An intern´s thoughts on Buljan & Partners´ culture

By Maite Eraña Salmeron

We could call it a stroke of luck, really. The placement process was rather ambiguous, which is why I still can´t believe how well this position suits me. I am a recent graduate from Boston University School of Hospitality Administration and I came to Madrid to complete a study abroad program that includes an internship and coursework components. You can already tell I have had a positive experience, but the real question I hope to answer with this blog post is the following:

How is the commitment to customer experience expressed within the walls of this leading consulting firm?

I should start by explaining more thoroughly why I find my position here so valuable. In my opinion, to be an intern means you learn to actively develop any company´s most valued competitive advantage: employee commitment. As an intern you often ask yourself nervously, “Will I be doing something meaningful? Do I have enough experience to be here?” And while it´s absolutely true that you want to quickly get adjusted to doing your job effectively, I would not underestimate the opportunity to embrace the ambiguity and take in how the company makes a difference in the lives of its employees. This time is crucial because the newness can help you be objective and honest about your expectations and your employer´s expectations. In this competitive business environment, employee commitment is not only the result of the appropriate strategies and support systems, but that of each employee internalizing how he/she can encourage intentional care of all stakeholders. As I reflect on my internship experience, I keep in mind a question I like to share with my employer:

How will you help me be a better version of myself today?

As an intern the most crucial thing I can do is to make a habit to always be learning, because this is how I challenge my employer to think differently, to embrace change, and to want to invest in me as much as I want to invest in them so that we may both be successful.

So how does Buljan & Partners respond to this?

I think the most impressive way they address customer experience is through their commitment to empower others. The Madrid team has a culture dedicated to raising the standards within the individuals who work here so that the firm can be innovative and adept to the opportunities that come with change and diversity. Their expertise in customer experience recommendations is in fact an initiative they first live by example within the office. We could talk about all the details that help them be so successful, but I would like to focus on a few ways in which they have impacted me the most, and through which they have addressed my previous perspective on being an intern.

Since the minute I got here, I have been considered a valuable team member. My main responsibility is to support the team of consultants with their projects, which involves a variety of tasks including developing offers, creating presentations, translating documents, etc. They have made me feel proud of the experience I have, and they have given me an opportunity to apply such knowledge. There´s a great balance where I am encouraged to share my insights, as well as to receive guidance to apply them to the established frameworks.

The team wants to collaborate with me and they express that often. This is not just encouraging, but it allows me to connect with each team member more personally. As a result when it comes to networking, the relationships I am learning to build here take on a whole new level of depth. The relationship is valued for more than what each party can provide; it is based on bringing the best out of people and seeking through collaboration to make a difference that is tangible and influential in our businesses.

There is also an emphasis to communicate honestly and often.

More than one person a day will check in with me to ask how I am handling the workload, to offer me an opportunity to collaborate, as well as to get to know me. I find such awareness for a team member the first of many intentional ways to foster trust and loyalty. Buljan & Partners also offers great flexibility to express our ideas, which promotes our personal responsibility to lead and keep each other accountable. These efforts may seem simple, but their effects are lasting and is what I will remember most as I continue to develop professionally.

In conclusion, my experience at Buljan & Partners has been one of profound impact.

I can confidently say that what they do every day for their clients only scratches the surface in comparison to the dedication to customer experience they foster at the core. They take seriously how to invest in their own employees so that they may grow as people. Customer experience is an attitude; one of servant leadership that must be lived fully in order to make a difference, and one that I am grateful to experience so passionately while working abroad.

The vulnerable customer as a type of customer

Written by Lisa Rottmann for Buljan & Partners Consulting

In this blog you’ll find ideas, support and references for exceeding your client’s expectations and consistently improving their experience. But what happens when customer experience theories fail? when the customer does not choose you? does not buy your products or services or simply doesn’t take them seriously? How can we exceed their expectations if they have a negative predisposition towards us and, due the pressure, they’re just not themselves?

How is the client vulnerable?

