Friday, May 31, 2013

Employee Engagement Strategy? Nay! Leadership Strategy!

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Let's just put this out there again: Employee Engagement is not a strategy.

I just read somewhere that it is ... which tells me that it bears repeating both what it is and what it isn't. Employee engagement is...

...the emotional connection or commitment that an employee has to the organization that then causes the employee to want to put forth the additional effort to ensure the organization and the brand succeed. 

What the company can do is have a purpose and build a culture that facilitates employee engagement. But keep in mind that t-shirts, free food, and surveys do not a strategy make. And no company can make an employee engaged.

When  there's some confluence of: (1) emotions, commitment, passion, sense of ownership, etc. on the part of the employee about the brand and (2) what the organization does (purpose, brand promise, who the company is and why, etc.) to facilitate and enhance those emotions or that commitment - then we have employee engagement.

Aon Hewitt and Edelman recently released the results of some of their employee research. The findings are interesting, but I wanted to see if/how they defined "Employee Engagement."

Aon Hewitt claims that employee engagement is starting to rise, according to their latest study. They define engagement as: "the psychological and behavioral outcomes that lead to better employee
." They also define engagement using three attributes that include the extent to which employees:
  • Say: speak positively about the organization to co-workers, potential employees, and customers
  • Stay: have an intense sense of belonging and desire to be a part of the organization
  • Strive: are motivated and exert effort toward success in their job and for the company
Edelman called out "Employee Engagement findings from their 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer," but the research was not focused on employee engagement specifically. As a matter of fact, as you can tell from the title, the annual research is all about trust: trust in leadership, institutions, and industries. They did, however, uncover a couple of interesting things that relate to the employee experience:
  • Treating employees well is a higher priority for employees than it is for executives.
  • There is a crisis in leadership, led by a distrust in executives and the business; executives need to rebuild their credibility with employees, reinforce ethical behavior, and adopt an inclusive management approach by listening to other voices - specifically, employees' - and incorporating those into decision making.
This last point echoes a statement - "we have a crisis in leadership in this country" - that Bob Chapman (Chairman and CEO of Barry-Wehmiller) made in his Tedx presentation last year. Take a look at my post about his talk; you'll see that he addresses the first bullet point as well: "7 out of 8 employees  believe they work for a company that doesn't care for them."

So, why is employee engagement constantly referred to as a strategy? Good question. I actually think we should be talking about leadership strategy, not employee engagement strategy. What should  leadership's strategy entail? Creating the right conditions to allow employees to become engaged. Those conditions include:
  • Clearly communicating the vision and purpose of the organization
  • Communicating openly and being transparent about company performance and how employees' contributions matter
  • Ensuring employees are well taken care of, which includes tools, training, development, recognition, respect, appreciation, trust, balance, and more.
Tall order? Yes. But totally worth it!

There are only three measurements that tell you nearly everything you need to know about your organization’s overall performance: employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and cash flow. ... It goes without saying that no company, small or large, can win over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it. -Jack Welch

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Here's What Trumps Strategy and Culture

Image courtesy of katerha
A couple months ago, I tweeted a post written by Maz Iqbal about strategy and culture and was asked a few days later by Trier Company to weigh in on the theme. In general, my thoughts align with Maz's; I commented on his post as much, but I wanted to take a moment to share them and go into a bit more detail. (Sorry, I started this post back then and never got back to it.)

First, what is culture? I think Herb Kelleher, a man who knows a thing or two about culture, defines it best: "Culture is what people do when no one is looking." Culture is the set of values and norms that guides how the business operates. Culture happens when we operationalize the values.

And, what is strategy? Basically, it's a plan or direction. It outlines how you are going to achieve the goals of the business. From "The overall scope and direction of a corporation and the way in which its various business operations work together to achieve particular goals."

I tend to view strategy and culture as two sides of the same coin. I think they need to go hand in hand; why should they compete?

Does one trump the other? No. Why? Because I think vision and purpose are more important and are the ones that do the trumping!

What is vision? According to "An aspirational description of what an organization would like to achieve or accomplish in the mid-term or long-term future. It is intended to serves as a clear guide for choosing current and future courses of action." I would add that it is not only aspirational but also inspirational.

What is purpose? It's your Why. It's the reason for being, the reason for doing.

Vision is where. Purpose is the why. Strategy is the how. And culture is the who and what. They're all important. Vision and strategy are set by the executives, but culture tends to be driven by the employees. Sure, executives need to support it, but this is where employees get to take over. Strategy is top-down, while culture tends to be bottom-up. Culture can't be shoved down your throat, where I think strategy can be. For better or worse.

Vision without execution is hallucination. -Thomas Edison


If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else. -Yogi Berra

I think both purpose and vision trump culture and strategy. They are the north star. They guide you when you're lost. They point you in the right direction when competing ideas are spreading you too thin. Strategy comes out of the vision and the purpose. Culture ultimately does, too, because you're going to hire the right people and set the right stage to deliver on your vision and your purpose. And when you've hired the right people - those who are aligned with your vision and your purpose -to do that, then they'll give their hearts and souls to make sure you succeed.

Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality. -Warren Bennis

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Convenience: Just One Reason Businesses Should Accept Mobile Payments

Today I'm pleased to present another guest post by Chris Martin.

Here's a question: Why would a customer willingly go to a store where there are fewer choices, average customer service, and the goods are priced higher than can be found elsewhere? One word: convenience. The proliferation of convenience stores across the country is proof that buyers value convenience as much as (if not more so than) price, selection, service, and other market factors.

Customers Love Mobile Payments
Mobile payment systems have received a lot of publicity pertaining to their advanced level of technology. But the prevalence of mobile payments wouldn't be growing significantly if they weren't convenient for businesses and purchasers.

In fact, the most important aspect of mobile payments' convenience does not involve the business at all. People love having choices, so allowing them to pay for goods or services with a credit card gives them the option of keeping more money in their bank accounts for a bit longer. And after all, the customer is always right, right?

Businesses Love Mobile Payments
But mobile payments are incredibly convenient for merchants, too. For starters, businesses don't have to buy, lease, or otherwise obtain additional equipment like checkout machines, swipe terminals, or specialized keypads. All they need is their smartphone or tablet computer and perhaps a credit card reader that plugs into their digital device (these readers are often supplied free of charge to mobile payments account holders).

The most obvious convenience of mobile payments is the elimination of a physical link to a power source. Businesses don't need a telephone landline, data cable, or even an AC power cord in order to accept mobile payments. If merchants have a wireless Internet connection and/or a cell phone signal, credit card transactions can be processed securely, quickly, and easily almost anywhere on the planet.

For many businesses, the ability to accept mobile payments means the eradication of invoicing. Instead of writing up an invoice, giving it to a client or customer, and then waiting for a check in the mail, mobile payments can complete the entire transaction within seconds - and the funds are transferred into the business owner's account with a few days' time. And the convenience of improved cash flow cannot be overstated for a small business.

Mobile payments also improve the convenience of the actual credit card transaction. Customers approve the transactions by using their fingers to sign a touch screen rather than fiddling with a pen and a small credit card slip. In addition, customers receive an electronic receipt that is sent to their email address - so they don't have to mess with keeping or storing paper credit card receipts.

Marketers and Accountants Love Mobile Payments
There's another aspect to this e-receipt process that is often overlooked by businesses. As part of the transaction, customers provide their email addresses - which can be used for marketing purposes for the business. In other words, businesses don't have to wrangle contact information out of a customer because it is already folded into the transaction process. How convenient is that?

Finally, most mobile payments services can simplify a business owner's bookkeeping functions to some degree. Generally, these systems can display the past purchase history associated with a given credit card number, which can aid the merchant not only in accounting but also in future marketing efforts. Some mobile payments systems can even be linked directly to a company's back office so that transactions don't have to be manually entered into a computer at the end of the day.

It's surprising (or perhaps not) how many buying decisions are based primarily or solely on convenience. So if you want a competitive edge in the marketplace, mobile payments can help make patronizing your business substantially more convenient - and your customers will notice.

Chris Martin is a freelance writer who writes about topics such as small businesses, home improvement, and online reputation management.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Problem with Inside-Out Thinking

Image courtesy of marc falardeau
I originally wrote today's post as a guest post for I Want It Now on March 18, 2013.

TSA recently announced that it was changing some of its carry-on restrictions next month; in addition to  certain types of knives, they will allow passengers to bring golf clubs, hockey sticks, and plastic bats onto planes, all of which had been restricted post-9/11. Other than the obvious question about whether the world is a safer place now than it was then (or even a month ago), is this really such a good idea? Where did this come from?

Supposedly, this brings U.S. carry-on rules in line with those of the EU. Who decided that what the EU was doing was a best practice?

According to the president of the Transportation Workers Union, Stacy Martin, "This policy was designed to make the lives of TSA staff easier, but not make flights safer." Her comments come as a direct result of what TSA Administrator John Pistole said: "Frankly, I don't want TSA agents to be delayed by these." Clearly he believes the destructive weapons of choice have shifted, but I think when you take your eye off the ball, that's when the other team scores. My two cents.

Anyway, there's more to this story than just that, and I don't really want to debate it; that's not my point here. I'm using this as an example for my topic, and I want to focus on those two statements in the previous paragraph - and the problem with inside-out thinking when it comes to customer experience.

Inside-out thinking means your focus is on processes that are designed and implemented based on internal thinking and intuition. The customer's needs and perspectives do not play a part in this type of thinking. You make decisions because you think it's what's best for the business.

Outside-in thinking means that you look at your business from the customer's perspective and subsequently design processes and make decisions based on what's best for the customer and what meets the customer's needs. You make decisions because you know it's what's best for your customers.

When TSA is thinking about processes and policies that simplify things for their own good, without considering the impact on their customers, then that is inside-out thinking. This is a prime example, another quote from John Pistole: “The idea that we have to look for, to find, and then somehow resolve whatever that prohibited item is -- that takes time and effort." Yea, but that time and effort will hopefully save the lives of hundreds of people (your customers).

