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.

DARK SECRETS. NOW IN THE UK.

We review the latest block-buster novel from Delphine Montariol and ask, why do we need yet another detective story?

You could be forgiven for asking this, but as in all good detective stories, life is not what it seems. Sure we have Agatha Christie as the single sleuth – but remarkably, she is the exception. Nowadays, crime solvers go in pairs.

You could argue that it was always thus, too. Starting with Holmes and Watson – we now have Cagney and Lacey; and Starsky and Hutch – and fast forward a decade to the UK favourite, Morse and his sidekick Lewis.

And then we have location. No self respecting UK crime thriller would be complete without a nice Country House – and set in an age even before people who voted for Brexit were born. All we need is a nice fancy train, a murder before Afternoon Tea, and two new detectives – called Worthington and Spencer.

If you are looking for the classic “whodunnit” with all the rose coloured prejudices and expectations of a century or more ago, Dark Secrets is a perfect mix of elements with only one hesitation – which is; the author, Delphine Montariol – is French.

Delphine Montariol is a celebrated and known French writer. She is a History graduate. She knows more about English history than you or I ever studied at school. It is this fascination that gives the book and story line its authenticity, and it stands out because of that. Christmas is coming. Worth a read.

ITS PANTOMIME TIME! OH NO IT ISN’T!

We sit back and laugh out loud at this latest rethink of the Offenbach classic, “Orpheus In The Underworld” – and ask; how can we laugh – and be disturbed, at the same time.

You can argue that this “Orpheus….” has everything. It is quite astonishing. It is a fusion of extraordinary drama, of sublime choral sound, of sheep that go ”bah bah” in time to the music; of myriads of balloons, that seem to be the leitmotiv (balloons are everywhere), as a symbol of transitory suspension between two worlds I suppose.

It is Mozart on steroids – a sort of Magic Flute but where there is no happy ending. Which is why you will not take your little kids to this run up to Christmas entertainment. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that this performance has “wit and charm” – it is simply seriously funny. But in her chat discussion just a few weeks earlier, director Emma Rice indicated that this is going to be a different take – and she did not disappoint. The melodies of the first Act soon give way to sexual depravity, male hedonism, and the implicit conclusion that if you play with the Devil, then be careful what you wish for.

Except that Eurydice – played by Mary Bevan – has no particular wish to play with the Devil as such. Mary’s melodies, interpretation and dramatic art of her journey from one world to another, and the realisation of what marriage is – are the stand out features of this performance and I found myself reminded of when i first saw her in ”Two Boys” all those years ago, the ability to stand alone on stage and carry the audience with her.

And then we have Alex Otterburn, who was very funny, self-deprecating, as Pluto, with his West Country shepherd accent. A sort of Moliere’s “Tartuffe”. As I travel back to Devon as I write this piece, I would have loved to have seen more of this – but what the heck!

This is a cast of exceptional performers, each contributing vital elements. I loved Ellie Laugharne as Cupid. I could go on.

My first recollection of ENO’s “Orpheus” as a young teenager, used a tube train as the slapstick way to travel between worlds. Emma’s use of a London Taxi and cabbie, for the public opinion, is better, and just so ridiculous, the little things where the taxi does not start, for example.

Perhaps this is why I left the Coliseum excited and yet confused. We take for granted now the edginess of ENO productions, the taking of Opera to its limits. This performance continues that trend cum laude. The mix of elements that really should not go together, or how can anybody even think they go together – but somehow they do – that can deliver not satisfaction but a darker truth?

But again, this is to be picky. This is thought provoking entertainment on so many levels. Just don’t bring the kids, at least not yet.

The Need to Communicate. So why is the Age of Video already dead?

As the various Trade Fairs open their doors this month and next, we look at the best ways for vendors to communicate with their audience, and why do corporates keep making the same mistakes. And what else is there, that can replace it?

I am in my office and I am hit by the promotional email from the one of the many tech trade fairs in London, and there and is an invitation to watch an Interview. It is a topic I want to assess. So far so good – I click on their screen and away we go.  After approx four minutes, my phone goes – I take the call – which generates other immediate calls, and further emails to back up the calls. The video interview is some eleven minutes long. I never reach the end of the interview. And I have no clue what the speaker is really trying to say.

I am walking past some trade stands at a financial services conference and the clearly important person, he is wearing a tie for God’s sake – is being professionally interviewed on video by a cool team of camera people, in black t shirts, cables and microphones strategically placed. It is a Lage Corporate thing, they have a big stand and enough money to use some space for an “interview area”.  Nobody will actually view this interview either. It will be too boring and not say anything that you probably didn’t know already and above all –  will not be engaging, because the important person is unlikely to have the personal skills to get people’s attention and then keep them engaged. 

And yet – the concept of video as a means of communicating, despite being available for several years, has  suddenly has become de rigeur, essential. At a time when we all recognise that PowerPoint no longer cuts it as a communicating device,  and we all “get” that “seeing is believing”- the question is;  why do so many companies get it so wrong? And are we seeing the end of what could have been a golden age, even before it has truly begun?

