Episode: 380 |
Stefan Kolle:
Customer Centricity:


Stefan Kolle

Customer Centricity

Show Notes


Stefan Kolle is the co-founder, Managing Director and Chairman of the Board of Futurelab, a company that helps businesses improve their marketplace through meaningful innovation in customer experience. On today’s show, Stefan shares a few case studies and we discuss customer centricity and customer experience.

Key points include:

  • 02:19: Assessing the state of customer experience
  • 05:18: Voice of the customer exercises
  • 09:18: The changes Futurelab has helped companies make
  • 20:23: The growth of Futurelab


You can connect with Stefan on LinkedIn and learn more about his company at  www.futurelab.net.


One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:

Will Bachman 00:02
Hello, and welcome to Unleashed the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional. I’m your host Will Bachman. And I’m here today with Stefan Kolle, who is the founder of future lab. Stefan, welcome to the show. So, Stefan, I understand that future lab, you have real focus on customer centricity and customer experience. I know we’re going to go through some case examples. But let’s start with what do we mean by this term customer experience?

Stefan Kolle 00:37
It’s one of those times that are being used and abused by many different people. At the end of the day, you know, Microsoft calls itself a customer experience company nowadays, which is a little bit proposers. At the end of the day, what we mean by that is, every interaction that the person has with a company, at the end of the day forms their total customer experience their experience as a customer. And when you talk about customer experience management, it is about how do we make sure that as a company, we effectively fulfill the promise that we make when we say our value proposition is this. But when you’re a supermarket, when you’re alvie, your value proposition is I deliver cheap goods in a good stuff to you. But how do you make sure that everybody all along? All their interactions, has that sense of I’m getting delivered what I was promised, and customer centricity? The overarching term is, how do we make sure that as a whole organization, we organize ourselves around that delivery to the customer. Experience is usually handled by the frontline, maybe the marketing department, while customer centricity entails the whole company, thinking about around that customer? Instead of the typical, let’s think about our processes we are and somewhere in there is a customer?

Will Bachman 02:09
So how would you start by assessing the state of customer experience at a given client?

Stefan Kolle 02:19
Well, ideally, we start with the voice of the customer. Now there’s nobody better to tell us what they feel about the company, then the customers themselves. And that’s also shockingly necessary, because I cannot tell you, I dare say I never really counted it, but 80 to 90% of the clients that we work with, when we first ask them, so what is it in within this step of the customer journey? What is important to your customers? Do you know? Oh, yes, we know. Absolutely. We know 100%? So how do you know? Well, we just know that is the logic. Have you talked to your customers now we don’t need to, when we then run an actual Voice of the Customer program, again, eight or nine out of 10 times it? What the customers tell us what really matters to them, is something completely different than the company things. And it’s just a very pragmatic, concrete example, we just had it three months ago, over the past three months. And our technical colleagues from infinite cx were part of the same group, they were implementing a chat box solution for one of the largest German banks. And the bank said, Look, the functions we absolutely have to have in this chat bot is asking for opening hours of branch offices, and checking your accounts, status. All the rest is secondary. This is what customers really care about. I do not have the 30,000 interactions we’ve had in this three months at the test run to we’re asking for opening hours. One was for an account check, a balance check. companies do not know what their customers really find important and what they care about. So that is the starting point. No, talk to your customers and use the feedback from the customer, and particularly verbatim feedback from the customer guide you in Hey, what is important, where are we not fulfilling the promise? How can we deliver better experience to the customer?

Will Bachman 04:29
Yeah, you got my curiosity piqued? What were some of the top questions on the chat that people that the customers were asking the bank?

Stefan Kolle 04:36
And what they actually mostly were asking was overdraft facilities. You know, I’m trying to make the transfer and has the transfer gone through. That’s one of the questions and the other one is, well, the transfer isn’t going through. So I need an overdraft facility.

Will Bachman 04:57
So voice of the customer so that Several different approaches to that, you know, surveys, individual one on one calls focus groups. Talk to me about some of the approaches that you use, I’d love to get a bit of a primer on what are some of the best practices on how to run one of these Voice of the Customer exercises.