There was a glimmer of hope when I read an article a couple days ago that lawmakers are trying to reverse this decision. And I quote: "This decision appears to have been made without formal engagement with stakeholders impacted by this policy, including those most likely to come into contact with someone possessing a knife on a plane - flight crew members and air marshals."

Um, what about the other passengers? Aren't they also stakeholders impacted by the policy?

OK, so let's just assume for the sake of this post that everything TSA decided was truly done without taking into consideration the customer perspective or the impact on the customer.

It might be inside-out thinking when there's a conscious decision to make process, policy, people, systems, or other changes that:

1. Don't improve the customer experience at the same time
2. Are about maximizing shareholder returns, not about benefits for the customer
3. Improve internal efficiencies but to the detriment of customer interactions
4. Are cost-cutting measures that also negatively impact the  customer experience
5. Might be the wrong process, policy, people, or systems to change

By contrast, outside-in thinking flips each of those points on its head and looks like this. There's a conscious decision to make process, policy, people, systems, or other changes that:

1. Improve the customer experience at the same time
2. Are about maximizing benefits for the customer
3. Improve internal efficiencies known to be painpoints when executing customer interactions
4. Are cost-cutting measures that significantly improve the customer experience
5. Are the right process, policy, people, or systems because you've listened to customer feedback and know how customers are affected

Outside-in thinking, i.e., applying the customer perspective to every decision the company makes, leads to a number of things, none of which you'll get by making decisions that are not based on what's best for your customers...

•    reduced complaints
•    increased satisfaction
•    increased referrals
•    increased repeat purchases
•    improved ease of doing business
•    fewer lost customers

... all of which translate to reduced costs and increased revenue. Now who can't get on board with that?

Here are a few business leaders who get it:

Don’t try to tell the customer what he wants. If you want to be smart, be smart in the shower. Then get out, go to work and serve the customer! -Gene Buckley, President Sikorsky Aircraft

This may seem simple, but you need to give customers what they want, not what you think they want. And, if you do this, people will keep coming back. -John Ilhan, Crazy John's

For us, our most important stakeholder is not our stockholders, it is our customers. We're in business to serve the needs and desires of our core customer base. -John Mackey, Whole Foods

Friday, May 17, 2013

Disrupting the Automotive Customer Experience

This is the second in a two-part blog exchange I’m doing with Denise Lee Yohn. Because we have similar perspectives on customer experience, we decided to share with our readers each others' thoughts on disruptive experiences.  Last week, I discussed on Denise’s blog how Square is disrupting the payment experience.  In this post, Denise describes how Tesla Motors is disrupting the automotive buying experience.

“A new kind of car.  A new kind of car company.”

Saturn may have used those lines to launch its brand 20 years ago, but it’s Tesla Motors who is truly disrupting the automotive industry today.

Saturn may have challenged the conventional designs of American-made cars, but Tesla has combined an electric powertrain and luxury sports car style into a new breed of automobile unlike anything seen before.  Saturn may have instituted a different culture and organizational design, but Tesla is run by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and engineers whose tech start-up sensibilities contrast sharply with those of automakers.  And Saturn may have trained dealers in low-pressure sales and encouraged them to pay salespeople salaries rather than commissions, but Tesla has set out to fundamentally change the car buying and owning process.

It is this last point that I find most noteworthy because the automotive customer experience is in dire need of change, and Tesla seems to be re-designing every aspect of it.  As Chairman, Product Architect, and CEO Elon Musk explains, “At Tesla Motors, we really want to improve aspects of the car business that we've found unpleasant as consumers.”

The company is disrupting the automotive shopping experience in five significant ways:

1. Customer decision-process: Tesla’s stores and galleries are located in venues with high foot traffic and visibility like high-end malls and shopping districts, including San Jose’s Santana Row.  Of course the company enjoys the brand halo that comes with such aspirational adjacencies, but its strategy has a more fundamental objective.
In mainstream shopping areas, the company can generate broader brand awareness than its start-up ad budget could produce – and it can reach people before they’re even considering buying a car.  The company knows it’s important to reach people at such an early stage in their decision-process because they need to be educated about electric vehicles before they’d be open to Tesla as a brand for them.
Critics question if shopping malls are the best venues to reach qualified buyers – and indeed, I imagine Tesla stores get more than their fair share of lookie-loos.  But if a retailer wants to connect with new customers and get them to add the brand to an established consideration set, it can’t expect to be a destination – it needs to be where the brand can be discovered.

2. Role of salespeople: Given the prevalence of online research in today’s automotive purchase process, most people have already decided what car they want to buy before they head to their local dealer – and many already know the fair price for it.  So car salespeople’s roles have been reduced to Vanna White-type product demonstrators and price negotiators.

But Tesla’s salespeople, “Product Specialists,” play a far more significant role in the customer journey.   They’re focused on educating people first about electric vehicles in general and then about Tesla specifically.  So they’re not paid on commission and their goal is to increase demand, not close a sale.  Tesla’s vice president of sales and ownership experience, George Blankenship, says that it’s their goal for “everyone to leave our stores with a smile on their faces.  I want people to want the car, I don’t want to sell them the car.”