We get queries from companies who tell us that traditional marketing has been ineffective and even detrimental to their image. While they understand that exceeding customer expectations is profitable and rewarding, they don’t believe that the theory is applicable to their reality. That reality is the world of companies and organizations that deal with “vulnerable customers”.

At some point in our lives we will all become vulnerable customers when we have to face painful, difficult and complex situations: being admitted to hospital, losing our autonomy when we can no longer live alone, facing life-altering situations that can change our future, depending on social assistance or suffering the loss of a loved one.

In places like hospitals, nursing homes, adult day care and funeral homes, emotions run high. Tension, despair, sadness, pain, relief, familiarity, ire, anger, guilt, confusion, loneliness and gratitude are just some of them. All these emotions are present in the minds of the customer who comes into contact with an employee.

In addition to the main source of anguish and pain, the vulnerable customer may also feel hurt by the way their situation was handled or how they were treated during the first 72 hours of the process. For example, this type of secondary harm can be caused by the cold and impersonal treatment they receive from the professionals taking care of them. The lack of clear information on the steps that must be taken or not knowing how to deal with certain situations.

The importance of knowing how to care for a vulnerable client

Of course, the key to success for companies that deal with “vulnerable customers” is all about the corporate culture and the way in which their employees assume the role of supporting people in tremendously difficult, varied and unpredictable situations. We understand that in the lives of these professionals, every relationship, every situation and every environment is complex. They have been trained to keep a certain distance, to the extent possible, so that they are not affected by the customer’s experience. What we are seeing is that making vulnerable clients a priority gives meaning to their day-to-work and makes them feel good about themselves. The trick is that the treatment must apply to the particular customer and adapt his/her situation, emotions, memories or beliefs, which are as varied as the people themselves.

Most of the people who deal with vulnerable customers know them well and have a vocation for their chosen profession. We advise managers to give them a vote of confidence to assume responsibility and make decisions autonomously. The pride of giving back to society and the customers’ gratitude, combined with the employer’s vote of confidence, provides a strong foundation for giving their all every day and overcoming the difficult moments they spend with vulnerable customers. In the end, companies are really just PEOPLE helping PEOPLE.

Lisa Rottmann is Managing Consultant in Buljan & Partners Consulting. Lisa is expert in strategy consulting in Customer Experience transformation projects and technology.

  • l.rottmann@buljanandpartners.com
  • https://www.linkedin.com/in/lisarottmann

Managing emotions in stressful situation for clients

Written by Miguel Sanz for Buljan & Partners Consulting

The words “managing customers’ emotions” are tremendously attractive to companies and there is no doubt that they are key to establishing an emotional bond with customers.

What do companies do to manage customer emotions?

Let’s take a look at the essence of this topic, without delving too deeply into sophisticated but not so useful explanations. How do companies manage customers’ emotions? Are they able to detect and manage stressful situations when they occur?

The answer I’m about to give should not be taken as the last word on the subject (it is not in my humble nature to dogmatize). In my experience, many companies invest resources in training their employees (DISC or Enneagram of Personality) in order to identify the behaviors or the personality types of their customers. This enables them to better understand their customers and teaches them how to adapt to customers in order to more deftly manage the customer’s experience. It is also true that many companies do not invest in this type of training because they don’t believe in it, they don’t have the resources or they think that their employees already possess this knowledge.

Emotions management training for employees

I applaud the companies that invest in their employees to teach them how to manage their own emotions and those of their customers. But I’d like to reflect on three situations that lead me to believe that there is much more to it than just training your employees. In business management, it is very important to ensure that everything customer-related is coordinated in the same direction.

