Tuesday, February 19, 2019

You Can Lead a Horse to Insights...

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Is your customer experience transformation work stuck at good intentions?

One of the biggest showstoppers in customer experience transformations today is execution - actually, it's the lack thereof. You've got a ton of data, insights, and intentions, but action is the key - and it's not happening. Customers can feel it.

No brainer, you say? Not so fast. If it was a no brainer, would I call it one of the biggest showstoppers today? I think not. You know it's a problem!

Execution is critical. I talk about the proverbial "lead a horse to water and make him/her drink" conundrum regularly with clients.

For starters, at the root of - and the catalyst for - this needed and necessary action and execution is customer understanding. Customer understanding is the cornerstone of customer-centricity and the foundation for the transformation work that lies ahead. But if you don't do anything with what you've learned, it's all quite pointless. You're wasting everyone's time. So I question how companies even get this far, and I fear the answer is a focus on the metrics. Or siloed good intentions.

Awareness and understanding are only 50% of the solution. The other 50% is using what you know to make improvements, aka execution.

So, what's holding you back? Why can't you act on the findings?

Think about this quote from General Eric Shinseki: If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.

Yikes! We already see this happening with plenty of brands and industries. Don't get Blockbuster'd. You've got the data and the insights in front of you. Don't become irrelevant! Use them! Innovate. Disrupt. Fight to stay relevant.

OK, let's get practical for a few minutes. What's it going to take to go from insights to action - and better yet, insights to advantage?

Here's the solution: it's going to take a mindset shift. From one of inaction to one of action. You've got to think differently! Again, what's got you/your company stuck? Why? How can this change?

Do you want to be an agent of change or an agent of complaint? Do you want to be a change leader and executor or do you want to just sit on your hands and hope for change, hope for the best?

So, that's the answer?

Well, let's think about this for a minute. I can give you all of the steps that you'll need to execute (and I will do that in just a moment), but I suspect you already know some or many of these things. So, I can just keep writing and preaching, and you can just keep reading. And doing nothing.

Or, you can shift your mindset (and the organization's mindset) to one that's action oriented - and go and do it. You have to want to do it. (Maybe it's not "you" per se, but the one in your company that makes the decision and assigns the resources to move from intentions to execution.) What do they say about happiness? It comes from within. Well, so does the desire to do anything. You've got to decide and commit. And just do it.

What's that going to take? Some folks need more convincing than just a rah-rah "change your thinking." Typically the following help to shift the mindset to one of "let's do this" - and actually making the changes. Know that you may get pushed outside your comfort zone. Which of these will help you?
  • I've got to see and hear the evidence. Why should I do this? What's the pain point for me? for the business? What's the burning platform? What happens if I don't change or don't fix the pain point? I need to know the business case for the change. Tell me a compelling change story. Convince me.
  • Any information about the needed change has to speak my language and motivate me. What do I need to see in the data that moves me?
  • What's the CX vision? It will guide my thinking, and it will guide the change process. But I need to know it and understand it. Supplement that with the change vision.
  • You've got to earn my trust. Is this just another flavor of the month change initiative? Or are we in this for the long haul? Show me. Prove it to me.
  • You've got to involve me. You pulled together the data and the insights; don't just force this work on me. I need to feel like I'm part of the decision and part of the solution. This will help me own it and want to do it. When I know why I'm involved, I'll be more likely to step up, commit, and help ensure we execute properly. Force it on me, and I'll push back.
  • Talk to me. Listen to me. Let me ask questions. Help me understand. Keep the lines of communication open.
  • Give me something to measure myself by. I want to do the best work possible; if I have metrics that I can track, I'll be able to own it.
  • Empower me. You want me to do the work. Give me the information I need to do it, and just set me free. Assure me that I'll get to work with the teams that need to make things happen, and don't micromanage. You gave me metrics; I'm tracking toward those.
  • Nudge me, but give me freedom of choice. I'm fine if you hold out some carrots to point me in the right direction and get me to drink, but allow me to still choose the best course of action. Again, metrics.
A mindset shift isn't a bad thing; don't let anyone tell you that it is. Sometimes, it's a necessity. But as you can see, mindset shifts are all about information and understanding: You can't be kept in the dark. Tell me, and I'll understand. I can get on board if I'm in the know.

