Upgrade your skills with BrandLove's Learning Programs!
Webinar Wednesday 9 September 16:00 -17:00
Re-Imagine your business to deliver great experiences for employees and customers!
What lurks beneath the surface will grow or ground your business - The relationship between Employee Experience and Customer Experience.
Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP) Coaching Program
12 Week programme to prepare you for writing the CCXP exam.
Intake starts 10 September 2020 - 12-week program on Zoom
Each year on the first Tuesday in October, the CX community celebrates the professionals and companies that make great customer experiences happen - a celebration known as CX Day.
To celebrate CX day this year, we will bring you the following events.
5 October - Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow - CX Trailblazers Panel Discussion on how to upgrade to CX 2.0
A collaboration event with, Lou Carbone, and other prominent pioneers in the field of CX. More to be revealed soon.
6 October - Employee Journey Mapping Workshop
Join us for an interactive workshop on how to map the journey for employees in the new disrupted world of work. Whether you are a leader or an HR professional, this session can equip you with strategies on how to engage people during challenging times.
The Certified Customer Journey Architect Program™
5-day in-person program presented on Zoom
19 to 23 October 2020
unLEARNing’s since the Pandemic
Connection. Being Real. Caring. These are deep-seated qualities that are important to me at home and work. It has been amplified even more with the current COVID19-pandemic that forced the world as we know it to change. People talk about the new normal. I like to describe it as being sent to our rooms by the universe to re-evaluate our priorities. This got me thinking.
The way we worked before the pandemic
In my line of work, we assist businesses to create amazing customer journeys and empower employees to find their own purpose and passion that ultimately leads to higher performing teams. The catch is that it is a facilitated process….very much a face-to-face process!
Let’s do a quick experiment. I would like to invite you to your very own virtual reality imagination scene. Are you ready?
Picture it…. You receive a printed invitation to attend one of our workshops. The actual invitation is followed up with a calendar invite with more details around the venue, time, and catering details. On the day of the workshop, you enter a room that is set-up with some natural light coming through the windows. You see about 18-30 other attendees. One of the 3 facilitators on the day meets you at the door and make you feel right at home. On the table, you see a workbook with worksheets printed on good quality paper. You see a lot of sharpies and post-it notes, and you are curious about the tubs of LEGO and base plates that you see in the middle of the table. The background music is upbeat and the coffee and muffins smell delicious. The training starts and is not death by PowerPoint as you thought it would be, but are extremely creative, immersive, and collaborative. At the end of the session you walk away with practical skills because of the amazing dialogue you had and work you did with your team members – you feel connected and inspired.
Could you imagine the scene? Could you connect with what was described?
The way we work now
It’s been 4 months since the lock-down in my country and it seems as if we may stay in lockdown for a while still. No live workshops will take place again in the foreseeable future.
All our efforts have gone into finding solutions to translate this real-live experience I just described, online. No more LEGO. No more post-it notes, flipcharts, printed worksheets, Meerkat awards, or hugs…
In order to do this, we had to unlearn how we used to do things to make space to adapt to a different environment. To translate the learning content online is not the issue. The thing I struggled with most was how to translate realness and connection into the virtual space.
We had to find a way to not only connect with our audience but to stay connected as a facilitation team. It has pushed us to our limits in terms of creativity, innovation, courage, and agility.
I would like to share with you some of the limiting ideas that I had to let go of in order to create a new way of being real, virtually.
1. It has to be perfect
Rather try something new even if it fails or does not work out exactly as you planned. If it is positive it is good enough. Trial and error are the best way and failing fast and being able to adapt fast is key. Don’t get stuck in the idea of a perfect solution – positive is the new perfect.
2. I have full control
In the online realm, things will go wrong. Eskom and load shedding are a real thing in South Africa. Internet connections drop. People are not all on the same level in terms of tech-savviness. Not everyone will be on their computers, some people will use their mobile phones and won’t be able to access all the tools. What you do have control over is how you prepare people upfront on what to expect and the ground rules of what your expectations are of them.