I’m going to explain how I felt in three different situations that were somewhat critical for me:

  • Some time ago, as a customer of Mutua Madrileña I called to cancel my car insurance and at the end of the process the agent asked me if I would like to take out health insurance with them, to which I replied that I was leaving the company. I was breaking off relations with the company and they were trying to get me to stay on by selling me a different product, without understanding how disenchanted I was.
  • Subsequently, as a Direct Seguros customer, I was involved in a minor accident due to a wrong turn taken by the other driver. I called Direct Seguros on the spot to find out how to proceed and although the telephone service was good (still in “shock” from the accident), the agent asked me if I wanted to supplement my coverage or something to that effect. I replied that at that moment I was not in a position to think about purchasing anything and that I just wanted to relax and try to resolve the accident that had just left me without the use of my vehicle.
  • As a “superfan” of ING I have to say that on one occasion I went to the ATM of another bank to withdraw money and upon seeing the high commission they charged I decided to cancel the operation. However, at the same time I received a message telling me that I had withdrawn €40 from the ATM and I confirmed that it had been deducted from my account. I called ING immediately (customer service was good as always) and they told me that the operation had been canceled but that the system took a while to update. What puzzled me was that at the end of the call I was asked if I wanted to take out a loan. Obviously, my response was to say, “thank you very much but now is not the time because I need to withdraw cash and I’m in a hurry.” Clearly, they did not know how to identify or manage my level of stress, which at that time was relatively high since I thought I had lost the money I wanted to withdraw due to a computer error or my own mistake.

In all three cases, I was not in the proper emotional state to evaluate whether or not I wanted to take out a loan, supplement my coverage or take out a new policy. In that moment, when my emotional stress level was at a peak, the only thing that mattered was to answer my questions, nothing more. Employees can be trained, but in designing business processes and objectives, everything goes hand in hand and common sense is paramount.

In concluding this post, I would just like to note that all three of these companies have taken some very good steps in the area of customer experience but the situations discussed here should be considered and avoided.

Miguel Sanz is Senior Consultant in Buljan & Partners Consulting. Miguel is Service Line Leader for Customer Experience Management and has experience in CRM and project management across different industries since 2009.

More on Miguel:
m.sanz@buljanandpartners.com
https://es.linkedin.com/in/miguelsanzgimenez

A human look at a digital future

Written by Elisabete Zubiarrain for Buljan & Partners Consulting

At the start of July, I attended the 20:20_CX Summit in London, an event dedicated to Customer Experience, participating in which were a range of very interesting speakers who looked at CX from numerous different angles. Events kicked off with a look at companies’ customer focus, moving on to how to effectively manage a company obsessed with the customer or go about laying solid foundations for a company to execute a CX strategy.

All of this was done keeping in mind employees’ commitment to their company and that of their company’s toward them, with a major focus on obtaining and measuring the ROI of the initiative or investment in question, as well as the implementation and consolidation of a CX culture within a company.

Customer data capture and management technology

Amidst all of this, several people have shared their experiences and explained which tools they’ve deployed to perform these processes of change and consolidation. We’ve seen the enormous potential of working with the latest data capture and management technology to optimize our understanding of client requirements and be able to foresee them. Without adequate tech support it would be impossible nowadays to conceive an extraordinary experience, since there’s no avoiding the fact that digitalization is simply a fact. We have witnessed technologies that are almost hypnotic, dynamic and full of content capable of carrying out highly complex operations of huge complexity in record time. Indeed, there’s an overwhelming sensation that the future is already our present and is pushing us toward a new future in which an equilibrium exists between cutting-edge technology and execution.

Automation of tasks through Artificial Intelligence (AI)

An execution performed by people and machines in parallel. Task automation becomes inevitable and certainly desirable but that’s not all. It entails coexistence and surrendering ourselves to what lies ahead, without it meaning having to eliminate the added value which personal interaction brings and that up until now Artificial Intelligence still hasn’t proved capable of replacing. This interaction which is created by people for people, with the understanding of your interlocutor’s emotions and empathizing with them in a way only people know how. It comes down to analyzing data that machines don’t understand through Artificial Intelligence using human intelligence. Data analysis companies of information acquired through Artificial Intelligence told me nowadays there is still about 20% of analysis that their software isn’t able to carry out and that they employ a group of experts to perform it.

The importance of people in decision making

Finally, it’s people at the top level of the execution that machines aren’t able to dispense with. We invest a vast amount (time and money) on development, refinement and implementation of these tools which is absolutely essential yet a lot of time we forget about what’s most important – our teams. We shouldn’t abandon the training, development and improvement of the best “technology” companies possess which is, without doubt, their employees.

