Ashton Media
Marketing & Customer Experience Hub

What customers really want from organisations today

In April, 2014, more than 150 customer experience, data, marketing and business leaders participated in the first Customer 360 Symposium run by Ashton Media.

This is the fifth of six posts based on a presentation given by Corporate Anthropologist, Michael Henderson  who shared fascinating insights into the nature of culture and why more organisations should be tapping into this to improve customer engagement.

In the previous post, Michael explained  the connection between organisation culture and strategy.

In today’s post, Michael talks about today’s customers and what they are looking for from cultures and modern organisations.

Customer service fail

 What customers really want  right now

If it’s not efficiency, and we’ve got to have efficiency but if that’s not what they’re looking for, what are they looking for?

Again, my observation is empathy and creativity. These are the two areas that customers are hungry for. Empathy because they’re in pain, they’re hurting,  just like the businesses are. They’ve been bleeding; they’ve found it tougher than it’s even been. A lot of their aspirations went down the toilet over the  last six years. Their dreams were smashed. They had to alter them.

Again, you may not be familiar with all this going on in Australia because you were relatively protected. This is what’s been going on, go and ask any  European how much pain they’ve been in over the last decade, they’ll tell you. They’ve got war stories like you wouldn’t believe and in New Zealand we’ve  got the same thing.

This empathy factor is coming and it’s coming big time

This means that your frontline staff and the touch points of your business need to be empathetic in a way they’ve never been before. You’ve got to reignite  the empathy flame and even explain what that means.

If you’re not sure what empathy means, a lot of people get it confused with sympathy, empathy is when you can say, “I have your pain in my heart”.

That’s the definition of empathy. It’s actually a Lakota Sioux Indian word meaning, your pain in my heart. Have you heard the expression, “I feel you  brother”? Heard people do that? Kind of hip on the street? Yeah, I feel ya. That’s empathy. As long as they’re not just saying it, they actually do feel  ya. I feel ya pain. That’s what we’re aiming for.

So we’ve got to be experiencing that. We’ve got to be expressing that, especially if you’re selling or marketing anything to people. You’ve got to explain  before you start saying, “here’s my new gadget, here it is, it’s awesome, check it out”.

Before I can have that conversation with them I’ve got to front up with, “I know the pain you’re in”. I know the suffering that’s going on for you and  therefore we have put time and effort into considering that and we have come up with this for you. That’s the conversation that’s going to be coming. Just  until we get out of this whole economic and political crisis that’s going on around the world.

Creativity is coming up with the ideas which you’re good at. That’s your whole market, that’s what you’re all about and in mixing that with empathy, you’ve  got a really good chance of emerging ahead of the pack, especially if your competitors didn’t buy the ticket to come to this conference and listen to these  types of conversations to get the thinking cap on. That’s going to be the difference between being here in a decade or not.

Customer experience happens in the moment

Here’s the other point. Customer service and service experience is not process and systems. This is the big wake up call. If you really want to knock the  ball out of the park on customer experience, remember that your service and that experience happens in the moment. It happens through the limbic brain,  it’s a sensory experience, right? Hear, smell, touch, and feel. It happens here and now.

Having the best automated system behind the scenes is not what it’s all about. When I checked out of a hotel recently overseas, I could do it all  automatically through an app. I didn’t need to go to the front counter, I could just check out and say, right, this is what I had from the mini bar. Hit  the button and they’ll invoice me later off my credit card. No human interaction at all.

But that’s not what made the hotel impressive for me. What made it impressive for me was the people that came in to clean my room every morning and the  genuine appreciation they had for me and what I do. And here’s the interesting thing, it was overseas, you could almost argue, a third world country, so  I’m earning squillions more than they will ever earn in a lifetime – the sad reality of globalisation.

But the way I got treated was, you almost felt the empathy that they had for someone like me that has to spend a lot of time travelling away from home.  Does that make sense? That’s the feeling I got from them. There was almost the look of “you poor thing”. Five star hotel. Customer paid for it. I didn’t  even have to pay for it, just had a couple of mini bar bills which in my case is tiny.

But the reaction I got was, “oh you poor thing”. To be stuck in the hotel. So while you’re here and suffering the way you are, Sir, we’re going to make it  an experience that you’ll never forget. That’s empathy. That’s the lingering, I’ll go back to the hotel over and over and over again, not because of the  app, but because of the people that came and cleaned my room every morning, or helped me with my dry-cleaning. Do you get the idea?

