Wednesday, January 16, 2019

So You Want to Be a CCXP...

Image courtesy of CXPA
Are you looking to earn your CCXP this year?

I get a lot of questions every week from customer experience professionals who are interested in taking the CCXP exam but aren't sure how to prepare for it. There's a website for the exam with a lot of details and resources; it now also includes a document that lists books, whitepapers, websites, etc. that you can read to help you prepare.

But there's no substitution for experience and having done the work.

As such, you need to make sure you're qualified to take the exam. You don't need to be a CXPA member to sit for the test, but you have to meet the following qualifications: you must have a bachelor’s degree and three years of full-time experience in a customer experience role or have five years of experience if you don't have a bachelor’s degree.

Once you've determined eligibility, you'll go through the application process and get approved to take the exam.

To study for the exam, check out the resources listed on the site, including training providers who offer courses that teach exam content. As I mentioned, the latest addition to the site is an Exam Resource Guide that provides just that. It includes many of the books that I typically recommend for exam prep:
  • Outside In by Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine
  • Thee Ultimate Question by Fred Reichheld
  • The Ultimate Question 2.0 by Fred Reichheld
  • Answering the Ultimate Question by Dr. Laura Brooks
  • Chief Customer Officer by Jeanne Bliss
  • Chief Customer Officer 2.0 by Jeanne Bliss
  • Driven to Delight by Joseph Michelli
  • Everybody Matters by Bob Chapman
There are a lot of other great books to read, but you should have these in your library, for sure.

Also, check out Michael Bartlett's CCXP Exam Simulator and his CCXP Exam Preparation book. I've heard these are pretty good.

Hopefully this is helpful and points you in the right direction. Good luck with the exam!

Disclosure: I'm an active member of the CXPA. I am Vice Chair of the Board of Directors, a CX Expert, a CX Mentor, and involved in the CXPA SoCal Network. And, of  course, I'm a CCXP.

The way to a customer’s heart is much more than a loyalty program. Making customer evangelists is about creating experiences worth talking about. –Valeria Maltoni

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Resurrecting the Dead Horse Theory

Sleeping (not dead!) horse image courtesy of Pixabay
I challenge you think about things differently in 2019.

What got us here won't get us there, right?

I recently came across The Tribal Wisdom of the Dakota Indians, a 1999 article in the Guardian, that I felt needed to be resurrected. I had never seen this before.

You can read the article by clicking the link above, but here it is in its entirety. I guarantee that you'll nod your head and chuckle embarrassingly as you read it!

As a preface, if you're unfamiliar with the "beating a dead horse" idiom, it means that it's a waste of time to continue doing something where the outcome is already decided.

The tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians, passed on from one generation to the next, says that when you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount

But in modern business, because heavy investment factors are taken into consideration, other strategies are often tried with dead horses, including the following:
  1. Buying a stronger whip.
  2. Changing riders.
  3. Threatening the horse with termination.
  4. Appointing a committee to study the horse.
  5. Arranging to visit other sites or countries to see how they ride dead horses.
  6. Lowering the standards so that dead horses can be included.
  7. Reclassifying the dead horse as "living-impaired."
  8. Hiring outside contractors to ride the dead horse.
  9. Harnessing several dead horses together to increase speed.
  10. Providing additional funding and/or training to increase the dead horse's performance.
  11. Doing a productivity study to see if lighter riders would improve the dead horse's performance.
  12. Declaring that the dead horse does not have to be fed, it is less costly, carries lower overhead and therefore contributes more to the bottom line than some other horses.
  13. Rewriting the expected performance requirements for all horses.
  14. Promoting the dead horse to a supervisory position.
Don't defend the dead horse (strategy, project, etc.). Don't keep doing things that aren't delivering results or making the desired impact. Don't go from one dead horse to another. Fix the things (people, processes, systems) that are broken. You know what they are. Stop talking about them. Make a decision and fix them. Make the change. Don't be afraid of change. Do the right thing.

Time to get a fresh horse.

Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go. – Herman Hesse

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

What #CX Professionals Wanted to Know in 2018

Image courtesy of Pixabay
What was on the minds of CX professionals in 2018?