3. Online content is boring and one dimensional
Online actually allows for such diversity! Make sure that you create content that is not all the same. Use the functionality of the tools i.e. Zoom for presentations and guest speakers, smaller group breakaways for discussions, and collaborative work on a virtual platform, content platforms to showcase videos or resources. Structure your content in such a way that people stay curious and engaged. You can offer such a rich variety of content and deliver it in interesting ways!
4. There is one silver bullet
We searched long and hard to find a one size fits all online solution, but in the end after trying many different apps, platforms, and software we decided on 2 or 3 tools that suit our needs best. Find solutions that will help you deliver your content and experience in the best possible way for your client. Make it easy. Do not overcomplicate the tools. And do training on the tools with your clients before the sessions to ensure that they are comfortable once they join your sessions.
5. Virtual realness is impossible
I thought it was. What I came to realize is that whether we are face to face or in a virtual world, people are still just human. We have the same needs of certainty variety, significance, connection and love, growth, and contribution beyond yourself. If you have the courage to show a piece of your heart and your own realness, you will extract the realness of others. The platforms may be virtual. The people are not!
My wish for you is that you will continue to stay connected. To yourself. To the people that matter to you. To your team. To your colleagues. To life. To being real. This will make the world a better place for all!
Let me leave you with the wise words of Dr. Seuss: “Life’s too short to wake up with regrets. So, love the people who treat you right, forgive the ones who don’t, and believe that everything happens for a reason. If you get the chance, take it. If it changes your life let it. Nobody said it would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it”.
Interview: Everyday Entrepreneurs Everywhere!
EX and CX is like Ebony and Ivory in imperfect harmony at the moment!
What lurks beneath the surface can grow or ground your business
Many people reshared my drawing below on LinkedIn and I decided to host a webinar to talk about the interconnectedness between Employee Experience and Customer Experience.
When: Aug 31, 2020
Time: 04:00 PM Johannesburg
What your toilets tell me about your culture...
This started as a bit of a joke and then it got serious.
Whenever I go and see a new client, I go to the washroom before the meeting starts. I would usually study the instructions and signage on the walls of the washroom and look at the design, tone of voice and calls to action. Eventually, I started seeing patterns. What I found in the washroom would be identical to what I found in the boardroom. The culture oozed out in the passive-aggressive instructions. The passive voice that shouted threats at me. The calls to action that were vague and instructions that at the time felt that you were micromanaging my washroom activities and were going to include that in my key performance indicators. Let’s just say the washrooms in certain companies scared me and really did not make me feel safe.
One washroom had signs above the toilets that said: “If at first, you don’t succeed, flush, flush and flush again”. It was meant to inspire ownership through humour but in a drought-stricken part of the country. This told me about the ignorance and disconnection of what was said and what was lived. It also spoke about the what instead of the why. Throughout this company, I found teams that were not aligned. Teams were competing in the most unhealthy manner, almost cannibalising each other’s clients. Leaders were in their ivory towers looking down at the workers.
I would also look at the state of the washroom, is it maintained, cared for? Are the basics taken care of? This is a great indicator of accountability, ownership and general care of people. If a company is not taking pride in the state of their washrooms, they are not nurturing pride in their people. And the aggressive, scare posters that aim to command and control bathroom activities, does not succeed in fixing this.
Then we get to the legislated protective gear in the toilets that have a role in preventing HIV. They play an important role, but the choice of flavours and presentation make me wonder. The lubricant in small sachets that are made available in large quantities, confused me. I am not sure why lubricant is provided rather than condoms. When I asked employees about this, I received verbal and visual answers that I cannot repeat in this article. I would need an age restriction. The lubricant on its own sends a message of office promiscuity but in combination with condoms, it has a stronger health and safety message. I assume the week that I spent there, the condoms were out.
I use this story in jest but I really do believe the clues of language, manners, disciplines and patterns provide us with evidence of an otherwise intangible cultural DNA that impacts people in the workplace.
The Customer and Employee Experience Iceberg
The 5 reasons why you should employ your angry customers
Angry customers can be awesome for your brand if you listen to them and use their anger to improve your customer journey.
“When I get angry, I usually don’t like the person I become.”