Stefan Kolle 05:18
We’re actually seeing a very interesting in the, in the markets, there’s still companies that are not doing anything, if not doing anything. brilliant way to start is with an NPS survey, you probably know about it the would you recommend us on a scale from zero to 10. Net Promoter? Brilliant. It’s a brilliant starting point, because it gives us a sense of the lay of the land, a temperature check, and a lot of verbatims that highlights platforms, where are we really not doing? Well, if you’ve got nothing, that’s a beautiful starting point. But if you start developing NPS Net Promoter Score is just one of the screwdriver in your total toolkit. And that toolkit also has a saw a hammer and a drill and whatever. And you start, the more advanced to become the more advanced the use of your toolkits becomes, you know, a beautiful example, like many people, I’ve been ordering a lot of stuff online in the last year. And most of that gets delivered by the Belgian post. Now, what does the Belgian post do? Pretty much every day, send me an email, hey, we delivered a package to you yesterday, on a scale from zero to 10, would you recommend us? And that is a completely nonsensical question. my will to commend them is not linked to my receiving of a package. It might be the Amazon logistics manager, you should ask that question. Hey, you sent a package to Stefan yesterday, would you recommend us? Another question that is can be extremely useful is when the customer effort score? That’s brilliant. When you’re talking about customer service interactions? Hey, how easy was it to do it? How easy was it to fulfill this problem? Or to solve this problem with us? or How easy was it to place an order? And that’s also not the right question to ask. So if you could ask here is, for instance, did we fulfill your expectations? And then I can say, Well, actually, you announced that delivery would be between one and 2pm. And we Okay, it was 10 past to find enough, good enough. And the package was not soiled and it wasn’t spoiled. So yeah, I would say you fulfilled my expectations. So it’s very important to ask the right thing to the right person at the right time to get valuable information out of it. Because what is Voice of the Customer all about to get an understanding of the customer in a way that helps drive action in a company. If you don’t want to do something with it. Don’t even ask. You know, the

Yeah, could you

Stefan Kolle 08:08
Sorry, it just did give you the full as I said that there’s some very interesting developments. Because what we see now is that, of course, a lot of companies are doing promoter research. So a lot of people are not always happy to answer those surveys. So we’re now getting to the next level, which is can we understand how happy or unhappy you are without actually serving you by observing you and listening in on the calls that you have? By seeing that you’re buying more, you’re buying less? Those kind of things, predictive MPs, they are field is suddenly in a lot of developments. Very interesting.

Will Bachman 08:48
Great. Could you walk me through a case example of a scent sanitize when the fine of where you’ve worked with a client, done a diagnostic on the customer experience, the customer journey, and then you’ve used that to redesign and enhance the customer journey. I’d love to have some examples of the types of changes that you’ve you’ve helped companies make.

