Customer Experience Matters…

17 11 2010

You can also get an audio version of this podcast here: Listen!

Increasingly companies are not just offering customers products, but a combination of product AND service. Even for those mainly selling products, the customer purchase experience is so important that companies like Apple, Nike, Adidas, AGA, Bose, and Bang & Olufsen are taking the lead by setting up their own stores. They want to connect with their end users and have more control within the overall customer experience. And after-sales service is a further key component of the overall package for many companies such as car and motor-cycle manufacturers, and for electronics/white/brown goods producers.

But whilst product development is usually carried out by dedicated R&D teams, service development is often ignored, or left to distribution partners. This ignores the fact that meeting ever increasing customer expectations is a key aspect of competitive differentiation, and is vital to both customer retention and generating word-of-mouth referrals.

Traditional service related organisations such as banks and restaurants are re-inventing how they deliver as the basis for retaining customers and winning new ones. And those within the public sector are beginning to wake up too. We now understand that there is a need to radically transform how we deliver public services because our economy cannot support the current cost of them. But no-one wants to pay less for a lower-quality service, so the exam question is :-

“how can we deliver a better quality service at lower cost?”

So Service Design is increasingly important to ALL organisations. Customer experience REALLY matters. Looking forward 10 years, meeting the needs of customers will only be delivered by radical change and re-inventing how service is delivered. For example, both Mercedes Benz and BMW are currently investing heavily to develop business models that rent vehicles to users by the hour instead of selling them a new car every 3-4 years. For more about this see this Economist report about Car2Go.

Is your organisation considering this? Will your next 5 year strategy embrace emerging technology and social trends to define how you will deliver a better customer experience than your competitors? Will it show how Authentic your business is? Will it embrace design-thinking as a way of engaging end-users? If not then perhaps it should?

If you would like to discuss how Cultivar can help you to develop and implement your own customer experience strategy then please get in touch.

James Rock – MD and Chief Business Designer





Can business mend Broken Britain?

7 10 2010

You can also get an audio version of this podcast here: Listen!

I guess that before answering the question we have to ask ourselves “Is Britain Broken?”

These questions were posed to a panel at a fringe event held at the recent Conservative Party Annual Conference in Birmingham. The event was sponsored by the Tory Reform Group and included the following speakers :-

Nick Venning – Chairman of THRIVE CSR network Birmingham; Richard Fuller Cons MP for Bedford; Jane Ellison Cons MP for Battersea; and Margot James Cons MP for Stourbridge.

It was good to see these new MP’s who came to power in the 2010 election talk positively about what they think this new government can do to mend Britain. They agreed that there is a massive disparity between those at the top of the social pyramid and those at the bottom.  They agreed that people have “fallen out of love with capitalism”.  They agreed that the public sector had grown out of proportion to the private sector. They seemed to agree that there isn’t a quick-fix, and posed the following ideas on how business can help mend Broken Britain :-

– Businesses need to Partner with government to create a form of “Caring Capitalism” – using examples like John Lewis Partnership to share ownership with employees and embrace apprenticeships, etc

– Businesses need to demonstrate they are ethical and act with a sense of shared purpose to work for their community

– Government needs to praise and support the job-creating industries – such as the service sector and financial services sector who between them have created 4.8m jobs whilst manufacturing has lost 4m jobs

I would suggest that no-one will argue with these ideas. However, it struck me that they are somewhat conventional in thinking. We are entering a Government “Spending Review” and the expectation is a wave of cuts which everyone is fearful of. This may be necessary in the short-term, but as I wrote in my earlier blog post “Saving our way to prosperity…” it will not deliver more jobs or create greater wealth. So is more creativity and innovation needed in how we re-invent our businesses and re-position them for growth? We all know that growth of private sector businesses and creation of new jobs will result in shared wealth. So is now the time to foster the development of a new wave of caring capitalists to accompany the existing wave of social entrepreneurs who have created jobs, but taken a lot of public money to do this?

