Best Advice: Stop Researching Your Customers — and Do Something


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In this series, professionals share the words of wisdom that made all the difference in their lives. Follow the stories here and write your own (please include the hashtag #BestAdvice in the body of your post).

What is the point of doing research is you are not going to do anything with it?

Let me give you an example. It was the first few days after I had been promoted to the SVP, Customer Experience for British Telecom a number of years ago. One of my first acts was to attend a feedback session intended to give us the results of our annual customer research project ordered by my predecessors, the third or fourth year we had commissioned it in as many years.

The truth was the agency presenter’s demeanor surprised me. Her attitude was matter-of-fact, and her body language clearly read, “I don’t want to be here.” I felt as if she were advertising the fact this session was a total waste of her time. After about halfway through the presentation, I felt compelled to stop her.

“Why are you delivering this presentation like you don’t care?” I asked her, challenging her on her bad attitude.

“Don’t care?” she said, smiling as though to say that was ironic. “I don’t care?” I could instantly see that I had hit on something, and clearly it was a raw nerve. She continued, and what she said made an impact on me:

“We have been undertaking this research for you for the last three or four years. Each year we tell you that your Customers are unhappy with the service you provide and they want you to change it. Each year people sit here and nod in agreement. And then, guess what? Nothing happens! Therefore, the following year we do the same research, which tells you the same thing; the only change is it’s just got worse. Again, people nod, and nothing happens!

“So with respect, it is not that I don’t care, it is that you don’t care. You don’t care that Customer service is getting worse. What I really don’t understand is why you waste your money in doing this research if you are only going to ignore it!”

I was taken aback by her outburst, but could understand her frustration and her passion. More importantly, she was right. We didn’t care. We just did the research, because we were a big company and that’s what big companies do. It was another box ticked. It just shows the lack of Customer Centricity of the organization.

I thought about that conversation many times over the next couple of years. I used it as motivation to change this behavior for my company. My new role was to take action, not just read reports and listen to presentations about what we should do.

Taking action in a large company, however, isn’t a simple task. The internal challenges we all face can be daunting and could be very demotivating for my team. As with many companies, despite having an internal company value that said, “We put Customers first,” that was not the case. The reality was that senior executives were more concerned about keeping expenses low and cutting costs than improving the Customer Experience. Even though they said all the right things when push came to shove, it was always cost cutting that took priority over improving the Customer Experience.

However, here is the insight: It is about how you position things. Like the old saying goes, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” I quickly learned trying to make a case for change based on improving the Customers’ Experience wasn’t going to work, especially if it cost money. I had to change the way I thought and positioned things.

After failing more than once in my efforts to persuade them to invest in the Experience, I finally realized that presenting my Customer Experience changes under the cost-savings banner was the way to win over my senior executive team. How could we save costs AND improve the Customer Experience? The trick was to consider all the costs that the company incurred through this poor service, including management’s time in dealing with complaints etc.

My team and I quickly discovered that poor service costs money. We discovered huge savings could be made by eliminating poor service. Every case we presented lead with the information on how we could save costs and, “Oh, by the way, improve the Customer Experience as well.”

Eureka! It worked. I am proud to say that once we took action we had some great results. The truth was the market was crying out for the types of changes the research was telling us we needed, and the results we achieved by making these changes were worth the effort.

Research is excellent, important, and critical to making a strong plan. But understanding the situation is only half the battle. The other half of the battle, the most important one, in fact, is to get people to take action on the research. In other words, to stop analyzing and start acting.

So the question I have for you is: Is it time for you to stop analyzing and start acting?

Unlocking the Hidden Customer Experience: Short Stories of Remarkable Practices that Ensure Success” is designed to help organizations take their Customer Experience to the next level. This book focuses on what it takes to evoke the best emotions from your Customer Experience and the vital role of the conscious and subconscious experience with real-world examples. It became available today, for only $9.99! Read more here.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Colin Shaw
Colin is an original pioneer of Customer Experience. LinkedIn has recognized Colin as one of the ‘World's Top 150 Business Influencers’ Colin is an official LinkedIn "Top Voice", with over 280,000 followers & 80,000 subscribed to his newsletter 'Why Customers Buy'. Colin's consulting company Beyond Philosophy, was recognized by the Financial Times as ‘one of the leading consultancies’. Colin is the co-host of the highly successful Intuitive Customer podcast, which is rated in the top 2% of podcasts.


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