Wednesday, February 21, 2018

CX Journey™ Musings: Culture is More Than Hiring the Right People

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Don't believe everything you read or hear on the Internet.

Yea, I know. Your mom probably warned you about that, but I'm just going to reiterate.

It's a fact.

Sometimes well-meaning folks put themselves out there as experts in a field and then think they can provide expertise about an unrelated (or perhaps, ancillary) field, knowing/assuming their followers will buy into what they are saying. With that authority or expertise comes a lot of responsibility - a responsibility to not mislead your audience!

Case in point.

I follow a digital marketer who just recently launched a podcast. In his teaser post to get people to listen to the podcast, he said that building a great company culture starts with hiring the right people.

Not so fast.

Recall from a post that I wrote a few months ago about the 7 Pillars of a Strong Culture...
Culture is best defined as "values plus behavior" and is often described as "how employees act when no one is looking."

I've previously defined culture as the set of values and norms that guides how the business operates; culture happens when we operationalize the values.
Building a culture starts with defining the seven pillars, not the least of which is the values that are the foundation of your culture!

Hiring the "right people" cannot happen until you've defined the values. How can you objectively identify if someone is the "right person" or is a "culture fit" if you haven't first defined your culture (values + behavior)? How will you know if their values match the company's values? How would you define the "right people?"

Please define your culture/values first, then hire the right people. These "right people" will fit, add value to, contribute to, be a part of, and build on the culture that exists/was created as a result of your core values.

Hiring people doesn't build a culture. Yes, hiring the right people is important to maintaining and sustaining your culture; however, your values are the foundation of that culture, which means they are the foundation for hiring, promoting, and firing. Building a culture starts with defining your values.

I think this quote from Tony Hsieh says it all...

We believe that it’s really important to come up with core values that you can commit to. And by commit, we mean that you’re willing to hire and fire based on them. If you’re willing to do that, then you’re well on your way to building a company culture that is in line with the brand you want to build. -Tony Hsieh, CEO, Zappos

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Why #CX Transformations Fail

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Do you feel like you're not making the progress in your customer experience transformation efforts that you thought/hoped you would by now?

You started years (not months - it's a journey - it takes time!) ago, but you don't think your organization has evolved.

What's the reason for that?

I've seen several posts lately about CX being all talk and no action - that it's a lot of effort to pull off a customer experience transformation (and no doubt, it is!) with little to no return.

Nothing has changed. Lots of effort has been put forth to improve the customer experience, with no apparent improvements. Companies are still treating customers poorly. And customers are still complaining.

In other words, customer experience improvement efforts are failing.

I have a couple of thoughts on what's causing this. We advocate, as customer experience professionals, getting to the root cause of issues. That's the only way we can address this issue. So here goes. Here's where I think the root causes lie.

1. Executives aren't aligned
Executives aren't aligned with the customer experience transformation journey - or amongst themselves, i.e., with each other.

Unfortunately, most executive teams are not in alignment; they don’t work as a team. Instead, they function more as a “working group” or as a “committee” than as a team. If they're in alignment, they make a decision, support it and each other, and champion the decision down into their organizations.

Worse yet, they aren't aligned about customer experience transformation efforts and what that means for their employees, their customers, and their business. I've seen it. If they're not all on board, if they don't all agree that the purpose of the business is create and to nurture customers, then there's a lot of short-term thinking that focuses on the numbers rather than a long-term vision to transform the culture and the business.

I'm sure some folks will say that's all fluff. But executive alignment alone is not the problem. It's definitely one of the problems. One big problem.

2. CX is not a standalone effort
Listen. It's all CX! When I continue to hear people ask questions like, "Doesn't more customer focus means less focus on products, etc.?" then I know we are in trouble. Big trouble. These are not conflicting priorities. Customers and the voice of the customer need to be woven into all you do. Isn’t it all about the customer experience? Isn’t all you do in business for the customer?

Instead, customers aren’t considered when executives and employees are making decisions, creating new products, designing new policies and processes, developing messaging and communications, etc. They're an after-thought. It happens all the time.

When we get to the state of "What the Hell is Customer Experience?" then we know we won't be answering questions any more about how a customer focus conflicts with the product focus. 

Money is being spent by businesses every day to make changes or improvements, and yet they don't factor in the needs of the customer? Weird, no?

This is not about creating more work or adding more to your plate. You're already doing these things: enhancing the product, changing processes, updating the website, revising policies, hiring new people, developing new training programs, etc. All I ask is that, while you're doing your day job, you think about: your customers, the impact of what you're doing or creating on your customers, how customers would feel about changes you want to make, etc.