“I get told often not to make a scene in a shop and therefore, I mostly complain to my friends and family, rather than to the company.”
This is what we hear from many customers. Unresolved anger that results in them disconnecting from your brand.
Many complaints teams that I worked with, are actually afraid of the angry customers and they have boxed them into a stereotype of an unreasonable monster that wants to make life miserable for someone else. This is rarely true. Angry people are usually scared and once you put this lens on, it opens up possibilities, it even gives you the ability to befriend an angry customer and ask them to help you solve the problem.
Complaints teams also report that most complaints are not new. They deal with the same complaints day in and out and have scripts to deal with them. The problem with the scripts is that they sound scripted in emails, chat and on the phone and angry customers hate fakeness on top of whatever happened. What most companies have not done is to apply journey mapping to the regular recurring complaints. Many journey maps also just look at the upside, but there is a real magic that happens when you look at mapping the moments where you fail customer expectations. You can make these situations more predictable and have various options to deal with it. Customer service colleagues no longer have to be surprised by a complaint; they can be confident and empowered to deal with that complaint. We usually train people on the process to follow but not what to do when the process breaks. We miss a great opportunity to empower people to create brand affinity in a moment of misery.
The state of mind of an angry customer
A customer usually gets angry with a brand when they feel the brand has done something wrong. When the brand has not met their expectations or cheated them in some way.
When we look at the psyche of an angry customer, usually it is not just one thing that trips their wires, it is either repeat issues or a contextual situation that adds emotional intensity to the situation. When a family member is involved, a mother or child and something has gone wrong, the issue can also take on a more extreme intensity. So it is really important to listen to the problem but also listen to the context and the story.
So here are the reasons why angry customers make great customer journey design partners:
Angry customers want to be heard.
The most important aspect I teach complaints teams is to listen to an angry customer. And when they make no sense, draw the scenario with stick men on a piece of paper. Sometimes it magically starts making sense and it gives you the opportunity to ask questions about the pieces that you do not understand.
Angry customers have come up with many solutions already.
It is almost impossible for the angry mind to not seek justice or find a way to solve the problem.
Even if an angry customer never complains to a brand, it is very likely that they have voiced the issue to a friend or family member and very likely that they have solved the problem in many different ways. For example, If someone ordered food to be delivered to their house and it was the wrong order, the customer would say, “If I was them, I would at least include something extra or give us 20% off on our next order or give the next meal for free”. So typically dissatisfied or angry customers run through many scenarios of what they would have done.
Angry customers care.
The fact that someone is angry means they care to have that emotion. There is a spark and if you can use it, then do so. They might care about themselves or their family. They might be reacting to an “old” story that they don’t deserve to be treated with disrespect.
Angry customers want you to care but most of the time don't expect you to engage.
Most angry customers don’t expect a company to call them or ask for their advice, or be authentically empathetic. Yes, this sounds sad, but this is the world we live in today, where people avoid conflict. Brands don’t take accountability and most service staff are managed to optimise profit not empowered to solve customer problems. You can take the wind out of an angry customer’s sails if you reach out first and engage without the customer escalating. Just a reminder that we are all in the business of making memories. This unexpected moment can result in your brand being remembered as the one who cared enough to phone.
Angry customers can make great brand ambassadors.
I usually explain the peak-end-rule from Daniel Kannheman to complaints teams. To take a customer from a neutral experience to a delightful experience is hard to do consistently, but to take a customer from a negative peak to neutral can actually deliver bigger benefits for your brand. People remember those interactions better. They have an imprint of the person who was kind and helpful and reached out to them in a moment where they did not feel great about their behaviour.
How to engage angry customers
Invite angry customers to a co-design group. Tread lightly and be skilful in this first interaction when you invite them. You want to make sure that they know you want to hear them. Most companies that I consult with cringe at the thought of inviting angry customers and the executive committee usually do not volunteer to sit in. I have facilitated many of these co-design sessions, and usually, the customers arrive in a calm state. They may get flustered later in the conversation as they replay the story but remember they have thought about this a lot. They want to be heard. They want the problem to be solved. Most of all they don’t want to feel like they are turning into a terrible human being.