Now, that begs the question about those who are in the know: why don't they execute? First, they have to be the right people to execute. Then, I suppose that if they are and haven't, that would require a behavior shift, from inaction to action. Even that shift must happen in the mind. It comes from within.

Now what? If you're in the know and on board with making the change, it's time to get to work. Here are some things to get you going - and keep you moving forward.
  • Don't get stuck in analysis paralysis. Identify a problem and move on to the next step.
  • Don't feel like you need to boil the ocean. Pick one thing. Focus on one thing and see that through, for starters.
  • Know what needs to be fixed. Conduct a root cause analysis to ensure you change the right thing, that you fix the root of the problem.
  • Design the new experience. Design the new processes to support the new experience.
  • Develop a project plan for each change initiative. What are the steps and the milestones to achieve the goal?
  • Conduct a pre-mortem. Identify risks and obstacles. Sometimes these are the things that deter people from executing. Find out what these things are. And then devise a plan for how to get ahead of these things.
  • Identify your objectives and your success metrics.
  • Make sure they are linked to the desired outcomes - for the business and for the customer.
  • Develop your lead measures. What will you be doing in the coming week? How will you ensure that you do these things?
  • Assign ownership. Who owns each step of the plan?
  • Accountability. Who and how will you hold the owners accountable to achieve these things every week? And what are the repercussions for not achieving them?
  • Pilot and test the changes. Test and fail fast.
  • Implement the fix or the change. Roll it out to employees and to customers.
  • Recognize and reward milestones and successes.
  • Measure and monitor.
Strategy, meet execution.

Holistically, you've got to ensure the following big picture items are in place as part of your customer experience strategy. Organizational change doesn't happen by one person; it takes a village.
  • A governance structure that includes an executive committee that provides approval and oversight, as well as drives accountability;
  • Activation of your base, also part of your governance structure, because the work must be dispersed across the organization; and
  • A change management process that outlines the basics that must be in place to go from current state to future state.
Be a change leader. Create the CX vision (and then the strategy to implement it). Communicate the vision. And get folks on board to deliver it. Not everyone will be a change leader, but there are roles for others, such as subject matter experts, storytellers, customer champions, etc. Showcase those who are on board. Talk about the pockets of change success that are happening around your organization. Get people excited and motivated to be a part of the future of your business.

Of course, there's one more shift that has to happen, and it's a big one: execution is a culture shift. If it's not part of your culture today, it needs to be. If you work for a company where ideas remain ideas, data remains data, etc., then your culture is not one of execution. Do any of your core values scream - or at least hint at - "get shit done!?" If not, perhaps it's time to re-evaluate.

The first step after you lead the horse to water is to answer this question: why won't the horse drink? So answer this: What's got you stuck? Why can't you execute? Is it fear? Is it complacency? What is it? There is no remedy or solution to move you to act until you can identify the reason you're not acting or executing. After that, I think the things I've outlined here will help the majority of you get onto the right path.

Genius is in the idea. Impact, however, comes from action. -Simon Sinek

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Have You Digitized Your Journey Map?

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Do you know why it's important to digitize your journey maps?

In the past, I've written about some of the myths of journey mapping. One of those myths was:

Without a digital mapping platform, I can't even begin to map.

You probably know by now that I'm an advocate of digitizing your maps, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that it checks the box for the basic tenets of mapping, including maps must be:
  • created collaboratively, with customers and with other stakeholders
  • shared with the employees who impact the journey that was mapped
  • updated to always reflect the current state of the experience
  • communicated by using them as onboarding and training tools for your organization
  • brought to life with data and artifacts
  • validated by customers, if you started with assumptive maps
  • actionable, meaning they must include enough detail and data to not only truly understand what's going well and what's not but to also be able to identify the moments of truth

Let me go back to the myth for a moment: Without a digital mapping platform, I can't even begin to map.

You absolutely can map without a digital platform; as a matter of fact, I often like to start my journey mapping sessions with butcher paper and sticky notes because it gets people: out of their seats and involved; up and thinking; and collaborating, questioning, and learning. It's more of a design-thinking, creative approach.

