Thursday, October 23, 2014

Beware of the #CX Inflection Point

I originally wrote today's post for Intradiem. It appeared on their blog on June 19, 2014. 

What is the customer experience inflection point?

There comes a time in every company's history, present time, or future when it must change or adapt - or die.

That's a pretty melodramatic statement, isn't it? Maybe. But perhaps it's also an eye-opener for some companies.

Why? Well, that time is known as an inflection point. What's that, you say? According to Investopedia, an inflection point is: An event that results in a significant change in the progress of a company, industry, sector, economy or geopolitical situation. An inflection point can be considered a turning point after which a dramatic change, with either positive or negative results, is expected to result. Companies, industries, sectors and economies are dynamic and constantly evolving. Inflection points are more significant than the small day-to-day progress that is made and the effects of the change are often well-known and widespread.

They go on to explain that: Andy Grove, Intel's co-founder, described a strategic inflection point as "an event that changes the way we think and act." Inflection points can be a result of action taken by a company, or through actions taken by another entity, that has a direct impact on the company.

So, in order for the business to move forward - successfully - some change or shift needs to occur at that point. I think the customer experience plays a huge role. Don't think so? I'll name a few companies, and then let's talk: Kodak, Blockbuster, Circuit City, RIM, Nokia.

I don't think there's a big event within the organization itself that signals you've reached the customer experience inflection point. It's more about the signs all around you; the winds of change are blowing. What are some of the signs?
  • Things you've been doing for your customers that worked before don't seem to work any more
  • Customer needs shift, but you can't or don't keep up
  • As a result, customer engagement is down - they're just not that into you any more
  • Competitive influences cause a shift, but you can't or don't keep up
  • Everyone around you adapts or advances, but you stand still
What are some of the causes? I think there's a big one. You don't listen or have stopped listening - to customers, to employees, and to the marketplace. Or maybe you listen but you just don't really hear what's being said: you don't care, or you think you know better. Customers don't know what they need, right?

How does an organization move beyond the inflection point? How does it survive and come out better and stronger on the other side? How do we take the business to a new level?

Without a doubt, serious changes need to be made. Let's start with this high-level list.

Leadership: It starts at the top. If you've got the wrong leadership in place, it'll be really tough to steer the ship in the right direction. I'm reminded of the struggles that J.C. Penney has had and is having.

People: You need to have the right people on board: employees who want to be there; employees who are passionate about the brand; employees who are motivated to push through the tough times and see the business survive and thrive. This may require training, hiring for new skills and new attitudes; you'll certainly want to be sure there's a culture fit.

Employee Engagement: I list this separately from "leadership" and from "people" because employee engagement is a two-way street that requires both to work together for the greater good. When employees are engaged, their passion and ambition for the business will ensure they are focused on its success.

Employee Empowerment: This is no time to not trust employees to move the business forward. You hired each individual for the background, experience, and value that he/she brings to the table. Let them contribute. You'll be amazed at what this level of trust can do for employees, and, ultimately, for the business.

Culture: Tying the items just mentioned together is the culture; ideally, at this point, the culture shifts ever so slightly into a culture of survival. But, having said that, if you've got a strong culture in place already, there should be no shift.

Processes: Kill the bad ones, and create new ones. Bad processes are often deal breakers. Map the customer journey, from the customer viewpoint, to understand the processes the customer must go through to engage with your business, but also take a look at what happens behind the scenes that hinders the employee from delivering a great experience.

Customer Experience Redesign: Clearly, what was working for customers before is no longer working; this could be products, services, service, and more. Understand your customers and their evolving needs. Define personas. Take a look at that map you just created and figure out where the painpoints are. Figure out where customer needs have shifted and where your competitors excel. Listen to customers, employees, and the market. Act on what you hear. Sometimes they really do know what they want. Even if it is a faster horse.

Innovation: Take a human-centered approach to defining and designing new products and services for your customers. Do your homework. Listen to your customers. Design and deliver based on their needs. It's OK to think ahead, too.

Customers: If you've built a fan base over time, if you have a community of customers that have been by your side, that want you to survive, they will stay with you through thick and thin. If you've got this fan base, you should never reach this customer experience inflection point. In theory. But, customers can't control your internal decisions. Ah, perhaps you're not as customer-centric and customer-focused as you thought you were. Hmmm. Time to fix that.

There are probably more things that a business can do. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

There is at least one point in the history of any company when you have to change dramatically to rise to the next level of performance. Miss that moment - and you start to decline. -Andy Grove

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Getting Employee Buy-In for Your #CX Transformation

Image courtesy of Todd Quakenbush/Unsplash
What tools can you use to facilitate employee buy-in for your customer experience improvement efforts?

