Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Preparing Employees to Deliver a Great Customer Experience

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's post for CallidusCloudCX. It was published on their blog on April 24, 2017. 

When you think of the phrase "inside out" relative to the customer experience, you probably cringe. This is not a phrase that customer experience professionals take lightly.

Inside out means companies focus on processes that are designed and implemented based on internal thinking and intuition. The customer's needs and perspectives aren't considered in this type of thinking. Company leaders make decisions because they think they know what's best for the business, not for the customer. There's a conscious decision to make process, policy, people, systems, or other changes that:
  1. Don't improve the customer experience at the same time
  2. Are about maximizing shareholder returns, not about benefits for the customer
  3. Improve internal efficiencies but to the detriment of customer interactions
  4. Are cost-cutting measures that also negatively impact the  customer experience
  5. Might be the wrong process, policy, people, or systems to change
On the other hand, outside in means that executives look at the business from the customer's perspective and subsequently design processes and make decisions based on what's best for the customer and what meets the customer's needs. They make decisions based on what they know is best for customers - because they've asked/listened.

So imagine my surprise when CallidusCloud CX started talking about "inside-out CX." It made me pause for a moment; but when you hear them define it as "how employees impact customer satisfaction and, ultimately, the customer experience," that makes a whole lot of sense. That does not make me cringe. Employees are critical in the customer experience equation.

Let's think about this for a minute. What exactly does that mean?

It can really only mean one thing: you better make sure that your employees are prepared to impact customer satisfaction, to deliver a great experience!

But employees need the right tools and the right information to do that.

Like what?

First and foremost, they need to know what it means to your organization to "deliver a great experience." Without that information, they will always fall short. How do we ensure that employees are informed and ready? How do we ensure that they know what's expected of them? How can we be sure they know the difference between right and wrong actions, behaviors, and more?

Let's take a look at some of the tools that will address those questions.

Core Values: Your core values are guiding principles for your employees; they outline which behaviors and actions are right and which are wrong. Everything they do must be aligned with your values, and those values should be integrated into everything employees do. If employees ever question what they should do or question if what they're planning to do is aligned with the organization's expectations, they can refer back to these values.

Brand Promise: Make sure you've clearly communicated your brand promise to employees. If they don't know it, how can they live it? How can they deliver it? The smart CEO uses the brand promise to align all of the activities of the organization; that promise guides people, processes, products, systems, etc. Everything the organization does must support and reinforce the brand promise: every product, every person, every interaction, every touchpoint, all of it. Every time. This is probably one of the key tools for your employees when it comes to delivering a great customer experience.

CX Vision: Your customer experience vision is an inspirational and aspirational statement that outlines what you see as the future state of the customer experience. It briefly describes the experience you plan to deliver. And it serves as a guide to help choose future courses of action. It should align with your corporate vision. The hope is that this vision fuels innovation and reminds employees that there's a human being on the other end of your CX strategy and transformation.

Corporate Vision
: Your corporate vision not only outlines what the company is trying to achieve but also guides decision-making processes and the resultant course of action. It not only spells out what you're doing and for whom you're doing it but also creates alignment within the organization. Your corporate vision and CX vision ought to be closely connected, if not one and the same.

Customer Understanding
: Employees need to be well-informed and well-versed on who your customers are and how they impact each customer and his experience: provide persona definitions, journey maps, and customer feedback. The better employees understand customers and the current experience - alongside the desired experience - the better they are able to adjust course and deliver the experience that is expected of them.

Training and Communication
: I'll lump these two together because they go hand in hand but, individually, are equally important. Training and communication begin at the point of hire, with a solid onboarding program and communication around the importance of customers and the customer experience to the organization; if you don't have an onboarding program, it's time to develop one. Then throughout the life of the employee's employment, provide regular training opportunities (especially as customer feedback, customers, and the experience evolve), communicate and set clear expectations, and provide ongoing feedback and coaching about how well the employee is delivering on those expectations.

Not sure where to begin? It might be a good idea to start with an Employee CX Assessment to identify what employees know and don't know about your customers and the customer experience. This assessment is time well spent by the entire organization, not just frontline staff. You'll use the results to better frame training efforts and to provide the right tools needed to ensure employees have a clear line of sight to customers and are equipped to deliver the experience you need (and customers want) them to deliver.

If you’re not serving the customer, your job is to be serving someone who is. - Jan Carlzon

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Improving the Respondent Experience

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's post for CallidusCloudCX. It appeared on their blog on March 24, 2017.

There's a lot of talk about improving the customer experience.

And there's a lot of talk about using surveys to listen to customers so that we know where we need to improve the experience.

But have you ever considered that those very surveys are another touchpoint in the customer experience? That the experience with the survey must be considered and improved as much as the experience with any other touchpoint?

If you haven't, then it's time to start thinking about your surveys differently.

What are some of the areas that you need to consider as you design the survey experience? Read on, as I've put them into somewhat chronological categories to help you walk through the experience yourself. It wouldn't hurt to actually map the survey experience from the customer's perspective.


Like with any other experience you're going to design, you want to make sure you personalize the survey experience to the audience. So, first things first: make sure you've got the right people in your respondent pool. And then make sure the topic and the questions are relevant for the audience.

As you think about the audience, also consider how often you will survey them. You'll want to make sure that the survey cadence is just right, e.g., don't survey one customer more than once every six months, and that you prioritize that cadence across surveys, too. In other words, if you're fielding multiple surveys at a time, ensure that the touches and the frequency are prioritized so that one person does not get multiple surveys too frequently within a specified period of time.


Multichannel doesn't just apply to customer interactions; your listening posts (all, not just surveys)  should also be multichannel. Offer up a variety of ways/modes for customers to provide feedback. Let them provide feedback via whatever mode or channel is easiest for them. Make sure your surveys are mobile-friendly/responsive.

Speaking of modes, don't forget to listen and to ask; there's a difference.

Survey Design
When creating your surveys, make sure you use survey design best practices. There are many "rules" to consider, but start with:
  • Keep surveys short and simple.
  • Ask questions that are  relevant to the audience.
  • Ask unambiguous (clear, not double-barreled) questions.
  • Don't use corporate language and acronyms; instead, use customer-friendly language that they can easily understand.
  • Speaking of languages, if you serve a global base, offer up your surveys in various languages.
  • Make sure each question is actionable. If the survey isn't actionable, you're wasting your customers' time.
  • Make the survey easy to use; in other words, check for grammar, make sure skips aren't broken, etc.
  • Ask open-ended questions (not too many) to allow respondents to share thoughts about things that you may not cover in your closed-ended questions.
  • The look and feel of the survey should match your branding; don't confuse customers (and possibly scare them away) by using a look and feel that doesn't align with your corporate branding.
This may seem like something that doesn't impact the respondent's survey experience, but it does. Make sure you survey the customer in a timely manner. If you send a survey about an experience that took place six months ago, the customer will be frustrated because he won't recall the details of the experience. Be timely in your deployments.

