Thursday, May 26, 2016

Work with Your Partners for Customer Experience Success

Image courtesy of geralt/pixabay
I originally wrote today's post for Intradiem. It was published on their blog on December 17, 2015.

How do you ensure that your partners are successful?

Continuing on my April post about partners and their importance to your ecosystem... you need to make sure you help your partners be successful. When you think about the multichannel and the omnichannel customer experience where partners are involved (they aren't always), it's even more critical to ensure partners are lined up for success. When your partners are successful, you, in turn, are also successful. From a brand perspective. From a customer experience perspective. From all perspectives.

In last month's post, I gave some tips to ensure that the partner experience is aligned with your brand experience. In this post, I'm going to reiterate why this is important to your success - and more importantly, why it's critical to the customer experience overall.

For B2B companies who deal with consumers via/through partners or resellers, their focus has traditionally been on the relationship with the partner, often with very little visibility into the end-customer experience. This is definitely changing, and we’re seeing a new trend in the marketplace: the shift from B2B to B2B2C. This shift is ultra-critical, for a variety of reasons.

You can have all the partners you want. You can satisfy their needs all you want. But if the product you manufacture doesn’t add value, doesn’t sell, or isn’t something the end customer actually cares about, both you and your partners are going to go out of business.

How do you add value for your partners and help them be more successful?

Simple. Don’t be so far-removed from the end customer. Don’t just rely on what your partners are telling you about the customer – you’ll need to do your own research, your own listening, to get ahead of the game. Work with your partners to listen to the voice of the end customer. Understand who they are, how they use your products now, what jobs or tasks they are trying to achieve – and then use that information to shift gears to better meet their needs in the future.

There are a lot of B2B2C customer experience design examples to support this need, this scenario, but my favorite (and a very powerful one) is the story of how Doug Dietz, the principal designer for GE Healthcare, transformed the MRI experience for patients (the C) and ultimately made their partners (the Bs) successful. He'd been designing equipment for 20+ years for hospitals; he realized after spending two years designing an MRI machine that the actual patient experience was scary and quite miserable.

How did he discover that? By going to see his product in its actual setting, about to be used on a small child. By observing his machine in use. By seeing the patient response to the machine.

Have you done this? You sell to - or through - your partners; have you seen how their (your) customers use the/your products? Have you heard how they feel about them? What the experience is? If the products meet their needs and help them do what they're trying to do?

Watch Doug's TEDx talk on how he transformed the experience for families. It's so worth the 20 minutes. Be sure to grab a box of tissues before you begin watching it.


At the end of his talk, Doug shares how he measures success of his product redesign. Yes, there are the hard metrics...
  • The number of patients requiring sedation was drastically reduced, which improves the patient experience and also increases efficiencies for the hospital.
  • Wait time to get an appointment was reduced.
  • Patient satisfaction went up 92%!
  • Patient volume also went up as a result of the efficiencies
... but Doug's success measures lie in this: did he influence or change the family's conversation during the car ride home?

Ultimately, he measures success based on the patient experience. Yes, the healthcare partners had a better experience, too. But, in the end, that's not really what matters the most, is it?

When was the last time you observed your product in use by end customers? When was the last time you spoke to them about how they use the product and understood what the experience is?

If it's been a while - or never - it's time!

If you do not seek out allies and helpers, then you will be isolated and weak. -Sun Tzu, "The Art of War"


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

#CX Improvements and The Streetlight Effect

Image courtesy of _Dadita_
Do your customer experience improvement efforts suffer from the Streetlight Effect?

Have you heard the story about the drunk who is asked why he's looking for his lost wallet under the streetlight, rather than where he thinks he dropped it? It goes something like this, according to Wikipedia:
A policeman sees a drunk man searching for something under a streetlight and asks what the drunk has lost. He says he lost his keys, and they both look under the streetlight together. After a few minutes, the policeman asks if he is sure he lost them here, and the drunk replies, no, and that he lost them in the park. The policeman asks why he is searching here, and the drunk replies, "This is where the light is."
This parable describes the phenomenon known as The Streetlight Effect. It is defined as: a type of observational bias where people only look for whatever they are searching for by looking where it is easiest. The search itself may be referred to as a drunkard's search.

