Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Getting Everyone on the Same #CX Page

Image courtesy of sandy_water
How do we ensure that everyone in the organization is on the same page when it comes to customer experience?

My latest post has me thinking about a quote I stumbled upon the other day from Edmund Wilson:  

No two persons ever read the same book.

Wow! Isn't that the truth. 

Think about books you've read; think about books you've discussed, either back in school or with friends or colleagues. I'm pretty sure you all came away with different lessons, interpretations, and favorite characters. You probably loved it, while someone else hated it. You might have been bored with it after two chapters, while others totally related to it. Never mind books... think about conversations you've had. Were they all interpreted the same way by every party involved?

How does this apply to customer experience?

It got me thinking about customer-centricity and getting the organization focused on the customer. How do we get everyone on the same page? How do we ensure that everyone is reading the same book?

A few tools you can use within your organization include:

Employee CX assessment: I wrote about this last month. Use it to find out what do employees know about the customer and the customer experience? Then use the results to better frame our training efforts and to provide other (the right) tools needed to ensure employees have a clear line of sight to customers and are equipped to deliver the experience we need (and customers want) them to deliver.

CX Vision: Your customer experience vision will be inspirational and aspirational; it will outline what you see as the future state of the customer experience. It will briefly describe the experience you plan to deliver. And it will serve as a guide to help choose future courses of action. It should align with your corporate vision.

Corporate Vision: An inspirational and aspirational statement, your vision not only outlines what the company is trying to achieve near-term and long-term but also guides decision-making processes and your subsequent, resultant course of action. Presumably, your vision will (a) draw the line between what you're doing and for whom you're doing it and (b) create alignment within the organization.

Brand Promise: A brand promise is the expectation you set with your customers; it's a promise you make to your customers. Everything you and your employees do should reflect this promise. Consistently. It’s a combination of the brand purpose and the reality of what the brand can deliver. In most cases, defines the benefits a customer can expect to receive when experiencing your brand at every touch point.

Core Values: Your core values are guiding principles for your employees; they outline which behaviors and actions are right and which are wrong, both for your employees and toward your customers. Everything you do must be aligned with your values, and they should be integrated into everything you do.

Purpose: It's your reason for being, your Why. Customers buy from brands with which they align; similarly, employees want to work for companies with which they are aligned. Make sure everyone in the organization understands your Why.

Journey Maps: A journey map is the ultimate tool to help everyone understand the customer and his experience, to walk in his shoes. Journey maps also connect employees to how they contribute to - and impact - the customer experience.

Personas: Personas help put the experience in the customer’s perspective and make you think about the customer as a “real human.” They help everyone understand the customer and keep people from forming their own opinions about who the customer really is.

What other tools have you used to get everyone on the same page when it comes to customer experience?

If you feel like you're not on the same page as me, maybe it's time to change the story. - Unknown

Friday, May 22, 2015

CX Journey™ Musings: Building Your #CX Cathedral

Image courtesy of chrisinphilly5448
In your CX work, do you focus on the big picture or just on the task at hand?

At the CXPA Insight Exchange in San Diego a couple weeks ago, the keynote speaker for the first day of the event was Derrick Hall, President and CEO of the Arizona Diamondbacks. I wasn't really sure what to expect; was this going to be  another Moneyball-type speech? Nope. It was far from that! He made us laugh, and he made us cry. He was a great storyteller and quite inspirational.

 One of the stories he told was worthy of sharing because I think it makes such a great point. It reminds us of a trap that I think many companies fall into: "small-picture thinking" or "in-the-moment thinking." They get so lost in what they're doing that they forget why they're doing it.

Here's the story...

A man came upon a construction site where three people were working.  He asked the first worker, “What are you doing?” and the man replied: “I'm laying bricks.” He asked the second worker, “What are you doing?” The man said: “I'm building a wall.” As he approached the third, he heard him humming a tune as he worked and asked, “What are you doing?” The man stood up, looked at the sky, and smiled, “I'm building a cathedral.”

