Customers + Employees = People. People = Business. Why Business is all about People

customers + employees = people

If you have ever heard me speak in public, it is very likely you will have endured hearing me recount my favourite quote of all time. I know that ‘quotes of the day’ are not everyone’s bag, but sometimes you hear someone say something or are referred to something someone in authority has said and their words touch you. A while ago, I had the pleasure of coming across these wonderful few words uttered by inspirational business author, Simon Sinek:

100% of customers are people. 100% of employees are people. If you don’t understand people, you don’t understand business

This quote is the inspiration behind the image at the head of this post and epitomises the essence of what you are about to read. As I continue my personal journey of learning as a Customer Experience Professional, I am ever increasingly satisfied to discover that the thing that makes businesses successful; the thing that business is all about; is that thing we call PEOPLE.

Sounds obvious right? Maybe…. but ask yourself this. How many PEOPLE do you know work in an organisation that does not feel as though it is all about people? How many work in businesses that feel as though they are more about spreadsheets, or numbers, or tasks, or processes? In a world where there seem to be as many ‘shareholder centric’ organisations as there are ‘customer centric’, it is refreshing to come across businesses who genuinely do put PEOPLE at the very heart of everything they do.

Last week I found myself being fortunate (as I often am) to act as a judge at the first UK Employee Experience Awards.  The awards recognise and celebrate best practice in the delivery and improvement of outstanding employee experience – it is no coincidence that the awards have been created by the excellent Awards International who are also behind the UK Customer Experience Awards.  To deliver consistently good and great Customer Experiences, it is essential to also deliver as good and great employee experiences. To be a brilliant business, you must nurture and cherish all the PEOPLE who interact with you – that means customers and employees.

In London last week, I witnessed shining examples of role models – role models of leaders who were teaching, caring for, guiding, coaching, mentoring, empowering and generally inspiring the people they work with to do the very best for their customers, themselves and their business.  The people I saw were of all shapes and sizes – metaphorically speaking! From front line staff to team managers to CEOs – from financial services to utilities to retail. The thing these PEOPLE all had in common was remarkably easy for me to fathom – they all understand the importance of PEOPLE.

It was when one of the finalists said that his most important business principle was ‘adult to adult communication’ that I realised why the recognition that these awards purvey is so very important. Treating PEOPLE like adults in business sounds so startlingly simple, yet in my experience it is so utterly rare. Remember that I am talking about both customers and employees here. So often businesses talk to their customers as though they are still at school – the parent child relationship is  even more common for the poor employee.

The finalist who talked about ‘adult to adult communication’ was one of the very few CEOs present at the awards ceremony. As far as I am aware, he may have been the only CEO at the ceremony! Is it any surprise that he is the CEO of the company who only last year won an amazing 6 (six) UK Customer Experience Awards! Mark Horsley is the CEO of Northern Gas Networks – a business that the consumer on the street knows very little about, but a business that as a result of Mark’s humbling approach to empowering people is resulting in them becoming one of the most significant role models for any business in the world.

Mark and his people do not sell cutting edge, fashionable technology. Mark and his people do not have a compelling and seamless omni channel offering.  Mark and his people do not spend millions on adverting and big data. Mark and his people are responsible for putting pipes in the ground – pipes that enable energy suppliers to put gas into houses, offices and factories. They do it by a relentless focus on doing what is right for PEOPLE – customers and employees. The results speak for themselves – commercially and through the ever improving perception of customers and employees – PEOPLE!

Mark Horsley, CEO, Northern Gas Networks
Mark Horsley, CEO, Northern Gas Networks

Mark was as deserving a recipient of the award as any I have ever judged. Mark is a role model to anyone who ever aspires to lead a business. Mark accepted the award on behalf of his people (customers and employees) – I would have expected nothing less. This is not the first time I have written about Northern Gas Networks – it is unlikely to be the last. Who would have thought a company that puts pipes in the ground would have been a text book example to others as to how to deliver world class customer and employee experiences? The reality is that I am now teaching Customer Experience Professionals all over the world about this company – the company that as much as any I have ever seen bring Simon Sinek’s inspirational quote to life.

