Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Customer Service Matchmaking

I originally wrote today's post for Mattersight. It was published on their blog on May 29, 2015.

Placing a call to customer support just got a little nicer and a little easier.

Think about the last time you called a company's customer service number. Did you feel like you connected with the rep who answered the phone? Did the approach the rep took with you fit how you talk to others? Did your personalities mesh or clash?

Now, think about the next time you need to call. Does it make you cringe?

I know how painful it can be to call customer service. There's the IVR menu that requires 17 prompts to get to the rep. And then the wait time for a rep to actually take/answer your call. Then the rep asks you questions that he should already know the answers to, based on the number you called from or the information you input through the IVR. And the time it takes to understand the issue, never mind to resolve it. All the while, you hope that the rep is patient, helpful, and nice. And more.

The following outlines four things that companies need to remember as they design the customer service experience.

1. First impressions are so important
What is the first thing that you want your customers to know, hear, see, or experience with/about your brand? I can guarantee you that it's something positive. If that first impression isn't positive, then the chance that they'll pursue a(nother) purchase or a relationship is slim to none. No. Let's just call it what it is; the chance is none. The first impression sets the tone for what lies ahead; it sets expectations. Make it a great one!

2. Treat customers the way they want to be treated
The Platinum Rule states: Do unto others as they would have you do unto them, not as you would have them do unto you. Contrary to the Golden Rule, which focuses on treating others the way you want to be treated, the Platinum Rule recognizes that we don't all want to be treated the same, that we want to be treated the way we want to be treated. This Rule is much more empathetic.

3. Personalize the experience for the customer
We are all different. We all have different needs, different feelings, different thoughts, different preferences, different perceptions, etc. As such, we want and need to be treated differently. Deliver a different experience to/for different people.

4. Train for skills but hire for attitude
You know the drill: Hire for attitude, train the skills. Get the right people in the door - not just those folks who fit your culture or your values but also those who truly want to be there, for the right reason. Hiring people with great attitudes (nice, friendly, professional, willing to help, courteous, empathetic, etc.) will help them connect with customers much easier than those folks with a bad attitude that no one wants to be around or talk to. Hire for attitude. Happy employees are more likely to yield happy customers.

These four items are important for any call center (or retail outlet, or for that matter, anywhere  frontline staff are interacting with customers) to embrace. Wouldn't it be cool if there was a tool to help your call center with a couple - if not all - of these?

Well, there is. And it is cool.

Mattersight developed an award-winning solution, Predictive Behavioral Routing, that automatically matches customers to like-minded reps. Using algorithms that analyze customer speech for tone, tempo, and syntax to identify the customer's personality type and behavioral preferences, Mattersight can easily and instantly route each caller to agent who has demonstrated a high level of rapport with that type. When that match is made, agents can more easily and more genuinely help customers; the whole process becomes more efficient, and without a doubt, this makes for a better experience for customers.

Forrester researched - and developed a case study based on - Mattersight's predictive behavioral routing and discovered that companies that used this system experienced four benefits:
  1. incremental revenue
  2. reduced customer service cost and effort
  3. improved customer satisfaction
  4. reduced hiring costs due to a decrease in turnover
Not only does this tool improve the customer experience, but it enhances the employee experience, as well. When reps are paired with customers they're easily able to communicate with, there's an increase in positive interactions, which translates to a greater sense of pride because they are able to perform their jobs better.

It's a win-win all around. And you can see how this system can help companies deliver on the four customer experience design requirements I outlined above.

The bottom line is that people buy from people; and people especially like to buy from - or interact with -  people they like and connect with.

Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless. -Mother Teresa

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Cracking the Code on Customer Journey Mapping

Image courtesy of Crack the Customer Code
Have some questions about journey mapping? You're not the only one!

I recently sat down with Jeannie Walters and Adam Toporek for a Crack the Customer Code podcast on one of my favorite topics: journey mapping.

During this podcast, I answered their questions about customer experience and, more specifically, about journey mapping. I shared some tips and ideas that I hope you find useful.

You'll find our chat in Episode #68 of Crack the Customer Code. Jeannie and Adam asked me questions like:

  • Customer experience transformation happens in baby steps. Can you elaborate on that?
  • How can you take advantage of quick wins?
  • How do you describe and define customer journey mapping?
  • What are some of the key principles of journey mapping?
  • What is the balance between how detailed journey maps should go and making sure you get at the core of the experience?
  • What is the one thing any organization can do to get started, without undergoing a massive journey mapping effort? What are some of the basics they can start with?

Be sure to listen for Adam's very profound statements about journeys and journey mapping. I think you'll enjoy this conversation!

