Wednesday, August 16, 2017

CX Journey™ Musings: Should You Invest in Customer Experience?

Image courtesy of Got Credit
ROI is still our favorite "three-letter word." Nothing wrong with that!

It's been a year or more since I've written about the ROI of customer experience. Always good to revisit this topic because it is such a hot one for customer experience professionals.

Executives want to see hard numbers about any investments they make. Of course, they want to see their own hard numbers, but absent those, we can tell the story of the benefits of customer experience through some benchmark data, through examples of successes that others have achieved by doing what you should/could be doing.

In the past, I've referenced Jon Picoult's research at Watermark Consulting, where he's compared the market performance of CX Leaders and CX Laggards (based on Forrester's Customer Experience Index). His last overall, cross-industry comparison was done in 2015; in 2016, he focused on the ROI of customer experience in the insurance industry, and in 2017, he has focused on the airline industry. Always the same (great) story, regardless.

The folks at Forrester have begun to do their own comparisons of the ROI for Leaders and Laggards

In 2016, they conducted a six-month research effort that took a look at the relationship between customer experience and superior revenue growth. They chose pairs of competitors where one company in the pair had significantly higher customer experience than the other (according to their own customers). They did this for five industries - cable, airlines, investments, retail, and health insurance - and then built models to compare the compound annual growth rate in revenue of the CX Leaders to the CX Laggards between 2010 and 2014. As you can see from the graphic above, there is definitely a correlation between the two, superior customer experience and superior revenue growth. This was the case for four of the five industries they researched; for health insurance companies, a superior customer experience didn't equate to superior revenue growth. Forrester attributed this to switching abilities.

If you're familiar with the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), they have now started to compare customer satisfaction and market performance. They claim that: An organization’s customer satisfaction performance, as measured by ACSI’s methodology, can predict how well the firm will perform in terms of corporate revenue and earnings growth.

As they looked  at companies for which they have satisfaction ratings versus the S&P 500 from April 2000 through December 2016, they discovered that the ACSI shows that customer satisfaction is directly linked to stock market performance. Companies with high or improving scores had higher stock returns than their competitors and outperformed market indexes. Results can be seen on the chart below:

Check out more details on their site, including how they picked the Long Portfolio and Short Portfolio companies.

The net-net of it all: we know that it's important to invest in customer experience, today more than ever. The returns are real. And they are proven.

If you make a sale, you can make a living. If you make an investment of time and good service in a customer, you can make a fortune. - Jim Rohn

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Candidate Experience and the Customer Experience

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's post for Clicktools. It appeared on their blog on December 30, 2016.

How well have you thought out your candidate experience? Is it designed to attract or to frustrate? Do your candidates sing your praises, or do they regret the day their resumes crossed into your inbox? Do they feel like they've thrown their resumes into a sea of other candidates, waiting patiently for a response from your recruiter or the hiring manager, only for that response to never arrive? Do they feel excited after a great interview, only to have no follow-up from your company or no response to their follow-up?

I know a lot of people looking for jobs - in the CX world and otherwise - and the stories are consistent: companies are missing the boat on recruiting and, especially, on how that recruiting/candidate experience impacts the brand experience. They just don't get it.

Here are the scenarios I've heard from these folks:
  • Resumes were sent for posted positions, and the candidates received no acknowledgement of receipt of said resumes by the targeted potential employer, not even an auto-response;
  • Interviews were had with companies, but there was no follow-up or feedback from corporate recruiters or hiring managers;
  • Thank you notes and inquiries about position status were sent by candidates with no response or acknowledgement;
  • Candidates were pursued/recruited by the company with no subsequent follow-up communication to close the loop and set an interview time (or just to say "no thanks");
  • and more
Employers should be ashamed! Yes. I know. Companies are inundated with resumes, even if they're just trying to fill a couple positions. But seriously, come on! Give someone the task to follow up with these candidates. You are hurting your brand if you don't follow up - especially during a time when so many people are looking for new opportunities; remember, you are being touched by so many potential customers. O, did I say that? I mean, employees. No, actually, I also mean customers.

