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

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Question Everything

Image courtesy of Pixabay
But we've always done it that way!

Is that one of the favorite sayings within your company? from your leaders?

Or maybe it's, "That's just the way we do things around here."

Regardless, you never want to hear either of those phrases uttered within the four walls of your organization.

In my webinar last week with CallidusCloud|CX, I talked about nine behaviors of CX Losers. (There are more than nine, without a doubt!) One of the behaviors was the failure to question everything, the failure to question the status quo, to be OK with the way things have always been done.

"We've always done it this way" is a culture killer, an innovation killer, and employee experience killer, and a customer experience killer.

You know the old saying: What got you here won't get you there.

It's true.

Companies change. Employees change. Customers change. Customer needs change. Companies develop new products and services. New competitors enter the market. As a result, companies need to regularly revisit rules, policies, processes, and approaches in order to ensure that the way things are done today is still relevant to changing/changed market conditions and that we are still able to deliver a great experience for both employees and customers.

So, question everything.

If employees and leaders are constantly asking questions, they...
  1. Learn more about their customers and employees
  2. Are better able to understand customer and employee needs
  3. Learn about partners, the market, emerging trends, etc.
  4. Are prompted to, and will, ideate and innovate
  5. Create new/better products, features, and services
  6. Design better experiences
  7. Eliminate rules, processes, and policies that are harmful to the experience
  8. Change the way they do business (for the better)
Don't keep things status quo for the sake of comfort, convenience, or keeping things status quo. If you keep doing the same thing, you're going to keep getting the same results, right?

Is there a better way to do something? Does this still make sense for us? For our customers? Is there a stupid rule or policy in place whose origin cannot be recalled by anyone? Are there rules that make it painful for customers to do what it is that they're trying to do? Are bad policies making it painful for employees to do their jobs well or to deliver the desired customer experience? Never let "that's just how it's always been done" get in the way of doing things more efficiently and with less effort.

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. It's time to start asking some serious questions. And time to stop being afraid of the answers - or the consequences and changes as a result. Things can only get better!

You can’t afford to stand still when it comes to customer experience. The best companies innovate and disrupt their market. Challenge the status quo in order to improve. By continually questioning your processes, your company can keep improving and refining what it's doing to help it stay ahead of the competition and become a leader in your industry.

But, how you ask the questions can be an art form, too, as I wrote last year in The Power of Questions. Ask the right questions. As Drucker said: Nothing is more dangerous than the right answer to the wrong question.

I'll leave you with this awesome talk by Seth Godin called, This Is Broken! In it, he shares some funny, yet sad, examples of broken experiences. He categorizes them as "7 Kinds of Broken:" not my job, selfish jerks, the world changed, I didn't know, I'm not a fish, contradictions, and broken on purpose. Watch the video, and you'll understand his classifications. Well worth the 20 minutes!

You're welcome!

We get wise by asking questions, and even if these are not answered, we get wise, for a well-packed question carries its answer on its back as a snail carries its shell. –James Stephens

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Don't Be a #CX Loser!

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Is your company a CX Loser or a CX Winner?

If you answered "CX Loser," I know it's tough to stand up and admit that. It's a difficult thing to acknowledge, especially when many simply don't think they are CX Losers. But they are!

And it's important to understand what makes one a CX Winner versus a CX Loser, which is why I tackled this topic in a recent webinar with CallidusCloud|CX.

What is a CX Loser?  It's a company that doesn’t understand its customers and doesn’t take the customer into account in all that it does; the customer is not a priority. And neither is the employee.

These CX Loser companies still believe that being in business is about maximizing shareholder value. They haven't yet adopted Drucker’s thinking that companies are in business to create and to nurture a customer.

Why focus on CX Losers? Why now?

There are a lot of reasons, but I’ll start with just two.

First, customer experience is a differentiator. In this world where products and services are becoming more and more commodotized every day, customer experience is the one true differentiator. We know that customers are willing to pay more for a better experience, so price can no longer be the main reason people buy; as a result, companies need to do do what's right and deliver a great experience.

Second, I’ve talked to so many people lately who’ve been "volun-told" into a customer experience role. In case you don’t know what "volun-told" is, it means you didn’t previously hold a specific customer experience professional role, i.e., it wasn’t your day job, but you were somehow assigned to "do CX" because someone on the leadership team heard that customer experience is important.

I suppose that’s a good thing. But you cant just "do CX," as I wrote last week. It’s a culture shift, a mindset shift, a behavioral shift. There are so many new folks getting into this profession that we just need to be really clear on what customer experience is, how that shift happens, and what the foundational elements of customer experience are.

More companies are starting to get that they need to focus on the customer experience, but many – most – are still struggling. They need help, in many ways. There’s a lot of work to be done, and it’s certainly not straightforward. The more we talk about, educate folks on, and help them understand CX, what’s good and what’s bad, what’s right and what’s wrong, the foundational elements that need to be in place to "do CX," the better off we will all be.

Bain uncovered this thing called the "delivery gap," or the customer experience perception gap; you know the stat: 80% of executives believe that they are delivering a superior customer experience, while only 8% of customer agree. Companies that are so off-base on their perceptions or understandings of their customers and the experience are clearly CX Losers. 80% is a pretty significant chunk of companies!

