Author Archive

A passion for the simplicity beyond complexity

February 3, 2012

When I pick up the phone to call my bank, or telephone provider or insurer nowadays, I expect to have to work hard.  Four buttons to select from, then another five, then another four, then a recorded message.  Try again.  Four buttons, five buttons, then press a different button…”I’m sorry, we are experiencing an exceptionally high volume of calls.  You may be able to resolve your query by visiting our website at” (No, I tried that, that’s why I’m calling).

Then wait (cue Vivaldi Four Seasons, or if you’re really unlucky Toploader).  Then, a disembodied voice requests: “please continue to hold” and tells me “your call is important to us”.  (If my call is so important why doesn’t the company employ enough staff to answer it).  The wait continues then after a few minutes ‘click’ and silence.

Connect - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Repeat steps above.  Sometimes I may be told that I’m eighth in line to be served so I then go through a quick mental calculation (Size of organisation I’m phoning, assumption of number of call handlers, assumption around average call duration, calculation of wait time.)  I decide to wait. Eventually I get to ‘you are next in line to be served’.  The anticipation builds…and builds…and builds.  It’s now that I realise that I am behind the telephonic equivalent of the person in the supermarket queue who can’t find their purse, or whose credit card has been rejected.  Then “Good evening, thank you for calling, you are speaking to [unrecogniseable, unpronounceable name], how may I help you?”

“My name is Simon Daisley.  I wonder if you can help.  My XYZ isn’t working.”

“No problem. May I call you Simon?”  I’m so relieved to be talking to a human being that he could call me Fiona and I wouldn’t mind.

However, the meter is now running, I have probably 4 minutes 30 seconds or so of undivided attention before my new found friend will be distracted by the prospect of punishment and public humiliation for his average call handling time.

If I actually manage to get a satisfactory resolution I am genuinely delighted.  And surprised.  What a sad indictment of the customer experience provided by our greatest organistions.

Interestingly, if I challenge management within these organisations, many of them say that they benchmark their service against best practice in their industry.  Big deal.  Congratulations on being as rubbish as everyone else.

Some, however, acknowledge that things need to change and are starting to appreciate the value of ‘making it easier’ for their customers.  Harvard Business School published research last August which proved that the less effort required by customers to buy or receive service, the greater is the customer’s propensity to buy, repeatedly.

This may sound like a statement of the bleeding obvious, but as Groucho Marx once said, “The thing about common sense is that it isn’t so common.”

In a world of infinite complexity, it is so refreshing to see organisations genuinely trying to embrace simplicity as a means of differentiating their service proposition.

I wish them well.  To those companies that aren’t, I probably won’t be waiting to press buttons at the end of the call indicating my level of satisfaction.


Simon Daisley - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Blue Sky Performance Improvement


Feel the fear and do it anyway

November 23, 2011

Almost exactly ten years ago, I conducted some research into Customer Experience.  It wasn’t called Customer Experience in those days; it was called ‘Customer Centricity’.  The research showed that over 80% of organisations had customer management strategies but fewer than 40% had the processes and measures to actually implement the strategy.  We referred to this discrepancy as ‘the Knowing – Doing Gap’ (the title of a very good (although quite heavy) book by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton of the Harvard Business School).  Recently, we reran the research at Blue Sky and it showed that whilst organisations now have the processes and measures in place, they still aren’t actually delivering on their strategies.  It seems the Knowing – Doing gap is still alive and well. And I now reckon we have conclusive evidence as to why this gap exists.

Explore - Feel The Fear - Blue Sky Performance Improvement


People have the direction, the skills, the knowledge, the systems, the processes, the measures, in fact everything they need to deliver a transformed customer experience, but it’s still not happening consistently.

