John Sills on the human experience

Progress. Surely a sign of progress is that you make things cheaper, faster, and more efficient, while keeping the level of quality at least the same. If not better. But I think we can all agree things don’t seem to be heading in that direction when it comes to life as a customer.

Would you say that the customer experience over the last 20 years has gotten better? I think we all agree the answer is no.

But is that acceptable? If things aren’t working for customers, and not working for colleagues, perhaps it’s important to find another way? And that’s exactly what John Sills, Managing Partner at the customer-led growth company, The Foundation, talks to us about today.

25 years ago, he started his career on a market stall in Essex, and since then has worked in and with companies around the world to make things better for customers.

He’s been in front-line teams delivering the experience, innovation teams designing the propositions, and global HQ teams creating the strategy. He’s been a bank manager during the financial crisis (not fun), launched a mobile app to millions of people (very fun), and regularly visits strangers’ houses to ask very personal questions (incredible fun).

He now works with companies across industries and around the world, and before joining The Foundation spent twelve years at HSBC, latterly as Head of Customer Innovation.

And he’s just published a book on the topic – The Human Experience. We talk about the importance of human-centric behaviours to create more efficient companies. The power of an outside-in perspective. And in short, how to make life better for customers. Which then creates a better business – on all fronts.

This is a super fun, funny, human, and incredibly important conversation.

So grab that favourite beverage, or throw on those running shoes, and here is John.

And please don’t forget to let us know what you think of this episode, leave a review and subscribe.

00:00:02:05 – 00:00:27:03
Philippa White
Welcome to the show, where we unearth new ways of looking at ever evolving lights around the world. Seen from a number of different industries, cultures and backgrounds. But there’s one thing that unites everyone I speak to. They all want to do their part to make the world better in their own unique ways. It’s a uniting passion. Whether they’re from the commercial world, third sector or public sector from the Global North or the global south.

00:00:27:15 – 00:01:13:24
Philippa White
My name is Philippa White and welcome to TIE Unearthed as the world of business becomes somewhat obsessed with technology. It’s perfecting the functional experience at the expense of the human experience. Companies are doing this to supposedly be more efficient. Organizations are now full of humans who are not allowed to act in a human way. And it turns out the best way for companies to increase their efficiency is to make things better for customers, which actually means creating a more human experience for people.

00:01:14:12 – 00:01:45:02
Philippa White
In short, things are heading in the wrong direction, and that’s exactly what we’re going to be talking about today. Hello and welcome to episode 71 of TIE Unearthed. Today I’m speaking with John Sills, managing partner at the customer led growth company, the Foundation. 25 years ago, he started his career on a market stall in Essex and since then has worked in and with companies around the world to make things better for customers.

00:01:45:17 – 00:02:13:12
Philippa White
He’s been in frontline teams delivering the experience, innovation teams, designing the propositions, and global headquarter teams creating the strategy. He’s been a bank manager during the financial crisis, which, as he says, was not a ton of fun. Launched a mobile app to millions of people, which was a lot of fun, and regularly visits strangers houses to ask very personal questions, which to quote him, is incredibly fun.

00:02:14:06 – 00:02:38:04
Philippa White
He now works with companies across industries and around the world and before joining the foundation, spent 12 years at HSBC, latterly as head of customer innovation. Now we’re going to be talking about his book on this topic, which is the human experience. It was published by Bloomsbury in February of 2023, and his writing has been featured in The Guardian, DFT and Management today.

00:02:38:16 – 00:02:47:07
Philippa White
This is a super fun, funny, human and incredibly important conversation. So grab that favorite beverage or throw in those running shoes.

00:02:47:16 – 00:02:55:06
Philippa White
And here’s John. John, thank you so much for joining us. It’s lovely to have you here. How are you?

00:02:55:23 – 00:02:58:16
John Sills
I’m good. I’m very good. I’m slightly wet, but I’m very good. Apart from that.

00:02:59:00 – 00:03:03:16
Philippa White
Yes. Clocks changed and we thought it was summer. And it’s England.

00:03:04:13 – 00:03:08:06
John Sills
It’s England. So it’s never quite summer. But you enjoy it more when it is.

00:03:08:19 – 00:03:14:08
Philippa White
That’s true. That is true. So just for our listeners, you’re obviously in England. Where are you in England?

00:03:14:11 – 00:03:26:19
John Sills
Yes. Yes, I’m just outside London to our offices in King’s Cross. I live just outside the M25. My wife never wanted to live in London, always wanted to live in. So we live as close to the M25 as possible, basically.

00:03:27:03 – 00:03:48:00
Philippa White
Nice. So why don’t you tell us a little bit about you before the foundation and before your book, obviously, which we will be talking about the human experience, how to make life better for your customers and create a more successful organization. So I’m really looking forward to talking about that. But let’s just back up a little bit because it’s been lovely to just know who is John Sayles.

00:03:48:07 – 00:04:11:00
John Sills
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, definitely. Thank you. And thanks for having me on again. I really, really appreciate you. So I guess my career on that side of things has always been in making things better for customers in various ways. I actually started at a market store in Essex from many generations of knowing when I’m from Essex in England, just outside London, and it was on a market still there when I was 14 selling Haberdashery.

00:04:11:07 – 00:04:34:04
John Sills
Of all the of all the things and a few years of work in three various retail places when I was at university, no idea what I wanted students or did history enjoy that. And then I joined HSBC and I had 12 years at HSBC and the first few years were in the branch as a branch manager during the financial crisis, which was eye opening and worrying and scary but fascinating from a human behavior perspective.

00:04:34:04 – 00:04:59:15
John Sills
At the same time, after saying I’d never work in head office, I went to work in head office and launched our first mobile app and it got the customer experience. And then from there I met my foundation mate, Charlie Dawson at the foundation. And so I’d quite like to do customer things across other organizations as well. So that’s kind of been my my path I guess from the age of about four with them, with various locations, various ways with customers over the holiday.

00:04:59:22 – 00:05:24:21
Philippa White
Yeah, that’s really interesting. And I can completely see obviously why Charlie, having met you, be Oh my God, you’re the executive person we meet here. Like you say, you’ve been involved in so many different aspects of customer experience and your being outside in and understanding sort of the greater world and having that come into the foundation. That’s amazing.

00:05:24:24 – 00:05:25:05
Philippa White
Yeah.

