Do you know if you are irritating your customers? – Interview with Melvin Brand Flu of Livework


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Today’s interview is with Melvin Brand Flu, Partner and Director of Strategy and Business Design at Livework, a leading service design company. Melvin joins me today to talk about the work that Livework do and some of the research that they are doing around irritation curves.

This interview follows on from my recent interview: Customer service by email and differences across geographies – Interview with Laurence Chami of Eptica– and is number 129 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, helping businesses innovate, become more social and deliver better service.

Highlights of my interview with Melvin:

  • Livework was founded nearly 14 years ago and at the time were the first service design company in the world.
  • Recently, they have invested heavily in making service design more useful and effective in organisational settings.
  • Livework is currently doing a lot of work around ‘Irritation’ curves i.e. when do firms/industries irritate their customers along the customer lifecycle.
  • What they have found, and have been mapping, across more than 14 different sectors are all the things that irritate customers across the customer lifecycle.
  • They have also found that focusing on asking customers to articulate what irritates them is much easier and they get better and more useful responses as opposed to asking a customer how was their ‘experience’.
  • The best service is the one that is not irritating.
  • When you irritate customers, the memory that you create is very long lasting.
  • One of the primary reasons that customers leave an organisation is not that they are dissatisfied with the actual product or service but that the experience they have had with the organisation itself has not been good or has irritated them.
  • These principles are as equally applicable to a B2B market as they are to a B2C market.
  • One of the big mistakes that many firms make is only trying to pick up their relationship with a customer based around their weekly/monthly/quarterly/annual billing and/or other operational cycles. This is usually a complete misunderstanding of the relationship cycle and needs of their customers and can prove very irritating.
  • Understanding these differences can lead to improved and better timed communication, reduced irritation and reduced churn.
  • Irritations can exist across the whole customer lifecycle even if your stats are all looking good. Take the example of Ruter, the public transport body of Oslo, who’s performance metrics all looked good but Lifework helped them understand how much of their service was extremely irritating to their customers. When the CEO found out, he went public announcing the strategy of ‘we will stop irritating you’. It earned him and Ruter respect and credibility in Norway.
  • This manifested itself in actions like letting customers wait for the time when a bus is ready to leave inside the bus rather than outside in the bus shelter in the cold.
  • Apart from actually going out and talking to your customers, one of the best ways to identify the things that irritate your customers is to look at your own data or ask your own call centre people.
  • Also, firms can gain insight from other firms as the irritations can often be generic to a sector.
  • Melvin provided an example of a firm where they redesigned their old sales process so that it didn’t leave customers hanging and thus removed that irritation. The result was that between one in three/one in four customers brought in a new customer/referral because they were so pleased with the new sales process.
  • Compliance and regulation shouldn’t always imply or have to mean irritation but often they do.
  • (Unfiltered) listening and then understanding where the customer is coming from (their viewpoint) is a great place to start.
  • Here are Here are some links to relevant content and stories on the Livework website:

About Melvin (taken from his Livework bio)

Melvin Brand FluFor the last 24 years I have worked for global brands, governments, and small businesses across the continents, delivering high impact projects and programmes in various sectors. My background is a mix of strategy, business, IT, marketing, and change management.

Over the years I developed the ability to understand, imagine, and communicate across all the different objectives, structures, hierarchies and politics that make up an organisation. With my direct and inclusive style I have delivered complex projects and turned around failing programmes.

Our business and service designers understand very complex business situations and help create solutions that are elegant in their simplicity and yet deliver tremendous value to clients and their customers. Together with our teams, I ensure there is a viable strategy and approach to deliver results to the business.

The liveworkers have inspired and challenged me, to the degree that I joined the company as a partner in 2012 with the goal of creating breakthrough business innovations and results for our clients and our clients’ customers. I also like cake.

If you want more info and want to get in touch with Melvin you can email him at: [email protected], reach out to him on Twitter @MelvinBF and connect with him on LinkedIn here.

Photo Credit: Samantha T. via Compfight cc

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adrian Swinscoe
Adrian Swinscoe brings over 25 years experience to focusing on helping companies large and small develop and implement customer focused, sustainable growth strategies.


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