, the company was losing value. Finally, she had discreetly made contact with her previous employer, Leclerc et Navarre Consulting. After a few discussions with her former colleagues, she had been pointed in the direction of Kevin, a specialist in customer relations. Two meetings outside the office later and Laurie was ready to play her trump card and confront Stéphane in his office. “Did you write this memo, Laurie? It’s very interesting, but I don’t know whether it’s what we need. And who is this young man with you?” “Stéphane, this is Kevin. He works in my former consultancy. I took the liberty of contacting them and discussing our situation with them. Kevin is a specialist in customer relations and would like to take care of our case. He wrote the memo. The young man stepped forward to shake Stéphane’s hand. “I’m sorry to be meeting you in these conditions, intruding in your company like this.” Stéphane smiled, glancing at his deputy. “It’s not your fault. Laurie’s the one who’s convinced that we’re in trouble. We have taken new measures which may not have yet led to significant results, but I haven’t given up yet.” Kevin continued. “Judging by the data that Laurie gave me, you might have to wait a long time. In our office, we discussed RISQ, and we decided to recommend an approach revolving around building relationships. Do you mind if I ask you a couple of questions?” “Yes, sure, go ahead.” “Would you be able to tell me where your company’s added value lies?” Stéphane seemed to be taken aback by the question. “That’s a funny question. Well, I suppose I would say in our production of policies.” “What have you done in the area of the customer experience?” “Well, that’s a notion that I’m aware of. In our firm, we offer a 10% discount on the oldest policies.” “Are your departments up to speed on the subject? Can they suggest new ideas?” “Ah well, you know, they’re already snowed under with their job… I’m not going to bore them with that. Perhaps when the crisis is over.” “Listen, Stéphane,” cut in Laurie, “I’m not sure that we’ll still be here when the crisis is over. If you think that these recommendations are what’s needed, meaning that our core business revolves around our customer relationship, then you’ve got to sponsor the project yourself. It has to come from the top, from top management, and trickle down into all the company’s departments: production, sales, and service. It’s a revolution.”
Chapter – 5:
The long walk : 6 months after the Crash
In the end, several stormy Board-level meetings overcame people’s reticence to change. In any case, the situation was critical, and something had to be done. Karim was catapulted to the position of Chief Digital Officer. This title was tailor-made for him to drive the change in the business culture from within the IT department. As employees were successively trained technical solutions deployed – which had sometimes consisted of scrapping some of them – and a lot of explanation, building relationships had gradually made inroads in the company and an organizational model was duplicated. But it hadn’t always been easy. Such as at this presentation in a subsidiary in the East of France: “Mr. Sahoui, I really can’t understand what building relationships are. I know how to do my job, I have my clients and I have my problems. I can’t see how that’s going to help me.” “Thank you for your question and your remark. It is a good illustration of why we are here today. Let’s take your mission: you work in the front office, don’t you?” “Yes, that’s right, and I’m actually snowed under with all the contacts I’m getting!” “Well, those days are over. This is what I’m offering you today: we are merging together the customer’s access modes. From now on, everything is centralized on your workstation: e-mails, calls, chat, SMS, etc. The approach is by a client, regardless of the vector.” “Oh goodness – how I going to manage all of that?” “The interface is focused on the customer. Look: when the customer contacts you, through whatever channel, you have everything in their file at your fingertips. Before you even answer them, you have everything you need. You know who is calling and why they are calling. You might even have the answer to their question.” “Really?” “Yes, because merging channels on the one hand and merging our data on the other gives you all you need to show the client that you know them and that you remember them. So to begin with, there’s every chance that this calms the situation down. The next thing is that you show them that you are dealing with their demand efficiently. You can even offer them options – for example, in how they can keep track of their claim. You make their life much easier when they can pick their own timeslot for an appointment with the loss adjuster.” “It’s true that we would like to be able to trust the customer more…” “But you can, with the platform that we are deploying. You are re-injecting added value into your job by offering a real service, and by co-designing an ad hoc solution with your client. This way, you are making them feel valuable. You are probably even surpassing their expectations, which may initially have just been just to let off a bit of steam at you. Here, you are helping them to do more and better: their claim, for example, is sorted. The customer becomes a loyal customer and you can even make them an advocate with the right Voice of the Customer approach.
WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY
Stéphane Schoder Head of Business Consulting – Activeo
“Starting from the customer’s point of view is a true lever for the transformation of the firm” — What mistakes are usually made by companies in their customer relationship model? It’s mainly the disparity between the brand promise and the actual experience. Secondly, firms tend to build their model without really defining what they want their clients to experience, or understanding their expectations: ultra-simplicity, ultra-rapidity, ultra-choice, ultra-personalization, etc. Finally, there is also a tendency to forget the employee. This is what I call the alignment of intentions: an employee has the same expectations as a customer. — What is the main resistance to change that you encounter when you audit your clients? Quite simply the fear of change and the belief that the model in place is a good model. The weight of legacy in technology deployment is also important. But the most harmful thing is definitely the “watermelon indicator”: negative information, which is therefore red to start with, gradually turns to green as it works its way up to the top management. — What arguments do you use to convince your clients that your recommendations are right? If I had to pick one, it is the fact that everyone is a customer. Starting from the customer’s point of view is a true lever for the transformation of the firm. Our workshops often consist of bringing out the customer in the employee or the decision-maker. — How long does it take to feel the beneficial effects of the modification in the customer relation model? You need to make efforts in the short, medium and long terms. In the customer journey, in the short term, this might simply be to remove the irritating factors, such as rephrasing messages. In the medium term you can change the tools currently in place, whilst in the long term, you can introduce new channels. The beneficial effects for a firm can happen very fast.