00:05:25:14 – 00:05:47:13
John Sills
The thing is kind of that perspective thing. So Cross Insights, I’ve kind of been in frontline teams with customers and I’ve been in kind of head office teams in the strategy I’ve been in innovation teams come out with the product. But the thing that I think that still enable me to have it, yeah, I still remember some of these customers that used to come and see me on the market stall or when I was in the branch and then it stops you.

00:05:47:13 – 00:06:03:17
John Sills
I think when you’re in the strategy world, you know, just going off from one and coming up with ridiculous ideas because it helps you to ground you a little bit in what I still remember, some of these customers used to come in and see me and it’s great to have them in mind as to what they really think about how they really react.

00:06:03:20 – 00:06:09:11
John Sills
So yeah, it’s quite it’s quite useful, I think, to have some of my memory home. Right.

00:06:10:05 – 00:06:39:09
Philippa White
We talked about this obviously before we started recording, but I absolutely adored reading your book. And to see that about a business book I think is a huge compliment because business books, as we all know, can be super dry and framework, key and theory. And, you know, as the listeners know what we do, it’s all about human experiential leadership programs, which are you know, there’s certainly theory as part of it.

00:06:39:13 – 00:07:03:17
Philippa White
But the whole point is experiential learning. And for me, I learned so much better through experiences, through stories, through being able to put myself into the situation of someone else. And you totally did that with your book. And it’s one of those books that you just, Oh, my God, that’s so funny. And I thought myself I was lying in bed and my partner was sort of like that.

00:07:03:17 – 00:07:09:18
Philippa White
I’d still be studying and it still kind of going off to sleep and I had to put my head in front of my mouth as I started.

00:07:09:18 – 00:07:12:15
Philippa White
Laughing because I can’t do that. So, you know.

00:07:14:07 – 00:07:17:09
John Sills
So so you.

00:07:19:08 – 00:07:22:22
Philippa White
Talk to us about the book and why you wrote it.

00:07:23:00 – 00:07:34:06
John Sills
Yeah. Thank you. It’s really lovely. Thank you. It’s the same study. What about when you put any kind of writing out in the world? But it’s really nice to get to know the people. So I thought you were laughing at the right part.

00:07:34:06 – 00:07:34:12
Philippa White
Right?

00:07:34:20 – 00:07:55:17
John Sills
Just awful writing. That’s terrible sentence structure. Yeah. So I suppose the book came from a couple of different places. I mean, one was I’ve been writing since about 2014 and actually just before I joined the foundation, so they start writing articles. So I really got into the habit and really started loving it. But then about four or five years ago I was on holiday with my family, with my wife and my one son.

00:07:55:17 – 00:08:18:12
John Sills
At the time it’s about five, and we were on one of these beautiful steam trains. We taken a day out on a steam train going through the English countryside, and it had eight leather seats and a really lovely kind of panel table. And this lady walking down with a trolley of really nice homemade food on it. It was perfect for my son turned to me and he said, Daddy, is this what it’s like when you get the train into London every day?

00:08:18:15 – 00:08:40:16
John Sills
And it was just so loved and I know, like, it’s actually not like it’s the complete opposite. It’s an absolute nightmare. And it got me thinking the companies are interesting because sort of a sign of progress is that you make things quicker and cheaper and more efficient. But while keeping the level of quality at least the same, if not better.

00:08:40:16 – 00:09:03:15
John Sills
But actually there’s a number of things I think in life generally, but as a customer where actually in the last 20 years where we’ve been making things quicker and easier and cheaper, we’ve been perfecting the kind of functional experience. We’ve kind of lost that emotional human experience. And, you know, we spent so much time and organization, have spent so much time focusing on do more things in more ways more quickly than ever before.

00:09:03:20 – 00:09:38:21
John Sills
But actually, I’m not sure the actual customer experience has got better, revenues got worse. I think a lot of the less happy customers than we probably were ten or 20 years ago. And this is good evidence to back that up as well. And I think at some point that needs calling out and it needs to go out because it’s not really acceptable because ultimately at the end, if the customer experiences a human that’s got their own strengths and their own family, their own priorities, and they don’t need 45 minutes on how to IKEA, even if they do play the gold standard music, which they do and is awkward when they don’t pick up the phone

00:09:38:22 – 00:09:51:15
John Sills
and you’re halfway through singing Waterloo. That’s where the idea of the book came from. And then I was in the I was in the shop one day and I just the thought of human came into my head and I thought, Yeah, that’s it. That’s the missing link. Plus the thing I think that connects together everything I’m trying to say.

00:09:51:15 – 00:09:56:23
John Sills
So I decided and then I was just going to get going and write the book. And then here we are a couple of years later.

00:09:57:05 – 00:10:18:04
Philippa White
It’s funny because as we talked about, I’m writing a book. I mean, I’m only sort of six months into it, so I’ve got a little bit to go yet. But what I love about how you put it together and we talked about that before we started recording as well, just how it’s laid out is so wonderful. And you can see the build, you can see the different elements of the importance of humanity.

00:10:18:04 – 00:10:34:05
Philippa White
When you talk about the competencies, it just seems almost so obvious when you read your book and you think, Yeah, we’re going in the wrong direction. People, we all kind of have to just open our eyes and sort of say, Hold on a second. There’s a there’s a better way. And how you laid that out was just you could just you can see that.

00:10:34:05 – 00:10:36:00
Philippa White
And then, of course, all your stories bring it to life.

00:10:36:00 – 00:11:06:19
John Sills
I think it’s a really important point there as well, that, you know, I talk in the book about organizations. It’s become the organizations are full of images go on and out to act in a human way. And I think that’s really if anything, that’s kind of a big point, I suppose I probably want people to take from it because that impacts customers, but it also impacts colleagues as well in a really big part of the motivation to work is empowerment and creating empowered autonomy and actually this kind of sense of humans becoming robotic and know icon.

00:11:06:19 – 00:11:24:13
John Sills
And then these processes and procedures is really bad for customers, but it’s bad for the colleagues as well. But because of the way humans work and organization and work, everyone just kind of accepts things. You get into these organizations, you start to see the world from the inside out and it just becomes the way things are done around.

00:11:24:23 – 00:11:38:19
John Sills
It happens in every organization and that’s why we’re nearly every organization. And that’s kind of why, I guess I felt it was important because I think we do need something to say. Well, hang on a minute. This isn’t working with colleagues and with the customers. We need to do it another way.

