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Triathlons, refugees, and putting yourself in your customers’ shoes

  • Posted on March 16, 2020
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes

Editor’s Note: We know that Avanade Advisory’s Charlotte Fuller is a star at making our clients feel inspired, cared for and confident, and now it’s official: Charlotte has just been named as one of Consulting Magazine’s “2020 Ones to Watch” for strategy consulting.  In celebration of this exciting global recognition, which is also featured in the magazine, we asked Charlotte to share some of her personal experiences and philosophies.  Here’s her story:

I wasn’t very good at swimming, which is why I became a triathlete.

That may sound counter-intuitive but, if you know me, it makes sense. About a year or so ago, jumping into a pool was a good way for me to lose a bit of my dignity. But the only way you grow is by doing what’s difficult, right? So I trained for and participated in my first triathlon: swimming, cycling and running – the works. I lived to tell the tale, and more. Right now, I’m devoting most of my time away from work to training for an Iron Man triathlon that consists of swimming for 2.4 miles, cycling for 112 miles, and running in a full, 26-mile marathon. I can’t know if I’ll win, of course, but I’m confident my dignity will emerge intact.

Doing the unexpected and unfamiliar seems to animate other parts of my life as well. It’s why I’ve started to learn to speak German after a longtime fear of attempting a second language. It’s also how I came to be a Senior Consultant for Growth & Strategy for Avanade’s Advisory Practice. Many of my colleagues come to Avanade from backgrounds in consulting, in technology, or both. Not many of my colleagues have a background that includes opening luxury boutique hotels, but that’s how I came to Avanade. That, and stints at a startup and a digital agency. Now, having personally experienced the priorities of entrepreneurs and business executives helps me to empathise with Avanade’s clients.

One thing I’ve learned, and emphasise to clients, is that an organisation’s stated challenge may not be its most pivotal one. For example, one large client came to us to help with a variety of digital transformation projects. Those were indeed real challenges – but so was another challenge that the client hadn’t identified despite the fact it touched on most of its other concerns: customer experience (CX). By raising the CX issue and helping the client to address it, we helped to make many of its other concerns become more manageable.

In management today, it’s crucial to have a passion for data and to understand how your organization can use data to inform its decisions. From intelligent mail rooms to predictive maintenance and more, companies are thinking more strategically about how to use data to make better decisions and better serve their customers. The ones that do this are the ones that will succeed in an increasingly competitive business climate.

Of course, using data better starts with knowing which data is most important to use. That’s where truly understanding your clients or customers – and their clients or customers – comes in. We saw that, for example, in our recent work for the British Red Cross. With a large influx of refugees to the UK, the British Red Cross faced a host of challenges in suddenly serving a large and culturally distinct population. How could the organization make the experiences of this population less painful?

Instead of assuming that we knew the answer, our Advisory team convened two days of Design Thinking sessions with a swath of British Red Cross stakeholders – including the refugees themselves. We used these days to gather information about the struggles of refugees and then, just as broadly, to explore possible solutions.

We discovered that one of the most stressful problems that refugees faced was one that we wouldn’t naturally have considered: most refugees can’t read the letters they receive from the UK government granting asylum to them, turning what should be an occasion for relief into one of high anxiety. Our solution: an app that refugees can use both to translate their asylum letters and to access one-stop resources to make use of their new status.

Meeting difficult challenges head-on…truly understanding customers and CX issues from their perspectives…discovering what data to use and how to use it…it’s what we do at Avanade – and what we encourage our clients to do, as well.

And if you’re really interested, I have some practical pointers on long-distance swimming to share.

Margaret Buj

Loved your article and well done on training for Iron Man!

March 23, 2020

Roger Bennett Twitter Orange Icon@rfb54321

Impressive that you are able to take real life behaviours and apply them equally to businesses.  That's how real meaning is derived - from overlaying our experience and learning on new situations.   And good luck with the Iron challenge!

March 17, 2020

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