Herb Kelleher, in his response to being asked his "secret to success," said: “You have to treat your employees like customers.” And I'll add, "... your recruits, as well." Why? For a variety of reasons, including the following:
  • Even if you're not specifically recruiting among a pool of known customers, know that any recruit is potentially a customer of yours.
  • Employees want to work for companies with which they are aligned (purpose, values, etc.). This means that they are likely also customers of those companies.
  • Candidates are customers or potential customers.
That's three different ways to say the same thing, but the bottom line is that the candidate experience touches the customer experience, in a few different ways. Candidates might be customers; and even if they are not, they might be eventually.

The way companies handle themselves during the recruiting process leaves a lasting impression about the company on a candidate. Will the candidate want to work for your company, even if you make them an offer? (Not likely that unresponsiveness will cause that, but some of the other wacky recruiting tactics that I've heard about might.) Will he or she recommend employment at your company to others based on the recruiting process and the overall candidate experience? Will they share their experiences with friends and family, i.e., other future/potential recruits and customers? Will the candidate rethink that purchase from your company? Will the new hire, while simply happy to have a job, grace your doors with a sour taste about your brand because of the candidate experience?

Recruiting is a touchpoint in the employee lifecycle, which indirectly becomes a touchpoint in the customer lifecycle, as well. During this process, your HR recruiters are representing and selling the brand, the brand promise, and the purpose and the vision of the company, but if actions don't match words, if you're not living the brand, you're living a lie. And that lie is easily perpetuated at this particular touchpoint.

Your recruiting team or hiring manager needs to:
  • Be responsive with candidates
  • Personalize the candidate experience
  • Be a resource to candidates and potential candidates
  • Close the loop on any open inquiries
  • Politely say "No" if someone is not a fit
  • Be courteous
  • Know that auto-responders are not helpful if they provide no real information
  • Remove job postings from every job source if the position is filled
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate
If you have a portal through which candidates submit applications, reduce candidate effort:
  • Simplify the process
  • Don't make candidates attach a resume and then also fill in the blanks
  • Provide regular updates about where candidates are in the process
  • Make the status updates meaningful, i.e., actually provide informative status updates
  • Ask for feedback
Do you survey your candidates after the recruiting process? No? Why not? Would you be embarrassed by candidates' feedback about this process? Is this a broken process in your organization that clearly needs to be repaired?

One final thought: Don't just map your customer journey. Map your employee journey, as well; it's a journey that begins long before the candidate signs on the dotted line to become an employee. If you find that the journey starts out pretty rough, take a look at those interactions and fix the root cause before the word gets out that it's badly broken. If not, hiring good people will become a real challenge.

The candidate experience impacts the customer experience in a variety of ways. Make sure you hire the right employees with diligence and care. And show them that you understand that the candidate experience drives the employee experience, which drives the customer experience.  What does your recruiting process and candidate experience say about your brand?

You’re not just recruiting employees but are sowing the seeds of your reputation. -Unknown

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Expectations: The Mother of All Frustrations

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Expectation = frustration?

I recently saw an article with an image that included a quote from Antonio Banderas: Expectation is the mother of all frustration.

Honestly, this is true in life, in all relationships. Think about it for a second: Aren't relationships much easier and much more relaxed when you have no expectations of the other party? Were you waiting for him to bring you flowers? Did you expect her to call your mom to wish her a "happy birthday?" How did that make you feel when those expectations weren't met. Not so good, I'm sure. Frustrated? Disappointed? Unhappy? Questioning the person and the relationship?

Now think about your customers. Think about what frustrates them. And why.

Expectations, of course.

Customers come to do business with you because they have a set of expectations, including:

  • "I heard they have the best [insert product here]."
  • "I read reviews and saw that they got 5-star ratings."
  • "Their commercial said they guarantee [insert guarantee here]."
  • "I've purchased from them before and had a great experience."