It got me thinking about how companies decide to make improvements to the customer experience. Assuming they do anything at all, it often happens just like that: they go to where the light is. In other words, they pick the low-hanging fruit. And sometimes, when you're picking low-hanging fruit, you get stuck in this loop or cycle of finding other low-hanging fruit - and feeling like you're making some progress, but you're really not.

Bottom line is that it's a waste of time and resources to just do what's easy to do.

Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat. -Sun Tzu

Company's suffering from the Streetlight Effect:
  • improve only the stuff that's easy and accessible to fix
  • apply band-aids rather than work to get to the root cause, to fix the systemic issue
  • often delay doing the hard work
  • have disparate and siloed improvement efforts happening throughout the company
  • don't make improvements based on work they've done to identify what's important to the customer
  •  don't identify what's important to the customer
  • don't make improvements based on impact of the fix, i.e., on the customer and then on the business
  • don't think about outcomes 
  • only focus on time to fix and cost to fix
  • think touchpoints, not journeys - don't think about the experience holistically
  • are very tactical, not strategic, in their efforts
  • aren't able to transform the organization, culture, experience
  • either lack, or haven't communicated well, a customer experience vision
  • haven't defined and communicated a customer experience strategy
The best way to keep employees or individual departments or business units from conducting a drunkard's search is to create, communicate, and live and breathe your...
  • brand promise
  • guiding principles
  • organization's mission
  • customer experience vision
... and outline and communicate the customer experience strategy, which helps to define, design, and, ultimately, deliver the desired customer experience (desired, of course, by your customers). Strategy is mainly about the how, but your customer experience strategy may also include details about the who, what, when, and the how much of experience design and helps everyone focus on those activities or improvements that will be most impactful to your customers. (It gets everyone on the same page, marching to the same beat.)

Working in the light of the street, focusing on the easy stuff, derails you from the hard work that is required by your customer experience strategy. Don't get me wrong: sometimes doing that solves an immediate problem. But while it's tempting to only focus there, stick with the strategy outlined to achieve your goals. That strategy spells out how you'll do meaningful work and make a real transformation.

Improving the customer experience requires that the entire organization works toward a common goal, being cohesive and consistent and deliberate about the approach. It also requires heavy lifting, not just doing what's easy.

Stepping out of the glow of the streetlight is where you'll get the biggest bang for your buck. Don't be afraid of the dark!

Don't ever, ever, believe anyone who tells you that you can just get by, by doing the easiest thing possible. Because there's always somebody behind you who really wants to do what you're doing. And they're going to work harder than you if you're not working hard. -Maria Bartiromo

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Time for a Research Renaissance?

Photo from www.lucnix.be. 2007-09-08
Today I'm pleased to share a guest post by Paul Laughlin.

When I talk with research leaders across the UK (and Europe), I consistently hear some common woes.

The problem for research leaders today
Many feel under-utilised and almost all suggest they appear to have less influence than they had in the past.

With regard to the cause of this "demotion," many cite the rise of executive interest in Big Data and Analytics. It seems that customer research is now often viewed as the poor relation to a more "modern" data analysis solution.

The fact that market or customer research often still sits in a department from data and analytics teams can exacerbate the problem.

Too few companies bring all these components of holistic customer insight together.

Yet, despite this apparent "doom and gloom" for research professionals, the wind appears to be changing in the wider marketing community. At the start of 2016, a number of data and marketing leaders were asked for their predictions about key themes for the year. Many cited the need for more focus on emotion.

In this thought-provoking piece, Bruce Temkin shares the criticality of engaging with emotion when designing better customer experiences.

