Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Customer Surveys Are as Important as Ever!

Image courtesy of m kasahara
I originally wrote today's post for Clicktools. It was published on their blog on July 6, 2016. I've made slight modifications.

Some pundits would have you believe that surveys are dead, that they are no longer important for customer listening and understanding. I beg to differ.

Yes, there are several other ways in which companies can listen to customers and learn how well they’re delivering on the experience, but surveys aren’t going anywhere.

The good news is that companies are listening through surveys. The bad news is, they’re often doing nothing with the feedback. Shame on them! Since I’ve already focused on the action part in a previous post, I’ll focus today’s post on the listening and understanding part; specifically, I’ll focus on designing surveys to which people will want to respond.

Despite the fact that getting people to respond to your surveys is harder today than it’s ever been, many of the same general design principles from years ago still apply. The major differences today really have to do with simplification.

Here are my thoughts on designing surveys in and for simpler times in order to get people to respond.

1. Open your survey with a brief introduction paragraph, stating your objective (in customer-friendly terms) and purpose, as well as any specifics on how the feedback will be used. Respondents want to know why you're conducting this survey and what you're doing with their responses. Don't set expectations about actions and follow-up here that you won’t be able to execute on. And give an honest assessment of how long the survey will take to complete.

2. Think about survey/question flow. Start with questions that warm up the respondent to the topic or experience. As you dive into the survey, put questions in a natural, logical flow and in sections rather than jumping around in some illogical sequence.

3. Be mindful of survey length. Transactional surveys can be brief, i.e., 10-15 questions max, whereas relationship surveys can be a bit longer, i.e., 50 questions (albeit respondents see only those questions relevant to them, in essence making the survey shorter). Depending on the relationship with the customer and the experience being evaluated, length could vary.

4. Use attribute grids to logically (questions that belong together) group questions with the same rating scales.

5. Use realistic progress meters to let respondents know where they are and how much longer.

6. Ask a mix of closed-ended and open-ended questions. It isn’t necessary to ask an open-ended question after every closed-ended question, e.g., every rating question. Limit the number of open-ends, but make sure you have at least one.

7. Don't ask the customer questions about things you already know about him, e.g., last purchase date, product purchased, date of support call, reason for call, etc.

8. Only ask questions that are relevant to that customer and his/her experience, i.e., don’t ask about a product the customer doesn’t own or about marketing materials in a support survey.

9. Don't allow other groups or departments to commandeer the survey by adding questions that are not relevant to the survey objective.

10. Use smart survey techniques to skip questions not relevant to the individual respondent based on responses to previous questions.

11. Don't use company or industry lingo/language that your customers don't know or understand.

12. If your survey is going out to a global audience, be sure to offer respondents the option to take the survey in their preferred languages.

13. Set the incentives aside. The best incentive (and indicator that she’ll continue to respond to surveys) is to thank the customer for her feedback, use it to make improvements, and let her know what you did with it. If she comes back and keeps experiencing the same issues, you won’t have to worry about survey responses; you’ll have to worry about keeping the doors open, instead.

14. Design the survey with mobile in mind; optimize for mobile, since 30-40% of surveys are completed via mobile devices.

15. Test your surveys often – make sure your surveys work – on all devices, all browsers; nothing kills your response and completion rates like messed up surveys.

16. Similarly, spell check and grammar check your surveys. Surveys filled with typos are a turn-off, too.

17. If you’re administering a post-transaction survey via a URL on the receipt or packing slip, make the URL easy to enter online.

18. Use carefully-crafted email invitations to invite customers to participate. Ensure the emails get delivered by using the right words and avoiding others (e.g., free, win, survey, etc.) to stay out of spam filters.

19. Send a reminder 7 days after the original invitation. Send just one reminder.

20. Keep survey frequency in check. Customers are inundated with surveys from every website, retailer, service provider, restaurant, grocery store, etc. that they visit. Don’t over-survey any one customer.

Remember that surveys are one of your customer touchpoints, as well. So make sure your surveys deliver a great experience, too. Don’t give your customers yet another excuse to roll their eyes and wish they hadn’t wasted time with you. Surveys are as important to your listening and understanding efforts as ever.

We all need people who will give us feedback. That's how we improve. -Bill Gates

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Why People Leave Managers

Image courtesy of pedrosimoes7
Do people leave managers or do they leave companies?

My last few posts have focused a bit more on culture and leadership (or lack thereof); in today's post, I'll continue the trend with a focus on management sins. I found three separate items that I wanted to share with you, all quite interesting, some with overlap.

The first is a whitepaper I recently came across titled 7 Deadly Sins of Management™. It comes from the Management and Leadership Network (MLN) and the Center for Competitiveness (CforC). They conducted research among executives in Northern Ireland to determine if there was a common understanding or thread as to why businesses in the region fail. Apparently, there is a "management and leadership deficit"in the UK. According to their research, the following leadership behaviors cause a business to under-perform or to fail.
  1. Lack of vision (No desired future state identified to be working towards)
  2. Lack of focus (Lack of focus on the areas of the business which add most value)
  3. Inappropriate role model (not leading by example - actions not matching words, not open to learning, not taking ownership)
  4. Not close enough to the business (lack of understanding of markets, customers, staff or product evolution)
  5. Lack of accountability or discipline (no action for non-performance, chaotic/fire-fighting environment, too fluid)
  6. Lack of constancy of purpose (Not staying the course because of the distractions or opportunities which causes the “eye to be taken off the ball”)
  7. Too much focus on the numbers (short-termism, lack of patience, mechanistic environment, blame culture)
Without a doubt, these behaviors are 110% detrimental to any business. When there's no clarity for employees, when they see leaders fumble around trying to figure out next steps, and when they feel like leaders don't understand the business itself and what they're supposed to be doing, employees begin to question whether they want to continue to work for these folks. And worse, employees decide to leave.

The next item I found was Dr. W. Edwards Deming seven deadly diseases of western management, which he notes are:
  1. Lack of constancy of purpose
  2. Emphasis on short-term profits
  3. Annual rating of performance: “it is purely a lottery”
  4. Mobility of management (i.e., job hopping)
  5. Use of visible figures only, with little or no consideration of figures that are unknown or unknowable
  6. Excessive medical costs
  7. Excessive legal damage awards swelled by lawyers working on contingency fees
For any business to be transformed, for businesses to survey, clearly these diseases need to be cured. The first five are his original "diseases," and he added the other two later.

And finally, the third item is a book by Dr. John Collis, The Seven Fatal Management Sins | Understanding and Avoiding Managerial Malpractice, in which he calls out and defines the following sins:
  1. The character flaw: erosion of trust and integrity
  2. Blind ambition: focus more on managing your career than managing the organization
  3. Short-term scare mentality: managing for survival
  4. Indecisiveness: unclear on when and who decides
  5. Blurred focus: the fuzzy vision
  6. Employees perceived as an expense, not as an investment
  7. Managing unchecked: lack of real accountability
Pundits actually ponder if people really leave managers, not companies. With traits like those listed, why would an employee want to stay. An interesting observation is that none of these three really put a heavy focus on employee development; each one stated only one sin that pertained to the employee, although, ultimately, they all impact employees,

From these lists, some of the deal-breaker behaviors for me - ones that I've witnessed fairly consistently over the years, unfortunately - include:
  • Lack of vision
  • Lack of focus/constancy of purpose
  • No real accountability
  • Too much focus on the numbers
  • Not leading by example
  • Lack of trust and integrity
  • Managing for survival
Based on your experience, what else would you add to the sins outlined by the three sources I've noted? What sins have you seen your managers or leadership team commit? What are your deal breakers?