3. Controlled and designed experience: Other automakers have franchise contracts with independent companies that sell vehicles to their respective dealerships. The dealers hire and train the sales and service staff and determine their pay, and they set the sales price of each car. Thilo Koslowski, an automotive analyst at research firm Gartner Inc., explained the risks involved with the established model, saying, "Every time you have a franchise involved you lose part of that intended customer experience because they are independent businesses and have different goals. They use different processes and sales strategies with customers.

Since Tesla sells directly to consumers through their stores and website, it retains control of the customer experience. And it has designed the experience to be like an Apple store, a Starbucks, or a good restaurant – a comfortable place where people feel welcome and want to hang out.  Musk describes the store design as “beautiful and stylish, but also simple, fun, and friendly at the same time.”

4. Experiential and emotional appeal: Blankenship explains that the stores are intended to “entice, inform, and engage” people in order to “create a highly interactive buying experience.”  

Usually one or two cars are showcased in the center of the store and people are encouraged to get into them to form an initial impression.  Car design options are displayed and lit dramatically on the walls, while other displays highlight various aspects of the cars such as the motor and charging socket.  People can interact with one of a few large flat-screens with touchscreen capability that serve as in-store design kiosks through which they can customize their own car – and eventually make a reservation to purchase it.   And prospective customers can test-drive one of several cars that are stored in a designed parking area nearby.

The company aims to “put as much energy into making our stores look good as we do with our cars,wrote Musk.  The idea of a store being one of the most powerful expressions of a brand is one I’ve explored before and Tesla certainly proves how impactful a store can be in terms of emotional expression and connection.

5. Consistent brand standards: Tesla has torn down the invisible but unmistakable wall between the sales and service standards that people encounter at most car dealerships.   Instead of presenting an inviting, glamorous sales experience and a functional, generic service one, Tesla designs its service centers to be inspiring and interesting.  In fact, Musk described how they’re modeled on the private VIP lounges for airline frequent fliers.

I suspect that the sales and service businesses are managed separately in other automotive retail networks. With their distinct objectives and operations, it’s no wonder that what the customer experiences in one area bears little resemblance to the other, and there’s limited, if any, consideration given to fostering a connection between the two.  But, applying the highest brand standards to every experience is what distinguishes Tesla and other extraordinary retailers from their rivals.  They design their businesses with the brand vision at the center and ensure there are no disconnects across experiences.

Tesla’s disruptive strategies have not been welcomed universally.  Due to perceived unfairness to other dealers, the company was denied a special exemption that would have let it operate a dealership in the state of Virginia.  It’s unclear whether or not the company will encounter similar barriers as it expands into more markets.

This setback demonstrates how difficult retail disruption can be.  Visionary entrepreneurs like Musk, Warby Parker co-CEOs Neil Blumenthal and David Gilboa, and Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, conceive of radically new ways of doing business in service of providing more inspired experiences for customers.  But, old systems and established brands resist change.  Let’s hope Tesla and others keep fighting for it!

Denise Lee Yohn has been inspiring and teaching companies how to operationalize their brands to grow their businesses for 25 years.  World-class brands including Sony, Frito-Lay, Burger King, and Nautica have called on Denise, a brand-building expert, speaker, and writer.  Read more by Denise at

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

#CXPA13 Day One Live Blog: Mary Lee, AAA Northern California, Nevada, and Utah.

The Customer Experience Professionals Association annual Member Insight Exchange kicks off this morning in San Diego, CA, at the Hotel del Coronado.

The final session that I'll be blogging about today is by Mary Lee, Director of Member Experience at AAA Northern California, Nevada, and Utah. She'll be sharing lessons learned around building a new VOC framework.

AAA is a federation of separate AAA clubs. AAA NorCal started in 1900 and has 4.2 million members.

The AAA Member Experience Journey

Services with membership: travel, emergency roadside service, homeowners insurance, auto insurance. AAA used to be the only place where you could get these services.

The AAA Brand: people helping people.

Competitors: Allstate, USAA, Geico, State Farm, Farmers, Progressive, General Insurance. AAA market share is about 20%.

"With great brand power comes great responsibility."

Member Promises: 
  • We will keep you safe and secure. (auto insurance)
  • We will offer you the right product at the right time. (long-term, loyal members)
  • We will reward your loyalty. (aspirational; example is birthday card that Southwest sends)
  • We will provide helpful and knowledgeable service. (roadside service)
Most important to remember: one member, one AAA. All that the customer cares about is that they deal with AAA, not with NorCal or SoCal clubs. It's all one club. Customers must see that employees represent all of AAA, which is often difficult to do. The club is separate from the insurance company, but that's all seamless to a member.

For their employees, they encourage them to think about the experience as if they were the member. Does that make sense for you?

Why focus on customer loyalty?
  • Satisfaction alone is not enough.
  • Increases in NPS proven to tie to financial results.
Used to have a very silo'd approach to listening to members. They have since transformed to a single listening system, a single source of truth.  From there, they then look at results by type of transaction and by geography with the same type of feedback but with a clear window into the customer experience from start to end of lifecycle.

