Monday, June 17, 2019

Is Your Own Management Stalling Your Customer Experience Transformation?

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's post for Forbes. It appeared on the Forbes site on November 14, 2018. I've made some slight modifications since then, as it turned into a two-part series. This is the second in that series; the first part can be found here.

In this follow-up to my recent article titled “Has Your Customer Experience Transformation Stalled?” I continue to outline why customer experience transformation efforts stall or slow. In the previous article, I focused on those reasons attributed to company leadership; in this article, I'll outline reasons associated with employees and operations. (Ultimately, it’s all on leadership.)

1. Expecting Miracles from Someone with No Customer Experience Background
Some employees have been “volun-told” into customer experience positions because an executive heard that customer experience is important to the business. These employees haven’t previously held customer experience roles but were told they needed to take on such a role and head up the company’s customer experience transformation – without being properly educated on what that means or how they’ll go about developing and rolling out a CX vision and strategy.

These well-meaning employees put forth their best efforts to educate themselves and then begin to roll out a strategy that is flawed at best.

2. There’s a New Hire Fail
Employees are critical to customer experience transformation success. First and foremost, you have to hire the right people (both management and individual contributors), i.e., those who fit your values and culture, a culture that should already be described as customer-centric. Beyond that, once you've got those folks on board, it's incumbent on you to teach and train them about the customer-centric culture they've joined. Share with them where you are in the journey, how their roles impact the customer and the customer experience, and what their involvement will be as the transformation continues. Don't let new employees be the reason your efforts stall.

3. You’re Not Activating Your Base
On that note, get employees involved in the transformation. Changing the company's DNA is not a journey for one person to undertake; this is an organization-wide effort. There needs to be leadership from the top, but a grassroots groundswell is also required for the transformation effort not to stall.

As such, a governance structure is critical to the foundation of any customer experience transformation. It outlines who will ensure that there is alignment and accountability across the organization, and it defines roles and responsibilities key to the transformation, including a core program team, an executive sponsor, an executive/steering committee, cross-functional champions, and a culture committee. What that spells is a lot of opportunities for employees to take part in this journey!

4. Trying to Imitate not Innovate
Your culture and your customer experience are your own unique fingerprints. You cannot attempt to copy another company's culture to serve your needs and your customers' needs. This just doesn't work. If you started down that path and things have stalled, now you know why. Develop your own unique culture and your own unique customer experience.

5. Change Fatigue Has Set In
Author Dawn-Marie Turner describes change fatigue as a general sense of apathy or passive resignation toward organizational change and notes that “change fatigue means that you have neither the energy to defend the current state nor the energy to move through a change process.” According to Ken Perlman of Kotter International, “Change efforts are all too often unfocused, uninspired and unsuccessful. As our research shows, 70 percent of transformation efforts fail.”

Why does change fatigue happen? There are a variety of reasons, but it often starts with a non-stop flow of change initiatives, many of which are "flavors of the month" or reactionary, with no thought given to long-term strategy, execution, goals, and outcomes. Each initiative requires employees to do more work - work they believe is superfluous - on top of their already overwhelming workloads. Oftentimes, the initiatives don't have clearly-defined objectives, outcomes or owners. And if these exist, their importance and purpose are not clearly communicated to employees. Finally, employees never see tangible, relatable outcomes or actual changes as a result of these initiatives, further perpetuating the “flavor of the month” label.

6. Employees Are an Afterthought

I have said this many times: quite simply, without employees you have no customer experience. The adage, "Happy employees means happy customers," could not be truer. But far too many companies aren’t putting employees - and the culture in which those employees work - at the top of the priority list. Employees have to come first. If you are not doing what it takes to improve the employee experience, customer experience transformation efforts will stall - or fail.

7. Technology is Not the Answer
Know that technology is only a facilitator of a great customer experience. It can help you get the right data to the right people at the right time. It can help you deliver the experience. But it is not the customer experience silver bullet. It is not the answer to fixing the customer experience. Don't use it as a crutch. You still have to understand customer needs and jobs to be done - and figure out how technology can facilitate that within the grand scheme of things. But don't slap the latest and great tech on a problem and assume it's fixed.

8. You’re No Longer Understanding Customers
And, finally, customer understanding, which I've defined as listening/asking (e.g., surveys or online reviews), characterizing (i.e., personas), and empathizing (i.e., journey mapping), never stops. It is the cornerstone of customer-centricity.

Customers change. Their needs and expectations evolve. The business changes. New products are introduced. New competitors enter the marketplace. Don't rest on your laurels. You've got to continue to learn about customer needs and expectations. Don't rely on what you learned a few years ago; it's no longer relevant today.

