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Annette Franz

Customer Care

Weology, Part 1

We comes before me

Published: Wednesday, November 16, 2016 - 10:28

Weology. What is it? If you guessed that it sounds like “the study of we,” you’re pretty close. The name of the concept stems from a Muhammad Ali poem, which simply goes like this: “Me... we.” Three unique letters rearranged into two powerful little words.

 The concept itself, which is also the title of the book, Weology: How Everybody Wins When We Comes Before Me (HarperCollins, reprint 2015) summarizes the leadership style of Peter Aceto, CEO of Tangerine Bank. His approach is defined by a culture where employees thrive, succeed, and are fulfilled, happy, and growing at work—a culture where every individual in the organization, regardless of who they are or what they do, has a voice. Every individual matters.

Why is this important? As Peter states in the book, “Being good to your own people is good business. When Me thrives, We benefit.”

Me... we.

Peter goes on to say that what he calls weology is “about creating win-win scenarios. It’s transparency without asterisks. It’s a way of putting people first in the short term so that a company can thrive in the long term.”

If you’ve been following my posts for some time, you know that I’m 110 percent on board with that line of thinking.

Hold that thought for a minute.

In early August, I shared a post titled “Customer Experience Fuels Innovation” on Twitter, and Peter chimed in to say, “It sure does!” I followed up and said that I’d love to hear what he’s doing at Tangerine Bank, ultimately asking him for an interview. He agreed, and we recently spoke about just that.

I read Weology before Peter and I spoke. I nodded and smiled the entire way through the book, wholeheartedly agreeing with all things weology, so I had a lot of great background about Peter, his career, and Tangerine Bank. When we spoke, my questions focused on things that I felt would be helpful for customer experience professionals in the throes of culture transformations within their own businesses, with a few other questions sprinkled in because, well, I was curious.

Let’s dive in.

Customer Service Week and Customer Service Day

We started our conversation talking about Customer Service Week and Customer Experience Day. I asked Peter if he was doing anything special to celebrate the contributions of his frontline staff, and he mentioned that Tangerine Bank has created a video to celebrate employees who are dedicated to their customers. In the video, they highlight how employees feel after going the extra mile for a customer.

Customer experience fuels innovation

Next, I went back to that tweet about customer experience fueling innovation. That concept seems to be the root of who/what Tangerine is. My query to Peter: “Some would say that innovation fuels the customer experience. Do you see those as two different sides of the same coin? Competing views? Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

Peter responded that the question itself is binary, but the answer, the result, the concept is not binary; it’s just not that simple. There are a few companies (e.g., Google, Apple) showing people a new experience, one that wouldn’t have existed without technological innovations that didn’t exist 10 years ago.

Tangerine Bank’s R&D team, for example, is looking at different types of biometric authentication—again, something that we didn’t think about 10 years ago, much less three years ago, and something customer’s haven’t asked for—which will create an experience that makes people’s lives easier, an experience that goes back to Tangerine’s purpose to do just that.

Tangerine understands that people don’t just want a mortgage or loan; they want to buy stuff. (Reminds me of Theodore Levitt’s quote: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill; they want a quarter-inch hole.”) At the same time, Tangerine wants to understand the challenges people experience in their lives, as well as the goals they have for themselves; with that information, Tangerine works to design a better customer experience. In order to do that, they clearly need to think differently (especially for a bank). They realize that they can’t look at things the same way they always have. On an ongoing basis, they have an ear to clients, to the world, and to trends affecting us all, and they are continuously modulating.

In reality, customer experience and innovation are likely two sides of the same coin. We need to understand our customers and the jobs they are trying to do while allowing the business to advance the technology that drives an innovative experience.

Being purpose built

In the book, Peter says: “Tangerine was ‘purpose built,’ i.e., to foster and focus on long-term relationships with customers.” Because this is a real challenge for customer experience professionals, I asked him, “Is being purpose built from the start the only way that a company can truly be/become customer-obsessed?” (I would put Amazon and Zappos in this purpose-built bucket; Tangerine seems to be on the same track as they are.)

Peter clarified that “purpose-built” for him meant having a higher purpose, i.e., to help Canadians live better lives, to empower them to take control of their finances, ultimately helping them live better lives.

Those are lofty goals, but he notes that a company doesn’t necessarily have to be purpose-driven or client-driven or -focused from the start. It’s easier, but not necessary.

Having said that, Peter has studied Tony Hsieh (Zappos) and his approach to entrepreneurship and customer obsession. He noted that one of the lessons Hsieh learned was that he had underestimated the importance of having the right culture in place in his companies from day one. He started several businesses that either failed or that he ended up selling purely because he knew he needed to get culture right in the first place. In other words, he aborted the mission and started over in order to start right.

Hsieh is an anomaly, for sure, and his approach is one that not all entrepreneurs can, or are willing to, take. Peter’s final thought on this is that a lot of companies have struggled with how to change an embedded culture; it’s definitely more difficult but not impossible.

Employee experience drives customer experience

My next question to Peter: “It seems simple enough: employee experience drives customer experience. Why have I been fighting that battle (getting that message across) for so many years? Why don’t CEOs get it? Will we really need to wait till this generation of CEOs turns over before that message no longer falls on deaf ears?”

As you know if you’ve been following my blog, this is a topic that is near and dear to me. So I was excited to get Peter’s thoughts on this one.

One of his hypotheses on this topic: historically, business leaders are schooled and rewarded in their careers around delivering results, i.e., short-term, profitability, financials, margins. When they become more successful, they get big offices with big doors (which Peter doesn’t have; he sits out on the floor with his employees), pulling further away from the employees and even closer to the numbers and the metrics.

Peter is baffled, like I am, by this whole phenomenon. It’s so obvious: Leaders must understand that the employee experience drives the customer experience—and then do something about it. Why isn’t that happening faster? Despite that, Peter noted that people do take notice of the few companies that do it differently. So perhaps there’s hope for that change yet.

At the same time, he’s also baffled about why more employees don’t walk—and why customers don’t take their money elsewhere—if the experience remains business as usual.

So what’s up with business leaders? Why don’t executives get it? I probed further because I really want to understand this. I’ve pondered it before: Will it take a material turnover of leaders in order for the changes we are dying to see happen? Although Peter thought this was a fair question, he didn’t think so.

I wish I could be as optimistic about that!

In part two of my discussion with Peter, we’ll continue with questions about change and change management, business leaders Peter admires, companies that have adopted weology (this one is surprising), success metrics, and more.

“Anyone can start something new. It takes real leaders to stop something old.” —Peter Aceto


About The Author

Annette Franz’s picture

Annette Franz

Annette Franz, CCXP is founder and CEO of CX Journey Inc. She’s got 25 years of experience in both helping companies understand their employees and customers and identifying what drives retention, satisfaction, engagement, and the overall experience – so that, together, we can design a better experience for all constituents. She's an author (she wrote the book on customer understanding!), a speaker, and a customer experience thought leader and influencer. She serves as Vice Chairwoman on the Board of Directors of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA), is an official member of the Forbes Coaches Council, and is an Advisory Board member for CX@Rutgers.