Thursday, April 28, 2016

Haters are the Canary in the Coal Mine for Your Company

Image courtesy of moon angel
Today I'm pleased to share a guest post by Jay Baer.

Haters are the early warning detection system for your business, much like a canary in a coal mine. So keep in mind that haters (canaries) are not the problem...

Ignoring them is.

The real problem for your business is the people who have a poor experience but are not passionate enough about you and your company to take the time to say something about it. They are the “meh” in the middle, and they are what kill businesses

One benefit of paying attention to feedback is the ability to glean insights about your business that can improve your operations and processes.

Frank Eliason understands how this works and has captained these programs for very large companies that attract a high volume of customer feedback, including the television and Internet access company Comcast, and Citi, where he served as the global director of the customer experience team. Eliason is also the author of the excellent book @ Your Service.

Solving problems creates value
“The best dollars and cents come when you start to make process improvements based on feedback. It’s harder to do with calls, and easier to analyze online. You can start to understand where your frustration points are and fix those. Each of those has a monetary value to them,” he says.

Kristen Kavalier, vice president of customer relations at NewBrand, the software tool employed by Le Pain Quotidien and hundreds of other businesses to find, analyze, sift, sort, and respond to customers across many online platforms, explains how this works: “To a certain extent, we’ll report on star ratings and rankings and averages, but mostly we throw them away in our analysis and actually look at the content itself. What was the actual verbatim commentary and how can we break that down, categorize it, and score it in a way that we can create structure and meaning and intelligence from it? How can we can aggregate it all, and provide our customer with something really actionable? We want to create some intelligence from all the noise that’s out there.”

Don’t take it personally
Square Cow Movers is a small, family-owned moving company based in central Texas with four locations. They handle long-distance and commercial moves, but the company’s core service is local residential moves, according to managing partner Wade Lombard.

As a small operator, haters hit Lombard hard. The tendency is to take complaints personally because he and his immediate family are so intertwined in the business. It's their life and their livelihood.

Lombard compares the emotional ties he has to his business to
 what he feels about his children. "I can go to my son's baseball 
game, and he can hit a home run, and I will feel like, man, that is my 
DNA, that is my offspring, I'm the best dad ever," he says. "And the
very next day – this hasn't happened but it could – I can get a call 
from the principal who says, 'Hey, your son's in the office for disciplinary reasons,' and I'm so disappointed in whatever action he took 
to land there.”

“And it's similar with business,” Lombard says. “One day I can feel so 
proud of what we've been able to build and what we've been able to 
do. And the next day, one of our guys can do something silly, or a 
client can call and they can have a legitimate complaint. And I 
will be so down in the dumps, my emotional spectrum will just 
plummet. And so I think for responding to complaints the key is to 
try to take the emotion out of it and say to yourself, 'What can I 
learn from this?'" 

Pay attention to patterns of misunderstandings
There are lots of details in the moving business and much back-and-forth with customers, who are already on edge due to the stresses inherent in any move. Square Cow Movers wasn't handling 
those communication details well, a fact Lombard discovered by paying attention to complaints. 

"What we found in the reviews was that most of the issues people
 had with us were when people were unaware of what time we were going to get there, or they were unaware of certain rules or regulations related to moving. And so what we started to do is pick up on 
patterns. We found these patterns of misunderstandings, and said to ourselves, 'Okay, because this is a pattern, obviously we're not doing 
our part to communicate properly,'" he says. 

Lombard and his team changed company policy and procedure 
as a result, adopting a policy known as "Over-communication is a 
myth." Today, the company goes out of its way to inform and educate customers multiple times throughout the moving process, and 
negative feedback based on misunderstandings has subsequently plummeted.

A catalyst for excellence
When you're able to analyze and act to improve your operations, complaints become not something annoying that have to be "dealt with" but rather massively valuable, free information that can be a catalyst for excellence.

Rather than trying to reduce the number of complaints and eliminate haters, you should instead encourage complaints and make customer feedback mechanisms as plentiful and simple as possible.

Drawn from Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers, about which Guy Kawasaki says: "This is a landmark book in the history of customer service.” Written by Jay Baer, Hug Your Haters is the first customer service and customer experience book written for the modern, mobile era and is based on proprietary research and more than 70 exclusive interviews.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Have Your Journey Maps Failed You?

Image courtesy of GMC Software
Have you gone through some journey mapping exercises, only to find that the maps don't deliver what they experts said they would?

Have your maps failed you?

