As mobile technology marches on unrelentingly and many device owners appear to be surgically or unnaturally attached to their smartphones and tablets, the concept of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) has gained significant currency.  Briefly stated, BYOD refers to the policy of permitting employees to bring personally owned mobile devices (laptops, tablets, and smart-phones) to their workplace, and to use those devices to access privileged company information and applications. In many cases this also means they can actually do their jobs more effectively, efficiently, and from any location. Although this latter capability is still an anathema to many companies stuck in the seventies, who don’t trust their employees, especially when it comes to customer service roles.

It’s driving IT crazy – But it has benefits

BYOD is not without its many challenges, including security, compatibility, scalability and capability. In other words, a nightmare for IT departments and HR policy makers. However despite this, it does have its fans and the debate will undoubtedly go on, especially as the new breed of Gen Y, Z, Millenials and Digital Natives start to hit the workforce. A study by IBM says that 82% of employees think that smartphones play a critical role in business. The study also shows benefits of BYOD include increased productivity, employee satisfaction, and cost savings for the company.

BYOA makes more sense – It’s cheaper and it comes pre-installed

But for me, a much better idea that comes with similar benefits, that are less costly and is great for all companies regardless of sizes and type is BYOA – Bring Your Own Attitude. And the customer service world where I spend much of my time is a perfect and timely breeding ground for BYOA.

So what is BYOA, and why does it have a place in today’s business world? There’s no questioning the fact that a great attitude is a fundamental, important and enduring asset for any employee to have in any business. And if you’re young, but come pre-wired with a great attitude as many do, then that can overcome lack of experience, company knowledge and other skills that can be learned as you progress. But why doesn’t this happen naturally in the world of customer service? Wanting to help others, especially those that clearly are in need of assistance and support, would seem to be a perfectly natural and worthy thing to do. And most of us, when confronted with this situation in a personal circumstance with relatives, friends and even strangers –think the Good Samaritan – don’t hesitate to step in.

The times they are a’changin

In recent blogs and articles I’ve been evangelizing the need to encourage more of this new breed of employees to consider customer service, not just as a stop-gap measure or job between acting gigs, but as a worthwhile, fulfilling career. One of the main reasons for this is that I feel strongly that the nature and future of work is changing – a theme explored in much more detail by Alison Maitland and Peter Thomson in their excellent book Future Work. This looks at how Millenials, Gen Y and Digital Natives are not content with the status quo either as customers or prospective employees, and want change – now. These new employees, with their focus on work-life balance and desire for an experience – not a job – are changing the rules, and the game, for good.

Many have to leave their personality at the door

It’s an unfortunate reality that many businesses, especially those with customer service contact centres, actively discourage any personal feelings or emotions from creeping into their employees’ activities, primarily because their metrics are company focused and not customer focused. It’s as if when they sign in for their shift, they’re asked to put their positive and caring attitude in a drawer marked “not to be opened during business hours.” Conversely, for those companies that actively encourage and incentivise employees to be themselves and draw on seemingly unlimited reserves of empathy, passion and understanding, the results are clear. Not only are they reputationally and financially more profitable, but their employees achieve greater success and satisfaction in work and life, and are typically less likely to leave and more inclined to establish a career for the longer term.

BYOA is a winning combination and everyone plays a part

But success with BYOA isn’t just down to the employee’s attitude. It needs a fertile and frequently nourished environment created by businesses and business leaders that see beyond profit at all costs and eschew dumb company policies and procedures. John Lewis, Metro Bank and Autoglass, all of whom I’ve written about in recent blogs, are living breathing examples of where everyone comes together for the common good and personality and attitude are allowed to thrive and flourish. Another business that consistently provides me with evidence of BYOA in action is the Holiday Inn, South Wimbledon, which is our home away from home when in London. The poster child for BYOA that adorns this article is Florica who frequently greets us when we check in.  Along with Sidi, the duty manager and others too numerous to mention,  General Manager,  Seyda Akbas has served up a great team of aces whose welcoming, friendly, smiling faces are all part of their DNA and not optional extras. But it’s not just this part that keeps us coming back. At any one time all of the team chip in to do whatever is necessary, beyond their actual role, to ensure that we have a great guest experience. There’s no “not my job, man” here. This is where BYOA can really shine and where doing the right thing for the guest, or customers, just comes naturally.

Another business that I’ve been fortunate to learn more about, and where they hire for attitude and educate for knowledge, is Screwfix Direct in Yeovil. Their contact centre has just been recognized at the annual South West Contact Centre Awards ceremony in Bristol. They won recognition for contact centre of the year and support person of the year and, as the judges noted, it was evident there is a culture where enthusiasm, willingness, adaptability, along with determination and a high level of competence made the difference. You can’t just pick that up at a customer experience conference or on a technology webinar

It should come naturally – But in case it doesn’t

Clearly there need to be some boundaries, but, as with many things in life most of us in civilized, polite society know how to interact courteously and respectfully towards our fellow men and women and don’t need rules for fundamental, day to day activities. It’s often been said that people buy from people and that’s never been truer than today. We all crave the human touch, regardless of how many shiny new things technology companies try to convince us that we need. As my friend, fellow human being and customer experience aficionado Maz Iqbal said in a recent blog “the focus is almost exclusively on the technical stuff (metrics, data, analytics, technology, processes) and almost no recognition of the human.”

But that doesn’t mean that BYOA always comes naturally to every employee or is fully developed or encouraged at every company. And this has inspired me to incorporate many of the great examples of companies that have got it right along with some ideas of my own into a new workshop program called, Bringing your Inner Customer to Life – Unleashing the Power of your Positive Personality

It’s designed to help people and companies that are already on the right track, and is part of the Customer Lifeguard Customer Care Academy. This is a new learning initiative aimed at helping companies bring out the best of their best, to inspire, engage and enhance their natural attitude, to tune in to their customer & turn up their performance. We believe that you need to encourage and build on the natural feelings and emotions inherent in us all and get your employees to Bring Your Own Attitude© to work and let it loose on your customers, fellow employees and anyone within hugging distance! Alright we need to be careful with that one. But I think you know what I mean.

But whether we help you or you just let it come naturally, just bring it on and let’s see some serious attitude!