Wednesday, May 31, 2017

To Tip or Not to Tip?

Image courtesy of Pixabay
To tip or not to tip, that is the question.

I just returned from a trip to Sydney, Australia, where I keynoted an event and also conducted a journey mapping master class. It was my first time to Australia, so before I traveled, I did a little homework on what I needed to take along, what to expect while there, etc.

One of the interesting things I learned was that it's not necessary to tip; Australia has a non-tipping culture. There is no expectation of a tip at all: not from the cab driver, the bartender, the waitress, the bellhop, or anyone else. In restaurants, for example, the wait staff is paid a solid hourly wage ($15-$18/hour) versus the minimum wage (or in some cases, less) received by wait staff in the States.

I also learned that customers most likely only tip in a fine-dining restaurant, but even then it's not mandatory, and the gratuity amount for great service is usually 10% (versus 20% for the best service in the States).

A few years ago, I wrote a post called Are Gratuities an Expectation? and explored what that meant. When I arrived in Australia, I was really curious to find out how this would affect the customer experience. How would a non-tipping culture fare against what I was used to?

"How was the service?" you ask.

Well, let's just say that it wasn't consistent across the board, but it was pretty disappointing. My first cab driver was quite rude and not helpful at all, and I was warned afterward that that was the norm. At several restaurants, I sat for a long time just waiting for a waiter to take my order or to (re)fill my glass. Not only did I wait, but at two restaurants (because it had been so long) I got up to find waiters and wasn't able to find a soul! Those experiences would rarely/ever happen in the States; certainly not as often as they did in the week that I was in Sydney.

Would it be different if there was the expectation of a tip for great service delivered? I think so.

What do you think?

Here is the simple but powerful rule... always give people more than they expect to get. -Nelson Boswell


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

How to Engage Employees in Your Customer Experience Strategy

I originally wrote today's post for Clicktools. It appeared on their blog on August 29, 2016.

Quite simply: without employees, you have no customer experience.

The linkage between employee engagement and experience and the customer experience has been proven. It's real, and your employees matter! If your employees aren't engaged with your improvement efforts - or engaged overall with the organization - it will be very difficult for them to delight your customers and deliver the experience they expect.

As customer experience professionals, we talk a lot about gaining executive buy-in and commitment, but there's a lot less talk about employee buy-in and commitment; this is equally as critical to the success of your customer experience strategy.

Employees are critical to the customer experience, which is critical to the success of the business. But what tools do we give to employees to prepare them to deliver a great customer experience? What tools do we give them to help them understand why being customer-focused and customer-centric is paramount? How do we sell the concept to them?

The following summarizes several tools and approaches to use to get - and to keep - employees on board. It should be no surprise: you really need to start from the beginning. When you're recruiting, you can start to set and frame expectations so that candidates and new employees understand what they're signing up for, what kind of company they'll be working for, and what the brand represents.

Job Descriptions: Any company that is focused on the customer and expects employees to deliver a great experience will mention this in job descriptions. Set expectations early. Let employees choose if your company is the kind of company they want to work for. My hope is that candidates are thrilled to know that customer experience is a clear priority for a company, but then I'm a little biased!

Interviews: Be clear with candidates that the company is customer obsessed and that the role, frontline or back office, they are interviewing for impacts the customer and her experience. The customer experience is everyone's job. If the candidate is on board, then frame interview questions around understanding how the employee would take ownership.

Vision - Company and Customer Experience: 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.

Core Values: Your core values are beliefs that guide the organization in identifying 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 core values, and they should be integrated into everything you do. When in doubt, ask: "Is this the right thing to do? Does it fit with our core  values?" I like the idea of involving employees in the development of those core values.

Brand Promise: A brand promise is the expectations you set with your customers.  It’s a combination of the brand purpose and the reality of what the brand can deliver. It defines the benefits a customer can expect to receive when experiencing your brand – at every touchpoint. It's meant for both customer and employees, as employees at all levels, frontline and behind the scenes, must live - and deliver on - the promise.

Customer Feedback: Listening to customers and ensuring that their feedback is shared (and acted upon) throughout the organization helps connect the dots for employees - they hear how what they do relates to, and translates into, what the customer experiences. I don't think organizations do enough of this; feedback often remains with those who are listening or with those who need to act on it, but fails to make it into the hands of those who need to hear it most: the employees who delivered the evaluated experience.