Don't want to be on the CX Loser list? Watch the recording of last week's webinar, How to Stay Off the CX Loser List, to hear about nine behaviors of CX Losers - and what to do to turn those around to become a CX Winner!

The difference between winners and losers is that winners do things losers don't want to do. -Dr. Phil McGraw

Friday, July 21, 2017

Shift Happens - or Does It?

Image courtesy of Pixabay
You can't just "do CX." There's more to it than that!

Have you been tasked with improving the customer experience in your organization? Were you volun-told into a CX role? Were you asked to "do CX" because it's now the topic du jour?

Guess what? You can't just "do CX." Transforming the customer experience is much more complex than that simplified command. Transforming the customer experience requires a culture shift, a mindset shift, a behavioral shift. And that shift needs to come from - or start from - the top, from the executive staff, from your CEO.

Shift happens, right?

Yea, not so fast! Shift can't be forced. And it just doesn't happen on its own.

How does shift happen? What does that require?  Unfortunately, as most customer experience professionals know, it requires some heavy lifting. In order to shift mindsets and behaviors, whether it's that of executives or of employees, you'll need to do the following...
  • Be clear on what you are changing to; in other words, what is the current state and what is the desired future state?
  • Know and understand your audience: how do they learn? what motivates them?
  • Frame the proposed shift in a way that they'll understand
  • Create context and tell a story: stories are a Trojan horse for learning 
  • Build your business case
  • Start small and show some quick wins to help build momentum, to help get people on board (it won't happen all at once)
  • Communicate clearly, openly, candidly, and regularly
  • Make sure that everyone knows the purpose, the vision, the goals, the desired outcomes - and that they understand the Why behind all of it - create a "greater cause" mentality
  • Regularly reinforce and reaffirm the change
You've got to shift the thinking and the messaging and the education to "customer" and away from "us" or "we." That's critical.

Communication is, obviously, a huge part of making this shift a reality. Leaders must clearly communicate about the change:
  • Why it's important to the audience and, ultimately, to the business
  • That it's not a quick fix or the flavor of the day - it's a way of doing business from here on in
  • How it affects each individual personally
  • Give examples, including ROI
  • How priorities have been redefined and why
  • Role model the change
  • How it will be measured - and why 
  • Who's already on board; there's power in numbers, and it grows from there
You can expect pushback, but you have to just push through. This is important. Persistence is key.

That's a good segue into why mindset shifts, behavioral shifts, and culture shifts won't happen. I recently came across an article from Matthew E. May titled 20 Reasons Why Your Company Won't Change. Among the ones Matthew mentions, I've picked some of the most popular ones that I've heard from other customer experience professionals and have listed them below. (Check out the article; you might think some of the other reasons apply, too!) This explains a lot, but don't let it stop you! Push through it.

  • Fear. We have an innate fear of the unknown. “I’m afraid of what will happen.”    
  • Myopia. We can’t see that change is in our broader self-interest. “This won’t help us.” 
  • Selfishness. Unless change immediately pays off for us, we’ll resist it. “What’s in it for me?”
  • Ego. Those with power have to admit they’ve been wrong. “I feel I’ve positioned us well for the future.”
  • Sleepwalking. Too many people live un-examined lives. “I just don’t get it.”
  • Human nature. We are naturally self-centered, and change requires some selflessness. “Others will benefit more than me.”
  • Complacency. We like the path of least resistance; we’re not natural maximizers or optimizers. “I’m satisfied with the ways things are.”
  • No constituency. The power base of the status quo is greater than that of those trying to bring about change. “There’s no critical mass behind us.” 
  • Short selling. Perceived lack of knowledge, skills, tools, and experience. “We’ve never done this; we don’t know how to do this.”
  • Exceptionalism. People can’t see the situation objectively. “That may work elsewhere, but we’re different.”
What are you going to do? How are you going to "do CX?" How will you shift the culture, the mindset, and employee behaviors to make the customer the primary focus (with employees more first) of your organization. What's stopping your company from making the shift? I'm curious if there are other reasons besides the ones listed above or in Matthew's article?

It's not only moving that creates new starting points. Sometimes all it takes is a subtle shift in perspective, an opening of the mind, an intentional pause and reset, or a new route to start to see new options and new possibilities. -Kristin Armstrong

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Why Does Your Company Need a Customer Experience Executive?

Image courtesy of GMC
Who needs a customer experience executive? Why? What does this  person do? What are the critical success factors for this role? What advice is there for future customer experience executives?

Those are just some of the questions addressed in an eBook I wrote - and GMC Software released - about six weeks ago. And during a recent podcast with GMC Software.

If you've seen the eBook, you'll know that I also interviewed five global CCOs to get insights into how they landed their roles, their key challenges and how they overcame them, and advice for current and future CX executives. I was honored to speak with:
  • Christine Corbett, CCO, Australia Post
  • Nick Frunzi, CCO, Esri
  • Ingrid Lindberg, former 4-time CCO, most recently with Prime Therapeutics
  • Isabelle Conner, CMO/CCO, Assicurazioni Generali Spa
  • Donna Peeples, CCO, Pypestream
If you haven't seen it yet, please take a moment to download the eBook. The response has been overwhelming, and the feedback has been quite generous and thoughtful. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to not only download and read it but to also share your thoughts on it.