Northern Gas Networks understand that business is all about PEOPLE. The vast majority of PEOPLE present at the awards last week do too. This can only be an encouraging sign as the Customer Experience continues to work its way ever more into the business dictionary. We will never do away with spreadsheets and numbers and tasks and processes completely – nor can we – yet the shift towards a ‘PEOPLE FIRST’ culture in business does seem to be closer to reality than it ever has been.

Money Makes the World Go Around…No It Doesn’t – People Do!

0 people make the world go round

A few months ago I saw something on LinkedIn that disturbed me. The advertisement had been created by the internal recruiting team for a huge multinational manufacturing company and stated the following:

“Never show off hobbies or oddities on a resume. Employers do not need or want to know what you do with your spare time.”

As soon as I saw it my heart started to beat a little faster. I did not even realize it, but my hands had formed into fists. I was genuinely incensed by a few simple words in an ad shared on a social media platform. If you are not sure why I became so angry, you have the potential to be taken off my Christmas card list! You also need to keep reading to understand why!

As someone who spends a lot of time helping organizations across a wide range of industries become more customer centric, I see a lot of different attitudes towards people. There is no doubt that “people” rarely come at the top of the list of priorities for organizations and that is true all around the world. Despite the fact that no organization anywhere on earth can deliver their customer experiences without them, it is very uncommon to find even a reference to “people” in a business strategy.

I am always reminded of a brilliant quote from Simon Sinek – a quote that brings to life brilliantly the point that I am making in this post:

“100% of customers are people. 100% of employees are people. If you do not understand people, you do not understand business.”

If you have not heard this quote before, take a second to read it again; it is so very true. While boards of directors are conjuring up plans to increase revenue or maximize profits while appeasing shareholders, they have forgotten that it is not money that makes the world go ‘round. The best way to give everyone the things they want is to put people at the center of everything you do – and by people I mean customers and colleagues.

The most successful organizations in the world are ones where people quite literally make their organizations dance and sing. From Zappos to John Lewis to Ritz Carlton to Disney, organizations that care about their people deliver experiences that customers perceive to be that much better.

I have visited companies whose people have never seen a director before. Their people are like battery hens in cages – fulfilling tasks, but almost without the lights on. It is no surprise that customer perception of the experience these people deliver has been poor.

Have you ever tried rolling out your customer feedback survey with your own people? For example, have you asked your own people if they would recommend your business to others? If not, you should consider doing so…you might be surprised by the responses.

I recently did this with a large SME business in the UK. The business had a negative Net Promoter Score. When we ran the survey with their employees, the score was significantly worse than it had been with their customers. In other words, their own employees were even less inclined to recommend the business than their customers. These same employees were talking to customers every day – many of them in a sales capacity. If your own people do not like you, why should your customers?

I hope the company who ran the ad on LinkedIn reads this post. I hope they take heed of the message within it. People are the greatest resource any organization can have – above and beyond any system or product. Without people, you do not have a customer experience. People are not machines. They are valuable deliverers of your customer experience. They are passionate colleagues who need to be engaged in what you do and why you do it to the point where they are your greatest advocates. Understanding what makes them tick will make it easier for you to design and deliver an employee experience that makes their advocacy a reality.

That is why I got so angry when I first read the ad. People are rather important in the world of customer experience. It is people who make the world go around…and I will do whatever it takes to help organizations understand that fact!

I originally wrote this post for InsideCXM – InsideCXM is focused on bringing you the latest insights from the field of customer experience management (CXM). CXM is about using customer insights to create meaningful experiences — regardless of how or where customers engage with your brand, online or off — which help create satisfied, loyal brand advocates and ambassadors. You can read more fantastic articles from other CX experts here. I will be writing another exclusive article for InsideCXM very soon.