The customer challenge every business must now address
A business’s angry customers have historically been an irritant, a pest to be swatted, denied, threatened and suppressed when their complaints don’t accord with the policies or processes for which that organisation’s processes have been designed.
Yet, the world, from everyone’s perspective is now better connected, which makes it easier for customers to make their displeasure known.
This, of course, gives new power to customers, as they can share online what they know about those businesses if they if they believe they have let them down, don’t like what their suppliers are doing, or think their products are flawed.
Every business’s future sales and reputation are now in potential jeopardy from the negative opinion of a single dissatisfied customer shared online.
To offset this growing and omnipresent risk, every company must now put its customer at the absolute centre of its world, designing its entire intelligence around ensuring those who keep it in business are happy.
Yet, few companies can shape their maximum intelligence to make creating a superior customer experience central to their business model if they don’t understand sufficiently where that intelligence lies, or of the contours of the resource they have available to work with.
We address this with the simple CX reporting formula we describe beneath, which grows CX capability by focusing on the growth of a business’s collective intelligence (CI).
So, what is collective intelligence?
Within almost any business, there is more intelligence, ideas and insight than ever gets put to use.
But collective intelligence itself is created when a group of diverse people works purposefully together, often with the help of technology, to mobilise a wider range of information, ideas and insights in order to solve a problem.
It presents a combination of machine intelligence – AI, data, and so on – with human sensitivities of imagination, instinct, emotion, judgement, reasoning, knowledge, experience and learning.
It’s based on the premise that intelligence is distributed, and that when people work together on a problem they can become more than the sum of their parts.
Different people each hold different pieces of information and contribute different skills to create a more complete picture of a problem and how to solve it.
But this is only usable when its content is articulated and reported back to decision makers. Unless captured and shared with deliberate purpose, many insights may be instantly perishable.
(We have gathered some supporting international thinking addressing the subject of collective intelligence on YouTube, here.)
What CX reporting does
The need for CX reporting is never static, or set and forget, as it consistently refreshes the organisational state on which it is reporting.
As a rapid feedback loop, it must reliably answer for leaders the question of just how competitively fit for purpose a company is in its ability to attract and retain new customers.
Internally, it allows the managers of that business to read and examine where its strengths, weakness and vulnerabilities lie in exactly that pursuit, to adapt their business models and processes to the capture of competitive advantage.
Its goal is to provide the means to design an organisation’s core collective intelligence by bringing its diverse minds, and what they know, together with machine intelligence.
It is a must-execute competitive pursuit because the data it generates encourages more agile, responsive and better customer-focused management practices.
As such, unless managers are sufficiently curious and hungry for organisational improvement and have a method for capturing and testing in their business the most competitively disruptive ideas, from wherever they come, the best may never find their way into action.
In many businesses, if written down at all, such material may also be neither organised enough to expose its worth, clear enough for other humans to be able to build on or learn from it, nor sufficiently encoded to enable their tools to interpret and build new machine-learning value from its data.
This, of course, makes it all the more short-lived.
And in many organisations, unless those holding those insights are also extrovert and sufficiently pushy in support of what they know and believe, what may be best for the business may simply never see daylight.
Accelerate your innovation by making sense
Any organisation trying to create a culture of innovation needs both people who will generate new ideas and new inventions, and at least one on its team able to make those ideas and inventions intelligible to other people, particularly when they’re in an early, unformed state.
So, what follows here is an outline, following the simplest principles of research and journalism – the refinement and communication of new ideas – to expose those insights containing the greatest value in your business, proven over centuries of professional publishing.
And, using the commonplace modern collaborative tools of the internet, I describe here what must happen to bring this unique body of knowledge into its most reliable and usable form, and how this can be achieved in almost every organisation.
Good decisions start with the right questions
When you ask new questions, you can invoke knowledge that is out of present awareness, and teams and their members learn fastest when the curiosity of each is engaged in setting the agenda for what they learn next.
When questions seem to come out of nowhere – but are really born of others’ experience – they can shake people out of the fog of their status quo and open their eyes to new thoughts.
And this, using the collective thinking model beneath, is how to expose and interrogate the data that is, if used sensibly, guaranteed to make your business smarter and more prosperous.