There are a lot of different ways that customer expectations are formed:
  • your brand promise
  • your marketing and advertising
  • you stated outright, e.g., we do X
  • customer's previous experience (with your brand or with another brand), or
  • consistent delivery of a great experience (by your brand)
  • word of mouth or reviews and feedback from other customers
  • from within us/customers, based on our own set of morals and values and how we would treat others or what we would do for them
But expectations can be funny thing.
  • Customers have them, but they are not in control of them and not in control of the outcomes.
  • Customers have them, but companies must know them and understand them.
  • Companies set them (brand promise, service delivery, marketing, etc.), yet they have trouble delivering against them (consistency/consistenly).
Where do you begin?

Obviously, understanding your customers, their needs and jobs to be done, and their expectations (against those needs, jobs to be done) is the first step in being able to deliver against them. When employees know and understand customer expectations, they can develop products and services, provide service and support, interact with customers, and more in such a way that ensures they meet or exceed said expectations. And they just need to do so consistently.

There's an equation for this: Performance - Expectations = (Dis)Satisfaction

How do you measure expectations?

First ask what they are. Understand them. Deliver against them. And then ask if they were met. Or you could simply ask a satisfaction/experience question post-interaction to gauge where you stand, since expectations and experience are closely related. Or you can just ask an expectations met question post-interaction to get the same information. Oftentimes, we'll ask a more-detailed diagnostic question to understand what the expectations were; after all, if you only know that they were/weren't met but don't know what they were, how helpful is that?

Are expectations the mother of all frustrations? I tend to agree. But expectations are inherently part of all relationships, including those with customers; so companies must learn how to identify, deliver against, and mitigate those frustrations, er, expectations.

Deming has an interesting take on expectations: 

Customer expectations? Nonsense. No customer ever asked for the electric light, the pneumatic tire, the VCR, or the CD. All customer expectations are only what you and your competitor have led him to expect. He knows nothing else. -W. Edwards Deming

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Do You and Your Customers Speak the Same Language?

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's post for Clicktools. It appeared on their blog on November 28, 2016.

Do you train your employees to talk to customers in company language or in customer language?

Did you realize that your company has a language? Or that your industry has a jargon? And that those  often (most of the time) differ from your customers' language? When the two collide, this becomes a customer experience nightmare.

Have you ever been on a flight and heard the pilot announce: They have some flow, and we were able to get some of their passengers bumped up into our flight? That happened on a recent flight of mine that was delayed as we sat on the tarmac. What is flow? I still don't know. I wonder how many other passengers knew what that meant? Why did the pilot use that word? Because it's in his vocabulary, not in his passengers'. He probably didn't even think about that.

Here's another example from a visit to a local lab to have some blood drawn. Do you know what a Phlebotomist is? I'm betting not many people do. That was the first time I'd seen that sign in any lab. Honestly, it was the first time I'd ever seen that word. Whoever designed that sign probably knew the word and assumed everyone else does, too. Good thing customers can just Google the word while they're waiting for an hour to be called for their turns. It shouldn't be that way.

The language you speak needs to mean something to your customers. When you use acronyms or industry jargon, you're simply confusing customers. Customers can go elsewhere to find another company that understands them and that they understand. That's the price you'll pay if you don't consider this important topic.

While you don't want to seem overly simplistic in your explanations or conversations, especially when you're talking about something very niche or purely product technical, don't assume the customer understands your products and your technical language or terms. That doesn't mean you have to "dumb it down;" you just need to use the right words - words that your customers can spell and define.

And don't leave out information simply because you don't think the customer will understand. Put the information in her terms and explain it well; she'll believe you have her best interest at heart. You've bought yourself some goodwill. And earned some trust.

