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In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Adrian Swinscoe joins Gabe Larsen to discuss his philosophies and strategies for improving the customer service experience. For the last 25 years, Adrian has been consulting individuals and companies on their marketing and business development, customer insight, and customer service spaces. He has a passion for helping businesses create positive spaces for their customers and helping organizations simplify their strategies to make them more effective. Adrian is also the author of How to Wow and Punk CX, the latter being one of the subjects of discussion in this episode of the podcast. Listen to the full episode below.
What is Punk CX?
Punk CX is a new way of looking at customer service that Adrian thought of back in 2017. He was inspired by the emergence of punk music in stark contrast to the prog-rock era of the 1970s, at which time punk music became a statement to go against the norm. The creators of punk saw prog rock as becoming too measured and overly technical, and Adrian sees a lot of similarities in the customer experience space. Adrian believes that companies were getting too meticulous with their strategies. When instead, they needed to develop more of a punk mindset. Adrian describes this mindset by stating, “It was a very DIY, democratic, back to basics approach. It was more about mindset and daring to be different and being okay that not everybody would like it.” If companies can drop the technicalities and start committing to action-based solutions in their customer service, they will have a greater capacity to help their customers and grow their business.
Connecting Strategy with Business Objectives
To illustrate this point, Adrian shares an interesting story about the interviews he has had with business executives. First, when executives are asked what their customer service strategies are, they repeat all the typical buzzwords; such as omnichannel, effortless, digital, connected, etc. – all responding in similar ways. When asked follow up questions, their answers are even more vague. Adrian recalls, “the second question I say is . . . tell me how your strategy supports and enables the delivery of the overall business’s strategy and overall business’s objectives. And then you get some blank faces.” Overly technical customer service strategy does nothing for the business or the customer if they aren’t aligned with the business objectives. Too many organizations are draining resources on little details that aren’t connected to their business or customers. By simplifying strategies and connecting strategy and objectives, organizations will find their business growing and their customers happier and more satisfied.
How to Simplify and Amplify the Customer Service Experience
Most organizations aren’t listening to the feedback their customers give them and it’s hurting their business. Adrian quotes a study that states “only 20% of them [companies] have actually delivered and developed the resources, the content, the knowledge bases, the facilities and the tools to help customers help themselves.” While most companies know that their customers want to help themselves and don’t want to jump through the customer service hoops, they aren’t investing in finding solutions. Adrian’s recommendation for organizations to simplify and amplify the customer experience is to do the necessary research and start implementing it.
The next challenge for companies to develop punk CX is to keep evolving with their consumers. In a remarkable comment about the true nature of customer service and the need to have a punk attitude about it, Adrian explains:
“People’s queries and inquiries and problems and their questions, they change and evolve over time. So that content needs to be managed and maintained and upgraded on a consistent basis. And so, you need to make an ongoing investment in that if you want to keep ahead of that curve. Because absolutely guaranteed, your products, your services will evolve and therefore the problems or the questions or the queries that your customers will have will evolve as well.”
By researching and continually investing in the customer experience, companies will stay ahead of the curve and give the consumers exactly what they want, the means and tools to help themselves.
To learn more about punk customer experience strategies, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
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Full Episode Transcript:
What is Punk CX and Why Should You Care | Adrian Swinscoe
Into Voice (00:04):
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen (00:11):
Alight, welcome everybody to today’s podcast. We’re going to be talking about a little different perspective on how you should be looking at customer service. And to do that, we brought in Adrian Swinscoe. He’s actually the author of a couple books. One that I’ve come across is How to Wow and we’ll be talking a little bit about that today. Then, there is actually another one that came across; we were talking a little bit pre-show, it’s called Punk CX and we’re going to start with that one. He does run his own show at Adrianswinscoe.com. But I’m excited to have you on the show Adrian. How are you?
Adrian Swinscoe (00:49):
I’m great Gabe and nice to see you. Nice to speak to you. Nice to be on your show. Thanks for the invite.
Gabe Larsen (00:56):
Yeah, it’s been refreshing. Again, I did just kind of stumble across Adrian if I’m honest, and I liked some of his content, so I wanted to interview him for this podcast. But this “punk CX” thing definitely jumped out so I want to dive into it. But, before we do Adrian, can you tell us a little about yourself and kind of your background?