And, most importantly, what does it mean for 2019?  That has yet to be determined, but "execution" and "results" are two words I'd like to see more of this year!

It's fun to see what was interesting for you - my audience - to read in 2018. I shared 58 blog posts (that includes a few posts from guest authors) in 2018; here are the top eight (because 18 would be way too many!) posts, the most-read CX Journey™ posts, that I wrote last year.

How Do We Ensure Employees are Happy and Engaged?
I'm excited that this post made the most-read list for 2018. It's about time that companies start focusing on the employees. As I always say, "Quite simply, without employees, you have no customer experience." And if your employees aren't having a great experience, neither will your customers. In this post, I not only defined employee engagement for the reader but also underscored that employee engagement is about some confluence of emotions and commitment between employer and employee, meaning: each is party to employee engagement. I outlined how each contributes.

How Do You Measure #CX Success?
This is an ongoing conversation: What does customer experience transformation success look like? How do we measure it? How do we show ROI? First, it's important to recognize that there are three different audiences of this transformation: employees, customers, and the business. In this post, I outlined potential success metrics to get your wheels turning. I'm sure you can think of others. Keep in mind, though, that you don't need a ton of metrics; decide on a one or a few, and stick with them.

What's in Your #CX Budget?
I think this is an important thing to consider - your CX budget. Traditionally, customer experience professionals are thought to have no budget. This is true. Kinda. They have no budget for making the fixes and improvements that they uncover in the course of their work. But, they do need funds to complete that work. In this post, I offer up seven categories that must be covered in the CX professional's budget. Please add to the comments if you can think of others.

Customer Experience and the Bottom Line
Similar to measuring CX success, this post/topic is an ongoing conversation: How does customer experience impact the bottom line? How do we show ROI? This is a 2016 post, but it's still getting quite a bit of mileage. I summarize some of the findings of a Sitecore/Avanade report that outlines the clear benefits of focusing on the customer and on improving the customer experience. The returns in their research are incredible.

The #CX Perception Gap
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." It states that 80% of executives believe that they are delivering a superior customer experience, while only 8% of customer agree. And, clearly, this gap is on CX professionals' minds. The reasons that Bain cites for it are real, yet trivial and overcome-able in the scheme of things. Let's fix these in 2019!

Customer Experience and Customer Service: What's the Difference?
I cannot write about this topic enough. Customer experience and customer service are not the same thing. They are very different. After having written about this three times prior, I'm glad to see this one hit home and got people reading and taking notice. One more time: Customer experience is the sum of all the interactions that a customer has with an organization over the life of the “relationship” with that company… and, especially, the feelings, emotions, and perceptions the customer has about those interactions. Customer service is one of those interactions.

Do Leaders Really Care About Their Employees?
I am beyond thrilled that this one made the top eight reads of the year. We have a crisis in leadership. The problem: leaders don't care about their employees; instead, employees are viewed as a cog in the wheel to leaders' and to the company's success. Leaders drive to growth, to the numbers, and forget about the needs and the lives of the employees who help them get there. In this post, not only do I define the problem, but I also propose a few solutions. Be sure to read this, if you haven't yet.

What Does the Future of #CX Look Like?
I'm often asked about the future of customer experience. And while I'd like to report that it's all about  omnichannel, digital, personalization, AI, AR, and VR, it's tough to talk about that when most companies can't even get their executives to commit to putting customers at the top of the priority list (right after employees, of course). What does this year look like? What should companies be focusing on? The same things I've been telling them to focus on for years. Only this year, they must execute!

The first step in exceeding your customer's expectations is to know those expectations. -Roy H. Williams

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Change Vision: Getting Employees on Board with Your Transformation Journey

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's post for CallidusCloud. It appeared on their blog on March 28, 2018.

Change is hard. But it’s even harder when you don’t have a clear sense of the outcome – and how you’ll achieve that outcome.

Your culture transformation, your employee experience transformation, and your customer experience transformation are not cake walks. I call the whole thing a journey for a reason. It's never-ending. And it's a lot of work - a lot of really hard work. You can't change the culture and the way you do business overnight. It's just not going to happen!

