Wednesday, December 27, 2017

5 Fails to Avoid with Your VoC Program

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's post for CallidusCloud CX; it was published on their blog on June 21, 2017.

Not seeing the results or improvements you expected to see from your customer listening efforts?

Why is that? What's going on?

I've been known to cite two reasons for VoC program ineffectiveness:
  1. Companies simply “collect feedback, just like some people collect stamps, which requires you to: buy the stamps, put them in a book, put them on a shelf, and forget about them; similarly, companies listen to customers, analyze the data (often ad nauseum and erroneously), create these lovely management reports, put them in binders, and pass them to their managers, who then proceed to put the reports on their bookshelves, never to be seen again. (Of course, all of this takes several months, by which time, customers are gone.) Or...
  2.  They focus on the metric, i.e., they try to move the metric, not to improve the experience; moving the metric can actually be detrimental and cause inappropriate behavior, gaming, and other undesirables that derail from the purpose of listening to customers and does not involve the same actions required to improve the experience.
There are clearly more reasons than these for VoC program ineffectiveness, but let's assume you've done everything else right up to the point where you need to do something with the feedback. After you listen to customers, you actually need to use the feedback - this is a major requirement for program effectiveness. Trust me; I know I'm stating the obvious, but it clearly doesn't seem to be obvious for everyone. Not acting on the feedback your customers take their valuable time to provide is just plain wrong.

Some of the most-egregious VoC program fails happen after the feedback is received. (Again, assuming you did everything else, e.g., actionable questions, right audience, etc. right up until now.)

What are those fails? Detailed below are five of them. I need to get a bit more specific than simply saying "you need to act" because that's pretty nebulous; I think that's where people get paralyzed:  What should I do with the data? What do I do next? Who acts, how they act, and when are all critical pieces of information at this point. I hope the explanations for these four fails get you started on the right path.

1. Failure to close the loop at the personal level
Also known as service recovery, this is one of the most important ways to follow up with customers about their feedback; it lets them know that their opinions matter and that you are committed to improving the experience. The business benefits through customer retention, reduced negative word of mouth, product enhancements/ideas, and potential growth opportunities.

Outline a systematic approach for service recovery to occur at the individual customer level. Who will respond to the customer? Within what time frame? In what mode (phone, email, in person)? What will they say/ask (e.g., apologize, ask for more information to get to the root cause, schedule a follow-up call for more details, etc.)? How will you empower your staff to handle these calls? What information do they need to make the call? What is the intended outcome of the follow-up? When and how does the service recovery get escalated? How will you capture the discussion? Will you share best practices with others to learn from? How will you know if the customer is satisfied with the follow-up? How will you know if you've "saved" the customer?

2. Failure to close the loop at the tactical level
By tactical level, I'm referring to closing the loop with stakeholders, with those teams or departments with a vested interest in the specific feedback. Share the feedback with them so that they can address the following: What are some of the common issues, themes, or trends that arise from the data? How can/will each department respond to their respective issues? What will they fix? What improvements do they need to make to their specific policies and processes? What additional training does their staff require? What tools do they need? What communication is required to ensure the entire team or department is on board with the required changes? Are there best practices that they can share with other departments?

3. Failure to close the loop at the strategic level
Acting at the personal and tactical levels is paramount, but it's also necessary to step back and look at the big picture. Some of the improvements that need to be made are organization-wide and require C-level involvement to ensure the commitment is there for time, funds, and other resources. They'll need to view the insights you gain from customers under a larger lens: Are there common feedback themes across the organization? What structural changes does the entire business need to make? How should we incorporate the feedback into our decision-making processes? How can the feedback influence business performance and strategies? What communications are required to engage the organization in a more-strategic overhaul or transformation?

4. Failure to close the loop with employees
If employees don't know what they're doing wrong, then they can't change their own actions and behaviors. Your employees are the ones who deliver the customer experience; keeping them in the dark about how they are performing or how they are meeting customers' needs is detrimental to the business. They have the ability to immediately change the customer's experience, so share the feedback with them. Recognize them for the right behaviors and for delighted customers. Or coach them when the experience didn't go so well.

5. Failure to close the loop with customers
This is a must! Again, customers spend their precious time providing you feedback about your products and services; the least you can do is tell them what you did with their feedback, what improvements you made as a result, including both tactical and strategic changes. Communicating this to customers reassures them that: their feedback is valuable, their time wasn't wasted, you actually use their feedback, and they can provide feedback again. Always communicate back to your customers what changes were made as a result of their feedback and thank them for taking the time to do so. Given that this type of communication is more global in nature than personalized service recovery, it will cover more-strategic improvements but may also cover some of the tactical changes that you've made. Either way, don't forget this piece of communication.

One key point to keep in mind: remember that closing the loop is not just about acknowledging, addressing, and resolving the bad experiences; it's also a way to celebrate the good. If the feedback is positive, thank your customers and perhaps delve deeper into why they would promote your brand,  activate your advocates, share the good news internally to highlight what a good experience looks like, and give kudos and recognition to employees, where due.