Adrian Swinscoe (01:15):
Okay. So quickly, I work in this service experience sort of space and have been in this sort of space for, crumbs, probably somewhere in the region of 11 or 12 years. I’ve been, I have a background as an economist, a teacher, I worked as a business developer in a corporate environment doing an innovation related sort of projects, worked as a general, sort of like a freelance, independent consultant. Nearly bought a steel company at one point. So I nearly became a steel magnet, which was a near miss. Unfortunately, I wanted to be able to wander around with a big hat and a cigar, but that’s obviously in a parallel universe. But right now, I am in this sort of space. My, I describe myself as a lover of simplicity and the human touch with a really useful bit of technology thrown in. And the thing that I really am interested in, and focus on, is how do we build organizations that deliver better outcomes for both their customers and their people.
Gabe Larsen (02:27):
Yeah, yeah. I love it. Great introduction. I’m sorry to hear about the steel mill. Maybe in a future life to your point you will be able to do that.
Adrian Swinscoe (02:36):
You’ll see me on a sidewalk somewhere kind of like smoking a big fat cigar.
Gabe Larsen (02:41):
I’m just not picturing it, but it’ll take me a little time. I’ll get there. So let’s dive into this. That was a great kind of intro of you. I was a little bit taken back as you were talking about this thing of “punk CX.” I was like, Whoa, that feels, truthfully different than I think a lot of people have framed it. Give me kind of the why, what, how. Why “punk CX,” and what does it mean?
Adrian Swinscoe (03:05):
So I’ll give you the short, I mean, I will try and make it as short as possible. About, back in December, 2017, you know, as is my one from time to time, I was in the pub with my friend O’Sheen drinking a couple of pints of Guinness and I was having a bit of a rant about the state of the experience and service and experience sort of space. And I was getting frustrated by the idea that we weren’t seeing really significant material kind of changes in the experience that one; companies were delivering, and two; that their customers were getting. And I was almost a bit like banging on the table, just, I wish some people would do something a bit more punk. And when I say punk I don’t mean the green hair and piercings and kind of like destruction and loud music and raging at people.
Gabe Larsen (03:58):
Adrian Swinscoe (03:59):
I mean, just doing something which dares to be different. It’s a little bit kind of stand out from the crowd, that’s a bit more experimental, that is a bit of a bit of a change. That idea sat with me for about six months and in the summer of 2018 I started to think about it, started to think about that a bit more deeply. And it made me think about where does, where did punk come from? Now punk came, exploded out of the back of prog-rock in the 1970s. Now prog-rock, for anybody that is a music fan, it was popular. It was also accused of being overly elaborate, somewhat self-indulgent, kind of overly technical. You almost needed a PhD in music to be able to be part of a prog-rock band. In some respects, and in danger of disappearing up its own arse — i.e. it was more interested than it was, maybe, in its fans.
Gabe Larsen (04:59):
I love it.
Adrian Swinscoe (05:00):
And then punk exploded out of the back of that with this idea of like going, well anybody can make music. And it was a very DIY democratic, back to basics approach. It was more about mindset and daring to be different and being okay that not everybody would like it. And I thought that’s cool, but then I thought, you know what’s funny, it’s like the service and experience space I think is starting to exhibit some of the same characteristics as prog-rock did in the 1970s — i.e. It’s becoming overly specialized, functionalized, measured, certified, professionalized, blah, blah blah, yada, yada, yada. All that sort of stuff.
Gabe Larsen (05:37):
It’s over complicated. Yeah, over complicated so many things. Got it.
Adrian Swinscoe (05:40):
And also get into the same point where it’s becoming more interested in itself then actually the people that are supposed to benefit from it — i.e. our customers. And that sort of explains a lot of the lack of real movement and improvement in this whole space, particularly for employees and customers.
Gabe Larsen (05:56):
Adrian Swinscoe (05:58):
And I thought, well, if that’s true, then what would a punk version of CX look like? And I was a bit like, that’s cool. Well let me figure something out. And then, what it spoke to was this idea of like trying to inject a bit of urgency, a call to action into the experience space to say, stop over complicating things. Stop, get out from behind your desk and your spreadsheets and your dashboards and all these different sort of things and do stuff that really matters to your customers.
Gabe Larsen (06:34):
Adrian Swinscoe (06:34):
And so I wrote the book, it’s more like a fanzine or a manifesto. I call it a visual slap in the face for the customer experience industry because it’s not like any other business book in that it’s not 50,000 words of black ink on white paper. It’s like a full color, short pithy to the point. It’s almost designed like an album and that rather than having chapters, I talk about having a track listing. So you end up with this, here’s a title, here’s a few short words that kind of basically makes the point and then ask a couple of questions or maybe just makes a point that says, right, now crack on, get on with it. I’m more interested in better action that produces better results. That’s it.
