Archive for the ‘Blue Sky General’ Category

Weighing the pig won’t make it fatter, but feeding it will

July 28, 2014

How top companies are changing their approach to sales

When the influential management analyst Dan Pink conducted a poll for his latest book To Sell Is Human, he found that the most common word associated with salespeople is ‘pushy’ – no surprises there. But this cliché of sales as the domain of ruthless hustlers is as tired as it is tenacious. Fuelled by new research and innovative thinking, the UK’s best sales teams aren’t just driving the bottom line, they’re taking a lead role in generating customer advocacy and loyalty, not to mention boosting employee engagement. They’re game-changing the industry.

Unfortunately, the majority of businesses are still struggling with outdated sales mindsets, and change can be particularly scary when times are tough.

The days of ‘hooking’ the client, fielding objections, and constantly pushing to close are over. Thanks to social media, customers are unprecedentedly informed and empowered; recent research from the Sales Executive Council finds that most buyers are 60% of the way down their decision-making cycle before they even talk to a salesperson. Distrust in big business has skyrocketed, and regulatory changes are causing massive upheaval.

Weigh the pig

Stop weighing the pig

Doing more of the same – selling faster and harder, to bigger targets and shorter deadlines – will not lead to different outcomes. Instead, leaders need to help salespeople redefine who they are, what they do, and how they do it. It’s not easy, but it’s urgently important, and the results will speak for themselves.

Let’s begin by examining the ‘who’. When it comes to personal sales styles, it’s time to give pushiness the shove. A study published by Adam Grant last year in the journal Psychological Science found that ‘ambiverts’ – people who are equal parts extroverted and introverted – perform best. Dan Pink’s essential ABC of sales traits are Atunement (an ability to connect and understand needs), Buoyancy (an ability to bounce back) and Clarity (being clear what you’re offering). The Challenger Sale, a new book by the Corporate Executive Board, outlines five typical sales personalities – the Lone Wolf, the Problem Solver, the Hard Worker, the Relationship Builder and the Challenger. Experiments reveal that it is the Challenger, the commercially savvy, far-sighted and well-researched self-starter, who really moves the dial.

So emotional intelligence, sensitivity to context and a sophisticated perspective are the personal qualities that win out, but the way in which organisations frame the function of sales itself is equally important.

Earlier this year, Bryan Kramer, CEO of PureMatter, popularised the concept of H2H (Human-to-Human) sales and marketing, in which he advocated discarding the concepts of B2B, B2C and D2C in favour of a connection between equals: “Human beings are innately complex yet strive for simplicity. Our challenge as humans is to find, understand and explain the complex in its most simplistic form […] Find the commonality in our humanity, and speak the language we’ve all been waiting for.”

This includes understanding that salespeople are not just there to sign off order forms. Research from the Corporate Executive Board finds that a good sales experience accounts for 53% of what drives long-term loyalty, so although price will always be important, focusing on value at the expense of service can be a false economy.

Of course, these new mindsets will only take hold if they’re embedded in a whole ecosystem of suitable management, process and reward. Encouraging advisors to provide authentic experiences rather than setting restrictive sales targets, coaching Challenger skills, and tweaking recruitment criteria are all part of the mix.

In his previous book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Pink suggested that 80% of the workforce is motivated by a sense of purpose, autonomy and mastery more than they are financial gain, so leaders also need to balance a fair and transparent pay structure with the sort of flexible, empowering culture seen in young hero companies such as Innocent and Netflix. Sometimes this involves getting rid of people who cannot or will not adapt. Netflix is as ruthless with ‘dead wood’ as it is supportive of bright stars, so if you followed this approach, your own Lone Wolves will gradually have to be rooted out.

It’s challenging stuff, particularly for large, established companies operating in sectors such as energy, finance and telecoms. Thankfully, there are leaders out there proving that it absolutely can be done.