There are 96 offices in the AAA NorCal footprint. They did a Member Experience Roadshow to enable all employees to know: how they're doing, what NPS is and why it matters, and what the employee's role is in delivering that experience. They also use it to gather feedback and build connections.

Where is AAA NorCal on their journey?
  • Well on their way
  • Incentives and annual goals tied to the relationship survey (result: people are more interested, for better or worse)
  • Impact on member experience is part of many, though not all, conversations
  • Recognition that such an evolution doesn't happen overnight (they started July 2010)
  • Software issues
  • Obsessive interest in the score
  • Scores led to "data chasing"
  • Building muscle memory
Lessons learned:
  • Change management is critical element to include in the effort.
  • Constant and consistent leadership support is essential.
  • It takes a village.
"If you focus on the customer, it changes the tenor of the conversation that you have with people."

Thanks, Mary! Great job. Good luck with your continued journey.

#CXPA13 Day One Live Blog: Joe Wheeler, The Service Profit Chain Institute

The Customer Experience Professionals Association annual Member Insight Exchange kicks off this morning in San Diego, CA, at the Hotel del Coronado.

The next session I'll be sharing is by Joe Wheeler, Executive Director of The Service Profit Chain Institute. I last heard Joe speak about 10 years ago, and he's always got great stories. Looking forward to hearing his presentation, which is titled, "Just Tell Me What You Are Feeling! – Uncovering the Actual Emotions of Your Most Valued Customers."

Joe Wheeler will be announcing a new capability that The Service Profit Chain Institute will be launching July 1, 2013. There are great tools for automating customer experience mapping and enterprise feedback, but we're missing tools to map emotions. The new tool with use facial recognition to read the emotions of your customers.

"The truth is, what makes a brand powerful is the emotional involvement of customers." -Charlotte Beers

The Service Profit Chain Institute has a six-step process for how they work with clients called the Customer Experience Workout. They built a platform to simplify.

Business Case
Define the potential financial gain to be achieved by improving the customer experience.

Engage colleagues, key stakeholders, subject matter experts, and customers in the work of improving the customer experience.

Leverage mobile devices to capture insights and media about the customer experience at key touchpoints.

Uses leading edge facial expression technology to capture the emoitnoal repsonse of customers to potential improvements in the experience.

Applying Experience Blueprints that translate new design strategies into operational, product/service, and behavioral changes in the experience.

A simple dashboard that links to the organization's existing customer measurement system.

A Proven Process: Seven Principles of Customer Experience Design
1. Experience design starts with Leadership Alignment:
  • Understand the current experience
  • Define the brand platform
  • Design the customer experience
  • Deliver to exceed customer expectations
  • Measure to continuously improve and innovate
2. Establishing the Business Case:
  • Start with the results
  • What would the experience look like to achieve those results
  • Establish baseline for key segments
  • Conduct sensitivity analysis specific to customer behaviors
  • Determine costs assocated with influencing customer behaviors
  • Calculate the NPV from each customer experience improvement
3. Map the Current Experience:
  • Define the touchpoints
  • Describe the customers' actions at each touchpoint, add photos and rich media to elaborate
  • What is the customer thinking or feeling during this experience
Finalize the draft of the experience map, and then involve your customers

4. Define the Brand Platform

Brand position: what the brand stands for.
Brand promise: the unique value that is delivered.
Experience theme: the unifying cues that bring to life the brand promise and evoke the emotions we want the customer to experience.

If you don't pay attention to your theme, to the cues, you can crush your brand.

What is your "Central Narrative?" The story that the customer is telling about them and you. Do you know what story your customers are telling about your brand?

5. Design the Customer Experience

6. Deliver to Exceed Customer Expectations

7. Measure to Continuously Improve and Innovate

Thanks, Joe, lots of great tips and advice. Good luck with the new platform launch!

#CXPA13 Day One Live Blog: Carol Buehrens, ICW Group, Customer Journey Mapping

The Customer Experience Professionals Association annual Member Insight Exchange kicks off this morning in San Diego, CA, at the Hotel del Coronado.

The next session I'll be sharing is one that I'm moderating for Carol Buehrens of ICW Group. She'll be sharing best practices from her experience mapping the journey for ICW Group's customers. ICW Group is an insurance company that sells through individual brokers. The brokers are their customers.

Customer Journey Maps: The Pathway to Exceptional Customer Experiences

Customers are experiencing your company through people, processes, etc. Customers interact with various departments in the organization, but your departments don't know who your customers are. Suffice it to say that your departments and your experiences are silo'd. How do we overcome that?

Customers have experiences with your company, but do you know who they are?  That's where customer journey mapping comes in.

Journey maps help you capture the customer experience from the strategic viewpoint at a variety of touchpoints. They help you identify touchpoints and find opportunities for improvement. Most importantly, they allow you to map your customers' emotions, too.

Journey maps are comprised of phases, and each phase is comprised of a bunch of touchpoints: mail, support line, whitepapers, account manager conversations, etc.

"Emotions are the foundations for experiences."

