Wednesday, March 21, 2018

What's in Your #CX Budget?

Image courtesy of Pixabay
What's in your customer experience strategy budget?

Traditionally, customer experience professionals have no budget.

By that I mean that they have no allocated financial resources for improvements to be made as a result of the learnings from surveys and other listening posts, journey mapping, and other customer experience strategy exercises that become the catalyst for onstage customer experience or behind-the-scenes process improvements. Those financial resources fall into the budgets of the departments where changes are to be made.

Despite that, customer experience professionals still need to develop a budget for the work that they do and for the resources they need for that work. After all, none of that work or technology is free!

I thought I'd capture some of the items that you should be sure to include in your CX budget. Here's what I've come up with, so far.

1. Personnel
Obviously, this important work cannot all be done by one person. So you'll want to ensure that your team's fully-loaded salaries are included in your budget.

2. Technology
There are various CX technologies that you'll want to include in the budget, including but not limited to:
  • VoC platform
  • VoE platform (if different)
  • Text analytics solution
  • Predictive/prescriptive analytics solution
  • Journey mapping/management platform
  • Project management software
In addition to these external solutions, your budget might also get hit by fees from your IT department for work they perform to trigger surveys, store data, develop an intranet for you to share ongoing progress, and any other tools or data needs they must provide for.

3. Consultants
Yes, you may need to engage with consultants to assist you along the way - whether they are there to coach and advise or to actually conduct a chunk of the work. Be sure to factor in their time, materials, resource, and travel needs and expenses.

4. CX Initiatives
There are various initiatives along your journey that you'll want to be sure to factor into your budget, including:
  • Survey design and associated costs (not technology): these might be allocated under 3. Consultants, but just keep associated costs in mind under this header.
  • Customer journey mapping workshops: even if you don't hire a consultant to conduct the mapping sessions with/for you, you'll still need to factor in location costs, materials, food and beverages, etc.
  • Design thinking workshops: again, even if you don't hire a consultant, you'll probably want to factor in some location, materials, and food and beverage costs for this.
  • CAB meetings: be sure to factor in moderator fees, graphic recorder fees (if any), location fees, materials, food and beverages, any travel expenses you might incur yourself or reimburse for attendees, etc.
  • Persona development: while this may fall under the marketing budget, the CX design personas are more specific and require fine-tuning beyond what marketing and UX (which are often product-specific personas) develop.
5. EX Initiatives
This list for employee experience initiative expenses will look similar to #4. You'll notice that there are no pizza parties or pool tables included in this budget! Be sure to factor the following into your budget:
  • Survey design and associated costs (not technology): these might be allocated under 3. Consultants, but just keep associated costs in mind under this header.
  • Customer journey mapping workshops: even if you don't hire a consultant to conduct the mapping sessions with/for you, you'll still need to factor in location costs, materials, food and beverages, etc.
  • Design thinking workshops: again, even if you don't hire a consultant, you'll probably want to factor in some location, materials, and food and beverage costs for this.
  • EAB meetings: be sure to factor in moderator fees, graphic recorder fees (if any), location fees, materials, food and beverages, any travel expenses you might incur yourself or reimburse for attendees, etc.
  • Culture Ambassador meetings: again, factor in location, materials, food, and beverages for these meetings.
  • Persona development: different roles and responsibilities have different experiences within the company; it's important to understand how the personas differ in order to design the corresponding experience.
6. Training and Education
This is an important part of your career development. Make sure to include in your budget a line item each for CXPA membership, certification, and events, as well as for attending other CX conferences.

7. Miscellaneous
Nobody likes to see a "miscellaneous" line item without good reason, but this is where some things like marketing swag and other branding for this journey will fall. Unless, of course, your marketing team wants to eat that in their budget! I'm sure there are other items that will land in this bucket, as well.

I know I haven't captured everything. What am I missing?

A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went. -Dave Ramsey

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The #CX Perception Gap

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's post for CallidusCloud. It appeared on their blog on December 6, 2017.

The good news is, more and more company leaders are starting to get that they need to focus on the customer experience; the bad news is, many – most – are still struggling with the concept, choosing instead to focus on sales, metrics, and maximizing shareholder value. The crazy thing is that they think that they are customer focused.

