Shel Horowitz is an award-winning author, international speaker, consultant and ethical marketing expert. He is the ‘Transformpreneur’ at Going Beyond Sustainability, helping business thrive as they identify, create and market profitable offerings that turn hunger and poverty into abundance, war into peace, and catastrophic climate change into planetary balance. His latest book is Guerrilla Marketing to Heal the World.
Maria and I were honoured to see Shel’s thoughtful review which he published this month in The Clean and Green Club newsletter and which he has given us permission to republish on Transition Consciousness.
Customer Experiences with Soul: A New Era in Design, by Simon Robinson and Maria Moraes Robinson (Holonomics Publishing, 2017)
Let’s get something out of the way right at the start: despite the subtitle, this isn’t a book about product design; it’s about designing magnificent customer experiences based in core values. I’ve covered several books on that theme over the years, and I consider it part of the core knowledge base for all social entrepreneurs and marketers.
And yes, customer experience is absolutely part of marketing. Maybe the most important part. The authors point this out consistently, starting right on page 4: “’customer experience’ refers…to every single interaction inside the business between colleagues, employees, suppliers, shareholders and contractors…and every person who comes into contact with the business.” The Robinsons set a goal of congruence: what a business says, means, and does should all align (p. 6). And on page 11, they set out five hard-nosed MBA-type statistics demonstrating why businesses should embrace this thinking.
They definitely see the social entrepreneurship side of their work. Within the main chapters, subsections bear titles like Peace, Truth (a subhead in two adjacent chapters), Love, Righteousness, Non-violence, Beauty, Goodness, and Justice. The book is a roadmap to design a business that embodies those types of values—and spins that out to create stakeholder (especially customer and employee) experiences that also embody those values.
The early part of the book is somewhat theoretical, and parts of it can be a bit of a slog. But when they’re talking about real businesses, sharing case studies, it’s a great read.
For an American like me, the perspective and language of two authors who are Brazilian and British and who are based in Brazil is very different, and quite refreshing. Several examples forced me to confront my own regional biases, and to see what works well in a very different culture like São Paulo.
It’s also very refreshing to see their emphasis on authenticity, integrity, ethical behavior—principles I’ve been publicly advocating since 2002, and where I sometimes feel like a lonely voice in a business and political culture that emphasizes short-term profit at the expense of these deeper virtues. I love this image: “We can’t use soul like chili sauce” (p. 70). It’s not a condiment to spice up a dead company; it has to be a core value. This attitude is key to understanding the book, and themes like that are repeated often.
Of course, service itself has to matter. Even little things can count a lot. “Sometimes we can find a phenomenon, such as the coffee in a hotel, which contains the whole essence of the brand, the company, the values, the experience” (pp. 64-65). And the book makes the business case many times. One of my favorites was the story of a happy customer’s Facebook post that brought a 900% increase in revenue to a Sao Paolo cell phone repair kiosk (p. 155).
But a better experience doesn’t mean taking all the challenges away, making things too easy. That can actually be counterproductive, if the challenge reminds your prospect of what they like about the struggle. Think about artisanal wares made in small batches, by hand, versus their mass-produced equivalents. A handwriting font simply doesn’t replicate the experience of receiving a card done in real (hand-done) calligraphy (pp. 68-69). Similarly, Artificial Intelligence (AI) cannot replicate the customer service experience of dealing with a skilled human being who is actually interacting with you (p. 185).
Several case studies shed light on applying this good thinking in a real-world business. The book ends with a fabulous case study of a love-based set of restaurants (not a chain, as each venue has its own identity and niche (pp. 198-211); the authors see their interview with founder Walter Mancini as encompassing all the principles they discuss. But I found another case study even more compelling: a Sao Paolo medical center called Hospital Sírio Libanes (Syrian-Lebanese Hospital, pp. 167-178). Their remarkable CEO, Dr. Chapchap, has made a career of making the hospital experience far more enjoyable than the typical. He also has a collaborative attitude that I find really refreshing: Believing that “it is not morally defensible to have a competitive advantage in healthcare” (p. 168), he not only creates a culture that continually improves best practices, but freely shares them with other medical organizations.
On page 186, the Robinsons give a quick summary of their favorite takeaways from several of the businesses they’ve profiled, and then on page 187, a comprehensive chart of their holonomic model, in three concentric almost-circles. Each circle has a small gap, to emphasize that the circles are interrelated.
There’s much more. Go out and read it and take the time you need to get through.