Rewards and Recognition: These are often tied closely with customer feedback. When we recognize and reward employees for doing the right thing or for delivering a great experience, we reinforce the behaviors we expect. We also continue to make that connection for the employee to the outcome, i.e., to how they contribute to the customer experience and, ultimately, to the success of the business.

Role Play: When we role play, we model behaviors that we expect from our employees. We teach them what it looks like to deliver a great experience. When employees are in the know, they can commit and take ownership. Knowledge is power!

Journey Maps: A customer journey map is the ultimate tool to help connect all employees to how they contribute to - and impact - the customer experience. The map is the backbone of the customer experience, and while it details what the customer experiences as he's trying to do some job, it's important to include when, where, and how employees contribute at each step along the way. This is powerful; when employees see how they impact the experience, how their contributions matter, they can take ownership of those moments.

Communication: This is really a precursor - or a critical component - for all of the items listed above. It's important on its own, but it must also be used in conjunction with each of the tools above. What gets shared and communicated is viewed as important to your employees. And communication lends clarity, which is critical to engagement and to providing a clear line of sight to the target, your customers and the customer experience.

Customer Ambassador Program: An ambassador program cements employees' commitment to the customer and to the overall customer experience strategy. It not only celebrates those who deliver (or support those who deliver) exceptional experiences but also shows the organization's commitment to the customer and his experience. Ambassadors carry the message and the great work that the core CX team is doing throughout the entire organization. Think of it as a grass roots effort to drive culture change and to execute on process improvements. Ambassadors will help to get all employees engaged in your customer experience strategy.

One final thought: You'll be much more successful in gaining employee commitment and in executing your CX strategy if you engage employees in the decisions and the design along the way rather than forcing initiatives and changes on them. Employees get engaged when they are involved in the decision-making process, when they feel like they can add value, and when they feel that they matter.

There's no success without commitment. -Tony Robbins


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

How Do You Know When It's Time to Redesign Your VoC Program?

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's post for Clicktools; it appeared on their blog on July 26, 2016.

Last month, I wrote about 20 tips to design better customer surveys. That post ought to be helpful whether you're designing a new survey or redesigning existing surveys. But what if you've been listening to customers for years? How do you know when it's time for a refresh or a complete VoC program redesign?

When was the last time you took a long, hard look at what you've been doing in terms of listening to customers in order to figure out if it's time for a redesign or a major overhaul? Have there been personnel changes on your team? Have you acquired other companies? Are the people who originally designed the surveys still with the company? If they aren't, is there anyone else who  recalls the original objectives? If they are, do they recall the objectives, the overall roadmap, the reason for the approach, etc.?

Either way, it's likely that it's time to revisit your customer listening efforts to ensure they meet today's standards and requirements. Businesses change, acquisitions happen, new products are developed, customers change, customers' needs evolve, the jobs customers try to do change, the industry grows and advances, new competitors enter the marketplace, etc.

It's important to regularly revisit your listening efforts to ensure that you're listening to all customers and in a manner that they prefer or in a manner that ensures you hear what they want/need you to hear.

Have you mapped your customer journeys? Have those maps identified new listening needs or opportunities that you hadn't considered? The customer journey can be improved through listening and identifying areas where the journey is failing or causing customers to look for alternatives. Don't ignore the learnings and outputs of this exercise.

How do you know when it's time to redesign or to update your customer listening efforts? It might be time if you...
  • Don't (or no longer) understand why you're doing what you're currently doing
  • Don't know/remember the original objectives
  • Haven't achieved your original objectives
  • Have nothing to show for the feedback you have received
  • Have seen a drastic drop in response rates
  • Only use the feedback to report one or two numbers; the rest of the data isn't looked at or acted upon
  • Only have one person (yourself) looking at the feedback, and even then, it's infrequently at best
  • Have had major staffing changes within your organization
  • Work with a vendor who has had staffing changes on your account team
  • Have experienced staffing changes within both your organization and your VoC vendor's organization
  • Have acquired - or merged with - new companies and brands
  • Have rebranded your products
  • Have changed your product focus or your audience focus
  • Have changed your business/business model
  • Are not listening in a mode preferred by your customers
  • Aren't listening via social media
  • Have new competitors
  • Haven't had any actionable insights or results in years
  • Notice that recommendations for improvement haven't changed
  • Aren't making improvements based on the feedback
  • Discover that what you are currently doing is not/no longer working
If you've been doing the same thing for forever, it is seriously time for a refresh. Data collection methods have changed. Respondent preferences (for completing surveys) have changed. VoC has changed and now includes more than just surveys; it's not just about asking customers but also about listening - wherever your customers want to speak and voice their opinions. Key metrics for your business may have changed. There are new analytical tools that require actionable inputs - not that previous tools didn't have the same requirements, but the new tools make this requirement that much more evident!