**

There are likely more reasons your customer experience transformation is stalling or even failing. Take a good hard look at what you're doing and where your efforts are today. Do any of these reasons resonate with you? If so, revisit and refocus. Up your game and get back on track. Your customers are depending on you.

Once you stop stalling and start working, it takes a whole lot less time to do things! -Crystal Paine

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The Secret Sauce to Achieve Outcomes with Journey Mapping

In today's post, I reveal the secret sauce for journey mapping success. Are you ready?

There's a lot of bad press out there about journey mapping. And there's a lot of bad journey mapping (or what people think is journey mapping).

A few months ago, I shared my six-step journey mapping process. Remember, journey mapping isn't just a tool, it's also a process. Know the tool, and create it correctly. Embrace the process because the process is what's going to ensure you achieve your desired outcomes.

I would call journey mapping the most critical and pivotal component in any customer experience transformation. An in-depth understanding of the experience today - what's going well and what isn't - is the only way to really drive change going forward. (You can't transform something you don't understand, right?) This is why journey maps and the journey mapping process are often called the backbone of customer experience management.

So, back to the six steps of the process. The first two steps, Plan and Empathize, are all about getting the map done and getting it done right. The third step, Identify, revolves around bringing data into the maps, identifying and prioritizing moments of truth, conducting root cause analysis, and creating a plan to make improvements to the current experience.

The fourth step, Introspect, is a critical one and ties in neatly with the third step, especially with regard to root cause analysis. This is where the secret sauce comes in: it's time to look inward and create a service blueprint, which outlines the people, policies, tools, and systems that support and facilitate the customer experience, and a process map, which outlines the workflows that do the same, to correspond with the customer journey you’ve mapped. (You can include the processes in the service blueprint, as well, which is what I've done in the image below.) By linking the service blueprint to the customer's journey, you've got that end-to-end picture of the journey plus the surface to core view, giving you the complete picture of what's working and what's not.

Here's an example of what that service blueprint will look like.


If you've been mapping and making tactical improvements as a result of your map findings without service blueprinting to really understand what's happening behind the scenes, the resultant improvements are likely cosmetic or short-term. You cannot fix what's happening on the outside (for the customer) without identifying and then fixing what's happening on the inside to facilitate what the customer is experiencing.

Service blueprints help us understand how we are delivering the experience to customers today. They are necessary to reveal, uncover, and then redesign the root cause of a painful customer experience. I guarantee you that most companies did/do not think about the customer as they develop or implement the tools, systems, policies, and processes that result in an experience for the customer. The blueprints can and will certainly showcase where silos occur and the impact of those silos. But with that information, when the blueprints are done right, you will align stakeholders on the common goal: to design and deliver a better experience, from the inside out - while thinking outside in! Once you've completed the blueprint, you will have identified improvement opportunities, cost savings, process inefficiencies, and skill gaps for your people.

Last week, I was invited to be part of a fireside chat with Vinod Muthukrishnan, CEO of CloudCherry. During that chat, we discussed my journey mapping process, starting with the third step and barely finishing with the fifth step! We spent a chunk of time talking about service blueprinting and answering audience questions about journey mapping, in general. It was a great conversation, and there will be future chats to talk about service blueprinting and more. Be sure to check out this fireside chat and future chats in which Vinod will explore more details about the mapping process.

Everybody that's successful lays a blueprint out. -Kevin Hart


Monday, June 10, 2019

Exposure is What You Die from in the Desert

If you're a speaker, thinking about becoming a speaker,  an event organizer, or considering hosting an event in the near future, you'll definitely want to read this.

And even if you're none of the above, please continue reading. And feel free to share this whitepaper with anyone you believe will benefit.

I recently asked for feedback from speakers about their experience with event organizers and about their speaking experience, in general.

The catalyst for compiling this research was a string of bad speaker experiences. I'm grateful for every opportunity I get to speak. But every event I’ve spoken at – over the last couple years especially – did not “go off without a hitch” for me. The issues were varied, yet there were some that were pervasive.

Respondents sent me notes telling me that they appreciated this bit of research. They’ve never been asked for feedback about their experience as a speaker by an event organizer. And, no surprise, they've experienced a lot of the same mishaps that I have. My hope is that you – as the event organizer – will take this feedback to heart as you start planning your next event and incorporate these ideas into designing a better experience for your speakers. Without a doubt, it will benefit the speaker, the audience, you, and your event.

As an event organizer, you have a lot of audiences and constituents that you’ve got to know, work with, and keep happy as you plan the ideal event. It seems that the audience, the sponsors, the host location, and the vendors engaged with regards to event operations make it to the top of the list of constituents to prioritize. Sadly, your speakers are an after-thought – or so it seems more often than not.