Gabe Larsen (07:17):
Yeah, yeah. It does seem like I’m still newer to the space. Your point on just kind of a lot of talk, a lot of over complication and just this idea when you kind of deuce it to me, you know, let’s simplify, let’s focus on what matters most. And I mean, again, some of the other things on the outsider, they’re important, but they’re not as important as what the goal of this whole function is; that is obviously to make the customer’s life easier and better. So, as you’ve kind of taken that idea of “punk CX,” I assume you’ve probably seen this in different areas, you’ve consulted different companies. Let’s go into the, not necessarily the tactical, but how would you start thinking about some ways to clear that crap out and just simplify CX or the experience that customers are having with different brands?
Adrian Swinscoe (08:12):
So one of the things I would say, where I would really start, cause you can get a little tactical and you start fiddling around in different sort of things. I think the one thing I would say is that, I think we actually have to start fundamentally at a strategic kind of level. Okay. And the thing that strikes me, and this is where we’re, I think we’re getting caught, it’s creating a lot of problems, is that — I’ve met a bunch of people and particularly leaders, directors, managers in this sort of space. You turn around to them and go, right, fine. I want to ask you a couple of questions. And the first question is, what’s your experience strategy? And they go, right, okay. And they go, we want to create an effortless, digital, connected, omnichannel, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
Gabe Larsen (09:02):
Buzzword, buzzword, buzzword,
Adrian Swinscoe (09:04):
Experience. And then it goes like, you’ve got a room of like 50 people and pretty much everybody’s saying the same thing, right? And you go, brilliant, okay, thank you for that. I’m not going to make you wrong just yet, but I will thank you for your answers. And then the second question I say is go, okay, now, tell me how your strategy supports and enables the delivery of the overall business’s strategy and overall business’s objectives. And then you get some blank faces.
Gabe Larsen (09:39):
You get some blanks. Yeah, I can see that.
Adrian Swinscoe (09:42):
And then you end up with this kind of thing with people, and then you’ve got blank faces and then you get some twinges of panic and nervous twitches and stuff going on because people know. Then they’re kind of like, oh, okay. It feels really obvious, but actually that’s the thing. If you’re not connected to what the business is going to really do, then — in time, and I think that time is actually starting, is coming right now, is that people start to challenge the worth of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Right? So that’s one of the big questions is because what we’ve seen is this proliferation of activity, whether it’s like this or that or the other; I don’t want to name and shame any particular areas.
Gabe Larsen (10:32):
Adrian Swinscoe (10:32):
But yet out of all this explosion of activity, you got to look at it and go, yeah, but none of it’s all connected. None of it makes sense. None of it is driving positive changes and outcomes that make a difference to the business and therefore make a difference to customers.
Gabe Larsen (10:48):
Yeah. So, one is that idea that we get so caught up in the minutia sometimes, we need to make sure that we are strategically aligning with what the business wants.
Adrian Swinscoe (10:59):
Gabe Larsen (11:03):
It’s simple but it’s true.
Adrian Swinscoe (11:04):
I know, completely. It’s a bit like, you have to be measured and considerate and everything that you can do because ultimately, it’s about delivering value for both the business and the customers.
Gabe Larsen (11:15):
Adrian Swinscoe (11:16):
It’s not about what you want to do. It’s about what is required.
Gabe Larsen (11:20):
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Adrian Swinscoe (11:22):
And right now we’ve got this elaborate, nest of things; many of which don’t make any sense. So it just feels an expensive mess if you’re an exec — a C level executive looking down at this and going, we’re spending all this money, what are we getting?
Gabe Larsen (11:36):
What are we actually getting?
Adrian Swinscoe (11:38):
And I am kind of getting letters and emails and tweets and all this stuff coming from customers going, what the? I’m spending all this money and I’m trying really hard and they’re still bombarding me with all this crap.
Gabe Larsen (11:54):
All this kind of nonsense. Right? Yeah. Because it just doesn’t work for the customer ultimately. Got it. Got it. So, one is strategy. The other thing I wanted you to kind of click into, you and I talked about this a little pre show, but there was some research you came across and it did feel like another one of those points that was like, duh! Why don’t we do the simple stuff versus making the complicated stuff you want to touch on that briefly?