Once you have them in the session I structure the conversation to first create connection and trust. Since it is a group of customers, they usually start reporting that it feels a little like a customer support group where they can share freely. Rather than ponder for too long on the stories of wrongdoing. I shift the conversation quite quickly to empower them to make changes to their experience and redesign the ideal journey first without constraints and then adding the constraints back in. So, for example, no constraint would be, “you have an unlimited budget” and then add the constraint “you have only $10”. I make them each CEO of the brand for 2 minutes and they are only allowed to make one change on their first day on the job. In those 15 minutes, I get absolute gold. I seek permission to record this and later play this to the executive team and even use it in training materials for customer service teams.
As an external facilitator, I don’t solve any of the problems, but I work with a customer care team that tries to resolve the issues or follow up with these customers after the session. They are now brand ambassadors in a weird way once they have been listened to, they feel emotionally invested in the brand. Some even ask me how they would know if their ideas will be used.
I want to leave you with this advice, if you want to design differentiated experiences for your brand, start with your pain points.
- Take your top 10 complaints and design the pain out of them.
- Design what happens when things go wrong because that is the only guarantee that I can give you, things WILL go wrong. Processes will break, systems will hang, mistakes will be made. What is important is that you respond to these situations with confidence and care and authentic connection. Don’t run away from complaints! Run towards them!
- Invite these customers to have conversations with you, to help you design the ideal journeys.
- Give feedback to these clients about what ideas have been used and you will have brand ambassadors for life.
Innovation Magician and Brand Warrior, Chantel leads BrandLove into battle against life without meaning or significance. Delivering passion and driving purpose are her “Why” and she specializes in designing value and connection into every experience, whether it is a customer, employee, corporation or individual. With a hat full of magic, and a diverse background in business economics, computer sciences, customer experience design, coaching, public speaking, e-commerce, and strategy she combines her varied interests to deliver revolutionary originality and EQ to brands and businesses. With a passion for people, she also spearheads a number of social projects, including a robotics youth programme called Kind Bright Minds. She is also an ambassador for fun, and is certified as both a Laughter Yoga and Lego Serious Play facilitator.
Disruption to the employee experience. We need a vaccine for fear!
A day in the life of an employee
Let’s go back three months and look in detail at the world of work.
Many countries across the world have a high unemployment rate, as well as low productivity numbers among the people who are employed. We also have dangerously low levels of staff engagement and satisfaction across industries.
Below the surface, we are dealing with health issues like HIV, mental health challenges like depression, substance abuse as a coping mechanism, and domestic violence and conflict. For some, the workplace is a safe haven, for some a hiding place from conflict and danger. For some, it’s a place where they matter, for some it’s a place where they drown themselves in numbing volumes of work so they can be the victim of intellectual perpetrators for a change.
Many corporates report that culture is having an impact on their productivity, well-being and brand image. Many struggle to fix this. Leaders tell us they struggle to lead, most having been promoted from a specialist position, never having learnt the skills to lead individuals, let alone large groups of people, and are yearning for someone to save them from their challenges.
Certainly, a system that is not finding itself in good health.
Then comes the big lockdown and most companies send home people who are able to work remotely, with essential workers with no other option remaining at the workplace under strict social distancing guidelines. For the purposes of this article, we are not going to discuss medical professionals but largely focus on corporate services.
What the company did
So for a start, there were a few things for the companies to solve for their employees:
- Unblocking of all apps and protocols
- Space at home to work (well, that one the employee had to figure out).
That is a win from the employees’ side, as they have overcome technology challenges that have for years prevented them from having some flexibility. Excuse my sarcasm.
What the employees had to do
From the employees’ side, it is not that simple.
They have to actively manage a household, with help from a spouse at times. Between cleaning, looking after the dogs, going out for essentials, they are also experiencing a blending of all the roles into one. And no-one is really being acclaimed Mom of the Month or Wife of the Month.