While it’s important that every event goes off smoothly, if it wasn’t for the content, the event would just be, well, a gathering of people at a hotel. So, with that content and, especially, the people who deliver it, in mind, I set out to find out about the good, the bad, and the ideal speaker experience. The insights in this whitepaper come from 70 seasoned, global speakers who shared their feedback with me in April/May 2019 by answering the following questions:
  1. For how long have you been a speaker? (50% of respondents have been speaking for 10 years or more.)
  2. Approximately how many times do you speak in a year? (average respondent = 12 times per year)
  3. What are some of your pet peeves when working with event organizers? Where do they miss the mark?
  4. What do event organizers get right? What are some things that they do well?
  5. What would the ideal speaker experience look like for you?
  6. Anything else you want to share about your speaker experience? What else should event organizers know?
The findings and recommendations from this research can be found in a whitepaper you can access via this link. I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Again, feel free to share with others that you think could benefit from this research.

And if you'd like me to speak at your event, please feel free to contact me via the Contact Me box to the right or send an email to the email address in the whitepaper.

The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public. -George Jessel


Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Has Your #CX Transformation Stalled?

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's post for Forbes. It appeared on the Forbes site on October 18, 2018. I've made some slight modifications since then, as it turned into a two-part series.

The good news is that you've embarked on a customer experience transformation journey. The bad news is that you don't think your organization has evolved as much as you'd hoped it would by now. Perhaps you started to see progress, but it suddenly seems like forward movement has stalled.

You're not alone. A lot of companies are, or claim to be, working to improve the customer experience, with little or no visible evidence. Companies are still treating customers poorly. And customers are still complaining.

What's going on?

In this two-part series, I will provide my thoughts on why customer experience transformation efforts stall or slow. In part one, I'll focus on those reasons attributed to company leadership; in the second part, I'll outline reasons associated with employees and operations. (Ultimately, it's all on leadership, but I'll drill down a bit in part two.)

1. Misplaced or Mistaken Focus
You know the old "acquisition vs. retention" debate. Acquiring customers is so much easier than retaining; retention is hard work, and it's a huge part of what the customer experience transformation work is all about. Focusing on acquisition yields a much faster ROI, especially when companies are driven by growth metrics.

Because retention — and hence customer experience transformation — work is slow and difficult, people get bored and tend to fall back into their old habits rather than relentlessly driving toward the ultimate goal. It’s important to recognize that a customer experience transformation is all about baby steps. In order to keep people energized and focused, share quick wins, and celebrate successes as you progress.

2. The Revenue Conundrum
Related to the misplaced focus on acquisition is that message you receive from the CEO that starts with, "Revenue is down this quarter. We need all hands on deck, focusing on drumming up new business." Suddenly, all of your customer experience transformation resources are shifted to business development and sales efforts.

Interestingly enough, the first question the CEO should ask is: "Why are sales down?" Is it a quality or performance issue? Is it that you're getting Blockbuster'd? Do you really understand what your customers' needs are and what jobs they are trying to do?

I’ve seen this scenario play out a few times, and each time, if they would’ve fixed what was ailing them, then sales numbers wouldn’t be down. Don’t take your eyes off the ball. Stay focused on the customer and the customer experience. Stay focused on the work that you’re doing to improve the experience. After all, a poor experience is likely why customers aren’t buying.

3. Actions Speak Louder Than Words
It's a fact: in order to successfully transform your culture to be one that is customer-focused, customer-centric, and customer-obsessed, you must start with executive commitment. Without that commitment, you will not get the resources - human, financial, capital, or other - that you'll need to implement real change.

But... And there's always a "but," isn't there? But, if you get a verbal commitment that's not supported by the actions (e.g., actually assigning the resources, modeling the behavior, walking the walk, etc.) or if you got a commitment that had initial support (actions) that has since waned, you've got a problem. You're now in a holding pattern until actions once again shore up the words.

4. It Hasn't Been an Enterprise-Wide Effort
When you have executive support and commitment across the entire organization, the change efforts will have a much greater chance of taking hold and being successful. If you don't have organization-wide support, or (especially) if the CEO isn't on board, sure, you can start making changes within pockets of the organization, but you won't get far. A true transformation must involve all departments; there can be no silo'd efforts. Customers actually know when the focus is silo'd!

5. Communications Aren't Open and Continuous
I heard this great quote from leadership development experience Susan Scott the other day: "What gets talked about in an organization and how it gets talked about determines what's going to happen or isn't going to happen." So true! Communicating the vision, the how, the why, the what's in it for me, etc. is so important when you're going through this type of transformation. And the communication must be open and ongoing. Provide progress updates. Answer questions. Talk about and celebrate quick wins. Keep the conversation going. Things that leaders talk about are deemed important by employees; things that are not, well, are not considered to be important.

