OPERA AS IT SHOULD BE.

We are privileged to be part of the first night of the new production of  Verdi’s little known “Luisa Miller” at ENO, and ask; why has it taken so long for this superb emotional journey, to be given its  place in our modern Italian repertoire.

The young lady rushes down the steps at Charing Cross tube and bundles into the last Bakerloo carriage. She is finely dressed. She sits down quickly, next to me, there is a colour in her cheeks and she looks perplexed,  almost excited.

I ask “You went to the Opera then?”

She can hardly get the words out of her mouth; “Oh yes!   Wasn’t it absolutely fantastic!!”

You could argue that the essence of opera, is the use of voice, to transform our soul. What starts as the random singing in the shower, is the embryo of the fine tuned and perfect journey that  opera – on a good day –  can become, … can reach heights we had not envisaged.

This was not a good day. 

This was an exceptional day. A stunning and riveting musical expression that ranks  among the very best of my own many decades of witnessing ENO opera. The Direction had a tightness and absolute sync with the onstage protagonists, that drove our two protagonists, Luisa and Rodolfo forward, intertwined with a precise orchestra, and a developing and increasing symbolism from light to dark, white to black, good to evil, that is recognisable only after the event, when you get home and say to yourself : “yes indeed – that was fantastic!”

This discussion note, is not a musical critique. There are others who can do a better job than I – and my role is merely to express my feelings as a human being, of an evening that unfolds.

This modern and superbly edgy production of “Luisa Miller” has melody, a flow and inevitability that pulls you along, the chemistry between all of the protagonists, and I could name them all, the  phenomenal singing, that is so convincing in terms of emotion expressed that you know you are with Luisa in her bewilderment and despair, are alongside Rodolfo in the final scene and are powerless to intervene. We are mere bystanders watching a human tragedy that has long since gone beyond musical expression.

There is only one Harewood artist, Nadine Benjamin, and perhaps that is for the best. This opera needs experienced hands. Even then, Nadine comes to the stage as exemplary in Porgy and Bess. This is no lightweight cast. Elizabeth Llewelyn as Luisa  already has a stellar reputation in Italian opera. Baritone Olafur Sigudarson is an international Classical sInger of the Year, and I can go on.

And yet, my standout moment, is not the signing, or even the music. It is the cleverness, the subtlety, the little touches that you pick up here and throughout this production.

I left the auditorium, it was raining, and I hurried across the square down to the tube station entrance. A northbound train was already  arriving and the rear doors just stayed open long enough.

DOES CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE DEPEND ON DATA?

We look at the latest CX Conference from IQPC for the Telco industry, where, if any market depends on data, it is this one.

You would be forgiven for thinking that this is yet another data-driven conference. It is not like we haven’t had enough of these already. And you would be both right – and wrong. But it is an awkward balance. Workshops that describe “leveraging your current data goldmine to deliver a better customer experience” – are a mouthful and redolent of putting square pegs in round holes.

Since when has a “customer experience” – been the result of some IT focus on “data”? And do customers, who presumably are the beneficiary of these discussions, care – when their only contact contact with their telco, is the guy who keeps them waiting on the end of a phone.

It’s a tricky one.

But these questions, have to be addressed. The behaviour of the guy on the other end of our phone, is determined by the solutions and methodologies that he has before him, And that includes the understanding of the psychology of the whole business of choosing, buying, keeping using a telephone. After all, it’s not as if we can do without them – and in many ways, the single unique focus on the telco industry means its focus is what its players want to know about, within their own market. This was not a touchy feely conference.

Having said that, if you accept that the data that we ourselves create when using a mobile – can be assessed to see how both sides can benefit in the future – then this is the Conference you should have attended.

And the data and tech players are many. Key specialists line up to talk about their own experience, their customer experience, with long titles such as; Head of CX; Chief Experience Officer, Data Transformation Manager – then moving on to the more commercial “VP Sales” – with which we are more familiar. It is three days of intense but relaxed discussion. You choose the sessions you want to look at, and it is up to how proactive or reactive you wish to be. Key topics range from the evergreen “how do I stop churn”, to..”how do I train my call centre properly”. They are practical, basic,

We sat and chatted with a random selection of delegates, from large and small players, who came to “keep up with what is going on” – and with a broad range of vendors, who increasingly are moving from the pure tech of handling data, to a more customer focussed look at how you and I behave.

If there was one standout dawn of realisation, it is that we have all moved on from GDPR. Nobody mentioned it to me, and I wasn’t going to start that discussion. And lets face it, as consumers, we weren’t interested in it anyway…

Why Inclusion & Diversity Is An Executive Priority

Creating inclusive, respectful and engaging workplace cultures is essential for an organisation’ success. Seems just right on paper but how do companies define and create this culture, empowering employees to feel motivated?

Storytelling. With Benefits

We review the latest production of “Carmen” at the English National Opera at London’s Coliseum, and note that its message and moral, is just as relevant. “Carmen” remains a story of all of our times.

Valentina Peleggi strides into the orchestra ensemble. She acknowledges  the gentle applause, motions to her orchestra to stand briefly – and then quickly we are off!  It is fast, furious, the melodies, swiftly move from one to the next. And there is a difference. There is an anxiousness. This is no Mozart comedy.

