Madam knows best

Those of you who know me a bit will know that a reference to a “Madam” is usually to one of my delightful, yet high-maintenance, daughters.

Not this time.

Last night, I attended a seminar given by Madam Becky Adams, who has turned 20 years of experience in the sex industry into a customer service and mystery shopper consultancy with an unusual (but nevertheless compelling) take on why potential customers either take the leap, or run away and never come back.



Customers buy if their fears and preconceptions are soothed.  No matter what the business is, emotional connection to the customer is the key to winning the business.  On more than one occasion at last night’s seminar, someone was heard to proclaim that “people buy people”.

Which is why – NEWSFLASH – a business that invests in ensuring that its employees are fully engaged with the ethos and purpose of the business will always do better than one which treats staff as no more a necessary evil.

Now, Madam Becky was not talking about employee engagement.  She was talking about what gets customers through the door for the first time and then again and again.  In her (paraphrased) words,  successful businesses are those that communicate to potential customers not only their “what” and “how”, but also their “why” – the driving force, the vision.

However, the parallels to employee engagement are so obvious.  Engaging employees is not about the “what” a business does  (the products or services), or “how” a business does what it does (the resources and processes).  It is about buy-in to the “WHY”, the very reason for its existence.  People who understand and are are passionate about “WHY”, will exude that to potential customers and thus enhance the customer service experience from first contact throughout the relationship, which may endure for decades.


The burning question…


An oft-cited exemplar of engagement is of course The John Lewis Partnership.  Their “WHY” is  – and I quote – the happiness of Partners through worthwhile and satisfying employment in a successful business”. This is, in my view, the ultimate in employee engagement, a business that exists for the benefit of the employees.  And my goodness, doesn’t it work?  I have never yet had a bad experience in John Lewis or Waitrose – have you?

Whilst businesses who exist purely for the benefit of their staff rather than shareholders or investors are relatively rare, there are still plenty of businesses whose employees buy in to the “WHY” and who benefit from employee commitment.  Take, as another example, the Save Britain Money Group, currently 5th in the Sunday Times 100 Best Companies To Work For.  Anyone who knows me will know how much of a fan I am of Call Centre.  Like a “house of ill-repute”, it is a difficult business with challenging working conditions (we all know how we feel when we’re cold-called). Nevertheless,  they say:

“Our mission is to increase the disposable income of consumers across the UK through money saving products and services. From home energy efficiency to great value insurance products we are saving Britain money.”

If you’ve ever watched The Call Centre on BBC3 you’ll have seen the (in many cases) indirect buy-in to the business mission, often secured with reference to the MD’s catchphrases.  My favourite is “SWSWSWN” = Some Will, Some Won’t, So What, NEXT!  What a mantra for cold callers.

For anyone who may be wondering at the “WHY” of a “house of ill-repute” (Madam Becky’s words, not mine.), it was in their case simply this: SAFETY, RESPECT, FUN.  Anything suggested by a customer that didn’t meet those criteria was rejected.  End of.  Everyone in the business was empowered to make that call. Anyone who didn’t buy into those values, was out.

Do you have a “WHY”? Have you empowered your employees? Does everyone buy in to your values and do you tolerate those who don’t?

BIG QUESTIONS – I’d love to know your thoughts….

Getting it right: Nev Wilshire of "The Call Centre"

Getting it right: Nev Wilshire of “The Call Centre”





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2 Responses to Madam knows best

  1. Might be a little left field but I was reflecting on how social media fits in to the engagement discussion.

    If people are freely able to express who they are, using the methods of communication they are familiar with, then they are more open to understanding where their why and the business why fits in. Creating alignment and engagement.

    We have a generation of employers who have grown up with social media as their normal way of communicating and yet we still block it within the workplace.

    How can we hope for engagement if we don’t let people be themselves?

  2. There is a Ted talk on a similar vein by Simon Sinek about inspiring leadership. In essence the “what” and “how” are important but the “why” is what creates the emotional connection for both customers and employees. In our organisation I call it “mirroring” so that if we are all about creating relationships with customers, we have to have great relationships with each other because that is what creates a habit out of building great relationships. The employee experience is mirrored in the customer experience so that requires employee engagement and that in turn is created by the emotional connection. It requires leaders who know how to build engagement through emotional connections – a certain level of authenticity. Interestingly there do seem to be exceptions – the BBC programme in Amazon showed a pretty awful employee experience which was at odds with the customer experience. I wonder if they are able to get away with it because their customer experience is remote and primarily digital

    Link to the Ted talk below

    How great leaders inspire action

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