There’s this thing called the customer experience perception gap; it was uncovered by Bain back in 2005, and they referred to it as a "delivery gap." Their findings were:
80% of executives believe that they are delivering a superior customer experience, while only 8% of customer agree. 
Wow! These companies are so off-base on their perceptions or understandings of their customers and the experience! How is that even possible? Why does this exist? It’s not because business leaders fail to recognize the importance of their customers; at least, they give customers lip service: more than 95% of management teams Bain surveyed claim to be customer focused.
Why does the gap exist? They cited two key reasons:
  1. They referred to the first reason as "a business paradox," where companies' growth initiatives hurt their main source of sustainable growth: loyal, profitable customers. They do so by trying to suck more revenue out of each customer by doing stupid little things like higher transaction fees, hidden fees, etc. On top of that, they focus on acquisition over retention, misdirecting their attention away from their current customer base.
  2. And good relationships are hard to build; it's challenging for businesses to keep promises made and to maintain a dialogue with customers that allows companies to adapt products and services to their changing needs. Bain believes that customer understanding efforts backfire because companies focus more on collecting and analyzing data ad nauseum, as well as on metrics, than on doing what it takes to improve the experience. No argument there.
Remember that this was 2005. As I read the article, I had already written down my thoughts on why this gap exists.
  • Companies don't take the time to really understand their customers: to listen (VoC), to characterize (personas), and to empathize (journey mapping).
  • If they do these things, then they aren't using what they learned to design a better experience.
  • And, finally, they fail to get the organization aligned around the work to be done and the experience to be delivered.
I guess I wasn't too far off.

Earlier this summer, Capgemini released a report that had similar findings, which means we have only made some progress in the last 12 years. Their findings still show a disconnect between customer expectations and companies' beliefs. Capgemini found that:
75% of companies believe that they're customer-centric, while only 30% of consumers agree.
The gap varies by industry, with Utilities (78% - 7%) and CPG (81% - 14%) having the largest gaps.

The gap also varies by geo. The UK takes the cake with a 77-point gap: 92% of companies believe they are customer-centric, but only 15% of customers agree. France has an interesting split with their 70-point gap: 70% of companies believe they are customer-centric, while none of their customers agree! Interestingly enough, in Asia Pacific, the gap is flipped in favor of customers: 79% of customers believe companies are customer-centric, while only 63% of companies believe they are!

What can companies do? What will it take for this gap to close?

First and foremost (and probably the big "duh"), company executives need to get it; they must truly get the importance of focusing on customers and the customer experience. They cannot just give lip service or think/believe they are customer-focused. It doesn't work that way! And most of them probably don't even know what that means, or what it entails. (That's how stats like these come along!) But they do need to know; they do need to understand what it means to be customer-centric, customer-focused, and customer-obsessed. They need to understand what the implications are for the customer and for the business.

Capgemini reported that 81% of customers are willing to pay more for a better experience; in some industries, it goes as high as 87%! We know that there's a linkage between customer experience leaders and stock performance. Focus on the customer, and the numbers, the revenue, will follow.

As a customer experience professional, or an aspiring customer experience professional, work on getting executive commitment. That's your first step.

The rest is much easier from there. I'm not saying that it's not a lot of work to transform the culture and the customer experience, but I am saying that it will be a smoother journey - and one where you'll achieve success - if your executives are all on board.

Your perception may not be my reality. -Aporva Kala

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

How Do We Ensure Employees are Happy and Engaged?

I originally wrote today's post for HappyOrNot. It appeared on their blog on October 18, 2017.

Without employees, you have no  customer experience.

It all started with a tweet... (to the left)

My response was: “That’s a blog post on its own! Too much for 140 characters! But definitely need to start with listening to them.”

There’s a whole alphabet soup of terminology around the various states of the employee relationship with the company, so let me start off by defining a few of them. There are differences.

Gallup says that engaged employees “stand apart from their not-engaged and actively disengaged counterparts because of the discretionary effort they consistently bring to their roles. These employees willingly go the extra mile, work with passion, and feel a profound connection to their company. They are the people who will drive innovation and move your business forward.”

