Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Leaders Need to Show, Not Just Say

Image courtesy of Pixabay
How do leaders drive (lasting) change?

Last week, I enjoyed spending a few days in Vegas, speaking and networking at Fiserv's annual client Forum. The keynote on the second day of the event was Troy Aikman, who was interviewed by Fiserv's CEO Jeff Yabuki about sports, of course, as well as about leadership and business.

One of the stories that Troy shared resonated with me because it's exactly the kind of thing that I talk about when it comes to driving lasting change: leaders can't just talk the talk; they must walk the walk.

The story goes something like this.

Troy is a sharp-dressed man; when it comes to work/business, he is always dressed in a suit. After he bought his first car dealership, he walked in and noticed that all of the sales guys were dressed casual, in polo shirts and slacks. He wanted them to dress nicer, but he didn't want to come into his new business and be a hard nose right away. So, he didn't say anything. Instead, he just showed up at the dealership every day in a suit. By the end of the first week, a couple of the guys had upgraded their attire, and by the end of the second week, all of them were dressed in suits. And he never said a word!

It's a great reminder that you can drive change - lasting change - when you do a few simple, yet often forgotten, things. Troy didn't talk about any conversations he had with the staff after the two weeks, but I can only imagine he applauded their actions.

To drive lasting change...
  • Communicate the change, using a variety of vehicles and media. Share the change vision. Tell the change story. Let employees know what is changing, why it's changing, how it will impact them and what they do (differently) on a daily basis, and how they will be involved. If no one knows what the change is or why it's taking place, then they'll ignore it; they certainly don't want to be a part of it.
  • It's important that executives lead by example and model the change that they wish to see from their employees; if they don't live the change, why should employees?! If your CEO doesn't demonstrate commitment to the transformation by being the role model for how to deliver a great experience, it won't happen. If she doesn't live the core values, why should you? Actions always speak louder than words.
  • Recognize the right behaviors and reinforce with incentives, promotions, metrics, and more. Reinforcing the behaviors, actions, and changes that you want to see is more powerful than talking about them, especially when combined with modeling them.
  • Involve employees in the change process rather than forcing change on them. If they're involved, the solutions may be richer because they have other perspectives and experiences that the decision-making leader may not have. Better yet, present them (spoke or unspoken, as was the case with Troy) with a problem or a situation, and let them come to the conclusion themselves. If they believe it was their own idea, it'll stick; they'll own it.
Yes, change is hard. But it's not impossible. These four things are important and work together. Just remember this: leaders can't expect to see change happen if all they do is talk about the changes but don't do things differently themselves. Case in point: if you're talking about transforming your culture to one that is customer-centric, yet you continue to push staff to make their quarterly numbers and reinforce behaviors that speak to a focus on growth at all cost - sans focusing on the customer experience - then you're not walking the walk.

Talk is cheap.

If you cannot prove it by your action(s), you do not mean it. -Murad S. Shah

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Focus on the People and the Numbers Will Come

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's post for CallidusCloud. It appeared on their blog on July 12, 2018.

When companies focus on people, their people - employees first, then customers - the numbers will come.

This is a tough concept for a lot of executives to grasp. They know the old management adage, companies are in business to maximize shareholder value, all too well. And that knowledge typically equates to focusing on marketing and sales first, i.e., do whatever it takes to acquire customers, drive sales, grow the business, etc.

But if they change the focus, shift the mindset, to adopt Drucker's definition of the purpose of a business, to create and to nurture a customer, then things start to change. Nothing changes if nothing changes, right? But when they put the focus on employees first, ensuring employees have a great experience, employees will then, in turn, deliver a great experience for their customers.

Not convinced of this? Or trying to convince your executives that this is real? Here's something to turn the tide. Take a look at the service-profit chain. I've written about it before, but let me go into a bit more detail here. It is a concept well documented in the 1997 book by the same name, written by James Heskett; Earl Sasser, Jr.; and Leonard Schlesinger.

From the book...
Simply stated, service profit chain thinking maintains that there are direct and strong relationships between profit; growth; customer loyalty; customer satisfaction; the value of goods and services delivered to customers; and employee capability, satisfaction, loyalty, and productivity.
The strongest relationships suggested by the data collected in early tests of the service profit chain were those between: (1) profit and customer loyalty, (2) employee loyalty and customer loyalty, and (3) employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction.
Here's what the Service-Profit Chain looks like.