So much of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to work. -Peter Drucker

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Ready. Fire. Aim.

Image courtesy of prairiemomof2
Have you heard the saying, "Ready. Fire. Aim?"

What does it mean?

Shoot before you aim. Shoot (or do anything) before you think or before you think it through. Shoot before you know what you're shooting at. Shoot before you know why you're shooting.

Take your pick.

The saying has a few different definitions, but I believe it refers to taking immediate action, or just reacting to something, without even thinking through the options or the implications. Oftentimes, we take immediate actions that are usually based on wrong assumptions or previous experiences that might not apply to the situation at hand.

Some believe that's a good way to operate, but others believe it's a business killer. While I'm all for being agile, doing what's best in the moment, and asking for forgiveness later, I typically tend to lean to the other side when it comes to strategy and decision making, being a bit more methodical and stepping back, looking at the big picture, and understanding implications of the decision or action. I've seen the opposite happen too often, and typically with negative outcomes.

If you've ever worked with or for someone who reacts before getting all the facts and before thinking things through, you know what I'm talking about.

1. How do you make decisions? Do you move forward with an initiative and ask questions later? Or do you get all the details, think it through, and then proceed?

2. Do you think you can make organizational changes (including your culture) by making snap judgments? Without thinking through the implications and outcomes on your employees? On your customers?

3. When a customer asks for something that seems out of the norm for what you do - or you simply don't know how or if you can do it - is your knee-jerk response to say, "No?"

4. If a customer is rude, is it your immediate reaction to be rude back?

The Ready. Fire. Aim. approach to decision making happens at both strategic and tactical levels. Regardless of level, it can be dangerous. Buy yourself a little bit of time and think about what your response means to the business, to employees, to customers.

I recently stumbled upon a UPenn online book called Going through the goop: An introduction to decision making. It provides a lot of examples on decision theory and how to make the best decision.

They define decision as a situation in which:
  • You have more than one option.
  • The option you choose can have some effect on the outcome.
  • You can think about which option to choose.
What I like is the concept of GOOP, which stands for the four things you need to consider when you're making a decision:
  • Goals: Goals result from decisions. What is the (desired) result of the decision?
  • Options: Options affect outcomes. What are the alternatives to reach your goal? What else could you do?
  • Outcomes: What are the potential and alternative outcomes, given those options?
  • Probabilities: How likely is each outcome?
Clearly, all four are critical to decisions and decision making. It's really tough to think about those four in the split second that you say, "Ready. Fire." Perhaps it's time to reconsider your approach - and Aim first.

Our plans miscarry because they have no aim. When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind. -Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The 10 Commandments of Customer Experience

Image courtesy of Castles, Capes & Clones
I originally wrote today's post for Clicktools. It was published on their blog on June 7, 2016. I've made slight modifications.

Are you following the 10 Commandments of Customer Experiences? Or is it time for a confession?

In May 2016, I spoke at CallidusCloud Connections (C3); if you've never been to this event, be sure to check it out this year! The topic of my session was The 7 Deadly Sins of Customer Experience. With the topic of today's blog post, I seem to be on a bit of a spiritual customer experience journey.

In thinking about the customer experience, there are at least 10 Commandments that must be adhered to as you embark on your customer experience journey. These are essentials to ensure a successful customer experience transformation. Here's what I've come up with, in no particular order.

1. Thou shalt listen to customers and act on their feedback.
This is probably two commandments, but you really can't do one without the other. Listening to customers is, without a doubt, important to designing a great experience and to business success. Without understanding customers, their expectations, and how well we perform against those expectations, we can never correctly or appropriately redesign the experience to meet their needs. But too many companies forget that the "work" doesn't end with listening. It's only just begun! You must act on what you hear.

2. Thou shalt map the customer journey in order to understand the experience.
You can't transform something you don't understand. If you don't know and understand what the current state of the customer experience is, how can you possibly design the desired future state? Take the time to map it, and make sure you map it so that it's actionable: map it from the customer's viewpoint and be sure to bring in artifacts and data that bring the journey to life.

3. Thou shalt put employees more first.

The link between the employee experience and customer experience is real. And yet, many companies still refuse to make the employee experience a priority, focusing instead on shareholder value, the bottom line, or customer experience without considering the implications a poor employee experience has on all of the above. Yes, you're in business to create and nurture customers. But without your employees, you have no customer experience. If employees aren't happy, satisfied, and engaged, it will be very difficult for them to delight your customers. This is known as the spillover effect, i.e., “the tendency of one person’s emotions to affect how other people around him feel.”

4. Thou shalt define and communicate the brand promise.
A brand promise is, well, a promise to your customers. Everything you do should reflect this promise. It sets expectations and defines the benefits customers can expect to receive when they engage in your services or use your products, when they experience your brand. It's not a mission statement or a brand position. It's meant for employees and customers. Employees at all levels live the promise and deliver on it. In order for employees to deliver on it, they must know it, i.e.,  it must be clearly communicated to them and reiterated often.

5. Thou shalt hire for attitude and train for skill.

Hiring the right people for your company is always a challenge, but it's critical. Get the right people in the door - not just those folks who fit your culture or your values but also those who truly want to be there, for the right reasons. Define what "right" means for your company. And when you have the right people, they will attract other "right people." While you need to define what your culture fit looks like, typically hiring people who are positive, passionate about what you do and what the role entails, and love talking to and being around people will set you on a good path. With enthusiasm and passion for the brand, employees are eager to work hard and do what it takes to contribute to, and ensure, its success.

6. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's experience.
Imitation is the death of innovation. When imitating, there's no need for innovation, right? Get motivated by what your competitors are doing, but don't dwell on them. Don't try to be just like them; nobody wins when you imitate. Instead, competition drives innovation, and vice versa. And innovation drives success, simply because it allows you and your competitors to offer a variety of products to meet your customers' varying needs. When that happens, the customer wins. And then you do, too.

7. Thou shalt not proceed without getting executive commitment.
If your executives aren't on board with developing a customer-focused and customer-centric organization, then forget it; it won't happen. You might have localized or departmentalized efforts, but those will be siloed efforts that translate to siloed experiences for the customer. You must have global, cross-functional executive commitment; and most importantly, the CEO will lead the charge. Just know that, without executive commitment, you'll never get resources - human, capital, or other - to execute on your customer experience strategy.

8. Thou shalt empower employees.
What does it mean to empower employees? Empowerment is all about responsibility, ownership, and accountability. It's also about trust; the employee is given the keys to the castle and trusted to do what's right for the customer and for the business. Empowerment means they never have to ask, "Is it OK if I do this for my customer?" Empowerment means not having to ask for permission. Because employees know. And why do they know? See the next commandment...

9. Thou shalt define a purpose, vision, and strategy.

Your purpose is your why. Why do you do what you do. Your vision is where you're headed; the corporate vision must be aligned with the CX vision. The CX vision will be inspirational and aspirational; it will outline what you see as the future state of the customer experience. It will briefly describe the experience you plan to deliver. And it will serve as a guide to help choose future courses of action. Your strategy is how you'll go about delivering on that vision.