6. Sense of Urgency Wasn't Established/Maintained
According to John Kotter, the first step of any change initiative is to create a sense of urgency. What's the burning platform in your business? Pick one: Customers are leaving. Employees are leaving. Costs are rising. Processes are out of whack. The culture is a mess. Bankruptcy. Impending hostile takeover. They're all bad. If you haven't clearly communicated, including ongoing reminders, to your employees what the burning platform is and created that sense of urgency, they forget the why. Thoughts shift to, "Things aren't so bad; why should we change?" or “It’s just business as usual; what’s the big deal?” And then you lose them.

No one ever said that a customer experience transformation was easy. It’s a lot of work and requires a dedicated and relentless focus on making things better. If you’ve seen your progress slow, evaluate your efforts against the six items I’ve written about here. And stay tuned for several more reasons coming in the second part of this two-part series.

It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently. -Warren Buffett


Wednesday, May 29, 2019

On Becoming People-Centric

This is a modified version of a post I originally wrote for CallidusCloud. It appeared on their blog on June 14, 2018.

If you want to move beyond cosmetic changes and lip service to real changes in both the employee experience and the customer experience, the first thing you have to look at is your company’s culture.

What is culture? My favorite definition is Herb Kelleher’s: "Culture is what people do when no one is looking.” To add a little more detail to that, culture = values + behavior.

While customer experience strategies must include a priority focus on the employee experience, they often don’t. Many companies believe they can improve the customer experience without improving the employee experience. I’ve heard it many times over the last 25+ years.

At the root of what both employees and customers experience is a company culture that focuses on both of their needs – and puts them before profits or shareholder value. Does your company have a people-centric culture, or is it profit-centric and profit-driven? Companies must make money, but there’s a better way of doing it that benefits all constituencies involved.

How do you design a people-centric culture? It’s definitely a culture shift (obviously), a mindset shift, and a behavior shift for most companies!

Unfortunately, in most organizations, the culture looks like the pyramid in this image below, where mission, vision, and values might frame the foundation for the culture, but revenue and profits take priority over employees and customers – and drive everything that’s being done in the organization. These companies live by the old management philosophy that they’re in business to maximize shareholder value.

Contrast that with a people-centric culture (image below), where, without a shadow of a doubt, the company foundation is its mission, vision, values, and purpose. These companies have a strong culture and use these foundational elements day in and day out to operate the business. Once the company is grounded in well-defined and clearly-communicated mission, vision, values, and purpose, they’ve got a solid basis for a people-focused and people-centric culture.

Next, you’ll see that I’ve reordered the layers of the typical organization culture pyramid and have added a new layer that is all about the executives and executive alignment. If your executive team is not aligned with the business goals and outcomes, both internal and external, then neither is the rest of the organization. In the same vein, if executives don’t embrace both servant leadership and truly human leadership, then it will be difficult to foster that people-centric culture.

The next layer in the pyramid is your employees, who will benefit from a company built on solid mission, vision, values, and purpose – all of which become not only the basis for hiring, firing, and promoting but also the basis for executive behavior and decision making. And they benefit from an executive team that is aligned and working together.

As you know, employees must come more first. The employee experience drives the customer experience. When you’ve got happy, engaged, satisfied, and empowered employees, customers benefit in their experience. And so, the customer experience is the next layer of the pyramid.

And when you focus on the people – employees and customers – first, then the numbers – revenue/profits – will come.

Putting employees and customers before revenue and profits means that your executives are making decisions with their employees and customers in mind at all times. They are doing what’s best for employees, and ultimately, for customers, so that, in the end, the business benefits.

If there's any doubt that that is possible, check out this TED2019 Talk from Hamdi Ulukaya, CEO of Chobani. It contains a lot of powerful messages!


You watched the whole thing, right? Can I just say this? (I can. It's my blog.) A-fucking-men!

I could just stop there, but I'll wrap up with a few thoughts.

While creating and maximizing shareholder value is important to any public company, it is an outcome, not a means. There are means to achieving that outcome, and they include putting employees and customers first, ahead of profits. Companies succeed if and when…
  • employees want to work for them
  • customers want – and actually do – buy their products
  • vendors and suppliers want to partner with them
  • people want them to locate in - and be a part of - their communities, and
  • shareholders buy their stocks.
Companies have more constituents than shareholders and more responsibilities than delivering value to just shareholders. The rest of their constituents must receive value, as well. So, put employees first, then customers, and watch the business thrive.

To hear more about my thoughts on this topic and how to create this people-focused culture, be sure to watch my webinar with CallidusCloud titled, Be a CX Winner by Focusing on Culture and Employee Experience.

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