Bruno Caille Sales Director Collaboration Business Solutions France – Cisco
“This implies a need for continuous and permanent training of staff members” — What technical solutions exist for the customer relationship today? We can divide them into on-premises solutions and cloud solutions. These are two approaches which target different needs. The former co-design solutions with partners, whilst the latter are distributed modular solutions. In both cases, the service delivered promotes proximity, and moves towards omnichannel: the experience is seamless for the customer, and their customer service staff has all the information they need to fulfill their missions. These solutions can be deployed regardless of the size of the company because the cloud provides the necessary flexibility. — Tell us about a typical deployment of a new architecture with a client who wants to adopt “building relationships”. Technology has to be based on core business expertise. You have to understand the entire journey of the end customer, but also that of the person who is going to be dealing with them. To allow new solutions to be adopted easily in the firm, the role of the Chief Digital Officer is vital, particularly if they come from a core business background. Because digitalization will transform the core business. — Do teams take up new solutions easily? Does it require specific preparation? Take-up happens naturally if you keep in mind that the application will not necessarily be adopted by default! Support is essential. Change cycles are faster. This implies a need for continuous and permanent training of staff members. — Are these solutions affordable? Are they an attractive investment for companies? Yes and yes! The cloud is affordable: you can expect to pay €100 per month and per employee for solutions with a limited functional level. This is something that start-ups have seized upon: the initial outlay for the technical part is very low, money should be used to pay for people. But this investment is an absolute necessity: customers today are very demanding in how they are talked to and how well the company knows them.
Chapter – 6:
A fresh start : 10 months after the Crash
That morning, the whole management team had arrived early. Katia had bought croissants and Karim had bought pains au chocolat; Laurie was standing at the coffee machine when Franck walked in, ostensibly still pink in the face from his morning run. But the result was there for all to see: he had lost a lot of weight. With a spring in his step, he started on the room decorations, putting up a few chains. Kevin helped him. Finally, Stéphane walked into the meeting room. A small party had been improvised for the final report on the digital transformation. They took their seats and passed around pastries and coffee. “So Kevin, is your mission finished already?” “Yes Mr. Valin, other tasks await me. But I think that RISQ is out of harm’s way. Last week’s indicators and those from the last two months are clearly proof of this. “Excellent. And what about you, Karim? Is your spell as CDO over, too? No regrets? “Oh no, Mr. Valin. It was an exciting adventure, but it was exhausting. I have lost count of the number of hours of training I’ve given and the number of kilometers I’ve traveled. Although I did appreciate visiting all our branches. I have lots of ideas to improve the customer experience, but I think I’m going to take a holiday first. My leave application is on your desk by the way.” “Well, you certainly deserve it. Is there anything you want to tell us before you pack your case? Are you still going to Borneo?” “Yes, I am. As regards the digitalization of business and the customer relationship approach, our omni-channel system is up and running. Customers can contact the company as they wish when they wish, where they wish. Inside the company, our teams are up to speed and are “rediscovering” their job. Because we’ve broken down the silos between skill sets, we can now manage requests quickly and efficiently. We have literally unearthed a whole source of value by appointing different staff members, particularly skilled in their field, as experts. For example, Badou in our Chartres branch has become the national internal champion on questions relating to fire insurance claims.” “Great. And what about those figures, Kevin?” “21% more claims dealt with, 54% less dissatisfaction. RISQ can now be reached 24 hours a day and all year round. The reputation of the company is improving, even if Internet takes time to forget. We might need a special communications campaign to accelerate the image transition… More coffee, anyone?”
WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY
Eric Dadian Président de l ’Association Française de la Relation Client
“The big disruptive technology today is without a doubt Artificial Intelligence” — Me2B, building relationships… What will customer experience be like in the coming years? It will be an augmented experience. The big disruptive technology today is without a doubt Artificial Intelligence (AI). It is around us everywhere, and it will be even more widespread tomorrow. Ironically, while voices are being raised as to the dangers that these AIs represent, it is actually these AIs, at least in the area that concerns us, that is going to give humans a predominant role. Despite their apparent sophistication, these AIs have their own form of “intelligence”, which is actually quite limited, in particular, compared to a human being. They are therefore perfect to deal with large volumes of repetitive information and execute uninteresting tasks. The rest is for people to do – whether it’s the customer or the employee. Freed from these alienating tasks, the customer experience will be augmented by the full spectrum of emotion and empathy. A customer adviser becomes someone who manages a bot, and who can fully concentrate on the customer experience which, more than ever before, will constitute the value of the company. — You have just come back from CES 2018. What technology will be at the service of the customer relationship tomorrow? In addition to these AIs, we are seeing the vigorous and rapid emergence of vocal technology. Ten years ago, the smartphone introduced tactile technology, and it looks like the voice is set to replace it. Indeed, the voice is the choice vector through which to exchange with a connected device, therefore obviously driven by an AI. In concrete terms, we can take the example of voice assistants such as Siri at Apple or Alexa at Amazon. We hope you’ve liked the blog, please do share your insights bello –