***

Some companies close one of these loops but not the others; some companies do none of these. They are all critical. Hard wiring customer feedback into your operational processes, whether tactical or strategic, and into meetings, discussions, and business decisions is the only way you'll get value and results out of your VoC program. Using customer feedback for continuous improvement at the various levels outlined above ensures VoC program success.

Speaking of success, what are the success metrics for your program? You've outlined them, right? If you did, I would imagine that you'd include things like specific and measurable process improvements, cost efficiencies, culture changes, and customer retention as some of your critical KPIs. These things cannot be achieved without taking real action on the feedback.

Customer feedback must be engrained into the company's culture, into its DNA; when the customer's perspective becomes not only desired by - but also persuasive throughout - the organization, you have achieved a customer-centric culture.

If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it. -Margaret Fuller

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Using Communication To Make Your Brand Unforgettable in 2018

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Today I am pleased to share with you a guest post by Julian de Sevilla with PATlive.

An effective customer service solution has always been a tool that helps businesses stand out. However, customers recently have come to expect more from businesses in terms of service, forming a landscape that’s saturated with options, and thus hyper-competitive.

Many businesses now compete solely on the strength of their customer experience. Creating an experience that’s memorable and as effortless as possible for customers will likely be what makes them choose you from the dizzying amount of options available. This means making yourself available where your audience is comfortable, whether that’s the phone, a certain form of social media, or face-to-face.

Once you’re there, it’s essential to develop a voice for how your business communicates that’s unique and memorable. Equally important, however, is delivering that tone consistently across every point of contact with customers. This makes for a strong brand image that’ll remain on their minds.       

Customers Expect More
Consider these statistics from the National Federation of Independent Business regarding what customers have come to expect in terms of service across channels:
  • When communicating via social media, 57% of customers expect a response within thirty minutes, regardless of the time of day.
  • 73% of customers prefer to solve a problem with a real person, but there’s another side to that coin: 32% of customers think the phone is the most frustrating way to connect with a business. Successfully bridging that gap - using human communication to help solve problems in an effortless way that doesn’t leave customers pulling their hair out - is precisely the goal in curating a customer experience.
  • Twitter-based customer service increased 250% from 2015 to 2017. Customers expect the convenience of having their voices heard and issues resolved with a few taps on a screen, and failing to deliver this will set you back.
What does this mean for how you communicate with customers? Primarily, that you must be prepared to play on their court. Your brand should exist everywhere your audience does and engage them wherever they’re comfortable. The less steps required of them, the better.

All Together, Now
Does your business have a voice? For example, well-known companies like Zappos and Amazon have a unique voice through which they deliver their brand message. While Zappos has a friendly and passionate customer communication style, Amazon is more known for their precision and timeliness. Though very different, each is consistent, which makes the process of dealing with a company a more organic experience.

The concept of developing a voice and a personality that embodies your brand might seem contrived or inauthentic, but the effect it has is just the opposite. If executed correctly, this creates a positive association in a customer’s mind that is reinforced with every interaction. It’s crucial, however, to ensure your voice is delivered consistently across touchpoints.

The Accenture 2013 Global Consumer Pulse Survey found that 58% of customers are frustrated with inconsistent experiences from channel to channel. This is a mistake that’s easily avoided with just a little attention to detail. If your razor-sharp customer service team responds to every phone call in seconds, the experience should be mirrored on Twitter, Facebook, and in person. If you respond to customers on Twitter in a fun and casual voice, training your phone support team to respond formally using strict scripts doesn’t make for a very cohesive experience.

Ensuring every touchpoint is covered and delivering the same level of service may seem daunting, but customers will take notice. Instilling confidence that they’re in for a pleasant experience no matter how they choose to connect with you eases a level of dissonance which will make the experience stand out - might even tell a friend.

Put Yourself Out There
You’re savvy to what’s expected; your brand’s voice is well thought-out, tailored to your audience, and second nature to your team. All that’s left is to carry it out. Here are some tips for where and how to do just that:

Your website
No matter how small your business, you need to be accessible online if you want to reach any sizable audience. Putting together an effective website is essential, and it’s easier than ever with tools like Squarespace and Weebly which are largely affordable or, in some cases, free.

Your website should be simple, easily navigated, and able to answer any question someone could have about your business. Additionally, a live chat service is quickly becoming requisite for any business online, as research shows that customers are most satisfied with a business when using live chat.

Social media
Think of your social media presence as an extension of your website. Rather than making them come to you, establish a presence on social media so that you’re easily reached.

Do your best to provide as much service directly on these channels as possible, to minimize the amount that customers have to switch between them to resolve their issue. 