Sometimes we get so focused on the tasks that we're doing, all the little tactical things, that we forget about the big picture, what it's all for. What's the outcome? What are we trying to achieve overall?

That story reminded me of a couple of quotes:

People don't want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole. -Theodore Levitt

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses. -Henry Ford

I think you can look at the bricklayer story from two different angles:

1. The customer perspective: Does the customer really know what he needs? It's less about what he needs than it is about what job he is trying to do. To improve the experience, to meet customer expectations, we must first understand what the customer is trying to achieve (He's trying to make a quarter-inch hole.). Then and only then can we design and deliver a better solution.

2. The company perspective: As we go about developing and executing on our customer experience strategies, we need to remember the big picture. While we're fixing processes and touchpoints here and there, we must remember to connect that to the over-arching objectives: to create and nurture customers and to deliver a great experience at every touchpoint along the journey, for the life of the relationship.

What's your take on the story? Is this an issue in your company? How do you inspire big-picture thinking in your company?

The trick to forgetting the big picture is to look at everything close-up. The shortcut to closing a door is to bury yourself in the details. -Chuck Palahniuk

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Making Sense of Customer Words

Image courtesy of Pierre Metivier
I originally wrote today's post for Confirmit in May 2013. I've made some modifications.

How do you make sense of your customers' words?

There are not only a ton of different customer listening posts these days, but the types of customer data are equally as varied and voluminous. Data come in all different shapes and sizes: structured, unstructured, solicited, unsolicited…oh my! A lot is written about survey data and analyzing structured quantitative data, but let’s take a look at unstructured data.

What is unstructured data?

According to Wikipedia, unstructured data is: information that either does not have a pre-defined data model or is not organized in a pre-defined manner. Unstructured information is typically text-heavy, but may contain data such as dates, numbers, and facts as well. This results in irregularities and ambiguities that make it difficult to understand using traditional programs as compared to data stored in fielded form in databases or annotated (semantically tagged) in documents.

Techopedia puts it into simpler terms: Unstructured data represents any data that does not have a recognizable structure. It is unorganized and raw and can be non-textual or textual.

We know this much: unstructured data comes from a variety of sources, i.e., customer feedback (surveys, etc.), employee feedback about their own experience or about the customer experience, call center interactions, account manager conversations, blogs, tweets, shares, online reviews, medical records, books, and more.

You have a ton of great data from, and about, your customers, but how do you make sense of it all? How do you glean insights from all of the unstructured data that you’ve amassed?

The answer: get yourself a great text mining or text analytics tool. In its simplest form, text analytics tools turn your qualitative data into quantitative data, thereby allowing you to use that data for cross-tabbing, filtering, and a variety of other analytical approaches. Text analytics tools are not a manual approach to making sense of the data; they take a machine approach to categorizing comments and identifying sentiment of customer comments and other unstructured textual data.

I think it's pretty fair to say that I’ve simplified the definition and that there’s much more to it than that.

Other than the obvious "making sense of something that doesn't make sense" reason, why else use text analysis tools?
  1. You can shorten your surveys by asking open-ended questions, knowing that you’ll have some systematic (and not manual) way to transform and analyze the data.
  2. The trade-off to shortening surveys is that you get more robust feedback in the respondent’s own words, rather than in words that you selected.
  3. Once open-ended data is categorized, it can then be used for deeper analysis with your existing quantitative data.
  4. When you’re analyzing call center or social media conversations, for example, you may identify current or emerging issues long before they would have ever been uncovered otherwise.
  5. Most importantly, on a survey, asking follow-up, open-ended questions is necessary to understanding why something happened and to understand in the customer's voice what would make the experience better for him. We need to continue to ask these open-ended questions, but we need a more simplistic and automated way to analyze those responses.
There's a caveat and a balance with all of these. There really is nothing like reading verbatims to get the tone, the pain, the delight, the rich detail of the experience. I would strongly advise continuing to do that. But I also know that when there are thousands of data points, that's difficult to do.

So, let me shift to surveys for the moment and say, just because you have a way of analyzing and categorizing your qualitative data doesn’t mean you can ask more open-ended questions on a survey. You still need to be conservative with your approach here, and more importantly, ask direct questions that elicit direct responses, i.e., responses that actually tell you what you need to know rather than just vagaries and ambiguous responses. The “garbage in-garbage out” rule still applies.

The words. Why did they have to exist? Without them, there wouldn't be any of this. -Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

Friday, May 15, 2015

CX Journey™ Musings: Providing a Human Experience

Image courtesy of chrisinphilly5448
Have you ever had an idea that needs a little boost to get to fruition?

Every once in a while, I get some random thoughts and ideas or some things that I question or ponder - and may not necessarily have enough content to write a full post or enough time to develop the concept. I've jotted down a bunch of these thoughts and haven't done anything with them. Time to throw them out into the universe! Introducing CX Journey™ Musings.

What are musings? According to Google, they are a period of reflection or thought. That's a good way to sum up what these CX Journey Musings will be: not a fully-developed post but a piece that introduces a thought that needs to be developed or that I hope inspires you to reflect, pause, and add your thoughts.

I'm starting with something that came up during a workshop I facilitated a few weeks ago. I actually do have a post started and saved in my Drafts folder on this very topic that I'll finish and publish in the near future, but I wanted to get some thoughts out there in the meantime.

The Topic
Aren't we all customers? Aren't we all employees? Aren't we all human?

It seems that companies are so focused on creating and enforcing policies and procedures, making money, appeasing shareholders, and tripping over themselves to do all of the above that they forget that not only are we in this for customers but that we are also all customers and employees. We are all human.

If you respect the customer as a human being and truly honor their right to be treated fairly and honestly, everything else is much easier. -Doug Smith

Why can't we do right by ourselves? What does it mean to provide a human experience? How do we define that?

Why can't we use that fact - that we are all customers, employees, human - to design and to deliver an experience that makes us all feel good? I suppose the problem is that everyone defines "what makes them feel good" differently. But, I can guarantee you that in no way, shape, or form does this customer service experience (click link to see what I'm talking about) make anyone feel good.

We don't technically interact with companies when we call for support, get trained, have a product installed, or shop in a store. So should we stop blaming "companies?" We interact with people. People buy from people. People leave managers not companies. We trust recommendations from family and friends over advertising. Should we start pointing fingers at people when the experience falls down? Who are those people?

And as employees, we should ask ourselves questions like:
  • How do we want to feel when we shop and interact?
  • How do we want to be treated as a customer? 
  • Would my customers appreciate that?
  • Do I treat my customers that way?
  • How do we want to feel when we go to work every day?
  • How do we want to be treated as an employee?
  • Do I treat my staff that way?
I suppose we ought to consider both the Golden Rule and the Platinum Rule. How should people treat people?

Maybe it goes beyond those rules to just simply doing what's right. But does that mean we need to rely on common sense? And how common is common sense? Maybe that's the problem.

The main thing in life is not to be afraid of being human. -Aaron Carter

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Storytelling is a Trojan Horse for #CX Learning

Image courtesy of dkuropatwa
I originally wrote today's post for Intradiem. It appeared on their blog on November 20, 2014.

What is storytelling, and why is it an important tool to have in your CX Toolbox?

In a post I wrote several months ago, I outlined the 5 Rules for Turning Data into Action for a Better Customer Experience: Centralize, Analyze, Socialize, Strategize, and Operationalize. I have since pulled out details from Analyze and Socialize to create a sixth rule:  Synthesize (or Contextualize).

What does that mean?

Synthesize is really the opposite of analyze. Once data have been broken down and analyzed for better understanding, they are most useful for the end user when they are transformed into insights; those insights are best ingested/digested in the form of a story. That means putting all the pieces of the analysis together to tell a story, putting them into context for those who need to act on it - a story that can be easily understood and translated into a better customer experience. Here’s where we tell the audience what a great experience looks like.

