Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Complication Causes Complaints

My “unofficial mentor”, Michael Heppell, has just produced another brilliant view on why customer service is not always what we may expect.  To see the full review, click here.

Michael makes a very valid point: in our efforts to ensure our processes support the business, we risk losing sight of the fact that they don’t support the customer.  

We invent and adjust processes for any number of reasons:
  • They don’t exist;
  • They’re out of date;
  • We think it’ll be “better this way”;
  • To impress the boss…

What I only recently realised, thanks to the Temkin Group, is that before we change or add anything to a process that involves customers, we need to view it first and foremost from the point of view of whether it makes theirexperience better.  

The aviation industry looks at causes of errors using the “SHEL” framework where “SHEL” stands for:

Software
Hardware
Environment
Life/Liveware

To help understand better, think of things this way:

“Software”means computer software, manuals, procedures;

“Hardware”means tools, vehicles, PCs – anything the organisation supplies to staff to do their job.

“Environment”means the organisation itself, how t does things, its “culture”

“Liveware”means staff, clients, third party contractors – the “people factor”

Problems usually arise where there’s a disconnect between humans (“Liveware”), usually involving either a “Contributing Factor” or “Performance Inducing Factor” and the software, hardware or environmental elements of SHEL. These than result in an “event” (what we don’t want to happen, or the exact oppositeof what we intended or expected to happen) and consequences (customer complaint, loss of business…).

Often, the best way of making sure our processes do what we want is to keep them simple.  The more steps we introduce, the higher the chance that one of them won’t be carried out.  The more the number of functions or teams involved with a customer interaction, the higher the chance that something will go wrong.  

Are we trying “too hard” to please our customers?


I have spent more than half my life delivering change in different world markets from the most developed to “emerging” economies. With more than 20 years in international financial services around the world  running different operations and lending businesses, I started my own Consultancy to provide solutions for improving performance, productivity and risk management.  I work with individuals, small businesses, charities, quoted companies and academic institutions across the world. An international speaker, trainer, author and fund-raiser, I can be contacted by email. My websiteprovides a full picture of my portfolio of services.  For strategic questions that you should be asking yourself, follow me at @wkm610.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Inconsistency Is the Enemy of Loyalty

I recently wrote on how inconsistency is the enemy of customer loyaltyand this week saw an article in the press complaining about exactly this.

What this complaint highlighted was not just that inconsistency had led to the customer writing to the national press, but that there seemed to be a lack of communication in the organisation concerned between “management” and “staff” (or, at the very least, inconsistent application of the message).  It also seemed that the “policy” that led to the original complaint was subsequently changed and the customer concerned had only found out by accident.

A study by Boeing revealed that in any organisation, 80-90% of the factors that contribute to errors are under management control, whereas the remaining 10-20% can be attributed to staff.  Apart from looking remarkably like “Pareto’s Principle”, the message is clear: management has a crucial role to play in ensuring that there is consistency in application of processes, procedures and policies, and that staff receive the training needed to carry them out.      

At times, this means re-writing manuals (so keep them short and simple).  It means regular training and refresher sessions.  It means staff meetings where staff are free to say what’s preventing them from doing their job properly.

The role of leadership has never been so clear – it’s critical to customer loyalty and satisfaction, as well as wider public perception of our business.  How can we meet this challenge in our own organisation?


I have spent more than half my life delivering change in different world markets from the most developed to “emerging” economies. With more than 20 years in international financial services around the world  running different operations and lending businesses, I started my own Consultancy to provide solutions for improving performance, productivity and risk management.  I work with individuals, small businesses, charities, quoted companies and academic institutions across the world. An international speaker, trainer, author and fund-raiser, I can be contacted by email. My websiteprovides a full picture of my portfolio of services.  For strategic questions that you should be asking yourself, follow me at @wkm610.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Hard Won, Easily Lost…

I’m talking here about customer loyalty.  Loyalty is what brings our customers back for more; it’s what inspires them to recommend our product or service above others to their friends. It’s what keeps the money coming in.

Michael Heppell, a coach whom I follow, takes the view that inconsistency is the enemy of loyalty; never were truer words spoken. When first-time customers get something delivered or done in a certain way, they automatically assume that it will be delivered or done the same way every time thereafter.  One has only to look at customer reviews of products or service to see plenty of examples of people who experienced great delivery the first time and were let down subsequently.  

It works both ways, we may experience fantastic delivery the first time, and terrible the next, whilst someone else had a terrible experience the first time and never goes back for more.

One of our most difficult jobs as leaders is to make sure that our organisation delivers the same quality every time.  As most of us employ human beings, this is no easy task. People get sick, sleep badly, have arguments with colleagues, get injured – all of which can affect the quality of their work.  Add to this pressure of meeting deadlines whilst following rules that are not always easy to understand and being the face of the business to its customers, and something MUST eventual go wrong.

Heppell draws examples from everyday events such as:

  • Shops which spend huge amounts on refurbishment, but next to nothing on training staff;
  • Companies paying PR agencies to help them win awards, but which couldn’t win a public vote;
  • Transport companies where good service is a lottery.


Being consistent is obvious; it’s essential, but it’s not easy.  We find plenty of reasons why we need to be consistent for our customers (but even more excuses why we aren’t).

One area where we can make a start is to ensure that promise is matched (or even exceeded) by delivery.  For this, we need to make sure that the training, tools and environment all support delivery of a consistent delivery.  There’s no point in having great premises, highly-trained staff and great computer software if the organisation’s procedures hamper everything. The aviation industry has discovered that 80-90% or errors are down to management.  This is normally because different apartments (sales, operations, customer service, HR, IT, finance) often have conflicting goals and priorities.  

People come to work wanting to do their best, and it’s up to us as leaders to make sure they can if we want to keep that precious customer loyalty (and our business running).

Why do we want loyal customers?  Loyal customers:
  • Buy more (and more often);
  • Are more forgiving when we make a mistake;
  • Recommend our business to others;
  • Won’t desert our business for a competitor as fast (what I call the the “sticky factor”).

This is worth fighting and training for.  People say that customers have no loyalty.  I prefer to say that we shouldn't be giving them reasons to leave.


I have spent more than half my life delivering change in different world markets from the most developed to “emerging” economies. With more than 20 years in international financial services around the world  running different operations and lending businesses, I started my own Consultancy to provide solutions for improving performance, productivity and risk management.  I work with individuals, small businesses, charities, quoted companies and academic institutions across the world. An international speaker, trainer, author and fund-raiser, I can be contacted by email. My websiteprovides a full picture of my portfolio of services.  For strategic questions that you should be asking yourself, follow me at @wkm610.

Labels: , , , ,