Stefan Kolle 09:18
Let me give you a couple of really nice. My favorite ones is a premium barbecue and grill barbecue grill brand. And they’re American, but I think they’re more premium perceived as more premium than they are in the US. But it’s a big brand. Everybody knows it. We started with a broad customer, voice of customer net promoter score based would you recommend us and they got fantastic scores off the charts near the what Apple used to be. So people said Oh, hell yeah, I would recommend you and actually, I did. I recommend that you to my brother and two nephews, and they also bought them and they’re super happy. Every ask why? Why are you so happy? And people said, because the meat just tastes fantastic when I do it on this graph. You know what, I don’t think the blind tasting anybody could ever taste the difference between a George Foreman and grilled meat, but it doesn’t matter. Perception is the only reality marketing. So that’s step one. So we found out it was this experience of having meat grilled on those grills that turned them into recommenders. So one of the things that we took out of that immediately was you know what, they had a classical TV campaign with a say a Gordon Ramsay style TV Chef 30 seconds commercials, stop that stop those commercials, because they are not based on what is actually enthusing your customers. Give them more experiences. So what they did was set up a much more regular showing at every Do It Yourself shop in the country is started in Germany, instead of once every two years, twice a year that somebody in front of that place grilling. That’s step one. Then we went on and also did research with. Yeah, we also did research with the store owners and the shop floor staff. top floor staff, we saw a direct correlation if they were happy about the brand and would recommend the brand and the sales per square foot. That’s at the end of the day, the only thing that counts for a retailer. So what do we learn from that, we need to make sure that every employee of every Do It Yourself market in Germany or in the world comes to the Academy of this company, to the grill Academy. And to experience it themselves. We also found out that the owners, owners, managers of those specialty shops and exclude yourself shops were extremely unhappy. I don’t want to go into details. But again, we saw a direct correlation between the happiness of the owner of the shop and the customer perception of the brand in the store. So we also put a lot of work into making those owners happy again, the final element. In the first question we asked customers, would you recommend? Why? The second question that typically asked? That is, what’s the one thing we could do better? And again, more than a third of the customers had the same answer, which was pass. Now, if you have a chaos, what should be improved price, logistics, quality or whatever, never be fixed price, you think we’re too expensive? Well, if you’re based on this qualitative feedback of customers actually telling you, then you see, wait a minute, it’s price smile. Price, haha, it’s people who gave you a 10 and said, I already sold three grills for you, you say you’re cheaper is always better. In other words, the price was not an issue. So it’s a lovely example of if you really dive deep, and if you really understand, you can shift your marketing, you can deliver a better experience to everybody along the chain, not just the end consumer, but also, which for most brands, not most brands don’t have dependent on other people’s stores understand what is important for those people, how can you make them recommend you. So that’s one lovely case that I really like to share. Completely different type of example. But we engaged with the global customer service center of one of the big three German automotive brands. And they were running their their contact center for years with the best of intentions. But when we went in, we saw that it was really not running well. customers were extremely unhappy. If customers are unhappy, your contact center agents turn out unhappy as well. Because if you I mean these were highly educated, on average, at least a bachelor’s if not a master’s degree, and highly motivated, highly engaged. But if you could do that five times in a row What do You do on the sixth call? You say now what? You know. So, customers were unhappy because they were treating treated badly that in turn made the agents unhappy, who then left, leading to extra extra recruitment costs, extra training costs, but it also led to them making the customer further unhappy with all of this happen, because the KPIs wrong, and that’s a little bit of my hobbyhorse, my soapbox, KPIs, you’re not going to change anything in your customer experience, you can come with the greatest ideas and the greatest innovative customer experience ideas, nothing is gonna change in the company unless you change the KPIs. So KPIs are what drives the behavior of people, you cannot expect anything else you cannot expect. If I come in and say, customers are good, customers are nice, customers are cuddly start cuddling the customer, the agent or whoever in the company is going to look at me, well, if it’s going to cost me my Christmas bonus, because I’m not fulfilling my KPIs. No, sorry, I’m not. And so we needed to look at API’s from a point of view which of the KPIs to actually help the customer. And that was a great example where 10 years ago, he noticed that if a complaint was closed, or the closure of a complaint took more than 10 days, eight days, so customers found out very unhappy. So with the best of intentions, they said, We should aim for closure within eight days, that happens, some CEO says that seven layers of management down, you must close on within eight days, or your Christmas bonus will be void. What do agents do? Some often, of course, not all of them, but some of them say at the end of day seven, they press the button close, whether it is solved or not. So they fulfilled their API. But there’s a very irate customer who calls back the next day, and says, What the hell is going on here, you send me an email that everything is closed. There were many examples like that. Which led to many more case numbers than they were actual complaints, and about atmosphere and things like that. So one of the things we did there, and it’s it’s a trick that I tried to apply, in many cases, to the gather to group of agents once a month in the beginning and said, Let’s kill the KPIs. You tell me you’re dealing with the customer on a daily basis, you tell me which of the KPIs get in the way of delivering a great experience, identify them. And of course, some of them operations said sorry, we got to keep this one. Right. They killed quite a few. And it was a great signal to the staff saying we’re serious about this. This is not just another another McKinsey exercise that in the end will be against. And the final thing we did there, I mean, what we realized very quickly was that these highly motivated and engaged and trained agents, they knew perfectly how to deal with a complaint. But they were stopped from properly solving it, because they had an average handling time target of three and a half minutes and stuff like that. We did a test, which was hugely successful. Just put 10 agents in a room, say, take your time, do what you know is right. But it took them 30 minutes, on average, to solve something which reaction was oh my god, we cannot do that. That’s 10 times the three and a half minutes. But what we found out that they saved over an hour elsewhere, because the three and a half minute handling time, all it causes is the frontline agents saying I got to handoff as quickly as possible. And nobody really counted how much time was spent in the back office in solving things. So it’s this holistic view that I really tried to bring in here. How does it all connect, where our savings no customer experience, programs are often seen as a cost on top. But in actual effect, you can save a lot of money, you sell more because you have happy customers. And and, and it’s overall good, but the good of it is the third topic. The first one is save money, but you don’t but you got to look at this holistically. And you sell more. And I will take a deep breath as you see I’m still quite passionate about After you see us,