A leading energy company has 15,000 people in their energy sales channel, 4,000 in their homecare channel, and 500 in field sales. A few years ago, they hired a brilliant new sales director who believed that current perception of the energy sector begged a whole new channel approach, and called on Blue Sky to help. Starting with the 1,200 people in their outbound channel, we helped them remove the frontline sales-per-hour target, instead encouraging salespeople to focus on having a great conversation with the customer, building the brand and being genuinely helpful. If customers didn’t wish to make a sale at that time, they were given a number to call back on later if they changed their mind, rather than being pushed to confirm a sale straight away.

The results? Sales per hour stayed largely the same, and from an engagement perspective, the workforce was far more motivated. Plus, thanks to the ‘call back’ mechanic, they saw a significant increase in the volume of inbound calls – which had double the conversion of the conversations on the outbound line.

“Selling, I’ve grown to understand,” says Dan Pink, “is more urgent, more important, and, in its own sweet way, more beautiful than we realise.” Sales leaders need to stop selling themselves short. H2H makes for better results – but it’s also a sales approach of which we can all be proud.

Sally Earnshaw - Blue Sky Performance ImprovementSally@bluesky

http://www.blue-sky.co.uk

 

 

The Peak End Rule – how do you leave your customers on a high?

June 25, 2014

Neil ShackletonHave you ever watched a film and as it plays find yourself thinking, “wow, what an amazing special effect, I wonder how they did that” or “NO, don’t go in the house, he’s in there with a knife!” Did you know that Hollywood craft every single moment of their movies to an exact formula, that every incident, special effect, twist in the tale is laid out to the exact same page number, every time? Check out http://www.wikihow.com/Write-a-Hollywood-Blockbuster

Those that are genius at it like Steven Spielberg are able to craft an amazing movie experience with a great ending to leave us exiting the movie theatre on a high. But think about those movies you saw that didn’t have a great ending. What did you say about them when asked…. “it was ok but the ending was rubbish, so don’t bother seeing it!”? Probably 95% was great but that last 5% wasn’t good enough to really win you over, and promote the movie to a friend. Relate that to the customer experience you deliver in your business. Are you carefully crafting that journey for them, ready to send them out on a high, so they promote your business to a friend?

To help you, you need to understand The Peak End Rule and the different ways in which it works. In his book “Thinking Fast and Slow”, Daniel Kahneman says that we judge any experience we have in life by two things – how they were at the peak or peaks of the experience and whether it got better or worse at the end. He calls this The Peak End Rule. If a movie has great special effects or an amazing fight scene but the ending just wasn’t strong enough to leave you on a high, you probably won’t tell your friends to go see it. Relate that to the customer experiences you are creating. You may have a great welcome, ask great questions or offer amazing solutions, but how much thought did you give to how you closed the transaction or in fact, where the customer is on their whole journey with you? Sometimes, by that point we are just happy that we gave the customer what they wanted as we limp out with a “bye, thanks for using us!” but if Spielberg did that, you know what you would say about his movie.

But there’s more. Understanding the journey the person has come on is also important. Daniel also states that if the ending is strong enough, it has the power to wash away any pain the customer may have felt along that journey. “WHAT!” I hear you say. YES. Let me explain…

The Peak End Rule in action

So, a friend of mine went to get a tattoo, his first and rather than choosing something simple as a first, oh no, he had to go big. He chose to have a huge tattoo over his left side. Now they say tattooing over your rib cage is possibly the most painful experience you could ever have whilst getting a tattoo, but that is where he wanted it.

Here is the journey. So the first peak is deciding he is actually going to do it, he is euphoric about it. The second peak is deciding the design he is going to have. It includes an intricate Celtic Knot design, interwoven with pictures of his children. There is a bit of a low when he finds out how much it is going to cost but he hits a peak when he actually raises the money to have it done. So far, three peaks, right?

He is 15 mins into having the tattoo done when he has to ask the artist to stop. He is in so much pain and it is about to continue for the next four and a half hours! During this time he is in agony, he is crying, I think he even called for his mother at one point (which we still tease him about), but here is the surprising twist. The minute it is finished you would think that he would say “never again”, but no. He stands looking at it in the mirror in total awe, turns his body to show the now untouched side and says, “think I will get this side done as well!”. “WHAT!” I hear you shout, “is he insane?” but actually, he just got hit by The Peak End Rule.

