Archive for the ‘Customer Experience’ Category

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

Advertisements

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

 

 

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

Could 50 Shades of Grey help your learning stick?

July 31, 2012

It was the conversation over a coffee with friends that made me brave my local bookshop and buy the hottest book of the moment – 50 Shades of Grey.

Even my husband when he saw it in the bedroom (I’d hidden it under a copy of Infinite Jest, another novel I’m trying to get through) cried out “not you as well?!” Yes, it seems that everyone on his commuter train and beyond are mesmerized.

So it made me think ‘wouldn’t it be great if we could design and launch a learning programme that would have the same impact as 50 Shades of Grey?’ A programme that employees would clamour to sign up to and evangelize with their colleagues about the content and learning.

Perform - Handcuffs - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

I am not advocating that learning interventions should involve porn, bondage or domination, just the sentiment that we need to keep designing creative and exciting content to capture employee’s imagination to make learning stick.

And so the Blue Sky 50 Shades of Learning was born by asking our staff to email their lighthearted take on the book and the world of learning. Here are our top 10 for you to enjoy and we want to find the 40 best others from out there in the learning community to make up the 50. If you’d like to send in your contribution, please email hello@blue-sky.co.uk and the top three winners will receive a bottle of Jo Malone perfume or cologne (no handcuffs or gimmicks are involved in this offer!)

The Blue Sky Top 10 Shades of Learning

“Make me cry like I’ve never cried before!” he screamed. “Alright” I said and made him read the entire works of Tom Peters.

“I am your master and you will perform everything I say” …it was then I knew it was time to leave the CIPD.

“I’m curious” he whispered. Never had she felt so deeply probed. She felt exposed from all angles; naked, yet strangely liberated and safe. “So” she said silently to herself, “this is how 360 degree feedback works.”

Wearing my seductive skimpy schoolgirl outfit, I gazed around the room. How was I to know that that was not what they meant by classroom learning?

Once I knew his seven habits…I was disgusted.

He felt his net promoter score rise as she whispered down the phone “thank you, that’s the best customer service I’ve ever experienced”.

My heartbeat raced as I heard him suggest his embedded learning methodology would be different to anything I’d ever experienced before…

He brought a new meaning to the phrase “yes, we can plug the leak in your sales pipeline…”

His PowerPoint presentation was the longest I had ever seen. Slide after slide after slide after slide of animated ecstasy. I died a thousand deaths before I fell into a deep untroubled sleep.

She lay back, disappointed. It was all over so quickly. “Oh” she said, “that’s what you meant by accelerated learning!”

Briege@Bluesky

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

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Why are toilets with a cleaning checklist on the wall always dirty?

July 20, 2012

Have you noticed that the more dirty public toilets are, the more likely you are to find a cleaning checklist detailing how often the toilets should be checked and cleaned, requiring the signature of the person to be publicly responsible for having done that?

Deliver - Toilet - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Why does this phenomenon exist?

Management = designing an efficient process, i.e. a cleaning checklist, and putting it up on a wall and expecting to get results.  When you are not there the cleaning doesn’t take place and you feel frustrated because you have people that are not up to the job.

Leadership = caring about the individual and what they want and need, inspiring them to do it either because they like you so much they want to do things for you, or you make them believe in something greater than both of you.  Like for example, their work means that every person who comes to their toilet finds it in a beautiful condition, that it slightly lifts their day. This combined with many other slight lifts in the day means they are happier. This means they are kinder to other people. This means the world is more human. Toilets get cleaned without you being there.

James@Bluesky

James Hodgkinson - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

The Cost of Poor Service

July 5, 2012

David Carroll is a musician, who travelled United Airlines, and on one occasion put his precious guitar into the baggage marked as fragile! That’s where the story began. Sitting on the plane, waiting to get off, he saw the baggage handler throw it without care onto the truck. He tried to complain to the company representatives immediately but was dismissed. When he collected his guitar, it was damaged.  He went to the customer help desk, where no one seemed to care, and he was told to write in. He wrote in on numerous occasions, and got little or no reply. He called up and still no one took ownership, responsibility or tried to fix his customer experience.