Elisabete Zubiarrain is HR responsible at Buljan & Partners Consulting. Eli is specialist in Talent management and HR recruiting accross several industries at Buljan since 2010.

More on Elisabete:

  • e.zubiarrain@buljanandpartners.com
  • https://www.linkedin.com/in/elisabete-zubiarrain/

Visit to a touchpoint organization

Written by Raquel Calleja for Buljan & Partners Consulting

This year marks the 15th anniversary of Buljan & Partners Consulting and as part of the commemorative events we’ve arranged visits to some companies of reference in CX like Loewe and Inditex. But we also wanted to pay a visit to the company we’ve always dreamed of being: the one that abandons the traditional silo structure and evolves for the good of its customers into a company organized around Customer Journey.

Below is a fictional interview with the Chief Customer Officer of a touchpoint organization:

B&P: What is an organization based on Customer Journey?

CCO: It means that the Customer Journey is our organizational model and that instead of traditional departments we as employees align ourselves around the different touchpoints with the customer in order to always keep their experience and their needs as the focal and in so doing ensure that all of their interactions with us are consistently excellent.

B&P: But how did you get here? What did you have to do?

CCO: I’m going to illustrate it for you so that you can understand how we created this organization model:

First of all, we identified all touchpoints very carefully, ensuring that they were all clearly and uniquely defined so as to avoid duplications and misunderstandings about where each touchpoint is located in the company. We then mapped the touchpoints to make sure that each one accurately reflected our customers’ experience in order to understand their impact and their potential.

This is also how we understand touchpoint flow, i.e., how the customer moves from one point to the next on the journey and what we could do better to enhance the transition. Here we listened very carefully to what our customers were telling us using different Voice of the customer programs and also different online and offline channels.

Secondly, we determined who within the organization was involved with each touchpoint and who was responsible for ensuring that the customer got to the next touchpoint in the most appropriate way. We also created a CX Steering Committee which is responsible for reviewing CX projects and making decisions to continue moving forward.

The third step was to create a touchpoint team whose mission was to start conversations that would engage the customer while at the same time finding solutions to problems and improving upon the experience at each T.P.

These teams, who work with agile methodologies, are responsible for:

B&P: If the “old marketing” is involved in several contact points, will it have to participate in the same number of points involved?

CCO: Exactly! The object now is to improve each touchpoint using their marketing expertise but especially by taking a customer-centric approach which means “doing new things that aren’t in the professionals’ job description”. We skip the protocol because what’s most important is that customers have the best possible experience with us.

B&P: What would you say was the most difficult part of improving the customer focus?

CCO: Aside from finding other companies that are transitioning to this organizational model, the most difficult thing was to convince the Steering Committee of why it was necessary to make this change and what the return would be.

We also encountered a great deal of internal resistance that had to be overcome in different departments of the company, which have always been there. Particularly since the company was doing well and no one could really understand the reason for the change. But once management got involved and the simplicity of it all became apparent, the response was overwhelmingly positive.

We’d like to thank our imaginary host for his sincerity and inspiration which we will share on our blog so that our customers, partners and friends can reflect on the benefits of moving their organizations toward a truly customer-oriented approach.

Raquel Calleja is partner and Customer Centric Talent Leader at Buljan & Partners Consulting. Raquel is coach and consultant for SMEs and international companies in the Talent Management area since 1992.

More about Raquel:
r.calleja@buljanandpartners.com
https://www.linkedin.com/in/raquelcalleja

The tower of babel in the Customer Experience

Written by Silvana Buljan for Buljan & Partners consulting

A desperate customer in search of help and solutions often finds himself confronted with complex procedures, incomprehensible sales pitches and decisions made unilaterally in the corporate world. Further still, rather than be lessened, he finds his frustration increases because he fails to receive an acceptable solution. This is an ongoing trend in many companies, even while claiming that the customer experience is the focus of their strategic priority – in today’s world it doesn’t look good if you don’t have a Customer Experience department.