10. Thou shalt communicate, communicate, communicate.

This one seems like such a no-brainer, but it's one thing that folks need to be reminded of regularly: communication is critical to the successful execution of organizational and customer experience  transformations. Communication is a key leadership skill that must be mastered. With communication, we can instruct, motivate, convince and align the audience, drive open and candid discussions, share, and set expectations. It's the most valuable tool in any relationship.

Bonus. Thou shalt kill bad policies and rules.
There's one more commandment that I thought was worth adding as a bonus. In order to transform the organization and the experience, it's imperative that we lose the "we've always done it that way" frame of mind. Question everything. Is there a better way to do something? 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.

Without a doubt, there are more customer experience commandments! Perhaps I'll write about others in a future post. How many of these commandments have you fallen short on?

Some rules are nothing but old habits that people are afraid to change. -Therese Anne Fowler

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Creating a Culture that Delivers Results

Image courtesy of hundrednorth
I originally wrote today's post for Clicktools. It was published on their blog on April 26, 2016.

I recently came across some research conducted among customer experience (CX) practitioners that found that their #1 challenge this year is creating a customer-first culture. I'm an "employees more first" advocate; so while I understand their point and this challenge, I'd still like to see more focus placed on employees. It all flows together in the end, though: creating a customer-first culture requires making the employee experience a more-first priority. You know by now, of course, that the employee experience drives the customer experience.

How does an organization create that customer-first culture? Well, it's a huge undertaking. Know this: just because you say it is so doesn't make it so.

I'll take you through some steps you can take, and I'll start at the top. Literally.

Executives are key to success of any culture transformation. Without them, it won't happen. Executive commitment, not just buy-in, is a must. Not just one executive, all of the executives: the CEO and her entire e-staff. Without their commitment, you won't get the resources (human, financial, etc.) to get things done. Without every executive across the organization, there will be barriers that will inhibit any progress toward a cohesive, consistent culture, and ultimately, experience for the customer. Without executives setting the tone and the direction, change will not happen.

A set of values, or guiding principles, also needs to be defined and communicated. Values outline which behaviors and actions are right and which are wrong, both for your employees and toward your customers. Everything you do must be aligned with your values, and they should be integrated into everything you do. If employees ever question what they should do, or if what they're planning to do is aligned with the organization's expectations, they can refer back to these values.

By the way, those values will also guide how you hire. And hiring the right people is key to building and maintaining that customers-first culture. Imagine running a service organization and hiring people who don't like talking to or helping people. Yikes.

Not only do you want to hire with the culture in mind, you also need to make sure these people have the right tools and resources to do their jobs. So onboarding, ongoing training, setting clear expectations, providing ongoing feedback and coaching, and communicating openly and transparently are important components of this culture you're creating.

Employees in a customer-first culture know how their work matters, and they know how they contribute to the customer experience. (Journey maps are great tools to help with this.) Employees are recognized and rewarded for actions and behaviors that create delight for their customers.

Another thing that's important with regards to employees and the culture transformation is that you'll want to get buy-in, commitment, and adoption from existing employees. Involve employees in what you're doing as you transform the culture. Invite them to be a part of the transformation; don't just force it on them. And then, if you find that someone is no longer a fit, perhaps it's time for them to move on. You need everyone on the bus; for those who chose the wrong route, it's time to get off.

Leadership is key, and it's different from being an executive or a manager. Sadly, some executives and managers don't have great leadership skills. Hire the right people, trust them, listen to them, empower them, and let them do what they need to do; be their guide but set them free. They were hired for a reason. Set the course, outline the vision and the purpose, and then let them execute based on the bumper guards you've provided them.

Communicate! The things you talk about are deemed important; those you don't talk about, aren't. So talk about customers. Share their feedback, their painpoints, and their stories. Talk about great customer experiences, what went well and what delights customers.

Give the customer a chair. In every meeting, in every decision. Don't do anything without asking, "How does this impact our customers?" "How will this make the customer feel?" "What does this do to the experience?"

Make sure everyone knows your brand promise. If employees don't know what it is, how can they live it? How can they deliver it? The brand promise creates alignment. 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 you do must support and reinforce the brand promise: every product, every person, every interaction, every touchpoint, all of it. Every time.

There's more, but these are the basics. None of this is easy; and it takes time. Just get started. Make sure you have the right people on board and then begin to lay the right foundation, and you'll reap the rewards soon enough!

If you quit on the process, you are quitting on the result. -Idowu Koyenikan

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment

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Is your work environment toxic?

You wake up every morning and drag yourself into the office. You know there's a reason you drag and don't skip. The thought of being in your office makes your stomach turn, and you wake up every morning checking your temperature to determine if today might be a sick day rather than a work day.

Don't worry. We've all been there!

I recently read an article in Forbes titled 5 Signs You're in a Toxic Workplace. I'll briefly summarize the five here:
  1. Narcissists on top: Leaders believe they can do no wrong and don't believe the rules apply to them. They seek perfection from others, even though they don't meet those standards themselves. And they believe disagreement is defection: it's my way or the highway.
  2. Commiserating colleagues: Employees drown out the bad environment by listening to music with earbuds in their ears and then commiserate about their leaders through chat or text. When their bosses aren't around, employees happily interact, gossip, and count down the hours til the days is over.
  3. Lack of transparency: Are your performance expectations clearly defined? Do you know how your performance will be measured? Do you know what your position entails? Is there a clear job description for your role?
  4. Inconsistent rule book: This one's pretty self-explanatory; rules aren't applied equally across all staff, including the leadership team.
  5. The place is sick, literally: Employees are often calling in sick, fighting off colds at their desks, etc.
A few years ago, I wrote a post called A Culture of Distrust. It lists 19 signs that you're in a culture of distrust and even includes a couple of the items mentioned in the Forbes article. Take a look, as this type of culture is definitely toxic.

Shortly after writing that post, I wrote another one about culture issues called Circle the Wagons and Shoot Inward. My favorite lines from that one?
What happens when they circle the wagons and shoot inward? It's exhausting. And quite toxic.

What does that look like? It's like an autoimmune disorder, where the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue, thinking it's an antigen. Quite simply, the culture and the employee experience are a mess.
So why am I writing about this yet again? Nothing much has changed since 2014, right?

Exactly. Three years later, employee engagement is still dismal, and you hear more and more stories about toxic workplaces. Have you read about Uber's culture lately? That's not a unique story, sadly. Stories like that bring to light other, uglier issues that make the workplace quite toxic.