A couple weeks ago, I hosted a webinar with ZenDesk on the seven steps to customer experience heaven. A question posed by one of the audience members was about what tools are available to facilitate employee buy-in for your customer experience initiative.

I think this is a great question because, as you know by now, the employee experience drives the customer experience. Employees who are happy in their roles with the company will translate that happiness into delivering a great experience for customers. How do they get to that point? There are several factors/tools, no doubt, not the least of which is hiring the right people. Once you've got the right people on staff, what tools can you use to ensure they are on board with delivering a great customer experience?

I knew I had written several blog posts that could easily answer the question. Here are my recommendations for tools to gain employee buy-in.

1. Provide a clear line of sight for employees to the target: customers. When employees know how their contributions matter, when they know how what they do impacts the customer experience, that makes all the difference in the world. In this post, I provide 6 Tools to Create a Clear Line of Sight for Employees. If you don't read another post I recommend here, this one will provide you with the tools you need to get employee buy-in.

2. Use one of the most powerful customer experience training tools at your disposal: the customer journey map. It provides clarity in a lot of ways, including those mentioned in #1. Journey maps help the organization be more customer-focused and customer-centric, understand the customer and his interactions with your organization, align around a common cause, speak a universal language (customer), break down silos, achieve a single view of the customer, and improve the customer experience. In this post, I share details about Your Most Important #CX Training Tool.

3. Involve employees in customer experience design and improvement rather than imposing or forcing it on them. Here’s a post I wrote about Kotter’s change management model that might give you some additional ideas: 8 Steps for Customer Experience Change Management.

4. Empower employees to deliver the experience you expect them to deliver. In this post, I share 11 ideas on how Employee Empowerment involves employees rather than alienates them. When we unleash employee empowerment, we set employees on the path to deliver the experience you expect them to deliver.

5. And finally, as I already alluded to, the employee experience itself is important. Putting employees first and ensuring they have a great experience will translate to a great customer and pay returns in spades. In my post Does "Employees More First" Disparage Customers?, I share the results of putting employees more first and prescribe some ways to ensure they have a great experience.

If you've got other tips or suggestions, please share them in the comments. You probably uncovered the most important tool of all in #1: communication.

Research indicates that employees have three prime needs: Interesting work, recognition for doing a good job, and being let in on things that are going on in the company. -Zig Ziglar

Friday, October 17, 2014

Are You Beating a Dead Snake?

Image courtesy of Bright Vibes
I originally wrote today's post for EQ List on August 10, 2014.

I recently wrote a post called Time to Kill a Customer Experience Snake, in which I outlined Jim Barksdale's Three Rules of Business and how they relate to improving the customer experience. His rules tell us how to kill a snake, metaphorically.

What Are Snakes?

Jim referred to problems start-ups or small businesses may encounter as they grow the business or strive for success as snakes. In your organization, those problems might be things like an idea, a project, a person, your org structure, operational inefficiencies, rules and policies that are outdated, technology that no longer meets employee or customer needs, and more.

One of his rules is: Don’t go back and play with dead snakes. This is an important one to follow, as oftentimes people waste too much time dwelling on decisions that have already been made. Why is this happening? Let’s take a look at some questions you might want to ask yourself.

Are You Beating a Dead Snake?
There’s no time to constantly go back and revisit the decision or to insist that the problem isn’t resolved; are you doing that? If you don’t agree with the decision – and you won’t always agree – let it go and move on. Choose your battles; this wasn’t the one to fight.

But How Do We Know We Killed the Right Snake?
How do I get over it? How can I move on, knowing that we did the right thing, even if I don’t think we did? Unfortunately, we don’t always do the right thing or kill the right snake, but sometimes we just have to keep moving forward. To ensure the right snake is killed, always do your homework. Conduct a root cause analysis; this will guarantee the problem, not just a symptom, was eradicated.

Was It a Pet Snake or a Venomous One?
This might be a reason some people can’t move on. Is the snake that’s been killed something that you glommed onto, a process you designed, a policy you felt was necessary or stood behind? Or was it something more than that? Something that just really made the workplace toxic and made everyone unproductive? Look at the big picture. Even if it was a pet snake to begin with, maybe you found out later it was actually venomous.

Why Can’t I Beat a Dead Snake?
Once it’s dead, you just can’t bring a snake back to life. So why waste your time? You may want to revive interest in the topic, issue, process, etc. But then what happens? We lose focus and/or focus on the wrong thing. It’s unproductive, and we waste too much time and energy on that misplaced focus. Don’t make getting rid of the snake – or continuously beating the dead snake – a bigger issue than the snake itself.

