CX Expert Adrian Swinscoe: Here’s What Punk Rock Can Teach Us About Customer Experience

So this one is a little different, but what do you expect when somehow Johnny Rotten and the Sex Pistols (along with The Clash, Fugazi and other Punk Rock bands) are used to potentially put us back on the right path to creating the kinds of experiences important to customers today. A path CX thought leader Adrian Swinscoe says many companies have strayed from. They seem to be favoring opulence at the expense of providing the essentials customers depend on. And he illustrates with his new book Punk CX.

I spoke with Adrian during PegaWorld (Pegasystems’ annual user conference) in Vegas (of course) to learn more about the Punk Rock customer experience connection and how you correlate it to progressive (prog) rock, and how a dirty bathroom can completely undercut a fancy restaurant with great food and excellent customer service.

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Below is an edited transcript of our conversation. To see the full conversation watch the video or click on the embedded SoundCloud player.

Punk Rock Customer Experience

Small Business Trends: We’re talking about punk music being the counterbalance to prog music.

Adrian Swinscoe: Absolutely.

Small Business Trends: And how this all relates to customer experience.

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Adrian Swinscoe: So, I was talking about the idea that punk rock was born out of prog rock. And it was also the antithesis to it. It’s like DIY back to basics sort of approach, all heart and emotion and daring to be different and actually being okay with the fact that not everybody needed to like you.

Small Business Trends: Right.

Adrian Swinscoe: And that’s kinda fine. Punk is a very broad church. Then I was thinking well actually if the CX space are exhibiting some of the same characteristics as prog rock, then what would the punk version of CX look like? Because the thing that frustrated me about the whole sort of thing, the whole narrative, discussion, commentary right now, is that there’s all these companies that are talking about wanting to do things differently, be a leader in their field, to stand out, and then nothing happens.

Capturing the Essence of Marketing

Small Business Trends: And isn’t it also like you were saying with prog, it gets so elaborate and over the top and it almost felt like the real essence of music and enjoying music is sitting back, relaxing and listening, not studying for it; and then also missing the essence of what you’re actually about.

Adrian Swinscoe: Well exactly. So the book is not like any other book; it is very heavy on design, on graphics and color, so it’s not like black ink on white pages. It looks like a comic book, it looks like a fanzine. That’s exactly why it’s inspired by punk, it’s trying to take that music analogy a little bit further, so that rather than having a table of contents, we’ve positioned the book as having a track listing. The book is grouped into different sections, like different sort of themes, so it’s almost like mini albums within a compilation as it were.

The first track in the book is called “Are you an artist or are you just coloring in?” I think that frames the whole sort of thing because I think there’s many of these CX initiatives or programs or things and it’s just like painting by numbers, right? Everybody’s following the recipe but wanting to make different bread. And you’re looking at it just going, “dude, you can’t paint by numbers and expect to make a masterpiece because art is not like that”. So the question is, do you want to be good at coloring in or do you want to be an artist?

A Deeper Look Into Punk CX

Small Business Trends: One of the things I loved about the book is you had… do you call them tracks?

Adrian Swinscoe: Yeah, tracks.

Small Business Trends: You had one around this idea of you wanting to go to this restaurant for the longest of time. You go and the food is great, the service is great, so you would expect that you would have a great overall experience there. But if you had to go to the bathroom and you went to the bathroom and it’s a mess in there, it’s an indescribable smell and it’s just nasty as all get out. What do you actually remember about your experience at the restaurant?

Adrian Swinscoe: The smelly bathroom, right? And it also raises all the other questions like, well if that’s what the bathroom’s like…

Small Business Trends: What’s the kitchen like?

Adrian Swinscoe: What the heck’s going on in the kitchen? The food might look great but what sort of environment are they making it in? I think that’s the point of that, the idea is, do you have smelly bathrooms? It’s like an analogy which says, do you have smelly bathrooms in your business? It could be like a payment process. Or getting an invoicing process or a delivery process. Or it could be this, that or whatever. It could be all sorts of different things. It could be as simple as the way that you answer the phone.