What happened? Did you pick a scenario, put some paper on the wall, distribute Post-It Notes, and tell people to start writing down the steps to for said scenario? And then said, "Now what?"

It's really a shame that so many people experience and tell this same story, which ends in frustration and disbelief.

Done right, though, journey maps are powerful tools to help you understand the customer experience, identify painpoints and moments of truth, and prioritize redesign elements that matter most to the customer.

So I was thrilled to work with GMC Software to co-author a whitepaper titled "Don't Waste Your Time with Journey Maps." The paper is based on the following problem statement:
Customer journey maps are useless because they’re just not actionable. They don’t allow the customer experience professional to identify and to improve those items or areas that have the greatest impact on the customer and his experience.
Of course, you know how I feel about journey mapping by now, so I hope you'll take a moment to download the whitepaper, read it, and use the tips I provide to make sure your journey maps are not a waste of time.

As a follow-on to the whitepaper, I had a lively conversation with Mirza Baig as we recorded GMC Software's first podcast and launched their InspireCast series. The three-part "CX Talk" interview was released last week, and we covered the gamut of CX topics, which you can hear by clicking on the links below:

Why CX is a must for business
Customer journey mapping for business (part 1: challenges and best practices)
Customer journey mapping for business (part 2: ownership, measurement, and maintenance)

Each segment lasts 15-20 minutes, so if you can't listen to them all now, please bookmark these and come back to finish listening later. Mirza asks me some great questions and probes deeper into some of the content in the whitepaper.

Remember: You can't transform something you don't understand. Journey maps are a critical tool to help you understand the current state of the customer experience. And they can do so much more.

If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it. –Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Top 10 #CX Challenges for 2016

Image courtesy of Juju Insipired
What customer experience challenges are you facing this year?

Even though 2016 is already a third of the way over, I thought it would be interesting to share some findings about key customer experience challenges that have been identified for this year. Sadly, they are really not much different from what we've heard in recent years.

Are companies really not making progress? You tell me. What was your last really awesome experience? And was the previous one you had with that company equally as awesome? And how many other companies have you interacted with since then? Were those experiences awesome, too?

Yea, I didn't think so.

You may have heard me say before that it's hard to talk about customer experience trends when there are still so many companies who need to get the basics right. For example, while companies might be listening to their customers, they aren't necessarily acting on the feedback. That's pointless. Or they're so focused on the metric that they overlook what customers are actually saying.

And that's what the findings are: the challenges are really around the fundamental basics or the foundational elements of a CX strategy.

CX Network recently published The Global State of Customer Experience 2016. Respondents were mostly CX practitioners (65.7%), with the remainder being solution providers (25.5%) and industry bloggers, analysts, and researchers (8.7%).

The report is packed with trends, challenges, and recommendations from folks who either live it or who advise on the topic. I'll focus on the Challenges section of the report, as this is an area that needs to be addressed before most businesses can move forward with their customer experience initiatives. The following graphic shows the top 10 challenges for this year, grouped by each of those three respondent types.

Source: The Global State of Customer Experience 2016
If you click on the image, you'll be able to see a larger version of it. You'll see how the practitioner responses compared to the predictions of vendors and consultants. Creating a customer-first culture is the top challenge for practitioners, followed by competing priorities, employee engagement, omnichannel experiences, and shifting from a product-focus to a customer-focus.

I can sum them all up as the following: commitment issues. Executive commitment issues, that is.

And that is a basic, fundamental issue that every organization with a consistently poor customer experience faces. I'm not surprised by these findings.

I loved that Zarina de Ruiter, the author of this research paper, asked practitioners what would help them overcome these challenges. Business cases to demonstrate ROI and culture change programs were a couple of the top answers. Others included: executives working together to make it happen, better communication across the organization, best practices to support their needs, a reduction in strategic priorities, a budget increase, more training and executive commitment to learning and development, increased board-level awareness of the importance of customer experience, and clearer communication from vendors on the benefits of an improved customer experience.

Do those challenges resonate with you and with what's happening within your organization? How are you addressing them?

If it doesn't challenge you, it doesn't change you. -Unknown

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Business Case for a Great Employee Experience

Have you put the spotlight on the employee experience at your company?

I've written many times about the importance of the employee experience, both on its own with regard to retention and performance and with regard to the impact of the employee experience on the customer experience.

Sadly, many companies still aren't focusing on the employee experience. IDC's 2015 EXPERIENCES Survey work found that 81% of companies listen to customers about their experiences, but 69.4% of companies do not measure the employee experience.