Remember, when the ending is strong enough, it does have the power to wash away the pain, which in this case, he had only just experienced. A bit like a mother holding her newly born baby – the pain was worth it. The minute he saw how fabulous the tattoo looked, he was ready for another one.

Let’s put all of this in the context of your customer. Firstly, you have a product you sell, let’s say it’s broadband as that probably resonates with most of us and let’s put it in some simplistic terms to scope the journey.

You just bought a new house – peak
You choose the Broadband provider and you are really happy with the deal and speed you are going to get – peak
The router arrives when it should and service goes live without a hitch – peak
Then one day, the Broadband just won’t work and you can’t figure out why – low

What happens next is often the key deciding factor on how the customer feels about the provider they chose. If the customer calls up and the company is really easy to do business with, then it is a peak for the customer and they are happy to continue. They may even promote your business because they get that it will go wrong sometimes, but you were so great in fixing it and made it so effortless for them, they are happy to stay. Peak

BUT, if you create a difficult experience for them at this point, full of hurdles and broken promises to call back and a total lack of acknowledgement of the pain they are going through, then this is when they want to leave you. You created a poor ending. Get it?

Creating a Peak Ending

You can take The Peak End Rule into any customer interaction you have by ensuring that you leave the customer on a high. It is the way you leave them that will have the lasting effect and to illustrate it, I am going to leave you with a short story I stole from a colleague of mine.

So my colleague orders his groceries online regularly and as usual, a guy brings them to the door and leaves. No big deal, that is what we expect, but one day a different guy turns up. This guy offers to carry the groceries through to the kitchen, passing the young daughter who is trying to learn guitar. On the way out, the delivery guy stops and shows the daughter two great little guitar chords and on the back of a receipt he has in his pocket, writes a visual depiction of the chords so she won’t forget them. WOW, what a way to leave. The daughter is delighted she learned two new chords and my colleague is stunned to say the least. TA DA! The Peak End Rule. Guess what, he tells EVERYONE to get their groceries from that store.

So are you ready for your high after RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK or are you churning out SCREAM 58?

Written by Neil Shackleton, Associate Consultant at Blue Sky

In praise of complaint handlers

June 11, 2014

Listening-Dog-BlueHaving watched the documentary series ‘The Complainers’, I applaud complaint handlers or ‘the human punch bags’ dealing with the litany of venomous abuse from over 1,000 complainants on a daily basis. Call handlers now make up one in five of the British workforce and they came across as the most sane and tolerant people on the planet, as one agent said ‘it’s like playing Russian roulette here.’

Probably no great surprise to learn that over 38 million complaints were lodged against UK organisations. On a positive note, complaining is good – it keeps driving up standards, it allows customers to have a voice particularly with the growth of social media empowering us all to enjoy and savour the power to complain. It can in a nutshell, change industries. Also, a customer complaint doesn’t have to be a negative experience and how organisations respond to their customers’ problems can actually build stronger advocacy.

At the end of the day the human brain is around 100,000 years old and its needs are very basic and primitive. So whilst we are faced with new technologies, systems and processes all designed to improve things, our brain remains pretty much static in how it operates. We are still programmed to demand a human to human interaction, otherwise we feel emotionally disconnected, disloyal, frustrated and untrusting.

So do leaders truly recognise the power that their front line complaint handlers have in their hands? And how do they support them respond to each customer letter, email or call with a positive mindset and solution driven approach to drive advocacy?

CEB research, conducted in 2013, showed that how the customer feels about the interaction matters twice as much as what they actually do during the interaction. So how we connect with the customer on an emotional level is hugely important. The research concluded that customers want the experience of a company to be easy: to deal with their issues first time, to not pass them around from pillar to post, to not make them repeat information, to take ownership of issues, to not just deal with the immediate issue but to look for issues that they might not be aware of, to build some warmth and to emotionally connect with customers.