And it's definitely not going to happen if your employees aren't on board! As a matter of fact, if they're suffering from change fatigue, if they can’t stand the thought of yet one more change initiative, then it's going to be really difficult to make change happen.

How do you get them on board?

You need to start with a vision for your change. A change vision is a statement or image of some desired future state, i.e., what the company will look like after you change, along with details about why this future state is desirable. It will give employees a sense of the magnitude of the change and the overall impact on the organization.

John Kotter, the master guru of change management, states that a change vision serves three purposes:
  1. It simplifies and clarifies the outcome of the change.
  2. It motivates people to make the change.
  3. It aligns individuals around the goal or outcome, giving them a shared sense of direction.
Just like your company vision or your CX vision, your change vision is inspirational, but it is realistic and drives strategy, as well as the execution of that strategy.

In his book Leading Change, Kotter says that an effective change vision has six important qualities. It is...
  1. Imaginable, conveying a picture of what the future looks like
  2. Desirable, appealing to the interests of employees, customers, shareholders, and other enterprise constituents
  3. Feasible, setting forth realistic and achievable goals
  4. Focused, providing clarity and guidance for decision making
  5. Flexible, allowing for individual initiative and alternative solutions due to changing conditions
  6. Communicable, being easy to communicate and explainable in less than five minutes
The latter point is a great one. Communicating your vision is an important piece of change management. If no one knows what it is or why it's taking place, then people start to ignore it; they certainly don't want to be a part of it. Of course, the key is to communicate the right information. Early. And often. Keep communicating.

Employees want to know:
  • What's changing?
  • Why is it changing?
  • How long will it take?
  • What's the impact on the business?
  • What does it mean for me?
  • What's my role?
  • What's in it for me?
  • What happens if I don't get involved?
  • What happens if I don't change?
  • What happens if we (company) don't change?
Kotter outlines seven key elements to effectively communicate your change vision. They include:
  1. Keep it simple: don't use jargon and language that is confusing to those who need to understand it.
  2. Use metaphors, analogies, and examples: paint a picture of what the current state is and what the future state will be. Tell stories about where you came from, where you are today, and where you're headed.
  3. Use multiple forums: there are different channels and methods to communicate the vision, including meetings, town halls, memos, email, conversations, etc.
  4. Be repetitive: it will really sink in when employees hear the vision over and over again.
  5. Lead by example: executives and leaders must be the role model for the change they expect to see; their behaviors cannot be inconsistent with the change vision.
  6. Explain seeming inconsistencies: if inconsistencies go unaddressed, they will derail the whole effort and kill the  credibility of the entire change effort.
  7. Give and take: use two-way communication; don't just talk, listen. Employees will have questions and feedback. Listen, answer, and address.
I would add that you should message with empathy and caring. Don't dictate. Don't ram it down their throats. Communicate in a way that lets people know not only that it's important but so are they and their feelings and perspectives about the change.

Of course, you can have the most amazing change vision in the world, but if you don't actually execute on it, you lose credibility, and you lose a great opportunity to improve the experience for employees and for customers. There's a Japanese proverb that states: "Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare." You can't really have one without the other. Set your vision. Outline the strategy to achieve it. And go do it.

Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world. -Nelson Mandela

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Questions to Consider Before Forming a Customer Advisory Board

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's post for Clicktools. It appeared on their blog on March 26, 2018.

There are a lot of different ways to listen to customers and employees. 

Most companies think that surveys are the only way to go, but you can get feedback in a variety of other ways, as well. One of my favorite approaches is via a customer advisory board. (Keep in mind that you can also create an employee advisory board to get feedback from your employees.)