For those still looking for proof that this is a real thing, I've started to take note of some recent research and statistics about the impact of a great employee experience. I thought I'd start to compile them in one place and share with you, in case you're in the process of building the business case or need to nudge your company that employees matter.

It's important to note that the employee experience starts well before the employee signs on the dotted line. Consider that your candidates may already know the brand through their own interactions as customers; or they may know someone who works - or has worked - for the company.

So let's start there, with the employer brand. Just as your brand is important to attracting and retaining customers, your employer brand attracts potential employees and drives whether they'll want to stay. How does your employer brand impact the business? (After all, that's what executives want to know: if we focus on the employee experience, what does that mean for the business?) Dr. John Sullivan wrote a great article about 10 employer branding business impact metrics that you should track. Pick the ones you want to focus on, but they are listed in order, with the most powerful ones first.
  1. Better-performing new hires that result from your branding effort
  2. An increase in overall workforce productivity
  3. Increased revenue from hires in revenue-generating positions
  4. A high employee referral rate increases productivity
  5. A higher employee retention rate of current employees
  6. A reduced failure rate among new hires
  7. Your applicants come from top firms
  8. A higher ratio of winning head-to-head recruiting competitions
  9. A positive giveaway/takeaway ratio
  10. Employer branding program ROI
Interesting that he places ROI at the bottom of the list because it seems like that's where everyone starts! Kevin Kruse defines the ROI or the business impact of employee engagement (which is just one component or measure of the employee experience, along with trust, happiness, satisfaction, retention, etc.) as the Engagement-Profit Chain, which looks like this.

Engaged employees lead to...
  • higher service, quality, and productivity, which leads to…
  • higher customer satisfaction, which leads to…
  • increased sales (from more repeat business and referrals), which leads to…
  • higher levels of profit, which leads to…
  • higher shareholder returns (i.e., stock price)
Those are pretty powerful outcomes for the business. I don't think anyone can argue with that. Here's a graphic that supports that last bullet point about higher shareholder returns. Watermark Consulting looked at the employee experience leaders based on Great Place to Work findings and charted their performance on the S&P 500 for the last 18 years, from 1997 to 2014. Their annualized returns outperformed the stock market by nearly double.

Source: Watermark Consulting
Gallup is, obviously, well known for its employee engagement research. The graphic below depicts some of their findings, with the moral of the story being: those companies in the top quartile in employee engagement outperform those in the bottom quartile on 10 key metrics, including turnover, productivity, customer satisfaction, and profitability.

Aon Hewitt's 2015 Trends in Global Employee Engagement tells us the following: a 5% increase in employee engagement is linked to a 3% increase in revenue growth in the subsequent year.

In their work, Dale Carnegie Training uncovered that $11 billion is lost annually due to employee turnover and that companies with engaged employees outperform those without by up to 202%.

In a report published by PwC, they cited: Based on stock performance, Wharton professor Alex Edmans determined that companies on the Fortune list of “best companies to work for” outperformed their peers by 2–3 percent per year.

In a whitepaper by Rutgers, A New Framework of Employee Engagement, they note that: a meta-analysis of the financial performance of 1,979 business units in ten companies found that business units that score above the database median on both employee and customer engagement metrics were, on average, 3.4 times more effective financially (in terms of total sales and revenue, performance to target, and year-over-year gain in sales and revenues) than units that rank in the bottom half on both measures.

There's also this Sears work that I've cited a few times from a 1998 article in Harvard Business Review; it summarizes the work that Sears executives did to rebuild the company to focus on customers. The article talks about the new business model and what they discovered: "There is a chain of cause and effect running from employee behavior to customer behavior to profits." 

When Sears went through this transformation in the '90s, they saw some impressive results (according to the same article):

Our model shows that a 5 point improvement in employee attitudes will drive a 1.3 point improvement in customer satisfaction, which in turn will drive a 0.5% improvement in revenue growth.


Independent surveys show that national retail customer satisfaction has fallen for several consecutive years, but in the course of the last 12 months, employee satisfaction on the Sears TPI has risen by 4%, and customer satisfaction by almost 4%. That may seem a trivial improvement. But if our model is correct—and its predictive record is extremely good—that 4% improvement in customer satisfaction translates into more than $200 million in additional revenues in the past 12 months. At our current after-tax margin and price-earnings ratio, those extra revenues increase our market capitalization by nearly one-quarter of a billion dollars. Even more impressive from our point of view is what our model tells us: it is our managers and employees who, at the moment of truth in front of the customer, have achieved this prodigious feat of value creation.