So whilst we will never get rid of the uber-complainers who simply want to cathartically lash out at someone, we can reduce valid complaints by ensuring we adopt some new human to human techniques within our front line training, the first two of which are based on the CEB research:

  1. Don’t just resolve the current complaint, head off the next one – you’ve all heard of First Time Resolution, following on its tail is Next Issue Avoidance. In dealing with complaints, NIA anticipates why customers might make contact in the future. So go beyond the FCR. The question advisors should ask themselves is ‘how can I make sure this customer does not call back?’ according to Harvard Business Review research, this approach has been shown to reduce call volumes by 20% to 30% in 12 months and improve customer retention
  2. Use the Intensity Reduction Formula – Our usual response in dealing with angry customers who are complaining is to remain calm and passive. Passive is a low energy state and anger is a high energy state. Reframe this by talking about what would happen if you approached an unhappy person whilst you were in a fun state, you would probably annoy them. The reason is that these states fall at opposite ends of the spectrum. Depression/unhappiness is a low energy state and fun is a high energy state. So the trick to taking the heat out of a negative comment made by a customer, and preventing the conversation from becoming more heated or negative, is in our ability to match the customer‘s energy but use non-confrontational language.
  3. Work in imagination not memory – complaint teams often suffer from an epidemic of expertise, often they are technical experts and this can result in them becoming so experienced that they forget to nail the basics: listening, questioning and understanding specific needs.   In our experience many complaints are escalated because they were never properly understood at the first point of contact. Front line teams need to step into the customers shoes and adapt their communication to become super personal, relevant and effective: working with imagination, not just memory. Doing the right thing for the individual customer is the result of a combination of working with what feels right in the moment and using a little bit of imagination with everything you do.
  4. Provide agents with Experience Engineering skills. Based on science from the USA, this is all about arming staff with the skills to address the emotional side of customer interactions and differs greatly from traditional soft skills training both in terms of focus and outcome. This involves actively guiding a customer through an interaction designed to anticipate the emotional response and pre-emptively offer solutions that create a mutually beneficial resolution outcome.
  5. Deploy Empathetic Listening – As individuals we hear sounds all the time, but we’re not always consciously aware of what we hear. However hearing is not listening and as we know, listening, showing genuine interest in them and empathy towards customers is a vital skill when dealing with complaints. This means listening to understand, rather than interrupting, being present in the moment, becoming interested in listening to others. Don’t waste time trying to anticipate what a customer might say or how they might respond – far better to hear them out, listen and then use a pause to formulate your next question and to demonstrate attention and reassurance.
  6. Be aware of your personal state – where does your ego go when faced with a conflict situation? How much self-awareness do you have around ‘that’s where you’re heading’ and how do you manage your personal state in order to remain in the right mindset to find a win-win scenario where your client trusts your response. Understand and believe that a complaint is an opportunity not a problem, this will drive a stronger emotionally connected conversation with a positive mindset and language that is outcome driven.
  7. Create a peak ending – Customers have a positively memorable experience based on peak moments during a conversation – where conversations reach a high and a personal connection is felt and a positive memorable ending to the customer interaction. In what has come to be known as his ‘peak-end rule’, Nobel prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman pointed out people could remember only two things during an experience process: how we feel at the peak (no matter whether the ultimate experience was good or bad) and at the end. These peak-end feelings summarise our whole experience process and are stored in our brain at a subconscious level. We remember only the peak and the end.

At the end of the day, dealing with complaints is centered on dealing with highly emotional conversations and in that point in time, how it’s handled creates loyalty. It boils down to human needs; we want to be heard, understood, and we want empathy and a solution to our complaint. If we can achieve this, we can build trusting and successful relationships, which will drive customer retention and attrition and greater employee engagement. These front line champions have a lot to be thanked for.

Briege Kearney - Director - Client Development - Blue Sky Performance Improvement Briege@bluesky

http://www.blue-sky.co.uk

 

 

How accountable are you?