For a CliffNotes version, have a listen to this podcast with Mirza Baig of GMC Software, during which he and I discuss some of the highlights of the CCO interviews, and I answer his questions about this role. One of my favorite questions was about my "Shark Tank sales pitch" about the CXO role: Why does a company need a customer experience executive? I won't give away the answer here... you'll have to listen to hear my response.

You are serving a customer, not a life sentence. Learn how to enjoy your work. -Laurie McIntosh

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Employee Engagement: A Confluence of Passion and Purpose

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Why is it so difficult to understand what employee engagement is all about?

I recently saw a note from a reporter with a reputable online publication asking for sources who had used company perks, as well as apps to track rewards and perks in the workplace, noting that he was writing an article about employee engagement.

It's great that there's an ongoing  spotlight on employee engagement because it's still at an all-time low.

But let's just all say it in unison one last time:

Perks and employee engagement should not be used in the same sentence. One has nothing to do with the other.

I've written about this topic many times, but I feel it warrants repeating on a regular basis, especially when unknowing reporters want to write articles that continue to misinform.

What is Employee Engagement?
Here's what employee engagement looks like, according to Gallup.
Engaged workers stand apart from their not-engaged and actively disengaged counterparts because of the discretionary effort they consistently bring to their roles. These employees willingly go the extra mile, work with passion, and feel a profound connection to their company. They are the people who will drive innovation and move your business forward.
What is Employee Engagement Not?
Employee Engagement is not...
  • a strategy
  • a mandate
  • employee motivation
  • employee recognition
  • something that is "done" (I read an article once that included a note about "if employee engagement is done properly.")
  • an organizational competence
  • a morale booster
  • a performance booster
  • performance goals
  • a reward program
  • an investment
  • an incentive
  • a survey
  • trainable
  • coached
  • a training program
  • technology-driven
  • a management style
  • a party every Friday afternoon
  • unlimited free food and similar perks
  • a plaque on the wall
  • a shirt with your logo on it
  • education reimbursement
  • employee satisfaction
  • employee happiness
The list goes on. I'm not making this stuff up! These examples all come from well-meaning bloggers and reporters over the years who want to create a quick fix to engage employees. There is no quick fix! On top of that, a lot of what is written about what employee engagement often defines the "employee experience" in general.

A Confluence of Passion and Purpose
No one can make an employee engaged. Perks and rewards do not drive employee engagement. That engagement comes from within the employee, and yet the company has a role in it, as well. When  there's some confluence of: (1) emotions, commitment, passion, sense of ownership, etc. on the part of the employee about the brand and (2) what the organization does (mission, purpose, brand promise, etc.) to facilitate and enhance those emotions or that commitment - then we have employee engagement.

…you have to want to be engaged. There has to be deep-seated desire in your heart and mind to participate, to be involved, and to make a difference. If the desire isn’t there, no person or book can plant it within you. -Tim Clark

What Can Employers Do?
Employee engagement involves two parties, the employee and the employer. What's the employer's part in this equation? It's all about creating the right conditions to allow employees to become engaged. Those conditions include:
  • Hiring the right people for the right roles
  • Clearly communicating the mission, vision, purpose, and values of the organization
  • Communicating openly and being transparent about company performance and how employees' contributions matter
  • Setting expectations and providing the right tools and resources for employees to meet those expectations
  • Creating a culture where employees come first
  • Ensuring employees are well taken care of, which includes tools, training, coaching, development, feedback, recognition, respect, appreciation, trust, balance, and more
What Can Employees Do?
Employees obviously have ownership in this thing called engagement: it comes from within them. Their role in becoming engaged includes:
  • Accepting a position for the right role in the right company 
  • Being passionate about what they do and for whom they do it
  • Taking ownership, thinking and acting like they own the business
  • Understanding the mission, vision, purpose, and values of the organization and ensuring alignment with all of them
  • Providing feedback to drive business success
  • Working day in and day out toward the goals of the business
  • Understanding how their work ties to business outcomes
I'm sure there are more conditions for both sides of the house, but as you can see, neither side lists anything about perks!

Engaged employees are not just committed. They are not just passionate or proud. They have a line-of-sight on their own future and on the organization’s mission and goals. They are ‘enthused’ and ‘in gear’ using their talents and discretionary effort to make a difference in their employer’s quest for sustainable business success. I’ve never had control and I never wanted it. If you create an environment where people truly participate, you don’t need control. They know what needs to be done and they do it. –Herb Kelleher, Southwest Airlines

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Mission, Vision, Guiding Principles, Values. Oh My!

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Do you know the difference?

There's a bit of an alphabet soup going on when we talk about some of the statements that an organization must have in place to get all employees marching to the same beat. You need a mission statement, vision statements, core values, guiding principles, brand promise, purpose, and more, right?! Are these important? Yes. Is it detrimental if we don't have them? Maybe. Would it be common sense to take the time to develop and communicate them? Yes. If you want to be in business, you (and your employees) probably ought to know why and what you're trying to do.