So, if marketers and CX leaders need to better engage with people’s emotions and ensure communications have the emotional impact they wish, surely there will be a growing need for research skills. What might that look like in the context of the current technological change driven by Big Data and Data Science? Well, they say you often need to look to the past to predict the future. So, how about the 14th Century?

The Renaissance
What has a 14th century European phenomenon of major changes in culture and society got to do with research today?

As with most historical events, historians disagree as to causes of this explosion of hunger for learning and rediscovery of classical art. But many cite the invention of the printing press. In their day, this meant their very own "information revolution." Suddenly, not just bibles but hundreds of classic texts could be rediscovered and put into the hands of the (richer) common people.

An interesting facet of this explosion of facts and learning, though, is it also sparked an equal focus on art and culture. There was a passion to explore what it meant to be human: from studies of the human form in Michelangelo’s statues to the internal motivations laid bare in Machiavelli’s "The Prince."

So, what could this mean for our current information-obsessed society? Could those forecasters be right? Will we see our own resurgence of the importance of understanding our humanity and emotional expressions? Personally, I think so. Perhaps even more so as we face the rise of increasingly sophisticated machine learning and automation.

I’m certainly looking forward to a new wave of fresh interest in research and psychological understanding of customers.

How to ride the wave that’s coming
Does that mean research leaders can just relax and wait for this salvation to come galloping in to rescue them? No, of course not. Despite the renewed need for a research-led, more holistic understanding of our customers. It is also true that past approaches have been discredited. Few senior leaders still have any tolerance for sitting through hour-long debriefs, just for agencies to showcase how much work they’ve done.

Instead, there is a need for research leaders to become trusted advisers: to proactively identify business needs and use a more holistic view to raise relevant issues and potential solutions. Partnerships will be needed (including with those data and analytics leaders who might feel more like a threat right now).

In this post published in Quirks magazine, David Santee shares how research leaders need to develop multiple styles of influencing (logos, pathos and ethos).

How fitting to be focusing on advice originally taught by Aristotle, as we talk about the Renaissance and people’s love of classical texts at that time. I’ve also shared before how Socrates can help you think about your questioning as a leader, to get to the real business need.

What next?

So, what about you? If you are a research leader, consider these 3 questions:
  • Do you relate to the crisis of diminished influence mentioned at the start of this post?
  • Are you optimistic that a "renaissance of research" is coming for emotional marketing and many other planned improvements?
  • What are you doing to develop your skills so you are ready to "ride that wave" and have more influence internally?
I hope that helped and that you protect some time to both think about this issue and invest in your own development. Tomorrow’s business problems will surely need a renaissance in leadership within research teams, as much as a renaissance in those technical research skills.

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, May 17, 2016

The 12 Laws of Karma That Will Change Your #CX

Image courtesy of Hoodie Dog
Do you know the 12 Laws of Karma? And did you know they can be applied daily to your customer experience efforts?

If not, no worries. Read on, and I'll define them for you and tie them to this CX world we live in.

I came across them recently and thought that these made sense - for life and for your customer experience.

It's interesting that we always associate karma with bad things, i.e., payback for something bad someone did. But it's also associated with good things. "We reap what we sow" is a common way of thinking about it. What goes around, comes around. You get what you give. In a way, it reminded me of the golden rule: treat others the way you'd want to be treated.

In two of his YouTube videos, Hans Wilhelm explains that karma is the law that brings back the results of all the thoughts, words, and actions to the person performing them - just like a boomerang, they sooner or later come back to us with the same force or similar effect or result.

Let's take a look at the 12 Laws. I used various sources for different thoughts and perspectives on what the Laws themselves mean, including Power of Positivity and David Wolfe

Law 1: The Great Law
Also known as the Law of Cause and Effect, this law refers to the concept of reaping what you sow. Our thoughts and actions have consequences, both good and bad. What you put out into the universe will come back to you.

CX connection: Quite simply, if companies treat customers well, then customers will return in spades: through loyalty, advocacy, and more.