Adrian Swinscoe (12:18):
Yeah. So, one of the big things that really, really frustrates me is this idea that we know that customers don’t really want to get in touch with us, they don’t really enjoy the idea of the prospect of having to phone and then navigate a phone tree, or send an email and wait for a response, to do all that sort of stuff. So, if you have a problem that you think is a reasonably simple problem, we like to help ourselves. Right? So even my mom and dad who are in their seventies will probably like to do some research and figure out how to do something, try to figure out how to do something first before we try and involve somebody else. Now, the interesting thing is that there’s some research that says that somewhere in the region of 60%, if not more, of all inquiries into help desk, support teams, contact centers, whatever, come about for two reasons. One is that your customers can’t find what they’re looking for on your website or you’ve just failed to answer their question the first time around and you sort of messed it up. So you’ve got this kind of 60% of your inbound demand for help can be solved either by you being better at solving things the first time around, or two, helping customers help themselves. Interestingly, Zendesk, who is one of your competitors, so asked for permission to talk about this beforehand, they produce a piece of research, which said something in the region like 50% of all companies, north of 50% of all companies know this, they understand this, yet only 20% of them have actually delivered and developed the resources, the content, the knowledge bases, the facilities and the tools to help customers help themselves.
Gabe Larsen (14:15):
Adrian Swinscoe (14:15):
And I’m going, my mind is exploding here. I’m like, good people. Listen to your customers, hear what they’re saying and do the bloody work.
Gabe Larsen (14:23):
Adrian Swinscoe (14:25):
Cause I’ll tell you what, it will make your life easier.
Gabe Larsen (14:28):
Yeah. Yeah. What do we — I mean I love the point because again, I think that’s kind of that, it’s just the simplicity of CX. We get caught up in all the things. Would you say — that 20% number, give or take, it’s very interesting. Well, why don’t we? This does drive back to this “punk CX” thing. We just, we get caught up in all the minutia and we lose that simplicity. That’s the whole point.
Adrian Swinscoe (14:53):
I think the thing that is, that’s part of it. I think there’s also the other part of it is that it requires us to do different things.
Gabe Larsen (15:00):
Adrian Swinscoe (15:01):
And the different things include being able to develop, manage, and maintain content that responds to our understanding of what customers want.
Gabe Larsen (15:18):
Adrian Swinscoe (15:19):
Naturally, an organization will look and go, well, developing content requires people with different skills. Whether it’s the data analysis and listening skills and then the producing of the content and the quality management and the digital uploading and thereof et cetera, et cetera. But, that requires people and that requires a cost.
Gabe Larsen (15:46):
Adrian Swinscoe (15:46):
Right. And what they’ve got to do is they’ve got to try and manage off. We’re making an investment here in terms of the development thereof of that content against how much we’re going to save on the inbound inquiries, right? And you’ve got to get that balance. Now, the trap that people fall into is they’ll go, Ooh, we’ll develop that content and then that demand is going to disappear. I’m like, no! Because here’s the thing, people’s queries and inquiries and problems and their questions, they change and evolve over time.
Gabe Larsen (16:20):
Adrian Swinscoe (16:20):
So that content needs to be managed and maintained and upgraded on a consistent basis. And so, you need to make an ongoing investment in that if you want to keep ahead of that curve. Because absolutely guaranteed, your products, your services will evolve and therefore the problems or the questions or the queries that your customers will have will evolve as well.
Gabe Larsen (16:48):
I love it.
Adrian Swinscoe (16:48):
And so if you’re not developing that knowledge consistently, this demand here, this inbound query demand may go down a little bit, but it may spring back up again as you do a new product launch. It’s an ongoing investment. You’ve got to try and get that balance there.
Gabe Larsen (17:06):
And people just really struggle finding that balance. That’s a really interesting insight. I liked that. I liked that a lot. Well Adrian, man, there’s always more to discuss, always more to go through. We didn’t even get to the, to the 60, what is it, 63 principles in the “Wow” book.
Adrian Swinscoe (17:23):
68 in fact.
Gabe Larsen (17:24):
Adrian Swinscoe (17:25):
I did want it to be 69, but my publisher wouldn’t let me go there.
Gabe Larsen (17:31):
That’s a great way to end this show. We may have to bring you back to dive into maybe not 69, but a couple of these, “How to Wow” customers going forward. But I do appreciate you jumping on. If someone wants to learn a little bit more about you and understand more about Adrian Swinscoe, where should they go?
Adrian Swinscoe (17:49):
Just going to look me up on Adrianswinscoe.com , Which is A D R I A N S W I N S C O E.com. You’ll find everything you need over there.
Gabe Larsen (18:00):
Well, again, really appreciate it, I love the simplicity message. I think it’s something we need. So thanks for taking the time and for the audience, Have a fantastic day.
Adrian Swinscoe (18:08):
Dude, thanks Gabe.
Exit Voice (18:16):
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