But you can't stop there. I think this is often why maps fail. Digitizing your maps makes all of those basic tenets possible. Some digital platforms offer features that allow you to assign ownership and to develop actions plans to ensure accountability for making improvements and driving change. No more maps rolled up under your desk or stored in a closet! Of course, you must take that step to transfer from analog to digital, but that's fairly straightforward.

I'm often asked about journey mapping platforms: which one to use, capabilities to consider, etc. Think about what you want your platform to be able to do. Here are just some of the questions your should be asking:
  • Is it flexible, allowing you to adjust the columns and the swim lanes?
  • Can you map actual customer steps, not just stages and touchpoints? 
  • Does it allow you to capture not only what the customer is doing but also what the customer is thinking and feeling?
  • Can you display the persona for which you are mapping right there with the map?
  • Are you able to bring data into the map? Is it connected to or integrated with a VoC platform or a CRM system?
  • Are you able to analyze the maps and prioritize moments of truth within the platform? 
  • Does it help you take the map from tool to process?
  • Can you assign tasks and owners?
  • Does it allow you to create action plans?
  • Is it collaborative? Can others view/edit the maps?
  • Does it have validation capabilities, often in the form of an integrated online community platform or survey platform?
  • Can customers add comments, video, or pictures to help bring the journey to life?
Regarding which one to use, here are a couple of informative sources to help you get started.
An important thing to note is this: Just because you've mapped doesn't mean your done. The map is really just the beginning. It should be detailed enough to help you understand the current state experience and to identify what's working and what's not. From there, you must do the work. You have to conduct root cause analysis, prioritize moments of truth, design the future state experience, test the new experience, and fail fast. Do it again.

Nothing changes if nothing changes. Get mapping!

Man is always inclined to be intolerant toward the thing, or person, he hasn't taken the time adequately to understand. -Robert R. Brown

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Customer Personas - The What, The Why, and the How

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Today I'm pleased to share a guest post by Stacy Sherman. This post originally appeared on the DoingCXRight blog on July 10, 2018.

Whether you're new to CX or looking to expand your current knowledge, it is important to learn about what, when, and how to develop personas so that you can serve your customers better. Knowing what personas are not is equally important to create desired outcomes versus hinder them. Let’s begin by defining:

What is a Customer Persona?
In basic terms, it is simply a semi-fictional model that includes characteristics and mental models of target buyers. When developing customer personas, you need to thoroughly research and document all insights about them so you can create experiences that enable them to accomplish their goals and choose your products over competitive offers.

Customer Personas are Not...
A Replacement For Market Segmentation. Think of market segmentation as a BROAD view. It is a way to divide customers into groups that can be targeted by demographics (i.e. age, race, religion, gender, ethnicity, income), psychographics (i.e. social class, personality characteristics), behavioral patterns (i.e. spending, usage) and geography (i.e. customer locations). Personas are formed by leveraging segmentation information, and are not based on a “one size fits all” mindset.

Buyer Journeys. Personas define WHO you are designing products, services, market messaging for. It is not about mapping out desired customer experiences across all  channels and touchpoints.

Based on a single observation. Understanding a particular customer experience (what went wrong or well) can be useful to inform business decisions, however, it cannot be generalized for an entire group of buyers.

Documented one time. Customer needs and interactions with brands are changing as well as their expectations as technology advances. Persona development is an evolution that needs to be reviewed, updated (small tweaks, not necessarily a complete redo) and communicated throughout organizations periodically.

Based on assumptions. Research is an important part of making personas “real.” Interviewing and surveying customers are effective methods of learning what drives your target audience and appeals to them. There are more ways to gain customer insights, which I will share in upcoming articles.

Constructed for every customer. You can’t please everyone, so prioritize and focus on the top buyers who provide the highest revenue potential.