While you might also think that Act has nothing to do with the respondent experience, it actually has everything to do with it!

Why are you asking for feedback? Why are you listening?

You need to use that feedback; do something with it. Action takes place at strategic, tactical, and personal levels. (The latter includes not only personalizing experiences but also conducting follow-up/service recovery calls as a result of survey feedback.) And then let customers know what improvements you made as a result of the feedback and how those improvements will impact them. That communication is important to the experience. When customers know how you used their feedback, they feel like they didn't waste their time providing it and will, as a result, likely continue to tell you how you're performing in the future.


Respondents often provide feedback about your surveys that should be considered in order to improve the respondent experience. They may not understand the point of a question, may have gotten questions not relevant to them, called out ambiguous questions, told you about broken links, etc. These are easy fixes to make in order to improve the experience.

In addition, as you make improvements to the experience about which you're receiving feedback, the survey should be changed to reflect and to measure those improvements. Read verbatims and capture any emerging trends or issues about which you'd like to learn more; incorporate those into your survey or listening posts going forward.

And you thought surveys were just as simple as set and forget! They really aren't. A lot of care and thought needs to be put into designing surveys so that they, too, are a great experience for your customers.

The more you talk about them, the more important they will feel. The more you listen to them, the more important you will make them feel. -Roy T. Bennett

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Complacency or Innovation: You Decide

Image courtesy of Pixabay
How can anyone become complacent about running a business? or about winning at business?

It happens!

It's a broad question, but if you think you're going to become complacent about the customer experience - and think that's OK - then you might as well be complacent about your business, in general.

I was recently asked for suggestions on how to prevent different business units and divisions from becoming complacent when they are performing well based on their customer experience metrics. In other words, their scores, e.g., NPS, are high, so they act like "the goal is met, and there's nothing more that needs to be done about the customer experience."

I've written a post on that (complacency about metrics), which I'll share in the future. But it got me thinking beyond metrics to the broader customer experience. A lot of the same logic applies (that I mention in that post), but I'm stepping back to take more of a big picture look.

If you rest on your laurels, you will, without a doubt, be overrun by your competitors. Never mind that your customers will no longer want to do business with you. (Right, Blockbuster?!)

Remember: customer experience is a journey, not a destination; once you've improved it, you've got to keep improving it. Continuous improvement is key to this journey, to staying ahead, to winning at customer experience, to winning at business!

Here's what happens and why your work is never done:
  • Expectations change. What delights customers today may not delight tomorrow. It's important to always keep your pulse on changing customer needs.
  • Customers change. Old ones go, new ones come along. New ones may have different problems they are trying to solve or jobs to be done.
  • Customer needs, desires, and expectations change. As long as that's happening - and I don't see that every changing - there's no resting on laurels.
  • The business changes. New products are launched. Acquisitions are made. Growth happens.
  • New competitors enter the marketplace, and industry trends emerge.
  • Weak signals become strong signals.
Companies will not become complacent if they develop a customer-focused and customer-centric culture. Some would argue that customer-obsessed, like Amazon, is the better way to go; you will certainly never have to worry about complacency, if that's the case! But when the customer is at the center of the business, at the center of all decisions that are made, in your entire company's DNA, then you'll never be complacent about customer experience. It's impossible.

When you become complacent about customer experience, it is no longer your competitive advantage.

If you become complacent about the customer experience, just know there's always a competitor or a disruptor in the wings, waiting with the next big thing. That disruptor swoops in and does the employee experience and the customer experience far better. If you think that doesn't happen, think about these brands:
  • Netflix
  • Apple
  • Uber
  • Airbnb
  • Warby Parker
  • Rent the Runway
  • Virgin America
  • and more!
As Tom Fishburne says: If you want to remain number one, you have to think like number two. Check out his post on "Where complacent brands go."

What can you do?

Listen. Listen to customers. Listen to employees. Listen to the market. Listen to the industry. Pay attention. What are you hearing? What are the emerging needs? What jobs are your customers trying to do? Can they be fulfilled elsewhere? Can you innovate and fulfill better? What are the weak signals? How weak are they, really?

Create a culture of innovation that allows 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. Stifling creativity, growth, and innovation is painful and kills employee engagement quicker than anything - and then there goes your customer experience.

Make sure there's a sense of urgency around this, not just around innovation but also around the need to act when signals and trends are identified. Urgency is kryptonite to complacency!

Always do what's right for the customer; ask, "How does what I'm doing right now impact the customer?" And never forget that the customer experience is a journey. Don't be content with what you're doing today; always be innovating and improving. If you don't, your customers will go elsewhere.

The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic. -Peter Drucker

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Break Down #CX Barriers with Storytelling

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Have you used storytelling in your customer experience management journey?

The art of storytelling is an important one in the customer experience world. Storytelling is a great communication tool and an awesome teaching tool, as I wrote about in my post titled Storytelling is a Trojan Horse for Learning.

When you tell stories, people listen, and they don't even realize 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.

Storytelling delivers an impact from both the emotional and the rational perspective, capturing both the hearts and minds of the intended audience.

Whether you're just launching into your customer experience journey or are well on your way, storytelling is a valuable tool. It serves as a great way to deliver your message, to overcome the barriers to success of your journey, and to motivate and inspire those who will be a part of the journey. In short, stories are used to...
  • Inform, i.e., help people understand the what, why, where, how, and WIIFM  
  • Motivate employees to take action
  • Build trust in the storyteller, presumably your CEO or CCO
  • Build trust in the company
  • Build trust in the journey
  • Convey the values
  • Inspire collaboration
  • Share knowledge
  • And more
There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place. -J.K. Rowling

As you begin your journey, it's going to be important to tell a story about the company, its employees, and its customers: past, present, and future. Talk about where the company has been, where it is today, where it needs to go, and why. Paint a picture that connects the employees to yours customers and, ultimately, to a profitable, solvent organization.

How do you do that?

I found the concept of the Story Spine several years ago, and I've been waiting to put it to good use. It's a excellent tool to use to learn the art of storytelling, but it's also a practical outline to tell a great story.
Image courtesy of Kenn Adams and aerogrammestudio
It's pretty straight forward, and you can see how the story builds. One piece missing from this image is the addition of "And the moral of the story is..." at the end.