00:11:38:20 – 00:12:00:06
Philippa White
It’s such a point and it’s funny. It reminds me of the podcast so long ago, now sort of two years ago with Charlie Dawson of the Foundation, of course. And at the time I was talking to him about a horrible experience that I was having with Sky, and I wanted to cancel Sky and they kept sort of saying, But hold on, no, you, I need to pass it to somebody else.

00:12:00:06 – 00:12:12:03
Philippa White
And then you sort of like, I really don’t want to talk. I literally just want it canceled. No, no, no. You need to speak to somebody else and you’re sort of still on the phone 20 minutes later and. No, no, no. And they’re making it really difficult for you to cancel and they’re going through all this. No, no, no.

00:12:12:03 – 00:12:35:19
Philippa White
It’s not possible to do it. This you need to call another phone number. And as a customer, you’re just obviously getting more and more. You know, it’s even more reason why I am never going to go back to Sky. Then, as Charlie pointed out, imagine being that person they know it’s wrong. They know it’s wrong. They’re having to do this because the system has said you must do this, but they as human beings must be feeling terrible inside.

00:12:36:02 – 00:12:37:23
Philippa White
Well, I’m sure that they are.

00:12:37:23 – 00:12:59:19
John Sills
Yeah, but there they are. And they see the the dichotomy, the situation is that everybody knows it’s ridiculous. Everybody if you’re even if you’re the CEO of Sky or a managing director, head of department, everyone know what it seems like to be that customer on the end of the phone. No one thinking this is a good experience. But yeah, it still happens.

00:13:00:07 – 00:13:30:15
John Sills
It still happens because all of these incentives and measures and metrics get in the way, the way organizations start to work, the way people are individually measured. All of these things creates this culture. I think that it can. You can with it something about that phrase that people will do the most absurd things if they’re surrounded by a group of like minded individuals, something like that, essentially, you know, if you’re in a situation where everyone is doing this crazy things, you kind of go along with it because otherwise you’re with a crazy groupthink.

00:13:31:05 – 00:13:51:13
John Sills
Groupthink, and you just and essentially this on a on a ground organizational almost industry wide scale. I mentioned just to call out it’s a separate book called End by Jane McLeod, which is all about how organizations just ignoring end. And you can actually if sky made it really easy to leave they probably be first on the list to consider next time you’re thinking of stopping.

00:13:51:24 – 00:13:52:23
Philippa White
Yeah, they’re not really my.

00:13:52:23 – 00:14:01:05
John Sills
Make it in make it. It’s so hard for you to leave. They actually get rid of any brand goodwill and then they go further down your list next time you come back to them.

00:14:01:05 – 00:14:10:13
Philippa White
So yeah, no, that’s really interesting to this point. Just from your point of view, you know, why is being human centric important in your mind?

00:14:10:19 – 00:14:28:08
John Sills
That’s how I use two reasons, actually. Firstly, because I genuinely think it’s about making life better for customers now without making the sun more grand than it really is. That in life, if you can make things better for the people around you, that’s a pretty good way to spend your life or to talk about what purposes and everything else.

00:14:28:09 – 00:14:51:20
John Sills
More broadly, making things better for the people is a good thing. And what I find in organizations is that the ones that are here and they do this, they, they say improve customers lives and that kind of organization, too, that should be about and I’m pretty sure nearly every organization has probably been set up with that purpose. Someone had an idea about something that can help make people’s lives better and they think they can make money from it.

00:14:51:22 – 00:15:05:11
John Sills
And that’s how it should work. But as they grow and grow and grow, that kind of original feeling gets gets lost. And the problem is that all of these examples that we talk about, you can’t say in the book, I try and make quite a few of them quite funny and there is quite a serious point in it.

00:15:05:21 – 00:15:38:12
John Sills
This is people’s lives being wasted. You know, it’s people stress. People have got enough stress in their life. You know, I’ve got two kids. I run a business near the car mortgage. I need these services to help make everything else better so I can reduce the stress elsewhere and enjoy, enjoy life not having to, you know, as I am currently surrounded by most full car insurance forms and then post it so jobs I’ve got to do and of course service company but but they won’t answer my call because they’ve got unexpectedly high coupons all of these things that as customers we kind of laugh off.

00:15:38:12 – 00:15:50:22
John Sills
But it’s a serious point that we’re spending hours and our lives doing this. I think one’s trying to get an organization to change its average call waiting time metric in its contact center to humanize wastage. But I.

00:15:50:22 – 00:15:52:08
Philippa White
Love that you talk about that in the book.

00:15:53:01 – 00:16:11:23
John Sills
I thought it was a very smart thing. That at the end of the year, I don’t know how long people been on, how many converted that into human lives, waiting for that would really, really drive home the point. But they were going to they didn’t write the last minute they stepped back. But it’s that kind of thing that we can lose that human thought.

00:16:12:09 – 00:16:32:15
John Sills
You know, the other point, I think, is that if you do design with humans in mind, I think you just come up with that product. And I think that more people want to stay with you and more people with genuinely want to recommend me and then you have a more successful business. So it is better for customers. But I think nearly every year giving the book show, actually, if you get it right, it’s better for the business to less failure.

00:16:32:15 – 00:16:35:22
John Sills
Demand more people stay with you kind of just makes sense.

00:16:36:09 – 00:17:09:24
Philippa White
Totally. Totally. And I mean, there’s just so many examples. We will get to some examples in a bit. Literally, every single chapter has been like ten stories and each one just bringing each point to life beautifully. And it does seem so simple, but yet it isn’t common, which is and it’s becoming even more less common. Reflecting on and I actually talked about this in the last podcast, oddly enough, for me it does drive home the point I remember when I was in 2001, so I had just arrived in the UK, I had set up a bank.

00:17:10:06 – 00:17:27:10
Philippa White
I didn’t know anything about banking in the UK. I set up with Barclays. I think I’d only spent about eight months with Barclays and I remember somebody and I was not happy, to be honest. I was a really lowly paid account executive. I mean, I was little money was not I mean, I had no money. So it’s not like I had loans.