And then Micaela – played by the excellent Nardus Williams, making her ENO debut – gently walks into view, amongst the military who are setting the scene. And the opera proper, begins…

‘Carmen”, for me, has always held a soft spot. It was my first opera I ever truly studied as a kid. It has a universal message. In that sense, this production rarely touches the emotional deepens of say a Puccini, or a Verdi. But it may not need to to. It is storytelling after all, and it is family storytelling, the little children swarming early on, and inclusion later.

Having said that, there are some superb emotional moments; Sean Panikkar excels as Don Jose, the sadness in his “La fleur que tu m’avais jetee”, and chemistry with Nardus Williams. Plus the spot on performance and leadership of Ellie Laugharne and Samantha Price, as Frasquita and Mercedes respectively.  It is crisp, very tight, very controlled, and it is a journey about sexual and emotional control.  A story indeed.  With benefits.

Inclusion and Diversity. The two words that will make the biggest difference to your Business. And about which you know – nothing.

Almost every medium to large  company – when asked “what are its biggest assets” – will answer; “our people”. And yet nowhere, amongst  the public targets and mission statements and KPIs of any company, will you find any value or acknowledgement to look after the wellbeing of its same employees.

This small Note now – is the first of a series of much longer articles where we look at  key aspects  of the Office Family that will take your business forward in 2020.

Does this add up? Remote Healthcare = Healthy Living.

We look at one of the happiest Editorials we have received in a long time, because it features how latest tech can monitor us remotely, and we stay healthy and enjoy life!  It is a topic we have touched on before on these pages, because it is the key sign that healthcare is no longer the province of places called hospitals – but has become a community driven focus, that drives ecology innovation and healthy living through a mix of people of all ages.  As we have said before – many times – we are all doctors now. 

HOW BEST TO DEVELOP YOUR BUSINESS IN 2020; OUR NEW YEAR MESSAGE

At a time when the doomsayers of global warming have us reaching for the duvet and cancelling our frequent flyer airmiles, we ask – just how far do we need to go, travel-wise – for the sake of business, and does it work anyway?

Actually – we don’t have to go very far at all. But that does not stop the fanciful dreams of hopeless romantics jumping on long distance planes. There has to be a compromise, but so often, the decision makers of such compromises have their own vested interests – or often no actual interest.

GLOBAL WARMING. YES, WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE. YOU AND ME. EVERYONE ELSE.

I’m sitting at one of those speed awareness courses run by our UK police people to chastise errant speedy drivers like myself, and I am looking out of the window, and there is this girl next to me and she too is looking out of the window. And my mind is starting to wander. It’s not that I’ve had a bad day – but I am increasingly tired of the doomsayers telling me that my new hybrid motor car, actually costs more in fossil fuels to make the thing – than my lifetime of electric driving savings can generate.

WHY ARE BIG COMPANIES, BIG? IS IT BECAUSE THEY LOOK AFTER THEIR CUSTOMERS?

We look at the recent CX Network Conference in Stockholm and ask, maybe it’s more than that?

The next question, which I haven’t raised – is; well, if you are a small company, but you want to get bigger – well, is it just a matter of customer focus? Sorry to say, but the answer is alas No. But I think you knew that already, although some of the answers about attitude etc, might surprise you. I will come back to that one.

If you’re going to talk about Customer experience, then there is no better place to sit down at Fika time and chat with friends, – than anywhere in Sweden. Communal consensus and discussion in Scandinavia is a religion and disturbing any colleague as they break for lunch is like interrupting someone at Communion. But this is 10.30 in the morning.

So here we are; drinking our glass of milk and nibbling on our cake, and we are looking out across the water towards Gamla Stan. Pretty much all the big names are there; Vattenfall, Danskebank, Sweco, and I could go on. Each one looking at the alchemy of – how do you translate the act of dealing with a customer, into an actual repeatable experience that transforms your business to “stand out in a sea of sameness”.

And what the delegates and speakers say is that – customer experience does not start with the customer. It starts with the employee. The problems of employee engagement are bigger than the simple act by comparison, of reaching out to the guy whose payments to you, contribute towards your personal mortgage. If you cannot communicate your corporate focus and reason for existence, within your organisation, there is precious little chance of spreading your gospel beyond that.

In the past, this message has not been understood by management. It has translated into an act of self-harm called “Managed HR”, where numbers and individual performance, ie, measurable stats, have taken prime position.

The message here at this Conference, is that life has moved on. Engage with your own employee – and by default you will engage with your customer. You could say this is a triumph of human values over corporate monotony, but the key message from Stockholm and this CX Network event, is that if you can motivate and create an employee experience, then that individuality will take you beyond the “me too” of everyone else in your vertical market.

After launch we talked in small groups about the mechanics of this process, we talk about innovation, of being brave, of making mistakes in the way you communicate. The best presentations were those who were Ok to admit that “guys, we did not know where this would take us”.

And sure, this is not going to reach the heights of an away day at Disney. There will not be the emotion of a roller coaster ride. But there will be for sure the light-bulb moment.

But the bigger surprise is that this is a pan-market discussion; the usual vertical market focus of a typical CX Network event, has been surpassed by bringing everybody together from wherever they come from, from banking thru Energy, thru Retail, thru data and analytics – to HR. And perhaps that is the secret sauce of this meeting of minds. Ultimately, people are people, and human nature is human nature. Reach out to the individual – and you grow as a business. That’s how you do it.