Wednesday, April 17, 2019

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

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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

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

10 All-Too-Common VoC Program Mistakes - Part 1

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's post for CallidusCloud; it appeared on their blog on October 1, 2018.

As I sat down to write this month's post, I reflected on several conversations I had this week that were tied together with a common thread: common VoC program mistakes. I started to reflect on what was said and then began jotting down a list that grew much longer than I thought it would!

In this first part of a two-part series, I've outlined the first 10 common VoC program mistakes I came up with; part two will have at least 10 more.

It's important to note that these are mistakes that are made either knowingly or unknowingly - either way, they need to be rectified.

But before I outline those 10, there's an even bigger issue that needs to be addressed: thinking that you don't need to listen to customers or ask for feedback at all! If that mindset is prevalent in your organization, you need to squash it as quickly as possible and shift the thinking to one of customer listening - always!

OK, on to the list of common VoC program mistakes.

1. Not defining your objectives
With any program, initiative, or journey you undertake, you must always start from the beginning: outline your goals, objectives, outcomes, and success metrics. If you don't know where you're going, how will you know when you get there?

2. Not getting executive commitment
Yes, you need executive commitment for your VoC programs. If you don't have it, how will you get the resources you'll need to improve what customers tell you is broken? You

3. Failing to outline the program plan
"Fail to plan, plan to fail" definitely applies here. Your program plan needs to outline, among other things, the audience, a sampling plan, business rules to avoid survey fatigue, language options, customer data to append to the survey, alerts, closed-loop process, and more.

4. Poor survey design
I've seen more poorly-designed surveys than I care to admit. Some of the design issues include: survey is too long; there are navigation and UI issues; the survey is littered with poor grammar; it's not designed for mobile; questions are not relevant to the experience being evaluated; questions are not actionable; didn't ask open-ended questions; didn't survey via customers' preferred channels or methods; and the list goes on.

5. Not listening where customers are
VoC is not all about asking; you need to listen, as well. Know the difference between "ask" and "listen" when it comes to VoC. Be sure to listen on social media, in online reviews, via customer advisory boards, etc.

6. Trying to sell with surveys
Years ago, I read an article that stated: "The easiest way to grow sales and double customer loyalty is to send a survey and then do nothing with the feedback." I'll just simplify my response: "Just don't." I don't even know how that makes sense. I've seen some surveys with poor intentions, and it really doesn't help the rest of the folks who are trying to do the right thing.

7. Similarly, failing to keep the survey focused on the experience
Sometimes well-intentioned people design surveys about the experience a customer had with the brand but also include questions that could best be described as purely for marketing purposes. Keep it simple. Ask about the experience - and only the experience. Marketing questions should be saved for marketing surveys.

8. No owners for survey questions
Quite simply, if the question doesn't have an owner, there's no reason to ask it. If there isn't a stakeholder who can claim the question and say that he/she will make improvements or do something with the feedback to that question, then don't ask it.

9. Asking about things you can't change
If you ask customers for feedback about some aspect of the experience, you set the expectation that you will do something about that aspect. But if there are things that you cannot or will not be able to change, then don't ask about them. Looking to shorten your survey? Start here.

10. Focusing on the metrics, not the outcomes
Too many companies survey just for the metrics. Instead, survey to find out what's going well and what's not for the customer - and then use that to improve the experience. When you focus on the metrics and what it takes to move the needle, you end up driving the wrong behaviors. When you focus on improving the experience, the numbers will come.

Take some time to ponder these mistakes. How many of them are you guilty of? Not sure? Audit your program - or get someone to do an audit for you. Never a bad idea to do that on a regular basis, anyways. It's not too late to make improvements. After all, you want to make sure you do this right so that you can get the right feedback in order to design and deliver a better customer experience.

A customer talking about their experience with you is worth ten times that which you write or say about yourself. -David J. Greer, Wind In Your Sails

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Customer Understanding: The Cornerstone of Customer-Centricity

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If you don't know by now, customer understanding is the cornerstone of customer-centricity.

Customer-centricity means putting the customer at the center; customer understanding is how you'll achieve that.

What is customer-centricity?
A lot of people talk about being customer-centric, but it’s one thing to say that and another to be it! Customer-centricity is about putting the customer at the center of all you do.

Customer-centric companies ensure that they make no decisions, design no products and services, and implement no processes without first thinking of the customer and the impact that the decision or the design has on the customer. They ask, “How will this impact the customer? How will it make her feel? Does it add value, or does it create pain?”

