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Reflections on CEW London: the Constable, the Maker, the Hospital Caretaker

This guest post was written by Brian Kling, Sr Customer Experience Architect with Autodesk. Brian believes everything around us should be well-designed; simple, intuitive and useful. He has a long history of working with customers and designing customer experiences in many roles; as a senior customer support agent, trainer/educator, digital strategy consultant, and now most recently as a customer experience architect. Connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

I recently attended the Customer Experience World conference in London from 20-21 May, themed “The Next Chapter in Customer Experience Innovation.” While it had the expected mix of vendors, consultants and thought leaders, there were also a large selection of stories from those working “in the trenches.” What really struck me was the wide range of businesses with champions dedicated to transforming their businesses through customer-centric focus, both for the external customers we all think of but also for those internal customers (employees). I’ll share with you a few of the speakers’ stories and provide a general review of the event itself; is it worth your time and money?

The Constable
Mike Barton, Chief Constable of Durham, discussed the transformation of his constabulary, reducing the number of policies and procedures by 84% and empowering employees to realign focus on their customers. Barton’s spoke eloquently and with great conviction, of understanding better the real needs of their customers and treating them as partners, following the practice of restorative justice. They consider the needs of both victims and offenders and how it affects the greater community. Their citizens seem pleased with the constabulary’s efforts, giving them a customer satisfaction rate of 89%, which places them 4th out of 43 constabularies in England and Wales.

The Maker
Kano, the computer you build and code yourself, is a very successful Kickstarter-funded startup, who raised $1.5 million from their initial goal of $100,000. Mathew Keegan joined the company just prior to the Kickstarter launch, and subsequently worked to build out their user community and the customer service/support organization. The staff of 3 views customers (target is children ages 6-14, with some adult enthusiasts as well) as “family.” He shared stories of having to scale quickly to support an initial 13,000 customers and how they found some staff to have that magic mix of real empathy and patience to serve their large base of young customers. Now with over 40,000 Kano kits in 86 countries, Kano is still going strong, having just raised $15 million last month.

The Hospital Caretaker
Sarah Silverton, Patient and Public Experience Lead, works at the Dorset County Hospital, part of England’s National Health System. She described the difficulty in morale for employees, as the NHS appears often in the daily tabloids, in mostly negative sensational headlines driven by political party sparring. Sarah saw a need to bolster the pride of employees, to highlight the positive stories of how they make a difference in the lives of the Hospital’s patients. Sarah has helped to identify and initiate programs that empower employees to provide suggestions on how to improve patient experience and to tie customer feedback directly to their participation, from nurses to porters to catering and cleaning staff; everyone can and does make a difference. The hospital recently won the WOW award for Customer Service – this award is based solely on nominations from patients and family who interacted with hospital staff.

More Stories
There were also stories from auto-glass repair company Belron, utility companies E.ON Energy and Northern Gas Networks, UK grocer Waitrose and home utility & repair company Homeserve. Each of them had a very compelling story to tell, how they are transforming their businesses by orienting focus on truly understanding their customers and providing experiences that serve their needs.

Being mindful of your time, I’m not going to provide a synopsis of every speaker from the event. This in no way means their presentations were not valuable and interesting! A few additional highlights:

Bruce Temkin of the Temkin Group and CXPA discussed a maturity model for customer experience, and how the upper half is the differentiator “from fluff to tough” where early experimentation moves to embedding customer experience into the organization. David Haigh provided a financial expert’s perspective on how intangible assets like customer experience have an increasingly large impact on a brand’s valuation in the experience economy. Dr Nicola Millard from BT shared their development of a “Net Easy” score and a sneek peek at some upcoming research on the 2015 report on Autonomous Customer (look for it, great data with a truly international scope!). Rachel Lane of Verint shared data, experiences and advice on Customer Engagement transformation. Tom Nixon talked about new organizational models like holacracy and sociocracy and how some brands are moving beyond just profits to focus also on purpose and meaning.

You can review more speaker bios here, and info on sponsors.

The conference took place at the Sofitel at Heathrow over 2 days, with keynotes in morning and afternoon, broken up with round-table “think tank” sessions during an extended lunch break. Tables were not well-marked to clearly understand where each conversation was taking place. I found the quality of the sessions really depended upon the skill of the moderators. I would suggest an unconference format for these sessions at future events; let the attendees determine topics on the fly and discuss.

The Focus Group was very responsive to any inquiries, and open to feedback. Post-event you have access to the presentations which is also quite useful. I liked the addition of chairperson Louise Minchin from the BBC, who moderated panel discussions and provided an official voice for the event. I was surprised that there were not more attendees; I strongly encourage The Focus Group to find more channels for promotion, you’ve got the right recipe to attract more attendees for future events!

This event is definitely worth your time, both for the quality and breadth of the speakers as well as for the attention to details. There were ample opportunities for networking and as the event was of an intimate size, everyone was very approachable. The organiser The Focus Group holds several of these events, currently in London, Johannesburg, Dubai – highly recommended.

Traveler’s Note: if you are coming from afar, the details help to make the experience. Staying at the Sofitel at Heathrow was quite convenient, and I had one of the best meals I’ve enjoyed in some time at their restaurant Belle Epoque. Wireless was solid both at the event and in the rooms the whole time. And the food offered was of high-quality. The only downside was being located at the airport, there is limited ability to take in some fresh air and a walk in a park or outdoor space.


This post originally appeared on Brian’s LinkedIn page.

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