3. It's about the employee experience more first!
Certainly not last or least is the employee. In all of the posts about why customer experience transformation efforts are failing, I don't recall anyone mentioning the fact that the most important component in the equation is the employee!

I've been talking about the importance of employees to the customer experience since my days at J.D. Power and Associates 25 years ago; sadly, in the heat of customer experience design efforts, employees are still forgotten. Company executives say: "We'll collect feedback from employees later. We'll incorporate employee input after we hear how our customers feel. We’ll do something for employees next year. We’ll think about our culture at another time. Let's start with customers." This is not in any way, shape, or form acceptable. Without your employees, you have no customer experience.

The transformation must begin with the employee experience. Solve the employee experience challenges and create a culture in which employees thrive, and you're more than halfway into your customer experience improvement efforts; the transformation becomes much easier.

Are there more?
Those aren't the only reasons your customer experience transformation efforts fail. But they are three key reasons: (1) Executives must all be on board, aligned, and walking the same walk, talking the same talk, modeling the behaviors they want to see. (2) Employees must be first; focus on the employee experience. Get the employee experience right, and employees will deliver the experience your customers want. (3) And the customer voice must be infused into all you do; the customer experience cannot be viewed separately from what the business is already doing.

The bottom line is that we need to get the basics right. If you're committing any of The 7 Deadly Sins of Customer Experience, you're definitely not getting the basics right. If you believe that technology will solve people problems or that it's the fix for customer experience challenges, you're wrong; technology - any and all of it - is a tool to facilitate the customer experience, not to fix it.

What do you think? Why are customer experience transformation efforts failing?

My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure. -Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

A Culture of Excuses

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Is your company culture best described as a culture of excuses?

If so, then you need to think about why that's happening. Why are people making excuses? Why do they feel they need to? Why is that OK?

And then consider making "no excuses" one of your core values. Seriously.

Have you ever had a conversation with one of your employees or a colleague about some topic - be it customer experience, employee experience, strategy, or the business in general - a topic, perhaps, where you asked about its progress or why something was or wasn't being done? How did that conversation go? What were the responses to the questions? Did you hear what was being said? Were the responses satisfactory? Or did you feel like you were being put off? Were there excuses for why things weren't be done?

Is the standard response to that type of inquiry in your organization to explain it away or to cover up a known wrong?

Sadly, a culture of excuses is real.

Why do excuses become a thing? Why do people default to them? I think there are a few reasons this happens.
  • Don't know any differently: we've always done it that way; we've always made excuses (a self-perpetuating problem!); it's what we do.
  • CYA: cover your ass in order to avoid criticism or punishment or to avoid doing what needs to be done.
  • Fear of failure: if I don't do the thing that I'm afraid to do and just make an excuse instead, all will be fine.
  • Fear of recourse or lack of psychological safety: if I say or do what I'm supposed to, I'll be punished, chastised, fired, etc.
  • Fear of [fill in the blank]: fear is probably one of the biggest drivers of an excuse culture.
  • Lack of accountability: people need to take ownership and to be held accountable, but you can't just tell them they are accountable and leave it at that. Check in with them and offer help, praise, and encouragement.
  • Executive behavior, i.e., if they can make excuses, why can't I?
  • No clear vision: with a clearly-defined and clearly-communicated vision, employees can never say that they didn't know what was expected of them or what they should do/should've done.
  • Lack of training and development: if you properly train and develop employees, giving them the knowledge and the resources they need, they can't say that they didn't know what to do or how to do it?
  • Lack of clear expectations: when reasonable expectations are set and communicated, excuses should be minimal to zero.
  • Lack of leadership: leadership that puts employees' needs first, creates an environment of open and honest conversation (so people can ask questions or ask for help rather than make excuses), ensures that employees have the tools and resources to do what they've been tasked with,  communicates that no question is stupid, and ensures them that we all learn from mistakes.
  • Laziness: there is a percentage of people who make excuses who are just plain lazy.
How do we stop this cycle of excuses?

First, we have to acknowledge that it's a problem. That's the biggest step - being self-aware, i.e.,  knowing that you're making excuses, not simply giving valid reasons or explanations.

Second, executives must model and foster the right behavior. They need to be accountable and be held accountable. They need to do what it is they say they're going to do. They need to not make excuses.

Third, discuss and communicate. Talk about it. Don't let it be the elephant in the room. We all know it's happening. Acknowledge it and address it. If not, then it becomes acceptable by default.

And, fourth and probably most important, get to the root cause. Understand why people feel they need to make excuses. If I had to guess, fear would be the reason - but get to the root cause of that fear; otherwise, that's just an excuse, too.

Don't let your organization's culture become one where finding excuses overshadows finding a solution, making a decision, and taking real action. As I mentioned at the top of the article, consider making "no excuses," or something comparable, one of your core values. And give employees the guidance and the freedom to live that value.