Eventually he decided to write a song about it, and he posted it on YouTube. The result? Millions of people worldwide viewed that clip and United Airlines’ share price dropped! The Times reported that $18 million of shareholder value was lost!

Discover - TV - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

One happy customer is a powerful thing as he or she will tell some people. One unhappy customer is a very damaging thing as they will tell more people! We call this the power of one.

What is the lost opportunity cost associated with customer churn?

I believe all businesses should use great care and concern when determining how their customers and clients are treated. The time, energy, and cost associated with acquiring a customer are substantial, the benefits of retaining customers are considerable, and the costs associated with customer churn are significant. I’m always amazed at how much money will be spent to acquire a new customer, but how little care is given to insuring customer satisfaction after the sale.  There is great truth in the old axiom that states: “if you’re not serving your customer well, someone else will.”

If you believe customer service is someone else’s problem, you have a much bigger problem than you realise. Most businesses these days will have a grasp on the concept of lifecycle value, I’m not sure they really understand the true cost of losing a customer. Let’s just assume that the lifetime value of a customer for company X is £2,000. If company X loses just one customer, the total lifecycle loss could run well into the tens of thousands, if not the hundreds of thousands. If you don’t believe me consider the following points:

  1. The Initial Churn: First you have the £2,000 lifetime value loss attributed to churning the account itself.
  2. Sunk Acquisition Costs: Don’t forget to add in the cost of acquiring the account to begin with. You spent money to acquire the account so you need to factor that into the total equation. I’ll let you pick the percentage you want to use and add that into the total number.
  3. Replacement Costs: Remember the cost of acquisition number you just calculated above? Well, you need to add it back in again, because now you have to go out and replace the customer you just lost. By the way, you should probably multiply the cost of acquisition number by 5 since it costs about 500% more to acquire a new customer than retain an existing one.
  4. Lost Ancillary Revenue: On average, a single account is good for a 30-40% cross-sell/up-sell revenue increase over time as new products, services, joint ventures etc. are brought online and offered to existing accounts. This means you can conservatively expect to lose another £600 of upside in our £2,000 example.
  5. Lost Referral Revenues: Depending on your business, and whether or not you have a solid customer acquisition process in place, a single account should be good for a minimum of 2-3 referrals (direct or indirect) on an annual basis. Over a 10 year period of time, assuming only 2 annual referrals, without any cross-sell or up-sell value being added-in, you just lost another £200,000.
  6. Loss of 2nd and 3rd generation referrals: But wait; it just gets worse. Those lost referrals mentioned above would have also given you 2-3 referrals each year, and if you carry this formula out over 20 years the loss of a single account could easily cost your organisation more than a million pounds in lost revenue.
  7. Negative Brand Impact: If it isn’t bad enough already, a lost account can easily have a negative impact on future sales due to spreading the news of their bad experience with your company.  The average dissatisfied customer will persuade 10-20 other people from doing business with your firm. If the upset customer takes their dissatisfaction online and amplifies it via social media you could see a much bigger problem. This will not only impact your revenue, but can also taint your brand equity. Just think back to Dave Carroll!!!! If you like that story, why not visit ihateryanair.org for another example of this.

Sean@Bluesky

Sean Spugin - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Connected

June 6, 2012

“That’s £5.22 please”

You are being asked to pay £5.22.  But you know that what has just gone through the till should cost at least £14. Someone is offering you a gift on a plate and all you have to do is accept it. You need to make a quick decision. Rapidly your mind assesses the situation, deciding what your next move should be. “I am doing nothing wrong, I am paying exactly what they are asking me to pay” you find yourself talking to yourself inside your head “it is their mistake, not mine”. “The fact that they charge me the wrong amount is not my responsibility, I am doing nothing wrong” “it’s a surprise gift to brighten up my day – some lovely free socks”.