Based on one “right way.” There is no single correct method to developing personas. Yet, it does need to include certain components to help teams understand essential information about customers and target prospects. As a general rule, you want to keep your document to one page. If it’s too long, you likely did not focus on the most important points, and stakeholders may not read it. Key elements include:
  • Who are typical customers? What do they do? Typical day?
  • What are their frustrations, pain points and challenges?
  • What are happy / satisfying moments? What does success looks like?
  • What are their goals. What do they want to accomplish?
  • What are they saying? (quotes/verbatims)
  • Photographs to “humanize” customers

When to Create Personas?
Persona development typically occurs at very early stages of new product development and marketing launches. It needs to happen before journey mapping activities begin, as maps are created from persona documents. Personas need to be referenced throughout the project lifecycle so that decisions consistently address customer needs.   

Why Develop Customer Personas?
  • Help identify what problems to solve for when developing new products, services, and capabilities.
  • Enable marketers to tailor content and messaging. A business executive, for example, relies on different sources of information for learning about brands and has different buying criteria than a technical IT Manager.
  • Drive internal employee alignment. Including cross teams in the persona development process is an effective way to create a more customer-centric organization.  
How to Build Your CX Skills?
  • Take a course at a prestigious institution, such as Rutgers University, who offers an affordable online and offline certification course. (Read about my experience here.)
  • Observe and learn from companies who are DoingCXRight. Hubspot shares a great article about “7 Companies That Totally ‘Get’ Their Buyer Personas.”
  • Watch informative videos. I especially like this one by Gregg Bernstein, as he visually shows what persona development is all about in a simple, creative way. 

Stacy Sherman is Head of Customer Experience and Employee Engagement for Schindler Elevator. Learn more about Stacy here

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Using Journey Maps to Tell the Customer’s Story

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's post for Story of Business. It appeared on their blog on August 3, 2018.

Stories are a wonderful communication tool and a powerful teaching tool. They allow you to deliver a message in a way that engages the audience, helps them understand the characters in play, and, hopefully, inspires them. People tend to connect to stories and, therefore, remember them and the message they convey.

Customer experience professionals use storytelling to gain buy-in and commitment from their audiences (typically executives, as well as employees) and to deliver impactful emotional and rational perspectives and messages, thereby capturing both the hearts and minds of the intended audience. When they tell the customer’s story, they paint a picture of who the customer is, what problems she’s trying to solve, and the experience the company puts her through in order to solve her problem. They end up taking the audience on a journey, the customer's journey, and it humanizes the customer experience for the audience.

One of the best tools available to develop and to tell that customer story is journey mapping.

What’s journey mapping?

It’s a creative process in which you illustrate not only the steps customers’ take as they interact with your brand to achieve some task but also their needs along the journey and the emotions elicited by each step of the journey. Said another way, journey maps depict a timeline of what customers are doing, thinking, and feeling throughout each interaction with a brand. They tell the story of the customer’s journey as she interacts with the brand, helping to build empathy for her and struggles she endures as she journeys to her desired outcome. And the maps also help you co-create better experiences with your customers.

Journey mapping is a learning exercise. Journey maps tell the story from the customer perspective, not the company’s, so it forces the company to focus on the customer. As a result, companies learn about: their customers, the experience they put them through to interact with the business, and how well (or not) they perform along the journey.

Done right, maps help companies in many ways, including to…
  • Understand experiences. You can’t transform something you don’t understand, is what I like to say. Maps bring understanding. They highlight and diagnose existing issues and opportunities; at the same time, they capture what’s going well, too.
  • Design experiences. Once you understand the current experience and moments of truth, maps help you prioritize and rethink existing processes and/or create new ones.
  • Implement and activate new experiences. The maps become blueprints or statements of direction for the work to be done to improve and to redesign the experience.
  • Communicate and share experiences. Maps are great communication and teaching tools. They can be used during onboarding, training, and other ongoing education opportunities to unite the organization around the customer, to teach employees about the current and the future experience, and to further ingrain the customer-focused culture of the business.
  • Align the organization. Use the maps to get executive commitment for the CX strategy, get organizational adoption of the customer-centric focus, provide a line of sight to the customer for employees, and help employees understand how they impact the experience.
How should you start to tell this story?

