Let’s get lost – getting to real customer engagement

August 24, 2009 : General Team Building

Team Development Developing Teams

Associate and consultant for Maximillion’s team development, David Hicks designs and facilitates change and engagement programmes for organisations that require their strategies to be translated into action quickly. In his blog, David explores how companies can design and develop better services to engage their customers.

If there’s one great thing about being an independent consultant it’s the amount and variety of continual learning you get as you work with different types of clients and their organisations.

Now, that may sound obvious. As a consultant though, I always try and transfer this learning and new perspective to client engagements, which in my case they are of the ‘how do organisations design and develop better services to engage their customers’ projects.

Over the past few months though, I’ve been working with clients to help them get to better questions they want to ask for their business to see how that could help to differentiate themselves, and it’s been a fascinating time.  It’s also been challenging work for me, because if you really want to find the killer questions that, if answered, will make a remarkable difference to your business, you have to get a little bit lost. And running a workshop where clients get a bit stuck or lost can be tough for all that are there.

Now, getting lost can be both uncomfortable and frustrating, yet it can lead to some real revelations. This was brought home to me after I recently mountain biked along a familiar trail in the Highlands. At a junction, where I always turn right down a stony path, I decided this time to go left, over a small bridge and down a steep gully. All good fun but after half an hour it was clear I wasn’t sure where I was in relation to the trail I had turned off or to my intended destination. Out came the map, compass and guide book and soon I realised that if I continued along this path it would be longer, probably much slower but it would open up a whole set of route options and views that would not be available to me going the other direction.

Thinking about my detour, it occurred to me that to assist clients in finding those killer questions and making sense of them, they needed different tools than those used for generating ideas, solutions or options. Getting clients to work with the equivalent of  ‘maps’ would be fun, engaging and effective at helping arrive at the most important questions that needed answered.

Never one to miss an opportunity, I asked a new client if they were comfortable mapping out their current situation (‘How do we get real customer engagement?’) using methods such as large format story boards (15m long and 3m high), modelling using physical objects and some other mapping tools.

The end results were frankly startling. Several workshop groups had completely different views of how the organisation’s current services worked, two groups identified that they ‘knew’ what was needed to solve immediate customer issues but had no idea how to engage customers thereafter. A final group identified that, as an organisation there was no clear idea about common long-term goals at senior management and board level.

Rather than moving straight on to developing options or solutions, we started to list some of the killer questions that need to be answered. The process of prioritising the questions was a difficult one, and where consensus could not be reached we grouped ‘rogue’ questions into themes.

For the group that day they uncovered some very powerful questions, two of which were:

  • What are we doing that is creating a barrier to our customers using our services?
  • What can we do to help current and new customers more easily access our services with greater frequency?

They now had all the material, tools and methods for their next workshop.

What I learned from this was there are only two real problems in business (and life?):

  • You know what you want but you’re not sure how to get it


  • You don’t know what you want

To find the answer to either problem you need first to uncover the killer questions for your business, and using different tools and methods with visual and 3D elements will likely bring you the best results. I’m off to oil my bike now…

To read David’s profile, follow this link.

For further information on any of the organisation development and change related issues that David has raised here, please contact Sandy Smith on 0131 333 0066 and sandy@maximillion.co.uk or fill out an enquiry form

Read more about Maximillion’s approach to customer engagement.

Please follow these links for details of our Creative Visioning and Retrospective mapping tools.

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