Bain wraps up all of these various statements into a nice little package - because they are intertwined and support each other - with the following:
A Mission Statement defines the company's business, its objectives, and its approach to reach those objectives. A Vision Statement describes the desired future position of the company. Elements of Mission and Vision Statements are often combined to provide a statement of the company's purposes, goals, and values.
The mission statement describes the business you are in, i.e., what you're doing and who you're serving, while the vision statement defines where the company wants to go in the future. By the way, I love this tip from bplans about mission statements (link also includes great examples of mission statements)...
To test the value of a draft of your mission statement, take a step back and ask yourself whether or not the same words could apply to any other business; and whether anybody could identify your business from hearing your mission statement.
... although, I must say, after reading the examples, I don't think this is a hard-and-fast rule. Many of the statements could apply to any of the companies' competitors.

An inspirational and aspirational statement, your corporate vision not only outlines what the company is trying to achieve near-term and long-term but also guides decision-making processes and your subsequent, resultant course of action. It will answer the question, "Where do you see the company in five years? or in ten years?"

Your customer experience vision will also be inspirational and aspirational and will outline what you see as the future state of the customer experience. It will briefly describe the experience you plan to deliver. And it will serve as a guide to help choose future courses of action. It should align with your corporate vision, or they may be one and the same.

Core values are the fundamental beliefs of the organization; they really describe or define the culture. Core values are broad statements that guide your employees, identifying right and wrong, good and bad, and how to interact with each other and with customers.

Guiding principles, on the other hand, are more specific in how they guide the organization through everything it does. They are more prescriptive in nature. There's often confusion between values and principles: aren't they the same? In a way, yes; they get the same message across but in a different way. Principles are objective "truths" or "laws," while values are subjective and provide a sense of direction.

The company's purpose is its reason for being, the why. It's typically stated in such a way that helps employees understand who the business is trying to impact and in what way. Employees are inspired when they know they are doing something for the good of something or someone else. Define the who and the what, and you've got your why.

Your brand promise is the expectation you set with your customers; in essence, it's a promise you make to your customers about the experience and the benefit they can expect from engaging with your brand. Everything you and your employees do should reflect this promise. It’s a combination of the brand purpose and the reality of what the brand can deliver. In most cases, it defines the benefits a customer can expect to receive when experiencing your brand at every touch point.

Hope that's helpful. Here's the thing with each of these: it's not enough to just define them. They must be communicated and understood; employees then need to live and breath them and refer to them every day.

From my very first day as an entrepreneur, I've felt the only mission worth pursuing in business is to make people's lives better. -Richard Branson

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

CX Journey™ Musings: Customer Focus - at What Cost?

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Customer focus... at what cost? 

Are you kidding me?

I recently attended a webinar about how to develop a customer-centric culture. One of the questions during the Q&A at the end of the webinar was something along the lines of, "Doesn't more customer focus means less focus on products, etc.?"

I happened to have just taken a sip of my coffee, and I think it came out of my nose. I cleaned up the coffee and held my breath, in hopes that the presenter would answer the question the way it should be answered. She did.

And yet, at the same time, I'm shocked that someone would ask that question. (OK, only mildly shocked, given the challenges that we CX professionals have, but go with it.)

Isn't it all the same stuff?

Listen. It's all about customer focus. It's all about the customer. It's all about the customer experience.

What's the purpose of a business? Why are you in business? To create and to nurture customers, right? Can't do that if you're not infusing the customer into everything that you do! What are you doing? Why are you doing the things you're doing for your business if it's not in the best interest of the customer?

This is not about creating more work or adding more to your plate. You're already doing these things: enhancing the product, changing processes, updating the website, revising policies, hiring new people, etc. All we ask is that, while you're doing your day job, you think about: your customers, the impact of what you're doing or creating on your customers, how customers would feel about changes you want to make, etc.

That's not so hard, is it?

Instead, we get push back that it takes too much time or that there's no budget for customer experience. What?! How does that even happen?!

It's all customer experience. If it's not, you'll be joining the likes of Blockbuster, Borders, Kodak, etc.

You've got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology - not the other way around. -Steve Jobs

Thursday, June 29, 2017

CX Journey™ Musings: We Have All the Customers We Could Want!

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We have all the customers we could ever want...

... said no business ever!

Oh wait.

Except for Sears.

Wow! What would ever possess a CEO to say that?

It's what Ed Lampert, CEO of Sears Holdings, told investors as he was trying to reassure them that he could turn the retailer around. More specifically, he said:
“We don’t need more customers. We have all the customers we could possibly want,” Lampert said at Sears’ annual shareholder meeting. “As soon as we start making money, people are gonna say, ‘How did I miss this?’”

“I give you my assurance I am not in denial,” he added.
There are a lot of things wrong with all of that! So I did a little digging to see what I could find out about this "turnaround." First of all, he blames everyone, especially the media, except himself for the issues and current state of affairs at Sears. I don't know; the last time I checked, if a company is doing poorly, that typically falls on the shoulders of the leadership team, and more specifically, on the CEO.

One article states that...
Lampert said Sears would remain focused on improving its relationship with its customers.

"The strategy we've been talking about for over a decade, we think it's clear. We think it's working. We have a lot of data that shows where it's working, and where we need to improve," he said.
There's no explanation of how he's going to improve customer relationships or what that strategy is that he's referring to. And it's odd that he believes what they've been doing has been working. Is that why, just in the past week, they've reported more store closings?