What is a customer advisory board? According to Wikipedia...
A Customer Advisory Council (also referred to as a Customer Advisory Board or CAB) is a form of market research whereby a group of existing customers is convened on a regular basis to advise company management on industry trends, business priorities, and strategic direction.
There are a lot of reasons to set up a CAB, but says CABs will deliver:
  • Early warnings of shifts in customer needs and emerging opportunities (Market Research)
  • New product development feedback (Innovation)
  • Reduce customer attrition and churn, especially among Customer Advisory Board members (Customer Loyalty) 
  • Advice on approaching and appealing to similar customers, including referrals (Sales)
  • Intelligence on competitor's tactics and strategies - what’s working and what’s not (Market Intelligence)
  • A Customer Advisory Board can drive significant new revenue if managed effectively!
Clearly, there are a lot of benefits to setting up and managing a customer advisory board - from listening to networking and relationship building. But those benefits can only be achieved if the CAB is properly managed. Running a customer advisory board is really a full-time job.

Here are some things to consider and questions to answer as you begin to set up your CAB. The answers to these questions can then become the basis for your CAB charter, which is an important document for the internal audience to keep everyone aligned; it is also be used to set expectations for members.

Keep in mind that a customer advisory board is all about customer listening. What you do with what you hear may drive different outcomes (including customer retention and new business), but ultimately, you are creating the CAB to listen, hear, and share information. What's the purpose of your CAB? Is it purely about understanding customer expectations and the customer experience, or is it also strategic, centering on market trends, industry trends, regulatory climate, etc.? Or is it about identifying new products or solutions? Clearly spell out the objectives and desired outcomes for your CAB.

Who will your CAB members be, i.e., executives, daily contacts, end users, etc.? What segment (product, geographic, size, etc.) of your customers will this CAB include/cover? (Note that CABs are not meant to be comprised of only your happiest customers.)

It's really important to note, as I mentioned earlier, that managing a CAB can be/is a full-time job. Who's going to manage the CAB? Who's your executive sponsor? Who will facilitate the meetings? Will you have a graphic recorder and/or a videographer?

Your CAB members will be invited to participate for a specific period of time, often two years. How long will membership last? And who can sit in for a member if he/she can't attend a meeting? How will you replace a member if she needs to drop out? What happens at the end of those two years, e.g., a member may be asked to remain on the CAB or will be replaced? How many members will you have? Typically, in my experience, 15-20 members is about the right size, keeping in mind that not everyone will make every meeting.

Meeting Frequency
How often will you hold in-person CAB meetings? What will you do in the interim? Will you have a virtual/web meeting between in-person meetings? At what cadence or frequency? And how long will the meetings last?

Meeting Location(s)
Where will the meetings be held? Will they always be in the same place, or will they move from city to city?

Membership Roles & Expectations
How many meetings can a member miss without being removed from the CAB? Will CAB members' names be listed anywhere publicly? What does "participation" mean for members? What is a member's role in the CAB meetings? Who pays travel expenses to/from the CAB meeting?

Member Benefits
How will you explain the benefits of CAB participation to your members? What value will they get as a result of being a member?

The topic areas listed above can be a part of the charter document that is shared with members. There are some internal-facing topics that your customers don't need to be privy to, including the following.

Rules of Engagement
Who owns the CAB? How will they manage it? What are expectations in terms of agenda setting before the meeting and closing the loop with members after the meeting? Who will drive the agenda for each meeting? How will members be involved in defining the agenda? Who will prepare objectives, content, and materials for each meeting? Who will receive a report of the meeting afterward? Who will participate in the meeting, not only as observers but also presenters? How frequently will the CAB manager communicate with members before, after, and between meetings?

Success Metrics - Business Outcomes
How will you measure success of the CAB for the business? What are the desired outcomes and what are the associated metrics?

Success Metrics - CAB Manager
How will you measure success of the CAB for the CAB Manager?

There are a lot of other details that are specific to recruiting, agenda development, communications, and overall CAB management. My hope is that this post gives you some high-level questions to consider as you start to consider and define for your customer advisory board.

Keep in mind that CABs are not platforms for selling anything; they are another listening post in your CX tool box. Your company attendees should not outnumber CAB member attendees. And you/your company attendees will spend 80% of your time listening and 20% of your time talking. This last point is an important one to keep in mind!

I think it's very important to have a feedback loop, where you're constantly thinking about what you've done and how you could be doing it better. I think that's the single best piece of advice: constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself. -Elon Musk