00:17:27:10 – 00:17:47:23
Philippa White
I didn’t have a huge relationship with the bank, but I did. There was some things that I needed to sort out. It was just it was terrible. Just the experience was terrible. And I remember someone telling me, yeah, you realize that you’re more likely to divorce your partner than you are your bank. And I remember thinking, What? Oh, my God, I am so divorcing this bank.

00:17:47:24 – 00:18:13:16
Philippa White
Like, there’s no way I’m going to be this kind of statistic. And so I searched just trying desperately to find a better option. And I came across first direct. I am still with first direct and because I’m in Brazil. So right now the UK is 4 hours ahead. So if I’m doing my banking and it’s 11:00 at night because as we all know, that tends to be the time when we’re having to do our banking and something’s not working.

00:18:13:23 – 00:18:24:13
Philippa White
And I call first direct in England at 11:00 at night, my time in Brazil. And in one ring somebody picks up until.

00:18:24:24 – 00:18:26:10
Philippa White
Now to me.

00:18:26:20 – 00:18:48:18
Philippa White
Is so incredible. And even back to 2001, for me, this was Oh my God, are you kidding me? Like, this is the most extraordinary thing. I can’t believe that HSBC hasn’t figured this out because HSBC owns first direct, but yet I am. Yesterday, I was desperately trying to try to figure out my key card thing for HSBC, for my business banking.

00:18:48:18 – 00:19:00:07
Philippa White
And it’s the battery’s running out, so I’m needing to link up the other one, literally one hour. I tried doing that and I’m trying to get on the chat, but then the thing I get busy on something else in the chat you haven’t managed to do and it’s just.

00:19:00:22 – 00:19:19:15
John Sills
Is fascinating, isn’t it? Because because one of the things I talk about in the book in terms of the idea, well, these enablers, the kind of thinking, the culture, one of the things about ambition and I think that that point about picking up in one range is really important. They’ve always described themselves as being pioneers, pioneers of kind of fantastic customer experience.

00:19:20:03 – 00:19:38:05
John Sills
China is an amazing service, I think is the limits on the wheel when you can visit and they have just have this searing ambition to just be brilliant for customers. Now, at the moment, so many organizations, you phone up, they kind of say, yeah, unexpectedly high call volumes can take about 45 minutes, and then that’s it. That’s okay.

00:19:38:11 – 00:19:54:13
John Sills
And increasingly, this is happening. It kind of this lowering of ambition that, well, waiting 5 minutes is okay, waiting 10 minutes is okay in half an hour is okay because you can expect to do it despite the fact we’ve got so much data coming into ovation. So we should know exactly how busy it’s going to be at different times.

00:19:54:13 – 00:20:13:16
John Sills
It shouldn’t be anything unexpected about it, and if means you should sort it pretty quickly. It’s just this point about actually just like an ambition. If you’ve really got that, I don’t know, maybe that my story about switch rail but that is all about and rate is all about having this incredible ambition to be great for customers. And if you are if you have the ambition you can do great things.

00:20:13:16 – 00:20:39:09
John Sills
You can give a great service and people will recommend, sure want to stay with you and tell other people as soon as you lower your sights and you know you expectations. It’s really easy. Just do a distinctly average and just start taking your customers for granted. In fact, just for me, when we launched the book, we did a survey with customers and I think it was 83% of people said they think the organization is now taking it for granted, which is, wow, that’s terrible.

00:20:39:13 – 00:20:39:24
Philippa White
Isn’t that.

00:20:40:05 – 00:20:56:04
John Sills
Great? Yeah, it’s terrible. It’s pretty useful if you’ve got a book coming out on the topic. But it’s a terrible but it is a terrible statistic. Overall, 81% said they thought organizations were more interested in dying costs than the customer experience. It’s a problem.

00:20:56:04 – 00:21:33:24
Philippa White
It is a problem. You talk in the book about the three myths. You talk about this at the start of the book. So loyalty back and ROIC. So instead of loyalty, organizations need to focus on usefulness instead of feedback surveys on genuine understanding and instead of rely on the cost of inaction. Now, I love this. I think it’s it’s super insightful and I just wonder if you can bring to life, you know, what is the return on being human centric or being focusing on that human experience in your mind?

00:21:34:02 – 00:21:59:07
John Sills
Yeah, I think the return on our life, the really, really interesting one. And I got to tell you a story that in the book only happened a few weeks ago, but I had five baby die. So Christmas I got kind of bullied into wearing and wearing kind of black suit backside like very tired for our Christmas day by that by the younger ones in the office and by this very time I was actually pretty late to get it next day delivery.

00:21:59:14 – 00:22:18:09
John Sills
So on board our office is one of one of the UK’s upstanding retailers paid ¬£7 extra for next day delivery and the next day the van turns up. A guy gets out of music for the half, you get back in the van and he drives off and I’m like basically waving to him, You’ve got the Christmas lights on and I’m going to get an email.

00:22:18:09 – 00:22:40:23
John Sills
Sorry. And you’re like, Well, I mean, a little bit boring. Anyway, I’ll find them up and unexpectedly high cold orange might be out, but I lost about 35 minutes. I get through, I explain the situation, I say, Look, I need it to be delivered tomorrow, but also, can I get a refund on my ¬£7? I pay for next day delivery, which really, if I been smart, I should have gone an automatic refund anyway.

00:22:40:23 – 00:22:55:11
John Sills
That put that to one side for now. So she said, okay, let me think about that. She goes away, she comes back and she said, We can offer you a ¬£5 gift voucher. And I said, Well, that’s not enough because I pay ¬£7 for that for the next day delivery. And so it’s a gift voucher.

00:22:56:01 – 00:22:57:06
Philippa White
So you have to like.

00:22:57:12 – 00:23:17:04
John Sills
I can’t buy anything from you for a fiver. I’m going to spend more money. She goes away for a few minutes and she says, okay, we can offer you ¬£7 as a gift voucher. But that’s that’s the maximum our system can do. And then the next day, delivery it seven 7.95. I know we see it only a little bit now.

00:23:17:07 – 00:23:41:05
John Sills
I’m in this now you know, this is what I do. So I’m not anyone anyone doable, but it just goes on. But I’m like, no, I mean my family. No, the guidance for another very well. And I said, No, no, I said, this is ridiculous. Oh and I want a tenner because you know, it was ¬£10 and now I’ve been on the phone for like an hour and I want it in cash because I don’t want to have to pay yourself.