The answers are that we do not understand what are we trying to achieve by video – and that we are not talking about technology, but human experience and human nature.  So,  here are some essential pointers;

1. Quick and Dirty, actually works. Placing a camera on a table and just recording someone speak their words of wisdom, with minimal after editing, as long as it is short, clear, you say what you mean. 30 seconds is all it takes. It is ideal for Interviews where you are simply making a point. The file size is small enough to email out.

2. The classic CEO Interview does not work. The impression is one of an ego trip and it works against you in this age of saving money and austerity.

3. Use professional actors – even for the shortest project. They are trained to engage with their body language, style of speaking, choice of delivery. You may be a great sales presenter or tech consultant but the National Theatre and Hollywood have not called you. You have other gifts. Leave the delivery of your message, to people who are trained to do it.  This is ideal for the longer Interview, where you want the discussion to retain attention, but never make this more than two minutes. 

4. Use your new found friendly actors, to do the internal communication in your own company. Your biggest problem is more how to keep your own people engaged and motivated – than ever going get new business.  Let the actors use humour and be original in how you do this. 

5. Be clear before you start, what you want to achieve. Spend as much time on round table discussion with all involved, draw up flow charts, shopping lists, – as the time to takes to actually create the video script, shoot it, edit it and so forth. Remember- every battle is won, before it is ever fought.

6. Think about what else can keep people’s attention. In our business, we use Comic Books, to stimulate thought from our readers and visitors. Everyone wants to be a superhero. Make sure your storyline (ie, your message and point you are trying to make) – is compelling, and then let your Designer and Artist do their magic. 

Ultimately – this is all about communication at a human level. Whatever the data or numbers or clever marketing analytics might suggest – the essential of business remains the individual and what they decide to do, as opposed to  ending when you have found out who they are, and  your ability simply to get to them. 

Hannah Lou Reid

Music as You Go.

I’m walking though the shopping area of Plymouth in South West Uk and I am in a hurry. I walk past the most amazing singer and her jazz trio supporting her – and then I stop.

Hannah Lou Reid is still a teenager, fresh from City College, and has the most engaging and clear jazz/soul voice I have heard in a long time. It is note perfect, brilliant clear range – redolent of Natalie Williams at Ronnie Scotts, that forces you to stop and listen. The melodic grasp is punctuated by the strong rhythmic guitar, very clever chords, that take the music to a higher dimension. In my twenty seconds of listening, this is no three-chord ensemble.

If you are on vacation down in the South West of Uk, go online, see if you can catch Hannah in the Sreet or at one of her next performances. Worth a trip.

A Star for Our Times

We interview Rachel Oyawale, the new face at English National Opera, to see first hand how this mesmerising and inspirational young lady has captured the attention of the opera musical world in London and beyond

I am sitting downstairs in their bar area at ENO on a warm Saturday afternoon and Rachel Oyawale suddenly arrives.

She is fresh, bright, smiling, just like her public photos but more relaxed, totally open. She is eager to talk, to communicate the passion that so evidently drives her but not in that egotistical way of so many. There is no ego here. This is a young lady who has found her dream, by chance – but it is a dream nonetheless that has become reality. Rachel Oyawale is the embodiment of the ENO dream as much as her own; the reaching out and giving the social benefit of opera, to the many young people who are unaware of its existence.

We climb the carpeted stairs and finally reach the top floor where there is some peace away from the waiting audience for a show below – and then we talk.

We talk about everything. Opera for the many; ENO and young people; the difficulty for young people to find an entry point; black people in a white world, even now; thank God for ENO Baylis; Porgy and Bess; La Boheme – where it first started – and so on. There is no stopping. Rachel is supremely eloquent, about to take up a degree offer at Cambridge, but this is no intellectual conversation per se. This is the use of words, the search for the right way to express Rachel’s passion for what she knows she loves.

My colleague Amelia Grace, the young 15 year old blogger from Hull, sits opposite – two young women on a similar trajectory, just a few years apart.

And so we talk about background. From a single parent family, living the normal life of so many in South East London, this is not the start you would expect to find the embryo of an opera singer. And it happens by accident. The coincidental remark by school teachers at 14yrs old – “hey you sing rather well!” – to the visit, instigated by Rachel’s mum – to see La Boheme, at Covent Garden – and the light-bulb moment where it all comes together; not just the fusion of art and life in music – but the moment where you know – you just know – that this is what you want to do.

And the coincidental, at that moment, availability of the last place at ENO Baylis for their Young Person entry programme – the mentoring by her older peers, and the sense of “family” that ENO is so good at, that have all slotted into place – and that have left a mark that is the foundation of where Rachel sees her opera process going.

I first saw Rachel by chance as well – at the recent ENO Gala Performance where she picked up The Lilian Baylis Award for Outstanding Potential. And yet this does not seem accidental.

I ask Rachel is there some sort of future structured plan; she is not sure, but I am sure there has to be; she says “I have made so many friends at ENO that I do hope I can continue to mix my degree course with my opera singing”.