Phone
The humble telephone. If your phone experience isn’t fine-tuned to perfection by now, you’re already behind. Did you know 75% of customers think it takes too long to reach a live agent on the phone? Important as it is, there frequently aren’t enough resources - or hours in the day - to manage phone calls in the midst of an already-packed schedule.

Using a live answering service to field your calls eases that burden. Your calls are handled by real live humans who are specially trained in your brand’s voice and the details of your business. This leaves you free to steer your ship, confident that your phone experience is the best it can be.

The Takeaway
Customers expect more in terms of service than ever before, so delivering a stress-free experience is your key to standing out from competitors. Developing a voice for your brand and making sure it’s present everywhere your audience is will make your excellent service impossible to forget.  

Julian de Sevilla is a Marketing Specialist at PATLive, a Florida-based 24/7 live answering service for small businesses. He manages the company’s social media accounts and writes about a range of topics regarding communication and the customer experience on PATLive’s blog.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Data for the Sake of Data? Never!

Image courtesy of Pixabay
"Data is just data until you do something with it," right?

That statement has plagued companies for a long time and for a variety of reasons - not the least of which is that they just don’t know what to do with the data: how to analyze it, how to use the outputs, what the outputs mean, etc.

Today, on a webinar with Logi Analytics, I am sharing tips on moving beyond data for the sake of data (and dashboards for the sake of dashboards).

In this webinar, I share the five steps you must take in order to drive action with the vast quantities of data available today - for the developers and the analysts who build dashboards and reports that customer experience professionals use to understand the customer and her experience in order to design and deliver a better experience.

While I go through the first four steps with some level of detail, I spend a lot of time on Step 5 (Socialize), outlining for listeners exactly how customer experience professionals need to see the data visualized and how we consume the data in order to use it to design a better customer experience.

Some of the critical things for us are:
  • getting the right data to the right people at the right time
  • a 360-degree view of the customer
  • company performance against customer needs and expectations along the customer journey
  • predictive and prescriptive outputs that tell us exactly what to do to achieve desired outcomes
  • linkages to other data, financials, and more
  • ROI, and 
  • what-if analyses that tell us the impact on the outcome of making some change
There are many more requirements that I outline for actionable reports and dashboards that can help CX professionals drive real change. Have a listen. And let me know what you think!

If you miss the webinar today, you'll still be able to access it on demand via the same link.

Design cannot rescue failed content. -Edward Tufte

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

"Not My Job" Syndrome

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Does your company suffer from the "not my job (NMJ) syndrome?"

When was the last time you heard someone being asked to do some task that wasn't outlined in their job description, only to respond with, "That's not my job?"

Recently?

Yup. I believe it. It's an all-too-frequent occurrence that employees draw the line in the sand or draw a box around themselves, refuse to do some task, and say, "Not my job." They take longer to explain why it's not their job and what their job is than to actually do what was asked of them. That's a problem!

What causes this knee-jerk reaction? (Or maybe it's not really knee-jerk?)

I can think of a few things.
  • Silos. When those "non-physical barriers" are established in your company, it's easy for employees to feel like they don't need to help out. It's easy for them to say that the task belongs to another department, one for which they are not accountable. 
  • Leadership. Sadly, this silo mentality (and it is a mentality; again, there are no physical barriers from one department or business unit to another) is created by leaders within the organization, advocating that we only do what we need to do to ensure our unit is successful. There's this notion that what you do doesn't impact me or my work, and what I do doesn't impact you or the customer in any way; the department or business unit simply operates in its own box.
  • Core values. When core values aren't defined or clearly communicated, employees don't know what behaviors are expected of them. When everyone knows the values, it's tougher to claim the "not my job" excuse.
  • Communication. When roles and expectations are not clearly communicated, problems ensue, without a doubt! When employees understand the work that other departments or business units are doing and how that fits into the bigger picture, into the purpose, it's easy to get on board to help when help is needed
  • Purpose. Without knowing the company's purpose and the common goal toward which everyone is working, employees don't have a sense of urgency to pitch in for the greater success.
Here are a few options to help overcome the NMJ Syndrome.
  • Job descriptions. Put less emphasis on specific tasks and make them more about outcomes, not only for the individual but also for the company.
  • Core values. Make sure they are defined, communicated, and lived every day.
  • Communication. Be open and candid about values, guiding principles, purpose, and expectations.
  • Performance reviews. Include core values as part of the performance review. One of the metrics you might include is around servant leadership. 
  • Journey mapping. Really? Yup. Use the maps to help employees see where and how, working together, they all impact the customer experience. 
  • Model the behavior. If leaders do it, employees will, too.
  • Collaboration. Encourage situations where departments or business units work together toward a common end goal. Get cross-functional teams involved when there are issues or projects.
  • Appreciation. People who are recognized and appreciated are more apt to want to do more. It's self-perpetuating.
What am I missing? What else would you add?

I'll end with this fun story about whose job it is, in case you haven't heard this one yet.

This is a little story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody's job. Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn't do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.