Do you find yourself making excuses when you do not perform? Shed the excuses and face reality. Excuses are the loser's way out. They will mar your credibility and stunt your personal growth. -Alexander Pope

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

12 Principles of Successful #CEM Change Management

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Change. It's inevitable.

And it's hard. Many - as high as 70% of - change initiatives fail.

But don't let that stat scare you. And don't let it change your attitude about what lies ahead. Don't let that become a self-fulfilling prophecy! You know you need to make the change. You know that it will take a Herculean effort. You can do this! And I'll help with a few tips.

Your transformation efforts are much more likely to be successful when you incorporate some of the most basic tenets of change management. John Kotter's got his eight principles of change management, but I'm going to expand on those a bit and put things into customer experience management terms. There's definitely overlap; after all, as you start to think about the strategies and steps involved in customer experience management, you realize that it is a change management process in and of itself.

Here are the fundamental steps - or pillars - to successful customer experience change management.
  1. Understand the current state. You can't transform something you don't understand. In order to really learn about the current state and to identify and help prioritize what to fix/change, do two things: (1) listen to employees and to customers, and (2) map their journeys. These are the two greatest tools in your customer experience management toolbox.
  2. Create a vision for change. Once you know what needs to be changed, you need to define what the future state will look like. Your change vision is a statement or image of some desired future state, i.e., what the company and the experience will look like after you change, along with details about why this future state is desirable. It will give employees a sense of the magnitude of the change and the overall impact on the organization, on themselves, and on the customer. On the heels of your vision, develop the plan for how it will be executed.
  3. Build your business case. Answer the questions: Why is this change necessary? And what impact will it have on the business if we make this change? Identify your objectives first and then align the business outcomes and benefits tied to each. Your outcomes may be customer retention, account growth, new business through referrals, culture change, etc. Benefits might include cost savings and other efficiencies. Building your business case is not only about the why but also about the what: teach executives who might not understand the connection between focusing on culture, employee experience, and customer experience and increasing revenue and profits. You'll have to appeal to both the rational and the emotional sides of their brains. And establish the burning platform.
  4. Get executive commitment. If company leadership isn't on board with the change, then forget it; it won't happen. You might have localize or departmentalized efforts, but those will be silo'd efforts that translate to silo'd experiences for employees and customers. Without executive commitment, you'll never get resources - human, capital, or other - to execute on your customer experience strategy. And while we're talking about executives, they must also all be aligned. If they're not on the same page about the change initiatives, then it'll be a challenge to successfully execute.
  5. Establish your success metrics. You've defined your objectives and your desired outcomes. But how will you know when you've achieved them? What does success look like? How will you measure success? Define your success metrics early so that you can track progress over time.
  6. Develop a governance structure. Changing the organization's DNA to be more customer-centric is not a journey for one person to undertake; this is an organization-wide effort. As such, the governance structure is critical to the foundation of any customer experience management effort. Without an executive sponsor, an executive committee, the core program team, and cross-functional champions, your transformation won't get very far.
  7. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. I can't say this enough. Communicating your vision is an important piece of change management. If no one knows what it is or why it's taking place, then people start to ignore it; they certainly don't want to be a part of it. Of course, the key is to communicate the right information. Tell the change story. Early. And often. Let them know what is changing, why it's changing, how it will impact them and what they do (differently) on a daily basis, and how they will be involved. Celebrate milestones and successes. Keep communicating.
  8. Involve and empower employees. Get their buy-in and commitment. There's a great quote from Benjamin Franklin that's so fitting here: Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn. Get employees involved - early in the process. When that happens, they feel like they're a part of it. Don't just force change on your employees; give them some ownership in the change. They'll be more accepting of it, without a doubt.
  9. Model the behavior. It's important that, once executives are committed to the change effort, they lead by example, to model the change that they wish to see from their employees; if they don't live the change, why should employees?! If your CEO doesn't demonstrate commitment to the transformation by being the role model for how to deliver a great experience, it won't happen. Often times, some quick wins will help to drive the point home that this change is real - and it's happening.
  10. Stand up a group of culture ambassadors. Put together a group of people who exemplify the change you envision. They already live the change. They get it. Find ways to not only involve them in the change initiatives but to also be ambassadors for the change: model it, sell it, champion it.
  11. Build on initial successes; keep going. Change fatigue can set in at any time because there's always some initiative within the organization that pulls people away from what they are doing on a daily basis. Keep people informed of the progress being made. Celebrate each milestone. Be relentless and just keep going until the outcome has been achieved.
  12. Monitor and adjust. Once you’ve implemented the change, once you're in the "future state," your job is not done. The customer experience is a journey, as are your customer experience management and improvement efforts. The business evolves. New products are launched. Customers’ needs change.  New competitors enter the marketplace. Continuous improvement is the name of the game.
Having problems getting adoption for your latest change initiatives? Avoid change fatigue and the skepticism that comes with change feeling like the flavor of the month. You must have a vested interest in getting the process right, in sticking with the journey and not giving up because it's hard. No one ever said this was going to be easy; nothing worth doing ever is!