I believe that government and business both need to be more creative and innovative in supporting new ways of working. Developing Authentic businesses with a real purpose within the community. Sharing rewards via new forms of collective ownership. Government supporting these moves with financial support, grants and tax incentives designed to encourage more activity in this field.

What do you think? Is this a movement that we can get moving?

James Rock – MD and Chief Business Designer





Inspired Thinking with Adnams CEO Andy Wood

10 08 2010

Adnams have long been on my list of Inspiring Companies (see blogroll on the right).  I wrote a short article about them last year which you can read here : –

Avoiding Mediocrity – An exemplar of sustainability

Photo Copyright Jason Dye - http://www.jasondye.com

Adnams is the Southwold based brewing firm founded in 1872 when George and Ernest Adnams purchased the Sole Bay brewery with the help of their father. The business has grown steadily and won great acclaim for their beers, and recently many awards for their sustainable achievements.

Since 1990 the business has expanded to include wine and leisure retailing. Today the business is focused in three areas – Brewing and Brands, including its tenanted estate; Hotels and Managed Houses; and Wine and Shops including the Cellar & Kitchen chain of stores. In 2009 improved growth and profitability led to turnover of more than £50m and in their peak summer season employs more than 400 people

Last week I got the chance to interview Adnams CEO Andy Wood (right) about the business, its authentic values, and strategy for sustainable development.

You can listen to the interview here : Authentic Business Directory – Adnams plc

I would love to hear your comments about Authentic and Sustainable business – post a comment below.

If you would like to discuss how I can help you develop and implement your own sustainable and authentic business strategy then please get in touch.

James Rock – MD and Chief Business Designer





The value of being Authentic…

14 07 2010

You can also get an audio version of this podcast here: Listen!

I had an interesting meeting with a CEO this week. Our discussion focused on his desire to develop his business Authentically but he was worried about the opinions of significant and vocal shareholders who are constantly pushing him for short-term profitability.  He felt that board meetings had recently become something of a battle zone, and despite a track record of success he felt both insecure and angry that these shareholders are taking such a short-term perspective. This isn’t a new phenomenon of course, its a well known fact in publicly quoted companies, and is often one of the key reasons for under-investment.

Our conversation reminded me of an interview I heard recently with the owner of a Japanese family business that had been trading for more than 100 years. He attributed the long term success of the business to a philosophy of “growing like an oak tree not like a water melon….” He knew that slow organic growth made for a strong business with “A Heart of Oak”. He had seen many businesses that had pushed for aggressive and acquisitive growth that had failed or been taken over and integrated into other companies. I thought it was a good lesson for sustainable business.

But the Oak Tree metaphor didn’t really help my client… he could see the long term benefits, but he needed help to convince his shareholders that adopting an authentic approach can deliver increased shareholder value in the short-term too.  So we sat down and brainstormed just some of the benefits, which include:-

Increased Sales

  • increasingly customers seek to do business with sustainable companies, and with those that fulfill a social need;
  • customers of authentic businesses tend to tell their family and friends and these word-of-mouth recommendations results in more business; and
  • happy customers keep returning – so customer retention is higher.

Reduced Operating Costs

  • a true sense of purpose helps everyone focus on core competence, and reducing distracting activities;
  • marketing spend is lower since word-of-mouth overtakes advertising and special offers as the principal source of acquiring new customers;
  • staff turnover is reduced – resulting in lower recruitment and training costs;
  • staff feel more rewarded – since money isn’t their key motivator – resulting in greater productivity; and
  • suppliers are more helpful since the respect you show earns their loyalty – they go that extra mile to deliver on time, help develop new products, and find joint ways to reduce total costs.

Improved Shareholder Value

  • sustainable growth and steady contracts leads to increased P/E ratios;
  • increased profitability is multiplied by the higher P/E ratios to deliver higher shareholder value; and
  • business success attracts more potential buyers – increasing competitiveness in the buy cycle.