Employee engagement happens when there is some confluence of (1) emotions, commitment, passion, sense of ownership, etc. on the part of the employee about the brand and (2) what the organization does (mission, purpose, brand promise, etc.) to facilitate and enhance those emotions or that commitment.

Employee satisfaction refers to how satisfied your employees are (no surprise); it doesn’t address or include motivations or emotional commitment like employee engagement does. Some employees are satisfied simply because they get a paycheck or because they have a job. That doesn’t tell us how committed they are to the brand, to the job they do, or to the experience they deliver.

Employee happiness is a function of engagement and satisfaction. I’m satisfied with my job and am committed to the brand, which is committed to me; therefore, I am happy. It’s an emotional part of the equation and conveys contentment, energy, and enthusiasm.

OK, on to the good stuff.

Without a doubt, the employee experience drives the customer experience. There’s this concept called the spillover effect, which is described as the tendency of one person’s emotions to affect how other people around him feel. How do you ensure that your employees are engaged and happy so that they can deliver the experience that you expect them to and, in turn, yield happy and engaged customers?

Let’s start with some of the basics. Employee engagement isn’t about free food, beer Fridays, ping pong, and perks. They might make your time at work more fun, but they will not/do not drive your engagement. They may ease the pain of the stress, frustration, and long hours, but they don’t make you feel committed or feel some sense of ownership toward your employer and the brand.

Remember that employee engagement is about some confluence of emotions and commitment between employer and employee. So, each is party to employee engagement.

What Can Employers Do?
What is the employer's part in this equation? It's all about creating the right conditions to allow employees to become engaged. Those conditions include:
  • Hiring the right people for the right roles
  • Clearly communicating the mission, vision, purpose, and values of the organization
  • Living and breathing the mission, vision, purpose, and values
  • Listening to employees, hearing what they say, and acting on what you hear
  • Communicating openly and being transparent about company goals and performance allows employees to be more deeply invested in the company
  • Ensuring employees know how they contribute and how their contributions matter
  • Setting expectations and providing the right tools and resources for employees to meet those expectations
  • Creating a culture where employees come first
  • Ensuring employees are well taken care of, which includes tools, training, coaching, development, feedback, recognition, respect, appreciation, trust, balance, and more
  • Breaking down silos and be all-inclusive, e.g., the same experience from department to department, business unit to business unit
  • Leading by example; leadership should be role models for how they expect employees to act and to behave
  • Empowering employees and giving them control of their day-to-day decisions and roles
What Can Employees Do?
Employees obviously have ownership in this thing called engagement, as well: it starts with them; it comes from within them. Their role in becoming engaged includes:
  • Accepting a position for the right role in the right company
  • Being passionate about what they do and for whom they do it
  • Having a shared purpose and feeling like they belong to something bigger than themselves
  • Taking ownership, thinking and acting like they own the business
  • Being responsible for driving their own development and career path (which will be supported by the employer, as noted above)
  • Understanding the mission, vision, purpose, and values of the organization and ensuring alignment with all of them
  • Providing feedback to drive business success
  • Providing feedback about your role, your work, your happiness, etc.
  • Collaborating with co-workers to advance the business, to innovate, to develop new products and offerings, etc.
  • Working day in and day out toward the goals of the business
  • Understanding how their work ties to business outcomes
  • Coming to work every day ready to give their all
  • Stamping out gossip, office politics, and other things that make for a toxic environment
Why is this all important?
Besides the obvious reasons, engaged employees are more productive, stay longer, and want to see the business succeed – and they provide feedback and put forth the effort to make sure that happens. They drive customer happiness and loyalty, and ultimately, they drive the customer experience. Kevin Kruse has dubbed the following the Engagement-Profit Chain:

Engaged employees lead to…
  • Higher levels of service, quality, and productivity, which lead to…
  • Higher customer satisfaction, which leads to…
  • Increased sales (repeat business and referrals), which lead to…
  • Higher profits, which lead to…
  • Higher shareholder returns (i.e., stock price)
Making sure employees are engaged and happy is good for employees, customers, and the business. What are you waiting for?

Highly engaged employees make the customer experience. Disengaged employees break it. -Timothy R. Clark