So why, then, are these justifications running through your head? If it is the right thing to do, why don’t you just take the £5.22 and go off happily?  It’s because the action you are taking is not aligned to what your values are. If you have a value of integrity or honesty, then you might take the free gift, but your mind will automatically generate justifications to yourself. This is how you know you are doing something that a part of you does not believe you should do. You spend precious mental energy and time running over these justifications, justifying to yourself why you took the course of action you did, said what you said, did what you did, treated the person as you treated them. You have to justify these things because a part of you isn’t happy with what you did and it won’t just lie down and be quiet, it keeps pushing up into your conscience.

“If you want to see someone in real pain, watch someone who knows who he is and defaults on it on a regular basis” Pat Murray

If we are in real pain, we will not only justify it to ourselves, we feel the need to justify it to others. In an attempt to avoid the truth of what we know, we draw in other people, friends to collude in our own point of view. We tell our stories from our perspective and suck in the approval of the other. The other person too approves and I feel better, “If I don’t call you on yours (your gap between who you are and what you do, your possibility for your own version of who you can be in the world), don’t call me on mine” is the unspoken conversation here, and then we can both make each other feel better, briefly.

Connect - Telephone - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

But it’s not enough for us, this collusion. I need to convince other people, more people, because I haven’t managed to put that nagging thought to bed inside of me.  So I tell other people, “Hey wow, I got some socks for free!” “Brilliant! Good for you, why not? These big companies can afford it right? It’s just money for fat cats isn’t it?” Then my colluder gets to take the easy option next time round too. Some people need to persuade millions of people to believe in my cause because they are not at peace inside.

In these moments when we forget who we really are, we also forget that we are a leader.  Someone who can inspire other people.  We see the world from our own small limited perspective, that we are small and that we don’t make a difference. We forget how intimately connected we are and how what I do almost always has an impact on those around me.

“Sorry, I think you have undercharged me there”.  Now, how does the world occur to this person who made the mistake and undercharged you? “The world is full of people who are generally honest and who will help me out when I make a mistake”, might run through the person’s mind. This might make him or her feel just a little bit better, just a little bit more at peace.  When the next person comes to the till they might now look at them more like an honest, essentially good person, or at the very least I am fuller of a positive energy.  They might smile a little more, be a little more connected to this person. This lifts the next person’s day just a little, they feel just slightly more positive and they carry that with them.

I don’t think we always see the world from this connected perspective, and we almost never get an insight into the impact we have on people and the difference that we make (this is why telling someone the positive impact they have on you can be such a powerful thing for all concerned). As a manager of a team of people, when you start to view yourself as a leader, you step into the full responsibility of who you are.  Someone who every day has an impact on people, who makes a real difference to the quality of someone’s life, and to the quality of their friends and family’s life when they go home from work and carry whatever energy they have from their day at work.   What you do and how you conduct yourself follows on from how you view yourself and what your role is in the world.

A couple of questions you may wish to consider:

  • What kinds of conversations do you have with your friends and colleagues? Do they sympathise with you and agree with you, or do they challenge you to be bigger? And how does your behaviour with them drive the response that you get? Do you want to be challenged?
  • What are your values and principles? Are there some there that you feel you could live more day-to-day?
  • If you do consider yourself as an important leader, what would you do?

James@Bluesky

James Hodgkinson - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Getting Your Hair Cut Is Like Being A Manager Of People

May 14, 2012

I’ve had a few less than perfect haircuts recently, nothing you as an observer would probably notice, but it affects my confidence.  I have come out of these situations feeling a bit angry with the person responsible for cutting my hair and disappointed in how they have performed.

So there I am, in the hair dressers chair again, and I am reflecting on how I could take responsibility for what had been going wrong, and get the kind of outcome I want; a great haircut.  Perhaps I have had some part to play in a poor outcome.  The first point of self-awareness comes when I realise that I am not always 100% straight and clear about what I want when I am describing how I want the hair cut.

This is because I realise that the truth is I am nervous that other men in the barbers shop will hear what I am saying and secretly laugh at me inside their heads, as surely no proper masculine man worth his salt would really care that much about the way that they look? And have the nerve to talk about it so openly in front of a bunch of men? I understand that actually I am not having the courage to describe clearly and in detail exactly what it is I am looking for in the hair cut, being precise about the exact outcome I am expecting and painting a vivid picture in detail, and then checking back that my understanding is the same as theirs.