With the characters, of course. Who are they? Whose story are you going to tell? Identify the characters of your story; in other words, start by identifying the persona for which you’ll map a journey. A persona on its own tells a story – by definition, it is a story about the customer, who she is, what her needs are, what problems she is trying to solve, how she prefers to interact with the company, and more. You will create journey maps for each persona: different stories – different experiences – for different customers.

Next, choose which story – or the scope of the story – you’ll tell; in other words, determine which interaction or which journey you will map. Choose some Point A to Point B, a clear start point and a clear end point, for the story. You will typically select known issues or pain points – for the customer and for the business – that are low-hanging fruit to start with; next, you might select journeys based on areas of importance to your customers during which your company’s performance is known to be less than optimal (based on customer feedback).

And last, but not least, identify the objectives and the desired outcomes. Why are you mapping? What business problems are you trying to solve? What value will the map bring to the organization? What are the intended outcomes? What changes will you make as a result of its findings? And, is the organization prepared to make those changes? Is the organization ready to hear this story?

Initial journey mapping considerations in a nutshell: Whose story is it? What story are you going to tell? Why this story? Why is it important? And what will you do with what you learn from this story?

The maps themselves, when developed correctly, bring the story to life, in a couple different ways:
  • You walk in your customer’s shoes. The map captures the steps – in detail – that the customer takes for a specific interaction with the company.
  • You understand, relate, and instantly build empathy for the customer. How the customer feels about each step is highlighted on the map, ensuring that the audience knows where the high points and the pain points occur and building empathy along the way.
  • You see the data that supports what the customer is telling you. Customer feedback is also incorporated into the map, adding broader, quantitative data and perspectives to the story.
  • Artifacts add visualizations that support what the customer/journey map is telling us. Artifacts include video, audio, pictures, documents, and any other item that might help the audience understand exactly what happened at each step.

I’m simplifying the process quite a bit, but once we know the current story of the customer’s experience, we can then move into writing their future story, i.e., designing the experience of tomorrow. During future state mapping, customers tell us the story of the ideal experience they’d like to have going forward. We incorporate their ideas into the map and take those back to the group who will need to consider the feasibility of transforming those ideas into the new experience.

The journey map – the story of the customer’s experience – is shared with the organization to:
  • help employees understand the customer and her interactions with your company
  • show employees how they impact the customer and the experience
  • convey the importance of being a customer-focused and customer-centric organization
  • align around a common cause and a common purpose
  • break down silos by highlighting how various departments are involved in any one interaction a customer has with the organization
  • build empathy and understanding for the customer
  • achieve a single view of the customer, and
  • improve the customer experience

When the story is created, told, and shared, the business has the information it needs to be more proactive in developing products, processes, and services that better meet their customers’ needs.

There's always room for a story that can transport people to another place. -J.K. Rowling

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Building Blocks of a Customer Experience Transformation Strategy

Do you know all of the building blocks of a customer experience transformation strategy?

I've mentioned the CX Perception Gap before, right? You might know it as Bain's Delivery Gap, which states findings from their 2005 research: 80% of executives believe they deliver a superior experience, while only 8% of customers agree.

What gives? I wrote about that massive gap last year and cited two reasons that Bain offered up for its existence: (1) a focus on acquisition over retention, and (2) a misplaced focus on collecting data, analyzing ad nauseum, and improving metrics. There are different behaviors happening when companies are focusing on acquisition over retention, and when they focus on moving the needle on these metrics rather than on improving the experience. Acquisition often includes discounts, while metrics include free candy bars and oil changes in exchange for a 5-out-of-5 rating. Not exactly the stuff that improves the customer experience; that requires a magnitude of effort that can't even be compared to free candy bars and 20% off coupons.

A customer experience transformation is a lot of work. Most folks have no idea what all it entails. In this post, I'll give you just a taste of what's included. For starters, I've compiled a graphic (above) that depicts the building blocks of a customer experience transformation strategy. It looks overwhelming - and it can be, especially if you don't know what you're doing.

Yes, there are a lot of blocks! A successful transformation requires all of the right pieces to be in the right place. I don't have enough room in this article to go deep on each block, but I'll provide some quick highlights for each one.