Small Business Trends: Right.

Setting the Wrong Tone for Punk Rock Customer Experience

Adrian Swinscoe: Right. That could be the thing that sets the tone or not for the whole of your experience.

Small Business Trends: That’s the thing, I mean this restaurant example, let’s say it’s a Michelin 4 star or something like that, they spent a lot of money on getting the right people, the chefs, on making the place look nice, the surfaces look great. But if you walk into a nasty bathroom, all that stuff that you just did …

Adrian Swinscoe: Just goes away.

Small Business Trends: Goes away. The only thing people remember about the whole experience is the nasty bathroom.

Thinking Holistically About Marketing

Adrian Swinscoe: Exactly. I think that’s the thing, the point of that story, that analogy, is to make people think holistically and systemically about the experience that they’re trying to design and deliver. And going you know what, nobody should be missed out here. You might say, oh they’re just back-office people, they’re not involved in servicing experience, you’re like going “hello”. We’re in a hotel now and all the housekeeping staff, they’re absolutely essential to the overall service experience.

Small Business Trends: Right because it could be tens across the board for certain things but if there’s a one in there, sorry.

Adrian Swinscoe: That’s it, you’re done.

Finding the the Formula for Punk Rock Customer Experience

Small Business Trends: Yeah, I’m out. You also had an equation, a formula, that you talked about.

Adrian Swinscoe: Yes. So there’s a lot of conversation around when you’re talking about customer experience and then there’s a growing narrative around employee experience and how those two things are connected. I wrote a piece a while ago which talked about why customer experience equals a function of employee experience. And I think that’s true, because logically it makes sense. If your employees don’t have a great experience then they’re less likely to deliver a good…

Small Business Trends: Customer experience.

Adrian Swinscoe: Customer experience. So I’m not saying that CX equals EX, I’m saying CX is a function of EX. I think you have to think bigger than that now. There’s so many customers that are reliant on external contractors, consultants, agencies, outsourced partners and things that are essential to everything from their service and product development to actual delivery of their overall business on a day to day basis. So the leading companies are thinking, well actually, we’re thinking about our employee experience and how that feeds into our customer experience. The leading companies are also starting to think well what’s the WX, what’s the worker experience as well because if we’re relying on external people to deliver a good service and experience then you’ve got to think about how you integrate them into your overall ecosystem.

Small Business Trends: Right.

Adrian Swinscoe: Because if they’re serving your end customers or they’re involved in developing your overall experience then you have to think more deeply about how you integrate both your employees and your workers together.

Discovering the Experience Continuum

Small Business Trends: They’re part of the experience ecosystem.

Adrian Swinscoe: Yeah.

Small Business Trends: You need them all to create the kind of experience…

Adrian Swinscoe: Absolutely.

Looking at Where Customer Experience Stands Today

Small Business Trends: All right, so where are we today, just generally speaking, are companies still looking at this from a prog rock perspective or are they getting down to the bare essentials and really focusing and hitting on that punk rock side of the house?

Adrian Swinscoe: I think we’re more in the former and when you said that I was trying to bang my head on the table. That’s one of the reasons why I wrote the book, the book is trying to be in true punk fashion, it’s trying to be an incitement to do something different. It’s trying to annoy you, it’s trying to irritate you, it’s trying to inspire you, it’s trying to motivate you. And you know what, I don’t care if you don’t like it, I really don’t care, because I only care about the people that are going to care enough to want to do something different.

This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.

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Brent Leary Brent Leary is the host of the Small Business Trends One-on-One interview series and co-founder of CRM Essentials LLC, an Atlanta-based CRM advisory firm covering tools and strategies for improving business relationships. Brent is a CRM industry analyst, advisor, author, speaker and award-winning blogger.

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