00:23:41:17 – 00:23:58:02
John Sills
Okay. She said, Well, I’m going to have to ask my manager. It might take 20 to 25 minutes or so. I said, Yeah, oh, I’ll wait, which I didn’t think she was going to say, but she disappears. I’ll turn back after 10 minutes. Somebody, somebody’s been on the phone for over an hour and says, okay, we can give you a tenner in cash.

00:23:59:10 – 00:24:19:11
John Sills
And and you wonder why they’ve got unexpectedly high quality. And this is kind of the point around the light is that there’s this view that I took what is in the books for you that to get to make things better for customers, you have to prove it’s going to make you money. You have to prove it’s going to be a revenue return on investment, that this is going to help people buy more stuff.

00:24:19:15 – 00:24:38:04
John Sills
But actually some stuff that’s data. But the reality of bad customer experience is really expensive to provide that it creates failure demand. I worked with one company one day to send it’s a call was coming in to their contact center were repeat phone calls from people that they rushed off the phone earlier in the day and had to phone back because they weren’t happy.

00:24:38:09 – 00:24:57:18
John Sills
The result that they got when I was in HSBC, 35% of our complaints globally were repeat complaints, reopened complaints, and people weren’t happy with the first outcome that got so bad. Customer experience is expensive to provide. And so if you think about it in terms of what if we could give a good customer experience and make changes, how is that going to make it more efficient?

00:24:57:24 – 00:25:19:05
John Sills
How is that going to save us money and what’s the cost of inaction if we don’t do anything? How many customers are leaving as a result? How much money are we wasting as a result? Once you start seeing it in that frame and you say that making things better for the customers also makes them more commercially effective organization, you get rid of any premiership having to prove it’s going to make you ¬£1,000,000,000 over X number of years.

00:25:19:07 – 00:25:23:19
John Sills
So that’s that’s the premise that they are lying. I got my ¬£10 and I got my body sign.

00:25:24:14 – 00:25:25:18
Philippa White
Did you get the bow tie?

00:25:26:00 – 00:25:29:04
John Sills
I got the bow tie there, no doubt to tie up. But if I have it.

00:25:29:24 – 00:25:52:02
Philippa White
You’re ready for the Christmas party. Yeah, that’s such a good point. What you’re doing is you’re turning it on its head and just saying, okay, so just think about it. If you don’t do it, you know what’s what is going to happen to incidents like, oh, yeah, customer. You know, you just think of the sky example if a company is not human centric, so therefore if it is just to try and get as much money out of the people as possible, you know, a lot.

00:25:53:01 – 00:25:53:03
John Sills
Of.

00:25:53:07 – 00:26:12:00
Philippa White
People don’t believe in the purpose of the place. They don’t really care. They’re not happy. Higher turnover. They don’t they don’t care about the customers because you don’t care about the customers. Then, of course, you know, and then it just sort of this horrible experience for everybody. And then you just you can kind of imagine what that place looks like.

00:26:12:00 – 00:26:33:02
Philippa White
But then if you turn it around and you think of the examples of the places that people are, you know, I was talking to a friend of mine, you know, she was looking for a job, but she was looking for a company. She had a list of company. She’s amazing. She had a list of companies and she said, I will only work for a certain number of these companies because I believe in them and they’re human centric.

00:26:33:09 – 00:26:54:03
Philippa White
And so she ended up getting a job at Lego. She’s the marketing director of Lego, and she said, honestly, I am I feel so honored to have got this job. I feel so lucky to be here. I absolutely adore the way that they treat us. I adore the way I love their vision. I love the ideas. I love what they do when people come into the business.

00:26:54:12 – 00:26:55:16
Philippa White
I mean, that’s what you want.

00:26:55:19 – 00:27:14:10
John Sills
Is to be exactly where you want. And if you have quality and it’s this is no, this is not me. News that when you’ve got really happy colleagues, you get really great customer experience. That’s part of the thing. My first direct talking to them on my birthday three years ago and they had like the string quartet playing at a big Ferris wheel outside.

00:27:14:10 – 00:27:24:17
John Sills
When you walk in the first two nights, they’ve got a concierge desk and that’s for anybody. Anybody that works in First Direct can take anything to this concierge fast and it’ll get sorted for them through the day.

00:27:24:18 – 00:27:26:10
Philippa White
And she’s like, There.

00:27:27:07 – 00:27:43:13
John Sills
Is no hierarchy that I can’t remember her name and the name of the line. It’s on the desk to remind me, even on TV, when exceptionally people get they’ve got one of the first places have a creche in on the on the site. Yeah, it’s just an amazing atmosphere. People want to work. The people are happy working there.

00:27:43:23 – 00:28:03:12
John Sills
Lot of the whole when you phone up, the person on says there’s nobody for each area. It happens to be speaking to you as well. So it’s a really interesting balance. I just just to add on to what you were saying as well about what if we didn’t do this? But you say one of the other messages to feedback and the fact that we live in this epidemic of feedback requests that you can’t have any experience without getting a survey.

00:28:03:20 – 00:28:32:10
John Sills
But the flip for that is so many organizations said emails from do not reply email addresses. And I was chatting to an organization the other day and I said, Well, what if you turned off all of your savings? Might you stop spending millions of pounds a year on all of them saying that it’s a customers don’t want, that you let people apply to your emails and you use the money you’ve saved from the survey to recruit a few more people to answer the emails.

00:28:33:01 – 00:28:51:06
John Sills
Wouldn’t that make a better customer experience and also still gives you feedback because people can email you when they want to email you and tell you what they think wouldn’t just be a better way round of doing it. Yeah. Yeah, that, that could work. But it’s one of those things where you kind of go, well, we can’t we can’t try to email, which we just don’t have the time or money or people to deal with it.

00:28:51:14 – 00:29:03:14
John Sills
But we can employ a whole team of people over here to review 200,000 NPS, and it’s in different parts of the organization and different parts of the organization. They work together.

00:29:03:14 – 00:29:09:06
Philippa White
It’s funny, sometimes it just sort of takes that outside perspective, doesn’t it, just to sort of say, I didn’t just talk to people.

00:29:10:11 – 00:29:29:20
John Sills
Well, yeah, an excellent chance to understand the things that I’m describing and maybe gently mucking about how organizations work. They make sense. But you know, it’s a bit like the hiring at the anything. Like if you think if you just said, well, we’d like to send out surveys to our customers to ask them what they think about that makes sense.