I am not having the confidence to say what I want and be clear about it; I am worried about what people might think and what kind of person that makes me.  As I am sat there I am reminded of the conversations I have with managers and sometimes their own fear of being clear in what they want from their teams.  I think they are worried about setting out very clearly what they want and what they expect, and this is what I observe when I see them with their teams.

Confidence - Haircut - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

“I’d like it to really go out at the top of the head on the sides”, I say, “to make a sort of a triangle shape; I think it suits the shape of my face better” I say.   No one in the shop laughs at me.  Actually, I feel very pleased with myself. I feel sort of bigger and stronger.  In fact, I have become so concerned about getting this to be clear, I say it twice.  The girl is great at her job.  She repeats back what it is I am saying and I know she has understood what it is I want. I am delighted inside, I know she has heard and listened and this is the first step. This is all going rather well.

She starts to cut my hair and I am relaxed.  At least, I think I am relaxed until I notice that my hands are clasped incredibly tightly together and they become a little sore as I unclench them and the pressure in my knuckles is released.  I have been clasping them very tightly due to my nervousness of how my hair cut will turn out.   It turns out I haven’t been relaxed at all.  In fact I have been very anxious about how it will turn out and the prospect of more weeks of misery as I wait for my hair to grow back.

I realise that this isn’t helping the situation; I am not helping the situation.  I think at some level if I am tense and anxious she will pick up on this and it will affect her performance.   If I am tense she will be distracted about my reactions, and will not focus so clearly on the task.  So I decide to trust. To let go of the idea that I have much control now over the outcome.   I realise I don’t have much control now anyway in truth. What I can focus on now is deciding to trust her in the task in hand.  She is a professional after all.   I make sure that I don’t look at my hair in the mirror at any stage to give her the message that I am confident about what she is doing.  This is something productive that I can focus on rather than my worry.

“Are you out for lunch?” she says. I am wearing a suit. “Yes” I say happily. It’s a good exchange of pleasantries.  But suddenly things take a turn for the worse, I am aware she seems to be cutting my hair quite fast. This makes me nervous. Why is she doing that? I think. Oh no, this could be going wrong, I think.  Suddenly I understand the reason why.  “She wants to cut it quickly so I can get back to the office quickly” I realise.  I don’t mind about this I think loudly and urgently inside my head, I would rather you cut carefully and it was a good cut I think. But am I going to do? What can I do? I might be making an assumption and embarrass her and make myself look silly if I say anything. I am racking my brains.

I know I am making assumptions but I am worried about the performance I am getting.  Suddenly as she is looking closely at my hair as she cuts I hit up on the answer. “I love the way you are really paying attention to the detail in the cut” I say.  And I make sure I look her in the eye as I say it – so that she knows I mean it.  This seems to have hugely dramatic and positive effect.  I kid you not.  She then spends perhaps the next 30 minutes, an inordinate amount of time it seems, on the tiniest movements and motions. I can’t believe the amount of detail she is going into; I am delighted.  She uses at least seven different tools to do various little jobs around my head and I am thrilled.  It seems that positively affirming what I really like in her behaviour really does produce her to do more of the same.

It’s a great cut, and I am very pleased.  As I go I tell her that, with real feeling.  It’s been an emotional experience for me. And I think she is pleased too.

Of course, I might have been over estimating the impact that I think had on the cut. She might have just been brilliant at her job. But it did make me think about some of the challenges of managing people:

  • Having the courage to be clear about what you want can be hard.  It doesn’t make you a bad person. People like to do well and knowing what well is, is important
  • Letting go of control can be hard. But holding the reins tightly won’t make them perform better.  The more you trust, the more responsibility people tend to take.  Trust implies confidence. Confidence drives performance.
  • Acknowledge and affirm the behaviour you want to see more of. People like to be told they are doing something well.

James@Bluesky

James Hodgkinson - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Making Training Stick

April 2, 2012

Lots of organisations now spend thousands or even millions of pounds on training programmes every year. But how many of them actually stick, how many make lasting performance differences or behavioural change? Whilst you reflect on that question, let me share with you one reason why many training programmes are not as successful as they could be. That is they are not followed up immediately after the training, they are not consolidated.