Customer retention (which, I'm assuming, is why he thinks he has enough customers) is a big focus for many companies, although there are plenty of others who simply focus on acquisition and attrition. For those who focus on retention, which it seems that Mr. Lampert is implying (he cites in one article that his turnaround is based on the new Sears loyalty program), there's more to it than offering loyalty programs.

I shared a post on Twitter that Seth Godin wrote earlier this week about Training Customers, which I believe describes loyalty programs that retailers like Sears, Kohls, and JCPenney are using: When I get points, I'll use/buy. When I get a discount, I'll buy. Until then, I won't buy.

That's not retention. In the scheme of things, that's not true loyalty, either. You've got to have a brand that customers want to follow, a real experience that customers want to be a part of, to be able to say that you've got all the customers you want. (And I can guarantee you that even cult brands, like Harley-Davidson or Apple, have never, ever said that!)

I wrote a few posts over the years that focus specifically on retention and a couple about just such "loyalty" programs. Take a look:

The Secret to Customer Retention
Do Your Customers Talk About Your Products or Your Ads
Why Customer Really Leave
The CX Proof is in the (Diet) Pudding
Discounts Sabotage
Yea, But Will They Keep You as a Customer

No company should ever - let me repeat, EVER - state (internally or externally) that they've got all the customers they could want. Attrition happens, natural or otherwise. But retention still rules the day. And in order to maximize retention, you've got to constantly be understanding customers and their needs (both current and, especially, emerging), expectations, and jobs to be done - and then innovating as a result of that. Trust me; innovation is not a word that comes to mind when I think of Sears.

You cannot buy loyalty; you cannot buy the devotion of hearts, minds, and souls. You have to earn these things. -Clarence Francis

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Don't Underestimate the Power of a CX Vision

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Do you have a customer experience vision?

One of the 7 Deadly Sins of Customer Experience is "lack of CX vision and strategy." Have you created a customer experience vision for your organization? How will you know where you're going if you haven't?

A well-defined and clearly-communicated vision becomes the organization's north star and helps employees understand how they are consistently expected to deliver the experience for your customers. More specifically, as I've written before:
Your company vision is an inspirational and aspirational statement that outlines what the company is trying to achieve near-term and long-term; it also guides decision-making processes and subsequent, resultant courses of action. Your vision will (a) draw the line between what you're doing and for whom you're doing it and (b) create alignment within the organization. Your customer experience vision and company vision are always linked, and often one and the same. Without this north star, employees can easily go off track and focus on projects or ideas that aren't critical to what the business is trying to do.
Your CX vision is a tool to engage your employees in your CX strategy. To the latter point in the previous paragraph, your CX vision statement ought to allow your employees to say "no" if something isn't right or doesn't fit with the vision. It should allow them to evaluate what they are doing to ensure it aligns with the vision. If your statement doesn't guide employees in this way, then it's probably too mushy and not clear, specific, relevant, and meaningful.

Examples of CX vision statements
In case you're not sure what a CX vision looks like, here are a couple examples.
  • Warby Parker: We believe that buying glasses should be easy and fun. It should leave you happy and good-looking, with money in your pocket.
  • State Farm: Remarkable. Every day. Every customer. Every interaction.
  • The Ritz-Carlton: The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.
  • IKEA: Create a better everyday life for the many people.
  • McDonald's: McDonald's vision is to be the best quick service restaurant experience. Being the best means providing outstanding quality, service, cleanliness, and value, so that we make every customer in every restaurant smile. 
  • Salt River Project: Rewarding, easy, and pleasant. 
  • Hagerty: Deliver exceptional experiences with every single interaction creating life long clients that not only stay with Hagerty but tell their friends about Hagerty
How to develop a vision
Developing your CX vision is a process. You don't just decide that this is the vision because you say so. A lot of research and customer understanding goes into it. You'll need to understand the current state of the experience, as well as customer needs and expectations, in order to define the future, intended state. Understand the key drivers of customer satisfaction and loyalty. Map the journey and validate that with customers.

I've previously outlined three ways to understand your customers:
  1. Listen. Don't just ask customers about the experience, listen, as well. There are a lot of different channels and ways for customers to tell you about their needs and desired outcomes and how well you are performing against their expectations. Understanding these expectations and identifying key drivers of a great customer experience are important outcomes of this exercise.
  2. Characterize. Research your customers. Identify the jobs they are trying to do. Compile key personas that represent the various types of prospects and customers that (might) buy from you or that use your products or services.
  3. Empathize. Walk in your customers' shoes to get a clear understanding of the steps they take to do whatever job it is they are trying to do with your organization.  Map their journeys to understand the current state of the experience.
You'll use both quantitative and qualitative methods to lead to greater customer understanding: surveys, interviews, personas, journey maps, and even empathy maps. Before you can develop your vision - and the subsequent strategy to ensure everyone can deliver on that vision - you must ensure that you've got a solid understanding of your customers, their needs, wants, expectations, jobs to be done, etc. You can't spell out your vision without doing your homework.

How to use the vision
Once the vision is in place - and hence all the customer understanding homework you've done to get to that vision - you will next move on to developing your CX strategy. (More on that in an upcoming post.)

Most importantly, your CX vision must be communicated, shared, and reinforced. Every employee must (a) know the vision so that they know the experience they are to deliver and (b) understand why it's important to the company, to the employee, and to the customer. And they must understand how they can use it as a guide in their day-to-day actions.

