Empowering the front line: The Cycle of Service

Thinking like customers (rather than just about them)

The Disneyworld Phenomenon

At he heart of Disneyworld's success is a long standing commitment to providing the best possible service for its customers.  From its earliest days, Disneyworld appreciated that each and every customer interaction was of huge significance with an opportunity to create 'magical' experiences that would make customers want to return again and again.

To create a world of magical customer experiences, Disneyworld pioneered a ground breaking philosophy:

  • the front line colleagues who served customers every day would need to think like those customers
  • at each and every moment in the customer journey they would need to ask themselves the question: 'if this was me, what would I be thinking and feeling about it?'
  • with a true customer mind-set established and colleagues empowered to implement improvements, infinite customer interactions could be continuously examined and magical experiences created.

The impact has of course been phenomenal.  The Disneyworld attractions have remained the most visited entertainment resorts in the world with over 50 million customers selecting the destinations every year.

The challenge of truly thinking like customers

Changing mind-sets and getting colleagues to think like customers (not just about them) is easier said than done.  Many organisations have invested a lot of time and energy into exploring the concept of 'stepping into the customers shoes' - but to truly achieve this can be a major challenge for a number of reasons.

  • The natural instinct is to explore this concept by looking outwards at the customer - not inwards as a customer.  Consequently, the concept of customer 'touch points' is widely misinterpreted
  • Touch points often end up being based around the internal processes of the organisation with little or no correlation to the actual journey that a customer takes
  • Touch points - as defined by the customer - usually start much earlier, come in far greater numbers and conclude much later than most organisations have previously comprehended. For example, imagine you have broken down in your car and have pulled over to the hard shoulder of a motorway.  The chances are you will have experienced many touch points long before you make first contact with your breakdown provider
  • Touch points are only part of the process because 50% of any customer experience is emotional.  To truly get inside the mind-set of a customer requires an analysis of what they are thinking and feeling as well.  If you have experienced a blown out tyre while travelling on a busy motorway you are likely to have undergone a great number of thoughts and feelings: 'have I parked safey?' / 'will I be late for my meeting now?' / 'how long will I have to wait?' / 'did I renew my insurance?' / 'what's the number to call?'.....
  • Quo call these moments for the customer thought points.
  • Thought points occur at (and in between) touch points.  Their effective analysis opens up a considerably more intricate picture of the actual customer experience and it is often at this level that truly magic experiences can be identified

Introducing the Cycle of Service

The Quo Group Cycle of Service methodology has helped hundreds of organisations to create cultures where all colleagues think like customers in everything they say and do.

A Cycle of Service describes the complete end to end experience that a customer has in relation to an organisation. It includes all the points of contact that a customer has when experiencing a particular offering - so there will be different Cycles for each and every service an organisation provides. 

It is comprised of 4 elements:

  • Touch points - a tangible moment where something happens to the customer; for example, a parent is visiting Disneyland and is looking for their camera to take a photo of their family in front of the famous Cinderella Castle
  • Thought points - a moment when the customer thinks (or feels) about what is happening to them; for example, the parent at Disneyland is wondering how they can get a photograph with all of the family in the shot
  • Tragic experiences - when the touch point or thought point is negative for the customer; for example, the parent realises they wont be able to get the whole family in the shot as one of them will need to take the photograph
  • Magic experiences - when the touch point or thought point is positive for the customer; for example, a member of the Disneyland team sees what is happening (thinking like the customer) and offers to take the photo so that the whole family can be in the shot 

Creating the Cycle

In a carefully facilitated environment, front line colleagues together with their line managers analyse the 4 elements which make up a Cycle for a service offering they know well.  Crucially, although the front line creates the Cycle, its is defined from the perspective of the customer.  In other words, colleagues must think like customers at each and every part of the process in order to create the Cycle.

 Addressing tragic and creating magic

As the Cycle is constructed and tragic experiences are identified, a platform is created from which ideas can be generated to address the tragic and create magic experiences.  This element is highly engaging for the front line participants as it gives them a voice - often unlocking hidden ideas that can substantially enhance the customer experience as well as creating efficiencies, productivity improvements and cost savings.

