Let your people be the humans they’ve spent all their life training to be – Interview with John Sills of The Foundation


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Today’s interview is with John Sills, Managing Partner at the customer-led growth company, The Foundation. John joins me today to talk about his new book (The Human Experience: How to make life better for your customers and create a more successful organization), three myths that get in the way of injecting more humanity into experience and seven behaviours and five enablers that help companies and brands deliver a more human experience amongst some other things.

This interview follows on from my recent interview – We need to move leadership from the job of one to the job of the many – Interview with Julia Fabris McBride of the Kansas Leadership Center – and is number 457 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, providing valuable insights, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to both their customers and their employees.

Here are the highlights of my chat with John:

  • The new book is called The Human Experience because we’re all humans in the end, and it encompasses both customers and employees and stakeholders.
  • Organisations that have been perfecting the functional experience have forgotten the emotional human experience in their rush to cut costs and make things more efficient.
  • Organisations should be there to make life better for people.
  • If you’re making people stay on the phone for 13 minutes on hold, that’s just making people’s lives a little bit worse.
  • The myth of customer loyalty – people are loyal to very few things in their life. They are loyal to friends and family and maybe football teams but are not really loyal to organisation.
  • The myth of customer feedback – all surveys are really asking for is a customers opinion on your service. They don’t tell you what really matters to them in their life. This is dangerous because it convinces senior leaders that they are close to what matters to their customers because they’ve got this data.
  • Chiltern Railways make sure their senior managers live on the train line somewhere so they have to get their own train every morning and they have to wear their name badge on the train.
  • John Roberts at AO.com swears by management by walking about and the importance of spending time with the team with the delivery drivers. Through that he came up with this really simple idea that every morning they put a bottle of water in the vans for the drivers so when drivers turned up to work, the van is already for them to go and have a good day.
  • Check out John’s story about buying a chair from Next and how rules and process got in the way of having a good experience.
  • Sometimes people might think they are a human company. They think they’re flexible and they think they empower people. But sometimes they don’t. They don’t stress test their experience across different scenarios.
  • I’m less interested in the average waiting time. I’m more interested in celebrating the 20% of people that got through straight away.
  • I’m also interested in the 10% of people that have to wait more than 20 minutes.
  • Watch out for the tyranny of averages.
  • Every company I spoke to that gives a great experience, have really empowered colleagues, have colleagues that are able to make decisions to do the right things for customers and know that they will be supported in doing that.
  • AO.com tell a great story of how their customer experience strategy is all about Mums and Grans: Treat people the way you want people to treat your Gran and make decisions that you’d be proud to tell your Mum about.
  • Whenever City Mapper move to a new city they have a thing called the travelling circus, and they get a group of people from across different departments in City Mapper, and they go and live in that city for a month, and every two days they move Airbnb. And so they get to experience what all of the transport system is like. In that month, they get to know the little foibles, the things you need to understand, the things that look good on a map.
  • You have to listen to to the podcast (or get the book) to hear the great story about Henry, the vacuum cleaner.
  • Try and humanise things. It connects to people.
  • Presume that something will go wrong and then you can prepare for that.
  • Let your people be the humans they’ve spent all their life training to be.
  • John’s Punk CX word(s): Keep making noise.
  • John’s Punk XL brand: Spotify

About John

John SillsJohn Sills is Managing Partner at the customer-led growth company, The Foundation.

25 years ago, he started his career on a market stall in Essex, and since then has worked in and with companies around the world to make things better for customers.

He’s been in front-line teams delivering the experience, innovation teams designing the propositions, and global HQ teams creating the strategy. He’s been a bank manager during the financial crisis (not fun), launched a mobile app to millions of people (very fun), and regularly visits strangers’ houses to ask very personal questions (incredible fun).

He now works with companies across industries and around the world, and before joining The Foundation spent twelve years at HSBC, latterly as Head of Customer Innovation.

His first book on the topic – The Human Experience – was published by Bloomsbury in February 2023, and he’s pretty much everywhere you look online:

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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