CX vision tips
Some tips to keep in mind about your customer experience vision:
  • It must be grounded in customer insights and understanding.
  • It must be specific to your business and, thus, becomes your differentiator.
  • It cannot be vague or ambiguous. The State Farm example above might be considered a bit vague. "Remarkable," while inspirational, is also ambiguous. Employees will likely ask: What does that mean? How do I deliver a remarkable experience? 
  • It should align with the company vision.
  • Even better, the corporate vision should be the customer experience vision, and vice versa.
  • It must be communicated to employees - across the entire organization, regardless of channel, business unit, etc. If it's not known and understood, it cannot be lived, breathed, and acted upon.
  • It should be simple, clear, compelling, and easy to understand. 
  • If needed, define or explain it to employees, just so there is no question.
  • It should apply to every channel or context in which you serve customers.
  • The vision will guide your strategy.
  • It is realistic and achievable.
  • The vision should motivate and inspire; if it's not realistic or achievable, it will do neither.
  • Business decisions and (employee) behaviors should be based on this vision.
  • It is for internal purposes only, not to be shared with customers, competitors, etc.
  • It must have commitment and buy-in from those who live it and execute on it (a shared vision).
  • All employees must know how they contribute to, and align with, the vision.
  • Revisit it at a regular interval to ensure that it still reflects the experience you want to deliver based on emerging trends, changing customer needs, etc.
What's the power of a CX vision? It gets everyone on the same page, marching to the same customer experience beat. It's your employees' north star, their guiding light, telling them exactly what experience they'll deliver to your customers.

Have you developed a CX vision for your company? If you have, I'd love to hear what it is and how the process of developing it went. Feel free to leave comments below!

Don't underestimate the power of a vision. McDonald's founder, Ray Kroc, pictured his empire long before it existed, and he saw how to get there. He invented the company motto, "Quality, service, cleanliness, and value," and kept repeating it to employees for the rest of his life. -Kenneth Labich

Thursday, June 22, 2017

6 Steps to Help You Put Customers at the Center of the Organization, Part 2

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I originally wrote today's post for Clicktools. It was published on their blog on October 25, 2016.

In this second part of a two-part series, I continue detailing some important ways to ensure that your company is putting the customer at the center of all it does.

In Part 1 of this two-part series, I left off with Step 3: Outline the Customer Lifecycle. In today's post, I'll pick up with the next step, mapping the customer journey, an important tool that helps put the customer front and center.

Step 4: Map the Customer Journey
Journey mapping is a way to walk in your customer's shoes and chart his course as he interacts with your organization (channels, departments, touchpoints, products, etc.) while trying to fulfill some need or do some job within each stage of the lifecycle. It allows you to identify key moments of truth and to ensure that those moments are executed smoothly. Maps are created from the customer's viewpoint, not yours, and look at each and every step a customer takes in order to achieve some task, i.e., calling support, ordering a product, etc., with the company. They describe what customers are doing, thinking, and feeling at each step in the journey. They’re not linear either, nor are they static. They become the backbone of your customer experience management efforts.

Why do you need a customer journey map? Journey maps provide clarity for the entire organization, helping to provide that clear line of sight to customers and ensuring that each employee understands how he impacts the customer experience.

Step 5: Listen to Your Customers
While VoC stands for “voice of the customer,” I like to use it to refer to “voice of the constituents” because there are so many voices that companies should be listening to as part of their efforts to improve the customer experience: voice of the customer, voice of the employee, voice of the partner, voice of the market, voice of the business, and the list goes on.

Traditionally, most of these voices have been captured through surveys or some other structured form that was initiated by the company, i.e., companies asked customers to provide feedback. Today, listening has become a better term to use, as customers also provide feedback on their terms, in their preferred modes, typically initiated by them in response to some stimulus or interaction. While asking puts the onus on the customer to respond, listening puts the onus on the company to be wherever customers voice their opinions. Examples of listening posts include things like social media (Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc.), customer immersion, customer advisory councils, voice of the customer through the employee (sales, customer service, etc.), CRM data, and more.

It’s important to listen to customers, but equally or more important are the actions you take on what you hear because, when you do, the benefits to the company - as a result of an improved experience for the customer - include:

•    A reduction in churn
•    An increase in saved customers
•    Stronger customer relationships
•    Potential new business from existing customers
•    Process improvements
•    New features and product enhancements
•    New product ideas
•    Recommendations or referrals from existing customers

Harvey Mackay says: You learn when you listen. You earn when you listen - not just money, but respect. I can’t argue with that. If you listen to your customers, if you use their feedback to not only make fundamental improvements to the experience but also to innovate, if you deliver a great customer experience - then the business, and the profits, will come.

Step 6: Socialize the Insights/Findings
You've done the work to understand the customer; now it's time to ensure that he's front and center. It's time to socialize the feedback and findings so that the right people act on the right insights at the right time.