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. -Thomas Edison

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Put People Before Profits

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Does your company put profits before people?

I bring this up because I've seen a particular phenomenon many times: executives decide to put their employee experience and customer experience improvement efforts on pause because sales figures are down. Clearly the blame is that the people focus has derailed them from business development and closing deals; there can be no other reason for this (she said with all the sarcasm in the world).

We know that the employee experience and customer experience transformations are a journey. Unfortunately, the immediate pressures of the business often drive out long-term goals and objectives.

So many executives today still live by the old management adage, companies are in business to maximize shareholder value. In doing so, they put profits before people, rather than the other way around. Ironically, in the 1970s, Jack Welch was a huge proponent of that adage, but within the last ten years he has renounced it, calling it "the dumbest idea in the world" and saying:
Shareholder value is a result, not a strategy. Your main constituencies are your employees, your customers, and your products. Managers and investors should not set share price increases as their overarching goal. Short-term profits should be allied with an increase in the long-term value of a company.
While creating and maximizing shareholder value is important to any public company, it is an outcome, not a means. There are means to achieving that outcome, and they including putting employees and customers first, ahead of profits. Companies succeed if and when employees want to work for them, customers must be willing to buy - and actually buy - their products, vendors and suppliers want to partner with them, people want them to locate in - and be a part of - their communities, and shareholders buy their stocks. Companies have more constituents than just shareholders and more responsibilities than delivering value for them. The rest of their constituents must receive value, as well.

When companies (executives) put profits before people, they are driven by:
  • short-term thinking
  • short-sightedness
  • impatience
  • money, metrics, margins, numbers, revenue
  • shareholders
These are the things that cause executives to stop improvement efforts and shift focus and resources solely on closing deals and making the numbers.

When, in reality, focusing on the employee and focusing on the customer first are all about ensuring you can close deals and make your numbers.  Focus on the former, and the latter follows.

Peter Drucker says that the purpose of a business is to create a customer. You can't create a customer if you don't have the right people in place to deliver value to the customer, if you don't understand who the customer is and what her needs are, and if you're not designing and creating products that help them solve problems or get jobs done.

Seth Godin writes in his post, What are corporations for?...
The purpose of a company is to serve its customers.

Its obligation is to not harm everyone else.

And its opportunity is to enrich the lives of its employees.

Somewhere along the way, people got the idea that maximizing investor return was the point. It shouldn't be. That's not what democracies ought to seek in chartering corporations to participate in our society.

The great corporations of a generation ago, the ones that built key elements of our culture, were run by individuals who had more on their mind than driving the value of their options up.
So how do companies do that? How do they drive up value for employees so that they can deliver value for customers?

  • Define and socialize your values and guiding principles.
  • Create a culture where people are first.
  • Hire the right people, particularly those that fit your culture.
  • Take care of employees, and they will take care of customers. Don't just treat employees as cogs in the wheel. Trust, motivate, reward, and respect them.
  • Let employees know how their work matters and how it impacts the business. Be open to ideas and suggestions from employees and use them.
  • Listen to employees, learn from what you hear, and do something with the feedback. They want the business to succeed as much as you do. Value their input, and show them that you care by using it to make changes and improvements.
  • Invest in your employees. Coach, train, and develop them and ensure they are on a path to career success.
  • Treat people like people. See human. Be human.
  • Create a workplace where policies and processes don't hinder an employee's ability to do his job - and do it well. Or hinder his ability to deliver a great experience to his customers.
  • Live a life of servant leadership. Put the needs and interests of your people before your own.
  • Leaders must communicate, and be open and transparent. Develop a culture of transparency.

It's a mindset shift. I can tell you all of those things have to happen, but your CEO and her executive team (the entire team, everyone on the same page) must choose to lead and to run the business differently. It begins with them. The choice is theirs.

But it doesn't often happen on its own - and certainly not overnight! As always, if you can start to show some quick wins and ROI, you'll build the business case for why the shift is necessary. And there's a ton of data out there already to show the impact of focusing on employees and the employee experience. Don't be afraid to use some of that to build your case.

Your employees come first. And if you treat your employees right, guess what? Your customers come back, and that makes your shareholders happy. Start with employees and the rest follows from that. -Herb Kelleher