I was working with a retail bank recently.  Their new operating model involved more staff actually talking to customers.  What we observed when we went into branches was similar to what is referred to in social circles as ‘Approach Anxiety’.  Approach Anxiety is the justifiable fear of approaching strangers. People are innately terrified of rejection.  This means they either hide from customers altogether or ask direct closed questions to get the agony over with as quickly as possible.  “Can I help you?” is the most obvious question.  My standard response to this is: “no thanks.”  Sometimes braver staff may ask me “how can I help you?”  to which I generally respond, “I’m fine thanks”.  The reason I respond like this is because I share the same anxiety; I don’t want to look stupid!

The best example of an organisation that does not suffer from Approach Anxiety is Apple.  Go into an Apple store and you will be greeted by people that have all the skills and knowledge to answer anything you may ask.  They also have confidence in their colleagues.  If they don’t know the answer someone in the store will.  They also have confidence in their employer, their brand, their products and services. Building the confidence of your staff does not require you to be richer than the US Government, as Apple apparently now is (who isn’t?), it requires a culture of positive coaching – not simply coaching for correction, but coaching to build the emotional intelligence and confidence of staff at all levels. And if you’re interested in self-help, start by reading Susan Jeffers’ “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”


Simon Daisley - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Measure for Measure – NPS or Customer Effort?

August 19, 2011

I wouldn’t say it was a full argument, but voices were raised.  You see, I have had the pleasure of working with Frederick Reichheld, the creator of Net Promoter Scoring.  I have used it for many years, conducted original research to benchmark NPS across different industries in Europe, run events on the subject and used it operationally in both public and private sectors.  Add to that, the fact that Fred is a genuinely nice guy and you can understand why I am fiercely loyal to the concept of NPS.

However, apparently there is a new kid on the customer experience block.

In the Harvard Business Review last August, Matthew Dixon, Karen Freeman and Nicholas Toman published an article entitled “Stop Trying to Delight your Customers”.  In the article they claimed that they had identified a customer metric that was even more powerful than NPS; the Customer Effort Score.

“Sacrilege!” I thought, and “what a ridiculous concept – not trying to delight customers”.  My boss on the other hand, is easily drawn in by something ‘shiny and new’ and has become an overnight advocate of customer effort.  I managed to suppress my initial outrage at this fickleness for long enough to enter into a mature conversation about the relative benefits of each measure.

Experience - Rollercoaster - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

NPS was based around ‘the ultimate question’ – the extent to which your customers recommend you to their family and friends.  This was proved as the most accurate predictor of profitable growth in a three year research programme that Reichheld carried out in North America in 2005.  Those behind Customer Effort now say that “the amount of effort a customer expends in his or her interaction with your company correlates directly with their propensity to purchase and repurchase.”

Fortunately, Marc, our CEO was on hand to mediate, and help us to realise that we were both right.  Repeat purchase is not the same as loyalty.  NPS measures the emotional attachment customers have to your organisation, and tracks intention to recommend.  This is invaluable for helping to build momentum in your business through customer advocacy and word-of-mouth testimonials, however, it does not necessarily track the extent to which intention becomes reality. This is where Customer Effort comes into its own.

Reichheld mentioned some time ago that “loyalty is a matter of self-sacrifice.”  He added: “If I’m loyal to something I tend to go out of my way for it.”  That is very different to buying something because it’s easy.  It’s true that in some cases making it easy does build emotional loyalty – just look at Amazon’s success as evidence of this – but it’s not true in all cases.  Making it easy to buy is a practical way of improving the effectiveness of transactional relationships, but there remains a place for managing and measuring the effectiveness of emotional relationships with customers.  After all, 90% of all our decisions are based on emotional stimuli rather than rational ones.

In an ideal world, companies should look to track both customer effort and customer advocacy.  The two are inextricably linked.  One is a predictor of the other and both are critical in understanding different aspects of how to build a more sustainable and profitable business.

There.  Hopefully that wasn’t too career limiting and we can all still be friends.  It’s been an interesting debate though, and no doubt will continue to be so…


Simon Daisley - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Blue Sky Performance Improvement