Here are just a  few things you can do to infuse the customer into everything the organization does. Key to this is to start at the beginning, i.e., start with the first day an employee starts working for your company. (Even better: start with the first day you start your company.)
  • Onboarding: Showcase your customer-centric culture during the onboarding process so that new employees knows what that means. This is a great time for them to learn what it means to be a part of your organization, i.e., knowing your brand promise, values and commitment, what it means to live the brand, where the priorities lie, and how to deliver a great customer experience. Don't have a formal onboarding process? It's time to get one! This is a great time to set the tone for employees.
  • Ongoing training: You can't expect that, as both the business and customer expectations evolve, employees will automatically know what to do and adapt/evolve, too. You need to train employees regularly to ensure they are kept abreast of new customer insights and new approaches to delivering a great experience. Be sure to provide refreshers and reinforcement of anything you've learned about customers, the jobs they are trying to do, and their expectations.
  • Communication: What gets shared and communicated regularly is viewed as important to your employees. Not only does communication lend clarity, it is critical to a clear line of sight to the goal. Communication needs to be open and ongoing. Share customer feedback with employees; don't keep it from them. Tell customer stories and stories of great experiences to teach and to inspire employees to deliver the experience they need to deliver.
  • Rewards and recognition: When you recognize and reward those who consistently delight customers, you are reinforcing the behavior you expect from your employees, further confirming and solidifying the importance of putting the customer at the center of all you do.
For a list of tools to put the customer at the center of the organization, check out Tools to Put the Customer at the Center of All You Do. I outline six tools that will absolutely help you put the customer front and center for the business.

My favorite? I'm a fan of having a chair for the customer in all key decision-making meetings. There's no better way to draw attention to the customer and to ensure that all decisions made and actions taken are done so with the customer in mind. Try it for a while and see if it makes a difference in your company.

Are you using some of these steps? All of them? If not, when will you get started?

It is so much easier to be nice, to be respectful, to put yourself in your customers' shoes and try to understand how you might help them before they ask for help, than it is to try to mend a broken customer relationship. -Mark Cuban

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

6 Steps to Help You Put Customers at the Center of the Organization, Part 1

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I originally wrote today's post for Clicktools. It was published on their blog on September 28, 2016.

In this first part of a two-part series, I'll outline some important ways to ensure that your company is putting the customer at the center of all it does.

Why are companies in business? For customers, right? To create and to nurture a customer, to be specific. And, yet, we still see some dismal statistics about how many companies don't focus on the customer experience or think they focus on the customer experience but really don't. In research published by Bain, they reported that:
  • only 50% of management teams tailor their products and services to the needs of customers
  • only 30% organize the functions of their company to deliver superior customer experiences
  • only 30% maintain effective customer feedback loops
Temkin Group recently reported that 67% of large companies rate themselves as being good at soliciting customer feedback, but only 26% rate themselves as being good about making changes based on the insights.

These are dismal statistics. How do we turn this around?

If you haven’t yet started to focus on the needs of the customer, where should you begin?  What can you do to turn the tide?

First you must decide. And then, when you’re ready to put the customer at the center of all you do, there are six important steps to take to get started:

1.    Identify the customer
2.    Understand the customer
3.    Outline the customer lifecycle
4.    Map the customer journey
5.    Listen to your customers
6.    Socialize the insights/findings

Step 1: Identify the Customer

Knowing who the customer is seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised by how many companies have never gone through the exercise of identifying the customer. In a B2B organization, for example, customers can be many and varied; look within each customer or partner organization at the people you interact with, e.g., purchasing, product, support, accounting, end-users, etc. to identify your customer. The company is not the customer; the people you interact with within the company are. Not having a clear understanding of who the customer is hampers any further steps in this process.

Step 2: Understand the Customer
Once you’ve identified who your customers are, you must understand them and their needs. How do they interact with your organization? Why do they buy products and services from you? What are their needs? What problems are they trying to solve? What are they trying to achieve?

A tool to use to answer all of these questions is personas. Personas are fictional characters created to describe your ideal prospect or actual customer. They are derived through primary research - research that can then also be used for your customer journey maps in Step 4. They are specific to your business, not to the industry. The descriptions include vivid narratives, images, and other items that help companies understand the needs of the customer (contextual insights) and outline feelings, motivations, goals, behaviors, challenges, likes, dislikes, objections, and interests that drive buying (or other) decisions. Each persona includes a human face and name. Used properly, personas keep the customer alive and front and center for the entire organization. They tie in nicely to your journey maps and are necessary to begin that exercise.

A hardware client of mine developed supplier personas in order to better understand the different supplier personnel with which they interact. Different supplier types and different roles within a supplier company have different needs and interact differently with your organization; understanding those then allows you to create a better experience for all involved. For their personas, we looked at the different roles within supplier companies and came up with six primary personas: operations management, logistics, production schedulers, inventory management, shipping, and accounting. A lot of research went into defining these personas, which were then used to develop journey maps that laid out the experience they had when trying to achieve whatever it was each did with the client. These personas were then used to better manage supplier relationships and to design a better supplier experience with the client, one more personalized to each specific role/persona. The client saw a remarkable uptick in supplier satisfaction, and hence retention, as a result of this increased understanding.

Step 3: Outline the Customer Lifecycle
The lifecycle map shows the phases of the customer's relationship with your company. It's high level and good for understanding the overall relationship the customer has with the organization, from before he's even considered a customer through when he is no longer a customer. It typically includes these stages: Need, Awareness, Consideration, Selection/Purchase, Experience, Loyalty, Advocacy, Engagement, Raving Fans. And, unfortunately, Exit. It's not necessarily linear and often circles back on itself.

