CEO Blog

Oh what a night!

Anne Marie Forsyth, CEO, CCA

Comedy and satire can't trump the real madness of today's US and UK politics, fake news and of course this week’s Oscars fiasco.
The night to remember became a night never to forget for all the wrong reasons, and reactions were polarised and interesting. On one level 'no one died' and it was highly entertaining, but for traumatised 'luvvies' it was time to reach for the smelling salts as the reputation of the Academy was unceremoniously dragged south.
Perhaps the biggest learning here is that human beings make mistakes, sometimes big ones and sometimes with catastrophic consequences. That's why we have systems and standards and increasingly technologies to build a protective layer around us, so that we can focus on what humans do best without constantly checking for mistakes. That's why for example we are rarely asked to read our 16-digit card number these days. The scope for error is very high between caller and service representative, so automated processes are usually in place.
Most organisations understand 'their thing' ie what they are known for; what they must strive to get right at all costs and what will damage them if it goes wrong. Every effort is taken to mitigate any risk of the critical 'thing' going wrong. Of course any system design is only as good as the standards agreed and of course there must be a robust contingency plan when things, as they do, go wrong.
In the case of the Oscars, their 'thing' is very focused, judging the film industry and providing recognition in an awards ceremony. Recognised as the jewel in the crown of awards, the stakes are high. It seems that an error was made in placing envelopes - easily done perhaps? However, it seems strange that such a mission critical process in the system hadn't been subject to more scrutiny, or was it simply complacency as it had never gone wrong before? Were those responsible distracted?
Over the years our nerves could never quite stand the strain of envelopes going astray or mixed up at the annual CCA Excellence Awards ceremony. And so the process was altered from gold, hard to read envelopes to white, to no envelopes at all. Now the results are digitally loaded and notes provided 'for your eyes only' to the awards presenter who can then provide the "wow" announcements time and time again in confidence.
Of course learning from mistakes is critical, as is the need to discourage a culture of blame when things go wrong.  I suspect I wasn't alone in being surprised at the naming and shaming of the employees responsible; isn't the brand big enough to shoulder the blame?
So a takeaway from this is the need to really understand where our main reputation risk is and ensure that there is an 'ad nauseam' focus on mitigation. For charities this might be monitoring how their fundraising is being conducted by third parties, for banks it could be FCA compliance, for sales organisations it may be outbound call regulations. For some organisations it is a simple exercise but for many it is more complex with multiple risk factors in the journey.
Increasingly risk lies at the front line, moment of truth where complex and emotional interactions are the norm. But even with all of this analysis in place, expect the unexpected, and how will we deal with these inevitable unknowns?
Making assumptions without accurate information can quickly make a big drama out of any small crisis, and so monitoring and adapting to new information must become a habit rather than an act.
Why not take the service test and measure your customer service resilience against the industry benchmark, CCA Global Standard©. Read more information here.

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