I've been thinking about more about this topic and wanted to add a few more signs to the lists in my earlier posts. I may have mentioned some of them in the previous posts, but if I have, it just means they're worth mentioning frequently! Here goes...
  • You're not having fun. (Listen. You spend a third or half of your day at the office; you need to have some fun there, too.)
  • Missing: sense of humor! You're not allowed to laugh, be playful, or make jokes (at your own expense or anyone else's). 
  • There's a lot of anger and yelling. And name calling.
  • And bipolar behavior. How are employees or leaders going to act today? Will it be the same as yesterday or the polar opposite?
  • Oftentimes, conversations with managers and leaders can be described as patronizing and disrespectful.
  • Men and women are treated differently. I'm not just talking about pay; I'm referring to assignments, respect, appreciation, inclusion, harassment, and more.
  • Employees avoid each other or their managers.
  • There's no appreciation or recognition or acknowledgement for a job (well) done.
  • Emails to/from colleagues go unanswered. People don't care or don't want to help each other.
  • Employees no longer collaborate.
  • But they do gossip.
  • The company (seems to) lack direction, purpose, a mission, and a vision.
  • There's infighting among the leadership team.
  • Employees are monitored. Office arrival time, departure time, emails, work from home time, etc.
  • Trust is broken. Or non-existent.
  • There's a clear lack of meaningful and transparent communication, i.e., information about the company and how the business is faring, from leadership is sparse or lacking.
  • Accountability is missing, especially among leaders.
  • Negativity abounds.
Doesn't sound like a great place to be everyday, does it? I'm sure it's not. There have to be great places to work. And there are. These great places build cultures that encourage trust, pride, collaboration, and fun.

Take a look at a post I wrote several years ago about about defining your employee-centric culture, which can be described as having strong leadership, trust, respect, communication, collaboration, empowerment, appreciation, recognition, and a solid understanding of vision, goals, and objectives. That's a complete 180 from working in a toxic workplace!

To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace. -Doug Conant

Thursday, March 16, 2017

CX Journey™ Musings: No #CX Budget? No Problem!

Image courtesy of Tax Credits
No customer experience budget? No problem!

As a follow-on to my post earlier this week about companies having no budget for customer experience improvements, I thought I'd compile a few ideas on how to move beyond the "no budget" excuse and make improvements that cost little to nothing.

After reading that last post, did you feel like it was all gloom and doom? Like there wasn't anything you could do? Not a good feeling when you're a customer experience professional. It's your job!

I really do question how companies prioritize their budgets and how they categorize and talk about their improvement efforts.

But not to fear! I am a hopeless optimist! There's always a way. And I'll find it! So let's do this. I'm assuming you've built your business case and are either waiting for approvals (and the responsible department is waiting for budget approval) or you've all been flat out denied. You did take the time to build the case, right?

How can you make customer experience improvements if your leadership team tells you there's no budget for said changes?

There are things that you can do that don't cost any money, just time. And time well spent, at that. Many of them are soft skills, but they can all make a difference to the customer and her experience (and could even save the company money in the long run). I'll list a few, and I'd love to get your thoughts in the comments below on what else we could do/add to the list. There are a lot of folks in this position, and I think it's a worthwhile discussion/exercise.
  • Smile
  • Be friendly, courteous, and professional with your customers
  • Write thank you notes/cards
  • Answer the phone in a timely manner and with a smile
  • Be willing to help
  • Know your product so well that you can answer customers' questions on the first call
  • Make simple fixes on your website that make your company easier to do business with
  • Make sure your phone number and contact information are easy to find
  • Personalize messaging and the experience (may require a financial investment, depending on industry)
  • Respond to emails in a timely manner
  • Fix things right the first time
There's a common thread or requirement for each of these: training and education, neither of which shouldn't cost you anything but time. Train employees on soft skills and on what it means to deliver a great experience for your customers.

Additionally, companies can:
I realize that a lot of customer experience improvements include investments in technology and infrastructure, but truthfully, there are a lot of things that companies can do to improve both the employee experience and the customer experience that don't cost a dime. They just need to do the work and put in the time.

What else would you add to the list above?

A budget tells us what we can't afford, but it doesn't keep us from buying it. -William Feather

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

CX Journey™ Musings: No Budget for #CX Improvements

Image courtesy of aliceheiman
No customer experience budget?

I haven't written a CX Journey™ Musings post lately, but I found a topic that warrants a bit of reflection.

I recently read an article on MyCustomer about a study that Ovum and BoldChat conducted in which they found that many companies don't have the necessary budget to improve the customer experience. Specifically, the findings noted in the article state:
Conversely, 43% of contact centre managers feel they don’t have the necessary budget to invest in the technology to improve experiences, whilst 48% say they are hampered by outdated technology
This got me thinking about what I've heard from clients both recently and in the past: we don't have the budget or the resources to listen to the customer, subscribe to tools that ensure action will be taken on insights, make those improvements for the customer, etc.

It seems ironic to me that companies are in business to create and to nurture customers, and yet they are unable to do what is necessary to actually create and nurture customers!

It seems odd to me that many companies are constantly innovating and evolving, and yet they don't have budget to make sure the customer's voice is heard and implemented into those innovations.

It seems strange to me that those companies that are not constantly innovating and evolving are always in some state of flux or change, and yet those changes don't incorporate what's important to the customer but actually make things worse.

It seems strange to me that companies that are not constantly innovating, evolving, and focusing on the customer are even still in business.

Money is being spent by businesses every day to make changes or improvements, and yet they don't factor in the needs of the customer? Weird, no?

Here's my thinking on this, given the purpose of a business. Everything you do is (for the) customer experience.

Isn't it? Am I off base here? Isn't it all customer experience?

Whether you're installing new technologies, reducing waste, improving efficiencies, hiring new employees, developing new training programs, etc., isn't that all going to impact the customer experience?

Here's the thing. As customer experience professionals, we don't really own any budget, except for maybe listening tools, analytical tools, and personnel. (That doesn't make our roles any less important, though!) But oftentimes, that budget sits elsewhere, e.g., marketing, operations, customer service, etc., too.

Quite simply, the budget for any improvements to be made comes from the departments making those improvements. But it feels like we, as customer experience professionals, get dinged for this. So when you hear folks say that they have no budget for customer experience improvements, they're really saying that they have no budget to make operational or technological improvements that will allow them to succeed in business, that they'll be behind the times for a bit until their executives allow them to invest in the tools and technologies to advance the business. And, ultimately, that translates to: "We don't have budget for customer experience improvements" because that's what they really are. And yet that's bad on us.

The net result of those types of statements? Customer experience is not a priority. The customer is not a priority. Because companies always seem to have money to spend on something - and it's usually advertising, to attract more customers. Wrong decision. Yes, we want more customers, but if we can't keep the ones we already have, attracting more is not the answer!

Maybe I can't have it both ways. I want the attention on customer experience improvements, but it seems when we call it that, perhaps executives cringe because it's still taboo to focus on the customer. How is that even possible in 2017? What do you think?

We must consult our means rather than our wishes. -George Washington

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Definition of #CX Insanity

Know the definition of customer experience insanity?

It was Albert Einstein who said: the definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result.

Sadly, this is a concept that voice of the customer and customer experience professionals are quite familiar with. When these professionals continue using the same tools and the same processes over and over again, yet find they're not making any progress, well, that's customer experience insanity. And this is a very real thing.

I spoke at an event last week on the topic of disrupting voice of the customer programs. It is time to disrupt them. It became very clear to me based on the audience's reactions and responses that it's time. If you manage a VoC initiative or use the findings or insights from your customer feedback, you know what I'm talking about.

Think about this first.
  • What tools do you use to analyze the data?
  • When was the last time you got a meaningful, actionable insight from your analysis?
  • Do the insights you get from your analysis motivate you?
  • Do they help you drive change? 
  • How long does it take you to conduct said analysis?
  • Do you get answers that are clear and relevant?
And then...
  • Are you using correlation or regression analysis?
  • And the beloved quadrant chart?
  • Have you ever made any improvements based on the quad chart?
  • Does the quad chart paralyze you?
This last series of questions is what elicited an interesting, guttural reaction from the audience. The collective moan let me know that quad charts are a huge problem for everyone.