The example I like to give is one of a client of mine that was offering repair service in their stores. We listened to customers about the experience and uncovered that there are three activities that had to happen for the customer to leave completely satisfied and likely to recommend (a Promoter). We spun those details into a story for the employees so that they could walk in the customer’s shoes, too, to understand what that experience had to be like. The service they provided improved almost immediately. Employees were able to contextualize/visualize what a great experience looked like. So, rather than using metrics and charts to tell employees what customers want, we spun a story for better understanding

Let me take a few steps back and answer some basic questions about storytelling.

What is storytelling?
Storytelling is a communication tool and a teaching tool. It's a Trojan horse for learning. You can tell stories, and people will listen; they won't even know that they're (supposed to be) learning! Stories allow you to deliver a message in a way that engages people, inspires them, and helps them understand a desired or intended outcome as a result of a series of steps or actions taken.

Why use storytelling in your customer experience management strategy?
Quite simply, storytelling is a tool to gain buy-in, whether it's from executives or from the frontline. Storytelling can facilitate delivering an impact from both the emotional and the rational perspective, capturing both the hearts and minds of the intended audience.

I believe that bombarding the frontline with charts, graphs, metrics, and bullet points is not the way to teach them or to inspire them to deliver a great customer experience. Setting an example or being a role model is probably the best way to teach; absent that, when we tell a story about the intended customer experience, it paints a picture of what is expected; we end up taking employees on a journey, the customer's journey. And it humanizes the experience.

Stories can also be used to recognize or to reinforce desired behaviors. People connect to stories and, therefore, remember them/the point.

In addition, stories...
  • clarify and help the audience understand
  • give you background information
  • convey what the characters (customers) think, do, feel 
  • bring a concept or experience to life
  • engage the audience (employees)
  • explain the ideal customer experience
  • sell (concepts and products)
  • support change
  • reinforce 
  • motivate and inspire
  • facilitate empathy and understanding
  • help you connect
  • draw the audience into the story, carry you away
  • help the audience relate
  • convey good and bad, successes and failures
  • are memorable
Can anyone be a CX storyteller? Or must it be taught?
I don't believe that everyone is a natural born storyteller. I do think some people need to be taught. Can it be taught? Yes. To some degree. It does take creativity, but if we can develop that creativity, we can teach storytelling.

How do you teach storytelling?
I think we need to break it down into bite-sized chunks. Stories have various components to them, so the teaching begins with those components, including...
  • the usual: who, what, when, where, why
  • the business challenge or problem
  • the customer challenge or problem
  • steps to re-create the challenge or problem
  • the thinking, doing, feeling of the participant
  • the desired actions and outcome, the denouement
 ... and we must also consider...
  • the audience: different audiences require different messages or different levels of detail
  • what's the message; what are you trying to convey
  • how will you tell it
  • how will the audience participate after you tell it
  • how does participation affect the story or change the outcome in the future
I also think that, for teaching purposes, we need to ensure future storytellers...
  • Draw on their own experiences for anecdotes and to help connect with the audience
  • Share their own lessons learned
  • Stay on point and keep it focused/straightforward
This TED talk from storyteller and filmmaker Andrew Stanton (WALL-E, Toy Story, and more) provides the clues to a great story. It's worth the watch, if you want to learn how to tell a story. summarizes his seven clues to a great story:
  1. Know your punchline, your ending. Everything in your story is leading to one resolution.
  2. The number one rule of a good story is to make your audience care. All of these rules help to accomplish this.
  3. Make a promise. Promise the reader (or listener, or viewer, or whatever) that the story will be worth their time. This will propel you from the start to the end of the story.
  4. Hide the fact that your reader will have to do some of the work themselves. “Absence of information draws us in.” You will have to choose the order of events and what to include/exclude, but your audience connects to the story when they have to figure things out for themselves.
  5. It’s alright to nod to a grand design. In Lawrence of Arabia, Stanton points out a scene that directly asks the protagonist, “Who are you?” This is the theme of the whole film. Have a theme.
  6. If it's possible, allow your audience to surrender to wonder. This is the secret sauce of the best stories.
  7. Focus on your personal strengths as you tell your story. Use what you know.
In your organization, do you use stories to teach? How do you tell your customer experience stories?

Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today. -Robert McKee