Monday, October 5, 2015

So, You've Got Executive Commitment...

Are your executives on board with your desire to improve the customer experience? 

When I'm asked about the largest impediment to a successful customer experience transformation, my answer is always this: a lack of executive buy-in and commitment.

By the way, "buy-in" isn't enough; it's commitment that you really want and need. Buy-in means they like your idea; commitment means they'll put their money where their mouths are. 

If company leadership isn't on board with focusing on the customer experience, then forget it; it won't happen. 

I'll go one step further and call out your CEO. She must be the first one to step up and say that the customer is going to be the priority for the company. The rest of the executive leadership team must then jump in line and support that directive by championing the message (and subsequent initiatives) throughout their organizations.

Most of the time, though, things happen a bit differently, i.e., the CEO doesn't just announce: "It's time to focus on the customer; it's time to improve the experience." (Ah, wouldn't that be nice!) There are usually some other efforts underway long before that happens. Here are two examples of those efforts; there may be others.

1. You have to prove it
It's a known fact that the CEO and the rest of her team need to know why any major resource expenditures are necessary. Yes, she wants/needs to see the numbers, the ROI. This means that, as a CX professional, you know you need to start by building the business case and earning your CEO's commitment.

Need some help getting that commitment? I've written a few posts on this topic, but these are two of my favorites:

Help! My Execs Don't Get It! 
Aligning the Organization Around the Customer with Customer Rooms

2. Someone down the ladder gets it
Sometimes well-intentioned middle managers who want to do the right thing by and for the customer begin some localized or departmentalized efforts to improve the experience. Unfortunately, these efforts are typically silo'd and translate into silo'd experiences for the customer. And that's not the transformation you, nor your customer, are expecting

Revert back to scenario #1. In walks the CX professional to recommend a different approach that turns these efforts into a solid business case that then garners CEO and organization-wide commitment.

Speaking of organization-wide commitment, need some ideas for getting employee buy-in, too? Here's a post I wrote on that topic:

Getting Employee Buy-In for Your #CX Transformation

(By the way, I haven't forgotten about the importance of the employee experience in this equation. For the purpose of this post, know that it's baked into everything we're doing.)

Let's assume we've earned that oft-elusive commitment. From everyone. What's next?

We need a few things...
  1. CX Vision
  2. Strategy
  3. Governance structure
... pretty much in that order.  Without a vision, we have no direction. Without a strategy, we have no plan to execute on the vision. And without a governance structure, we might as well be herding cats; we perpetuate silo thinking and fail to achieve cross-functional alignment, involvement, and commitment that is also critical to a successful customer experience transformation.

Here's the bottom line. Having executive commitment ensures you'll get resources - human, capital, or other - to execute on your customer experience strategy. Employee commitment means employees are on board to delivered the desired experience. Your CX vision will get everyone on the same page, focusing on the right outcomes. For the customer. And for the business.

Nothing stops an organization faster than people who believe that the way you worked yesterday is the best way to work tomorrow. -Jon Madonna

This post is part of the Customer Experience Professionals Association's Blog Carnival "Celebrating Customer Experience." It is part of a broader celebration of Customer Experience Day. Check out posts from other bloggers at CX Day Blog Carnival. See more at:

Thursday, October 1, 2015

If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going…

Image courtesy of zert.sonstige_2008
Today's post is a modified version of a post I originally published on Touchpoint Dashboard's blog on April 15, 2015.

Yogi Berra once said, "If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else."

This is true in life and in any project you undertake. It’s also - rather, especially - true for your customer experience transformation efforts.

This is where customer journey mapping plays a huge role. And yet, I’ve seen folks dive into mapping exercises only to get stopped in their tracks because they hadn’t done two crucial things before they got started: (1) they didn’t identify the objectives for the map, and (2) they didn’t define its scope.

Let’s start with objectives.

You know the saying: garbage in, garbage out. Like any other research you do, you have to start from the beginning, knowing the why. Why are you mapping? What are your objectives? What business problems are you trying to solve? What value will the map bring to the organization? What are your intended outcomes? What changes will you make as a result of its findings?

And then, don't forget to ask: Is the organization prepared to make those changes? How will the outputs be applied? And by whom?

In case you need some examples of objectives, I've listed a few here; map to…
  • Better understand the customer/employee experience
  • Identify where you’re falling down
  • Improve the customer/employee experience
  • Identify key moments of truth – those make or break points
  • Identify additional areas to solicit feedback/listen
  • Look for under-performing channels
  • Train and educate employees so they can deliver a better experience
  • Develop new products
  • Move into new markets
  • Plan a new communication program or campaign
I think you get the idea. Be sure to outline your objectives and then communicate them to key stakeholders. Build those objectives into your story as you share the map with the organization.