There are a lot of things that have changed over time; but if your approach to VOC - not just the way you capture feedback but also the way you distribute it, analyze it, strategize and operationalize it, and communicate improvements - has remained stagnant, you're not only wasting money, you're doing your customers and your business a huge disservice.

Ultimately, if your customers continue to complain about the same issues and if your employees still feel shackled by the same tools, policies, and procedures - if you feel like the experience hasn't improved and you don't know how to fix it - it's time to rethink how you're listening to customers.

Your customer listening efforts shouldn't follow a "set it and forget it" approach. You should take a look at your approach on an annual basis. Review what you're doing and update or modify as needed.

Does your VOC initiative suffer from any of the symptoms listed above? If so, it is definitely time for a redesign!

You need to have a redesign because familiarity breeds a kind of complacency. -Timothy White


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

What Motivates Employees?

Image courtesy of Pixabay
What motivates you to go to work every morning?

What drives you to do good work every day? What motivates you to want to work for your employer every day? What are the things that your manager and your executives do that encourage you to work hard for them every day?

What motivates your staff? Do you even know? Have they ever shared with you what their motivators are? Have you ever asked them?

Not everyone is motivated in the same way, so you need to be prepared to use different tools and approaches; you need to personalize or customize the experience to the individual.

Hmmm. That sounds familiar. We talk a lot about that when we describe customer experience design.

Let's use that same mantra ("personalize the experience") to describe some approaches to use when we need to design the employee experience. In this case, I'm writing about designing an employee experience that moves your employees to deliver a great customer experience! How can we motivate employees to drive change within the organization that allows them to deliver the experience your customers desire?

Consider the following ideas when you want to move your employees.

The most important tool to motivate employees to act on customer feedback and insights is communication - clear, ongoing communication that supports the actions and the outcomes. You can't act on what you don't know or don't understand. Share the feedback. Tell your teams what's been uncovered in the data. Help them understand current state and future state. And help them understand the why.

Use storytelling. I've written about it before, but it's a Trojan horse for learning. You can tell stories, and people will listen; they won't even know that they're (supposed to be) learning! Stories allow you to deliver a message in a way that engages people, inspires them, and helps them understand a desired or intended outcome as a result of a series of steps or actions taken. Tell the stories in your data.

Give employees ownership; if you provide leadership opportunities and hold employees accountable, they'll want to engage - to act - because they feel like they own it. There's a lot of pride in ownership, and when they understand what that means, it's a great feeling.

Similarly, if we involve them in the change process rather than forcing actions and change on them, we make some quick allies who want to be a part of the implementation and the improvements. Educate and empower them - and then set them free to act.

Employees need to be bought into the cause and why the actions they take matter to them and for the intended audience. Why should I act on these findings? What's in it for me? What's in it for the customer? How does my action or inaction impact the customer?

Listen to employees. When you listen to them and not only take their feedback into consideration but also use it, they feel valued. That motivates them.

Training, coaching, and development reinforced by rewards for being accountable and for acting on opportunities identified in the data can also drive employees to do good work. Clearly, growth opportunities motivate many employees, and rewards are always appreciated.

Collaboration gets people to work together toward a common cause; many are motivated by what motivates others. Before collaborating, though, they need to clearly understand the cause, and they need to clearly understand expectations and outcomes. Collaboration often motivates people who aren't motivated on their own. And since we want everyone marching to the same beat, collaboration makes for a more cohesive organization and outcome.

Leadership is motivating. Employees are moved by leaders they like to work for and who inspire them to do what they might not otherwise do. These leaders must be trustworthy, transparent, open, and candid; they must communicate, mentor, coach, and be a positive influence.

Don't discount the fact the employees are motivated when they are doing interesting work or fun projects, especially those that are aligned with their own values, purpose, and passions. Make sure they understand where and how the customer fits into all of that.

Knowing that their work matters and that it has a positive impact on the business, on customers, and on society is a motivator. Let employees know how what they do impacts all of their constituencies. Make sure there's alignment. I suppose this is a good time to reiterate that you should hire for attitude and train for skill.

Oftentimes, when a project or an assignment challenges employees and provides real growth opportunities, it is highly motivational. Mind you, though, this definitely does not work for everyone. Some will be discouraged; others will be encouraged.