For more information about journey mapping and the items we discussed in this podcast, here are some related blog posts:

Journey Maps Are Not an Exercise in Futility
Hey! You Got Your Metrics in My Journey Map!
5 Basic Journey Mapping Principles

If you've not had time to listen to other Crack the Customer Code podcasts, make the time to do it. They are fast-moving, information-packed conversations. 

Thanks, Jeannie and Adam!

A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it. -John Steinbeck

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Get Ready for Your Customer Journey Mapping Workshop!

Image courtesy of Alan Tunnicliffe
Today's post is a modified version of a post I originally published on Touchpoint Dashboard's blog on June 15, 2015.

You’ve got buy-in and commitment … all the right people in your company are on board to map your customers’ journeys. They realize the importance of walking in the customer’s shoes in order to understand the experience before they can fix it.

Awesome! Now what?

It’s time to get all of your key stakeholders into a room and start building an assumptive map of the journey. Hold that thought for a moment; let’s talk about the stakeholders first.

Which stakeholders? You’ll want to involve key departmental leaders from across the organization; they should represent the various departments that touch the journeys you’ll be mapping – and even some (departments) that don’t.

Why? They each bring a different understanding or perspective, as well as different datapoints, to the table. Their involvement allows them to see that most journeys are impacted by multiple areas of the organization. And it (a) fosters buy-in, (b) gets them involved early on, and (c) gets everyone on the same page.

In addition, those who are going to fix it should be there to build (map) it and understand it. Stakeholder involvement means that we can ensure that each touchpoint has the appropriate individual or departmental ownership assigned to it.

Before you can bring the stakeholders into a room to begin your workshop, there are a few things you’ll need to do.

  • Outline the objectives of the mapping exercise and your intended outcomes
    • Define the scope of the assumptive map
      • Reiterate that you’re mapping the current state
      • Pinpoint the start and end points for each scenario you’ll be mapping
        • Don’t map too high level, as the map is a catalyst for transformation – if you don’t understand the steps, you can’t fix them; get to the details
        • There may be micro-journeys to map; determine if those will be mapped in your first workshop or in a future workshop
    • Determine for which personas experiences will be mapped
    • Identify which framework to be used for mapping, i.e., define your columns and rows
  • Hold a pre-meeting to give attendees background details, provide mapping guidelines, and generally prepare them for the exercise
    • Ask them to start considering the steps in the journey and to gather artifacts to bring into the workshop
Now it’s time to bring your attendees together in one room so that you can start building an assumptive map. I like starting with an assumptive map because it (a) gets the process started, (b) brings different groups together to discuss the experience, which not only helps them see the breadth and depth of organizational involvement in one customer experience but also helps to start breaking down those silos, and (c) allows you to identify gaps in organizational thinking about the journey (gaps that will be seen only after you validate with customers or have customers map the journey themselves); this alone is a valuable, eye-opening learning from this exercise.

This last point, about validating the maps, is a crucial step when building assumptive maps. The most important rule about mapping is that the map is created from the customer viewpoint and with customer input. The assumptive map is built by stakeholders but from the customer viewpoint; it’s not an internal process map. It’s a starting point to get the organization putting collective heads together to outline what is already known (based on customer feedback, customer data, the fact that you are likely a customer of your own business, etc.) about the experience, but it is not the definitive map. Only your customers can outline the definitive map. And that happens during the validation process in the instance when you start with assumptive maps.

There are many different approaches or frameworks to use for journey mapping. Find the one that works best for you – and just remember two key things: (1) always map from the customer’s perspective; and (2) be sure to capture what the customer is doing at a detailed enough level that it’s meaningful and actionable. And I don't mind capturing what the customer is thinking and feeling at the same time.

Focusing on the customer makes a company more resilient. –Jeff Bezos

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Moments of Truth Day 2015 - at Legoland

Image courtesy of Routemaster 4 Hire

Today I'm pleased to share a guest post by Paul Laughlin.

Legoland, home to the legendary construction toy, never struck me as a conference venue. But it works well. Joining 200 others, I spent Moments of Truth Day 2015 (part of NCSW) here, thanks to Rant & Rave.

As you’d expect, there was time to play with Legos and to learn how playing can enhance both customer and employee experiences. All in all, it was an engaging day that was clearly popular. Apparently this was also the third annual CX Day organised by the CXPA (global association for CX professionals).

My reason for attending was to get closer to the customer insight requirements of these key customers for many insight teams. Although I write a lot about Marketing requirements, customer insight is also key to designing and delivering for CX teams.

So, what happened and what would such a day hold for you if you thought of attending next year? 