So, imagine if you will...

Once upon a time... there was a company that was losing employees, customers and, ultimately, money.

Every day... the leadership team became more and more frustrated, not understanding what was happening.

But, one day... they heard about successful brands that talked about (and focused on) employee experience, customer experience, customer-centric culture, customer-focused culture, and other key words and phrases that linked to business outcomes such as employee retention, customer retention, and revenue growth.

Because of that... they hired a Chief Customer Officer and a Chief People Officer.

Because of that... they were able to transform their culture to one that not only focused on - but also obsessed over - employees and customers.

Because of that... they created an advantage that was unmatched by their competitors.

Until finally... their customer and employee retention figures went through the roof, and their market performance surpassed that of other companies in their industry.

The moral of the story is... focus on employees, and they'll make customers happy; make customers happy, and they'll return. And your shareholders will be quite pleased.

It's a simplistic version of the Story Spine and how to use it to tell your culture transformation story, but I think you get the picture. Or the story.

 How do you tell the story of your customer experience transformation.

Stories constitute the single most powerful weapon in a leader’s arsenal. -Dr. Howard Gardner, professor Harvard University

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Bringing Your #VoC Program up to 2020 Standards

Image courtesy of Pixabay
How can you be sure that your VoC initiative stays fresh and relevant?

Continuous improvement is just important for your VoC initiatives as it is for your entire customer experience journey/transformation. What are you doing to ensure that your listening efforts are always fresh and relevant?

Yes, even customer listening programs become stale and must be updated. You've made changes to the experience that you want to measure and track; there are emerging trends in the industry and with customer needs; customers change, and new customers come into the fold; and you're offering new products and services. If you're using the same survey you did a year ago, it's time to check that.

But listening programs are not just about surveys, and even if you continue to use surveys, there are much more innovative approaches to surveying than a year or two ago. Mobile survey capabilities have evolved, such that all surveys are now mobile - there's no distinction between desktop, mobile, and in-app. (What? Your surveys aren't mobile friendly? Time to get on that!) Don't forget short, simple text surveys, as well.

The timing of mobile surveys is another consideration; no longer is post-transaction the only (or even the best) way to capture customer feedback. Consider brief, in-the-moment surveys that allow you to get feedback while the customer is, well, in the moment of the transaction or experience.

And surveys are becoming more like a conversation. Some providers are offering more-dynamic surveys, where they've incorporated predictive capabilities that go beyond the traditional skipping and branching approaches of yesterday.

Also, I've seen folks take new approaches to designing the surveys. Don't assume you know what's important to your customers. Traditionally, we might have designed surveys with attributes that were derived from customer conversations, focus groups, or simply from what we knew/heard about the experience. Lately, companies have been asking open-ended questions and then analyzing those comments to identify not only attributes but perhaps emerging trends that should be fleshed out a bit more through the surveys.

Lastly, don't just use surveys. Use other methods to listen to customers, as well. There are so many options, some qualitative, some quantitative: online communities, online reviews, customer advisory boards, social media, and more.

Important to note is that you don't want to make it cumbersome for customers to provide feedback. Make it easy; offer forums and feedback options in places where your customers prefer to be; and, finally, act on what you hear!!

If you make listening and observation your occupation, you will gain much more than you can by talk. -Robert Baden-Powell

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Internal Communication Growing Pains and How To Solve Them

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Today I'm pleased to share a guest post by Rae Steinbach.

Good internal communication can make a big difference for any company. A failure of communication can cause projects to fail, increase costs, and can contribute to an atmosphere of discontent among your staff.

For so many businesses, the drive to develop an effective feedback loop only comes after a failure has made the need for change obvious. Instead of waiting for a disaster, you can follow some of these tips for solving problems with internal communications.

It Starts on the First Day
You want to start by thinking about how you introduce new employees to the company. So many companies just throw new employees into the job and expect them to figure things out as they go. If you want employees to fit in and understand the workplace culture, you should start them out with some type of training or orientation.

You want to train them on their job and familiarize the new employee with their responsibilities, but there is more to it than that. Teach them about the internal dynamics of the company, the company culture, and protocols for different internal processes. Waiting for them to learn the ropes on their own is inefficient. By taking the time to get them ready for the job, you can instill the attitude that contributes to a positive workplace culture from the beginning.

Have a Clear Vision
Every company should have some kind of mission statement and a vision of what they stand for. What are your goals as a company? What principles do you want employees to value in their work? You need to answer these questions and make sure that these ideas filter down to every level of the organization.

Get a team of company leaders together to work on these answers. Share your ideas and develop a short statement that represents these values. Communicate this to all of your employees and find ways to instill a sense of this vision in every person at the company.

Have an Open Door
You need to encourage your employees to share their thoughts. Employee feedback is important and can provide valuable insights. You don’t want people to feel like they have to keep their concerns to themselves. Make sure they know that you are always willing to listen to feedback and that you are willing to consider any idea.

Do Some Team Building
You might want to keep everybody working for every hour that you have them at the office, but it can be beneficial to take some time away from the job. Take your employees to do something fun. When they get some time away from the office, they can build bonds that will carry over into their work. This can improve internal communications and help to build a more cohesive team.

Write it Down
Most companies have common questions and procedures that people are going to need to refer to regularly. Instead of answering these questions and explaining these procedures every time they come up, develop internal references that employees can access when they need them. Build something like a company FAQ that answers common questions. You can build a core FAQ to begin with, and as new issues arise, you can add to the resource.

With improved internal communications, you can run a business that is more efficient. Employees will be able to work together in a way that is more effective, and it can also make for a workforce that is more content in their jobs. You just need to commit to the concept of better communications and take the proper steps to make it a reality.

Rae is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to NYC to pursue her career and continue curating quality content. Rae is passionate about travel, food, and writing, of course.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

6 Bonus Myths of Journey Mapping

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Get the journey mapping process right, and you'll reap the rewards for a long time to come!

Last week, I wrote about the session I hosted for Quadient's 2nd CX Transformation Day. It was a great hour, during which I busted five myths about journey mapping and interviewed a panel of experts on their experiences with journey mapping.

While I talked about five myths last week, we know that there are a lot more than that. I thought I'd take a moment to share six more that need to be busted, as well.
1. I've mapped the journey myself; I don't need to involve anyone else.
First of all, actionable maps cannot be created in a vacuum. By definition, the mapping process is a collaborative effort that brings different departments together to build that initial assumptive map: for discovering, learning, and sharing. This is where maps help to break down silos.