Will Bachman 20:02
Stefan, let’s talk for a minute about your firm about future lab. So I’m not sure exact number, but I think you have something like 10 to 15 employees right now. Tell us about how you’ve grown? Did you start as an independent consultant and add team members as you got more demand? Or like, how have you gotten to this point?

Stefan Kolle 20:23
We started to people, okay. Original initiative actually came from my co founder. Left years ago, we went through the typical growth curves that many consultants have experienced, you know, we started off quite well with two big clients, which really kept us busy. And because of that, we spent a little too, not enough time on acquisition, etc. So, three years or so we had a bit of a dip came out of that even stronger than the financial crisis. It’s, I mean, we’ve been around for 17 years. So it’s quite a bit. And then we, the financial crisis was bad for two years. But then, as around 2010, McKinsey really started publishing a lot about customer experience. And suddenly, we weren’t those crazy guys in Brussels anymore. But everybody was on to the. So that happens. From that moment on, we grew pretty fast with a lot of automotive clients, lots of big telco clients. But we stuck to a two partners and a lot of freelancers around us. At some point, we thought, okay, if one of us falls off his bicycle, this is Belgium, we buy, we buy bicycles. If one of us falls off his bicycle, we have continuity problem. We brought on board for five additional partners. And like so many before us, and many, undoubtedly, afterwards, we completely mismanaged that. We haven’t clarified the expectations beforehand. We expected those new partners to also bring in business, they just support us, but at least bring some business and at least do some of the selling that somehow they seem to think that the selling was for me and my partner. And yeah, you know, you can’t suddenly sell so much more, while you’re also having so much more management. So that almost killed us. And we then said goodbye to those partners, again, three years ago, briefly went through chapter 11. style, but we managed to, to survive at all. And a year and a half ago, we joined the German group infinites, as I mentioned at the beginning, I think. And now we have indeed depends a little bit on your account, we have about eight staff directly associated with futurelab. But we have a much deeper pool of technology specialists in our companies. And we still have that network of senior freelancers. Because the one thing we don’t want to be and I don’t think that’s that’s tenable for a small consultancy, is to follow that big four model, where you just march in with a family of juniors,

Will Bachman 23:40

Stefan Kolle 23:42
It probably if I if we had chosen for that early on, we would be rich by now. But it’s just not my my way of doing business.

Will Bachman 23:50
Great. And for people that want to find out more information about your firm, where would you point them,

Stefan Kolle 23:56
and future lap dogs. net is there’s a few more future labs out there. Luckily, they’re


Stefan Kolle 24:05
very nice and durable companies, but fish lab.net. That’s us. And, of course also that you can find me over LinkedIn. There’s a fair bit of information of the companies I worked with, etc. And if you go to our website, and that’s maybe really worth mentioning the inspirations page, where we actually have quite a few of our white papers of our of webinars that I’ve been giving over the past couple of years videos, the actual presentation slides. It’s an awful lot of material we really are of the of the sharing philosophy. So for instance, how do I start with the voice of the customer problem? What are the things that I need to take into account there’s a lovely 30 minutes webinar on that or I have a running force of the customer program, how can I take it to the next level? How do I make sure that I actually drive the derive the ROI out of that beautiful webinar? And is it another 10 of those?

Will Bachman 25:13
Wow, okay. Yeah, I’m looking at your website and there is a ton of information here. So, if you’re looking for info on customer experience, definitely check out future lab.net. Stefan, thank you so much for joining today sharing some pretty cool case examples of how that can be important to a company’s success. Really appreciate your time.

Stefan Kolle 25:36
Thank you for having me.

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