Don’t lose focus by constantly going back to it or trying to resuscitate it – stay focused on what matters most. Jim Barksdale also said: The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. Placing our focus on things that no longer matter keeps us away from the main thing.

What are your company's snakes? And what rules does your company have in place to kill them? Or do you just step around them to avoid their bite?

Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things. -Peter Drucker

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Metrics to Map Your Customer Experience Success

Image courtesy of Marianna Gomes
What are your customer experience success metrics? And how do they differ from your VoC metrics?

Last Tuesday, we celebrated the second annual CX Day, a day to celebrate both customers and the professionals who work tirelessly to improve the customer experience.

I hosted two Google Hangouts for CX Day, the first of which I blogged about last week. In today's post, I share the second Hangout, with content equally as insightful as the first.

Panelists for this Hangout included Erich Dietz (VP of Business Development, InMoment), Tabitha Dunn (Group Director, Customer Insights, Citrix), and Lynn Hunsaker (Head of Customer Experience Optimization, ClearAction). Unfortunately, we lost Lynn early on due to technical issues, but Erich and Tabitha did a great job of discussing the topic at hand: Metrics to Map Your Customer Experience Success. A little background on the topic, from the CX Day site:

Ability to drive executive support and engagement in customer experience metrics and results can be challenging. It requires thoughtful selection and testing of leading and lagging indicators, and translation of data into clear communication of results, progress, and actions. In this Hangout we'll discuss how to approach customer experience metrics in a manner similar to other business problems: find root causes, create full solutions, test, and learn.

The format of the discussion was again to cover some "starter" topics for those who are early in the stages of their customer experience journey and needed some basic "how-tos" to get started,  followed by some more advanced questions for those who are well underway and might want to energize their current efforts. The questions I posed were:

Starting Out in CX Progress Metrics
What's the difference between voice-of-the-customer metrics and measuring your organization's impact on VoC?
What kinds of metrics are typical for each?
How can a manager get started in identifying meaningful metrics to manage CX progress?
How can you test different metrics and survey questions to find the right ones for your industry and customers?

Energizing Your CX Progress Metrics
How can it make a difference to have a plan-to-act before asking customers a question?
How can you get your stakeholders involved in identifying and acting on the root cause of CX issues?
What are some ways to pull together other metrics besides customer effort, VoC, and retention to build the full picture of CX progress?
What are some ways to tie financial results to CX metrics and CX management metrics?

While the Hangout lasted 30 minutes, we probably could've talked for at least another 30 minutes. Erich and Tabitha were able to answer most of the questions before we ran out of time.

I think this is an important discussion, i.e., understanding the difference between VoC metrics and success metrics - and identifying those that are right for your business. The importance of tying VoC metrics to business outcomes cannot be expressed strongly enough, which likely means your success metrics will be a result of that linkage.

Measure what is measurable and make measurable what is not so. -Galileo

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Linking CX Strategy to Corporate Strategy & Brand Values

Image courtesy of joey.ganoza
How do you link your customer experience strategy with your corporate strategy?

As many of you know, earlier this week we celebrated the second annual CX Day, a day to celebrate both customers and the professionals who work tirelessly to improve the customer experience.

I helped kick off the celebrations by hosting a panel of customer experience experts in the first Google Hangout of the day for Australia. Panelists included Cyrus Allen (Partner, Strativity Group), Brian Andrews (consultant and formerly with Intuit), and Karyn Furstmann (VP of Customer Experience, Safeco Insurance).

The discussion was focused on linking customer experience strategy to corporate strategy and brand values, and there are some great nuggets in this Hangout that I thought would be valuable to share here, in case you missed it.

First, a little background on the topic, CX Strategy, which is one of the six pillars of customer experience, as defined by CXPA. From the CXDay site:

A critical component of business success is the development of a customer experience strategy that articulates a clear vision of the experience that a company seeks to create in support of the company's brand values, including its direct linkage to CX activities, resources, and investments.

With that, the format of the discussion was to cover some "starter" topics for those who are early in the stages of their customer experience journey and needed some basic "how-tos" to get started,  followed by some more advanced questions for those who are well underway and might want to energize their current efforts. The questions I posed were:

Starting Out with Your CX Strategy
How do you develop a customer experience strategy?
What are the components of a solid strategy?
Who defines the intended customer experience?
How do we ensure that it supports and aligns with the brand values?

Energizing Your CX Strategy
How do we get the organization to support the strategy?
What does success look like? How do we measure it?
What does that direct linkage entail? To which activities, resources, and investments?

 I hope you enjoyed the discussion. Share your thoughts in the comments below.

However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results. -Winston Churchill