In customer-centric companies, decisions are always made with the customer’s best interests in mind. The customer’s voice is brought into meetings and into conversations; the customer is always represented. Jeff Bezos’ empty chair concept is a great example of this and has been widely adopted by other brands.

It’s important to note that a customer experience transformation can only happen when there is a commitment to change the culture to one that is customer-centric, even customer-obsessed.

Being customer-centric happens by design. Customer-centric companies do the following to ensure the organization knows its reason for being, i.e., the customer, and to embed the customer into the DNA of the organization. They…

  • Have visible (and visibly) customer-centric leadership, demonstrating a customer commitment from the top down
  • Develop and socialize customer personas
  • Speak and think in the customer’s language
  • Use customer feedback and data to better understand their customers
  • Are engaged in continuous improvement as a result of the customer understanding efforts
  • Focus on products and services that deliver value for their customers, i.e., solving their problems and helping them with jobs to be done
  • Have a commitment to customer success
  • Engage with customers from the beginning
  • Walk in the customer’s shoes to understand today’s experience in order to design a better experience for tomorrow
  • Foster a customer-centric culture
  • Empower the frontline to do what’s right for the customer
  • Ensure all employees (front line and back office) understand how they impact the customer and her experience
  • Recognize the customer across all channels
  • Design processes and policies from the customer’s point of view
  • Measure what matters to customers
  • Encourage customer innovation
  • Include customer-driven values in their core values
  • Recruit and hire employees passionate about customers and about helping customers
  • Incorporate the customer and the customer experience into their onboarding processes
  • Train employees on how to deliver the experience that customers expect
  • Establish a customer room that is open to employees 24/7 so that they can learn more about their customers and the customer experience 
  • Rewards and recognition reinforce employee behaviors that align with customer-centricity
  • Have a C-suite executive who champions the customer across the entire organization
  • Customers before metrics, i.e., every meeting begins with and includes customer stories
  • Invest in the latest technology to support and deliver the experience customers expect
As you can see, becoming a customer-centric organization is a commitment that requires a mindset shift and a behavior shift. And, especially, some investments – financial, human, time, resources, technology, and more.

What is customer understanding?
Customer understandings is all about learning everything you need to know about your customers, i.e., their needs, their painpoints, the jobs they are trying to do, etc., and their current experiences in order to deliver the experience they expect going forward.

There are really three ways to achieve that understanding. The problem with these approaches is that, if not done correctly, you'll be no further ahead in terms of understanding than if you hadn't done them.

The three approaches are:
  1. Listen. Don't just ask customers about the experience, listen, as well. There are a lot of different channels and ways for customers to tell you about their needs and desired outcomes and how well you are performing against their expectations. Understanding these expectations and identifying key drivers of a great customer experience are important outcomes of this exercise.
  2. Characterize. Research your customers. Identify the jobs they are trying to do. Compile key personas that represent the various types of prospects and customers that (might) buy from you or that use your products or services.
  3. Empathize. Walk in your customers' shoes to get a clear understanding of the steps they take to do whatever job it is they are trying to do with your organization.  Map their journeys to understand the current state of the experience.
These are all learning exercises. We walk away from them with a lot of knowledge about customers, but we need to make sure we truly understand what we've heard about customers, their needs, and their expectations. Without that understanding, the exercises have failed. Make sure they're done right.

And then make sure you do something with what you learn! This is where customer understand manifests into customer-centricity and becomes the cornerstone for it. Make sure to put the customer front and center.