The above benefits now need to be quantified, but the CEO feels reassured that he can justify investing in developing an Authentic business strategy, and adopting Authentic leadership across the organisation… Is this an opportunity for you too?

Why not get in touch for an exploratory chat about the benefits that your organisation could get from Authenticity…

James Rock

Chief Business Designer – CULTIVAR Consulting

Partner – AUTHENTICIS Consulting Network





Inspiring Companies

24 06 2010

You can also get an audio version of this podcast here: Listen!

As a consumer I constantly look out for businesses that are distinctive, that offer value for money, that deliver great products and great customer service.

As a Business Designer I constantly look out for great companies as sources of inspiration, across all types of sectors, and use these as best-in-class examples to learn from.

Often these two coincide – I find businesses that really make me happy for some reason and I share these with friends and family when they ask for word-of-mouth recommendations; but I also share them with my clients and use the things that make them unique to help create a vision of what clients could be doing for their own customers.

Increasingly I find myself drawn to Authentic Businesses i.e. those who focus on long-term sustainability and display a true sense of purpose, respect their stakeholder needs, act with integrity, are distinctive in their market, and are environmentally conscious.

I have started to develop a list of these inspiring and authentic companies, and you can take a look at the blog-roll on the right where you can link straight through to their websites. If you search the web about any of them you will probably find other interesting comments and articles and video’s about them too.

Finally, I am constantly on the look out for more Inspiring Companies to learn from and so invite you to leave a comment and share your own sources of happiness and inspiration if you think they deserve mentioning…

James Rock

MD & Chief Business Designer – CULTIVAR Consulting

Partner – Authenticis





Design Thinking, Architecture and Interior Design

11 04 2010

Two years ago I wrote the following blog post: –

“Are your Employees like Battery Hens?”

The theme of this post was about the issue of workplace design and how it relates to happiness and motivation of your employees. I argued that I find only too often that workplace design is poor and uninspiring, leading to both poor motivation and poor levels of creativity and innovation in the workplace.

Later, in September 2008 I wrote the following blog post: –

“Business 2.0 – Delighting customers, shareholders and employees simultaneously”

The theme of this post was about embracing Business 2.0 to think again about how we organise our businesses, embrace technology to support home-working practices, and resulting in happier employees, greater productivity and innovation, and better profits and improved shareholder value.

Now I would like to link these two earlier posts to my recent thoughts on Design Thinking…

The office above is at leading design agency IDEO in San Francisco. Notice that it isn’t rows of cubicles, or bland desks, with poor lighting and ventilation.  This space is COOL.  Its designed as a social and collaborative space where groups or teams of various sizes can get together.  People can go away and work on things alone, but now when they get together they want something more than a 10×10 meeting room with a square table and four chairs. This type of environment not only supports creativity and innovation – it stimulates it!

Is your workspace like this? If not here is a link to a website where you can see 10 seriously cool designs for an office – perhaps this will inspire you :

“10 seeeeeriously cool workplaces”

So if you are seeerious about Design Thinking as a way of re-inventing your business, then why not engage a leading architect and interior designer to help? think of it differently – is it possibly something you thought was previously too expensive? but now maybe you should consider it as an investment?

Contact me for more information about how we can help bring design thinking, creativity and innovation to your business via our network of associates.

James Rock – MD & Chief Business Designer

CULTIVAR Consulting





The Art of Business Design 2.0

1 04 2010

I recently published a free eBook on the subject covering my philosophy of Authentic Design Thinking.

This covers Design Thinking and Authenticity, and how I believe that these are both crucial important elements in designing and/or redesigning business models that cope with the miriad of challenges of today, and position businesses to be the leading companies of tomorrow.

You can view and download your FREE copy of this book from Slideshare.net – just follow this link:-

The Art of Business Design 2.0

Don’t forget to share your comments about this subject below.

If you would like to discuss it in more detail and how it can apply to your business then contact me…

James Rock, Chief Business Designer – CULTIVAR Consulting