If you have ever been on a training course or seminar before, I am certain you will know what I am talking about. You turn up at the venue and the course may even extend to 2 or 3 days. During that time you are mixing and mingling with either colleagues in the same large corporate company or a mixture of people from different companies and backgrounds. There is usually a buzz about the place as the course progresses and in some instances it can be quite entertaining.

What happens next? Still slightly high on the euphoria of all the new tools and techniques you have picked up, you go out with a renewed kind of vigour, desperate to try them out. Then after a few days, at best, maybe a few weeks the lift has almost gone completely and you find yourself slipping back into that fabulous recognisable comfort zone. Is this starting to sound familiar?

Sustain - Blah Blah Blah - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

So what is it that happens and why, in most cases, does the training not deliver the return on investment that you would expect? A huge part of this challenge is down to something called the Ebbinghaus Effect. Please allow me to explain.

Hermann Ebbinghaus carried out the first experimental investigations of memory in Germany from 1879 to 1895. He discovered that our ability to recall information shows a rapid decrease over a very short space of time. After just a few hours, more than 60% of information is lost. A frightening thought! The decline in recall then eases slightly but, even so, within a month, more than 80% can no longer be recalled. His now famous results are known as the Ebbinghaus Curve of Forgetting. So you see, it’s not necessarily the training itself, it’s just the natural human trait of forgetting.

A cause for concern maybe? Let’s look at the possible implications. On a course spanning 3 days, more than 50% of the information given on days 1 and 2 will be lost before the training has ended. A further 50% of day 3 could be lost on the drive or flight home. Now start adding those lost days and attach a monetary value to them.

Ebbinghaus Curve of Forgetting Diagram - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Imagine in the world of sports, would a Premier league manager give a team talk about strategy in the boot room and then not practice that in a game situation? Would a tennis coach tell you how to improve your forehand in training and then wait until a competition to check whether you have understood it? Training is just the beginning, to truly master a skill in particular takes lots of practice, and some say 10000 hours to master any skill. Lots of training does involve role play and real play activities, which are great for practicing. But real plays are not the real world, it is a bit like swinging a tennis racket in training without the ball or court to practice your forehand, but until you practice that forehand in a real situation with another player and then practice it when it really counts in a competition you cannot test whether you have made improvement and changed your swing. It is the same with delegates, you can start the practice of skill or knowledge transfer in the training room, but you must follow it up with practice in the real world with the ball (customer) and the court (the work environment). We call this practice consolidation. So what do we mean by this?

This is about taking the opportunity to practice and receive further feedback and coaching. The purpose of consolidation is to practice what you have learnt and seek additional feedback and coaching, to refine your skills and address any issues that may prevent you from transferring what you have learnt. To make sure you have the time to practice, polish and improve your skills.

Let’s think about the steps to learning, how do you move people to conscious or unconscious competence? Is this achieved in training? I would argue at best you move people to conscious competence. To really master the skill or apply the new knowledge effectively will take hours of practice. Unless the quality of this practice is monitored and supported, lasting change will not happen, people will slip back into their comfort zones, back into old bad habits and back to unconscious incompetence in some cases. This is where consolidation comes into play.

Top tips

Here are just a few things you could do:

  • Get your line managers to attend the training, so they fully understand the skills or knowledge that needs to be embedded
  • Create a Training Sustainability / Stick ability Plan –  Build in time to work with all stakeholders to achieve this, focus on what will make the training stick and consider what road blocks might make it fail
  • Communicate to the rest of the business what training is taking place
  • Build consolidation, resource and time, into your training budget
  • Ramp up your coaching activity for 6 weeks post training
  • Introduce ‘coach the coach’ activity, there is no point ramping up coaching if the quality of the coaching is not there
  • Start to consolidate your training, this means trainers and leaders spending time immediately after training coaching delegates in the live environment to help support them to embed the learning
  • Align your quality process with what is being trained
  • Plan ahead, ensure that there is significant time set aside following training for line managers to consolidate training
  • Provide trainers with coaching skills necessary to embed the learning back in the real world
  • Train your trainers on how to feedback in the real work environment
  • Conduct post course de briefs at regular intervals, to see how delegates present back what they have learnt, how they have applied their learning, what the impact has been and what the next steps are
  • Review action plans, where delegates committed to learning actions in training
  • Conduct post course surveys, following Kirk Patrick’s learning evaluation model
  • Conduct a TNA two months after training to benchmark skill / knowledge transfer and application compared to pre training TNA
  • Measure the quality of your consolidation activities through surveys
  • Measure ROI, link success to training
  • Celebrate success, recognise people for performance improvement and most importantly, behavioural change
  • Catch people doing things right, fill people’s emotional bank accounts and build their confidence
  • Introduce behavioural coaching, to help people address limiting beliefs and breaking old habits
  • Nudge your team post training, provide them little nudges that support key messages in training
  • Conduct skills drills, use team meetings to focus on specific skill areas
  • Test retention of knowledge 4 weeks after training, not just at the end of training
  • Build in refresher training post course, make this modular and focused on areas where delegates are struggling or need advanced skills to take them to the next level

There are many more things you could do, contact me if you want further thoughts or ideas. The key thing is to remember that learning is a continuous cycle, unless businesses stop thinking of training as isolated interventions….. training will not stick. So next time you roll out a training programme ask your self:

“Will the investment I am making be worthwhile or will the Ebbinghaus Effect take its toll?”

Sean@Bluesky

Sean Spugin - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Receiving Feedback

March 13, 2012

Often the forgotten part of the feedback process, but for me the most fundamental part of creating a feedback culture is to help people understand the principles of receiving feedback. Some people experience feedback as criticism and do not want to hear it.  Others see it as crushing or a confirmation of their worthlessness.  Others only want to hear positives and nothing that might suggest imperfections. Other people view it very differently – accept feedback however, even if it is sometimes disturbing believing they can grow from it. It comes down to whether you believe feedback will harm you or benefit you.

Think of a time you responded well to feedback.

What did you do? 

Think of a time you responded badly to feedback.

What did you do? 

One of the problems for some people with regard to receiving feedback is that they only know how to behave as a ‘feedback victim’ rather than take responsibility for receiving feedback as well as delivering it. We do not always have to accept feedback, or the manner which it is delivered.  We all have the right to disregard feedback and we can expect feedback to be given in a respectful, supportive manner… but even delivered badly, we may be able to learn. Best practice for receiving feedback – what do we want to do?

Positive / Open Style

  • Open – listen without frequent interruptions of objections
  • Responsive – willing to hear what is being said without trying to turn the tables
  • Accepting – accepts other persons point of view without denial
  • Respectful – recognises the value of what is being said and the speakers right to say it
  • Engaged – interacts appropriately with speaker. Asks for clarification
  • Active listening – tries to understand the meaning of the feedback
  • Thoughtful
  • Interested
  • Sincere – wants to make personal changes if appropriate

Negative / Closed Style

  • Defensive – defends personal actions, frequently objects
  • Attacking – verbally attacks the feedback giver, turns tables
  • Denies – refutes the accuracy or fairness of the feedback
  • Disrespectful – devalues speaker and what speaker is saying
  • Closed – ignores feedback, blanks it out
  • Inactive listening – no attempt to understand
  • Rationalising – finds explanation for the feedback that dissolves any personal responsibility
  • Superficial – listens, appears to agree, with no intention of doing anything about it

This is not to say you cannot challenge the feedback if you disagree with it.  It may be appropriate to go away and think about the feedback in a pro-active, responsible way first though. It can be OK, valid and right to not do anything about the feedback or to decide you want to challenge the feedback. You may have other feedback or examples to show this feedback is invalid or not the case. This is not to be used as an excuse for never taking on board feedback. If you receive the same feedback several times from different people (and you are interested in self development!) you need to explore it. Also, there is no need to argue with feedback – it may not be factual, it may be someone’s personal opinion.  Always repeat back the feedback to check you have fully understood and be curious.

Sean@Bluesky

Sean Spugin - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement