A recent HBR article highlighted a study by XBInsight that exposed the top 5 characteristics innovative company leaders have in common and score considerably higher in than other non-innovative leaders.
Risk management – “Innovative leaders scored 25% higher than their non-innovative counterparts on managing risk.”
Curiosity – “They exhibit an underlying curiosity and desire to know more.”
Courage – “They turn tough circumstances into prime opportunities to demonstrate their decisive capabilities and take responsibility for difficult decision making.”
Seize opportunity – “They are proactive and take initiative and ownership for success.”
Maintain a Strategic Business Perspective – “These leaders demonstrate a keen understanding of industry trends and their implications for the organization.”
And there is one characteristic where innovative leaders collectively score lower than their peers – maintaining order and accuracy.
The “data also suggested that a strong customer orientation is a starting point for building a strategic marketplace perspective in leaders.”
You can read the full article here.
I have to admit, up to this point, my customer centric mindset has led me to believe that if there is one area of your business that you should not outsource, its your front line. These teams are the people interacting directly with your customers and delivering ‘moments of truth’, delight or misery to them every day. They are essentially your brand. But the fact is, many business units and organisations do outsource their internal and external front lines, generally for cost reduction purposes.
But as this interview with a Vodafone Spain executive demonstrates, it is possible to outsource your front line and deliver a great customer experience in line with your brand promise. And its no different to how you should align all your teams inside your organisation to deliver successful customer outcomes. So hold off on the ‘in-sourcing’ and ‘re-shoring’ and read this interview undertaken by McKinsey with Vodafone Spain’s, Carmen López-Suevos Hernández.
Vodafone Spain started with a situation that looked like this:
- almost fully outsourced (onshore & offshore)
- large number of vendors as each customer service function had outsourced individually
- often short term contracts
- ranked last for service levels among major Spanish mobile providers
- cost pressures made it hard to in-source
- first contact resolution rates were low
- call volumes were growing
- costs were actually increasing (despite the goal of outsourcing)
- vendors found it difficult to work with Vodafone
- focus on costs meant relationships were transactional with an emphasis on volumes and fixed prices
- vendors disliked the constant price pressures
- vendors with multiple contracts found it was like working with different companies
Vodafone realised it had to refocus on quality of service, not just cost and reevaluate vendor relationships and front line agents who serve their customers.
Vodafone always had goal to reduce overall cost to serve and reducing cost per call is one avenue to do this but when you squeeze vendors on price, they squeeze back by:
- reducing the quality of people,
- reducing the ratio of team members to team leaders,
- reducing the attention given to development & retention
Attrition increases while skills fall and the result is fewer calls resolved on first contact and up front cost benefits are essentially lost as call volumes rise.
The other way to reduce the overall cost to serve is to reduce volumes by solving more calls at first point of contact. This could allow a higher price per call which vendors could re-invest in further quality improvements while Vodafone still comes out in front.
Vodafone realised it needed to change a lot about how they operated, their mind-sets about the role of vendors, performance expectations of them and how they interacted with them. And while they indeed needed to reduce number of vendors and sites, what they really needed was a new operating model.
Fundamentally Vodafone wanted call centre agents whom could turn customers into brand advocates, not just handle calls.
After a 3 year transformation Vodafone Spain was now ranked first for customer satisfaction among major Spanish mobile providers and operating costs fell by double digits. Not a bad turnaround.
And for all the gory detail on how Vodafone did this, you can read how Vodafone did this here.
I recently came across an article by Josh Bersin, whom is linked to Deloitte, discussing the results of a worldwide Deloitte survey into organisational design and the changes afoot in companies worldwide.
The conclusion reached by the report “is that today’s digital world of work has shaken the foundation of organizational structure, shifting from the traditional functional hierarchy to one we call a “network of teams.” This new model of work is forcing us to change job roles and job descriptions; rethink careers and internal mobility; emphasize skills and learning as keys to performance; redesign how we set goals and reward people; and change the role of leaders.”
Surprisingly, at least to me, was that only 38% of companies claim to be organised along functional lines. Many respondents believe they are already working in a “network of teams” – at least from a day-to-day perspective – but I think some of those have considered the informal networks that inevitably exist across functional domains to get things done, as evidence that they are working in a team-based model as opposed to a functional one.
Of course working in a formal network of teams where functional silos no longer exist brings with it its own challenges. As articulated by Bersin, the problem becomes “how we coordinate and align these teams, how we get them to share information and work together, and how we move people and reward people in a company that no longer promotes “upward mobility” and “power by position” in leadership.”
Bersin believes there are four key ingredients to success for a ‘network of teams’ model:
- “Shared values and culture: As people operate in geographically dispersed teams which are closer to customers, they need guidelines and value systems to help them decide what to do, how to make decisions, and what is acceptable behavior.“
- “Transparent goals and projects: People operating in teams and small groups have to work with other teams, and they can’t do this unless goals are clear, overall financial objectives are well communicated, and people know what other people are working on.“
- “Feedback and a free flow of information: As teams operate and customers interact with the company, we must share information about what’s working, what isn’t working, what’s selling, and what problems we have to address. While local management and team leadership (i.e. a plant manager or sales leader) should take immediate responsibility for errors, others need to know what problems are taking place, so they can respond to support the team. This takes place today in digital information centers, analytics dashboards, and free flowing feedback systems that have replaced annual engagement surveys and performance reviews.“
- “People are rewarded for skills and contribution, not position: Finally, the network of teams rewards people for their contribution, not their “position.”The days of “positional leadership” are going away (i.e. “I’m the boss so you do what I say.”) to be replaced by growth and career progression based on your skills, alignment with values, followership, and contribution to the company as a whole.“
Organisations based on purely functional lines are being replaced. So too are those early attempts to break down those silos with “matrix organisations” that were essentially a ‘paper over’ or band-aid and not an adequate response to the problem, Bersin explains…
“Many of us remember the old fashioned “matrix organizations” which were popular in the 1980s. Well today the “matrix” makes a company look more like a series of Hollywood movies, where people take their skills and functional expertise, they work on a “project” or “team” or “program” to get work done, and as they learn and the company adapts, they move into another team over time.”
As Bersin articulates, its not as though executive positions disappear – although no doubt many middle management ones would – but their roles are also changing.
“While there are still senior executives in the company, leadership now becomes a “team sport,” where leaders must inspire and align the team, but also be good at connecting teams together and sharing information.”
You can read the full blog post here, including links to the research.
Want an example of a “network of teams” model already implemented in a corporate environment? If so, then check out this interview with two executives – one current, one former – from ING banking group in the Netherlands, on its transformation to an ‘agile’ way of working.
In a previous post, HR Departments Have To Change, I highlighted an article on LinkedIn encouraging companies to follow in AirBnB’s footsteps and replace traditional HR with a capability focused on the employee experience.
Now a HBR article, Design Your Employee Experience As Thoughtfully As You Design Your Customer Experience, authored by Denise Lee Yohn, argues that companies already know how to improve their employee experience. They simply need to use the same tools and techniques they apply to customer experience and apply them to their HR processes.
I’m not sure I agree with that view as I know first hand there are still many large companies that are not customer centric – they may pay lip service but in reality they are not – and have no immediate plans to become customer centric.
But I do agree that many of the tools and techniques are transferable should they learn them and apply them. These include:
- applying needs-based segmentation to your employee base rather than simple and, generally irrelevant, demographic factors;
- understanding the employee journey through the use of journey mapping while recognising that employee journeys, just like customer journeys, are seldom linear;
The best customer experiences bring the company’s distinctive brand values and attributes to life, and the same is true of employee experiences.
Read the full article here.
In a previous post of mine titled A New Education System, I collated a number of videos from Sugata Mitra’s TED Talk, ‘Build a School in the Cloud’, to an animated video of a talk ‘Changing Education Paradigms’, given by Sir Ken Robinson, explaining how education systems are not student centric and essentially “educate” our creative capacity out of us and another by American Author and Marketer, Seth Godin.
Well here is yet another video that puts today’s education systems “on trial”, literally.
In a recent HBR article, Why the problem with learning is unlearning, Mark Bonchek contends that in this age of Digital disruption, companies have been too focused on learning new ways of doing things and have not paid enough attention to unlearning the ways of the past.
In every aspect of business, we are operating with mental models that have grown outdated or obsolete, from strategy to marketing to organization to leadership. To embrace the new logic of value creation, we have to unlearn the old one.
Boncheck clarifies that its not about forgetting what has been learnt in the past, but acquiring the ability to re-frame the situation and use a different mental model.
He gives the example of Porter’s Five forces and the essence behind the model that limits or boundaries must be set and then argues the likes of Google, Uber, Faebook and AirBnB don’t subscribe to this notion of setting limits.
They look beyond controlling the pipe that delivers a product and instead build platforms that enable others to create value. They look to create network effects through ecosystems of customers, suppliers, and partners.
Boncheck also articulates the core problem with modern marketing is the existing “one-to-many mindset” where we pretend “everything is linear and transaction”…
- We segment into discrete buckets even though people are multidimensional.
- We treat customers as consumers even when they want to be cocreators.
- We target buyers and run campaigns that push messages through channels even though real engagement increasingly happens through shared experiences.
- We move people through a pipeline that goes in one direction even though the customer journey is nonlinear.
He then asserts that “instead of using relationships to drive transactions, we could be building brand orbits and embedding transactions in relationships. Instead of customers being consumers, we could have relationships with them in a variety of roles and social facets. Beyond delivering a value proposition, we could be fulfilling a shared purpose.”
“In the area of organizational design, we are seeing an evolution from formal hierarchies to fluid networks. But this requires a substantial amount of unlearning. Our instincts are to think of an organization as an org chart. We automatically escalate decisions to the boss. I often hear executives talk about being “more networked,” but what they really mean is collaborating across the silos. To truly become a networked organization, you need decision principles that create both alignment and autonomy. But this requires unlearning in the areas of management, leadership, and governance.”
The good news, Bonchek contends, is we can practice unlearning. So get started today!
Read the full article here.