Originally put on a pedestal as the best way to determine how to get the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to improvement priorities, quad charts have quite literally paralyzed their users with ambiguity. For years and years.

In case you're not familiar with a quad chart, I'll explain.

Once you've got your survey responses, including ratings on attributes about the experience and some outcome variable (e.g., overall satisfaction), you'll calculate the performance score (mean) for each attribute and use correlation or regression analysis to derive the importance of each. You'll then plot each data point's performance and importance on the grid, as shown in the example below. Each quadrant is defined as follows:
  • If an attribute has low performance but is of high importance to the customer, it is a priority improvement
  • Attributes where both performance and importance are low are considered secondary improvement areas
  • Those attributes of high performance and high importance to customers are areas where you want to keep doing what you're doing to maintain current levels. 
  • And attributes where performance is high but importance is low are considered table stakes, or the price of entry.
The problem is that people truly do become paralyzed by these charts. What do the quadrants mean? Why is one better than the other? What do you mean those are fundamentals/price of entry? But there are two dots right next to each other; which one is the priority? And do I act on those two dots in the upper left first or can I spend time on one of the other dots in that quadrant? Where were those dots last year? Last quarter? How do I know the impact on the business, the experience, the customer? And on and on and on...

After 25 years, I've heard and seen it all. People really don't know what to do with this information. And then, nothing happens. No one does anything. No improvements are made. And as Tony Robbins said: By changing nothing, nothing changes. I know. Very profound, right? But nothing gets done when you don't understand what you've got. Insights that result in no action are just expensive trivia. Trust me. You've all got some expensive trivia on your desktops.

And yet, we keep using these quad charts as tools of change, as tools to drive action. We've been using them year after year for the last umpteen years. I know. I was a party to it. I've worked for vendors who have perpetuated this CX insanity. But I'm here now trying to help you return to sanity. (These charts, by the way, are not the only thing hindering your ability to quickly drive change while the feedback is still fresh and the customer is still, well, a customer)

But now it's time to think about things differently and to uncover some new tools that will move you forward, that will move your program forward, that will truly help you drive change within the business and for your customers. You've heard about predictive and prescriptive analytics, as I've written about them before; they are the future. It's time to shift the dialogue and the work to insights and answers that accelerate decisions and drive real action. It's time to shift to the future of analytics - today. It's time to shift away from doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Stop being one of the crazy ones!

One person's craziness is another person's reality. -Tim Burton

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Impact of a Customer-Centric Culture Transformation

Image courtesy of dkalo
How do you know if the work you're doing to transform your company's culture is effective and is making an impact?

Customer experience professionals fight hard for the customer and are often challenged when it comes to making the case for improving the customer experience and transforming the company culture to be customer-centric versus other, more easily quantifiable company initiatives.

CX Network and Forrester's Sam Stern collaborated on a report titled Leading Indicators of an Effective Culture Transformation, which identifies how to track indicators of progress toward customer-centricity. Culture change requires a lot of heavy lifting and is slow to happen and to show ROI. In today's post, I'll take a look at the four indicators they've identified in their research with 30 companies that have gone through culture transformations. The most-successful companies tracked these indicators from the start to understand if their transformation efforts were on track.

1. A shared vision
Start with a vision. Your customer experience vision will be inspirational and aspirational; it will outline what you see as the future state of the customer experience. It will briefly describe the experience you plan to deliver. And it will serve as a guide to help choose future courses of action.

Importantly, it must be communicated, shared, and reinforced. Every employee must know the vision for the intended experience and understand why it's important to the company and to what they do day in and day out.

2. Job-specific behaviors
As a follow-on to that last statement, employees need to translate that vision into reality, into how they act both internally and with and for their customers. Their actions must be aligned with the vision. Ongoing training and reinforcement of customer-centric behaviors are a must.

3. Consistent performance
Employees' consistent customer-centric behaviors and actions that are aligned with the customer experience vision are critical. To assess employee behaviors, Forrester recommends using some observational techniques like mystery shopping, surveying employees about their customer-centric behaviors, including those behaviors in their performance reviews, and analyzing customer feedback to learn if they've noticed any improvements.

Employee consistency drives organizational/cultural consistency, which ultimately results in customer experience consistency. And that consistency breeds trusts and builds relationships.

4. Transformed outcomes
It's important to measure and evaluate those employee behaviors to ensure that employees truly are displaying customer-centric abilities and actions. In addition, to gauge the transformation's full effect on both customers and employees, companies measure improvements and track business metrics. Forrester notes in the report that most companies track these four metrics (and they also include examples of companies who have done just so):
  • reported customer outcomes
  • actual customer outcomes
  • reported employee outcomes
  • actual employee outcomes
The report wraps up with a section on understanding (and communicating) your purpose behind the transformation before embarking on it because, as you as a customer experience professional know, a culture transformation is a huge undertaking and requires not only complete executive buy-in and commitment but also full organizational involvement. A few "whys" uncovered during Forrester's research include:
  • helping passionate employees who lack a shared direction
  • expanding the organization's definition of excellence to include customer experience
  • differentiating the business with a great customer experience, and
  • getting out of a self-inflicted rut
Those are all lofty - yet necessary and attainable - goals. Be sure to remind the entire organization of the why on a regular basis as you're traversing this journey.

Why does your company need a culture transformation?

For individuals, character is destiny. For organizations, culture is destiny. -Tony Hsieh

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Customer Relationships and Moments That Matter

Image courtesy of Corporate Traveller
Are you challenged at developing lasting relationships with your customers?

I was recently sent a copy of KPMG Nunwood's report titled B2B Customer Experience: Winning the Moments That Matter. The report is filled with some great nuggets, but I latched on to the phases of relationship connection and moments that matter.

How do you achieve relationship status with your customers? Do you know which moments matter most to them? And which are moments of failure?

When we engage with customers (or, when they engage with us), we are (hopefully) engaging for the long-term, developing a relationship. Some folks question the use of the term "relationship" when it comes to customers, but let's just use Merriam-Webster's definition, which tones things down a little: the way in which two or more people, groups, countries, etc., talk to, behave toward, and deal with each other; the way in which two or more people or things are connected.

That connection is what I'm referring to. We want to connect with our customers, not just transact with them. Relationships take time and work, every day; the focus and the desire to keep the relationship alive and strong should never stop because, when it does, the relationship will end. The connection is gone.

In KPMG Nunwood's report, they outline the key stages of relationship building. Sounds a bit like what happens in your personal relationships, but it's really not that far off for businesses to consider the same stages, both with their customers (B2B) and among their internal teams.

The following are the six stages, as defined in KPMG Nunwood's report.
  1. Wooing: the foundations for the future chemistry of the relationship are set during this stage.
  2. Purchase: selection is a key moment that matters, as this is where promises are made and expectations are set.
  3. Honeymoon: occurs immediately after the purchase, when both sides (customer and business) are looking for reasons to reinforce the decision they made to be in this relationship.
  4. Forming: during this stage, customer and company are finding the best way to work together.
  5. Storming: according to the report, this is a critical moment that matters; like in any other relationship, when that honeymoon period ends, reality sets in: the good and the bad. Issues happen, and if they're not dealt with appropriately, the relationship can sour quickly.
  6. Norming: standards are set and agreements are made on how the relationship with work.
The "Forming-Storming-Norming" stages really solidify the relationship. The better these steps are executed, the longer and stronger the relationship.

