Frustration and Angst or Great Service

In my experience of working in multiple sectors either internally or as a consultant there is a pattern to what makes a difference between organisations that have a great service culture and organisations that aspire to have great service culture but ultimately fail to translate the aspiration into reality for their customer and teams. I have, over my time, worked in some fantastic transformational journeys and also learnt a great deal from the failures along the way.  

The three main areas below that make the difference and are consistent in all of the great customer centric organisations I know, are interestingly enough, either missing ,in part or completely in organisations that fail to deliver a great customer service culture. When they are missing, the sense of frustration and angst is clearly visible for all to see. In one case, this ended in the organisation going bankrupt and in the other, it sadly led to the departure of an entire team.


In the best organisations, the Leader, be that the CEO/MD or Owner has a visible and sustained commitment to delivering the changes needed to make the customer service culture come to life. McKinsey research highlights that 70% of change programmes fail due to, in part, lack of management support (McKinsey, Changing Change Management).

In some cases, the senior teams just don’t believe that developing a customer focused culture is critical to the success of the business, I have lost count of the number of times I have heard “I don’t believe it’s worth all this effort” despite the evidence being quite compelling. Let’s take the food sector, in 2018 Aldi / the Co- Op and Ocado all had strong customer metrics and were in growth while the big four supermarkets all had declining customer metrics and each saw a decline in their market share (UK Customer Satisfaction Index 2019).

I know from personal experience that where the leader and his direct reports are aligned behind the changes the difference is stark. Where the leader and his senior leadership team are not aligned the pain is felt acutely by their teams leading to the creation of silos, politics ,lack of collaboration and ultimately frustration, resulting in a blame culture and a feeling that it’s impossible to get things to change for the better. The team are pulling in different directions with different agendas.


Engaged employees may be second in this list but this is not to denote that it is of secondary importance. In order to develop a service culture an engaged team is critical as they are the people that face the customers day in, day out or support the people who face the customers.

To develop an engaged team, the key attributes in my experience are to develop empathy and emotional intelligence within the senior team and especially managers in key roles within the organisation. Without empathy and emotional intelligence, the team quickly become disengaged, feel not listened to and unsupported. In extreme cases, I have witnessed teams working long hours, making mistakes and ultimately leaving the organisation.  The reputation in the market is so bad that recruitment has dried up and so a vicious cycle starts to escalate.

Empathy allows you to understand the situation from the other person’s perspective and if we show little or no empathy for the teams that work for us, we will also struggle to understand our customers, their needs and deliver on what they want from us.


The final element of all the successful organisations I have had the pleasure to work with is that they all understand exactly what the customers want from the organisation and use this information to design the products for the customers and process within the organisation. This entails breaking down the silo mentality and getting the business to function across the various elements of a customer’s journey from awareness right through to building a long-term relationship with the customer. Key to achieving this is having the right behaviours in the business and developing the empathy and emotional intelligence in the management teams.

Most organisations have so much data, but do they really understand what actually makes the difference? Knowing and using this data is key to creating an organisation that spend time and effort delivering for the customer, reducing the cost of acquisition and reworking when things go wrong. I remember in the early days of my career when I took over a business spending two days a week responding to customer complaints, resolving the complaints was really important but using the information to resolve the issues with the products and process was the key. The only way to do this was to work with the other parts of the business, if I didn’t then I would be working longer hours and getting increasingly frustrated that I was not achieving the results I wanted.

As mentioned above over 70% of change programmes fail!

Stuart Ewen, Partner, Mindset Associates

If you would like to find out more about how to achieve the changes that your customers require and ultimately remove the angst and frustration from your business give us a call or email me at  


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