When creating a journey map, start with a strawman version of the map, but you know there is a lot more going on under the water! To help you create your high-level journey map, Carol provided a template and an interview guide in her handouts/workbook. The interview guide has 15 questions to help get the conversation started.

Customer journey mapping traps:
  • Wear the customer hat! The journey map is developed from the customer viewpoint.
  • Watch out for the sharp barbs, e.g., "dumb customers." Great opportunity for associates to learn to wear the customer hat.
  • Do not put internal process flows on your customer journey map. There can be a separate map, a process map. The focus on the customer journey map is on the customer.
 Insights from ICW Group's customer journey mapping exercise:
  • New agents are most expensive; they're hands-off and not really doing anything yet.
  • New agents spent 35 hours of effort for one customer, which involved communications, building relationships, and training
Why customer journey mapping:
  • They expose experiences and issues in a visual format.
ICW Group's goals with this effort:
  • Keep the magical star stuff – they examined what their stars were doing: their communications, their voice, their ideas.
  • They wanted consistent messages throughout the journey, to help avoid the confusion agents reported.
  • They knew, from looking at “stars," that this process could be streamlined and much more efficient. They wanted to shave the process down by half.
  • The information they supplied agents needed to be concise and helpful. It needed to add value to the process.
  • That means they needed to develop supporting materials: training guides, brochures, flyers, and other collateral.
  • And, the entire process needed to be clearly branded, so that it was memorable and stood out against their competition.
Their results:

  • Journey mapping provided a strategic view of what their customers were experiencing.
  • It helped them identify weaknesses, long processes, and gaps in their service.
  • It brought several groups together in order to work on improving their customer’s experiences.
Which means:
  • They were able to provide a fun, creative solution (e-cards) that everyone enjoys.
  • The big news – they reduced their own internal efforts from 35 hours down to 5 hours!
And enjoyed a savings of $2,250,000!

Lessons learned:
  • Find what Journey Mapping technique works for you at your company.
  • Use the CX Toolkit that Carol provided.
  • Customize your own toolkit.
  • Always stay focused on your customer, and look for opportunities to provide your customers the WOW factor.
  • Remember to identify your customers emotions, motivations, and expectations.
  • Keep plugging away!
Sage advice. Thanks, Carol!

#CXPA13 Day One Live Blog: Keynote Tom Feeney, CEO, Safelite AutoGlass

The Customer Experience Professionals Association annual Member Insight Exchange kicks off this morning in San Diego, CA, at the Hotel del Coronado.

Our first keynote speaker this morning is Tom Feeney, CEO of Safelite AutoGlass. His presentation, "The Road to Success Through People," is about how Safelite overcame difficult financial conditions to become the dominant auto glass repair company in the country by relentlessly focusing on employees and customers.

Tom kicked off his session by saying that he believes that they have not yet even begun to tap into the greatness within Safelite. Three takeaways he hopes we'll leave with from his presentation:
  1. Some of the operational changes around feedback and measurement
  2. Lessons learned over time on strategy of putting people first, which positions Safelite for the next transformation of the organization in 2013.
  3. When you put people first, you can correlate to business results.
They operate in a negative services industry, those industries that you don't think of until you need them. They operate in a low need, low involvement, and low awareness world. But when you do need them, you hope they remember your jingle, remember you. Tough business to be in.

"Delighting customers when they have to have the experience is the ticket to revenue growth."

Creating customer loyalty during the experience is a ticket to referrals, but it's a long, hard journey.

Safelite Transformation Journey

First chapter of transformation journey: people first
Vision: To become the "natural choice" for vehicle glass replacement and repair services in the United States, where natural choice means to be the one and only company a customer thinks of when they have broken auto glass.

Two important pillars in the roadmap: employees and customers.In the past, Safelite was operationally focused and put shareholders first. To make the change to a customer-driven organization, who comes first: their people come first.

Safelite's Objective for first stage of transformaion: driving performance with an obsessive focus on talented people inspired to deliver great results.

People first means: leadership, caring, talent, focus. But they needed more detail around that, so they came up with their People Pledge.

Safelite's People Pledge:
  • You'll experience great leadership
  • We focus on you first
  • We hire top talent...that includes you
  • You'll work in a caring culture
Striving for a culture where people are inspired to achieve because they want to, not because they have to.

But leaders must walk the talk! "Leaders are expected to cast a positive shadow."

Safelite uses NPS as their key metrics because the best way for them to get new business is through referrals. For NPS to truly work for Safelite, it must be more than a score - rather a way of life, part of their DNA.

To transition to NPS, they had to change their vocabulary, from "customer satisfaction" to "customer delight." Satisfaction is just not good enough any more. They must turn the ordinary into the extraordinary, to differentiate their service. But they also had to have the people to deliver this service. "Delight" is a powerful word and really kicked off a transformation in how their people delivered service.

Employees don't mind if you raise the bar, as long as they are involved in the decision and get recognition for doing good things.