We will use the biblical story of the Tower of Babel to illustrate this problem: “man” wants to be God, reaching as high as the heavens. As punishment, God takes away the universal language spoken and introduces different languages and the chaos caused by the lack of understanding ensues. Finally, “men” end up fighting each other and the tower is abandoned.

Implement customer experience vs. add value

Many times, in the corporate world we make the same mistake as that of the Tower of Babel by seeking to define and implement a customer experience strategy; “I invest in this so that I can be the best in the industry” and, rather than searching for what really adds value for the customer, we seek superficial excellence in methods, metrics and awards to be won.

There is a desire to reach as high as possible simply because there is the belief that customer value is directly correlated with the amount of internal resources used. The reality is that with every stone that I place in my Tower of Babel, I move farther and farther away from my customer. With each rule, guideline, framework or performance target, I achieve exactly the opposite of closeness: disconnection and lack of an emotional connection, which is exactly what the customer wants when looking for a distinctive and memorable experience.

The importance of putting yourself in the customer’s shoes

What is this “emotional connection”? Nothing more and nothing less than putting myself in customer’s shoes, understanding their state of mind in dealings with the organization and conveying that I am actively searching for solutions and am not simply completing tasks to meet my company’s guidelines.

From our point of view, the emotional connection that a company should nurture in the relationship between its employees and its customers can be built on six aspects: empathy, motivation, training, a helpful attitude, commitment and responsibility.

  1. Empathy fosters a “put yourself in the other person’s shoes” attitude and facilitates a better understanding of their point of view. This requires a process of openness in the person who wants to have an empathetic attitude: being open to a point of view other than their own, questioning their own stance and connecting with the person.
  2. Motivation is contagious and fills the customer with the same passion that the employee feels for finding innovative solutions and taking care of the details. It is a very positive emotion that removes all indifference.
  3. Employee training is a basis for establishing a relationship of trust: if the employee has the freedom to break the rules and autonomy to make decisions that ensure an excellent experience, the customer not only recommends the company, but also perceives that it relies on its employees. This is a criterion that is increasingly being demanded by customers.
  4. A helpful attitude is, however, the most powerful tool in making the customer feel that he is more than just a sales transaction and ensures that he isn’t treated like a number. Here the important thing is differentiating between serving and servility, which is in no way liked to a helpful attitude.
  5. The employee’s commitment in fulfilling the promise given to the customer is fundamental in avoiding dissatisfaction. Fulfilling a promise is fundamental for satisfying the customer. For the customer to be committed to a brand requires more than fulfilling the promise: exceed their expectations, because that conveys that the company cares about their interests as a customer.
  6. Responsibility means being educated, prepared and willing to deliver a service in a professional manner and with an exemplary standard of quality. Customers who believe that an employee does not feel responsible for doing his job very well can hardly feel that he is in an environment of trust.

Connecting with the customer through commitment and trust

Applying these six aspects ensures that the Tower of Babel is nothing more than a biblical story and that the company achieves its objective of being close to its customer, being connected with its customer and fostering a relationship built on commitment and trust. The metrics then fade into the background and are understood as a result of the emotional connection and not as the “mathematical” goal.

Silvana Buljan is founding partner of Buljan & Partners Consulting and Service Line leader for Customer Centric Management Leadership. Silvana is a specialist in design and implementation of Customer Centricity, Customer Experience, CRM, Project Management, Organizational Change, and Executive Training & Coaching projects across several industries since 1998.

More info on Silvana:

  • s.buljan@buljanandpartners.com
  • https://es.linkedin.com/in/silvana-buljan-889110
  • @silvanabuljan

Customer Effort taken to SME level

Written by Monique Jansen for Buljan & Partners Consulting

Just before Easter, I engaged in an interesting LinkedIn conversation in the “CRM&CEM professionals” group, triggered by an excellent article written by Sampson Lee, in which he questions the purpose of reducing customer effort.

In the article, the focus of companies on reducing customer effort is challenged. Sampson claims that by making customers ‘sweat’ – allowing Good Pains – resources can be channeled to their Branded Pleasures. That is why IKEA, Starbucks, Louis Vuitton, Southwest Airlines, Sukiyabashi Jiro and other great brands are able to deliver a highly memorable and branded experience.