Here are the highlights I still recall:

First off, the always knowledgeable Prof Moira Clark from Henley Centre for Customer Management talked about generations and technology. Highlighting insights about the different mindsets, service expectations, and use of technology, she reviewed generational segments since 1925. Starting with the ‘Silent Generation’ (born prior to 1944), she compared the ‘Baby Boomers’ (1945-64), Generation X (1965-89) and Gen Y (1990+). It was interesting to note the, at times, conflicting service experience requirements of these segments.

Moira then went on to review both recent and coming technology developments, as boundaries between online and offline worlds blur. A resident artist usefully captured a summary in this picture of her talk:

Now, I’d be amongst the first to caution against the inappropriate use of such a broad brush segmentation (your customer behaviours and attitudes may vary greatly within these area ranges). But it is a timely reminder to not get so focused on automating your service experience in such a way that may work for Gen X or Y but could disappoint your richest customers (Baby Boomers).

Next, we had an excellent presentation from Ian Golding, an independent consultant who is passionate about customer experience. It was really good to hear him extol the importance of storytelling in communicating your customer experiences (good, bad, and downright ugly), a previous recommendation on this blog. This included a terrible experience with SAS airline and the positive example of Hector (a taxi driver in Rome).

Once again, our resident artist captured most of Ian’s key themes in a useful visual summary. I felt challenged to use personal stories more, and service tales are a great way for us insight professionals to bring to life research or analytics findings through the eyes of one customer.

Later we had time to learn about "Lego Serious Play." Patrizia Bertini got some unsuspecting volunteers to play with Lego in a reconstruction of such a workshop. It was a fascinating method, with real psychological and philosophical grounding. Themes stressed included the role of the body in memory and intelligence (especially the hands), as well as the importance of metaphor as a way of communicating, especially through creative activity and play. Do your hands know more than you do?

After initial warm-up exercises, it was interesting to see these volunteers express their customer insight challenges through Lego creations. This included visual metaphors that some were not aware they had intended to reveal. There is a real depth to this technique, and it’s akin to methods I’ve also seen work well in coaching scenarios. Why not try tackling your business problems through play?

After lunch, a MaKey MaKey workshop gave us opportunity to play with electronics, fruit, and play-doh. I kid you not. Getting (or not getting) a pair of bongos to work, through tapping a lump of play-doh and a satsuma, is quite an experience. To check out more of these creativity aids see their website.

The point of our exercise, where much went wrong – but that is the curse of the ‘live demo’ – was to design more fun ways for customers to give feedback. Once again, if you can make it play for customers, you will up participation.

Toward the end of the day, we then heard about how to gamify the employee experience. Most businesses now recognise that genuinely engaging your employees is a key to improving customer experience. So, it makes sense to think about gamification here. too. Like the success of TripAdvisor levels/badges and fun competitions to creatively tackle business issues, there appears to be real value in looking for opportunities to do this. Plus more tools to deliver this.

All in all, this was a valuable day. I’d advise other Customer Insight leaders to think of attending similar events. Build bridges with your Customer Experience Leader as increasingly you should have common cause and challenges.

Have you seen the value of play in your business? How do you use serious play to tackle business problems or to engage your customer or employees?

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, November 10, 2015

It's Not Where You Start... or Is It?

Image courtesy of degconsulting
How do you know where to start your CX journey?

I've been asked this very question a few times in the last couple weeks.

Don't know where to start?

Just get started. You know you have to transform the customer experience with your company; don't let uncertainty paralyze you or derail you from getting started.

As you already know, without executive buy-in and commitment, your transformation efforts won't get very far. It's mission critical that you have that commitment; without it, you'll never get resources - human, capital, or other - that you'll need to execute. I've already shared my thoughts on how to get that commitment, so make sure you start there and have that.

Let's just move past that and start with the next step. Let's assume that your executives are now on board.

So, what's next?

In the spirit of "you can't transform something you don't understand," there are two things you need to understand before you can move forward: the current state of: (1) your culture and the employee experience and (2) the customer and the customer experience.

Assess the Current State: Culture and Employee Experience
The employee experience drives the customer experience. If employees aren't happy, satisfied, engaged, and passionate about what they do, your customers will be the recipients of their backlash. So we need to get a handle on a few things. Below are some tools that you can use identify where you are today in your journey. It's important to do this level set before you start changing things; in other words, don't just blindly dive in. You need a strategy.

Customer Experience Maturity Assessment: I put this tool under Culture and Employee Experience because it's a baseline on where you are with regards to a customer-centric and customer-focused culture. It's really a great way to start to understand if the customer currently has a seat at the executive table, and if not, how ready each and every employee is to listen to customers about their needs and expected outcomes going forward. It will be a read on where the organization is currently lacking (or not) and can be very eye-opening. It’s a great baseline that can be revisited and re-measured to gauge progress over time.