Second, and probably more importantly, the touchpoint doesn’t operate in isolation. So thinking you can develop a map that wasn't done in conjunction with other departments, is erroneous. For example, think about buying a car: sales isn’t the only person/department involved; financing, service, parts, etc. are also involved in the experience. Mapping in your silo doesn't afford others to bring their perspectives and artifacts into the map at the appropriate place along the journey.
2. We created an assumptive map and are ready to redesign the experience. 
Once you've created the assumptive map, you must have the map validated by customers. If you don't, you're simply perpetuating inside-out thinking and are on a path to designing an experience that will definitely not meet your customers' needs.
3. It's OK to start with a future state map.
Definitely not. You can't transform something you don't understand. How can you design the future state if you don't understand the current state, i.e., what's right and wrong. Start with today and then work toward tomorrow.If you don't know what's wrong, how can you make it right?

4. Buyer personas and CX personas are one and the same.

Marketing and customer experience professionals have different needs when they are developing and using personas. The personas are developed in much the same way, with lots of research, but CX  professionals' personas have additional information that allows them to design the experience for their customers based on: pain points, problems they are trying to solve, jobs to be done, etc.

5. Journey maps are used only for the customer experience.
Journey maps are not only created for the customer experience but for any other constituent whose experience you are trying to improve, including: employees, vendors, partners, franchisees, and licensees.

6. Without a digital mapping platform, I can't even begin to map.
You probably know by now that I'm a huge advocate of mapping via a digital platform, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that they (most of them) check the box for some of the basic tenets of mapping: collaboration, sharing, updating, communicating, incorporating data and artifacts, validation, and actionability. Having said that, you can still map without a digital platform; as a matter of fact, I often like to start my journey mapping sessions with butcher paper and Post-Its because it gets people: out of their seats and involved; up and thinking; and collaborating, questioning, and learning. It's more of a design-thinking, creative approach.

I would, however, recommend that you get a digital platform sooner rather than later, as you'll become really frustrated the first time you need to roll up your butcher paper to take it to another location. Trust me!
What are your thoughts? Do you have any other myths that you'd like to add?

The only impossible journey is the one you never begin. -Tony Robbins

Thursday, September 14, 2017

5 Myths of Journey Mapping

Journey maps are a catalyst for change. But only when done right!

You've heard me say that before, and it's the truth.

But the problem is that so many people don't map correctly, and they end up with useless "documents" that aren't actionable. What are they doing wrong? I address this question - and many more - in my session for GMC Software's (now Quadient's) second CX Transformation Day. I focus on the myths of journey mapping and discuss several that I think are key. (Register to watch the session, which took place yesterday.)

The five myths I address in this session are as follows. You'll have to watch to get the details behind each:
  1. I've mapped; I'm done.
  2. One map applies to all customers; all customers are the same.
  3. I don't need personas; I can simply map for major customer segments.
  4. Marketing has the same mapping needs as CX.
  5. Data has no place in journey maps.
But that's not all that this session includes! The best part is that I got to interview a global panel of CX executives/experts who have used journey mapping many times over the years to improve the experience at their organizations. Included on the panel were:
  • Brad Smith: former CMO/CCO at Symantec, Sage, Yahoo!
  • David Mitzenmacher: VP of Client Experience, ADP; former CCO at Kareo, Rackspace
  • Craig Lee: former Head of CX and Brand, Emirates
We had an engaging discussion about how each one has used journey maps in their respective organizations to drive change for both employees and for customers. They shared tips on how to ensure maps are actionable, how to select which improvements to make based on map findings, who owns the maps and the next steps, how to measure success, and much more! You won't want to miss this discussion.

Thanks to UCI Paul Merage School of Business for hosting us as we filmed this session.

The best journeys answer questions that in the beginning you didn't even think to ask. -180° South

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Act on What Your Customers Tell You!

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Are you acting on what your customers are telling you?

Companies listen to customers but fail to make improvements to the customer experience as a result of what they hear.

There are a few reasons behind that, including but not limited to: a lack of actionable data, analysis paralysis, and not knowing what to do next or how to execute.

In the presence of actionable data, though, the next step (after analysis and answers) is to take action.

How do we rally the troops around the insights and get them to take and own the action?

Insight alone does not cause change. Change requires action. -Lolly Daskal

It all begins with the data, doesn't it?

And with that thought in mind, I prepared and presented a webinar with/for Fuel Cycle a couple weeks ago titled, Insight to Advantage: Driving Action with Your Customer Data. It covers the five steps you'll need to go through to yield the advantages that a customer-centric and customer-focused culture delivers.

The webinar built on a whitepaper that I wrote for Fuel Cycle with a similar title. In that whitepaper, I go beyond the five steps and delve into one specific area, action planning and taking action. In it, I offer up steps to take-  and a worksheet to use - to take insights to action... and to deliver results.

I'd be honored if you'd take a listen to the webinar and read the whitepaper. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and feedback, as always.

Action is the foundational key to all success. -Pablo Picasso

Thursday, September 7, 2017

3 Secrets to #VoC Success

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Do you know the top three secrets of VoC success?

Strong Voice of the Customer (VoC) programs are a foundational element for any CX transformation. Transformations grounded in customer understanding lead to better outcomes for the business and for the customer.

And so it was on that premise that I compiled the three secrets of VoC success for a recent webinar, in advance of my keynote at DX Summit in Chicago this November.

While I know that there are more than three keys to successful VoC programs, I was given 15-20 minutes to talk, which gave me time to pick three. I covered the following, but the devil is in the details; you'll want/need to listen to the webinar because I provide a lot of insights into each one of these:
  1. The importance of executive commitment
  2. Ingraining customer feedback into the DNA of the company
  3. How to ensure effective communication from internal teams to customers
As a follow-up to the webinar, and again in prep for DX Summit, I was also interviewed by about my background and my philosophy on customer experience success. Check it out. I don't think anything there will surprise you, but at the end I recommend a book that I think all CX professionals should read!

At first they will ask you WHY you are doing it, but later they will ask you HOW you did it. -Unknown

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

#CXChat: Simplifying the Work CX Professionals Do

Will you be joining Sue Duris and me for the first #CXchat of many to come?

Sue and I talked about the fact that there hasn't been a Twitter chat dedicated to customer experience since #cxochat, which ended a couple years ago.

Customer experience is such an important topic today that we wanted to come up with a way to continue to keep it front and center.

We've had great participation with these chats in the past (and chats on related topics), so we knew it would be worthwhile to resurrect one dedicated to customer experience.

