"Every interaction is an opportunity to learn and improve the next"

When I was in my late 20’s I had the opportunity to buy my dream car – a bright yellow, 14-year-old VW “Thing.” The Thing looks like an odd cross between a Jeep and a Hummer. The good news was that you could take the doors and roof off, fold the windshield down and drive around in a totally open car.  The bad news came about 5 weeks later, when the car started to sputter, stall, and got harder to start. Come to find out, part of the ‘joy’ of driving a “Classic VW” is frequently servicing the spark plugs, oil, and other temperamental parts of its old world, air-cooled engine design. I’m a pretty tech savvy guy, but when it comes to cars I’m a novice, so I called my brother Jim who is a mechanic by trade to help resuscitate my newfound joy. We bought a set of new socket wrenches and crawled underneath the car, trying to change the oil. After a frustrating 12 minutes, and multiple bangs of my knuckles in the tight space, I declared in a fit of frustration that the new wrenches were broken. I was ready to give up.  Jim watched what I was doing, and observed, “It isn’t broken, you are doing it wrong. The tool is giving you feedback, listen to it and figure out what you are doing wrong. Adjust it. Fix it.”  So, I reversed the ratchet setting, and the rest is history.

How often in our lives or careers or in our businesses, do we get feedback but simply don’t hear to it, or act upon it? It is one of the toughest things any professional can do – openly seek critical feedback in order to improve your next interaction. The idea of making this practice a systemic discipline is one of the key features of the double loop Knowledge-Center Service (KCS®) process the Consortium for Service Innovation developed over 20 years ago for the customer service industry. 

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The A-loop, or Solve loop, is focused on a rigorous methodology to search before solving a customer’s question. The B-loop, or Evolve loop, is focused on improving the knowledge base, the service agent, and the entire support model that provides customer service. Through this approach, KCS® produces massive customer, and business benefits. More importantly though, it helps grows front line CX agents into “knowledge workers” who capture the customer experience of thier products and services during the natural workflow of solving a customer’s issue. The B-Loop is the most powerful attribute of KCS®. It ensures the knowledge base becomes a living, organic repository of the customer experience, and provides better ways to service our customers stated and inferred needs. Outside of customer services centers, I find not enough companies leverage a persistent and measurable B-Loop to create self-correcting, learning business models that improve subsequent customer’s interactions.

When it comes to customer experience, it’s easy to invest in a variety ‘Voice of Customer’ (VOC) platforms that harvest ‘key customer insights’ to be shared and socialized across the company. However, I beg the question: what are we doing with all of this VOC data to learn and improve our next customer interaction?

I have found that unless the B-loop is ingrained as routine part of your CX operations, it is tough if not impossible, to create a continuous learning / self-correcting business model. The typical squeaky wheel approach of customer-escalation management; focused on ‘quick-wins’, is limited in its ability to deliver lasting CX improvements.  Is there a better approach to continuously improve your companies CX, in a scalable way?

Recently, I had the opportunity to sail on a 10-day Mediterranean cruise, and learn from the Regent Seven Sea Cruise line about their commitment to providing the most luxurious cruise experience in the world. I saw first-hand their commitment to providing the highest standard of customer service and excellences. Given the extraordinarily high expectation of their brand promise and knowing their customers see themselves as some of the most discerning guests afloat, I had to learn how Regent balances the expectation to the experience delivered. Their stated brand promise is “Luxury Goes Exploring”, delivered through an “ultra-luxury cruise experience in all corners of the world”.  Since 2010 Regent has earned over 75 industry awards recognizing top luxury cruise lines, so clearly, they are doing something right.     

I sat down with Nickie Sheils the General Manager of the Seven Seas Explorer and asked her about how Regent consistently deliver this brand promise while managing a 6 Star luxury resort that just happens to be sailing across the ocean. She explained to me the deep investments they make in building, nurturing, and sustaining a culture tuned to their brand promises. Each employee who joins Regent goes through an extensive multi-week curriculum that consists of classrooms, job sharing, and mentoring that can take anywhere from 2 to 6 months to complete. Using this mixed technique, along with auditing guest engagements throughout their employment, the B-Loop is constantly in action. The feedback is unpacked each day as the crewmembers have daily standup meeting to discuss the previous day’s work and ways to improve.

Their B-Loop monitors new and old employees, ensuring that each associate continuously meets the high standards that Regent demands of their brand promise.  Their culture celebrates when a crewmember is promoted from their Silver nametag to their Gold one in a graduation ritual, recognizing their hard work.  Everyone is on-boarded this way, no matter their level in the organization, and by teaching, mentoring and routinely auditing key behaviors, they protect both Regent’s culture and their ability to deliver – at scale – their incredible brand promises.   

By incorporating the “B-Loop” into their culture, each associate knows ‘the right thing to do’ in any circumstance. In fact, Regent prides themselves on in-house promotion to leadership roles, based guest feedback captured throughout and following each cruise. Listening for the friction and the feedback of a behavior (aka. Tool) not working properly is a key to Regent’s growth and success.

I encourage each company to find where the B-Loop can be installed in their CX eco-systems and integrate it into the culture of your business to help your company navigate their course to high fortune and smoother seas.

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