Law 2: The Law of Creation
What we focus on is what we create. In order to make things happen, we need to make them happen; they don't happen by themselves.

CX connection: In order to make things happen in the the CX world, we know that we, as CX professionals, need to make them happen. We need to drive the bus. We have lofty goals. Have you seen the six customer experience performance domains? Yea. Lots to do. Get started. Make sure you've got the basics down first, starting with executive commitment. You've got this.

Law 3: The Law of Humility
One must accept something in order to change it. Accept what is; let go of what was; and make changes toward what will be.

CX connection: In order to accept, companies need to understand. They can only change what they  understand; they need to understand who, why, what, how. They need to understand what's going well and what's not going well. Accept these things and change them to what they ought to be, to what matters most to their customers.

Law 4: The Law of Growth
“Wherever you go, there you are.” If we want to grow, we - not the people or things around us - need to change. We can only control ourselves. When we change who and what we are, our lives follow suit and change, too.

CX connection: Leaders need to change their thinking. They need to accept that the purpose of a business is not to maximize shareholder value but to create and nurture a customer. Let others think and do what they want, but they need to make the customer the reason. Acknowledging this allows them to move the CX strategy and, hence, the business forward.

Law 5: The Law of Responsibility
Our lives are of our own doing. We need to take responsibility for our own lives.

CX connection: Companies can't blame others for the situation they're in. Don't focus on competitors and what they're doing or what we think they've done to your customers, the industry, etc.; focus on your customers and what their needs are, what they're trying to achieve. Then innovate, don't imitate. Innovate, don't be the next Blockbuster or Kodak.

Law 6: The Law of Connection
Everything in the universe is connected. Each step leads to the next step. The past, present, and future are all connected; if we want something different, we need to change the connections. Neither the first step nor the last are of greater significance. They are both needed to accomplish the task.

CX connection: Naturally, if we're talking about a step leading to the next step, I'm going to bring up the need to map your customer journey, walk in your customers' shoes, understand his steps to do some job. If you want to redesign the experience, you need to map it, understand the current state, identify the ideal future state, and redesign to that future state. Similarly, understanding those first and last impressions and how they happen is important; as the law states, they are both needed to accomplish a task, and, executed well, lead to great things for the business.

Law 7: The Law of Focus
We can only focus on one thing at a time. We need to direct full attention to achieve a single task.

CX connection: Set your vision, and let that be your north star. Set strategy based on that vision - and execute. Stay focused on the vision. When you lose focus, you do things you shouldn't be doing and often forget why you're doing what you're doing.

Law 8: The Law of Giving and Hospitality
What we believe must manifest into our actions. Selflessness shows our intentions.

CX connection: This is a reminder that actions speak louder than words. If you claim it, you need to do it, deliver on it. What's your brand promise? You set expectations with it - are you delivering on them?

Law 9: The Law of Here and Now
If we keep looking backward, we cannot be present, in the present. Focusing on what happened in the past keeps us from moving forward.

CX connection: While it's important to understand history, learn from your mistakes, and make sure you don't repeat them. What you really need to do is understand the current state first and then translate that to the ideal future state.

Law 10: The Law of Change
Unless we change, history will repeat itself.

CX connection: This is similar to Law 9 in many ways, but as Albert Einstein said: We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.

Law 11: The Law of Patience and Reward
Rewards of lasting value require patience, persistence, and hard work. Joy comes from doing what we're supposed to be doing; the reward will come in due time.

CX connection: Focus on the customer experience. Do the work. Get executive and organizational commitment. Shift the culture to one that puts people first. Then reap the rewards: employees will come - and stay; customers will come - and stay; and the business will grow.

Law 12: The Law of Significance and Inspiration
We get back what we put into it. The value and the rewards you reap are direct results of the energy and intent that you put into it.