Bonding was also considered as one of the stages, but it doesn't just happen at once but across all of the stages - and often long before the customer engages with a specific company. It happens through experience with your products or services. If bonding doesn't happen, as we all know, the relationship is doomed.

Clearly, bonding is facilitated and driven by those moments that matter and hindered by moments of failure. In their report, KPMG Nunwood outlines examples of both for B2B companies and their customers along those key stages.

Moments that matter include:
  • Reputation and past practices
  • Demonstrating knowledge and understanding of industry, customer, and products
  • Onboarding and first impressions
  • Delivering on initial promises
  • The storming phase
  • Being flexible, responsive, and committed during times of change
  • Adding value by saving the customer time, money, and effort
  • Anticipating issues
  • Responding to issues
  • Demonstrating empathy and emotional intelligence
Moments of failure basically take the form of the opposite of the moments that matter or not taking advantage of moments that matter in a manner that is beneficial to the customer:
  • Reputation damage
  • Failing to connect with customers 
  • Over promising and under delivering
  • Cross-functional dynamics and failing to manage stakeholder relationships
  • Inadequate responses to issues 
  • Inconsistent knowledge about policies and processes from one agent or department to another
  • Quality of relationship manager - people buy from people
Those are just some examples. Know that there are plenty of others way to kill your customer relationships, as you well know.

I previously wrote about Nunwood's Six Pillars. In this latest report, they not only tie the moments that matter to the six stages of customer relationships but also to the Six Pillars, giving some great guidelines on how to deliver a great customer experience through the lens of the Pillars, as well. Be sure to check out the report for those details.

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. -Maya Angelou

Thursday, February 16, 2017

On Becoming a Mindful Leader

Image courtesy of jackbonner
Today I'm pleased to share a guest post by Paul Laughlin.

Two books I enjoyed over the Christmas period have prompted me to reflect on being a Mindful Leader. By that slightly odd term I mean a leader making use of mindfulness principles to improve their effectiveness.

The two books I referenced are: Mindfulness and Christian Spirituality by Tim Stead and Contact and Context: New Directions in Gestalt Coaching by Ty Francis & Malcolm Parlett. The first was a present and the second I have been asked to review for a Psychology journal. Both have been enjoyable reads and helpful to my personal development. In this post, I will focus more on the former, as I’ll be producing a fuller book review on the latter in coming weeks.

This post is too short and too high-level to provide even an introduction to Mindfulness. However, I would like to share four themes that have struck me from reading both books and that I feel offer insights into how to be a more mindful (and thus effective) leader.

Defining Mindfulness
By way of definition, Tim Stead offers the following:

Being more fully aware of your own experience, in the present moment, in a non-judgemental way.

For those of my readers who know more about mindfulness or have experienced its benefits, I hope that will pass as workable.

Tim goes on to define four "vital strands" to practising mindfulness:
  1. Awareness
  2. Experience
  3. Present Moment
  4. Non-Judgemental
It is those elements, or perspectives, through which I have been reflecting on how to be a more effective Customer Insight Leader in 2017. I hope the thoughts that follow are helpful.

1. Being a More-Aware Leader
My own experience with starting to practice mindfulness is that it’s not easy. Your thoughts wander. The first awareness I experienced was of how difficult I find it to stay focused (like herding cats in my head).

Apparently, the emphasis on awareness (of your own thoughts, body, and environment) is intended to offer an antidote to the way we so often go about on "autopilot." As we’ve shared before regarding  Behavioural Economics, much research in the field of Behavioural Psychology has shown the high proportion of "decisions" that are made using unconscious biases and other heuristics that help us avoid needing conscious thought. It takes a lot of oxygen and effort in the brain to consciously think about the right answers/responses to the plethora of decisions needed everyday.

That makes sense from an evolutionary perspective and when dealing with routines where habits can serve us well. However, for leaders there is a danger that this way of being also extends into our working lives, i.e., like the experience of "waking up" while driving and wondering how you got so far without apparently conscious thought. Have you experienced much the same in meetings or familiar work routines?

Before getting back into the familiar rituals of working life (with emails, meetings, and cycles of reporting), could it help to pause a while? Have you ever spent just a few moments at work to become really aware of what you are thinking, feeling in your body, or sensing around you? Try it. With a few minutes spent silently, calmly breathing, you may be surprised what strikes you.

How can you avoid just being a "cog in the machine" or a leader on autopilot this year?

2. Noticing What You Experience as a Mindful Leader
Do you sometimes suffer from analysis paralysis? Could it be that you are sometimes over-analysing problems or opportunities? In conversations with your team, peers, or boss, do you find yourself spending more time thinking up a smart reply than listening to what they have actually said? We have been taught for so long that the brain is king and rationale argument should win that we can miss the more nuanced reality of real life.

Given all the emphasis in recent years on Neuroscience (normally limited to the study of the brain), it’s interesting to now see important developments in a field called Neurogastroenterology. This has identified "intelligence" in the signals sent from our gut, heart, and other parts of the body, to inform or guide the brain. So, it seems there is some truth to the old analogies of "what your gut tells you" or "your heart not being in it." We are realising we are more embodied than we sometimes give credit to, in this age of focus on algorithms and technology.

So, back to being a more effective leader. I know from my own experience in both team leadership and exec meetings that there can be a lot of wisdom to noticing what you are experiencing. It’s not objective "truth," but if you experience a raised heart rate, a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, or a chill running down your spine — notice that. It may well be worth exploring what your body has noticed. Could you ask open questions, or explore more on a topic before committing?

Beyond a more introverted focus, being more aware of what you experience can also help you notice more of how others are feeling. Do you pay enough attention to the non-verbal signals being shown by your team? How could you improve as a leader if you focus not only on what those you work with say but also on how they act and appear to feel?

3. You Can Only be a Mindful Leader in the Present Moment
Although learning from past experiences is very valuable, it can also leave you fearful of repeating past mistakes or over-confident about somewhat similar opportunities. Likewise, too much focus on the future can paralyse your decision-making or action now. Too many of us spend too much time regretting the past or fearing the future. In reality, all you have is now. Whatever is going on inside your head, your ability to do something different is limited to the present moment.

Too much focus on the past or future is also associated with a build-up of stress. So, mindfulness also focuses on helping you bring your thinking back to the present moment. What are you aware of now? What is being experienced now?

I’m sure the applicability to Customer Insight Leaders is obvious. With so much analysis of past data (including success or failure of past actions) and research into customers’ future intentions (including fears and hopes), straying away from "now" is an ever-present risk. But the real value add of both insight teams and their leaders is to take all this information and use it wisely to inform what to do now.

For 2017, how could you focus more on action in the present? Are you aware of past experiences which may be making you unduly cautious? Can you notice what is different this time? Are you aware of repeated fears about the future that may even be disturbing your sleep? What would you do differently if you weren’t running that "film reel in your head?"

Take some time to just focus on now. What is the most helpful thing for you to do right now?