Customer Delight Lessons
  • Leadership training is just as important as field training. 
  • Spread the "best to the rest" (share best practices in peer-to-peer training)
  • Measure and communicate at the individual level
  • Align awards and compensation with desired behavior
  • Celebrate successes
For "best to the rest," they engage in "boot to boost to boot camp." Low performers go to boot camp, where top performers share best practices and teach what they do. Then everyone attends "boost" for further training across the board. And finally, top performers are then brought into boot camp again.

Their philosophy in celebrating successes: "over-recognize, over-celebrate... but be authentic about it. Otherwise, you will lose your organization."

Three key metrics told them when they were ready to move to the next level of transformation: employee engagement scores, NPS, sales and profits.

The higher the level of employee engagement leads to higher business results/performance. It's millions of dollars on the bottom line, without raising prices, cutting costs, or acquiring new business.

Their NPS moved 14 points in five years, which Tom attributes to:
  • People first
  • Changing vocabulary from "satisfaction" to "delight"
  • Creating a belief in associates that they have greatness within them
  • Following their roadmap for cultural transformation
Second chapter of transformation journey: customer driven
Second stage of transformation: moving from operationally-focused to customer-driven organization. New vocabulary from "people first" to "people powered" and "customer driven."

Most transformations are "evolution" and not "revolution." Safelite is evolving as a company and transforming along the way.

The difference between "people first" and "people powered."
  •  "People first" became about me; "people powered" is about the organization.
New objective: drive business performance by putting people first and having an obsessionve focus on having talented people who are inspired to deliver great results. Through...
  • Engagement
  • Talent
  • Leadership development
Customer-driven means to achieve extraordinary results by looking at the business through they eyes of the customer, making us easy to do business with, and ensuring their experience is memorable.

Four elements to a customer-driven strategy:
  • Listen
  • Focus
  • Delight
  • Create
A critical piece of this part of the transformation: change how you think and change the priority of your thoughts.

"Individuals can delight customers, but it takes an entire organization to be customer driven."

A key part of being customer driven is being memorable. This is their associate's pledge: Service so great... it's memorable

60 days in, they have found that this is creating a sense of purpose for their jobs. It will likely be a huge part of increasing engagement, as it leads to greater pride in their jobs.

Why is memorable better than delight? "Memories are important because they last." If you remember the experience, that leads to referrals, which are critically important to Safelite business.

"No matter where you are on your journey, there is always a customer waiting to be amazed."

Friday, May 10, 2013

Customer Experience Lessons from Mom

Image courtesy of Pixabay
In honor of Mother's Day this weekend, I thought this was a fitting time to share some customer experience lessons from Mom. 

It's been a while since I've done a "Customer Experience Lessons from..." post. I enjoy writing them, so I'll be doing more of them real soon.

As I'm writing my blog, I often weave in stories about my kids - lessons I've taught them or conversations we've had that seem to apply equally to this world of customer experience. Time to put them all together in one place. So here goes...

If you ignore him, he'll go away.

Yup, if you ignore your nagging brother so he doesn't get a rise out of you, then he'll go away. Guess what? If you ignore your customers, nagging or not, they'll go away, too!

Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

The Golden Rule. Clearly, this is the one secret ingredient to a great customer experience. This should be the first sentence in every new-hire training manual.

If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything. 
You get more flies with honey than with vinegar.

These two get to the same point. Choose your words wisely. Be polite. Be kind. Be respectful. This is an important rule to follow when it comes to how to interact and communicate with your customers. And this might be a good time to add that bashing your competitors is not a marketing strategy.

Look both ways before crossing the street.

This one might seem odd, but I think it applies well here. The street is your journey, the both ways you'll want to look: at your customers and at your employees. Both experiences are important to the success of the business.

Actions speak louder than words.

Don't pay lip service to improving the customer experience and never do it. Don't apologize for a service failure and then refuse to correct the issue. If you say you're going to do it, do it. Better yet, just do it - then you don't have to say it.

If your friends jump off a cliff, will you jump, too?

Just because your competitors do something a certain way doesn't mean you need to. Just because it works for your competitors does not mean it is suitable for you. Everyone wants to model Zappos, but you can't be Zappos. Your organization and your culture is different; we can learn a lot of Zappos, but we cannot replicate their culture within our organizations. Why not innovate and offer some new approaches to products, services, and your customer experience. What makes your brand unique?

If you make a promise, keep it.

Your brand promise is, well, a promise to your customers. Everything you do should reflect this promise. Consistency is key. It sets expectations and defines the benefits customers can expect to receive when they engage in your services or use your products, when they experience your brand.

Don’t slouch; sit up straight.

This one is simple: presentation is everything. Dress well. Make sure your facilities are clean. Here's a great example: send your plumbers out clean shaven and smelling good, a la Mike Diamond.

It doesn’t matter who started it, you end it.

Don't argue with your customers. The customer isn't always right, but you must always do right by the customer. You'll gain way more by doing right than by arguing and blaming.

Work it out; I'm not going to fight your battles for you.

Empower your frontline or customer-facing staff to resolve issues - on their own. Consider Ritz-Carlton. They allow employees to spend up to $2,000 to make a situation right with a customer, without having to get it blessed by a supervisor first.

