Barry Marlow reviews the links between China's plans to 'social credit score' all of its citizens, and Smart Simplicity based customer reward programmes.
China plans to rank all its citizens based on their ‘social credit’ by 2020. https://www.businessinsider.com/china-social-credit-system-punishments-and-rewards-explained-2018-4?r=US&IR=T#2-throttling-your-internet-speeds-2
Like private credit scores, a person’s social score can move up and down depending on their behaviour. ‘Punishments’ include restricting people from the advantages of accessing social media and luxury travel options. Harsh restrictions for being caught smoking in a no-smoking area.
It is an enormous moral dilemma.
Many people working in social housing may recall the introduction of the late Tom Manion’s Gold Service at Irwell Valley HA back in 1999. Hugely controversial, the scheme was based on meritocracy – getting something for something. The membership of Gold brought faster repairs, more choice for improvements and prize draws. I was involved in the consultancy team taking this new, controversial offer to social landlords throughout the UK.
Over the past 20 years I have also been heavily involved in delivering training courses in complaint management. The trickiest part of the day was always the bit where I was trying to introduce apology into the policy arena. A very simple but awkward moment. In social housing, even the housing ombudsman felt it necessary to offer guidance to social landlords on how to apologise. Sorry really was the hardest word.
Over the years, most social landlords eventually got it and are now able to include apology and goodwill into its service offer. That just leaves thank youas the next challenge.
This is only difficult because it is rare that thank you becomes part of formal feedback, unlike complaints. But is restricts the thinking about ‘what works’. If there is no recognition of success then the benchmark of failure becomes skewed. Staff are trained to notice problems, nuisance and struggle and overlook the best behaviour – the kind of behaviour that saves the landlord £millions every year. Tom Manion called this thinking ‘negative expenditure’, where a lot of resource was dedicated to a minority of people, restricting service development from those who did things like pay the rent on time.
The culmination of this was that staff didn’t even know who the loyal tenants were.
Smart Simplicity recognises and rewards. Not with points and prizes but by allowing people to benefit from trust and co-operation. Many staff members are restricted by the ‘hard’ structures and hierarchies that prevent good people from demonstrating how good they really are – to the detriment of the business. We often call these people ‘integrators’ and they are easy to spot. It’s also easy to spot those who don’t integrate naturally – their names are well-known and they reinforce the kind of thinking that highlights silo mentalities.
The reward is the freedom of empowerment. To make decisions based on what they see and do. Not by their job title. An integrator is not a job – but it is a role. And it is hard to define, so we tend not to define it. Defining it only makes it too fixed and inflexible. It is a Smart Simplicity way of recognising talent and creating the space to develop across teams and disciplines. We often call these ‘critical friends’.
Peter Hall and myself have worked with both Southway Housing and Stonewater Housing in recent years helping them to develop recognition and reward programmes. Our work involves staff and customers, looking for the ways that rewarding behaviour can be recognised – and then something done about it. The Stonewater Rewardincentive scheme https://www.stonewater.org/for-residents/reward/was launched last year and bows to Tom’s original Gold Service in its offer. A fitting tribute.
But it is worth remembering that many organisations, despite recognising the ground-breaking work that Tom did, found it very hard to overcome the cultural difficulties in terms of connecting with the concept of reward. Many examples thought the programme too complicated or expensive to administer and found it hard to reconcile reducing negative expenditure with the cost of administration of the programme itself - spending a lot offering something to everyone in the hope that it will change the behaviour of a few.
Fortunately, Smart Simplicity relies on behavioural insight to overcome these fears.
Smart Simplicity focuses on the ways people co-operate, what people actually do and the mutual benefits that arise from this – reciprocity. With Anna O’Halloran part of our offer, we bring her skills in Behavioural Insight to embed the principles of nudge theoryinto the customer service offer, the ways that staff approach both things that don’t work – and importantly, the things that dowork. And then to do more of those things that work – and work well.
The moral dilemma remains in most social landlords. The China syndrome is perhaps taking things a little to the extreme but the principles are there. Simple co-operation can be hugely rewarding. And reward can be reciprocated. That’s smart.
If you think that a recognition programme is something that you are thinking through, especially in these Universal Credit times, and would benefit from a Smart Simplicity approach – please get in touch for a no-obligation chat with Barry, Peter or Anna.