Grant Leboff: One of the things that is just ongoing is how technology is changing the business environment, the way we relate to customers, suppliers, competitors. So what are the things that you're seeing in the work that you do and how technology, smart phones and all the other developments are affecting a business today?
Susannah Schofield: I think it's twofold. I think it's really important to look at it in two different criteria. One is your customers, whose expectations are higher, you expect to be able to get hold of people 24/7, if you want to book something - why can't I do it now, what do you mean you're closer to the weekend? - We have this 24/7 mentality, but with that in mind, when we look at our employees, we have this 24/7 mentality. So there is no being able to put down your work. You take it with you everywhere you go. You are constantly living and breathing it. And I think with that, comes a really interesting dynamic and an incredibly dangerous one as well, because there isn't that two weeks holiday where you get to put your out of office on and lie on the beach anymore.
You take it with you, you are constantly addressing issues. But, I think to some extent then, you don't fully recharge. When as an individual were we last bored? When did we just sit and say, I've got nothing to do? Because you reach for your phone, you'll pick something up, you're always able to read something. I read a terrifying statistic the other day that was, something like, we come into more data in a month than people who lived in Shakespeare's time came into in a lifetime. We just suck it all in. We see it. And actually our human brain wasn't meant to process all of this data. It wasn't meant to be lights and banners and phones and blue screens the whole time. It's just too much. So there's a whole wellbeing issue underlying. There's a whole mental health crisis at the moment, which is driven by too much information, too much stress, too much pressure...
I think as businesses it's really important that we make some cultural assessments and we say yes, customer care is crucial. Yes, technology can drive better efficiencies and better ways of working, but actually at what cost? And where do we draw a line, as employers, to say this isn't good? Yes, we can now monitor when someone checks in and someone checks out, but actually is that right and when should we use it? Some of these smart badges at work now that can trace footsteps of an employee and Amazon was allegedly there - allegedly, I use - they have buzzers, so if they weren't packing fast enough it buzzed and you think; there's a message out there at the moment that either you'll be replaced by a robot or essentially you'll be treated like one, and I think that's very wrong.
In my humble opinion, I believe, the companies that will do very well are those that can use technology to drive automation and drive efficiency, but also to embody what's right for the human race and to look after their employees, make sure that they get the wellbeing that they deserve. And I think aligning those is easier said than done, and as technology drives forward, it's only going to get harder. But I think we have a social responsibility that we don't let technology drive our decisions.
Grant Leboff: So some of that obviously is about setting customer expectations. Have you seen companies that do this particularly well in some of the insights that you've...
Susannah Schofield: Yes. The manufacturing as a whole, as a sector tend to really manage customer expectations well. They tend to have very honest delivery times, very honest ways of working. They tend to write, we're going to develop this widget. It will take us this length of time and that's what it is. And like, I don't know whether that's kind of the production line mentality, that actually this is the process it takes through. I think where the lines start to blur is when somebody says, oh, can you just do this for me? Of course I can, but actually when's the deadline? When you're going to deliver it, and I think when you step into the marketing, the consultancy, the sales world, those timelines can be a little under exaggerated to get the deal through the door, but actually then expectations are let down. And where I think it's interesting, when we go in and do a Dice Matrix, we look at the business in their sectors, in their module.
So customer care sits here, sales sits here, after services is here... and where does it start to break down? Because it's all well and good, I sell you tickets for an airplane, you have an amazing time. You get onto the airplane. It never takes off the ground because I've overbooked it or your seat's been sold twice. That is a catastrophic experience. It doesn't matter what happens up to this point. As long as you land safely and you've got there, then the aftercare is much easier to manage. So I think it's about understanding what you're promising, making sure that it's absolutely realistic and in a timely fashion, and then the expectations will be easier to use. But the greater the technology we have, the easier it is to say so we can do that. That's not a problem. We're on this. But actually it's about making sure you can really deliver what you're promising.
Grant Leboff: I'm just interested with the work you do when you look at employees as well, because one of the things that has been a disconnect in my own head, and I don't understand, is that we're told, if you read the media, if you talk about expectations of millennials in the workplace, that people want more flexible working. They don't want to necessarily work in the nine to five. They don't want to do that. And obviously more are working at home. But then if you take that reality, if that's true, and then you look at the 24/7 culture, then actually those two things, in some way should combine. The millennial who doesn't want to start till 3.00 in the afternoon and work until 11.00 at night and wants to spend most of their time working from home, actually they can be monitoring the Twitter feed or the social media feed or the customer help desk or whatever, from 3:00 in the afternoon until 11:00 at night if that's their eight hour shift. And yet there seems to be a disconnect with that when you start talking about the fact that, you know, we expect more from employees and those kinds of things. Have you seen any companies using your insights to move in those directions and where it works?
Susannah Schofield: Yeah, and I think for me, flexible working - or I like to call it agile working - it's very hard to say right 8.00 till 5.00 this is what's expected, answer the phones in those times. As long as you really honest with your customers and say, do you know what we've noticed, nobody wants to talk to us between the hours of 9.00 and 11.00, so actually we're going to close the office, but when you want to speak to us a 7.00 to 8.00, that's when we're going to be there and we're going to have to double the number of people on there because you asked and we've delivered. So I think it's back to this honesty process. It's back to saying, talk to us as customers, talk to us and listen to what we're saying, appreciate as it goes along the line as to what's required.
But you're, you're absolutely right, that agile working is going to be so important as we move forward and people do want portfolio careers. They're happy to do a bit of this and a bit of that and technology is all thrown at us all quickly and we want more. We need more. So actually those little segments of life will start to fit in together. But I think to some extent business hasn't quite caught up with individual movement yet and employees will start to make those demands, but most people still run an office 9.00 till 6.00 and that's the kind of way of working and, and there is a danger that sometimes you can become isolated as an individual if you don't have that osmosis of an organisation, where you come in, you have your water cooler conversation, you have a coffee together, you eat together. We are pack animals, we are supposed to hunt together, kill together and eat together, and if we lose that and we become very channeled into our media world working at home, that is when isolation starts and, and mental health issues come in. So, we're going to treat a very interesting line as we move forward. And it's one, I think we'll have to be monitored incredibly carefully.