Thursday, July 30, 2015

What is the #CX End Game?

Image courtesy of picturetakingone
I originally wrote today's post for DuSentio; it appeared on their blog on March 23, 2015.

I won't take the sports analogy very far, but what is the CX end game? Why should companies be focusing on customer experience?

That seems like a crazy question to ask in 2015, yet there are still so many CX professionals who are struggling to convince their executives of the importance of committing resources to improving the customer experience. It's sad, really. After all, we are all customers. Do we like being treated the way we're treated when we interact with the companies we buy from? That thought alone should be a motivator!

I've written in the past about different ways (e.g., stakeholder interviews, quick wins, business case, journey mapping, customer immersion programs, etc.) to get executive commitment, ways that ensure that we appeal to both the emotional and the rational sides of their brains, i.e., we know they focus on the bottom line, but we also know that they are human and have empathy buried deep within. Somewhere.

Today, I'd like to focus on the rational (numbers) side and suggest that ROI doesn't always come immediately in the form of higher revenue or higher profits. O, ultimately, that will be the case, but sometimes the benefits of focusing on the customer and his experience and reaping the subsequent financial returns are a bit more indirect but just as impactful.

How so? Well, I'll start with answering the question: "Why should companies be focusing on the customer experience?" My response is...  to design an experience that creates raving fans: those who will come back again and again and recommend your products to friends and family.

The purpose of a business is to nurture and to create customers. But I believe they ought to go one step further and create raving fans. Why? There are a lot of reasons.

Raving fans...
  • want to see the brand succeed and grow
  • are happy to provide feedback, good or bad, to ensure that happens
  • are less price sensitive and can withstand price increases
  • choose your brand over the competition
  • can't live without the brand, accept no substitutes
  • are advocates; no, stronger: they are evangelists, happy to spread the word about your brand
  • wear your brand, and want to show that they are part of something bigger than themselves. Tattoos, anyone? Have a number (12)?
  • openly recruit new members to the community
  • care about each other, want to help each other
  • feel like they belong to something bigger than themselves (think "tribe")
  • require less support because they are more familiar with your products
  • are more likely to be using several of your products/services, not just one
  • wait in line - long lines, early morning lines - to buy your products
  • elevate your brand, earning favorable placement in stores and more
So the next time you're asked about proving the ROI of focusing on the customer or the customer experience, mention some of these things.
The point? Sometimes ROI isn't an immediate financial benefit or a number on a financial document; sometimes ROI is a little softer than that. Don't get me wrong. As you can see, there are tangible benefits.

Raving fans save you time and money. They don't weigh down your resources, i.e., they can help themselves - and others, for that matter.  And they sell for you, helping you save on marketing and advertising dollars.

Raving fans are pretty powerful. They give you an advantage over your competition. These customers are patient and buy from you regardless of the wait, the pains, the pressures, whatever. They want your products!

Need some examples of brands with raving fans? Think: Apple, Harley-Davidson, Seattle Seahawks.

How do you create raving fans? Design an experience that's personal, remarkable, memorable, emotional, and consistent. It starts with getting the basics right. What are the basics? Listen. Ask your customers. They'll be happy to tell you.

Providing a great customer experience means that customers come to expect great things from you; and that's a good thing! It means you don't have to spend months and dollars figuring out how to position, place, or promote your product. You can focus more on the product and on the experience instead. Consistently providing a great experience for your customers/fans yields a win-win for everyone in the long run.

What's the end game? Delivering a great customer experience that has you - and your executives - singing, "Customer Experience IS the new marketing without marketing!"

Your customers are only satisfied because their expectations are so low and because no one else is doing better. Just having satisfied customers isn't good enough anymore. If you really want a booming business, you have to create Raving Fans. -Ken Blanchard

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

CX Journey™ Musings: Skill Trumps Passion (or Does It?)

Image courtesy of juhansonin
When making career decisions, are you a believer in the "follow your passion" mantra or are you on team "be so good they can't ignore you?"

I saw the image to the left, which is a sketch/draft from Involution Studios' Field Guide, and realized I hadn't ever really thought about it that way, that one trumped the other. We always talk more about attitude trumping skills when it comes to hiring the right people - passion never seems to be brought into that equation.

So let's consider this. Which comes first, passion or the thing you did that you then became passionate about? Is matching your work life to something that you're interested in a precursor to a satisfying career? Should it be?

Is "follow your passion" good career advice or not? Is it possible to follow your passion? Does it remain your passion once it becomes the thing you have to do every day in order to pay the bills?

In his book So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love, Cal Newport's message is that you don’t have to love something to be - or to get - good at it; as a matter of fact, sometimes getting good at it might even help you like (or love) it.

In the video below, he outlines his thoughts on this topic and gives a couple of examples to make his point. Steve Jobs gets mentioned once or twice, as well. What do you think? Was Steve passionate about building great products or technology when he started out? Cal's take on this is interesting, and his advice is that, if you want a meaningful career, look to Steve Jobs and do what he did, not what he said (in his Stanford graduation speech in 2005).

Newport takes on the skills side of the argument by saying that you should start by getting really good at something; build up a rare and valuable skill to build a satisfying career. This rare and valuable skill gives you actual value in the marketplace, which can then be used to get the career and the work life you desire. Definitely a different way to look at things.

Confucius say: Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.
Steve Martin said: Be so good they can't ignore you.

What do you say?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Journey Maps: "Binding Agent" for Mergers and Acquisitions

Image courtesy of Caston Corporate
Today's post is a modified version of a post I originally published on Touchpoint Dashboard's blog on February 19, 2015.

Has your company made an acquisition, been acquired, or merged with another company? Did you know that journey maps can help you design, redesign, and manage both customer and employee experiences through these challenging times?

Let's face it: mergers and acquisitions are hard for everyone living through them, employees and customers alike. Sometimes mergers or acquisitions are made with the assumption that the resultant company will be better for customers and employees. Unfortunately, that's not always true. And if it is, it certainly doesn't happen immediately or without a diligent effort to make it so. In reality, companies spend years integrating systems, data, people, and more - and might even make additional acquisitions before the previous one is completely integrated. This can spell "nightmare" for customers. And for employees.

I've written previously about the importance of continuing to listen to customers and employees during this time of change; if there's ever a time to listen and stay in tune with customers and employees, this is it!

But how can journey maps help with "easing" and integrating acquisitions?

For starters, you can map the current state (prior to the merger or acquisition) for customers and for employees of both organizations to identify what's going well today and what's not. Just because you're going through this time of change doesn't mean you need to set aside your customer experience management efforts. (Assume the same for the employee experience for the rest of this post.) As a matter of fact, those efforts are more crucial now than ever.

Take a look at the current state maps for both companies and uncover:
  • Where is the customer experience breaking down? Where is it going well?
  • Which channels are under-performing? Which are on point?
  • Where are we already listening to customers? Where do we need to do a better job of listening?
  • What can we learn from the other company's customer experience?
  • Are there things happening in the acquired company that the acquirer can benefit from? or vice versa?
  • Are there experience gaps that one company can fill for the other?
Once you've done your homework on the current state, you'll want to consider what the desired future state (with both companies - and their products and customers - combined) looks like in order to identify further gaps, areas for improvement, and more. Be sure to include the customer perspective and his voice throughout this entire process.

Oftentimes the journey mapping exercise is more important than the maps themselves. The exercise keeps the customer front and center and keeps the organization talking about and aware of, at all times, what the customer is thinking and feeling about the new company.

Continuing to focus on the customer experience during times of change lets customers know they are still at the center of the business. Staying the course and not taking your eye off the customer experience during transitional times is huge. Companies in this position must...
  • Focus on the journey, not just on touchpoints
  • Take a holistic view of the customer experience, taking into account both companies
  • Listen to customers' concerns during the transition
  • Monitor the impact of the change on customers throughout the transition
  • Gauge the impact on the marketplace, in general
  • Understand customers' needs
  • Use the maps as a "binding agent" to bring the organizations together
  • Identify emerging trends, problems, etc.
  • Ensure no one or nothing falls through the cracks
Benefits or outcomes for the business include:
  • Reduced churn/saved customers
  • Strengthened relationships
  • Possible new business from existing customers
  • Process improvements
  • New features/product enhancements
  • Subsequent messaging to the marketplace about the transition (through the eyes of customers)
  • Recommendations or referrals from existing customers
The resultant company can be better for customers, as long as there is a concerted effort to make certain that is the ultimate outcome.

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance. -Alan Watts

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Six Rules for Smart Simplicity and Employee Engagement

Image courtesy of BeachBumBlu
I originally wrote today's post for Intradiem. It appeared on their blog on February 19, 2015.

Is this the secret to employee engagement?

I recently came across a TED Talk by Yves Morieux of Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and wondered if within it lies not only the answer to employee disengagement but perhaps the solution to helping companies do their part in the engagement equation. In his talk, he poses a question, a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation, something along the lines of: Does being less engaged make employees less productive... or vice versa, are they disengaged because they have so much more pressure to produce more? It's an interesting talk, where he dives into how complex businesses have become - including an extreme focus on KPIs that, in the end, have little bearing on the business - and how employees have to compensate with their own individual efforts for the complexities and the lack of cooperation within an organization.

I did some research to find out more, to find out if this theory of the complexity of organizations is really a thing. And according to BCG, it is. They created an index of complicatedness, for which they surveyed over 100 listed companies in the U.S. and Europe. They found that, over the last 15 years, the number of procedures, vertical layers, interface structures, coordination bodies, and decision approvals needed increased for these companies 50-350%, with an average increase of 6.7% over the last 50 years. Wow! We've really made things harder for ourselves. Seems like when people say, "Work/life was so much easier 50 years ago," perhaps they're on to something.

They found that, in the most-complicated companies, managers spend 40% of their time writing reports and 30-60% of time in meetings, leaving very little time for actual people management. And we can only extrapolate what that leads to: misguided efforts and lack of career development, to name a few things. Employees in these complicated organizations are three times more likely to be disengaged - and work satisfaction and productivity are much lower - than those in the other companies!

Something's got to give. We need a solution...

Yves and his colleagues at BCG created this concept of "smart simplicity" to help overcome the complexities of organizations and the resultant employee experience/disengagement. Smart simplicity is all about creating an environment where: employees can work with one another to develop creative solutions to complex challenges. This supposedly reduces structural and procedural complicatedness and allows companies to become smarter and more streamlined - with employee engagement also being an outcome.

Smart simplicity has six rules.

1. Know what your colleagues do. Seems like a no-brainer, doesn't it? But I've been there. I've worked with and for people who have no idea what I do (or what the company really does, sadly).

BCG states: To respond to complexity intelligently, people have to really understand each other’s work: the goals and challenges others have to meet, the resources they can draw on, and the constraints under which they operate. People can’t find this kind of information in formal job descriptions; they can learn it only by observing and interacting.

The manager’s job is to make sure that such learning takes place. Without this shared understanding, people will blame problems on other people’s lack of intelligence or skills, not on the resources and constraints of the organization

Absent clear guidance and directives, people act in a way that protects their own interests. Leaders must understand that and adapt the culture to make sure all interests are in alignment with what the company is trying to achieve.

2. Reinforce the integrators. Based on how Yves describes integrators, I assume we can equate them to cross-functional leaders and teams.

BCG states: Conflicts between front and back offices are often inherent. Back offices typically need to standardize processes and work, and front offices have to accommodate the needs of individual customers.

A common organizational response is to create some sort of coordinating unit—a middle office. But that just turns one problem into two: between the back and middle offices, and between the middle and front offices. The same thing happens vertically in organizations: Coordination problems between the corporate center and country operations trigger the creation of regional layers in between. Another common solution is to impose a coordinating procedure like computerized job requests.

A better response is to empower line individuals—or groups—to play that integrative role. In almost any unit you will find one or two managers—often from a particular function—who already interact with multiple stakeholders (customers as well as other functions). If you’ve followed the first rule and observed people at work, it will probably be fairly obvious to you who these individuals or groups are. These people can act as integrators, helping teams obtain from others the cooperation needed to deliver more value.

Yves suggests reinforcing their power by increasing their responsibilities, giving them more authority, and removing rules. He believes the bigger the company, the bigger the need for for integrators, which equates to needing fewer rules. This is clearly counter-intuitive, and most people really believe the opposite to be true.

3. Increase the total quantity of power. Do so by empowering everyone to use their best judgment.

BCG states: Usually, the people with the least power in an organization shoulder most of the burden of cooperation and get the least credit. When they realize this, they often withdraw from cooperation and hide in their silos. Companies that want to prevent this and increase cooperation need to give these people more power so that they can take the risk of moving out of isolation, trusting others, showing initiative, and being transparent about performance.

However, firms have to do this without taking power away from others in the system. The answer is to create new power bases, by giving individuals new responsibilities for issues that matter to others and to the firm’s performance

I would equate this to employee ownership. From the employee perspective, they think and act like they own the business. It's about being passionate about what they do, not standing at the sidelines waiting to be spoon-fed; it's about taking the horse by the reins and running with the directive (the brand promise), being accountable for their roles in the execution of the customer experience and in the success of the business, working together with others who are just as passionate and who share a common goal, and feeling like they are a part of something bigger, something they want to see grow, flourish, and succeed.

4. Extend the shadow of the future. Help employees understand the impact of their work and their decisions by designing feedback loops that expose them to the consequences of their actions in a more timely manner.