Kids are home-schooled using mainly WhatsApp, and up to 180 messages about work a single child needs to do, plus exchanges and comments between parents, are sent daily. Some documents are attached to the WhatsApp message and many parents don’t have a printer at home. Due to the constraints of limited devices parents often need to give up theirs or share a device between family members. Teachers prepare lessons on YouTube and post links, and between work and Zoom meetings kids are using the same Wi-Fi or mobile hotspot to watch a video. Shoved into a corner with a bookcase behind her, our employee is too ashamed to show the state of her house, so she leaves her camera off. We as Brandlove have been fortunate to have had workshops globally for the past three months and have found that less than 10% of people switch on their cameras.
Why do people keep their cameras off?
- They feel they don’t look good.
- It freaks them out to stare at themselves.
- They remain ungroomed daily and stay in their pyjamas, so they really do not look good.
- Their environment does not look good.
- They feel ashamed for many reasons ̶ they may not be as productive as they need to be.
- They are not technology savvy enough to get their camera working.
- Their camera is broken.
- They have kids and pets running in the background and don’t want people to see them.
There are many, many reasons, but I believe the biggest is how we feel about ourselves when we see ourselves on camera. We have never seen as much of ourselves as in the past three months. On a normal day, I rarely look in the mirror, and now I stare at a picture of myself for most of the day. I hear myself more clearly and I judge myself more fiercely. These are trying times even for people with healthy self-images.
Organisational challenges before Covid-19
Before Covid-19 many teams in large corporate environments were already dealing with challenges they shared with us.
- My leader does not lead us, he governs us.
- We work in silos.
- The left-hand does not know what the right hand is doing.
- We don’t communicate openly, we hear things via the grapevine.
- We don’t believe our leaders are transparent, we just wait for the next bad thing to happen.
- People don’t really care about the employees at the bottom, we are just a number.
- We don’t speak up for fear of getting fired or not getting our contracts renewed.
- People are not interested in our ideas.
- We don’t have the right tools to do our job.
- Our company does not have a budget for training.
- Our company does not provide a progression path for senior positions, they appoint from the outside.
- We are paid poorly.
- We don’t feel appreciated.
- I feel like an imposter.
- I fear my job will become irrelevant.
If we look at these challenges now, they have become exaggerated.
If we look at the most important ingredients for a functional workplace, they would be:
- Strong leadership and a common goal
- Open communication
- Regular reviews
- Contracting expectations
- Teamwork towards a common goal.
If these aspects were not in place or already under strain, it is going to get even more difficult.
Employee scenarios during Covid-19
So let’s paint a few scenarios,
Let’s say Jane would have described her company culture as an unhealthy, toxic culture that does not bring out the best in her. She stays because she feels she does not have other options. Jane is now working from home.
Here are a few scenarios of how she is adapting:
- Goody two-shoes
Jane is loving the quiet space at home away from the toxic culture at the workplace. She dials into meetings. She sends emails to her colleagues and gets her work done on time. She juggles home responsibilities but she finds a rhythm that works for the household. She creates a small corner in her bedroom that is her workspace and she shuts the door when she needs to participate in meetings. She’s hung up a curtain her grandma made so her background can look like a studio when she is on Zoom calls with clients.
- Smooth operator
Jane just does enough not to get into trouble. They are not monitoring when she clocks in an out. She logs on to Zoom and mutes her side, helps the kids and continues with the home responsibilities. She can multitask. She cannot be fired during a pandemic. She was not appreciated while she was at work.
Then there is the version of Jane that is very uncertain, that really needs guidance as to what to do and what she is responsible for, but she is too afraid to ask in case her manager reprimands her or calls her high maintenance. She checks in with her teammates on WhatsApp to check with them what should be done, but they themselves are unsure.
- The envy of the returning ones
Then there is another version of Jane looking at people returning to the office and wishing she would rather be at the office. It is hard to work at home but when she returns to the office, who will look after the children while they cannot go to school and after-care? She might have to hire a carer, which will increase the risk of bringing the virus into the home.
- The envy of the office-bound
Then there is a version of Jane where she goes back to the office as part of skeleton staff, with most of her colleagues working from home. She has not been told why she was selected to work from the office. When she is at the office, she worries about getting sick, and worries about the children at home. She needs to take care of all her home responsibilities only when she gets home late.