Since #cxochat, a lot of new folks have joined this profession (and Twitter), so we hope y'all will participate in this weekly chat, even if you're just lurking! (Don't be shy! Don't just lurk; we want to hear from you, too!)

Here's what you need to know:
  • #CXchat will take place on Twitter every Wednesday at 11am PT.
  • Simply follow that hashtag, and chime in with your thoughts, answers, experiences, best practices, etc.
  • It begins on Wednesday, September 6, 2017.
  • Sometimes we will have guests relevant to the topic, while other times we'll simply have a "roundtable" discussion. 
  • If you have a topic you'd love to see discussed, please reach out to either Sue or me, and we'll get the topic added to the schedule. We're trying to plan at least a month in advance.
Set your calendar to join us on September 6 and every Wednesday thereafter!

A little bit about our first chat, to get you primed for the discussion.

As customer experience professionals, we are tasked with transforming the customer experience, to reduce effort for our customers. Let's think about ourselves today. How can we make our jobs easier?! How can we reduce effort when it comes to what we are trying to accomplish?

To that end, we'll be addressing the following questions in the September 6 chat.
  1. What are some of the effortless things, if any, that we as CX professionals do? What's the easy part of our roles?
  2. A CX transformation is a lot of heavy lifting! How do we reduce the effort for CX professionals? Is it possible?
  3. What are the greatest challenges to success in your role?
  4. What have you done to try to mitigate or to overcome those challenges?
  5. Are there any tools that you use regularly to streamline or simplify any part of the CX transformation work you do?
  6. Think about your CX transformation. Your focus has likely shifted from delighting to understanding and meeting needs. without going the extra mile.How would you use that same approach to transform the CX professional's experience?
  7. Are there any books or resources that you'd recommend to other CX professionals that would give them a leg up on the work that lies ahead? 
If you've never been part of a Twitter chat, here's how it works.
  • The chat begins promptly at 11am PT and lasts one hour.
  • We will start with introductions. Say "hello" and introduce yourself as you join the chat.
  • If we have a guest host, we will introduce that individual and then dive into the questions.
  • To participate, all you need to do is tweet (answer the question, engage with participants) during the designated time using the #cxchat hashtag.
  • Chat questions will be asked in the Q1, Q2, etc. format.
  • When you respond, so that we can track your tweet/response to the question, please use A1, A2, etc. in response to the respective question. And don't forget to include the #cxchat hashtag!
  • No selling of products or services. This chat is informative and educational.
Buffer put together a great 101 resource about participating in Twitter chats. Check that out, if you aren't familiar with them or need a refresher.

We look forward to tweeting with you on Wednesdays!

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go. -Dr. Seuss

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Where Do Your Employees Fall in Order of Importance?

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Does your company put employees first? or customer first?

I suppose that there's one more possibility - neither.

Sadly, that's the case for a lot of companies.

But that's not the topic of this post. This post is all about where employees fall in order of importance in your company.

Recently, I was reading an article in Industry Week and came across this paragraph.
The Ohio Manufacturing Institute recognizes five major stakeholders in organizations. In order of importance they are: customers, owners, managers, employees, and community.  Without products, and customers who buy them, there is no company. And without owners who invest capital, there is no future.
Oh, and never mind that if there are no employees to make those products, there won't be a need for customers to buy something. Ouch!

So I thought I'd do a little digging to find some CEOs who disagree with this prioritization. You know where my head is on this: Quite simply: without employees, you have no customer experience.

Here's what I found:

I have always believed that the way you treat your employees is the way they will treat your customers, and that people flourish when they are praised. -Richard Branson, Virgin

Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients. -Richard Branson, Virgin

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

Who comes first? Don’t be silly, says King Hal; it’s employees. That is – and this dear Watson, is elementary – if you genuinely want to put customers first, you must put employees more first. -Tom Peters, referring to Hal Rosenbluth, CEO, Rosenbluth International

Everyone talks about building a relationship with your customer. I think you build one with your employees first. -Angela Ahrendts, Apple (previously with Burberry)

Take good care of your employees, and they’ll take good care of your customers, and the customers will come back. -J.W. Marriott

Businesses often forget about the culture, and ultimately, they suffer for it because you can't deliver good service from unhappy employees. -Tony Hsieh, Zappos

Just about anyone can make a good product, but it's the people that count. In the end, it's the employees who will take it from a kitchen-table idea to the next level. There are a lot of important things in business, but the people portion comes first. -Hamdi Ulukaya, Chobani

Put your employees first, and they`ll take you places you`ve never dreamed of. -Josh Coffy, Flight Media

When Stephen Woolman Preston, grandson of C.E. Woolman, founder of Delta Airlines, was asked about an organization's most important asset: Simple: its people. Mr. Woolman put people first. The Delta family was not a bumper sticker he came up with. It's a culture - a culture of employee engagement that continues today.

To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace
. -Doug Conant, Campbell’s Soup

Treat employees like they make a difference, and they will. -Jim Goodnight, SAS

Our mission statement about treating people with respect and dignity is not just words but a creed we live by every day. You can’t expect your employees to exceed the expectations of your customers if you don’t exceed the employees’ expectations of management. -Howard Schultz, Starbucks Coffee

There are only three measurements that tell you nearly everything you need to know about your organization’s overall performance: employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and cash flow. It goes without saying that no company, small or large, can win over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it. -Jack Welch, GE

All I am saying is by employees first you can actually deliver your promise of customers first. If you do not put the employee first – if the business of management and managers is not to put employees first – there is no way you can get the customer first. -Vineet Nayar, HCL Technologies

To make customers happy, we have to make sure our employees are happy first
. -Mig Pascual, Zappos Insights

When you build a genuine relationship with your employees first, it naturally turns into authentic engagement with your customers. -The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center

Notice anything?

Yup. All the great brands have great leaders who "get it."

I found a few other great quotes from some well-respected authors and speakers who shared their thoughts on this topic, as well:

Always put people first, for without them, there is no organization. -David Sikhosana, Time Value of Money: Timing Income

Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first. -Simon Sinek

Your number one customers are your people. Look after employees first and then customers last. -Ian Hutchinson, People Glue

You can’t be the best place to buy, if you’re not the best place to work. -Fred Reichheld

I have yet to find a company that has earned high levels of customer loyalty without first earning high levels of employee loyalty. -Fred Reichheld

You don't build a business. You build people, and people build the business. -Zig Ziglar

To close, I'll share Naveet Nayar's TEDx Aix Talk, during which he explains how he came about with the Employees First, Customers Second concept, which he wrote about in a book by the same name.

Where do your employees fall in order of importance?