I think one of the most disheartening things that I read - though I'm not surprised at all - is that 7 out of 10 companies don't even measure employee engagement or the employee experience. (But then I also question what the other 3 are doing with what they heard!) That's insane. It's really important for companies to understand the impact the employee experience has on the customer experience, on the business, on business outcomes, and more.

Just like with customer experience initiatives, employee experience initiatives and culture transformations and making your company a great place to work happens top-down. If your CEO isn't committed to the transformation, setting expectations for her managers, and being the role model for how to deliver a great employee experience, it won't happen. A couple of examples of companies with committed CEOs that come to mind include: Southwest Airlines, Zappos, Amazon, and Barry-Wehmiller.

What about your company? Would you add it to this list of examples? Or is your company part of "that statistic?"

Lots of people know how to manage their business; too few know how to lead their people. -Unknown

Friday, April 15, 2016

At Some Point, You Have to Stop Listening

Image courtesy of Singleton2302
Do you survey and listen to customers ad nauseum?

Are you surveying every customer at every interaction or transaction they have with your company?

Do different departments in your company survey the same customers? Do you research a topic (or several topics) to death?

Are you tracking what customers are saying about your company on social media and other venues through which they can provide feedback?  

Are you feeling a little bit of data overload? Yet you still keep asking and listening.

Keep listening... but hold that thought.

Listening to customers is, without a doubt, important to designing a great experience and to business success. Too many companies, though, forget that the "work" doesn't end with listening. It's only just begun!

By now, you're probably familiar with the Gartner statistic: 95% of companies collect customer feedback, yet only 10% use the feedback to improve, and only 5% tell customers what they are doing in response to what they heard. It's a statistic from years ago, but I believe that it's still representative; companies are still not using feedback to make improvements, but to check a box that says, "We do that.

Listening has several parts to it; combined, they all embody the ideal VoC closed-loop initiative, which includes listening, analyzing, acting, and communicating. I previously wrote 
When we think about a conversation, we typically understand that it has two parts: speaking and listening. It's a two-way street. I would actually add a third component:hearing. Yes, we talk; and yes, we say we listen. But do we actually hear what has been said? I think hearing requires a subsequent action or reaction. And in the customer conversation, that part is often missing.
When you listen, make sure you hear what is being said before you act or react. When you stop, listen, and really hear, you are better able to understand customers' (or employees', as this applies to both) needs and jobs they are trying to do, allowing you to better design for those jobs or to fulfill those needs. You're also better able to understand their questions or issues and address those or point customers in the right direction to get the issues resolved. In a timely manner.
Understanding is key. Listening is critical. Acting is imperative. 

The problem? There are those companies, those departments, that just keep listening. And listening. And listening. And then don't ever do anything with what they hear. They just come up with other creative ways to ask their customers questions about the same issues or the same topics. All in the name of listening.

And then, when they can't listen anymore, they analyze the data to death. How many different ways can we segment and slice it? What other nuggets can we find? This all takes weeks and months - and then the data is old and outdated. So then it's time to, you guessed it, survey again.

Sound familiar at all?

I've seen clients stuck in this vortex. It's not pretty.

What's going on? Why can't you act yet?
  • Are you simply "collecting feedback?"
  • Do you not have enough data?
  • Do you not have the right data?
  • Is the data not actionable?
  • Did you not ask the right questions?
  • Did you ask the wrong audience? 
  • For the questions you asked, do you not have owners who are waiting for some results on which to act?
  • Are you avoiding doing the work necessary to make sure the data is acted on?
  • Are you afraid you won't get resources committed to doing the work?
  • Haven't you socialized the work you're doing in order to get commitment from the organization?
  • Do you not have an efficient way to analyze the data?
  • Are you not sure how to analyze? or how to tell the story?
  • Are you not sharing the data and the analysis with key stakeholders so they can do something with it?
  • Do you not know what you're doing or what you need to do?
At some point, you have to stop listening. And start doing. OK, you're not really going to stop listening, but you have to move beyond that and move into the action phase. You know what I mean. When you've got listening down, you need to shift your focus on acting. Otherwise, it's all for nothing.

If you don't know what you're doing or what you're supposed to do, get some help.

Never confuse movement with action. -Ernest Hemingway