In contrast with their One World partners BA, Qantas were a model of service between London and Sydney over the weekend. Failures of the entertainment system were treated with good humour and an obvious concern to fix the problem. This morning (its early Monday in Sydney) the hotel managed to miss by wake up call resulting in my missing a flight to Canberra. Despite it being a fixed price ticket I was booked onto another flight without a fuss, and no one mentioned the cricket. All of this reminded me of one key aspect of what is sometimes called the service economy, namely your people are your brand and getting that right is a bottom up not a top down process: naturalising not idealistic to return to an earlier theme.
I used to have this argument in IBM days but without much success, due I think to a manufacturing mind set. What would happen is that meetings would take place with O&M following detailed market research into customer needs. An image would then be created using some brilliant creatives which would result in a sophisticated advertising campaign. Staff would then be informed of the new image, there might be some powerpoint briefings and a communication campaign, but it was always an after thought. I also found it interesting that very senior managers would get wrapped up in the vision of the ideal and none of their direct, or indirect reports were prepared to say that the emperor has no clothes. The more senior you get, the more you are distanced from the coal face and the more you are only presented with what you want to hear.
A naturalising alternative
Now there is a better way. It starts by understanding what brand image is present between your staff and your customers. It is fairly easy to discover this if you avoid traditional consultancy and survey techniques. Gathering stories from customer facing staff and customers can be done cheaply and effectively (we have pulled in tens of thousands for less than $50K US in direct costs) and those stories are then mined for consistent patterns of customer interaction, both good and bad. A technique such as multiple-perspective archetype extraction can also be used. Once you have this pattern then there are various things that you should and should not do which I summarise below. This list is not exhaustive by the way, it represents an hour;s free time in the Qantas Lounge at Sydney Airport.
Now you can start to think about advertising, internally and externally, to reflect the reality of where you are and the direction of your travel, not some ideal future devised in a brainstorming session with your advertising agency.
Examples of how not to do it
I had two experiences of top down thinking while in IBM which to me summarise the issue. I want to make it very clear that had I worked for any other large company I would have similar experiences. IBM is no better, and no worse than most other such entities. However it was seven years of my life, the only time I have worked in a large international bueaucracy, so it has generated a lot of my experience based stories.
Service branding needs to stop presenting an unsustainable ideal, and move to presenting an aspiration, but achievable development of where we are. Something that narrative or pre-hypothesis techniques were designed for. That requires an evolutionary safe-fail approach to brand development that gradually permeates market awareness. Staff are not a commodity in the services business, they your brand, they can evolve but they cannot be designed top down or programmed overnight to conform with an ideal.
The text which went with the advert is:
David Snowden,IBMcross-industry human behaviorist
What Bartleby the Scrivener can teach you about Bob the sales guy.
You may remember the1853 Herman Melville story about a clerk named
Bartleby. Oneday he simply refused to do what was asked of him.
“I would prefer not to,”he replied,to that request and all subsequent
ones—thereby confounding his boss and alienating his coworkers.
It’s the human factor.And it’s critical to your success.All the mission
statements and whiz-bang new processes in the world won’t fly if you don’t
get Bob the sales guy,Doris in Accounting and everyone else to buy in.
Being on demand is about empowering your people.It’s about integrating.
Rethinking.Decentralizing.Flattening your organization so the people
on the front lines can make decisions on the spot.Without doing the
corporate square dance.
Win them over. Don’t let your Bobs turn into Bartlebys.
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Call 800 IBM 7080 (askfor thinking) or visitibm.com/services/thinking
Can you see it? On demand business starts with on demand thinking.
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I should have been writing this from Zurich, but thanks to BA I delivered an ...