How can you ensure that you're speaking the same language as your customers?
  • Don't use acronyms, internal product names, industry jargon, or other company speak; be sure to train and coach employees on this regularly. Depending on how ingrained that jargon is in your day-to-day, this could be a bit of an effort, but it will be worth it.
  • Listen to cues from customers. Is there a blank stare, silence on the other end of the line, or an expression of confusion? Customers will let you know if they don't get it. Pay attention.
  • Get feedback from your customers about your messaging and communications, e.g., your signs, brochures, websites, product packaging, etc. Think about all the different ways that you communicate, and make sure there is a consistent, customer-friendly language used across the board. 
  • Learn and adapt to your customers' language. Do they refer to your products the same way you do? And do they actually speak the same language (English, German, etc.) that you speak? If not, make sure your messaging and communications are all available in their language.
  • Understand your customers, their needs, and the jobs they are trying to do; then talk about the benefits of your products and how they will help customers do what it is that they need to do. That's the language they want you to speak: how can your product help me? how can you help me? what does this do? how do I fix it?
It seems like a no-brainer that companies should be doing this. It also seems like there's a quick, easy fix to something that frustrates customers and makes the experience more difficult than it has to be. I gave you two examples of industry-specific language used to communicate with customers, and I know there are plenty of others. Without a doubt, you can come up with a few of your own. So, think about how you communicate with your customers. Then walk in your customers' shoes, understand them, speak in their language, earn trust, and build long-term relationships.

I don't know the rules of grammar. If you're trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language. -David Ogilvy

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Question Everything

Image courtesy of Pixabay
But we've always done it that way!

Is that one of the favorite sayings within your company? from your leaders?

Or maybe it's, "That's just the way we do things around here."

Regardless, you never want to hear either of those phrases uttered within the four walls of your organization.

In my webinar last week with CallidusCloud|CX, I talked about nine behaviors of CX Losers. (There are more than nine, without a doubt!) One of the behaviors was the failure to question everything, the failure to question the status quo, to be OK with the way things have always been done.

"We've always done it this way" is a culture killer, an innovation killer, and employee experience killer, and a customer experience killer.

You know the old saying: What got you here won't get you there.

It's true.

Companies change. Employees change. Customers change. Customer needs change. Companies develop new products and services. New competitors enter the market. As a result, companies need to regularly revisit rules, policies, processes, and approaches in order to ensure that the way things are done today is still relevant to changing/changed market conditions and that we are still able to deliver a great experience for both employees and customers.

So, question everything.

If employees and leaders are constantly asking questions, they...
  1. Learn more about their customers and employees
  2. Are better able to understand customer and employee needs
  3. Learn about partners, the market, emerging trends, etc.
  4. Are prompted to, and will, ideate and innovate
  5. Create new/better products, features, and services
  6. Design better experiences
  7. Eliminate rules, processes, and policies that are harmful to the experience
  8. Change the way they do business (for the better)
Don't keep things status quo for the sake of comfort, convenience, or keeping things status quo. If you keep doing the same thing, you're going to keep getting the same results, right?

Is there a better way to do something? Does this still make sense for us? For our customers? Is there a stupid rule or policy in place whose origin cannot be recalled by anyone? Are there rules that make it painful for customers to do what it is that they're trying to do? Are bad policies making it painful for employees to do their jobs well or to deliver the desired customer experience? Never let "that's just how it's always been done" get in the way of doing things more efficiently and with less effort.

With some of the statistics about customer experience as bad as they continue to be, I think companies are continuing to do the same thing. It's time to start asking some serious questions. And time to stop being afraid of the answers - or the consequences and changes as a result. Things can only get better!

You can’t afford to stand still when it comes to customer experience. The best companies innovate and disrupt their market. Challenge the status quo in order to improve. By continually questioning your processes, your company can keep improving and refining what it's doing to help it stay ahead of the competition and become a leader in your industry.

But, how you ask the questions can be an art form, too, as I wrote last year in The Power of Questions. Ask the right questions. As Drucker said: Nothing is more dangerous than the right answer to the wrong question.

I'll leave you with this awesome talk by Seth Godin called, This Is Broken! In it, he shares some funny, yet sad, examples of broken experiences. He categorizes them as "7 Kinds of Broken:" not my job, selfish jerks, the world changed, I didn't know, I'm not a fish, contradictions, and broken on purpose. Watch the video, and you'll understand his classifications. Well worth the 20 minutes!

You're welcome!

We get wise by asking questions, and even if these are not answered, we get wise, for a well-packed question carries its answer on its back as a snail carries its shell. –James Stephens