4. Could a Non-Judgemental Leader be More Effective?
This may seem the most counter-intuitive of all four strands. Surely the job of leaders is to judge, to make decisions, and to only keep doing what works? With much of corporate life requiring judgements from managers and leaders (from performance management systems to who gets budget), how could a non-judgemental mindset help?

Let’s step back to you as a whole person first. Like most of us human beings, you undoubtedly have elements of your personality, behaviour, thoughts, or desires that you dislike or find unacceptable. Both the route to depression and addiction can lie in simply trying to suppress these parts of ourselves. Much study in the field of PsychoSynthesis (amongst others) has been to encourage us to listen to more of the multiple voices or personas that we all experience within ourselves. If that sounds a little unhinged, think of the way you might describe yourself as a different person in different circumstances.

There is growing evidence from the use of mindfulness to help addicts and those suffering from depression that a key element is to be able to suspend judgement. Can you just be aware of some of the thoughts and feelings you are having, without having to immediately rush to judgement? That doesn’t mean giving yourself carte blanche to do anything, rather increasing your awareness of everything you are feeling and experiencing. Like a good conversation, quite often if you stay quiet for longer than is comfortable, something else comes to light.

Are there challenges in your team or problems in your business that you could do with understanding better? Could you just gather information or listen to colleagues for longer before rushing to a judgement? Giving yourself more time as a leader, to experience more about the situation, may help you make a better decision in the end.

Do You Want to be a Mindful Leader in 2017?
I hope those musings were useful. I’m certainly becoming convinced that there is something in this.

If you’d like to give it a go, why not start by sitting quietly and reflecting on what you have read. See what thoughts and feelings arise. After sufficient time to hear all your internal "witnesses" (including your body), what do you want to do differently as a leader this year?

Want to explore Mindfulness yourself? You can find some helpful resources and books on the Frantic World website.

Have a great 2017 and I look forward to learning from your responses.

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


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Do You Employ Actionability Thinking in Survey Design?

Image courtesy of Silver Paul
Today's post is a slightly-updated version of one I originally published on Compellon's blog on January 25, 2017, which is a largely-modified version of a very-popular post I wrote on CX Journey™ five years ago titled 22 Tips for Survey Design.

You’ve been running your voice of the customer (VoC) program for the last couple of years, and you’re frustrated because you can’t seem to move the needle on the customer experience.

Why are your customers still unhappy? Why is the service so bad? When will those product issues be resolved? Why don’t your customers recommend your company? Why don’t they buy again? What’s going on?

We need to get to the root cause of this situation.

I think I can safely narrow it down to this: your surveys. Don’t be offended. I’ve seen a lot of bad surveys over the last 25 years, and I can tell you that if you don’t get them right, it’ll be a challenge to improve  anything. Consider this: Are you asking the right questions? Are the (right) questions you’re asking actionable? Do you know what to do with the feedback you’re getting?

In order to improve the customer experience, you definitely need to listen to your customers. That’s a given. You need to understand who they are and what they are trying to do. And how well you’re helping them achieve what they’re trying to do. But you need to be sure to structure your survey questions in such a way that the feedback is meaningful and actionable, that it truly helps you understand the experience and how well you’re helping the customer do what he needs to do.

Data that is not actionable is just data. -Unknown

When you’re designing your surveys, are you thinking “actionable?”

What does that mean?

When you’re thinking “actionable,” you’re considering the following as you propose and design the questions:
  • What will we do if this question is rated low (or high)?
  • How will we act on it?
  • Who owns this question?
  • Who else needs this information?
  • Who will act on it?
  • How quickly can we make changes?
  • Is this something we can actually change?
  • Why are we asking this?
Asking for feedback about something you can’t change - or in such a way that you’re not sure what you need to change - is pointless. You’re wasting your customers’ time and your company’s time. If you can’t succinctly answer these “actionability” questions, then reconsider what you’re asking.
Once you’ve thought about – and clearly answered – these higher-level questions, it’s time to think about question design. How are you going to ask your survey questions to ensure that you can effect real change for the customer experience?

Here are a few survey design tips – still using our “actionable thinking” approach – to make sure you’re asking meaningful questions.

1. Don’t ask double-barreled or compound questions. If you’re not familiar with this phrase, I’ll give you an example: “How satisfied are you with the speed and quality of the solution you were given?” You’re asking about speed of the solution and quality of the solution, two very distinct things. First, this will confuse the respondent. What if speed was great, but the quality wasn’t? or vice versa? Next, it will frustrate whoever needs to act on it because it’s not clear what needs to be fixed, one or the other or both. Keep your questions to just one thought/concept.

2. Don't ask leading or biased questions. "We know you loved our new soft drink. How much did you love it?" OK, silly example, but you get the point. Don’t bias the question wording by putting a positive or negative spin on it. Simply ask what you want to ask; don’t lead the witness.

3. Don’t ask generic, high-level questions that aren’t specific enough to drive change. For example, asking customers to “rate your overall satisfaction with our website” without additional detailed attributes about the site or without an open-ended question to understand the why behind the rating is not helpful.

4. For open-ended questions, be specific. Ask exactly what you want to know, e.g., "What can we do to ensure you rate us a 10 on overall satisfaction the next time you do business with us?" Or, "Tell us the single most important reason you recommended us to your friends."

5. Make sure your questions are not ambiguous. Write questions clearly. If a respondent pauses and says, "What do they mean by that?" then the question is poorly constructed. Poorly constructed questions result in responses that are not actionable; nobody really knows what they mean.

6. Your question response choices and rating scales should be mutually exclusive. When response choices overlap or don’t make sense, they become meaningless; and that means they are also not actionable.

7. Do your homework. Make sure you provide a complete list of response choices. I hate when the one answer that should be there is missing. Be sure to provide an "Other (please specify)" when appropriate. Not offering this latter option either forces people to skip the question or to select something that may not be accurate – and that’s not actionable; it’s misleading.

8. Only ask questions that are relevant to that customer and his experience – don’t mix in a bunch of marketing research questions or other nice-to-knows. Those questions are out of context and are also not relevant to what you’re trying to achieve, which means they aren’t actionable for your cause.

9. For future question ideas, review verbatims for emerging and actionable topics. These verbatims are a rich source of information, for a variety of reasons!

If you really want to improve the customer experience, then you need to start with good data! You need to ask the right questions: relevant, meaningful, and actionable questions. Then analyze to identify the key drivers and next best actions. And don’t forget to act!

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

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

An Ambitious First 90 Days for a #CXO

Image courtesy of Steve Bowbrick
What do the first 90 days on the job look for a brand new CXO or VP of CX?

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of co-keynoting GMC Software's CX Transformation Day virtual event with Scott Draeger of GMC Software. If you missed our conversation, you can find it on their site.

One of the questions that Scott asked me during our session is what I'd call the customer experience officer's (CXO's) "first 90 days." He asked me what CXOs would be doing in their early days, and my response, in a nutshell, was around information gathering and education. Let me expand a bit. Given a bit more time to consider it, I would actually put the first 90 days into three phases: info gathering, customer understanding, and strategy development. Education falls into each of those phases but certainly is important to getting everyone on board.