The experience is in those high touch magical moments

It’s the moments, those magical moments of human touch human. Make sense? It’s not high-tech, it’s high touch. Those are the magical moments you’re going  to be thinking about in your old age when you’re reflecting back on when life was good. It’s the high touch moments that will come to mind. I promise you.

Years ago I was put in a rather frightening situation, being told I had 36 hours to live. I had cerebral malaria and got a really big wake-up call on this.  It’s the human touch moments which are the ones that you linger on in the last right. They’re how you measure yourself and I believe they’re how we should  be measuring our business, society, and community interactions as well.

How do you create service in the moment?

It’s very simple.

You’ve got to move from triangles to circles because we lead organisations from the top of the triangle don’t we? Don’t we? High office, the title, the  salary, the better car position, top of the triangle, I got the power dude. Treat me with respect. It’s all about pride and status and symbolism.

It’s a great way to run the military; it’s even a really good way to run a surgical unit in a hospital. It’s just a terrible way to build a culture that  responds really empathetically and creatively with massive customer experience.

What you want to be doing is leading from the centre of the circle, the heartbeat of the whole place. Remind people, this is a human endeavour before it’s  a business endeavour. I have a sneaking suspicion, (and I hate to share this with you), I have a sneaking suspicion that fundamentally organisations don’t  actually like people.

I reckon if they could do away with them and still make the profit; do you know what I mean? If they didn’t have to employ anybody, didn’t have to deal  with unions, didn’t have to deal with customers, and didn’t have to deal with supply chain management. If you can manage all that and the dollars still  came in, how cool would that be?

It’s kind of missing the point isn’t it? Don’t you think? Because my perspective is, you’re all modern tribes. You’re the equivalent of society’s tribes  now. You probably spend more time in your workplace culture than you do in your family culture or your Australian culture. Is that true? If your boss is in  the room, nod vigorously now. Did you see the hours I put in last week? Sorry? If I come and look at you as an anthropologist, you’re a modern tribe.

CFO – the witch doctor of the tribe

The Head of the organisations is called what, the CFO? What does the C stand for? Chief? Tribe? Culture? The CFO is the witch doctor. He is! He’s the  modern equivalent. Witch doctors used to look through the bones to predict the future. Oooo, bad hunting season, come we hunt now. Right? Bones look bad.

It’s the same as a spreadsheet, isn’t it? Bad quarter, not looking good, get out and sell more now. IT are the drummers. They’re just building very  sophisticated drums that instead of going across the valley, they can now go across the world. But we’re still sending messages and listening to the  responses aren’t we? Aren’t we?

Sales Reps are warriors alright? They’ve just replaced spears with laptops and IPads. I’m not joking. Go and break it down right, we haven’t advanced as  much as we thought we had which is kind of cool on the one hand, and disappointing on the other. I’ll let you figure out which is which.

Say hello to your employees to inspire customer intimacy

Alright, that’s what we’re trying to do. Get you out of your near cortex and more into your limbic brain. The biggest thing you can do as a leader to  inspire customer intimacy and customer experience is say hello to your employees as a leader every morning without fail.

If you can spend 15 minutes, forget your appointments and your to do list, spend 15 minutes a day getting around as many of your employees as you can  saying, “good to see you here again, thanks so much for the effort yesterday, heard some great stuff about you, or, I heard you had a tough day yesterday,  I hope that doesn’t happen today, if there’s anything I can do, let me know”. Loved working with you.

Really simple conversations, guess what happens? I’m not making this up. This isn’t business philosophy, this is biology. You release oxytocin through the  system of the other person. Have you heard of oxytocin?

Ladies will be familiar with it right. You give birth; oxytocin is the drug that floods you, that makes you fall in love with this ugly screaming little  thing covered in blood. And you change from being mother to lioness instantly don’t you? Don’t mess with me and the baby. That’s oxytocin. It’s bonding  instantly.

Your job in leadership culturally and anthropologically, is to release oxytocin through the tribe. That’s the definition of leadership. Make people feel  like they belong here, that they have a role to play and that you have noticed. You have witnessed their effort and their endeavours.

In the next and final post in the series, Michael summarises his presentation and shares how to build a culture of magical customer experience moments.

View the full presentation here:

Mark Abay - Content Director, Ashton Media About Mark Abay - Content Director, Ashton Media
Mark is Content Director at Ashton Media. It's his job to create interesting and engaging conference programs that stretch the thinking of our attendees. Mark works closely with our industry advisors to ensure the conference content is aligned with the needs and interests of our audiences.