00:29:29:20 – 00:29:45:24
John Sills
Yeah, makes sense. That’s a good thing to do. We could ask them a few simple questions. It would take them a couple of minutes just to directly know with a customer tap, you know, makes sense. It makes it you can see you can see how these things look, but then they reach scale and then it starts to come surveying every customer, every time.

00:29:46:04 – 00:30:01:19
John Sills
And it becomes an unbelievable amount of feedback that you can’t do anything with. Yeah. And that’s where, that’s where people stop thinking about. They just go along with the right. But no one really challenges it because the fundamental principle kind of does make sense in the same way it kind of makes sense to say, Well, we’re going to put this new initiative in.

00:30:01:20 – 00:30:20:08
John Sills
Is you going to make us money? Yeah, kind of makes sense to do that from a organizational point of view. Again, you just need to stop and really stop and reconsider it. And I think most people in organizations now are so busy, you know, we’ve seen a deluge of emails. You know, you just head down back to that meetings actually very hard just to stop and then think.

00:30:20:14 – 00:30:48:21
Philippa White
Yeah, no, that’s really interesting. So about outside in perspectives how that is just so important for companies and we’ve talked about that. But I’m just wondering why in your mind is that important and and I’m just curious to know, considering a local perspective, but also international, I’m obviously asking the international, obviously, because that’s what we do. And I think that it’s so important.

00:30:48:21 – 00:30:54:09
Philippa White
I’m just curious to know what you think, but also from a local point of view and you know that outside in.

00:30:54:09 – 00:31:12:09
John Sills
Yeah, it’s interesting. I mean, they said I think you’re starting to find the person I love today with your audience is so international, which is about if you ask people to draw a map of the world. And so if you are at home listening to this, you know, get a pen and paper polar face for a second, draw a map of the world and it on pause and come back.

00:31:12:09 – 00:31:27:22
John Sills
And what happened when you asked them to do a map of the world? Nearly everyone does the same thing. They draw the country that they’re most familiar with or that they’re in in the middle. And they normally draw that exponentially larger than it really is. And then the fans and they get away from that behavior, it becomes the worse the jewelry gets.

00:31:28:05 – 00:31:46:08
John Sills
In the UK, everyone forgets to draw Japan, even though Japan’s being famous too. Everyone seems to go rational instead of people roughly remember to talk about the have nots again. And this is how our brain works. We see the world from the from the inside out. We will see the world from where we are. And that is because this is how organizations work.

00:31:46:24 – 00:32:15:11
John Sills
You know, your place, your two people are closely to their own colleagues. Their own patient is their own industry. There are regulators and your customers are a bit like Japan in that big and important. You know, they’re there and it’s a lot of lives. And that gets exacerbated when you’re starting to work internationally. I think it matters locally, internationally, because you need to really, really put in the effort to understand the different groups of customers who might be serving and those customers or, you know, they could be customers.

00:32:15:11 – 00:32:39:06
John Sills
It could be colleagues. If you’re leading an organization, it could be your team could be very different depending on the country. They’re in, on the coach. And it can be very different depending on what’s happening in that country or in that culture at the time. Some of the founding elements might be different, work norms might be different, but what happens with this inside out way of thinking and this is is true leadership is is with customer experience is you presuming everyone sees the world the way you see it.

00:32:39:19 – 00:32:57:02
John Sills
So you start to design. And we had an example of this. You start to design products based on what I would like it. You presume everyone else is going to like it or you start to lead your team in the way that you think, well, this is how I like to be managed, but not so everyone else wants to manage.

00:32:57:02 – 00:33:25:11
John Sills
I remember years ago my first ever leadership course I went on. I was told the first three groups of people management is know your people, know your people, know your people. Because it’s only by really knowing your people that you can then, you know, suit, make your style change your style to get the most out of them. So whether it’s leadership or customer experience or population development, being able to go outside to understand really understand what matters in people’s lives and what’s driving their behaviors and what’s affecting them in their culture.

00:33:25:23 – 00:33:35:01
John Sills
That’s how you create great products and how you create great teams. Otherwise it always takes from a very narrow, an individual perspective and you’ll be lucky if you end up getting it right.

00:33:35:13 – 00:33:58:04
Philippa White
Yeah, that’s so that’s exactly it. It’s so powerful. Also, I think just from. Yeah. Just also innovative thinking and creativity and you know, and also yeah, I mean, you touched on cultural intelligence. You know, it’s that ability to be able to you can’t learn cultural intelligence from a book, you know, and people have to give it to you.

00:33:58:11 – 00:34:20:15
Philippa White
And so both from the point of view of leadership and hiring people who are different to yourself, managing people who are different, you know, being able to understand those idiosyncrasies, but also from a customer experience point of view, it’s being able to empathize with people who are different. You know, someone is coming to you with culturally very, very different.

00:34:20:15 – 00:34:45:17
Philippa White
It could seem aggressive, but actually it’s just the nature of that individual. And it’s and it’s just being able to respond in different ways. And and also, as I say, you know, that innovative thinking, creativity, the more that your brain is open, the more and if you’re empowered where you work, the more you’re able to see different opportunities and come up with different solutions for things.

00:34:45:17 – 00:34:48:08
Philippa White
And it’s just so important to come out of that silos and.

00:34:48:19 – 00:35:10:18
John Sills
Yeah, exactly. There’s about five different tangents I could I could go from there, actually, about what you just said about the importance of immersing with customers and really understanding their behavior, because customers won’t necessarily tell you the truth, not because they’re nine, but because they’ll only tell you a version of themselves. And just on that last point, just to pick up on that, so I haven’t spoken about this much, but that’s one of the enablers.

00:35:10:18 – 00:35:28:02
John Sills
It’s a base perspective. Yes. And organizations that do this really well are able to take a very broad perspective. And I tell a story about a guy that came in to see me at the bank when I was looking after small businesses. And he had this great idea he was going to launch a taxi by going around reading.

00:35:28:08 – 00:35:46:05
John Sills
Yes, yes, yes. That I can. Eight person bikes that you could hire. You got to go from the station to the football stadium back again along a really busy road. And I thought, this is a terrible idea. How are you going to have eight people together? All right. In the bike? What’s going to happen if it rains? It’s ready for one route.