CX connection: Improve the employee experience to improve the customer experience. Create a people-focused culture, one where the human experience is put above all else. Decisions are made based on what's best for people, in general. Again, do the work, but do it right and for the right reasons. And the outcomes for employees, customers, and the business will be equal to - and worth - the effort.

I took a bit of liberty in tying the 12 Laws of Karma to the world of customer experience, but I don't think it was too much of a stretch. And I think many of them are repetitive or reinforce the same principles: You truly do reap what you sow. Your actions will result in equal actions being returned to you. Be good to your employees and to your customers, and they'll be good to you.

Seems simple enough.

How people treat you is their karma. How you react is yours. -Wayne Dyer


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Should You Feel Empathy or Sympathy? Or... ?

Do you know the difference between empathy and sympathy?

And when to use one over the other? Have you been using the terms - and the feelings - correctly?

There's definitely a difference between the two, and I'll provide examples to call out when to use one over the other. Or even when to use them together, which is often the case, but not always.

I'll start with some definitions, as I often do.

According to Merriam-Webster, empathy is the feeling that you understand and share another person's experiences and emotions : the ability to share someone else's feelings. And sympathy is the feeling that you care about and are sorry about someone else's trouble, grief, misfortune, etc.

I like how Hugh MacLeod depicted it in a recent Gapingvoid cartoon: "I feel your pain" vs. "I'm sorry you're in pain."

Know the difference, especially when customer experience professionals talk about the importance of empathy to the customer experience. In 2014, Bruce Temkin noted that empathy would be the CX word of the year. He added: As companies increasingly focus on customer experience in 2014, they will recognize that their organizations lack a deep understanding and appreciation for their customers. Granted, it is now 2016, but empathy is equally important, if not more so. Understanding your customers, their needs, what they are trying to achieve, and what they are going through is critical to delivering a great experience.

I'll give you an example of the differences and how the two can be used together. I've mentioned in a few previous posts the insurance provider I've been dealing with now for the last six months. The adjuster that was assigned to me is just awful, so I finally got to the point where I didn't want him to come to my house again without his supervisor. I've been in this situation before with my team: I know that if a client calls in a supervisor, it's time to step up the customer love, acknowledge what happened, apologize, and figure out how to make things better, in a nutshell. Clients want both sympathy and empathy in those situations. So here goes.

The adjuster and the supervisor arrive. The supervisor - a woman and a mom - barely says, "Hello," doesn't look me in the eye (and didn't really ever do this during the entire meeting), and doesn't start off with something that I would say, were I called into this situation: "I'm sorry that we are not meeting your needs. How can I make this better?" Or simply, "I'm sorry. I'm here to help." Those words - and no reasonable facsimile - ever came out of her mouth in the several hours that they were here. That would have showed sympathy.

At some point during the visit, we walked into my kitchen, which is basically non-existent. It had been damaged by a water leak, and all cabinets, appliances, etc. had been torn out. I have no kitchen. And there I stood, listening to the adjuster and his supervisor tell me that my house is livable. (By the way, the rest of my downstairs is gone, too.) I asked them both if they have children, and they do. I asked  them both if they would live in a house, with their children, with no kitchen. They both said they would, and they had, one for four months, the other for six. I'll spare you what I said after that because the next 90 seconds were a blur of profanity and disbelief. (And having now done it for three months, eating out for every meal, every day, I can tell you, I don't believe them.) I took a deep breath. I was asking for empathy. I wanted them to walk in my shoes, to know what it would mean to live in a house in the state mine was in. And while they said they knew, there was no "I feel your pain" moment. It was more of a smug moment. (How do I know they were telling me the truth? They'd been awful to deal with about everything else for the prior three months.)

What I got instead was apathy, which Merriam-Webster defines as the feeling of not having much emotion or interest. "I don't care about you."

Your customer experience has reached the low of lows when it gets to that point.

So, take the time to coach your frontline about all three, and make sure that the third one is the one they never use with your customers.

When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it. That's when you can get more creative in solving problems. -Stephen Covey