Beyond Philosophy: Colin Shaw

The company attuned to the ultimate customer experience


How many times has a rude shop assistant, ignorant call centre operative or an inescapable automated answering system turned your opinion against a company? Colin Shaw, founder of customer experience consultancy, Beyond Philosophy, thinks it’s happened to us all at some point and is making rich trade from companies wising up to the danger.

“Most customer experiences are consequential,” he says. “They’re a consequence of people, training, environment and systems. Over half of what makes a customer come back are the emotions evoked by experience. It doesn’t matter how good the product is if the customer is left frustrated or annoyed.”

Shaw saw the need for a company like Beyond Philosophy as an employee at BT. As the telecommunications market became increasingly competitive, Shaw was asked to improve the ‘experience’ of the company’s customers. He couldn’t find a company to help, so he started one.

Cultural perspective

Beyond Philosophy’s success – turnover has grown from £800,000 in 2002 to an expected £4m in 2005 – shows Shaw has identified a niche and he believes the market is only just taking off.

“A lot of our business is in the US where there is more of a cultural perspective to the way companies handle themselves but Europe is definitely catching on. Economic cycles are getting quicker all the time. The time from innovation to imitation is closing, making keeping customers the main differentiator between companies.”

It’s no surprise then that among clients such as Dell and NatWest, are several mobile phone companies. “The market is so saturated companies are now looking at the different ways to keep customers happy rather than just giving them the latest phone,” says Shaw.

Much of the business has been built through strategic alliances but so far the company hasn’t spent anything on marketing. It’s something, Shaw is keen to point out, that proves investing in customer service standards can save, as well as cost, you money.

Shaw is keen to spread the word though and has just appointed a director of marketing. The company will also expand its ’embryonic’ US offices this year, has plans to start operating in South Africa and is exploring franchising possibilities in other countries.

Growth will be controlled though, and Shaw is determined not to damage the company culture he’s created by expanding too quickly. “We practice what we preach and spend a lot of time training our staff and ensuring they understand the culture of the business. We work as a team with the ethos ‘none of us is as clever as all of us’. We could have grown faster but I worry that growing too fast might damage our ethos.”

For now at least, Shaw’s approach to business remains in line with the company’s proposition. “I believe in the philosophy that life is a journey not a destination. It’s not about making lots of money; it’s about making a business and fulfilling potential.”

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