Here are just a  few things you can do to infuse the customer into everything the organization does. Key to this is to start at the beginning, i.e., start with the first day an employee starts working for your company. (Even better: start with the first day you start your company.)
  • Onboarding: Showcase your customer-centric culture during the onboarding process so that new employees know what that means. This is a great time for them to learn what it means to be a part of your organization, i.e., knowing your brand promise, values and commitment, what it means to live the brand, where the priorities lie, and how to deliver a great customer experience. This is a great time to set the tone for employees.
  • Ongoing training: You can't expect that, as both the business and customer expectations evolve, employees will automatically know what to do and adapt/evolve, too. You need to train employees regularly to ensure they are kept abreast of new customer insights and new approaches to delivering a great experience. Be sure to provide refreshers and reinforcement of anything you've learned about customers, the jobs they are trying to do, and their expectations.
  • Communication: What gets shared and communicated regularly is viewed as important to your employees. Not only does communication lend clarity, it is critical to a clear line of sight to the goal. Communication needs to be open and ongoing. Share customer feedback with employees; don't keep it from them. Tell customer stories and stories of great experiences to teach and to inspire employees to deliver the experience they need to deliver.
  • Rewards and recognition: When you recognize and reward those who consistently delight customers, you are reinforcing the behavior you expect from your employees, further confirming and solidifying the importance of putting the customer at the center of all you do.
Other ways to ensure the customer is always front and center, include:
  • Personas on every wall: these help to remind employees who the customer is, what she's trying to do, her pain points, what delights her, etc. - again, keeping her front and center in all you do
  • Customer cut-outs: place these around the office - and especially in meeting rooms -  to keep the attention on who really matters; they should include details of who the customer is and what she thinks and feels about the current experience
  • CCO/CX professionals: in key decision-making meetings, especially, there needs to be a representative from the CX team present to represent the customer voice and perspective
  • A real customer: imagine that! ask a customer (or multiple customers) to attend a meeting in which you'll be making decisions critical to the customer experience
  • Customer feedback: have you gotten feedback about the product or the touchpoint you'll be discussing; share it with meeting attendees so they understand how customers feel about the current experience
  • Journey maps: this might seem like a stretch, but if you can show executives/employees how the changes they plan to make impact the experience through truly walking in customers' shoes, then that's a powerful tool to have at your disposal, too
As you can see, all of the tools to facilitate and drive customer-centricity are rooted in customer understanding. In case there was any doubt, customer understanding really is the cornerstone of customer-centricity!

Your website isn’t the center of your universe. Your Facebook page isn’t the center of your universe. Your mobile app isn’t the center of your universe. The customer is the center of your universe. -Bruce Ernst

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Do You Believe in Your Company's Core Values?

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Do employees believe in the core values? Do they even know their company's core values?

Core values are the fundamental beliefs of an organization; they  guide executives and employees in identifying which behaviors and actions are right and which are wrong.

Everything you do must be aligned with your core values, and core values should be integrated into everything you do. When in doubt, ask: "Is this the right thing to do? Does it fit with our core values?"

I've written about core values a number of times; a few of those posts, for reference, are:

CX Journey™ Musings: A Lesson in Living Your Core Values
What Employees Do When No One is Looking
7 Pillars of a Strong Culture
CX Journey™ Musings: Culture - The Soul of the Organization

The good news is that most companies (89% globally) have written values statements.Read on for the not-so-good news.

I'm a fan of including employees in the selection of the core values. The following quote from Benjamin Franklin is so fitting here: Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn. It's even more fitting when you see the statistics about how many employees don't know their company's core values.

Research from late 2016 shows that only 53% of employees know their employer's core values. In a more-recent webinar poll, only 11% of HR professionals reported that 80% or more of their employees know the core values. With a little convoluted math, you can figure out that it's not an impressive response. Those numbers should be 100%. But they aren't.

What's a brand to do? If you are one of the 11% of companies that doesn't have core values, make it a priority to establish them this year. Let's just say you've got core values, but employees don't know them or live them. Now what?

Well, let's think about this for a minute. And let's not put all the onus on employees. Did the core values just show up on a wall one day without any communication or explanation to employees? Yes, this happens more times than I care to count. Just in the last month alone, I heard two examples of this!

And do the values actually resonate with your employees? According to Gallup, only 23% of U.S. employees believe that they can apply the core values to their work, while only 27% believe in the values.

When employees believe in the values, align with them, and live them, they are more likely to stay with the company. So let's get on the right track here.
  • Involve employees in selecting/defining your core values and the associated behaviors.
  • Once you've established what those core values are, you've got to communicate them. It's not too late to do this. If you can't remember the last time there was any communication about the core values or if they just showed up on posters one day without explanation, it's time to outline your communication plan. And then stick to it.
  • It's so important for executives and leaders to model the behaviors that they wish to see, the behaviors that align with the core values. Actions speak louder than words. Words on the wall are a start, but behavior is where the rubber hits the road. Executives, how are decisions made? How are resources allocated? What are your priorities? Do they jive with the core values?
  • Recognize behaviors that align with the core values, and reinforce with incentives, promotions, metrics, and more. Reinforcing the values and the corresponding behaviors makes them real.
In a Booz Allen Hamilton/Aspen Institute survey, 85% of respondents stated that their companies rely on explicit CEO support to reinforce values, while 77% say CEO support is one of the most-effective  practices for reinforcing values. It starts at the top. Maybe it's time for a chat with your CEO.

Values are like fingerprints. Nobody's are the same, but you leave 'em all over everything you do. -Elvis Presley


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The Culture Perception Gaps

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Are you aware that there's also a Culture Perception Gap?