Image courtesy of The Service Profit Chain (book)

The chain begins with internal service quality, which is really about the work environment, the attitudes employees have toward one another, and how they serve their "internal customers." i.e., fellow employees. From the book: Internal quality is measured by the feelings that employees have toward their jobs, colleagues, and companies. Sounds like measuring the employee experience to me!

They provide examples of Southwest Airlines and American Express and how these two companies have linked internal service quality to profitability.

The next link in the chain is employee satisfaction, which is driven by the employee experience (aka internal service quality). It is linked to - or drives - employee retention. Southwest Airlines was again cited as an example for this linkage, as was a property and casualty insurance company (no name provided), for which they discovered that 30% of dissatisfied employees were likely to leave the company, a percentage three times higher than for satisfied employees.

Not surprisingly, the next linkage is between retention and productivity. When employee retention is an issue, companies spend time and money on recruiting, hiring, and training new employees. In addition to the financial impact, productivity is inhibited because companies basically start over with each new employee, teaching them the ropes, building new relationships with customers, and more.

Employee retention and productivity then drive external service quality. Southwest Airlines and American Express Travel Services were cited as prime examples of companies reaping the benefits of this connection. At Southwest, where we already know employee retention is high, their positions are designed so that employees can do several different jobs, if needed. That flexibility allows them to board more passengers faster than other airlines. At American Express Travel Services, productivity equates to the speed and accuracy in which tickets are prepared, showing that quality and productivity can go hand in hand.

This service quality then drives customer satisfaction. Customers are value-driven, and the book notes that value is a combination of results produced for customers and how they are delivered, i.e., not just fast and accurate but also in a professional and courteous way. As the diagram shows, customer expectations are met. The challenge is understanding what those expectations are.

Customer satisfaction links to customer loyalty, in the form of retention, repeat purchases, and advocacy. While this could be the least reliable linkage in the entire chain (for questions on that, take a look at my post on the Apostle Model), Southwest Airlines and American Express Travel Services would debate that, given their results.

When attained, customer loyalty is linked to profit and revenue growth. In their research for the book, Sasser et al took a closer look at market share and its impact on profitability. Once again looking at Southwest Airlines, at the time the seventh largest airline, they were able to conclude that the quality of market share, measured by customer loyalty, is as important as the quantity of market share. Their research at this time brought about the famous statistic we've all quoted time and time again: a 5 percentage point increase in customer loyalty could produce profit increases of 25-85% in the service industries they studied.

Here's how I interpret this chain, and it falls in line with what I preach: Put employees first. When they have a great experience, your customers will have a great experience. And so will the business. There are a lot of examples in The Service Profit Chain book of the linkages.

Still need convincing? Take a look at the book and use the examples to determine how you can do the same for your business. While the examples may not apply to every industry, I think you'll get a pretty good sense of what is required and what is possible.

Great leaders are willing to sacrifice the numbers to save the people. Poor leaders sacrifice the people to save the numbers. -Simon Sinek

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

You Aren't Journey Mapping

I hate to tell you this, but you're just not.*

I've been doing a bit of speaking lately, either about journey mapping or with journey mapping as a piece of the talk, and I've learned a lot - or, rather, confirmed a lot. Namely, you might think you're journey mapping; you call it journey mapping; but it's not really journey mapping.

Here's what happens.

I start by asking the audience if they're mapping customer journeys, and a bunch of hands in the room go up. A lot of hands, as a matter of fact.

Then I proceed to explain what journey mapping is, why you must map, how maps are used in a variety of ways, and what the journey mapping process is.

I then ask the question again. "How many of you have mapped customer journeys?" No - or very few - hands go up this second time around. What gives?

One of the things I talk about after I ask the question the first time is that, if your map has Need, Awareness, Consideration, Selection, etc. as the column headings, and within each column you've specified relevant or corresponding touchpoints or channels, then you're not journey mapping; you're mapping lifecycle stages, and you're touchpoint mapping. (This is typically where the difference in hands up is rooted.)

You see, journey maps are defined as "walking in your customer's shoes to understand her experience." That means you go step by step by step to depict the journey, to capture the customer's story of the experience, to depict the timeline of steps she took to go from Point A to Point B.

If you've got lifecycle stages and touchpoints mapped, you are not...
  • viewing things from the customer's perspective
  • capturing any kind of detail about the experience
  • able to tell where things go right or wrong
  • able to develop the corresponding service blueprint to fix what's happening inside to support the experience 
  • understanding what the customer is doing, thinking, and feeling throughout the experience
As a matter of fact, the customer isn't even in those maps.

