Employee Led Transformation with Lior Arussy and Ricardo Saltz Gulko on CX Human Lab
Lior: The journey of transformation requires multi-disciplines to get there.
Ricardo: How companies that already hired many people and they are delivering services and experiences with this kind of people that are not the most empathetic people, can change these kind of problems that many companies here in Europe have today, which is, in my terrible definition, is lack of empathy to deal with customers. I don’t understand how they hire these kind of people to interact with people, but happens very often here. And I see that repeating itself all the time. I know that you’re not Harry Potter, you cannot solve by magic anything, but maybe you have some idea that can help people.
Lior: Yeah. So, I’ll tell you a funny story.
Ricardo: That’s about Strativity work all the years.
Lior: That’s exactly what we do. And don’t forget, we do do business with German companies as well. Mercedes-Benz was a big client of ours. BMW is now a big client of ours. We do work and understand the mentality of [inaudible 00:01:25].
I’ll share with you first a funny story. So, I was speaking in Sweden for a major bank and the chairman came to me at the end of the presentation and he said, “This was an okay presentation.” So, I guess my facial expression, I couldn’t control it and he could see that I was, kind of, like, disappointed when he said it was an okay presentation. And he quickly captured that and he said, “Oh, oh, I guess, you know, in America, you use words like awesome, but we don’t say that. So okay in Sweden is, like, awesome in America.” So, that was my little cultural education, that there are differences in the shades of awesomeness.
But I’m not ready to declare that the majority of people are not empathetic. My experience is that majority of people were not given the opportunity to be empathetic, were not allowed to be empathetic and often created mechanisms to protect themselves because empathy hurt them. I’ll give you a very interesting case. We worked with nurses when we designed a cancer treatment center and the nurses said to us, “I am not going to be empathetic to the customers because if I build a personal connection, I will have to go to their funeral and I do not wanna do that.” So, I would say, there is a portion of employees that naturally are not empathetic, but the majority were simply not being allowed to be empathetic.
Ricardo: They’re not empowered to be theirselves in terms of…?
Lior: No, it’s not about empowerment. They were not even allowed to show their emotions. They were told that this is business. It’s not personal. They were told a whole bunch of business clichés that are ultimately locking them not to demonstrate it. So, that’s the first thing.
Second, in utilizing technology, we have a great opportunity to match styles. You know, when you’ll get to know your customers, you also have customers who don’t need a lot of empathy. Match them with the people who cannot demonstrate… But before you do that, let’s make sure that you have not locked people’s empathy and told them to keep it outside of the building because this is a business. My experience is that when we do our training, when we do our cultural redesign, we’re finding a great deal of empathy that it’s being locked, that it’s being crushed, that it’s being not allowed to be introduced into the business.
Oftentimes, passion has been looked down at as a person that’s unpredictable. They’re too emotional. They’re not rational. And these are the kind of cues that will get them to crush that. So, my experience is the vast majority, with the right ecosystem, with the right training, with the right permission, will demonstrate empathy. And those who are struggling can be potentially routed to customers who also don’t look for too much of it. Because customers don’t come in one-size-fits-all. There are certain interactions that I just need an answer here and there quickly and I don’t need to have a whole empathetic discussion, and there are those who specialize more in that. That’s about routing correctly.
Ricardo: The kind of empathy that I’m meaning is to be helpful for others. When you are dealing with customers, you have to be helpful. That would be maybe a better definition of what I said, empathy, and that’s not always happening in terms of…
Lior: So, Ricardo, I just gave you the example of United here in the U.S. You could call Uber. It will cost her less to drive him with Uber and he’ll be home. He doesn’t even need to get to the airport. He doesn’t need to pick up his luggage from the carousel. He can go straight and it didn’t happen. This is more about, how did you lock in the willingness to go above and beyond?
You know, in the book, I talk about the fact that when there is a disaster, everybody loves to donate and to volunteer and everything else. Everyone goes to Haiti, and will go to storms and tsunamis, and we’re gonna save people, and everybody likes to help when there is a… So, the natural human inclination to help, the generosity factor is there, but we’re not applying it in our workplace. We’re not thinking about our customers, who are paying our bills, as the people that deserve our generosity. And that’s an interesting question to think about. Why is it that strangers that we’ve never seen, who’ve never helped us, we feel so generous towards because of their tragedy and we can look at their situation and human condition and feel empathy and willingness to help and volunteer and yet our own customers, in a moment of truth, when they need us…
Ricardo: That’s amazing. That’s good.
Lior: …and we can’t show them that generosity. So, I’m calling for…it’s time to start volunteering in the workplace. It’s time to start volunteering with your customers.
Ricardo: Also, companies are doing that for PR in many cases and people too.