It's great to understand the lifecycle at this high level before moving on to the next step. Lifecycle maps, while important to nurturing the overall customer relationship, are a natural first step to identifying listening needs along the lifecycle; however, to get to the heart of the matter, to really understand when and where to listen and to really design a better customer experience, you must dive deeper into the lifecycle stages, inventory the touchpoints, and map the customer journey, which I'll discuss further in Step 4.

In my next post, I'll wrap up the other three steps you can take to ensure that customers are front and center in your organization.

When a brand connects with their customer, that in some ways is the easy part, the hard part is keeping the customer at the center after the success/profits comes flooding in. Success can breed complacency, success can breed arrogance. -Anna Farmery

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

6 Things You Can Do to Advance Your Career in the CX Profession

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What can I do to advance my career in - or to get started in - the customer experience profession?

I'm asked about this on a regular - quite frankly, almost weekly - basis. That's exciting because I love when people see this as a great career progression or a field to they want to get into. The more people we can have on the customer's team, the better.

After responding so frequently to this question (or questions - one version is how to get started, one is how to advance) lately, plus hosting a CX Expert Office Hours session at the 2017 CXPA Insight Exchange on this very topic last month, I thought it was time to document some of the advice I give on this. So, in no particular order, here on my thoughts.

1. Build your personal brand
Whether you're just entering this field or looking to advance your career, having a personal brand that speaks to your passion and expertise in customer experience will take you far. There are a lot of different ways you can build your personal brand. I was almost 20 years into my career in this space before I started writing my own blog, but I had written for my employers' blogs prior to that, and I had been interviewed for articles, podcasts, etc. and spoken at industry events. (Note: Not all employers are thrilled about you building your personal brand, even though it aligns quite nicely with your role and area of expertise.)

There are a lot of different ways to build your personal brand, including: creating your own blog and writing articles on a consistent basis, getting those posts syndicated across a variety of other sites and media, guest posting for like-minded sites/bloggers, doing interviews/being interviewed, publishing case studies of your work, conducting webinars, speaking at industry events, answering questions on industry forums, participating in Twitter chats or Google Hangouts about customer experience, and more. Market yourself. Put yourself out there. Get your voice and your expertise heard.

If you're relatively new to this field - let's say you've been on the frontlines for the last couple of years - and want to branch out to consult, my advice to you is this: consultants in this field are a dime a dozen; find your niche, build your brand, and help others understand how you're different and why they should hire you.

2. Get/have client-side experience
Being on the vendor side and getting consulting experience in this field is awesome. It provides a breadth and depth of knowledge that you can get in no other way. But having client-side experience, being a practitioner and having done the work, is an even better calling card. It's great to not only have CX experience on the client side but to also have had some cross-functional experience and to have experience across multiple companies and industries.

3. Educate yourself
I cannot say this enough: read, read, read. Books like the Ultimate Question series, Outside In, and Jeanne Bliss' books about the Chief Customer Officer role are great resources. Attend webinars. Sign up for blog newsletters. There is no shortage of CX resources out there!

And don't go to just one source. Don't settle for just one perspective; keep an open mind and decide for yourself. It's OK to read and to understand opposing views. I was once lambasted on Twitter because I shared a view that opposed the mainstream position on NPS. Sometimes I share these kinds of articles because it's OK for people to consider other views and perspectives. NPS is not for everyone; we know that. So do your homework and go into this with an open - and educated - mind.

Read about, or attend, Disney U. Take the Zappos tour. Study companies with great customer experiences (like Amazon, Apple, Nordstrom, Ritz-Carlton, Warby Parker, etc.) and identify and understand what they do to stand out.

Participate in the CXPA Mentor Match Program. I'm a mentor, and I must say that I love teaching, but I also love learning from my mentees. It's a two-way street, for sure.

Take a course with one of CXPA's Authorized Resource & Training Providers. They are a network of independently-provided resources designed to help candidates prepare for the CCXP exam. They provide training and educational resources on the six core competencies of customer experience.

4. Network, network, network
There are no more-helpful peeps in this world than fellow CX professionals. We are all facing the same challenges and are happy to share with one another our experiences and provide resources and guidance about our favorite topic. Reach out to your network; share and learn from each other. Find a mentor who can guide you on your journey (know that that may come at a cost).

5. Promote yourself - literally
No CX role in your company? Build the business case for customer experience. Take ownership. Show some quick wins and identify a framework for a sustainable CX strategy. Sell it up the chain. Get executive commitment. Get yourself a promotion - or a second day job!

6. Check your skills
As a CX professional, you must have a wide range of skills. You will be a coach, a trainer, a teacher, a communicator, a salesperson, and an advocate. You have to be well-versed in change management. You must have the patience of a saint, be an influencer, and be persistent, politically savvy, flexible, adaptable, and tenacious. You've got to have a strong will. And you must have thick skin and be able to handle rejection, yet at the same time know how to stay the course and come back even stronger. If you fall short on any of these, get some help shoring up your weaknesses.


These are just some of the things to consider; I know there are others. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below.

Identify which part of CX inspires or excites you. Which of the six core competencies of customer experience do you want to master? Then go master them using the steps above.

Experience is one thing you can't get for nothing. -Oscar Wilde