What can we learn from Leicester City about Customer Service Success?

My article yesterday was related to football, and this morning I discovered a fascinating article by Dr Tom Wormald, a customer experience expert, who also uses a footballing example to illustrate success in customer service.

Dr Wormald argues that customer service managers should apply some of the secrets of Claudio Ranieri’s triumph at Leicester City to their own businesses. He suggests that Leicester's unexpected success proves that an organisation’s size or budget does not need to constrain its customer goals, providing it uses three simple principles.

1. Audit what is available and make a plan

In football, like in business, when setting objectives it is tempting to try to make an impact too quickly. This can make change seem expensive if organisations spend money without a clear sense of what they want to achieve, or if they invest heavily in new people, processes or knowledge, without realising what is already available to them.

Ranieri took a different approach when he became Leicester City manager. His first priority was to carefully audit what was available to him, and only then did he make the additions needed to bring success to the Club.

Despite the common assumption that success is linked to spending, Leicester’s story shows us that even small organisations can make the changes needed to deliver excellent customer service. With a clear plan that builds on (rather than replaces) what already exists, business leaders can achieve success for far less time and money than they might have expected.

2. Different skillsets and departments need to work together

Dr Wormald suggests that some of the most important innovations at Leicester City are in how different specialisms within the organisation have worked together to deliver the plan.

While many other clubs invest heavily in nutritionists, physiotherapists, psychologists or data analysts, what makes Leicester different is the way that Ranieri as a leader has integrated all these specialisms into the decision-making process.

Ranieri’s approach shows that it is possible to convince different specialisms that working together need not be a threat to them. Success comes from galvanising different areas of expertise around a common goal and making it clear to everyone that they can make a far larger contribution to the wider customer strategy by working together, than by working independently.

3. Different forms of knowledge need to be brought together

According to Dr Wormald, Leicester's cooperative way of working means that a more integrated and strategic approach can be taken to the information needed for success. Each source of data can contribute to planning and decision-making on its own merits. For example, sports scientists collect and analyse physical performance statistics. Coaches observe and report on football performance from the training pitch. And players complete surveys after each training session, capturing their perspective on fitness levels, diet and sleep patterns.

The shared focus Ranieri has created towards the overall goal means that there are no disputes between coaches and analysts at the Club. Instead, if a player reports a fitness issue, it is explored jointly via data on his physical performance on the pitch, his coaches’ observations, and deeper analysis of questionnaire data from the player on things like sleep and appetite.

According to Dr Wormald's article, the lesson for business leaders is clear: success comes from effective arrangement of different sources of knowledge around the customer objectives. By taking this approach, it is far easier to see how data on shifting sales patterns is enhanced by customer research, rather than replacing it. Likewise, the views of frontline staff can complement and support the market research or analytics programme. To create a consistent and meaningful customer experience, businesses need to integrate all the knowledge at their disposal as part of a wider plan, and to bring different sources together in ways that reveal new truths about customer expectations or behaviour.

What does this mean in reality?

Leicester's achievement in winning the Premier League title with a squad costing less than quarter the price of last year’s Premier League champions (Chelsea) shows what can be achieved with limited resources, providing business leaders are willing to align their organisation around a set of clearly defined goals.

Central to this is the recognition that success does not lie in collecting more and more data or doing endless research in pursuit of an elusive customer 'insight'. Any business can achieve success through the pursuit of a strategy that maximises what already exists, aligns different skillsets, and brings together disparate sources of information around the common goal of delighting their customers.

Dr Wormald concludes his article by suggesting that if a business is willing to challenge the status quo and do things differently, then just like Leicester City, it can achieve success against all the odds.