Employee CX Assessment: What if we asked employees what they know about customers and the customer experience? We then use the results to better frame our training efforts and to provide other (the right) tools needed to ensure employees have a clear line of sight to customers and are equipped to deliver the experience we need (and customers want) them to deliver.

Voice of the Employee: Listen to employees. Get their feedback about how well they feel they can do their jobs and what's expected of them. Do they have the right tools and resources? Do they feel like their contributions matter? Understand their levels of engagement. Identify what's missing. Conduct a culture assessment, as well. Do your employees know your purpose, vision, core values, and guiding principles? Do they live them every day?

Assess the Current State: Customers and the Customer Experience
How well do you understand your customers and the experience they are having? Do you know who your customers are? The following are some tools to get you started with understanding the current state of the customer experience.

Personas: Because we can't design the experience for each individual customer (though we can ultimately personalize when we have the data to do so), and designing for segments is too high level, we develop personas instead. Personas are fictional characters created to describe your ideal prospect or actual customer. They're derived through primary research. They represent a behavioral segment and are specific to your business, not to the industry. The descriptions include vivid narratives, images, and other items and artifacts that help companies understand the needs of the customer (contextual insights) and outline motivations, goals, behaviors, challenges, likes, dislikes, objections, and interests that drive buying (or other) decisions.

Customer Journey Map: If there’s going to be any customer-driven transformation, we need to think about the journey, not just about individual, singular touchpoints. The map is a way for you to walk in your customer's shoes, to really understand what he goes through as he tries to complete a task with the company. For the organization, it builds awareness, understanding, and empathy. The research you use to create your customer personas can also feed your journey mapping efforts. Journey maps are the ultimate tool to help connect all employees to how they contribute to - and impact - the customer experience.

Current State Analysis: Conducting a current state analysis will be important to help you understand which improvement initiatives, if any, are already underway so that you don't move forward with disparate, disjointed, and siloed efforts. This analysis might include creating a feedback map that charts the various sources of customer data, i.e., direct, indirect, attitudinal, and behavioral, also underway. This is a great time to catalog and map your operational metrics, as well, and figure out how you will link them to your improvement efforts.

Voice of the Customer: Listening to the voice of the customer through various channels is a no-brainer; if we don't listen and learn about the experience, we'll have no idea where improvements need to be made or where we're doing things well/right. If we don't listen, we'll never know anything about our customers' needs and desired outcomes. We should take a methodical approach to surveys, but listening through other channels (e.g., social media, call center data/feedback, voice of customer through employees) is an "always on" venture.

Build Your Plan
We can't just do all of the things mentioned above in a vacuum. And none of them are "one and done" tools. Each one builds on another area, and next we need to put it all together to create a transformation plan.

Governance: Governance is about both oversight and execution. Your governance structure will outline and define people, roles, and responsibilities. Who is going to ensure that there is alignment and accountability across the organization? This is typically referred to as your core program team, and they will provide oversight to ensure the organization executes on the CX vision, strategy, and transformation. This governance will also include clearly-defined rules and guidelines for how the customer experience management strategy will be executed.

Roadmap: To guide execution of your strategy, you must build a roadmap. Take everything you learn as you complete the assessments and utilize the other tools mentioned above to (a) identify action items and (b) lay out your plan for how you'll execute. Not just how, but who, when, how, how much, impact to fix, time to fix etc. It will be a detailed plan to guide next steps; it'll include a prioritization of action items and ownership for each.

Training and Education: Perhaps this is a line item in your roadmap, but I thought I'd call it out separately. All of this learning that you do about your employees and your customers can't remain on your desktop. It needs to be shared out to the organization. If employees are lacking the know-how to do their jobs or can't tell you how they impact the customer experience, there's a need for training. The customer understanding and customer experience feedback needs to be shared with those who are expected to deliver a better experience. Use what you've learned, plus my 6 tools to create a clear line of sight to customers, to frame training and orientation programs that will yield enlightened employees who know what's expected.

It seems overwhelming when you think about how to get started. But companies are in business to create and to nurture customers. If you're not doing this well, the business fails.

So, remember: it's not where you start... it's that you start! It's a journey. A long one. Rome wasn't built in a day; nor will you transform your customer experience that quickly. You'll do the items I outlined in this post. You'll then do the work. Customer expectations will evolve. You'll transform again. It's a continuous improvement process. Yea, a journey. Good luck!

Dream big. Start small. But most of all ... start. -Simon Sinek