Customer 360 Symposium: Leadership and Your Customers

CoachStation: Customer 360 Symposium

Under the remit of my current contracted role as Head of Customer Service for Toyota Finance Australia, I recently attended an event in the Hunter Valley in Australia organised by Ashton Media titled Customer 360 Symposium. The opportunity to mingle and share ideas with like-minded professionals and customer focussed providers was genuinely excellent. There were many takeaways, some of which I felt it relevant to share via my blog as there are key points that relate to culture, leadership and creating an environment that encourages outstanding customer service.

I will present much of this as a series of questions, in some cases adding my own thoughts and comments indented in blue font in reply, as applicable. A core benefit of this type of event and my notes below, is the opportunity to be challenged and force reflection regarding our existing processes, practices and beliefs. Hopefully you will also be similarly stimulated.

Dr Melis Senova – Huddle Design

Has our leadership evolved as fast as our thinking?

I am not sure that the issue is how quickly our leadership has evolved or even our thinking. To me the difficulty has been developing effective leadership capability in practice and turning what we know into what we do.

Leaders – have discomfort with ambiguity = fear

We all struggle with ambiguity to some extent. The criticality of providing context and clarity is regularly missed in business. The assumption that our team members can simply pick up the intended message and/or interpret clearly is a challenge and one that must be overcome. Effective leaders provide the right messages with appropriate depth based on the individual employees need and comfort, not their own.

Inauthenticity – decreasing the gap between what we say and what we do. Have a sense of purpose.

Not all that is valuable can or should be measured.

I could not agree more with this. Accountability in all reas of expectation should be the norm in leadership, however many managers are comfortable focusing on the outputs, metrics and numbers that often exist. The ability and willingness to work through the inputs and intangibles of a role and person is more difficult…yet is where the genuine, sustainable growth and improvement comes in. I would argue if you have no interest to do this as a leader it is time to review your contribution and direction.

Solution seduction – know the difference between the solution space and the problem space – they are not the same thing!


Billy Butler – Dell

Technology has always been about enabling human potential – Michael Dell

Ask – what problem am I trying to solve?


Paul Smitton – Qantas

Authenticity is the key to customer satisfaction.

Yes it is. The difficulty is providing an authentic and ‘real’ experience no matter the channel of contact. Consistency, displaying empathy and authenticity go a long way to providing a customer experience that matters.

Personalised offerings – tailor to customer wants and history.

Deeper engagement that can directly or indirectly affect customer sentiment.


Karsten Fruechtl – Bain and Company

Advocacy cannot be managed by senior leadership alone

…and like compliance and customer service, it is not a designated team that is responsible to create outstanding customer experience opportunities. It is the responsibility of the whole organisation and is strongly aligned to depth and strength of culture.

Customer advocacy and employee advocacy go hand in hand

A personal favourite of mine. I spoke at a Customer Experience conference a few years ago and my topic was ‘Customer Experience: From the Inside Out’. Customer data is crucial and needs to be analysed to understand trends and insights. Once this is done however it is virtually impossible to make a difference with this information if the business does not have an engaged, caring and focused employee base. This is continually shifting however how our employees feel has a direct impact on how we make our customers feel.

Promoters typically generate more revenue and costs less to serve – NPS (Net Promoter Score) can be a predictor of customer behaviour.

Don’t ask for feedback unless you are prepared to listen and act on the results.


Michael Henderson – Cultures At Work

Culture now considered as risk management.

Culture is not the way we do things solely – it is how companies respond.

Employee surveys conducted by external parties are flawed thinking. Engagement surveys are questionable as they give people’s opinion of the culture…not what it actually is.

The high degree of subjectivity, confirmation bias, fear, avoidance and other factors that are prevalent in employee surveys is an ongoing challenge. The ability to measure culture remains challenging also however I have found one of the key tools to do so is 1:1 discussions with all of my team, no matter the role or level. Of course, the task of developing trust and comfort to ensure honesty and frankness exists is also prevalent but in my experience is more easily managed in a personal discussion-based situation. It is definitely more time-consuming but the benefits are significantly greater.

Remove silos – create relationships.

Development = individual personal development: can business grow if people don’t personally develop?

When developing my team I focus on them as people not as an employee. The role they have is relevant and regularly comes up in discussion however it is only one part of what each person does, is and wants to be. Most coaching opportunities come from the person filling the role, not from the role itself.

Human values = personal preference x cost of effort.

Customer’s expect efficiency – it is not a differentiator. Customers are hungry for empathy and creativity.

Not high tech – it’s high touch!

What do you think of the statements and themes from the symposium? Are they applicable to you? I would appreciate your comments.