- The overloaded and ready to give up
There is also a version of Jane that has to contribute because her husband has lost his job. She cannot afford the home-schooling of the kids with data and devices. She fears her aging parents are not going to survive this and she is really battling with anxiety and feeling overwhelmed. She is in a state of paralysis and cannot really work. She is too afraid to speak up since she might lose her job as well.
We need a vaccine for fear
In all these scenarios, fear plays a massive role and really, what we should be looking for is a vaccine for fear while we are searching for one for Covid-19. Fear has always impacted our work life and decisions regarding our careers. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has bumped us all to the bottom and we are struggling to find our way up.
We are trapped in the drama triangle, desperately trying to find a hero or be a hero, while someone is stepping into the perpetrator position, blaming someone for some oversight, negligence, putting the country in lockdown, not putting the country in lockdown.
Meanwhile, most of us feel like we are the victims of a really small enemy we sneeze into the air, not really knowing how susceptible we are to it or if we will live to tell the story.
Companies are sending out newsletters with good intentions and making wellness and support programmes available to employees who may be struggling.
Never in a hundred years would I have believed you if you had told me this story a mere 3 months ago. Never in human existence have we been faced with such a collective challenge that communicates data at the speed it does and connects people globally on the scale it does now. It has accelerated many things, but what it has not done is allow us to evolve past our primal fear response.
I find myself angry, then sad, then I pick myself up and I become creative and motivated and then angry again. I believe a lot of people are experiencing these emotions right now in an attempt to process the discomfort of our primal fear response and lack of control and hope in this situation. This is exacerbated by what was underlying in many people.
Depressed people now become more depressed.
Angry people are angrier.
Sad people are sadder and maybe angrier.
Positive people get more positive, for a while.
Complainers keep on complaining.
In workshops we have conducted over the past two months with more than 200 participants from all over the globe, people report that the following is keeping them awake at night:
- Fear of getting sick or immediate family getting sick
- Fear of losing their jobs
- Fear of financial ruin
- Fear of loneliness
- Fear of uncertainty and no end in sight.
What I am missing is the skills to help us adapt. From a company perspective, the newsletters attempt to do that but most people tell us they don’t read, especially if it is a boring company newsletter.
People across the globe report having more vivid dreams than usual and psychologists speculate it is because we might be sleeping longer and this is our brain’s way of processing the information and emotions we are experiencing. There is even a research site dedicated to Covid-19 dreams where you can submit your dreams. My sentiments are that we are desperately trying to process what is happening to us collectively and make sense of what we are feeling.
The skills we need
Some of the skills and focus I believe employees and their families desperately need right now are:
Self-awareness ̶ How do I feel right now?
Acknowledge anxiety ̶ describe it and don’t see it as a weakness.
Prioritisation ̶ What is important for me to focus on now?
Being able to prioritise what is really important and not, what I can control and what not.
Self-care ̶ What do I need right now?
Taking care of your body and spirit
Practise tolerating uncertainty
Resilience ̶ balancing how we overestimate the impact and underestimate our ability to deal with the situation.
Contribute ̶ Who needs my help (after I have put on my own oxygen mask)?
Helping someone else.
Connect ̶ With whom or what do I need connecting now?
Connect with your life purpose rather than focus on the fear of losing your life.
Practise a hobby
Switch off and take a break, through creativity.
These are not hard skills to practise but they require time and focus. We have been hosting an online laughter yoga group since the lockdown started and we have a few regulars but also new people joining all the time. They come and laugh with strangers, and yes sure, they think it’s weird. Even we who have been practising laughter yoga for five years, think it’s weird, but it’s healthy and it gives you a connection at a very different unconditional level. We laugh for no reason, unconditionally without anything being funny, and we feel better together in our loneliness and isolation.
Ponder on the questions I have given you above. If you are a leader, open your team meetings with these questions. If you forget everything I said, just focus on the connection piece and whether it is with family, colleagues, friends, just pause and make a true, warm connection.