Lior: But people will volunteer even without the companies. People are volunteering when there is a tragedy or a disaster or something. Our customers have those disasters on a smaller scale every day.
Ricardo: That’s true. That’s a great analogy of the situation. Medtronic just did amazing things for their own employees in Puerto Rico when the factories was destroyed. Lior, how do you see Europe evolving customer experience and employee experience, especially now that you mention Mercedes, that they have one of the best employee experiences in Europe, what do you feel, based in your global experience, that is still missing here? For example, Allianz is focusing customer experience in a very different way. Mercedes, that is the biggest leading company in terms of customer experience here in DACH, they’re very focused in the employee experience first. For sure, they give great experience because it’s Mercedes now, i’s not [inaudible 00:07:40]. It’s not Volkswagen that we all are frustrated of them. So, what is your take? What you could advice in terms of…how do you see the situation here today when you look from U.S. toward your experience here in DACH in general?
Lior: I think that what we see in DACH is usually a further concentration still around products and processes. It’s their core. It’s their confidence point. Dealing with diversity of customers, dealing with the fact that one customer at a time is still a very difficult concept for them to accept and understand. So, that is an area that, from a mindset standpoint, they’ll have to really deal with what I call the flexibility factor or the diversity factor. It’s easier for them to put things in buckets. It’s just the way they think. So, it’s easier to put you in this bucket, and if you have slightly different need, that messes up the process, it’s gonna be a more difficult thing for them to handle.
The other thing that I think they’re struggling with is recognizing the importance of humanity. Again, it doesn’t fit in a process. You know, if you think about Six Sigma. You know, Six Sigma is very DACH kind of a thing to do, but Six Sigma can go so far and Six Sigma assumes one size fits all. Six Sigma works in many factories when you have a high predictability of input and high predictability of output. You don’t have that in human interactions where every customer is different. So, I think those are some of the areas that, from a cultural and operational standpoint, that will be a challenge for them to start embracing and find a way to embrace that type of thing.
The last thing that I would say is, culturally, the culture of employee compliance and employee adherence, if you can trust it with Israel, for example, where there’s no process almost and no adherence almost…
Ricardo: But they get things done.
Lior: Yeah. Italy, Spain says very similar thing, they’re having emotional difficulties to follow a process because everybody’s improvising. I think that DACH is gonna have to find the happy medium. Right now with helping DACH is that their customers are probably complying also and accepting things also, but that’s not gonna be for too long.
Ricardo: Many customers and leaders today are somehow assuming that quality and simplification will be there anyway. We are not focusing on that unless something goes wrong and that’s…you have many cases today because quality is not as used to be as in the beginning of the last century, and then becomes the global standards and then you have something that I told you that I base it in our book, the title, which is something that is happening now, this evolving of the times or perception of quality, and being impacted by many different factors. What is your take in terms of…how do you see that going in terms of quality? Because many companies focus in quality like Samsung did, and I [inaudible 00:11:09] them in terms of later on. And you need to prevent to not lost $10 billion, for example, as happened to Samsung. What do you see on connecting that with customer experience, which is totally…in my opinion at least, it’s totally connected? If you simplify, you can deliver also a simple experience and it’ll be more attractive for customers, and quality must be there as a pillar of the entire customer experience, otherwise, your costs going through the roof.
Lior: Ricardo, where do you live? Where do you live?
Ricardo: Munich, Germany.
Lior: Munich, great. So, imagine that you travel to get to Getz [SP], Austria, okay, and you wake up in the morning and you look at your O2 phone and it shows four bars, okay? What is the likelihood that at that point you’ll burst out of joy and you call O2 call center and say, “Thank you so much. I got four bars in Getz. You know, in Munich, I understand, I get four bars. That’s normal. But in Getz, Austria, how did you do that?” Or, “I traveled to Esslingen, Germany and in Esslingen you delivered four bars. You are amazing. I thank you so much for the great, great quality that you deliver to me.” I guarantee you that nobody does it because you take the four bars for granted, because the four bars is not a big story, okay?
And I think that companies, I’m sorry to say that, quality is nonnegotiable, quality is not a differentiator anymore. It used to be. We used to be in a world of ISO 9000 and all that. It’s not going to be enough. It’s table stakes. It’s the basics. People expect it. You will be binged for not having it, but you’re not gonna earn too many loyalty points for moving it up. You need to recognize, there are loyalty eroders and loyalty builders. This is not a loyalty builder, it’s a loyalty eroder. Know your hygiene factors.
Ricardo: Interesting point of view. I like that. It’s different than mine, but it’s interesting to listen from you. Very interesting.
Lior: I think the definition of quality can no longer be reliability and consistency.
Ricardo: Definitely not.