Phase 1: Information Gathering
Having a CXO is critical to success for any customer experience transformation. When we think transformation, we need to make real change that customers can see and feel. We're going to change the culture and ensure we increase revenue (existing customers continue to buy or buy more or new customers come on board) and decrease costs (referrals reduce sales and marketing costs and operational efficiencies reduce operating costs). This requires a huge coordination of effort; someone needs to oversee that effort.

The first step in any new role is to sit, listen, and learn. And ask questions. The CXO is going to gather information about the corporate and competitive landscape, the people, the politics, the who's who, the tools and technologies currently in place, the organization's current state of customer-centricity, current approaches to change management, any CX-type initiatives (listening, mapping, understanding, characterizing, etc.) underway, the company vision, the mission, the brand promise, corporate values, and more. Basically, she'll be getting the current state lay of the land.

At the same time, she'll be building relationships and finding partners in crime, so to speak. Who gets it and who doesn't. Who's an advocate or an ally? Who's not? Who needs to be convinced or brought on board?

And she'll want to get a sense of what employees, in general, know and understand about customer experience. This sets a baseline for where we are today versus where we need to be. At the same time, she'll be talking to folks about what customer experience is, why it's important to the success of the company, how employees impact it, and, at a high level, what the expectation is when it comes to delivering a great customer experience.

Without that foundational information, it's going to be really difficult to do anything. All this information gathering - including that which is done in Phase 2 - feeds into the third phase, developing the CX strategy.

Phase 2: Customer Understanding
While there may already be some listening and understanding efforts underway, this next phase solidifies, unifies, reinforces, and builds on these efforts to ensure that the right initiatives are underway, where and when they matter most.

During this phase, the CXO is going to again listen and learn while getting more hands on in making sure that things are moving in the right direction, as the team: listens to customers, characterizes them (persona research and development), and maps the current state of various experiences/journeys. She'll use this information not only for design work that lies ahead but also to educate employees about the customer experience, how they impact it, and where it needs to be fixed.

This is also a good time to start talking to HR and the executive team about the employee experience and how critical it is to focus on that in order to deliver a great customer experience. This will feed into hiring practices and onboarding and training programs that will set the employee off on the right foot from Day One.

And finally, she'll want to identify other constituents critical to the customer experience ecosystem and other voices that the organization will want to listen to, using their feedback to improve both their experience and the customer experience.

Phase 3: Strategy Development
The foundational work in the first two phases lead to - and feed into - the development of the CX strategy that is to be executed on going forward. A lot is going on at this point, including developing the strategy, getting the right players (governance) into place and in alignment, educating and aligning the organization, putting training and communication plans and initiatives into place, getting to work, and securing some quick wins to begin to tell the ROI story and to build the business case.

Don't be fooled by the short descriptor for Phase 3. There's a lot of heavy lifting going on!

Given that the average CXO tenure is 24 months, they've got to move to prove that this is a worthy endeavor. And, in turn, extend that average tenure!

What do you think? Is that a lot to ask for in the first 90 days?

Culture does not change because we desire to change it. Culture changes when the organization is transformed – the culture reflects the realities of people working together every day. -Frances Hesselbein

Thursday, February 2, 2017

6 Ways to Motivate and Inspire Your Customer Service Team?

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock/Robert Kneschke
Today I'm pleased to share a guest post by Elena Lockett with FM Outsource.

People are motivated by very different things. Money, personal achievements, or workplace goals – it differs person to person. To ensure your customer service (CS) teams remain motivated, whatever gets thrown at them, you need to make sure you are providing them with the inspiration and tools to do their job well and be happy!

Motivating your employees not only keeps them in a good place, it positively affects your customers, too. If you want your customers to see your business in a positive light, your employees need to shine it.

But why is this motivation so important? If your employees have goals of their own, both inside and outside of the company, shouldn’t they already motivate themselves? You can’t rely on that assumption when your employees are directly conversing with old and new customers; they could truly be the difference between customers walking away or making a purchase. It’s worth both the time and money to properly invest in motivating all members of your team.

How do you go about motivating your customer service team then? Here are our top six ways to inspire your employees:

1. Provide learning opportunities
We all like to learn and grow as part of our day-to-day lives, so providing training opportunities to further an employee’s development is beneficial in many ways. Training means better service to your customers and helps your employees feel more confident in the service they're providing. It will also ensure that they can deal with their customers' queries to a high standard. These learning opportunities should focus both on company policies and on how to deal with customers, so you don’t end up with employees who have excellent knowledge but lack in other areas. Make sure to help employees who are falling behind in certain skill sets; by giving them opportunities, you’re showing you believe in them.

Not only should you help your employees learn, you should also try to learn from their knowledge. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback and to ask them to be brutally honest. You, as a company, could be completely unaware of a huge issue that is only affecting your frontline team; if no one tells you, you won’t ever improve upon it.

2. Understand what motivates them
As I said earlier, not everyone is motivated by the same goal. You need to understand what motivates your teams and, honestly, each individual employee. Whether it be an extra day’s holiday, a potential promotion, gift cards for favourite retailers, or even the knowledge that they’ll get their monthly working lunch paid for, it’s important to know what will work best.

Don’t just rely on asking them outright for these motivators, as some people may become embarrassed or awkward when talking about something so personal. Send out surveys or questionnaires, or hold brainstorming sessions to allow all your employees to add their two cents.

3. Create a strong, creative, working environment
If you enjoy going to work every day, you bring a more positive attitude to the workplace. By giving your workplace a strong, corporate environment, it helps both you, as a business, and your employee understand how you can both benefit.

A good way to create these atmospheres within your business is to hold regular brainstorms to promote creativity and the sharing of ideas between employees. They're interacting with your customers every day and will be able to provide useful insight.

If the environment your employees are working in day-to-day is stressful, they may convey this back to any customers they're dealing with. This can both negatively affect their performance and the customer’s experience of the business. Ensure you create a happy, easy-going environment (at appropriate times), so your employees feel comfortable and can do their jobs to their best.

4. Constantly reevaluate your company's attitude
Tone of voice inside a business is incredibly important; it conveys who you are and what you believe in, and it creates a solid brand identity. This can be disrupted by certain attitudes displayed by employees, especially if that attitude is negative. For example, if your employees come to work and are automatically talked-down-to and made to feel unimportant, they may no longer feel confident in the work they’re doing.

5. Encourage friendly competition
We all know the thrill of entering a competition, and that thrill increases if it’s against people you know. Setting up some friendly (we don't want any falling out) competition between team members can give them a little more motivation. This will not only increase individual performance but also improve performance across the team.

You could even set goals for employees to reach as a team if you don’t want to encourage competition between team members. This will mean they’ll work together to reach that goal and help each other out if someone is falling behind.

6. Have a little fun too!
Creating a fun, joyful workplace will help your employees relax and feel at ease while they’re working. It also helps your business connect to your employees on a more personal front, so they feel included. Arrange family days, themed events in office, fundraising activities, and much more to keep the joy in your workplace.

There are so many ways to keep your employees motivated in a CS environment, some which require lots of time and money, while others can be as simple as not bringing a negative attitude with you when you go to work every day. It’s unfair to expect employees to be responsible for all their own motivation, so give them goals to help them achieve. It'll pay off for both your business and your employees.

Elena is a Marketing Assistant at FM Outsource. She is constantly looking for press opportunities for the business, whether it be entering awards, attending events, or getting FM featured in relevant articles online and in print.