Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Where Do Your Employees Fall in Order of Importance?

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Does your company put employees first? or customer first?

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

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

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

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

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

Here's what I found:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notice anything?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Where do your employees fall in order of importance?

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


Thursday, August 24, 2017

CX Journey™ Musings: The Problem with Journey Maps

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There's a problem with journey maps?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes. If done right, it is.

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

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


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Journey to a Great Customer Service Experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are journey maps?

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Candidate Experience and the Customer Experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, August 3, 2017

Expectations: The Mother of All Frustrations

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Expectation = frustration?

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

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

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

Expectations, of course.

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

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

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

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

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

How do you measure expectations?

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

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

Deming has an interesting take on expectations: 

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

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Do You and Your Customers Speak the Same Language?

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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