These three principles can help you manage risk better to design a superior customer experience CX.
First, while you can assume your experience allows you to know many things about both your business and its customers, you can’t ever know what others know, want and expect with certainty until you ask them.
Second, you can’t be sure you understand what they tell you until you document it and check that what you recorded and interpreted was what they meant.
Last, until what you have captured is simplified, summarised and issued in words that you have tested for possible improvements, and that everyone understands, it may be premature to instruct your team on what its CX strategy should be based.
These three principles can be used to ensure that any product, service or experience will fit the needs of its users as best possible, whatever its purpose.
So, here, as depicted in this diagram, is the reporting process to bring the three principles together.
Illustration: The Cloud Citizen investigative CX capability development reporting process
Depending on the question put to it, the first loop’s aim in this undertaking is to fish for possibilities, ideas and insights, based on what is believed, known and experienced by the exercise’s target group.
From what members submit, at the end of this loop, a broad, outline report of what they told you is generated. This begins the checking mechanism outlined in the principle described above.
In the second loop, this report is held up for scrutiny and questions are asked to verify meaning and intention, in order to guide what can be learnt next.
Once revealed to a group whose prior perspectives – and possibly, even its members – were previously unknown to each other, its aim is to elicit comment by sparking new and unexpected insights to advance and build upon what is known collectively by its participants.
It is to summarise, and, through reiteration and clarification, to create a platform for subsequent investigation and learning, in plain English.
These two steps are proven by their daily application in professional media production worldwide.
In their application, rule number one is that every writer needs a second reader to check facts and to ensure what is written can be understood.
Unchecked, imprecisely written material, possibly in great volume, is of no help to anyone.
Second, the replies you receive must be read, checked, edited and summarised to ensure what you get back is both what you wanted and what the writer(s) intended to say. This is a critical sense-making step.
But it is when the summary of replies is reported back to those who submitted them that the magic begins to happen, as it is only then that people begin to see what goes on, unknown and unexperienced – on which they may also build and invent – in the minds of others who they themselves may otherwise not know.
The learning process this drives is exactly that which we experience when we first read news we would not otherwise be able to obtain for ourselves. And if we are interested and curious, this then frames our pursuit of further, related knowledge.
But within an organisation, because it enables managers to drill down on what matters most – knowing how what is known by others and how it can be captured and transformed into sense, however it is to be applied – provides both a platform for learning to improve the customer experience, and to design the intelligence that can repeatedly accelerate this process.
Learn to think at a new scale
Summarising for complete, concise sense is critical if learning is to be focused, multi-party thought is to be scaled appropriately to meet the critical tasks at hand, and important investment decisions are to be made.
Of greater long-term consequence than its immediate revenue-generating outputs – and something over which any organisation also has complete control – is the way intelligence is designed and applied to reducing risk in its business.
And Cloud Citizen aims to focus this resource in its work with clients to accelerate the growth of their disruptive competitive CX capabilities to challenge their opponents.
The design and cultivation of any business’s intelligence is now as important as that of any product, service or experience
Of greater long-term consequence than its revenue-generating outputs, any organisation can now take control over the way its intelligence is designed and applied to winning new customers and reducing risk in its business.
Thus, the degree of precision with which the directed, connected, collective mind can drill down to discover and articulate any company’s challenges and emerging opportunities makes it only a matter of time before someone applies it to the ends of winning new customers.
Now is the time to solve deeper problems by designing a business shaped by revealing and what is known by others.
In failing businesses, the greatest existential threat may lie in much of the most valuable information about their companies still lying in their people’s and customers’ heads, unexplored.
So, when you can sharpen the intelligence of your own organisation around its customer focus and fully aligned in pursuit of their satisfaction, your business can become their most unwelcome of competitors.
Just don’t let them get there before you.
As a former sub-editor – a key fact-checking, sense-making and quality control editorial role in all professional media – on the Australian Financial Review newspaper group in Sydney, the simple fact-checking process the media uses each day to ensure a story it wishes to tell is as accurate as it can be at the time of publication, such reporting is a skill native to our business.
Contact me, Graham Lauren, for more, on 0416 171724, or via firstname.lastname@example.org.