Following are three analytical tools used in the formulation of a Blue Ocean Strategy. The three tools we will look at are:
- Strategy Canvas
- Four Actions Framework
- Eliminate-Reduce-Raise-Create Grid
The Strategy Canvas
The Strategy Canvas is both a diagnostic tool and an action framework. From a diagnostic point of view, it is used to capture what is happening in the existing market space. The following example from the book describes the US wine market prior to Casella Wines introduction of Yellow Tail.
This paints a picture of where the competition is currently investing and the factors they compete on in products, services, delivery and what customers receive from the existing offerings.
Four Actions Framework
The Four Actions Framework asks four key questions to challenge an industry’s preexisting norms.
The eliminate and reduce questions lead you to gaining an insight into how to drop your cost structure while the create and raise questions lead you to gaining an understanding into how to increase customer value and generate new customer demand.
The third tool supplements the second encouraging action. The example below shows how Casella Wines answered those four key questions.
This resulted in a strategy canvas that looked like the following for Casella Wines’ new Yellow Tail brand in the US wine market.
You can see from the above picture, Yellow Tails curve has three very important characteristics.
- Focus: efforts were not diffused across all key factors of the competition
- Divergent: the value curve diverges from the competition
- Compelling Tagline: ‘a fun and simple wine to be enjoyed every day’
I have recently read the “international bestseller” Blue Ocean Strategy and found it a very insightful read. A blue ocean is essentially an uncontested market space where there are no competitors allowing the company that creates it to excel. However, a blue ocean strategy is not just about delivering something customers want that hasn’t been delivered before, its also about delivering a value innovation for the company as well.
Typically main stream strategy theory suggests companies must either choose a high cost differentiation strategy or a low cost price led strategy. Companies that create blue oceans however simultaneously achieve low cost and differentiation.
Red Ocean Strategy
- Compete in existing market space
- Beat the competition
- Exploit existing demand
- Make the value-cost trade-off
- Align the whole system of a firms activities with its strategic choice of differentiation or low cost
Blue Ocean Strategy
- Create uncontested market space
- Make the competition irrelevant
- Create and capture new demand
- Break the value-cost trade-off
- Align the whole system of a firms activities in pursuit of differentiation and low cost
While a company competing in a red ocean fights for existing customers that that market, a company competing in a blue ocean cultivates an entirely new set of customers as it creates an entirely new market space.
For example Cirque du Soleil didn’t just enter the existing market space of traditional circuses, it created an all new market and captured customers whom were not typically customers of the circus but customers whom were looking to be entertained.
It also reduced its costs when compared to traditional circuses by removing big name star performers and animals.
When Casella Wines introduced its ‘easy to drink’, ‘to be enjoyed by everyone’ wine Yellow Tail, to the US market, it took customers from the two distinctive wine markets – the high end and ultra cheap – and combined them with customers whom would normally drink beer, alcopops or cocktails, to create an entirely new market space.
It also reduced its costs by initially creating only one red and one white and bottling them in the same type bottle. Traditionally red wine and white wine had always been sold in two different styles of wine bottle.
In my next post I’ll explore some of the tools and frame works that have been created to both help identify and execute a blue ocean strategy.
Just as businesses start focusing on being ‘customer centric’ and developing a ‘customer experience’ that will ensure customers want to repeatedly do business with them, there are many arguing that to be ‘customer centric’, is really to be ‘human centric’ and the same can also be applied to staff.
Some companies, like Airbnb, are redefining the role of the HR department to be broader and replacing the senior most HR role with a ‘Chief Employee Experience Officer’ role.
Mark Levy’s new role of Chief Employee Experience Officer at Airbnb combines traditional HR functions of recruiting and talent development with marketing, real estate, facilities, social responsibility, and communications.
What is clear is that this move quite visibly positions the employee experience as critical to the business, not HR. This is absolutely right, in my view, and gives practitioners the confidence and belief to know that HR is no longer a support function within the business, because the employee experience, to a large extent, is the business.
…how easy would it be for you to follow Airbnb and co in creating a function dedicated to the employee experience that brings together multiple functions (or silos if they are starting to hinder collective progress), which all play a major organisational role and get them all aligned and driving your business forward?
In a recent interview with Tech2, Ashutosh Sharma, VP and research director at technology and market research company Forrester, decreed that organisations “need to go beyond customer-centric to become customer-obsessed” as part of the ongoing digital transformation.
…digital transformation is the process that businesses need to go through, at the end of which they are able to exploit digital technologies to create new sources of value for customers, as well as increase operational agility in service of customers.”
but to date, Sharma argues…
…companies were able to get away with displaying limited customer empathy and customer centricity at touch points that were most visible to the customer. It was only skin-deep. A successful digital transformation requires that all the functions within the company, even behind the line of visibility, are as customer-obsessed as the rest of the organisation,”
and it has to be led from the very top…
Unlike previous transformations, this time it is not about improving the efficiencies or reducing the costs which can be effectively led by functional heads. Being a customer-obsessed enterprise takes the whole village. The CEO needs to lead from the front and formulate the vision and the strategy for the entire organisation”
Read the full interview here.