March 17, 2014

The Accountability Ladder is a tool we use a lot at Blue Sky; it’s part of the company lexicon and used to help us understand why we’re not achieving everything we’d like to at work and at home. So, how does it work? Well, a recent conversation with my nine year old nephew explains it rather well:

“Hey Vincent, is everything ok, you’re looking a bit worried?”
“I’ve got a bit of a problem, I’ve not done my school project”
“So how come you haven’t done it?”
“Well, I didn’t know it needed doing.”
“Hmmm, but if you didn’t know it needed doing, how come you’re telling me about it?”
“Well, I guess I did know that it needed doing…”

In this short exchange, young Vincent is already on the shifting sands of perspective. So how does the tale fit with the tool?

Well, the Accountability Ladder describes the eight levels of accountability that allow us to step back, evaluate and really look at the choices we make and how we handle different situations. The top four rungs describe accountable behaviours (things that happen because of you) and the bottom four describe victim behaviours (things that happen to you). The more time you can spend towards the top of the ladder, the more opportunities you can open up for yourself and your team and the more attainable your goals will be. 

So, although I wouldn’t want to say that a young nine year old is a victim or displaying victim behaviours, in the sense of the model, Vincent was just not taking accountability. What he was trying to do was hold on to being right about being wrong; his own very good reason not to change. Indeed, in his own mind, an entirely adequate reason for his lack of effort or his lack of success. Our conversation didn’t stop there:

“When you said you didn’t know, but you did know, what’s the real reason you haven’t done it?” I asked.
“Well, I never really had it explained to me, the teacher didn’t make it clear,” so he moved to a place of blaming someone else.
“Ok, what didn’t the teacher make clear?”
“Well, she didn’t make it clear… well, actually she did make it clear”.

Even at this point, Vincent’s fertile imagination continued to justify his inaction:
“We’ve just been so busy this holiday” (still at the bottom of the ladder…. someone else’s fault for taking him out and showing him a good time).
He then moved up the ladder to excuses.
“Well I can’t do it now because there’s only three days left so it’s pointless, it’s not worth me doing it”.

So here he’s kind of saying there’s maybe something I could have done, but at this point I’m still right in not having to do it, if it was my fault before, I’m still ok because there’s no time left.

He then went on to say: “Well, with a bit of luck, some of the other kids won’t have done it either.”

So Vincent is now on the wait and hope rung and what he’s really doing is saying: “These are all the reasons I haven’t done it: I didn’t know about it, other people should have explained it to me, I can’t do it now because I don’t have time and with a bit of luck, other people won’t have done it either.”

In a work context, we’ve all sent a wait and hope email; the kind where our response is non-committal or pushes the responsibility away… the kind where you press send, sit back, sigh in relief and cross fingers that it won’t come back.

So when we choose the “I didn’t know” and “blame others” excuses, or “I can’t” and “wait and hope”, the chances are we’re stuck. So next time you find yourself thinking “I can’t talk to that person because they’re just so aggressive” (blame others) or “I haven’t got the time” (excuse) or “well at some point they are bound to realise what they are doing wrong” (wait and hope), the chances are that you’re on one of those bottom rungs of the ladder.

So when Vincent said: “My dad will kill me if I don’t do it”, he was acknowledging reality and in doing so, he moved up the ladder. He realised that actually, if he was the only child in that room that hadn’t done the project, the teacher was going to hold him to account. He then moved into owning it.

In fact, he was like the cat who got the cream when he turned round and said:
“Do you know what? I bet in three days I could make it look as if I’ve worked on it all holiday”.

He had started to find a solution and make a plan, “I could use google maps”, “can I borrow your camera, Uncle Guy? You could drive me around and I could take some photos around the local area”. And then he moved into making it happen.

The Accountability Ladder doesn’t necessarily mean you get the output that you want, or that you’re able to solve things. What it does mean is that irrespective of whether or not things turn out in your favour, you can hand on heart, look anyone in the eye and say “I was accountable for my decision”.

If you think of a relationship with any one person where it’s not as good as it should be and you want to change it, then you need to own it, become the solution and make it happen. At Blue Sky we talk about Conscious Choice, which is about making the decision to actually act from the top of the ladder.

