If We Don’t Develop Different Relationships, We’ll Lose Our Legitimacy

If we do not respond to people and communities’ desire for power, we will lose our legitimacy and waste the potential of the many ways they can have agency over what matters to them. If we do not continually, bravely work to build trust, we will lose the essential foundation for everything we do. – Civil Societies Futures

I’ve had a week of fascinating conversations, all linked by one theme, the apparent reluctance of many of our institutions to cede any sort of meaningful power and decision making to communities.

Part of the problem is the social sector is a field of business that profits from past societal failure. The entire premise relies on reaction.

When your business model is founded on profiting from being reactive – there is little incentive to change.

There’s also a very real question about skillsets and mindsets. During my conversation with Lizzie Spring it became apparent that at some point we shifted from entrepreneurial community based models (think: the birth of the social housing movement for example) to ones based on efficiency and the accumulation of wealth.

Necessarily this has forced organisations to be more ‘business like’ with career pathways for ‘professionals’.  It’s hardly surprising that communities feel organisations have become more distanced, remote and less accessible.

CHC Trust Presentation (1)

A couple of weeks ago a consortium of housing providers tweeted an animated GIF showing a lonely looking person peering out of a desolate block of flats. The tagline read something like ‘Housing Associations provide services to some of the most vulnerable and hard to reach people in the UK’.

What on earth are we trying to say? 

A number of tenants jumped on the tweet and pointed out – quite rightly – that it is the institutions themselves that are hard to reach not the people they serve. It was deleted by the following day.

It would be easy to write things like this off as the mistake of junior comms person but this attitude speaks of something far more fundamental: that organisations have become disconnected from their original purpose and are happy in their role as rescuers of people.

CHC Trust Presentation

In today’s world of rising demand and scarce resources the doing, not just the talking, needs to be new and different. You can’t change a relationship without actual changing your behaviour.

A new report from Adam Lent and Jessica Studdert sets out a compelling case for a deep shift in public services based on a completely new relationship between citizen and state. This relationship rejects the hierarchical and transactional mindsets of traditional service models which all too often bypass people’s assets and capabilities.

It highlights the risk of seeing citizens only as atomised consumers – something the digital transformation zealots are actively encouraging. This consumerism only leads one way – to a growing sense of alienation and frustration with public services and the state.

The report goes on to state this isn’t inevitable. There is a huge opportunity to change.

CHC Trust Presentation (2)Our communities want change – and they know what’s not working. This appetite for power and influence is a once in a generation opportunity to reconnect with people and establish entirely new relationships.

We mustn’t all focus on housing the homeless. We mustn’t all focus on filling prisons or A+E departments. 

We have to move to a more preemptive model that builds on what is already there rather than seeing our organisations as curators of the worlds problems.

The conversations I’ve had this week, and the grassroots innovation that some organisations are fostering (notably in Wales), fill me with a lot of positivity.

The modern social entrepreneurs aren’t waiting for permission from regulators or consensus from their industry body. They aren’t bothered about awards or being seen at industry events. They never look at benchmarking. Many of them aren’t even paid or employed in the social sector.

They know that the way we have become organised is dysfunctional – and they are forging ahead with relationships first and services last. They are working with communities as equals rather than as professionals.

They might not know what works yet but they are clear about one thing: not returning down a path to paternalism and disempowerment.

This incremental change can build and gather momentum – becoming massive change for the entire social sector.

No-one is stopping us.


 

This post has been inspired by conversations this week with Lizzie Spring, Shirley Ayres, Serena Jones, Chris Bolton, Ena Lloyd and Pritpal Tamber. Thanks guys

The full slide deck on rebuilding trust as featured at #CHCGOV19 is featured here 

5 Surprising Customer Service Experiences ( and what they tell us )

customer-relationship-management-2If you put “Customer Relationship” into Google you will most likely get a diagram like this.

Which doesn’t look like any relationship I’ve ever had.

Another January, more High Street woe , more stories of how customer service is declining.

My belief ? Service is actually improving in the UK. But far too slowly compared to other countries and the best online providers.

Why? Because it too often focuses on transactions rather than building relationships.

And if you focus on transactions, CRM and cross-sell , you slowly become disconnected. You think “inside out”. Like the company. Not the customer.

I’ve recently been on a trip outside the UK and would like to share 5 examples where the service focused on relationship building.

1 – The Customs Official Who Smiled

Anyone who has been to Singapore Airport will understand why it consistently appears in the Top 3 airports in the world. From free wifi , to a sublime check-in experience, to free cinema’s and botanic gardens – it’s as if Disney did airports. My stand out moment? Being presented with a tray of sweets by the Customs Official (!) , greeted by my first name , and wished a pleasant stay. Not the experience I got on returning to Manchester. Singapore Airport provides the same function as everyone else – putting planes into the sky – but they do it differently.

2- The Restaurant That Doesn’t Say No

You are the last customers in a restaurant – it’s well past closing time. You order a final couple of drinks, but they have run out of vodka. You’d be asked to change your drinks order or offered something else, right? At Again and Again they didn’t do this. The owner got on her moped, disappeared for 5 minutes and came back with a new bottle. Leaving two customers she had never met before sitting alone, and trusting that they would be there when she returned.

This tiny six table Thai restaurant is run by a Mother and her daughter. The service can be a bit slow as Mum has to cook everything from scratch and the daughter helps out in between doing her homework. But the service is provided as if you were a guest in their home. Which , funnily enough, you are. They live upstairs. And that’s the trick – by treating every customer as a house guest – you have turned a transaction into a relationship.

3- The Bank That People Love

Whilst I was away I had to phone First Direct. My comment on Twitter speaks for itself:

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First Direct continue to be a worldwide benchmark through their utter obsession with focussing on the relationship they have with you.

I’m amazed that whenever I mention them on social media I always get fellow fans joining in and adding their own experiences.

Fans. Of a bank. Aren’t we meant to hate them?

4- The Hotel That Apologises Before You Complain

A Hotel puts on a beach fireworks display. Fireworks are aimed at the guests rather than the sky. Several guests have their dinner ruined as they dive for cover. An unfortunate incident but no-one was hurt. (And if you were sitting in the right place it was actually pretty funny.)

But the Buri Rasa Koh Phangan then did something amazing. Some businesses would say something stupid. It issued a letter to everyone in the hotel – apologising and refunding one nights stay. For everyone. No argument.

By showing extreme honesty, by compensating customers before they had a chance to complain , it ensures everyone goes home happy and tells this story.

5 – The Bar That Threatens To Kill Rabbits

Imagine you go for a drink and the first thing that happens is the manager introduces herself and lays a pet rabbit before you. She then threatens to barbecue it unless you agree to eat there. This is the slightly unconventional service offered at Jip Shop , who have transformed an ordinary bar into somewhere memorable through humour and just being….weird.

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Jip will tell you that she only manages the shop. The owner is actually a tyrannical cat who refuses to pay the staff decent wages. The rabbit , Dollar , was captured by the cat and employed as a mascot. Dollar is seeking freedom by jumping from table to table to help guests. (I swear no hallucinogens were involved here).

I went in a fair few bars whilst I was away but which one stands out? Lesson for us all – Be memorable.

The death of the High Street is exaggerated – it’s just going through a necessary cycle of renewal. The big brands who forgot about relationships needed to make way for the next generation. Hopefully it will be a generation who understand that the only way to compete with online is through memorable and surprising experiences.

By the way – we went back again to Jip Shop again. Dollar survived:

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Relationships that work – Customer Deal Blog

One of our main aims is to have customers who would recommend us to their friends. We put this in place over 7 years ago – as a big unifying key performance indicator aimed at getting the whole organisation behind delivering great customer experiences.

But this can’t be delivered on our own. Relationships are a two way thing.

The landlord / tenant relationship in UK social housing is a curious one. It has no break clause and is subject to no review or even dialogue to see how either party feels.

It has no equivalent in the consumer world, where the concept of walk away points mean service relationships can have an inherent dynamism about them. You satisfy the customer or you are at risk.

What we aim to do with the Customer Deal is to introduce that dynamic quality into the relationship.

So a customer won’t just be handed the keys.

We will get to know them before they even move in.
We will have a welcome visit where we see how they are settling down and what they think of the service so far.
We will arrange relationship reviews , typically every year or two years, where will talk about how things are going for both of us.

And based upon that we will look to tweak our service proposition to the individual customer. This could be incentives and benefits for keeping to the Deal.

I get a better deal out of O2 for being a loyal customer who doesn’t rip them off. Why shouldn’t a customer of social housing?

The end of lifetime tenancies has been painted as a terribly negative move within the housing sector. But , executed well , it brings with it the opportunity to introduce a totally different landlord / tenant relationship. One where the tenant is no longer a passive recipient.

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