Yogi also said, “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

So you start mapping, and then you find yourself at a particular step in the journey saying, “If this, then that.” You came to a fork in the customer’s journey. Which way should you take the map? Or should you even have to decide, i.e., just map all of it, every variation?

If you clearly define the scope of the map, if you define your start and end points from the outset, you won’t have to wonder which way to go. Map Point A to Point B now and then come back and map the forks, or the micro-journeys, later.

Other items to consider when you’re defining scope:
  •     For which persona are you mapping?
  •     Which channels will you include in the map?
  •     What other aspects are you mapping?
    • Are you only mapping what customers are doing, or also what they are thinking and feeling?
    • Are you mapping onstage and backstage, or just onstage?
    • What do onstage and backstage encompass?
    • Are you mapping who owns the step/touchpoint?
    • etc.
Answering these questions will help you determine the best framework (columns and rows) to use. There are a lot of frameworks out there, but once you define your objectives and scope, you’ll likely create your own framework, one customized to your specific needs and objectives.

We’re lost, but we’re making good time. -Yogi Berra

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Grow Your Business through the Power of Listening to Customers

Image courtesy of Leah M. Berry
Are you listening to your customers? Do you understand what they are trying to achieve? Are you using what you hear/learn to actually design a better experience for them?

I was thrilled to be interviewed by Leah Berry and to a be part of her 30 Experts in 30 Days series; she asked me questions about employee experience and customer experience, of course, but from a variety of different angles.

We really covered a lot of territory in the interview, but the main questions Leah posed were based on some previous blog posts that I've written.

Please have a listen to our interview; it was a fun conversation. I enjoyed answering all of the questions Leah posed for me. As I mentioned, Leah pulled her questions from some previous posts I wrote, and I've linked to the relevant post for each of the topics we covered below. Check out the links/previous posts for more details around our conversation. But watch the interview first! (It's about 35 minutes long.)
To accompany this interview, Leah provides some great resources for you. I love that she prepared a tip sheet (in addition to the tip infographic above) for you to download and use to put your learnings into action. In addition to our Google Hangout interview, you'll find...
  • An audio recording of the interview
  • The transcription of the interview (for those who prefer to read the interviews)
  • A Top Tips document (to help you remember the key points from the interviews)
  • A Take Action Worksheet (to help you put the knowledge into action)
Have a look. Have a listen. And come back and feel free to ask me any questions you might have. Thank you!

The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them. -Ralph Nichols

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Breadth of Customer Insight

Image courtesy of humansdevel
Today I'm pleased to share a guest post by Paul Laughlin.

Different businesses continue to use the term “Customer Insight” to mean different things.

In our poll of over 100 customer insight leaders, only half considered data management or database marketing to be part of Customer Insight. The majority also had only research reporting into them, not analytics. Does that ring true with your role?

 In June, I shared a definition of Customer Insight that I find useful:

A non-obvious understanding about your customers, which if acted upon, has the potential to change their behaviour for mutual benefit.

I would stress four parts of that definition:
  • First, that insights are non-obvious; they normally require the convergence of evidence for multiple sources to help spot themes and then dig deeper for motivations. 
  • Second, that true insights need to be actionable, as there is no point learning something unless you can change commercial results or customer experience as a result. 
  • Third, a good test of an “insight” is whether acting on it is powerful enough to change your customers’ behaviour (not just data to target those you believe will act as they have in the past). 
  • Fourth, in this “Age of the Customer,” the importance of trust should mean any insight has the goal of mutual benefit for the organisation and the customer, anything else is short term success for long-term value erosion.
You may need to wear many hats to achieve that kind of insight production from your team. As I've written in the past, you may need to be a Data Scientist, Psychologist, Artist, Storyteller, Sales Coach, Economist, and People Leader. Quite a challenge and perhaps one reason why leaders like you are hard to find.

Some people suggest that Customer Insight is making use of your data, with the current buzzword being “big data.” But it is possible to be drowning in data and still none the wiser about your customers. Perhaps as a result, some leaders appear to equate CI with behavioural analysis and statistical modelling (with the buzzword here being “predictive analytics”). Such analytics can be very powerful, but without an understanding of why customers are behaving as they are, it won’t pass the test of our Insight definition.

You may assume that Customer Insight as a term applies to research, qualitative and quantitative activities focussed on that “why” question. But with the unreliability of self-reporting and the need to behaviourally test what customers actually do, to identify any behavioural economic biases at play, can this really be relied upon by itself? So you might conclude that the only way to know the reality is to test and learn, using targeted communications and measurement from database marketing. That is also very useful, but what understanding helps create what should be tested?