Where do you sit?

Guy Bloom - Blue Sky Performance Improvement  Guy@bluesky

  http://www.blue-sky.co.uk

Why leadership programmes fail

January 16, 2014

Have you seen this latest piece of research from McKinsey on why leadership programmes fail? If not, click here, it is definitely worth a read.  The key messages are:

  1. Decide on the essential skills of your leaders and develop them (don’t drown them)
  2. Understand the science of how change actually happens – don’t get sucked in to programmes that look great on paper or have a great badge of honour but don’t actually get your leaders doing something different
  3. Understand how essential the right leadership mindset is to behavioural change and pay proper attention to it in your programme
  4. Measure the results to ensure the learning is taken really seriously in your business

Personally, I agree and I am loving the research because our Conscious Leadership approach addresses all of these pointers head on. I would of course love to tell you about it if you would like to know more, but in the meantime take 10 minutes and have a read – it is good!

Elke Edwards - Blue Sky Performance Improvement Elke@bluesky

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Does your customer really want a partnership – or a Partnerschaft?

December 3, 2013

Inside views from three global procurement directors

The business world is awash with jargon: strategic partnerships; strategic sourcing; strategic intent… but what does it all really mean for B2B sales people today?

I interviewed three global Chief Procurement Officers (CPOs) from Fortune 500 companies to find out.

In the words of one CPO: “The only way I would want a partnership is if I cannot achieve the business result via RFP or competitive procurement activity.”

Another CPO suggests, “If you are a strategic supplier then that means you will give me more discount.”  Another confirms, “When we hear the seller say ‘partnership’ we start to think, ‘What do they want?’  This is another way to leverage us.”  I was then playfully reminded of the German term for Partnership… Partnerschaft.

So, in the eyes of Procurement, what really is a strategic partnership?  One Fortune 500 Bank estimates they have nearly 18,000 suppliers across the globe, but they have just 35 relationships that are considered strategic (under 0.2%). However, these 35 suppliers account for >56% of all money invested (see accompanying model).

Supply base analysisThe real test of a partnership

If that supplier went away, would the customer be harmed more than the supplier? Is there joint investment between the two companies to generate increased revenue; reduce risk or reduce costs to both parties? One CPO claims “unless you have invested, it’s not a partnership.”

So what our panel of procurement leaders suggest is that for many sales people today, a term that they could consider using is “effective commercial relationship”. Customers don’t want a partnership… and they certainly don’t just want a friendship or merely a ‘good relationship’. Develop effective commercial relationships with your customers and save the Partnerschaft conversations for the lucky few.

Andrew's Photo (blog)Andrew@bluesky

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Speak no evil…

November 26, 2013

Felix Harrison is one of several twenty-somethings who belong to my family of ‘surrogate children’ – having had none of my own, I’m blessed with wonderful (but usually, virtual) relationships with my friends’ kids.  Most of the time, I know more about their comings and goings than their parents do because I keep up with their blogs, Twitter feed and Facebook…and they keep up with mine!

Right now, Felix is in his second month of teaching English in Japan. He’s been keeping a wonderful blog – http://harrisongoeseast.wordpress.com. Check it out – I’m sure he’d be thrilled. This weekend, he wrote a heartfelt piece about the difficulties of communicating without the benefit of the spoken word. ‘Aha!’ I thought.  ‘I can give him some comfort by introducing him to Mehrabian’s theory of communication’ and proceeded to search the web for nuggets of wisdom.

Instead of reassuring him that ‘words account for only about 7 per cent of human communication. 38 per cent is to do with tone of voice and over half (55 per cent) to do with how we look and act when we talk’ I came across a YouTube animated video which apparently blows Albert’s theory out of the window! Not really true – Mehrabian’s theory only applies when people are talking about their feelings or attitudes. So, in fact, Felix is still doing everything right – conveying his feelings towards the cool girl that’s grabbed his attention through nods, smiles and eye contact…whilst still trying to learn the right words to say in Japanese. Can’t wait for the next instalment, Felixsan.