00:35:46:05 – 00:36:11:19
John Sills
Absolutely rubbish idea. And I said no. And then about five years later I was in Amsterdam and one of the nearby goes by with a starter on that. He’s like a great spectator laying around the city on a bike. And I thought, Oh, I actually want to go there. And David Thompson controls the adjacent will be able to connect to other ideas in other situations and scenarios and might then bring different ideas.

00:36:11:19 – 00:36:31:24
John Sills
So I funnily enough, literally just two days ago, someone on Twitter read the book sent me a video from the site, actual taxi bikes. Now sort of take what city they’re in, but they actually use your taxi bikes. And it was mine of mine. Narrow mindedness, naive. It takes a while to get my perspective broad enough to see what else could be, what actually could be useful.

00:36:32:13 – 00:36:54:21
Philippa White
Yeah. And that and I just one thing that I’m talking about in my book, it’s interesting because you know, you’ve got your perspectives and you’ve got your background and you’ve also got your skills and where you shine. And I’ve got mine in there and they’re different. And that that’s a good thing. That’s a good thing. And what’s amazing as well is understanding where we shine.

00:36:54:21 – 00:37:21:00
Philippa White
But then to have a team of people who are different and actually being open to that and being able to lean into that, it’s that empathy. You talk about that in the book. You talk about the importance of being empowered, but also the importance of empathetic people in business, the importance of that, I think, comes into just back to, I think, customer service and how those teams run.

00:37:21:00 – 00:37:24:10
Philippa White
And I’m curious to know kind of what you. Yeah. What you think. Yeah.

00:37:25:02 – 00:37:44:19
John Sills
It’s it’s exactly right. That kind of empathetic side that that that has to be allowed to come out. You know, something else we’ve been doing to live in a company recently and the original question was, can you help train the team to be more empathetic? You can’t really. But what you can do is get all the stuff out of their way to allow them to be that human empathetic selves.

00:37:44:22 – 00:37:49:24
John Sills
They still you might remember the black cloud that the yellow chair, I thought, I think kind of brings it to life when you.

00:37:50:05 – 00:37:51:03
Philippa White
Get into your car.

00:37:51:17 – 00:37:55:21
John Sills
Get in my car. Yeah. I tried to buy a side story to tell that.

00:37:56:08 – 00:37:57:11
Philippa White
Story, so.

00:37:58:09 – 00:38:13:13
John Sills
And yeah, it just doesn’t make it to the house again. About five years ago I decided I went to one of those big council reading chairs. Obviously I forgot I had to children, so I was never going to have fun to read reading it. But anyway, I went to a furniture store and they had half price x displayed.

00:38:13:13 – 00:38:30:13
John Sills
So this is perfect, you know, so so this really big comfortable yellow chair is half price. And what I’m going to get the only problem was we trip into the store with my wife and my son and cart for the rubbish and for the kids stuff quite will come into the guy that can I buy it and get it delivered and he said no no.

00:38:30:13 – 00:38:48:05
John Sills
Can you take display furniture at home yourself. Okay. Kind of make sense. So I went away and I came back to him and I said, okay, can I, can I take the chair out to my car, which is in that car park just a few meters outside the door? Can I take the chair out and see if I can fit it in, if I can buy and if not, bring it back in?

00:38:48:16 – 00:39:05:00
John Sills
He goes upstairs and asked his manager comes back down. No, you can only take it off the premises if you bought the chair. So. Okay, can I buy the chair? Take it out. Can’t fit in the cart. It doesn’t fit. Bring it back and get a refund. He goes up and asks. His manager comes back down. No, no.

00:39:05:00 – 00:39:21:24
John Sills
I’m afraid you can only want to support it. It may refund stuff like furniture and. Okay, can I buy the chair? Leave it here for an hour while I drive my one time and John McEnroe clear out the back. He goes in, his manager comes back down. No. Once you bought the show, you have to take it immediately.

00:39:22:10 – 00:39:38:02
John Sills
And I set it off. And then one of these folks back, a grain chicken crossing a river, it was like, there’s an answer in here somewhere about can’t quite work out what it is. So eventually I say, Right, I’m just going to risk it. I’m going to take it. And this guy is like 21, I must say. I came to say I’m no, I said it.

00:39:38:02 – 00:39:55:01
John Sills
Can you please help for the check? You really shouldn’t be carrying it to the car. And he’s like, Yeah, no problem, that’s not what you say, but only carry it to the door because I’m not insured to carry it outside of the door. So he regretted carrying the chair with me to the door, puts it down. And him and his colleague Standard what?

00:39:55:14 – 00:40:15:14
John Sills
Well, me and my wife, who’s forfeited fat good to get this train over to the car when my son finishes it didn’t charge it. And it was the most ridiculous experience. But the thing is, everyone knows that the ridiculous experience, like if that guy, his manager, was in the audience, when I’m doing a presentation, I’m telling the story.

00:40:15:24 – 00:40:34:17
John Sills
They know it’s everything everyone knows. It’s a ridiculous situation. But that lack of empowerment, just that rigidity to the rules and the standing behind the rule, which rather that they should in front of them. You know, I was there for an hour and a half. I’m trying to buy a chair. Could I try to sell a chair? This should be a for easy transaction.

00:40:34:17 – 00:40:45:08
John Sills
And again, failure to mine. I like time and wastage so now so yeah it’s I think it’s a great example. It just that lack of empathy that humanity and the problem that cause it’s all it’s quite a funny.

00:40:45:08 – 00:41:10:12
Philippa White
Story and it’s really interesting because for all of the faults of Brazil, Brazil is a it’s a crazy country in many ways and so many difficulties faced because it is a developing country or a country in the global south and but one thing that is amazing is there’s a word in Portuguese, Brazilian Portuguese called JP. JT was the little way there’s there’s always a way.

00:41:11:00 – 00:41:35:04
Philippa White
And the shape you can be seen is kind of a negative thing. But actually the glue in my mind is an incredible thing because there’s always a way. And Brazilians are incredibly innovative and they don’t follow the rules, which actually is amazing. So one thing that’s really interesting when it comes to things like customer service, in some ways hearable and sort of the big corporates like the telephone companies and the TV companies are horrible.

00:41:35:13 – 00:41:58:17
Philippa White
But when you get to just the day to day kind of small shops, the customer service is so human because Brazilians are very human and they’re also very innovative. The experi science is very different and it’s amazing because even if they weren’t allowed to, even if there was no insurance to be like, I don’t really care, you know, what would happen if I did anything, you know, say, I’ll just take this for you, you know?