The ideas fall into 3 categories:

  • "What can I do differently?" (simple behavioural changes that can be implemented immediately with minimal to zero cost)
  • "What can the team do differently?" (collective actions that can enhance a particular team or division)
  • "What can the organisation do differently?" (business ideas for consideration at a group wide level)

The majority of ideas (usually around 80%) fall into the first category ("what can I do differently?") so significant improvements in customer experience can be achieved rapidly and with very little cost or complexity.

Seeking continuous improvements

Cycle of Service is most powerful when created by front line colleagues.  By being active participants in its creation, the front line embrace the mind-set change of thinking like customers.  Their direct involvement and empowerment in being able to identify magic experiences has a dramatic impact, both on their engagement and in embedding lasting behavioural change (which is driven by them).  The Cycle is explored continuously, both in terms of regular reviews and fresh ideas which are generated when colleagues return to their roles and begin thinking like customers.

Results and ROI from the Cycle of Service

  • A global retail bank lifted Net Promoter Score (NPS) by nearly 30 points across 15 countries in just 3 months.  Subsequently, cross selling revenues measured by Products Per Customer (PPC) were almost 50% higher
  • The AA, Bupa, Anglian Water and Starbucks all became industry leaders at delivering brilliant customer service and achieved a unique and competitive advantage in their markets
  • A global manufacturing business raised NPS by 17 points in it's European territories in under 6 months.  It is now rolling out the Cycle in the USA and is already achieiving significant results
  • One of the world's leading recruitment consultancies doubled 'deals per consultant head', leading to a significant rise in global revenues
  • Employee engagement has risen by 50% in instances where all front line colleagues are included in the creation of the Cycle
  • Magic ideas for customers can also have a major impact on cost savings and productivity.  One UK utility provider identified a £3 million cost saving idea from a single 'magic' idea

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  • What is a Cycle of Service?

    A Cycle of Service describes the complete end to end experience that a customer has when interacting with an organisation in relation to a particular service offering. Crucially, it is formed from the point of view of the customer rather than the organisation and the resulting outputs generate a revealing and often surprising insight into the true customer experience.

    In a carefully facilitated process, the front line people who deliver a particular service will explore a Cycle, but from the mind set of the customer rather than their own organisation. This is a challenge - to create an effective Cycle of Service requires people to stop thinking about their customers as they do every day and to start thinking like them. Creating this change in mind set is the first step to delivering striking and lasting improvements to the customer experience.

  • How to create a Cycle of Service?

    The Cycle journey explores two different points of interaction that a customer has with an organisation.
    'Touch points' describe a specific and tangible interaction – for example when a customer contacts a helpline number on the hard shoulder of a motorway. Although the term is widely used today, the true customer perspective around where these touch points begin, how many there are and when they conclude is usually widely at odds with the organisational view (which often reflects its own processes rather than the customer's actual journey).
    But the experience goes much deeper than touch points. For the person who has broken down on the motorway, they are also likely to be thinking about - and feeling - a number of things long before they actually place the call to the helpline. For example, do they have appropriate insurance, what is the number to call and they going to be safe where they have pulled over?
    These are called 'Thought points'. They can occur at and between each and every touch point. By analysing the experience at these two levels, it is possible to examine the true customer experience in a level of intricacy that has never been contemplated before.

  • Ways to improve a Cycle of Service

    With all 'touch points 'and' thought points' that form a Cycle of Service accurately identified, it is possible to examine the positive (magic) and negative (tragic) experiences that customers encounter along these points of interaction.
    When it comes to ideas for addressing tragic experiences and creating magical ones, the resident experts are almost always the front line people who deal with customers directly every day. The resulting ideas that are formed by front line participants during a Cycle of Service fall into 3 categories.
    1. What can I do differently?
    2. What can the team do differently?
    3. What can the organisation do differently ?
    In a typical Cycle of Service, hundreds of ideas for improvement can be formulated. The majority of these (around 80%) will fall into the first category – 'what can I do differently?' Participants are then engaged in a process which ranks the ideas so that the ones which are easiest and speediest to implement, with the greatest impact and the lowest costs are prioritised for immediate implementation.