There’s a lesson for all of us Brits abroad – shouting loudly in English will never compensate for a smile, a wink and learning a few words of the local language beyond ‘two beers please’

Carla-MarchCarla March

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Friday Night In

November 11, 2013

Tesco-Van-BSI was sat in last Friday night, anticipating some great TV moments ahead. I had already started to plan out the mindless action films I was going to watch, the rubbish I was going to eat…..My better half was heading out for the night leaving me to put the kids to bed and sort the food shopping delivery. The latter task for some reason I build up in mind as something I hate doing.

The food had been ordered online; the man had packed it up and had delivered it to my doorstep! What is there to hate about the process….maybe it is me being a grumpy old man…but my experience tends to be…..The van pulls up, the guy then proceeds to pull 3 huge boxes from the back, rings the door bell and then drops them outside and grunts a hello. I then have to become a human shopping sprinting machine.… where I have 5 seconds to pick up all 12 bags at once, race to the kitchen, dodge the kids who have started to unpack the goodies as I carry the bags, catch tins that have fallen out of the wafer thin bags, unload it all and race back before the guy puts another 3 huge boxes down in front of me. This process repeats until I have no breath left and no room on my kitchen worktop or floor to put more bags down!

I saw from the corner of my eye the supermarket van pull up outside.  I sighed here we go…..The doorbell rang….anticipating the normal grunt and ritual cliché exchanges. Not this time, I was met by a middle aged guy who can only be described as a very happy man, who loved his job! He immediately scanned the situation and observed that I had two children poised ready to take any chocolate from the bags that they could see. He must have noticed I was a little flustered, he calmly said…. “There’s no rush, I will give you a hand to bring these ones in before we get the rest!”. Could I believe what I was hearing… I had readied myself and limbered up even for the customary race  back and forward to the kitchen. But it looks like this time it would be different, the delivery guy was helping me.

As the chap walked back through the lounge he noticed my daughter who at the time was holding her guitar, practicing 3 Blind Mice from memory. He stopped in his tracks and started asking her about the guitar and how long she had played. Loving the attention my daughter proceeded to tell him her musical career (all 2 weeks of it). He asked if he good borrow the guitar for a moment and started to show her a couple of chords… which he then wrote down on the back of the receipt so she would not forget them. All I could think of was…. why don’t more people take the moment to scan the other persons situation and seek ways to help them in the moment? This is what great attentive and thoughtful service is about…. make it easy for people, connect and leave them with a peak ending they will remember.

The delivery guy could have chosen to be oblivious to what was going on for me, but he didn’t. He took a few precious seconds to slow down the process to allow me to only break a moderate sweat moving the bags, he took the time out to engage with us and most importantly he left a lasting memory of the service. That is what I call a peak end to a customer experience. I would love to hear about your stories.

Sean Spugin - Blue Sky Performance Improvement Seanatbluesky

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Communication – the key to building trust

October 16, 2013

Lydia HewettI’ve worked with many household names, usually when they are trying to change their working culture to move in a new strategic direction and in my experience the companies that do this successfully do it openly, honestly and in an adult way. In other words they trust their employees and management team to create shared goals and together agree how they are going to get there. Sounds easy doesn’t it? In reality it’s a brave and often avoided move, as Stephen Covey says in ‘The Speed of Trust’:

“Trust is the least understood and most neglected variable of our time.”

Unless a company has always had an open and honest culture with trust at the core, then creating trust is a challenge. It means getting everyone talking, getting everything out in the open – believe me, when you start asking people to talk about what’s good and bad about their work place, they rarely hold back!

For management teams this sudden honesty can be terrifying, all sorts of issues they thought had disappeared rise to the surface, but this bravery is always rewarded. As Covey says:

“How we do what we do makes all the difference.”

The brave organisation spends time getting past issues out into the open, talking through the proposed changes and taking time to explain the reason behind them. Crucially they’ll also listen to and value the opinions and issues they hear back. Your people are the most important resource and they know detailed aspects of your company that as a manager you will not. By trusting their judgement and ideas, you engage them in the process of change, you talk through issues that if ignored become barriers to successful transformation, and you get a range of invaluable ideas that help the change be a long term, lasting success.