I've written and spoken many times about the CX Perception Gap (aka Bain's Delivery Gap), but there's not much said about the Culture Gap. Until now.

PwC recently released findings from their 2018 research among 2,000 respondents in 50 countries on workplace culture.The first shocking statistic is that 80% of employees feel that their workplace culture must improve significantly or a fair bit in order to succeed, grow, and retain the best people. That statistic compares to 51% only five years earlier (2013).

That's not the Culture Perception Gap, though.

The first Culture Perception Gap statistic PwC uncovered states that 71% of C-suite and board respondents believe that culture is a priority on the leadership agenda of their organizations, while only 48% of non-management employees agree.

Another Culture Perception Gap: 63% of C-Suite and board respondents believe their culture is strong ("what we say about culture is consistent with how they act"), while only 41% of employees agree.

So, employees believe that culture needs to improve but they don't necessarily agree that it's a priority for their leadership teams or that it's as strong as their leadership believes.This isn't surprising. There's often a disconnect between what leaders think they're doing or prioritizing and what employees are observing or feeling. Sadly.

Perception is reality.

Rather than lamenting the obvious, it's time to put together a plan on how to close that gap. Here are five things that PwC proposes you do.

1. Identify and address where culture and strategy clash
We know that culture eats strategy for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. As a matter of fact, PwC found that 65% of leaders agreed that culture is more important to performance than strategy or operating model. But, in reality, if they (culture, strategy, and operations) are misaligned, there's a lot of confusion, and any type of culture transformation you hope to achieve will be doomed from the start. An example they provide is if you aspire to be a culture of curiosity and innovation but compensate based on following processes and procedures.

2. Establish or change listening tours
If you're not already talking to employees, get to it. If you are, but you're not asking the right questions, then it's time to change it up. PwC advises to: challenge and foster healthy debate and real feedback from people across departments and across levels. Establish a Culture Committee, a group of employees who have a ground-level view of "how things work around here." They are a group of cross-functional employees who meet to identify, discuss, and plan ways to promote and to drive the desired culture throughout the organization. They already live the core values and model the behaviors you want to see throughout the organization. Listen and engage them to design and establish the culture you desire.

3. Identify the critical few behaviors that will shift your culture
As you know, a culture transformation is a slow and massive effort. It's not for the faint of heart, but it is for everybody - unless you're Zappos, Southwest, or one of only a handful of other brands who've got it down. So first identify the culture you desire, and then pick 3-5 behaviors (low-hanging fruit) that you can focus on to start the shift at every level of the organization. One exercise that I would strongly recommend, if you haven't yet done it, is to look at your core values (you've got them defined and communicated, right?) and define examples of behaviors that are "appropriate" for each one. And then, for each, specify desired outcomes. Then share with all employees and include in your orientation/onboarding.

4. Step into the show-me age
Quite simply: leaders must model the behaviors they wish to see. They are not exempt. As a matter of fact, what they allow, they accept; what they allow will continue. This quote from Larry Bossidy, former CEO of Honeywell, says it all: The culture of the company is the behavior of its leaders. Leaders get the behavior they exhibit and tolerate. You change the culture of a company by changing the behavior of its leaders. Amen. So, to follow on to the concept in #3 about defining the behaviors for each core value, the next step is for leaders to demonstrate these behaviors. Employees won't believe it until they see it. Then when you start seeing employees exhibit the "right" behaviors, recognize and reinforce. Employees should do the same for each other. Keep it going.

5. Commit to culture as a continual, collaborative effort
Just like any transformation effort, a culture transformation is ongoing and evolving, but it must also be collaborative. As you can see from #4, it's not one person making this shift; there's leadership modeling the behaviors that will eventually drive a grassroots groundswell to drive the change.

One final Culture Perception Gap from this study. Employees want a workplace they can be proud of. PwC found that 72% of C-suite and board members believe that culture is a strong reason people join their organization. They didn't provide the employee counterpoint. But, they did note this gap: 87% of C-suite and board respondents are proud of their workplaces, but only 57% of employees agree.

There you have it: three Culture Perception Gaps that scream disconnect between executives and employees. Businesses have their work cut out for them. You've got five ideas to start moving in the right direction. Get to work! And if I can help in any way, just let me know.

Culture is like a baby. You have to watch it 24/7. Needs to be fed at least three times a day. And when it makes a mess, you have to clean it up and change it. -Dan Guerrero, UCLA Athletic Director