Thursday, July 28, 2016

Let's Talk Customer Experience!

Image courtesy of Shep Hyken
What happens when Shep Hyken invites me to talk about customer experience?

Amazing things happen!

Shep and I could talk customer experience all day.

If you don't know who Shep Hyken is, you've been living under a rock for quite some time now! Shep is, undoubtedly, the #1 thought leader and influencer when it comes to customer service.

I was thrilled when he invited me to chat with him about my 7 Deadly Sins of Customer Experience. Those sins are clearly the foundation for success when it comes to delivering a great customer experience. I loved that we got to start the conversation by differentiating customer service and customer experience. You did know there's a difference, right? From there, we dove into the 7 Sins.

After we finished talking about the Sins, we moved on to what is probably my favorite topic and tool when it comes to the customer experience transformation: journey maps. I've written and spoken about journey mapping many, many times. But never like this: Shep put me through a lightning round of questions about some of the key principles of journey mapping.

To hear the full interview, please visit Shep's site. And be sure to listen til the very end, for that lightning round!

The purpose of every business and organization is to get and keep customers. -Shep Hyken

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Customer Experience Fuels Innovation

Image courtesy of Skley
How does customer experience fuel innovation?

I was honored to be a guest on #innochat on Thursday, July 21. Innochat is a weekly Twitter chat (Thursdays, 9am PT) about innovation and covers a wide range of topics and angles. If you love talking innovation, make time for this chat every Thursday.

The topic on July 21 was one of my favorites: customer experience, of course. Not just customer experience, though, but how customer experience drives or fuels innovation. This is a hot topic. We want (need) to see companies innovate for the customer, but many companies still struggle with what that means, how to do it, and what it takes to truly be innovative; instead, they imitate. I think Kerry Bodine said it well in her 2013 Harvard Business Review article:
 Everyone talks about customer experience innovation, but no one knows quite what it is or how to attain it. In fact, when we ask customer experience professionals how they’re driving their innovation efforts, we find several misguided approaches that actually thwart differentiation and waste massive amounts of time and money in the process.
You're not innovative if you imitate; innovation is all about creating a clear differentiation between you and the next guy. What value does your brand bring to the table that no other brand does? How does it make customers' lives - and the jobs they are trying to do - easier?

The questions posed to the group were pretty straightforward, yet thought-provoking; they also seeded future #innochats, when the self-named "innocats" (love that) can dive deeper into customer experience innovation. This is an important topic with many different angles to cover. The questions we discussed were:
  1. What role do you think that customer experience plays in innovation?
  2. How does customer experience relate to user experience?
  3. What is the relationship between customer service and customer experience?
  4. How does the view of customer experience from the outside-in compare with the inside-out view?
  5. How do we balance the importance of customer experience with other issues?
For a transcript of the chat, visit Innochat and scroll to the bottom of the page.

Two really big (and key) things to think about as you look at your organization's ability to innovate a great customer experience are your customers and your culture.

1. Understand your customers
In order to innovate for your customers, you need to engage with them, listen to them, understand who they are and so much more - but most importantly, you need to understand what they are trying to do: what task, what job, what they are trying to achieve.

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

2. Create a culture of innovation
The culture needs to allow employees to be creative and entrepreneurial. Don't stifle new ideas and innovation. Allow employees to pose, develop, and try new ways of doing the same old thing. Encourage efficiency, simplicity, and killing old rules and making new ones. I can speak from experience when I say that that stifling creativity, growth, and innovation is painful and kills employee engagement quicker than anything. 

A few years ago, I wrote about the Culture of Curiosity. Perhaps that's a place to start. Advocating and driving such a culture throws inside-out and outside-in thinking aside for the moment and calls for upside-down thinking. Toss everything you know out the window for the moment, and think differently.

Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we're curious...and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. -Walt Disney Company

If employees are constantly asking questions and being curious, they get to:
  • Learn more about their customers
  • Better understand customer needs and, more importantly, the jobs they are trying to do
  • Learn about partners, the market, emerging trends, etc.
  • Ideate and innovate
  • Create new/better products, features, and services
  • Eliminate processes and policies that are harmful to the experience
  • Change the way the company does business (for the better)
The problem is that, at a lot of big companies, process becomes a substitute for thinking. You're encouraged to behave like a little gear in a complex machine. Frankly, it allows you to keep people who aren't that smart, who aren't that creative. -Elon Musk

If you keep doing the same thing, you're going to keep getting the same results, right? With some of the statistics about customer experience as bad as they continue to be, I think companies are continuing to do the same thing. So it's time to start asking some serious questions and not be afraid of the answers - or the consequences and changes as a result.

Innovation and change go hand in hand. That's a good thing. Don't stifle it.

Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower. -Steve Jobs


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Generating Insights for Better Product Development - Part 2

Image courtesy of podenga
Today I'm pleased to share part two of a two-part guest post by Paul Laughlin.

For the second part of this two-part series on insight generation for product development, I return to that "brown paper" exercise.

You may recall that I’d advised bringing together representatives from across your business to run an interactive workshop. The following stages have already helped identify or produce material for that day:
  • Identifying priority opportunities (consumer needs or "jobs to get done")
  • Identify key consumer questions, challenges, and/or barriers
  • Big "brown-paper exercise"
Everyone is there, and your insight analysts have curated the material relevant to business challenges and consumer questions. As I mentioned previously, this curation (or gathering and filtering) is crucial to have the right quality of evidence from data, analytics, research, marketing performance,  and market/competitor intelligence.

The walls are covered with brown paper! What next?

The remaining three steps that I recommend - and will explain in this post - are:
  1. Identify convergence of evidence/themes/understanding
  2. Explore mindsets or motivations that drive behaviour exhibited
  3. Idea generation on solutions
Converging evidence
The next step is the first task to give to mixed teams at the workshop (hopefully broad mixtures of both function and seniority).

First, they need to briefly read and sift through all the information available (probably printed out and left on tables). They need to identify what is most pertinent to the business challenge and summarise evidence by cutting out relevant sections (e.g., graphs/tables/headlines) and sticking them up on the brown paper.

One learning point, after in the past sometimes letting the teams decide for themselves what was relevant, is to provide direction and structure for this challenge. A useful method is to focus participants on the customer questions, challenges,and barriers elicited earlier. These should help them draw a simple customer journey from initial identification of need (or job to be done) through the questions and challenges they face when seeking a solution. That acts as a framework on the brown paper.

Now delegates can sift through the material, cut out what looks relevant, and stick it up on the relevant part of that journey. This should be a messy process with active discussion and pieces being moved to more appropriate places or replaced/grouped with others. In fact, the next task to give delegates is to group the information they have posted and write a "theme" name on each group.

A helpful tip for this is to encourage them to look for where there is a clear convergence of evidence from different types of sources (e.g., behavioural analytics and research). They should also be encouraged to select those groups that appear most relevant to helping customers answer their questions or overcome barriers/challenges.

Drilling deeper inside

At this stage, the delegates should have (probably written on large post-it notes) several themes that answer customer questions/challenges across the intended customer journey. They should be encouraged to write succinct short sentences that both address the question and can be seen to represent the evidence grouped nearby.

Next, ask delegates to prioritise the most important of these themes and drill further into motivations. A number of techniques can help to do this. One example is to get groups to use the evidence for each theme to draw a rich picture of what customers are thinking, believing, needing, liking, doing, saying, and hearing at that stage of the journey. This immersion can often prompt identifying a misunderstanding or conflict (like a behavioural bias) that offers an opportunity to help the customer.

Another popular technique is called the "5 Whys." It is simply a succession of asking "Why?" to dig deeper into the rationale or emotional motivations behind the behaviour that is seen. For instance, you might see a customer not reading a piece of financial marketing material. Seeking to answer why, you might assume it is because it’s too boring/wordy. Asking again, why this is the case, you may identify that they don’t understand a number of the terms. Asking why this is the case, you may identify more about a lack of financial education and begin to touch on some fears. Often you will end up identifying fear of letting others down or looking foolish. Rich territory for better communications design.

What you are looking for ideally is a "Eureka!" moment, when you feel you have unlocked a strong enough internal motivation or limiting belief to explain all the evidence for how customers are acting and what they are saying about that question/challenge/need. Writing up such insights is as much art as science and often benefits from visualisation and photography to bring the human aspect to life.

Key to remember at this stage is the standard of what constitutes an "insight" rather than just more information/understanding/themes. I’ve shared previously that I would define an insight as:
A non-obvious understanding about your customers, which, if acted upon, has the potential to change their behaviour for mutual benefit.
Using that as a litmus test should help you judge if you’ve truly identified something that will help consumers change their behaviour.

Creating solutions

Normally insight generation workshops are enjoyable but exhausting for those who have fully immersed themselves. So I’d recommend stopping after the previous step and documenting each of the insights generated. This can be usefully done on a few PowerPoint slides that capture the theme, drilling down to emotional motivations and the core unlocking insights that are powerful enough to change behaviour.

The next step is to respond to these insights. Part of the best practice here is just normal product development process. But it is worth supplementing this with a preceding step to both prioritise the most important insight(s), normally based on a combination of operational viability and commercial opportunity. Then gather together, once more, cross-business representation (ideally the same team who helped generate those insights).

A number of methods can help to start idea generation. The challenge for this workshop is to identify high-level concepts that, if launched or offered to consumers, would provoke appeal, response, and motivation to buy/retain/use. Many sites can provide potential idea generation tools (from DeBono’s thinking hats to Negative Brainstorming).

In addition, I recommend structuring the agenda to ensure delegates consider all the Ps of Marketing Mix. Which elements of Product, Price, Promotion, Placement, People, Process, and Physical evidence would clearly align with insight and should respond to that customer desire/need/fear etc.

Different organisations and cultures will find their own ways that work for them. But I do encourage keeping a clear "line of sight" to the consumer insights documented, to ensure hobbies or marketing myths don’t derail idea generation into just coming up with "old favourites."

One governance method that I’ve seen work well here is for the Product or Marketing Leader to have sign-off on the quality of insights generated (confirming they are a rich enough understanding to inspire design process). Then later the Customer Insight Leader has sign-off on product design (to confirm that what is to be built has a clear line of sight to insight). That handshake can work well.

Over to you
I hope this short series has been useful. There is as much art as science in product development, but effective processes can help avoid that becoming an excuse for shoddy thinking or too many unproven assumptions.

So over to you now. How are your existing insight generation and product design processes working? Are you comfortable that your better propositions are insight-led? Could you evidence their alignment to clear customer need to you regulator?

Any other ideas? Have any of the above steps worked for you?


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Lean Leadership: Go and See for Yourself

Image courtesy of (Tie)ler
I originally wrote today's post for Intradiem. It appeared on their blog on April 5, 2016. I've made minor updates since then.

I recently came across the Japanese terms genchi genbutsu and genba; they're both key principles of the Toyota Production System, which comprises Toyota's management philosophy and best practices. While they are (lean) management principles/concepts, they apply not only to the employee experience but also to the customer experience. Let's look at some background and definitions first.

Toyota's website defines genchi genbutsu as: going to the source to find the facts to make correct decisions, build consensus and achieve goals.

According to Wikipedia, genchi genbutsu means "go and see." It suggests that in order to truly understand a situation one needs to go to genba, or the 'real place' - where work is done.

According to iSixSigma: The idea behind genchi genbutsu is that business decisions need to be based on first-hand knowledge, not the understanding of another person which might be biased, outdated, or incorrect. Problems are best understood and solved where they occur -– for example, on the factory floor. Rather than looking at information from a distance –- in an office, for example –- regarding process issues, managers should go see for themselves what is happening.

As you read those definitions, I hope you did what I did when I first read them: I nodded my head and thought that these had great application to the world of customer experience. How do you get to the root of the problem, effort, or issue without getting your hands dirty and seeing it for yourself?

Six Sigma Training writes: If you’re ready to find and eliminate the sources of inefficiency and poor quality that could prove lethal for your business, it’s time to “get your boots on:” genchi genbutsu. If boots aren’t your style, genchi genbutsu can also be translated as “go and see for yourself.” According to The Economist, “genchi genbutsu represents a fundamental difference between western and Japanese management styles—whereas in the West knowledge is gleaned and digested in the office or the boardroom, in Japan it is gleaned on the factory floor.” The concept can easily be generalized beyond manufacturing; the essence of genchi genbutsu is simply this: optimal decision-making requires that you physically go to the relevant place (gemba) to observe the relevant objects (genbutsu) yourself.  In fact, the term gemba itself is commonly used instead of genchi genbutsu, because the entirety of this concept is actually captured by the idea of place—being on the spot, at the source of the action, to identify and take advantage of opportunities for improvement.

Note: Gemba is the romanized version of genba.

As The Economist article states, genchi genbutsu is a frame of mind more than it is an action plan. I like this frame of mind, and it's one senior management should absolutely adopt. Many compare it to "management by walking around." You cannot manage or run a business sitting in your ivory tower. You cannot manage or run a business by simply looking at numbers, metrics, data, and reports. You have to go down in the trenches and see the work being done. This isn't about micro-managing; this is about knowing your business, knowing how things are done, and experiencing firsthand what employees do and experience. I've watched a lot of episodes of Undercover Boss, and it really does baffle me that executives have no idea what their employees do.

I started to think about some of the things companies can do to move from mindset to action. I think these apply to both the employee experience and the customer experience.
  • Customer immersion programs: executives are embedded into their customers' lives to gain a better understanding of how they live, work, and do the jobs they need to do. Adobe's immersion program is well known in the industry.
  • Ethnography research: anthropological researchers (you have one or two of these folks in your company, right?) visit customers in their homes or offices and observe how they live, act, and behave. Intel uses this approach.
  • Management by walking around: managers wander through the workplace, checking on employees at random, to talk to them about how things are going and what issues they are facing at the moment.
  • Reverse mentoring: this can be used for a variety of reasons, but it also applies to helping senior leaders learn and understand the roles and tasks of their team members.
  • Undercover executive programs: you know this one because of the popular show, but your executives can do the same thing: go undercover and do the jobs your employees do so that they can get the real experience without being treated differently.
  • Doing the job: some companies assign executives to take on a different role within the organization once a month (not undercover) to experience the jobs their employees do.
  • Journey mapping: I often write about starting with assumptive maps, but another approach to mapping is to get out there with your customers and do the jobs they are trying to do; capture the steps, the emotions, the desired outcomes, and more.
  • Double jacking/call monitoring: this is a very-specific/tactical example of how to uncover customer support call issues or to help others understand both the customer and the employee experience for this type of interaction and role. An employee sits with a customer service rep and listens to customer calls.
  • Mystery shopping: shop your own organization; you don't have to be a retail operation to do this. "Shopping" can be calling your customer support line or your reception/main office line. Shopping can take many forms, and it allows you to experience the organization as customers would.
As you're undertaking these exercises, remember that there are different employee and customer types. People are different, and so their experiences are, too. For example, you can't forget that the experience for a disabled customer or employee, e.g., perhaps in a wheelchair, will be completely different from the customer or employee who is not disabled. Experience it all.

If you want to put a label or category on each of these exercises, I'd simply call them "Walking in Your Customers' (or Employees') Shoes." In reality, they are all different ways of doing the same thing and getting to the same outcomes: developing empathy, clarity, understanding, and awareness; understanding jobs to be done and how those are going; learning; identifying issues (effort, efficiency, effectiveness) and root causes; helping others; developing appreciation for what they are doing or trying to do; and more.

With that information, with that knowledge, leaders can formulate improvement plans and then execute.

Go to the place where it all happens. Go and see for yourself. It will be time well spent!

You can observe a lot by just watching. -Yogi Berra


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Generating Insights for Better Product Development - Part 1

Image courtesy of Mr. Attacki
Today I'm pleased to share part one of a two-part guest post by Paul Laughlin.

I often write about topics like better target marketing or marketing effectiveness measurement. So it seems like a natural next step to cover how to ensure you develop the right stuff to market in the first place. Do you know how to generate insights to do this?

Are you working effectively with your proposition development colleagues? Do you both agree on the need for customer insight-guided design?

Perhaps in these times of companies falling over each other to have the most customer-centric strategies, you may feel inundated with requests for deeper or richer insights that provide a platform for proposition developers to start designing.

Does Customer Insight have a role to play in guiding design of propositions your target customers will want, need, and actually use?

From my experience, the answer is yes. (This is also another marketing area badly in need of holistic customer insight rather than assuming only research or only analytics will do).

That said, ironically, I’ve found that this is a skill where sectors rich in behavioral data (like financial services) can learn from those who have been much more limited in consumer data and have had to rely more on research and combining imperfect data sources.

Many leaders will be familiar with the renowned expertise in marketing that has been taught for years in FMCG firms like Unilever or Proctor & Gamble. Brand marketers have probably also heard of the marketing capability built at Diageo and the best practice that their "Diageo way" offers in  fields like marketing effectiveness measurement and generating the insights needed to develop the right products and services. For those of you interested in the marketing culture that led to such capabilities, this interview with Philip Almond (before he moved to the BBC) is still worth a read.

To generate such a customer insight, which if acted upon effectively has the power to motivate consumers to buy/retain/use your new products or services, requires more than just a superficial approach.

How do they do it? Where should you start?

Here’s a simple overview, just to whet your appetite. In summary, a collaborative approach bringing together multiple teams from across your business in structured workshops, using material curated by your insight teams, has huge potential. I’ve seen this approach work well with multiple clients, and it often involved something like the following six steps:
  1. Identifying priority opportunities (consumer needs or ‘jobs to get done’)
  2. Identify key consumer questions/challenges/barriers
  3. Big ‘brown-paper exercise’
  4. Identify convergence of evidence/themes/understanding
  5. Explore mindsets or motivations that drive behavior exhibited
  6. Idea generation for solutions
From my own personal experience participating in such exercises, here’s a whistle-stop canter through those, just to give you a feel for them…

Identify priority opportunities
Sometimes the business priorities are obvious, but it can be worthwhile to workshop what is most important to your target markets. What jobs are customers trying to get done? Why does anyone buy from you? Why do some people choose your competitors? What does a fully-satisfied customer look like? Which urgent or important needs in the minds of the consumer are motivating competitor advertising this year?

As with all these stages, multiple sources of information are worth reviewing (data, analytics, research, MI). However, for this stage, market and competitor intelligence can be particularly useful. Try to force the discipline of selecting one top priority "job to get done" or consistent need in the lives of your target consumers.

Identify key consumer questions/challenges/barriers
This requires reviewing the research already available on why consumers don’t currently buy/retain/use your current offering. Once again, all potential sources of insight can be worth considering (including behavioral analytics of non-purchasers), but your goal is to understand what might be stopping consumers from acting as you wish. What do they think, feel, and do about "getting this job done?"

One of the reasons more than only behavioral analytics or only attitudinal research is needed is the inherent challenge to start "connecting the dots" to show why consumers are making the choices they do. Highlighting at this stage what appears to be in the minds of consumers, when making a key decision, can begin the journey of identifying their limiting beliefs, emotional associations, or behavioral biases. Understanding those will empower you to focus marketing creativity on the real challenge (which may be quite different from ‘reasons to buy our product’).

Big ‘brown paper’ exercise

At this stage, a workshop can be designed. Now, if there is one thing marketers enjoy even more than "coloring in," it’s a big sheet of brown paper covering the wall and an opportunity to get creative. The reason for this method is to create an opportunity to review relevant potential sources of insight, physically cut out relevant parts, and stick them up on the wall – to enable visual grouping and connections. For some reason, this is much easier to do visually, with physical activity involved.

Two elements of such a workshop have in the past differentiated those with greatest success: (1) the quality and relevance of material to work with, and (2) the breadth of business and customer expertise present in the room.

Achieving the first is a curation challenge for customer insight teams. The first two steps should have created a clearly-documented challenge and potential barriers. Experts from all four quadrants of Holistic Customer Insight teams (data, analytics, research, and database marketing) should identify reports and graphics that pass two tests: they need to be both relevant to the challenge and not easily misinterpreted (avoid or improve any with low statistical significance or any ambiguous language/visualisations).

The second goal is to achieve broad representation in the room. Ideally, you want expertise from across your business (marketing, sales, service, finance, IT, HR, etc.), as well as a range of seniority (from call center workers to senior execs). There will be a balance here, and you will need to consider both personalities and experience in selecting the right participants. Choosing the right teams can make all the difference. You want people with a genuine passion to make a difference, confident to speak up, and willing to "leave job titles at the door."

Entered with the right attitude, this workshop can be an immersive and thoroughly enjoyable exercise (which some firms even extend to co-creation with their customers, but that needs some additional expertise and facilitation). Our next step will explain more as to what you do in this workshop – beyond the stage where delegates sift through slides to cut out and stick up those that strike them as important.

Tune in next week for part two of this series, where I'll go deeper into how to generate insights.

Paul Laughlin has over 20 years experience of leading teams to generate profit from analysing  data. Over the last 12 years he’s created, lead and improved customer insight teams across Lloyds, TSB, Halifax and Scottish Widows. He’s delivered incremental profit of over £10m pa and improved customers’ experiences.