00:41:58:23 – 00:42:05:16
Philippa White
So it’s great. Well, we are coming to the end of the podcast. Is there anything that sort of sums up what we’ve talked about today?

00:42:05:19 – 00:42:24:04
John Sills
I did a presentation a few years ago and I said in the presentation, I said, Ultimately, the only thing that matters is how you make people feel, which I think is a nice quote. But obviously my engineer around the table the way I like things may I said that quote, she was a thank you gift for the presentation.

00:42:24:13 – 00:42:40:09
John Sills
They sent me a block of wood with that quite on, but they managed to spell my name on it. Oh, no, I’ve kept that. I’ve kept that this evening so brilliant about this quote. The only thing that matters is how you make people feel. And then they spell my name on the mic. So I thought that was I thought that was quite funny.

00:42:40:14 – 00:43:00:16
John Sills
She’s clarinet and extended, but because everyone I’ve ever met, I don’t really like that because I think for me there is something about every interaction you have with people, whether it’s a brief conversation, a longer term relationship, whether it’s something you ever see on the train or overhear. It forms part of who you are as a memory or an experience.

00:43:00:16 – 00:43:16:19
John Sills
You have a reaction to it, and I think that that’s really mattered to me in terms of my career. And I can see, you know, in terms of who I am professionally, all the different bits of people I’ve met over the age managers who’ve been brilliant mentorship and fantastic people who work with me to challenge me or inspired me.

00:43:16:19 – 00:43:34:16
John Sills
People that I’ve met randomly, friends, family. I can see that me. But also I suppose I like the reason I picked the quote. I think in the book all the stories are just things that have happened. People I’ve met, things that stay there and I like that because I think that I think you prize every interaction a little bit more you should take if you’re interested.

00:43:34:17 – 00:43:43:21
John Sills
There’s another thing to be interesting. Be interested. If you’re interested, I think you can take something from everybody. Maybe so. Yeah, that’s probably my love it.

00:43:44:05 – 00:43:47:14
Philippa White
Now, is there anything that I haven’t asked you that you’d like to tell our listeners?

00:43:47:14 – 00:43:49:08
John Sills
I promised I’d tell the switch real stories.

00:43:49:08 – 00:43:51:08
Philippa White
Maybe tell the real story. Yes.

00:43:51:12 – 00:44:21:07
John Sills
This is the best the best experience I’ve ever had before. I was on the train doing some work with a company that does rail journeys, the holidays. I was on a train going through Switzerland and my colleague who was twisted told me how pretty the efficient the Swiss rail system was so delighted when it broke down. But it’s something interesting happened, which is after about 2 minutes after the train had broken down, the guard came along and spoke to us all because there is a group of about 30 of us and nearly everyone is an octogenarian.

00:44:21:11 – 00:44:37:23
John Sills
And he said, let her know you’ve got trying to catch a connections couch in Zurich. I’m really sorry. You’re probably going to miss that. But don’t worry, I’m going to keep you informed. I’m going to help you get to the right platform. If you have any problems, you just let me know. He walks off. 2 minutes later, we got a phone call from head of operations at Swiss Rail.

00:44:38:08 – 00:44:53:21
John Sills
Really? Sorry. I’ve heard about the train breaking down. I know you’re a big group traveling through our country. You just give me a call if you need help. The who took after you. A couple of minutes later, train starts moving. Train go comes straight down. About 5 minutes after that, you said, okay, I’m really sorry. We’re about 15 minutes late.

00:44:53:21 – 00:45:09:17
John Sills
You aren’t going to be so connection when we get to Zurich, but your next train is going to go from platform 14. That’s going to be 15 minutes after that. It’s a big, complicated station. I’m going to have someone there at the door to meet you, walk around and then you train. I’m sorry about the problems. Let me get there.

00:45:09:17 – 00:45:31:23
John Sills
True to its word, the door opens. There’s a member of staff there with an umbrella. We follow around the station. The platform facilitates the trains waiting for us. They’ve already reserved the carriage for us on the next train because we have one more thing than the previous train. And if we go and they gave us tea and coffee, vouches for the inconvenience and we ended up getting to our destination about 20 minutes now to the end where we started.

00:45:31:23 – 00:45:48:06
John Sills
If I’m on the train into London, we get in 20 minutes and I’m high fiving, we’re hugging. We don’t know what to do with all the extra time we’ve got there because we’ve only got in 20 minutes. Right. And I think it’s a matter of ambition. You know, in Swiss Rail, they’ve they’ve made a promise that they’re going to get you there.

00:45:48:06 – 00:46:05:01
John Sills
And that’s what you paid your money for. And if anything falls below that service, they’re going to be damned sure they’re going to go put it right. And sometimes that level of ambition, I think, is missing in organization. So it’s an incredible experience. And my friend who is Swiss was very smug as well about that. But we made it up that maybe that’s the story too.

00:46:05:01 – 00:46:06:00
John Sills
And yeah.

00:46:06:00 – 00:46:31:02
Philippa White
That’s a beautiful story to end on. And I think that’s the thing. Ending on ambition, I think is, is a great way to end this because back to how we started at the beginning of this conversation, all companies must have started with some kind of ambition, some kind of reason to be. And I think it’s a matter of everyone just stopping for a moment and reminding themselves why they’re doing what they do.

00:46:31:02 – 00:46:33:04
Philippa White
And what was that ambition?

00:46:33:04 – 00:46:49:14
John Sills
It’s exactly that. It’s it’s a case of ambition and it’s a case of being able to see the world from the outside and being able to question exactly why you’re doing things that you’re doing. And if you have the combination of those two, if you have that kind of curiosity and you have ambition, then the combination of those two is incredibly powerful.

00:46:49:23 – 00:46:50:12
John Sills
Totally.

00:46:50:22 – 00:47:01:21
Philippa White
John, such a pleasure to finally meet you. And to end, you had the opportunity to have this conversation. Everyone needs to read this book. Of course, I’m going to put it in the blurb. Thank you for joining us.

00:47:02:01 – 00:47:04:06
John Sills
Thank you for having me. I’ve really enjoyed it. Thank you.

00:47:04:16 – 00:47:06:18
Philippa White
Thank you.

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