Thursday, June 22, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 1: Identify the Customer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Rise of the Customer Experience Executive

Image courtesy of GMC Software
Do you need one? A customer experience leader, that is.

There's an alphabet soup of letters thrown together to title the customer experience leader role, whether it's CCO, CXO, CCXO, etc. They all lead to the same definition: the C-level executive who champions, or advocates for, the customer and his needs throughout the organization.

Why is this position necessary? Quite simply, it's time to create memorable customer experiences! And the customer needs someone in the executive suite who represents him and his needs. Without that representative dedicated to shepherding the voice of the customer and the needs of the customer throughout the organization, it's really difficult to transform the organization's culture to one that is customer-obsessed or to redirect the focus onto the customer as opposed to solely on the business of creating shareholder value.

I recently finished writing an eBook for GMC Software titled Rise of the Customer Experience Executive: How CX Earned a Spot in the C-Suite. In the eBook, I go more in-depth on whether every company needs a CXO and answer other questions, including:
  • What are the CXO's critical success factors?
  • What are the biggest challenges to success?
  • Why do you need a CXO?
  • and more...
I also interviewed five global CCOs to get insights into how they landed their roles, their key challenges and how they overcame them, and advice for current and future CX executives. I was honored to speak with:
    • Christine Corbett, CCO, Australia Post
    • Nick Frunzi, CCO, Esri
    • Ingrid Lindberg, former 4-time CCO, most recently with Prime Therapeutics
    • Isabelle Conner, CMO/CCO, Assicurazioni Generali Spa
    • Donna Peeples, CCO, Pypestream
    Take a moment to download the eBook. Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy some great advice from these thought leaders! Thank you in advance for reading it!

    If it's a pain point for your customers, it is generally a pain point for your people. -Christine Corbett