Lior: That’s taken for granted. That is taken for granted. Quality now will be applied to the ability to customize, personalize, and make it unique to every person. Now, it’s gonna drive them crazy because they’re not used to it, but that’s where the world is.
Ricardo: You make my day because that’s exactly what I wrote in the book. It was bit about work of Strativity, what they’re doing and what you are doing, if you were going to still [inaudible 00:14:01] for long the CEO. I’m curious about that, and also, the way that Strativity is going to advance and progress.
Lior: Strativity, I’m staying as a CEO. I said to everybody, “I didn’t sell it because I wanted to give it away. I sold it because it’s a platform for us to grow both from capability standpoint.” The new acquiring company has great capabilities in social media listening, in additional advanced research segmentations, communities. It gives us a new platform from that perspective. They also have more footprint out there that can potentially bring us some clients. Strativity today is not a small company anymore.
Ricardo: No, no.
Lior: You need to remember that as well. With the, you know, full-time people and the others, we have over 100 people. I believe that we are the largest dedicated customer experience firm in the world. Based on what we know, nobody’s in our size.
Ricardo: The size is not important, the quality is important…
Lior: Of course.
Ricardo: …and Strativity have
Lior: Of course, but I tell you one important thing. I was always by that, and I have to tell you, every year, I start with my employees, I don’t wanna be the biggest, I just wanna be the best. Let’s be very careful about which clients we are selecting. Let’s make sure that they’re serious about change and we’ll work with them, because if they wanna do that, we’ll do that.
But I’ll tell you where size is very important, because when a company like Mercedes-Benz come to us and they say, “I got 25,000 employees who are working in 360 dealerships in the whole U.S. and we need to start make this change and I don’t have five years. I have five months,” okay? This is where Strativity developed a special capability in what we call the last mile of the strategy. Taking the strategy, and within three months, getting 300 customized, localized, action plans that roll back to the strategy, and you start seeing execution. So, that is a unique capability that we developed.
What do we do? We are playing in couple of areas. First is the classical customer experience strategy, analysis, and building the strategy. Because we are multidisciplinary, because we have both consulting capabilities, research capabilities, branding capabilities, technology, we touch one dashboard, and training, we’re able to actually accelerate the transformation.
We’re also in the strategy execution business. Sometimes, you know, they’re introducing digital, but then it threatens the human, so we have a new practice around the fusion of digital and human and how do you bring it together to the organization.
The up and coming area is in culture design. So, we, from day one, from the day the company was invented, we were focusing both on the employee experience and the customer experience together. This became later on accepted by the industry, but we’ve been doing that for many, many years. So, culture design is another area where you start understanding the mindset and the behaviors of the people and the cultural context. We call it the cynical…listening to the cynical voices and building it based on that.
So, these are, kind of, the core areas. Within that, we have call center optimization capabilities. We have done digital transformation activities. So, we’ve been in wide variety of areas. And where we see the growth is obviously in understanding how change can be instilled in an organization in a much faster way, and helping CEOs accelerate the execution of their strategies. So, I think we are growing from a core of CX and into the bigger context of companies that are going through transformations. We’ve been with companies who’ve gone through mergers and acquisitions. We’ve been through regulatory investigations. We’ve been through new segmentation, market penetration. So, we’ve done work across variety of areas. At the end of it, it sums up in two words, passionate and profitable. You need to unlock the passion and you need to make it profitable. If you have one without the other, you’re losing money.
Ricardo: Yeah, we all know that Strativity is leading all the times. For many years, since I read your books, I always look at you. One last question, what do you wanna leave the people with, your message regarding next thing is now?
Lior: So, I would leave three core messages. And the book, as you saw, it’s talking to the employees. It’s not talking to the CEOs. The chapter about the CEOs is all the way in the back. The message number one is face the fact that you are responsible for your career, you’re responsible for your relevance, you’re responsible to adapt to the next. Don’t wait for the CEO. Don’t wait for the company and stop playing victim. You’re in charge. It’s your relevance in the marketplace.
Second, find your core cause. Do it from the heart, not just from the job. Every day, customer needs you. Every day, you’re making an impact on customers. Find it, connect to it. It will recharge you, it will make you feel much stronger to adapt to the change. And third, find the right change that accelerates your core cause. Not every change needs to be adapted. Not every change is good for what you’re trying to achieve, so don’t get overwhelmed. Don’t get to a knee jerk reaction of resistance and fighting and find the right one that can get you to your core cause and the fulfillment. At the end of the day, it is a privilege to service customers, and if you missed that point, you missed the essence of why we are here in this world.
Ricardo: Thank you very much. Great insight. Lior, thank you very much for your time.
Lior: My pleasure.
Ricardo: If you need anything, just let me know.
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