The second likely culprit of the gap in hands between the first time I ask and the second time is that folks are creating assumptive maps, which are maps visualized by well-meaning stakeholders who believe they understand the experience; they assume they know. And when people create assumptive maps (which aren't wrong but typically aren't done right), a couple of things happen:
  • there's a lot of inside-out thinking; in other words, the map is not created from the customer's perspective
  • it's likely that they've actually created a process map
  • the map doesn't get validated with customers
  • the map gets rolled up, stashed under a desk, and goes nowhere from there
The first scenario (lifecycle/touchpoint mapping) is the one I hear most often. Neither scenario is good.

Take a look at what you're doing today or what you've done. Revisit the six steps from maps to outcomes. And then tell me if you've actually created journey maps - or something else.

... what you think is right isn't the same as knowing what is right. -E.A. Bucchianeri

*OK, some of you actually are. But just some of you.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Prioritizing Your #CX Improvement Initiatives

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's post for CallidusCloud. It appeared on their blog on April 13, 2018.

How do you prioritize your CX improvement initiatives?

You've listened to customers. You've mapped their journeys. And you've identified a lot of improvement areas that would make the experience light years better for your customers.

You've got a governance structure in place that includes a team of folks who are keeping a running list of all of those improvement initiatives.

But there's a problem. There are a lot of things to fix. And there are a lot of competing priorities in your company. Now what?

You need to help your executives see how all of the improvements go hand in hand with many of the company's other initiatives/priorities - after all, everything you do is for/about the customer, right?! - but you also need to, within your own customer experience (CX) improvement initiative list, help the executives see some order of priorities.

Yes, they are all important. Customers told you so, right?! And we as CX professionals believe it's important to fix everything that breaks the experience. But you know you're not immediately going to get budget to solve all of the world's problems. So, as I like to say, let's take some baby steps.

When you go in for the big ask, paint the big picture, i.e., how is it all connected? But also paint the little picture, i.e., help them identify, within your list of immediate needs, which are more immediate than others.

There are a lot of different ways to prioritize your CX improvement initiatives. You'll need to determine the ways that speak most loudly to your executives. They include looking at:
  • cost to fix
  • time to fix
  • effort to fix
  • resources required to fix
  • impact on the business
  • impact on the customer
Know that they are not linear; the prioritization typically requires a combination of two or more of these metrics. I recommend that that combination always includes "impact on the customer," i.e., what is most important to the customer? what matters most to the customer? if we do this and not that, will the customer stay or leave?

If you always frame the prioritization that way, it should also speak volumes to your executives, especially when you tell them that if certain actions aren't taken, you will lose X% of customers. I've written previously that, in order to get executive commitment, you need to build the business case. This holds true for prioritizing the improvement initiatives. Build the business case, tie it to business outcomes, and speak their language.

Something else to take into account when you think of impact on the business and impact on the customer are two models that come out of Harvard Business Review. One is the Apostle Model, and the other is the Loyalty-Profitability Model. The Apostle Model segments customers by combining their loyalty with their satisfaction levels, allowing you to identify and then to place greater priority on those things that will help you keep your most loyal and most satisfied customers. On the other hand, the Loyalty-Profitability Model segments customers by combining their loyalty with their profitability, allowing you to identify and to place greater priority on what it takes to keep your most valuable customers.

Both of them provide roundabout ways to prioritize initiatives by prioritizing customers. These models also help you understand why taking a two-dimensional (or more) approach to prioritization paints a better picture.

One other option is to conduct a So What exercise, which allows you to identify the importance and the impact of implementing an improvement solution. This methodology was developed by the U.S. Army to move beyond simply uncovering root causes to prioritizing - and then actually implementing - ideal, impactful improvements. It allows you to identify the impact of various improvement initiatives and weight them against each other, getting at the list of top initiatives that best support desired company and customer outcomes.

Having said all that, ultimately this prioritization has to be based on criteria that were established by the CX governance team, namely, the executive steering committee. They will take a look at all of the company's initiatives and prioritize one relative to another; when they do this, I would simply ask that they remember: you are in business for and because of the customer. Choose wisely!

Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least. -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

10 More All-Too-Common VoC Program Mistakes - Part 2

Image courtesy of Pixabay
This is the second of a two-part series on common VoC program mistakes.

In case you missed the first post in this series, you can find it here.

Note that I haven't prioritized or categorized these mistakes, but take a close look at each one to ensure you're not committing any of them. If you recognize one, you've got to take corrective action immediately. If your listening program is failing, there are a tone of ideas here to consider to get it back on track.