And last but not least, when we celebrate successes and contributions, those being celebrated and often their co-workers, as well, are encouraged to do more.

Notice that I didn't mention any financial motivators. That's intentional. As with the customer experience, in the absence of value, price (pay) is important; when value is present and apparent, price (pay) is less of a driver.

If people are good only because they fear punishment and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed
. -Albert Einstein


Thursday, May 4, 2017

Today is Day One!

Today is my Day One.

Back in 2011, I started blogging at CX Journey when I was between gigs. I wanted to build my personal brand, and I felt like I had a lot in my head to share with others after (at that time) a 20-year career in this CX space.

Those first months of writing were pretty interesting. If you ever plan to start blogging, do not - let me repeat - do not watch the site stats. They can be very depressing!

I could only dream of what happened, though! People read what I wrote. And they actually liked it! I started getting accolades and recognition. And I met new people. And clients. And event organizers. And lots of amazing customer experience professionals. (I look forward to meeting and working with many more!)

It has been quite the journey. And it has only just begun.

Today is my Day One.

What is Day One? It's the first day or the very beginning of something.

Enough "One day... ." It's time to jump in with both feet!

And, so I have.

Yesterday was what I hope is the last day I ever work in the corporate world - at least in someone else's corporate world. Today, I am officially launching my own corporation: CX Journey Inc. I'll be expanding on the work that I've been doing and will be focused on helping clients ground and frame their customer experience strategies in/through customer understanding.

The month of May is already shaping up to be a busy one, but over the next few weeks I'll be updating this site to reflect the various services I'll be offering. And, yes, journey mapping is, and will continue to be, one of those offerings.

Thank you to everyone who has been on this journey with me over the last several years. I hope you'll continue to travel with me for years to come. I'm grateful for all of you!

Not all those who wander are lost. -J.R.R. Tolkien


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Take Action on Your Customer Data!

Image courtesy of ARMLE
Are you taking action on your customer data?

I like to write about taking action and actionable insights because there's a serious lack of action when it comes to customer feedback. I've witnessed it for far too long.

I've written about this topic a few times in the last several months:

The Definition of #CX Insanity
Do You Employ Actionability Thinking in Survey Design?
The Future is Now: Take Your Customer Data to the Next Level
Two Major Flaws of Your Customer Listening Efforts

It's a problem.

From the 2016 Temkin Group State of Voice of Customer (VoC) Programs Infographic:
34% of companies reported making changes to their business based on customer insights.
That should read, "only 34%..."

That's a pretty embarrassing statistic. You know that almost every company in the world listens. Your doctor, the grocery store, the library, your veterinarian, and on and on and on. What on earth do they do with your feedback?

Well, you know, it's likely they are just chasing the score. Sadly.

How can we shift the thinking? How can we turn data into actionable insights - and hopefully convince the score chasers that this is a better approach? It's important that we start at the beginning.

I don't necessarily believe that the items listed below will convert the score chasers, but for those on the edge and for those not sure how to turn data into something actionable and consumable, here are some things to consider as you think about analyzing and acting on your data.
  1. Objectives first: Always, in anything we do, why are we doing this?
  2. What is the target? What are the outcomes you're solving for?
  3. What problems are you trying to solve?
  4. Ensure that you have multiple streams/types of data for more-robust analysis. Survey data isn't enough; you need to include customer data: demographic, psychographic, behavioral, transaction, interaction, and more. But...
  5. If you want actionable outcomes, ask actionable questions in your surveys and use actionable data. Not all data is good data.
  6. Heed the evolution of analytics. It has occurred for a reason. Use predictive and prescriptive analytics to ensure you uncover actionable answers to work with.
  7. Know your customers. Segment them, as needed; get down to more consumable, relatable segments of insights that can be applied to the right customers.
  8. Know your consumers, i.e., those who are consuming the insights. What do they care about? What is relevant to them? How do they learn? What motivates them to act? A story?
  9. Keep the insights consumable. Smaller chunks are easy to consume. Identify the top three things to focus on, rather than overwhelming with a dozen to-dos. More than three, and you'll begin to lose your audience.
So, it's not just about the data. As Lolly Daskal has said - and I know I've quoted this before, but it rings so true: Insight alone does not cause change. Change requires action. You may be in charge of uncovering the insights, but you need to figure out what makes the consumers of your insights move. Speak their language. Motivate them. Help them be successful.

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