The Foundation
There are fundamental, foundational elements that must be in place in order for a customer experience transformation to be successful, namely the following:
  • Core values that are supported with examples of associated and acceptable behaviors that are in line with your customer-centric goals
  • Mission, vision, purpose, and brand promise that are clearly communicated and lived.
  • Executive commitment to the transformation and to the work that lies ahead.
  • Leadership alignment, which means the leadership/executive team has chosen to commit and support each other in achieving the goal.
  • A deliberate focus on the employees and their experience, with the acknowledgement that they are the driving force behind a great customer experience.
  • Customer understanding through listening, developing personas, and mapping customer journeys and corresponding service blueprints, with decisions made and actions taken based on what is learned. Don't forget about linking your operational data to each of these learnings.
  • A governance structure that outlines not only the people involved in the transformation but also their roles and responsibilities as wells as rules and guidelines on how they'll execute the various components of the strategy (think change agents and change management).
  • Organizational adoption and alignment, which means employees must understand the what, the so what, and the now what - and be involved in both the decisions to be made and the work to be done; attempting to execute a strategy when employees are not engaged or aligned with it will prove to be futile.
The Core
At the core of your CX transformation is the vision. What is the intended future experience for your customers? What are their desired outcomes? What are the business' desired outcomes? A vision without a strategy is just an illusion, right? How will you achieve that vision? What's the plan?

The organizational infrastructure includes your people, processes, systems, and tools. These are all necessary to implement and to facilitate the customer experience you wish to deliver. As part of the transformation work, you must identify and understand how each one of these components of your infrastructure contributes to the experience. You can't fix what's happening outside unless you fix what's going wrong on the inside. It's amazing how many companies want to simply apply lipstick to the pig, but you've got to get to the root cause, i.e., the problems with people, processes, and systems, and correct those issues in order for the customer to see a real difference in the experience.

Your strategy is useless if you don't put it to work. Knowing what you need to do and doing nothing with it is really a crime. There are a lot of things that fall into this category, and your strategy will outline them in more detail, many of them covered in these building blocks:
  • Design and innovation are critical next steps to achieving your vision and desired outcomes. Customer understanding work done earlier will feed into this, as well as the rest of the Action items, in order to design and to deliver the experience your customers expect.
  • Strategic improvements are longer-term, broad-based, and company-wide but are not to be confused with tactical improvements, which are operational in nature, are made at the department or touchpoint level, and are often the source of quick(er) wins.
  • Personalized responses include service recovery efforts, often with at-risk customers, and follow-up with customers who indicated they've experienced issues that haven't been resolved.
  • Closing the loop with employees and customers is an important and necessary part of the transformation work. Letting them know that they are heard and valued and that you've done something with what they've told you is critical to continuous improvement efforts.
  • Coach employees on those areas where they need improvement (and recognize them for jobs well done) and train them on what customer experience is, who their customers are, how they impact the customer experience, and how to deliver the best experience.
  • Communicating with both employees and customers about what you heard, what it means, what you'll be doing with that information, and more is a critical part of the customer experience transformation journey. it's also an important part of the actual customer experience.
Ultimately, Action is about using what you've learned to improve the experience. Too many companies stop short of action, and it's where many transformation efforts fail. Execution is key. You've come this far. Do the work!

The payoff for doing the work is achieving your desired outcomes. These can be outcomes for the business, for the customer, and/or for employees. In the Core section, you defined the vision and you outlined the desired outcomes. At a high level, business outcomes might fall into one of these buckets: (1) people-first culture, (2) reduced costs/operational efficiencies, or (3) increased revenues. For the customer, outcomes might include: (1) achieving the job to be done, (2) an improved experience, or (3) expectations met. Your research will help you identify desired customer outcomes.

And finally, success! But you don't know if you've achieved success without measuring it. Early on, you should have defined your success metrics. Track those metrics along the journey.

What's next? Don't rest on your laurels. This is a continuous improvement process. It's never-ending. It's a journey. Keep listening to customers and updating the experience as their needs evolve, the business evolves, products change, the world changes, etc.

If I've missed any blocks, let me know. Trust me, there's a lot more detail behind the ones that are depicted than I wrote about here

Respect the building blocks, master the fundamentals, and the potential is unlimited. -PJ Ladd