Read more

The key to success is not in processes nor technology, but rather in people

Written by Elisabete Zubiarrain for Buljan & Partners Consulting

A few weeks ago, I traveled with my family to three different cities in the United States, a leader in customer service. Although I realized that we still have a long way to go, I confirmed that the key element is people. Read more

Net Promoter Score resultrs

Are brands and employees manipulating NPS® results?

Written by Miguel Sanz for Buljan & Partners Consulting

We all know that the NPS® metric (Net Promoter Score) is commonly used by companies as a reference to measure customer experience with a single question: Would you recommend the product or service to a relative or friend?

We are not going to discuss whether NPS® is the best metric to measure customer experience or the best time to use it, but rather if NPS® results may be manipulated.
Read more

Customer Journey as a present

A New Year´s present for Aramon

Written by Monique Jansen for Buljan & Partners Consulting

 Aramon_Formigal_CX Journey Mapping

Customers often give free advice to the companies that supply them. So do I, especially when I really care and really believe in the company I am writing about. Or because the product or service is of extremely high importance to me.

This is one of those occasions. Aramon, the company that manages 2 ski stations in the Aragonese Pyrenees (Cerler and Formigal-Panticosa) and 2 in Teruel province (Javalambre and Valdelinares), with a total of 283 kms of slopes is the subject of this post. 

Read more

A patient experience officer working

Patient experience officer, an emerging profession?

Written by Carlos Bezos Daleske, as guest blogger, for Buljan and Partners Consulting

An article published by Erick Wicklund at mHealthNews describes the rising position of the patient experience officer in the U.S. The author identifies two drivers for this trend. First the growing trend towards consumerism in American healthcare and second the new laws linking reimbursement with patient satisfaction. He also links the growth of the profession to the trend to restore humanity in healthcare.

Read more

customer experience sucks?

Customer Experience sucks?

By Buljan & Partners Consulting

The importance of the customer experience in achieving your goals

Do you really believe that the experience of your customer is of no importance? Do you fulfill the expectations you promissed? Do you really believe what you are saying? It is time to exceed your customers’s expectations. At Buljan & Partners Consulting we help you to be what you wanted to be, we make companies a better place for customers and employees.

Read more

employee experience management

Employee Experience Management

Written by Raquel Calleja for Buljan & Partners Consulting

Can the employee’s experience lead that of the client?

The commitment of employees and clients is highly and positively interrelated, as was highlighted in the analysis report David McLeod published in 2009 under the title “Engaging for Success”. Read more

internship at buljan and partners

Internship experience in our consulting firm

Written by Monika Meier, Roberto Hernández and Mona Mueller for Buljan & Partners Consulting

talent

Monika’s experience at Buljan & Partners

Hello, good morning… My name is Monika, I am 20 years old and I am studying International Business in Madrid. The dual training programme I am carrying out allows me to work both the theoretical and practical aspects. I am experiencing the latter at Buljan & Partners Consulting. So, what do you think an intern at our office does? That they just make photocopies and coffee? No, not at all. The work is very diverse and stimulating, believe me, you never get bored. As an intern over the last six months, I have worked in human resources, marketing and back office, as well as taking part in and learning from customer centric projects. Read more

being in your customer shoes

2 examples of “putting yourself in your customer’s shoes”

By Ricardo Silva and Juan Sánchez for Buljan & Partners Consulting

 we understand your needs

Becoming a customer-centric organisation is a complex process, as it involves all the company levels and entails changing the way the people involved think. However, there are quick wins that, if applied correctly, can make the process easier. Find two examples illustrating these ideas below. Read more

“What I talk about when I talk about CRM”

The title of this article is inspired by Haruki Murakami´s book title “what I talk about when I talk about running”. I am not pretending to be a CRM all-terrain expert. When I talk about CRM I prefer to focus on “fit to process”, the “user experience” and the “effect this has on the end-customer experience”. I leave the technical evaluations over to the experts! Read more