Mark Atterby interviews Tom Scantlebury, CEO and Founder of Sky Blue, about the importance of connecting with customers as humans and exceeding their expectations.
Mark Atterby (MA): Can you please provide a background to your career and why you founded Blue Sky?
Tom Scantlebury (TM): My background was actually originally in hotels. I was in hotel management for about twenty years. In my opinion, hospitality is really where customer experience started. Companies in the hotel industry and hospitality are inherently customer-focused businesses. They have led the development and growing maturity of customer experience and have been early adopters in the use of technology as well as the use of customer feedback and surveys.
It proved to be a great foundation. I then got involved in setting up and running an inhouse customer experience programme for a hotel group. This was when CX as a business practice was really starting to take off and companies in other industries were starting to adopt CX within their organisations. I decided rather than being part of an inhouse team, to set up my own consultancy business where we can come in and help anyone move up that CX maturity curve.
We have worked with organisations from a wide variety of industries including IT, recruitment, and financial services. We still do some work in hospitality and hotel management. We’ve developed a bit of a speciality in early childhood and education. Regardless of whom we work with, we find it very rewarding to be able to help others improve their business and add value to their customers.
Customer experience is really about human experience. So our main goal is to help companies to empathise and connect with their customers as human beings
(MA): From your various roles what is the most important thing that you have learnt about customer experience and innovation?
(TM): The biggest lesson I’ve learnt is that to be successful at customer experience it is really all about unleashing purposeful work. Customer experience is essentially human experience. At our core, as humans, we want to connect with other people. Psychologically and physiologically we’re hardwired to connect with others. So, the secret to great customer experience and innovation is, ‘how do you unlock that need to connect and enable everyone in the organisation, that’s touching a customer, to be in that space and mindset as much as possible’.
We can hit KPIs, which may be satisfying at times, but when you really help somebody and truly connect with them, that generates purpose in work.
(MA): Can you provide an anecdote or a short story of how you learnt this lesson?
(TM): When I started my career, I worked at the Hyatt hotel as a porter. I found out pretty quickly that it felt really good to connect with somebody and exceed their expectations. One day an American traveller gave me a $20 tip. So, as well as feeling good, exceeding a customer’s expectations can be financially rewarding.
I use this as a metaphor for businesses that focus on customers and connecting with them as humans – it feels good and the business will be rewarded.
(MA): How have you applied this lesson in your career?
(TM): Thinking of customer experience as human experience and connecting with customers as humans have been critical to every stage of my career. From leading and managing teams that were customer-facing to designing and measuring customer feedback programs, the ability to generate purpose in the work and real human connection has been vital to the success of the projects I’ve worked on.
When we design the interactions we want to have between customers and the company, it’s important to have in mind the right kind of emotions and connections we want to generate. And it’s worthwhile to remember, in terms of designing customer interactions and experiences, we’re not just competing with other companies in our sector but organisations from other sectors. The level of service and expectations set by these other industries, customers may have the same expectations of you.
It’s also important to celebrate success. We get so stuck on analysing and solving problems we often don’t pay enough attention to the successes and telling the good stories around innovation and creating meaningful connections for customers as well as front-line staff. It’s by telling these stories that we promote the benefits of CX and inspire everyone throughout the business.