BCG states: The longer it takes for the consequences of a decision to take effect, the more difficult it is to hold a decision maker accountable. Many who are involved at the launch of a three-year project will no longer be around when it’s completed—they will have been moved to another job or location, or promoted. They won’t be affected by the consequences of the actions they take, the trade-offs they make, or how well they cooperate. People are more likely to feel the shadow of the future if you bring the future closer.

One of the basic tenets, I believe, of employee engagement is to make sure employees understand both that their contributions are valued as well as how they matter, i.e., what impact they have on the business. Especially when it comes to CX strategies and process improvements (that yield a better customer experience), these projects often take an extended period of time to design, develop, and execute. Regularly reinforcing how their work matters to the big picture will have positive effects on engaging employees.

5. Increase reciprocity. Remove the buffers that make us self-sufficient, and then cooperation ensues. It forces people to work together. And yes, this is a good thing. I think this ties in well with Rule #1, since, absent clear directives, we do what we need to do to protect our own interests, hence feel we are self-sufficient. If we know what our colleagues do, there's a better chance to increase reciprocity (teamwork).

BCG states: A good way to spur productive cooperation is to expand the responsibilities of integrators beyond activities over which they have direct control. Making their goals richer and more complex will drive them to resolve trade-offs rather than avoid them. But if you measure people only on what they can control, they will shy away from helping with many other problems you need their input on.

As you spread responsibility for achieving outcomes, don’t feel you have to give people more resources to go with it. It’s actually often better to take resources away

It's an interesting concept. Once you take those resources away, people are more likely to rely on each other, collaborate, and work together.

6. Reward those who cooperate. This is an interesting one. In talking about employee engagement, we always say that rewards and recognition are important to the employee. But according to Yves, it's more about blaming those who don't cooperate. He cites a quote from Jorgen Vig Knudstorp, the CEO of the Lego Group: Blame is not for failure but for failing to help or ask for help.

I never actually thought of it that way, but it certainly makes sense.

Yves states: If people are afraid to fail, they will hide problems from you and your peers. Reward people who surface problems - and punish those who don’t come together to help solve them.

These rules really present an interesting approach to employee engagement. Employees are empowered, work together, know how their contributions matter, and are allowed to take risks and fail - all in an environment where complexities, in general, have been removed. Sign me up!

Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art. -Frederic Chopin

Friday, July 17, 2015

CX Journey™ Musings: Who Are Your Employees Playing For?

Image courtesy of Terasa2010
Employee passion drives results.

That's the title of a blog post I wrote back in 2012. Without question, that statement still holds true today.

When employees have a real sense of pride in their work, when they take ownership in what they do, the business benefits and thrives. When employees think and act like they own the business, when they're passionate about what they do and for whom they are doing it, and - especially - when they work together toward a common goal, there can only be positive outcomes.

I saw a video recently in which Dodgers' baseball legend Tommy Lasorda said: Play for the name on the front of the jersey, not the one on the back. (Be sure to watch the video - it's quite inspirational.)

That got me thinking about employee passion, employee engagement, and teamwork - and the resultant business implications. It might seem like an odd question (maybe not), but do employees primarily focus on themselves and their own career success or are they also focused on the success of the business? How do we get them to play for the name on the front of the jersey, not (just) for the one on the back? How do we get them to work together for a common cause?
Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results. -Andrew Carnegie
Where to start? It's important to ensure we have the right employees on the team. How do you know you have the right people on the team? There are a variety of factors, but consider this: employees want to work for companies with which they are aligned. Consider that a hiring criterion because that's where passion comes in. How can you be passionate about doing something or being a part of something or driving success for something you don't care about or that doesn't fit your values, purpose, etc.? Alignment is huge.

Next, encourage creativity, collaboration, and teamwork. I think this quote from author Vince Pfaff says it well: To promote cooperation and teamwork, remember, people tend to resist that which is forced upon them. People tend to support that which they helped create.

Working together as a team - for the team - employees can build or achieve something better than a single mind alone can. Especially when you've got a group of people who are all passionate about the same thing, all aligned with the organization's values and purpose, all excited to be a part of something bigger than themselves. And all ready to do whatever it takes to make that "something bigger" successful.

In order to work together, they all need to be playing from the same playbook, with a clear vision and a solid definition of roles. A couple months ago, I wrote about how to get everyone on the same page; in that post, I listed some great tools to get you started. Absent that (everyone on the same page), people will work and act in ways that protect their own interests. (One thing to note: in teamwork, not only does everyone have to be on the same page but also carry their own weight; this is often the thing that frustrates people most about working with a team.)

What's the track record at your company? Do you feel like most (or all) employees are playing for the name on the front of the jersey?

Individual commitment to a group effort - that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work. -Vince Lombardi