In so many ways, Rachel is a woman for our times – at not even twenty years old, but with a strong sense of where women in general can achieve.

We leave the opera house and find the lounge bar in the St Martins Hotel just next door. We sip a Gin Tonic appropriately called a “Don Giovanni”.

“Yep, that touches the spot”, she says.

A woman for our times indeed.

A full version of the Rachel Oyawale Interview is soon online at; http://www.profomedia.uk

Care On Our Own Terms

As Kaveh Safavi of Accenture continues his annual look at our global healthcare, we look at the changes that healthcare providers have to face up to, and ask – what are they afraid of?

Fear manifests itself in a number of ways. The traditional route in surgeries and hospitals, is to stick to the status quo. Nobody gets fired for doing what they always did. or to put it more directly – burying one’s head in the sand. As said above, nobody gets fired for being myopic.

I “get” that fear of the unknown, is relevant. But fear of what we already have, and which the public are increasingly demanding – should be a wake up call. The question is, – is fear of progress created by simple lack of understanding.

People that know about these things in UK NHS Management, tell me that “the NHS will be fully digitalised within the next 20 years”. This is both 20 years too late, and also misunderstands what we mean by digitalisation, and what you and I increasingly demand from our healthcare providers.

For a start, just about all of us in possession of our Apple Watch, our Smart mobile – are already capable of managing our own health and scary symptoms, in real time, online, thanks very much, from the comfort of our armchair. When we call our Doctor, phone our hospital – we already have the data, personally and as consumers, of our own health situation. And moving on – as patients, we do not need the large corporate AI to automate the personal data that our hospital does not yet have. What we need, is the immediate link between our personal way of life, and people who know how to treat us at a place called a hospital, when we get sick.

So when Kaveh Safavi, Health spokesman at Accenture – says in his recent Seminar at HIMSS Europe – that patients are now increasingly moving away from traditional routes to health provision – he is sounding a warning bell. And he has the global numbers to prove it.

What he says is, – is that trad primary care is in decline. In the years 2013-2017, use of virtual access to healthcare, rose in the USA by some 200%. Already, in the UK, some 33% of the population go online to access our healthcare provider, at least once per year. In Finland, some 67% of the population would gladly get their healthcare access online – if only the infrastructure was there to do so.

But interestingly, – what Kaveh eloquently also says is – this is no cause for alarm. It is simply that, as patients and that dreaded word “consumers”, we are making lifestyle choices. It is not a case of “either/or”. Or “A or B”. It is a multiple choice of A-B-C-D-E, and these choices are based on what is the best availability of the healthcare that we need, that fits our lifestyle. So, if we prefer to drop in to a walk in clinic at our train station en route to the office – so be it,- as long as they have access to our data. Some regions are already recognising this Scénario. In Spain, some 33% of the population go online for virtual healthcare, and a further 83% prefer a retail environment to get primary care access.

This means two things; first – if we believe that prevention is better than cure, then investment and recognition needs to go into the provision of consumer based services. As said above, the growth of smart phone solutions means we are all doctors now. And that second, there is nothing to fear from a mix of healthcare provision at our local hospital. You could argue that the relevance for a hospital will increasingly be the provision of every level of walk in service, in the same way that supermarkets in Sweden offer walk in healthcare.

I’m sure Steve Jobs did not envisage the tangential App development in our personal lives, when Apple launched the iPhone all those years ago. But we live in a real world. And if you are reading this article on your ipad as you travel to work – well, that wasn’t too scary now, was it?

Managing Energy has never been more important.

We look at the upcoming Future of Utilities: Smart Metering Update 2019 conference on Smart Metering of Energy and ask – why has it taken so long?

In brief – this topic has been discussed and received focus – for the past five years even to our knowledge. But in those earlier halcyon days, small interruptions such as hacking and global warming were but twinkles in our eyes. Nowadays of course – things have changed. As my colleague at a Cyber Security company in Israel tells me – “there are two types of smart meter; those that have been hacked and nobody knows it; and those that are hacked and everybody knows it”. And for sure everybody knows about global warming.

So the upcoming Conference from Marketforcelive, in central London this June, is timely. This is the latest and important opportunity for leaders in the Energy space, to sit down and say – how are we controlling access to the flow of energy, both remotely and at source. Saving energy has been defined as the secret sauce of modern energy management, We are not as naive as before.

Whereas before, delegates that subscribed tended to come from the pure data and tech environments and talked in a language that you or I could not understand – nowadays, this Conference will attract the commercial leaders and all those on the peripherals. Energy control is essential big business in a world where such is the reach of media, we are all experts now.

With an impressive Speaker List – we expect “Future of Utilities: Smart Metering Update 2019”,to become a Forum for exchange of ideas that are proven and that work, a significant development from other Conferences in the past that were merely talking shops.

The Conference takes place on the 18th June; go visit it at; http://bit.ly/2wGAiqZ. our longer report will follow shortly after.