OK, so let's dive in on the next installment of VoC program mistakes.

11. Not sharing feedback with the organization
This one makes no sense. As part of the core program team, you don't want to hold onto this data. What are you going to do with it? You've got to get out out to the people who can use it! You must share it out to the organization so that the respective departments can learn from it then act on it, do something with it. That action involves not only fixing what's wrong but also coaching employees based on feedback about their (or their department's) performance.

12. Not doing anything with it, failing to act
Don't just survey for the sake of surveying, to check that box. What a waste of everyone's time. As a follow-on to #11, once the feedback is analyzed, insights are gleaned, and those insights and recommended actions are shared with the organization, each department has a responsibility to take action. If you're not sure about who needs to do what with the feedback, check out this post on 5 Fails to Avoid with Your CX Program. You'll see that one of the biggest problems addressed in this post is closing the loop - with employees and with customers.

13. Failing to view it as a continuous process
Your VoC program is all about continuous improvement. Just because you've gotten feedback from customers doesn't mean you're done listening. Your listening program must be always-on. It must evolve to listen and ask in ways that customer want to provide feedback. And it must be updated to ensure you get feedback on improvements you've made as a result of previous feedback. Never stop listening.

One of my new favorite quotes at the moment is this one from Susan Scott: The conversation is the relationship. If the conversation stops, so does the relationship.

Keep the conversation going!

14. Not revisiting VoC programs over time 
I've written about this a couple of times, so I'll let those posts speak for themselves, but just know that you need to do a refresh every so often.

20 Signs That It's Time for a VoC Redesign
How Do You Know When It's Time to Redesign Your VoC Program?

15. Not sending surveys at the right time
On that note, a critical thing to do is to send the surveys in a timely manner. The main issue here is not sending the surveys while the experience is still fresh in the minds of your customers. Don't wait a week or a month to send a survey about an experience. Do it within 24 hours.

16. Not using an enterprise-wide feedback management platform
You thought you could go on the cheap with this whole customer listening thing and just use a free survey platform to listen to customers. Well, that's likely going to set you up for failure in a lot of  different ways, including:
  • You won't have alert, action management, and service recovery capabilities, which are all key tactical next steps in your VoC program
  • You get to do all of the analysis by hand in Excel, which will not be efficient or effective, because those free platforms give you 
  • Others in the organization won't get to see the feedback and use it within their organizations, e.g., think departments, business units, geographic regions, etc.

17. Not including VoCe
Your VoC program must be broader than just surveying customers. There are other ways to capture feedback about and from your customers, e.g., social media, online reviews, interviews, CABs, etc. One piece of feedback that is often overlooked is Voice of the Customer through the Employee (VoCe). Customers share feedback with your employees regularly. There must be a simple way for employees to log that feedback and share it with the folks who need to see it and use it.

18. Not appending customer data to survey responses
You already know a lot of things about your customers. When you upload your customer contact/upload list into your EFM/VoC platform (not the free one because they probably limit the number of fields in your file, and you can't really do any great analysis in that platform, anyway), be sure to include things that you already know about the customer. It shortens the survey because then you don't have to ask about things you already know, and then it makes your analysis much more robust.

19. Not personalizing the survey
When you include customer data in your customer contact/upload list, it not only affords shorter surveys but it also allows you to personalize the survey emails and the survey, with names, dates, products, etc. If this information is in your customer data, you can also deliver the survey to the individual in their language of choice. By the way, not offering the survey in multiple languages, when applicable, is also a fail.

20. Creating surveys that are not about the customer
It seems a no-brainer to create surveys about the customer, but I've seen plenty of self-serving surveys that left me scratching my head, wondering how the questions would help improve the experience for me. Don't be that company.

And here's a bonus mistake!
21. Forgetting that the survey is a touchpoint
This is definitely a major pain point with surveys. You must know by now that surveys are another touchpoint in the customer experience. The experience with the survey must be considered and improved as much as the experience with any other touchpoint. For some tips on that, check out these two posts:

Improving the Respondent Experience
How's the Customer Experience of Your VoC Program?

There are a lot of other mistakes that companies make with their VoC programs. Use this post and the first part of this series to ensure that you're at least not making these 21 mistakes! And if I can help in any way, just let me know!

The customer's perception is your reality. What they think about your products matters. If you don't put your customer's perception first, THE GAME IS OVER. -Sarfaraz Ahme