As is probably obvious from that definition, I would recommend that all four of those technical disciplines are needed to create true customer insights. However, it is not just these separate parts operating effectively in isolation, rather the synergies and insights that can be realised by the working together in collaboration. As I’ve heard different experts speak on this topic over the years and seen some of your progress in this regard, it seems to me that we are talking about an ecosystem here. So the challenge for Customer Insight Leaders becomes how to nurture this ecosystem, ensuring each part fulfills its potential and acts symbiotically with others to produce the healthy fruit of actionable customer insights (in a way that feels more organic than mechanistically following a set process).

Ensuring a consistent source of quality data for all the technical teams is at the heart of this ecosystem. Those using that data will need to be skilled research, analytics, and database marketing teams (hopefully brought together in one CI function). Real growth, however it appears, happens when you use these parts together. For example, converging the evidence from analysis and research to produce a more robust picture of how customers are feeling and acting and why. That should enable hypotheses to be generated as to how customers would feel and act if you did something different. Offering something different (communication/experience/product) can then be tested with experimental design using database marketing skills. Once you can see any changes in customer behaviour as a result, also check out the feelings of customers and observe the touch points to get a feel for their new experience. Such research and analysis output then brings us back to the stage of converging evidence and looking for themes (a virtuous circle of continuous improvement).

There is more to customer insight generation than that, but I’ll blog another time about applications like generating insights for proposition design. For now, I wanted to share what is becoming a standard model for me in helping clients.

Do those themes resonate with you? Any other tips you can share?

Paul Laughlin has over 20 years experience of leading teams to generate profit from analysing  data. Over the last 12 years he’s created, lead and improved customer insight teams across Lloyds, TSB, Halifax and Scottish Widows. He’s delivered incremental profit of over £10m pa and improved customers’ experiences.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Half the Money You Spend on #CX is Wasted

Image courtesy of briansotherphotopage
Half the money you spend on customer experience is wasted.

Well, that's a pretty bold statement coming from someone who advocates designing and delivering a great customer experience!

Hold tight. It's not quite as crazy as it sounds!

I came across this quote the other day...

Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half. -John Wanamaker

... and it got me thinking, as these things do sometimes.

What exactly does that quote mean? I've seen a few interpretations, but I think the most common one revolves around not being able to qualify or quantify the effects of advertising. Which ad brought customers into the store, the weekday or the weekend ad? the radio ad or the newspaper ad? which one caused them to buy? etc.

And that led me to think about a couple different interpretations that can be applied to customer experience.

First, it made me think about how to measure the effectiveness of your customer experience efforts or how to make sure the improvements you make are meaningful to your customers - and to the business. What are some of the metrics you can use to measure your overall efforts? Some examples are listed below, with the first four or five reflecting the voice of the customer, while the rest represent their actions.
  • satisfaction scores
  • effort scores
  • ease of doing business score
  • net promoter scores
  • actual referrals
  • retention rates
  • renewal rates
  • order/purchase size
  • repurchase rate
  • cross-sells
  • upsells
  • customer lifetime value
If your customer experience isn't worthy, it will be reflected in these metrics. But, to the point of Wanamaker's quote, how do you know which half of your CX dollars/efforts resulted in the uptick of these metrics? You've really got to make sure you track and measure your improvements at a much more micro level to capture the real effect of their impact (and then correlate them to overall outcomes). If they're not working, figure out why not and redesign.

Another angle the quote made me think about: don't go crazy and think you need to fix everything. Be systematic about your approach to customer experience design and improvements. Do consider the ROI, but most importantly, consider what's most important to customers. Do those things, fix those aspects, that are most impactful to them. If you make improvements where improvements aren't needed or to those areas that aren't important to your customers or don't move the needle for them, you are wasting your money. Find out what's important to them and start there. How do you find out? Map their journeys. Listen to them. Ask them. Do some analysis (e.g., key driver), and prioritize improvement opportunities.

And, finally, an angle that is related to advertising: stop wasting money on advertising to position your brand. Remember, the experience speaks louder than words. If your advertising is not aligned with your experience, if you say you (are going to) do something and then don't or say you are something that you're not, then you've actually wasted all of your advertising dollars. Spend (or waste) advertising dollars, and customers will be fooled; (re)design the experience, and they will come.

How will you avoid wasting half (or all) of your CX budget?

Listen to customers and determine what's important and impactful to them. Identify your key moments of truth. Improve the experience when and where it matters. Measure the specific improvements. Redesign where you've fallen short.

Focus on the experience, and the business will come.

Starbucks is not an advertiser; people think we are a great marketing company, but in fact we spend very little money on marketing and more money on training our people than advertising. -Howard Schultz