Brand is how others see you; culture is how you see yourself. -Curt Coffman, First Break all the Rules

Thursday, August 24, 2017

CX Journey™ Musings: The Problem with Journey Maps

Image courtesy of Pixabay
There's a problem with journey maps?

Well, not with the maps themselves but with how people talk about them.

I love attending webinars and reading articles about journey mapping because I'm always curious about how others talk about them, what their approaches are, what outcomes they've achieved, etc.

As I read or listen, I'm hopeful that the author or presenter will share some great success stories and get the audience excited about what can be done when you map customer journeys and use those maps as the catalyst for change that they are.

I hate to say this, but more often than not, I'm hugely disappointed. Recently, I attended yet another webinar where the host touted great things about the content - but fell flat in delivery. When the presenter talked about stages of the customer lifecycle and not the steps that customers take to complete some task or interaction, I knew there would be no success stories. I also knew that attendees would be more confused than ever about what journey mapping really is.

Same goes for an article I read just a few days ago on Business2Community where the author used "journey maps" and "customer experience" in the article title; my expectations were high. Instead, the author proceeded to talk about the buyer journey and buyer behavior.

Listen. There's a time and place for mapping the stages; it's appropriate for your marketing and sales teams, as they work together to understand the buyer funnel and customer lifecycle stages, to help them understand and identify where prospects or customers are in the relationship with the company so that they can better target communications, marketing campaigns, or sales pitches based on wants and needs at each stage.

Mapping stages may also be appropriate as you think about the high-level customer relationship and where to begin journey mapping. But as a customer experience professional, mapping at that level is, well, useless. It's too high level to be able to help the organization understand the customer experience, how employees impact it, or to effect change that is meaningful to the customer experience.

Imagine if you had never changed the oil in your car and wanted instructions on how to do that. All you were able to find were the schematics for the entire car, not for the engine, and certainly not, more specifically, for where the oil filter is and where you need to drain the oil.

That's how it feels when you try to improve a specific journey for your customers but only look at the stage level, mapping some high-level steps within those stages. Not until you hone in on a realistic scope of the map - picking a specific Point A to Point B, a specific job to be done - and outline the  steps for that scope, capturing details on both those steps within and not within your control, can you pinpoint where things are breaking down and where they need to be fixed.

Next time you attend a webinar, watch for this. If the presenter doesn't outline a clear scope and objectives - a clear Point A to Point B to be mapped, a manageable scope that gets detailed to the step - ask if he's going to be able to identify where things are truly breaking down. Time to put an end to this nonsense. It's why, for so long, people have questioned if mapping is all that it's built up to be.

Yes. If done right, it is.

Think of the customer journey not as stages but as steps; by definition, when you are mapping, you are walking in your customer's shoes... shoes take steps, not stages.

Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs. -Henry Ford

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Journey to a Great Customer Service Experience

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's post originally for injixo. It appeared on their blog on March 23, 2017.

Working in a call center, whether you're on the phone or on the floor managing operations, means that you're front and center with customers at all times. It also means that you know the importance of delivering a great service experience for your customers. If that's not an area of focus for you, it certainly ought to be!

The customer experience is an area of obsession for many organizations today, and some of them are doing a better job of delivering on it than others. For many businesses, the call center and customer service lines are often the most-frequent point of interaction with customers, making it that much more important to understand the experience customers are having. In this article, I'll outline how to best do that.

Let me first take a step back, though, and define a two often-misunderstood terms - namely, customer experience and customer service - to ensure that we're all on the same page. As you may or may not know, these are two very different things.

I define customer experience as (a) the sum of all the interactions that a customer has with a company over the course of the relationship lifecycle and (b) the customer's feelings, emotions, and perceptions of the brand over the course of those interactions.

Many people confuse customer experience with customer service; they are not one and the same. Customer experience is actually the "umbrella discipline," so to speak, while customer service falls under that umbrella. "Customer service is what happens when the customer experience breaks down." That's how Chris Zane, owner of Zane's Cycles, defines or differentiates the two. I think that's a great way to put it. Customer service is just one aspect, one touchpoint in the overall customer experience. It's not only a department but also what we do to/for our customers.

OK, back to understanding the experience your customers are having. There are tools for this; I'll name just two important ones for now: (1) surveys or other listening posts and (2) journey maps. It's the latter, journey maps, that I'll focus on for the rest of this post.

What are journey maps?

In simplest terms, journey maps allow you to walk in your customer's shoes and chart his course as he interacts with your organization (via whatever channel, department, touchpoint, product, etc.) while trying to fulfill some need or do some job, e.g., call support, purchase a product, etc. The map describes what customers are doing, thinking, and feeling at each step in the journey. It allows you to identify key moments of truth, i.e., make-or-break moments or moments during which the customer decides if he will continue to do business with your or not, and to ensure that those moments are executed delightfully. The map is created from his viewpoint, not yours. It's not linear either, nor is it static.

So let's think about a customer service experience. It typically begins with the customer experiencing or identifying an issue, a question, or some other reason for which he needs to contact your call center. And so the journey begins. I won't go through it step by step, but think about just that. What will the customer do next? Look for your phone number, find a web form to submit a support request, etc.? What happens next? And then what? And have you made it easy for him to do those things? That's the process you'll go through to outline that strawman of a journey map for a customer service call. Ultimately, you'll create the map internally in partnership with stakeholders and then validate the actual journey with customers. Your customers must be involved in mapping, and the maps must be created from their viewpoint.

Mapping the customer service experience is one of my favorite journeys to map because it is such a rich experience and there is such a huge learning opportunity here. Why? Most people assume that the customer service experience starts and stops at the call center. This simply isn't true. Note that I mentioned previously that maps are created in partnership with stakeholders. For this particular map, there are a lot of stakeholders.

Consider this. The reason someone calls customer service is because the experience broke down somewhere upstream; in other words, the product wasn't working right, the documentation wasn't clear, sales sold the dream and not what the product actually does, etc. These departments should be part of the mapping exercise and process so that they can fix what happens upstream in order to reduce the pressure and the load downstream, on the customer service representatives.

For the sake of this post, I have totally simplified the process (and I'm happy to answer any questions about it), but know that there's a lot more involved to creating the map that helps you understand the current state of the support experience. Focus on the current state in your initial meetings and mappings. A lot of folks want to dive into designing the future state of the experience, but as I like to say, you can't transform something you don't understand. Understand what the experience looks like today. Then listen to customers and bring their feedback into the map. From there, design the future state. Once you've designed the future state, you need to act. You don't want the map to just be a pretty picture on the wall; it is a catalyst for change. Use what you learned to actually improve the experience for your customers. They'll thank you for it!

