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The thoughts of Colin Shaw

Colin Shaw started life in the corporate world with Mars and BT. He is a prolific author on the subject of customer experience. Amazon offers at least half a dozen of his books. 2002 was a big year for Colin Shaw when it saw the publication of his seminal book “Building Great Customer Experiences” and setting up his consultancy company ‘Beyond Philosophy’.

After a period in corporate sales, Colin moved into training, from there into marketing and finally into customer experience. This background provided insights into customers because, depending where you are in a business, you have to deal with them in different ways. When he was at BT Colin recalls a customer complaining he had 27 people visiting at one time or another, each saying "I'm from British Telecom". These people represented different product lines and in a sense were competing for the customer’s goodwill. But it did not make for good customer experience.

When Colin became a consultant on customer experience he realised that clients he was advising wanted a silver bullet. They were looking for a single thing that would improve their customer experience. They wanted the Holy Grail and it can seldom be achieved.

The software companies do not help. They promote their software as the single solution to everyone's problems. If such an investment is made it won’t be long before the CEO turns around and wants to know “where is the return on the investment?”.

Colin makes the obvious point that most companies want to delight their customers. Of course, if this was possible, it would be wonderful. However, let's assume that you can delight a customer once or even twice; after you've delighted them three or four times you're not delighting them any more. Your offer has become an expectation.

In the B2B world a lot of customer experience is based on relationships and relationships are founded on emotions. Customer experience is all about the mindset and most B2B organisations are not as focused on the customer mindset as B2C organisations. There is even a denial in B2B companies that emotions play an important part. Surely B2B buyers are rational and make their decisions on facts and logic.

The important thing is to determine from the outset what drives value for the customer. If you don't do this, you will enter the customer experience world believing that some simple things such as introducing new software will solve the problem and that just doesn't work.

Customer experience is about rational, emotional and psychological perspectives. Colin demonstrates this with a great example. If you go into a bank they may provide pens that are fastened on chains. What does this tell you? It tells your subconscious that they don't trust you. We are now moving into the core of Colin Shaw’s beliefs and that is that we must look at customer experience through the lens of behavioural science.

Nearly all companies want to constantly improve their customer experience. This begs the question what to measure in order to determine whether an improvement has been achieved. It means that we have to first think about what drives value – what is that people are looking for from the customer experience? This leads to the emotional DNA. There may be 20 different emotions making up the DNA and each of these can be measured. The measurements are unique to a company because the experience delivered by one company is always different, if only to a small degree.

What is important is memory. Our memories remind us about experiences that were good and we would like repeating. And, of course, memory is also seared with any bad experiences. This means that we have to make sure that we plant something good in the customer experience that jogs the memory – obviously in a beneficial way. There are likely to be a bunch of emotions that affect people during the customer experience and we need to find the emotion that is remembered at the end of the experience. A good meal can be ruined by an awful cup of coffee.

The key therefore is to build up a memory map of people's experiences as a customer. This may be possible if we can achieve a fusion between artificial intelligence and behavioural science. People may forget what you do and forget what you say, but they won't forget how they feel.

Nick Hague talked to Colin Shaw as part of B2B International's B2B CX Masters Podcast Series:


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