It’s an adult process and a hugely motivating thing to be involved with. I’ve lost count of the number of times people from all levels of an organisation have told me after a session that this is the first time they feel their voice has been heard, or the first time they really understand where their company is headed and what’s expected of them – it’s powerful stuff.

The key to generating trust is to keep your courage, yes, you’ll have to come through some difficult conversations and face up to some issues that it would be easier to ignore. In reality it’s a spring clean, by getting your house in order and everything into the open, you create strong relationships based on shared trust and common goals to work towards a shared future, I for one want to be part of an organisation that operates on these terms.

Lydia Hewett

About Lydia:

Lydia started out in-house, recruiting staff, managing employee communications and developing HR policies for a FTSE 100 business as it went through a complex demerger.

She moved into her first consulting role in ad agency JWT’s employee communications arm, principally working on NHS change projects. A move to PwC was followed by five years in their consulting arm. Here she worked for various household names as well as for smaller organisations, specialising in employee engagement, culture change and communications.

She is CIPD qualified and has coached managers, designed communications strategies, implemented corporate restructuring programmes and managed complex global change processes.

www.prospectplaceconsulting.com

The great trust gap

October 8, 2013

2013 has been a terrible year for organisational trust.

The Jimmy Savile inquiry highlighted a worrying lack of accountability within the BBC and even the police. Edward Snowden’s data-privacy whistleblowing suggested the governments not only don’t trust us, but we shouldn’t trust them. And the new Governor designate of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, declared that trust “screeched out of the parking lot” in 2008 and banks need to undergo deep cultural change to restore public confidence.

Frankly, these scandals of mistrust come as no surprise to most of us, whether you’re the waitress in a bakery or the CEO of a bank. The CIPD’s quarterly report found that only 36% of employees trust senior leaders and 58% had adopted a ‘not bothered’ attitude for work. The symptoms of mistrust – hostile gossip, fruitless meetings and incompetent leaders – are daily realities for many in the workplace.

Yet high trust is a key characteristic of profitable and sustainable businesses. Trust not only provokes customers to buy, it encourages employees to stay loyal and turns process-clogged organisations into lean, mean collaborative machines.

It’s time we spoke up about the lack of trust in our organisations and took responsibility for change. Here are the three steps we take at Blue Sky when turning rhetoric into reality.

1.    Take the trust blinkers off

Start noticing the unquestioned low trust behaviours that happen within your business every day. Examples to look out for include leaders talking the talk but not demonstrating the competence or the character to live up to their senior role; widespread grumbling behind the backs of colleagues; a reluctance to make decisions; not owning up to mistakes and making self-serving decisions.

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2.    Break trust down into its elements

Steven M.R Covey brilliant book The Speed of Trust emphasises that trust is a behaviour rather than a trait. By breaking trust into 13 characteristics, including talking straight, righting wrongs, confronting reality, clarifying expectations and practicing accountability, he demonstrates that trust is under our control, and that it can be rebuilt, step by step – if we can find a way to commit to it.

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3.    Get buy-in from within

Finally, trust has to become a priority truly embraced and evangelised by people at all levels of an organisation to ensure cultural change. Naming the behaviours you identified in step one, and citing the evidence that show the impact of trust on the bottom line (for example, people are 87% less likely to leave an organisation with high trust) will help win over cynics. With senior leaders as your champions, you then need to ensure that trust coaching spreads through the ranks. As role models begin to emerge, the groundswell of trust will begin to grow.

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You can share your own stories on twitter #DoTrust or through our LinkedIn page and of course your own blogs and social presences.

Elke Edwards - Blue Sky Performance ImprovementElke Edwards

I am Director of Learning at Blue Sky, so am firmly placed to share with you our approach to performance improvement at every level from your contact centre staff to your CEO. I know that for businesses to achieve major success, their people need to work towards organisational objectives, not individual or departmental ones. I love the work I personally deliver for senior teams that are positioned to support this behaviour from the top down.