I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen. -Ernest Hemingway

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

CX Journey™ Musings: Should You Invest in Customer Experience?

Image courtesy of Got Credit
ROI is still our favorite "three-letter word." Nothing wrong with that!

It's been a year or more since I've written about the ROI of customer experience. Always good to revisit this topic because it is such a hot one for customer experience professionals.

Executives want to see hard numbers about any investments they make. Of course, they want to see their own hard numbers, but absent those, we can tell the story of the benefits of customer experience through some benchmark data, through examples of successes that others have achieved by doing what you should/could be doing.

In the past, I've referenced Jon Picoult's research at Watermark Consulting, where he's compared the market performance of CX Leaders and CX Laggards (based on Forrester's Customer Experience Index). His last overall, cross-industry comparison was done in 2015; in 2016, he focused on the ROI of customer experience in the insurance industry, and in 2017, he has focused on the airline industry. Always the same (great) story, regardless.

The folks at Forrester have begun to do their own comparisons of the ROI for Leaders and Laggards

In 2016, they conducted a six-month research effort that took a look at the relationship between customer experience and superior revenue growth. They chose pairs of competitors where one company in the pair had significantly higher customer experience than the other (according to their own customers). They did this for five industries - cable, airlines, investments, retail, and health insurance - and then built models to compare the compound annual growth rate in revenue of the CX Leaders to the CX Laggards between 2010 and 2014. As you can see from the graphic above, there is definitely a correlation between the two, superior customer experience and superior revenue growth. This was the case for four of the five industries they researched; for health insurance companies, a superior customer experience didn't equate to superior revenue growth. Forrester attributed this to switching abilities.

If you're familiar with the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), they have now started to compare customer satisfaction and market performance. They claim that: An organization’s customer satisfaction performance, as measured by ACSI’s methodology, can predict how well the firm will perform in terms of corporate revenue and earnings growth.

As they looked  at companies for which they have satisfaction ratings versus the S&P 500 from April 2000 through December 2016, they discovered that the ACSI shows that customer satisfaction is directly linked to stock market performance. Companies with high or improving scores had higher stock returns than their competitors and outperformed market indexes. Results can be seen on the chart below:

Check out more details on their site, including how they picked the Long Portfolio and Short Portfolio companies.

The net-net of it all: we know that it's important to invest in customer experience, today more than ever. The returns are real. And they are proven.

If you make a sale, you can make a living. If you make an investment of time and good service in a customer, you can make a fortune. - Jim Rohn

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Candidate Experience and the Customer Experience

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's post for Clicktools. It appeared on their blog on December 30, 2016.

How well have you thought out your candidate experience? Is it designed to attract or to frustrate? Do your candidates sing your praises, or do they regret the day their resumes crossed into your inbox? Do they feel like they've thrown their resumes into a sea of other candidates, waiting patiently for a response from your recruiter or the hiring manager, only for that response to never arrive? Do they feel excited after a great interview, only to have no follow-up from your company or no response to their follow-up?

I know a lot of people looking for jobs - in the CX world and otherwise - and the stories are consistent: companies are missing the boat on recruiting and, especially, on how that recruiting/candidate experience impacts the brand experience. They just don't get it.

Here are the scenarios I've heard from these folks:
  • Resumes were sent for posted positions, and the candidates received no acknowledgement of receipt of said resumes by the targeted potential employer, not even an auto-response;
  • Interviews were had with companies, but there was no follow-up or feedback from corporate recruiters or hiring managers;
  • Thank you notes and inquiries about position status were sent by candidates with no response or acknowledgement;
  • Candidates were pursued/recruited by the company with no subsequent follow-up communication to close the loop and set an interview time (or just to say "no thanks");
  • and more
Employers should be ashamed! Yes. I know. Companies are inundated with resumes, even if they're just trying to fill a couple positions. But seriously, come on! Give someone the task to follow up with these candidates. You are hurting your brand if you don't follow up - especially during a time when so many people are looking for new opportunities; remember, you are being touched by so many potential customers. O, did I say that? I mean, employees. No, actually, I also mean customers.

Herb Kelleher, in his response to being asked his "secret to success," said: “You have to treat your employees like customers.” And I'll add, "... your recruits, as well." Why? For a variety of reasons, including the following:
  • Even if you're not specifically recruiting among a pool of known customers, know that any recruit is potentially a customer of yours.
  • Employees want to work for companies with which they are aligned (purpose, values, etc.). This means that they are likely also customers of those companies.
  • Candidates are customers or potential customers.
That's three different ways to say the same thing, but the bottom line is that the candidate experience touches the customer experience, in a few different ways. Candidates might be customers; and even if they are not, they might be eventually.

The way companies handle themselves during the recruiting process leaves a lasting impression about the company on a candidate. Will the candidate want to work for your company, even if you make them an offer? (Not likely that unresponsiveness will cause that, but some of the other wacky recruiting tactics that I've heard about might.) Will he or she recommend employment at your company to others based on the recruiting process and the overall candidate experience? Will they share their experiences with friends and family, i.e., other future/potential recruits and customers? Will the candidate rethink that purchase from your company? Will the new hire, while simply happy to have a job, grace your doors with a sour taste about your brand because of the candidate experience?

Recruiting is a touchpoint in the employee lifecycle, which indirectly becomes a touchpoint in the customer lifecycle, as well. During this process, your HR recruiters are representing and selling the brand, the brand promise, and the purpose and the vision of the company, but if actions don't match words, if you're not living the brand, you're living a lie. And that lie is easily perpetuated at this particular touchpoint.

Your recruiting team or hiring manager needs to:
  • Be responsive with candidates
  • Personalize the candidate experience
  • Be a resource to candidates and potential candidates
  • Close the loop on any open inquiries
  • Politely say "No" if someone is not a fit
  • Be courteous
  • Know that auto-responders are not helpful if they provide no real information
  • Remove job postings from every job source if the position is filled
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate
If you have a portal through which candidates submit applications, reduce candidate effort:
  • Simplify the process
  • Don't make candidates attach a resume and then also fill in the blanks
  • Provide regular updates about where candidates are in the process
  • Make the status updates meaningful, i.e., actually provide informative status updates
  • Ask for feedback
Do you survey your candidates after the recruiting process? No? Why not? Would you be embarrassed by candidates' feedback about this process? Is this a broken process in your organization that clearly needs to be repaired?

One final thought: Don't just map your customer journey. Map your employee journey, as well; it's a journey that begins long before the candidate signs on the dotted line to become an employee. If you find that the journey starts out pretty rough, take a look at those interactions and fix the root cause before the word gets out that it's badly broken. If not, hiring good people will become a real challenge.

The candidate experience impacts the customer experience in a variety of ways. Make sure you hire the right employees with diligence and care. And show them that you understand that the candidate experience drives the employee experience, which drives the customer experience.  What does your recruiting process and candidate experience say about your brand?

You’re not just recruiting employees but are sowing the seeds of your reputation. -Unknown

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Expectations: The Mother of All Frustrations

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Expectation = frustration?

I recently saw an article with an image that included a quote from Antonio Banderas: Expectation is the mother of all frustration.

Honestly, this is true in life, in all relationships. Think about it for a second: Aren't relationships much easier and much more relaxed when you have no expectations of the other party? Were you waiting for him to bring you flowers? Did you expect her to call your mom to wish her a "happy birthday?" How did that make you feel when those expectations weren't met. Not so good, I'm sure. Frustrated? Disappointed? Unhappy? Questioning the person and the relationship?

Now think about your customers. Think about what frustrates them. And why.

Expectations, of course.

Customers come to do business with you because they have a set of expectations, including:

  • "I heard they have the best [insert product here]."
  • "I read reviews and saw that they got 5-star ratings."
  • "Their commercial said they guarantee [insert guarantee here]."
  • "I've purchased from them before and had a great experience."

There are a lot of different ways that customer expectations are formed:
  • your brand promise
  • your marketing and advertising
  • you stated outright, e.g., we do X
  • customer's previous experience (with your brand or with another brand), or
  • consistent delivery of a great experience (by your brand)
  • word of mouth or reviews and feedback from other customers
  • from within us/customers, based on our own set of morals and values and how we would treat others or what we would do for them
But expectations can be funny thing.
  • Customers have them, but they are not in control of them and not in control of the outcomes.
  • Customers have them, but companies must know them and understand them.
  • Companies set them (brand promise, service delivery, marketing, etc.), yet they have trouble delivering against them (consistency/consistenly).
Where do you begin?

Obviously, understanding your customers, their needs and jobs to be done, and their expectations (against those needs, jobs to be done) is the first step in being able to deliver against them. When employees know and understand customer expectations, they can develop products and services, provide service and support, interact with customers, and more in such a way that ensures they meet or exceed said expectations. And they just need to do so consistently.

There's an equation for this: Performance - Expectations = (Dis)Satisfaction

How do you measure expectations?

First ask what they are. Understand them. Deliver against them. And then ask if they were met. Or you could simply ask a satisfaction/experience question post-interaction to gauge where you stand, since expectations and experience are closely related. Or you can just ask an expectations met question post-interaction to get the same information. Oftentimes, we'll ask a more-detailed diagnostic question to understand what the expectations were; after all, if you only know that they were/weren't met but don't know what they were, how helpful is that?

Are expectations the mother of all frustrations? I tend to agree. But expectations are inherently part of all relationships, including those with customers; so companies must learn how to identify, deliver against, and mitigate those frustrations, er, expectations.

Deming has an interesting take on expectations: 

Customer expectations? Nonsense. No customer ever asked for the electric light, the pneumatic tire, the VCR, or the CD. All customer expectations are only what you and your competitor have led him to expect. He knows nothing else. -W. Edwards Deming

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Do You and Your Customers Speak the Same Language?

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's post for Clicktools. It appeared on their blog on November 28, 2016.

Do you train your employees to talk to customers in company language or in customer language?

Did you realize that your company has a language? Or that your industry has a jargon? And that those  often (most of the time) differ from your customers' language? When the two collide, this becomes a customer experience nightmare.

Have you ever been on a flight and heard the pilot announce: They have some flow, and we were able to get some of their passengers bumped up into our flight? That happened on a recent flight of mine that was delayed as we sat on the tarmac. What is flow? I still don't know. I wonder how many other passengers knew what that meant? Why did the pilot use that word? Because it's in his vocabulary, not in his passengers'. He probably didn't even think about that.

Here's another example from a visit to a local lab to have some blood drawn. Do you know what a Phlebotomist is? I'm betting not many people do. That was the first time I'd seen that sign in any lab. Honestly, it was the first time I'd ever seen that word. Whoever designed that sign probably knew the word and assumed everyone else does, too. Good thing customers can just Google the word while they're waiting for an hour to be called for their turns. It shouldn't be that way.

The language you speak needs to mean something to your customers. When you use acronyms or industry jargon, you're simply confusing customers. Customers can go elsewhere to find another company that understands them and that they understand. That's the price you'll pay if you don't consider this important topic.

While you don't want to seem overly simplistic in your explanations or conversations, especially when you're talking about something very niche or purely product technical, don't assume the customer understands your products and your technical language or terms. That doesn't mean you have to "dumb it down;" you just need to use the right words - words that your customers can spell and define.

And don't leave out information simply because you don't think the customer will understand. Put the information in her terms and explain it well; she'll believe you have her best interest at heart. You've bought yourself some goodwill. And earned some trust.

How can you ensure that you're speaking the same language as your customers?
  • Don't use acronyms, internal product names, industry jargon, or other company speak; be sure to train and coach employees on this regularly. Depending on how ingrained that jargon is in your day-to-day, this could be a bit of an effort, but it will be worth it.
  • Listen to cues from customers. Is there a blank stare, silence on the other end of the line, or an expression of confusion? Customers will let you know if they don't get it. Pay attention.
  • Get feedback from your customers about your messaging and communications, e.g., your signs, brochures, websites, product packaging, etc. Think about all the different ways that you communicate, and make sure there is a consistent, customer-friendly language used across the board. 
  • Learn and adapt to your customers' language. Do they refer to your products the same way you do? And do they actually speak the same language (English, German, etc.) that you speak? If not, make sure your messaging and communications are all available in their language.
  • Understand your customers, their needs, and the jobs they are trying to do; then talk about the benefits of your products and how they will help customers do what it is that they need to do. That's the language they want you to speak: how can your product help me? how can you help me? what does this do? how do I fix it?
It seems like a no-brainer that companies should be doing this. It also seems like there's a quick, easy fix to something that frustrates customers and makes the experience more difficult than it has to be. I gave you two examples of industry-specific language used to communicate with customers, and I know there are plenty of others. Without a doubt, you can come up with a few of your own. So, think about how you communicate with your customers. Then walk in your customers' shoes, understand them, speak in their language, earn trust, and build long-term relationships.

I don't know the rules of grammar. If you're trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language. -David Ogilvy