Answer me when I ask you a question!
 Look at me when I'm talking to you!

I'll combine these two because they have similar implications - namely, when there's a customer standing in front of you, he should be the only thing you're focusing on. When a customer asks a question, submits a query, or needs help, answer him. Be timely and responsive. Ever heard of "the 10 and 5 rule?" When a customer is 10 feet away, acknowledge him with a wave or a smile; at 5 feet away, say, "Hello."

Money does NOT grow on trees.

This is true. Money doesn't grow on trees. And there's no other way your business will survive if it scares away its only source of money: customers. Customers pay the bills.

You have an answer for everything, don't you?

Good, bad, or indifferent, sometimes you need to just be quiet and listen.

"I don't know" is not an answer.

If you don't know the answer, go find out. Customers don't want non-answers.

Is that a promise or a threat?

Mean what you say. Say what you mean.

What's the magic word?

Always say "please" and "thank you." Especially "thank you." Never forget to thank your customers for their business.

There are a lot more, but this blog post can only be so long! One of the things my mom said a lot when I was younger was, "You need that like you need a hole in your head." Still makes me laugh today. Wish I could have worked that in here somehow!

What sage advice has your mom given you that you've been able to apply at work every day?

Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Could Your Online Reputation Be Driving Customers Away?

Image courtesy of theloushe
Today I am pleased to present a guest post by Debbie Allen.

Business owners are forced to take notice of things that affect their sales. Whether the impact is positive or negative, evaluating the impact allows a business person to understand how to help keep the business running more smoothly.

Not surprisingly, a business’s online reputation can play a major role in its success or in its collapse. The reality is, customers pay attention to the things they read and hear about a company. If your business’s online reputation is less than positive, it could be driving away customers.

Cleaning Up Your Company’s Online Reputation

Social Media Sites
Reputation management is an ongoing task. Business owners should take the time to regularly monitor comments and feedback about their company at social media sites.

According to a survey by eMarketer, almost half of all consumers expect customer service complaints to be resolved on social media sites. Many consumers consider this method more convenient than calling customer service departments. When businesses ignore these complaints, customers and would-be customers become alienated. In addition, other followers at the social media site will see that a complaint has been left unaddressed. This is unprofessional and disrespectful to the person with the complaint. In general, not responding to comments, feedback, and complaints can create a negative image of the business.

Online Review Sites
According to a study by Nielsen, when it comes to trust value, online reviews are second only to word-of-mouth recommendations for consumers. In other words, consumers value online reviews more highly than TV commercials or online banner ads. With that in mind, monitoring what is being said about your business on online review sites is very important. It’s a fact that unhappy customers are more likely to write reviews than those who are satisfied. Cleaning up negative reviews begins with responding to the person(s) that submitted the less-than-favorable comments. Besides working to resolve the problem with the unhappy customer, it is also a good idea to encourage satisfied customers to leave reviews about their experiences.

Google It
Every business owner should take the time to regularly Google the name of the business. Search results will probably include the business website, various business listings, social media profiles, listings at review sites, and other online mentions. Most people do not search past the first or second page of results. With that in mind, it is not too difficult to bury any negative results found (but that doesn't mean they should be ignored). Savvy business owners create new, appropriately optimized content, which will quickly move up in search engine rankings.

Reputation management is key to the success of your business.
The reputation of a new and developing business may seem unimportant or nonexistent. However, every business has a reputation of sorts, and it can take years to establish a solid reputation of integrity and honesty. Sadly, without careful reputation management, that reputation can quickly be crushed.

Whereas a positive reputation can definitely help ensure the success of a business, a negative reputation can lead to its demise. With that in mind, taking steps to build and maintain a stellar reputation is an essential part of business management.

Debbie Allen is a professional freelance writer and blogger who specializes in online marketing strategies and topics of interest to women.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Longest and Hardest 9 Inches in Employee Engagement

Image courtesy of 9 INCH Marketing
I love the concept behind Stan Phelps' 9 INCH Marketing; the name refers to the average distance between the brain and the heart of your customers and your employees. 

As Stan says: it's the longest and hardest 9" in marketing. At its core, the concept is all about winning the hearts and minds of your customers and your employees. In CX Journey speak, it's a long, slow journey for such a short distance.

Stan published his first book, What's Your Purple Goldfish, early last year to help with the customer mind-heart journey; about a month ago, he published What's Your Green Goldfish to help with that mind-to-heart employee journey. I would recommend getting your hands on both books!

Today, I want to focus on What's Your Green Goldfish. I was excited to read the book because I was really starting to think that there are just too few companies focusing on the employee experience. This book gave me hope. Trust me - there are many more companies out there that have their work cut out for them in this area, but these 1,001 examples of how companies take care of their employees are refreshing!

The Green Goldfish book is filled with a lot of great ideas and approaches to understanding employee engagement, but I like that Stan carries the 9 INCH theme through this book. He outlines the 9" between the head and the heart of the employee and gives examples for every inch along the journey. As I read about each of the nine inches, I couldn't help but think of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Check these out and see if you agree. (Note: Stan sent me a preview copy of the book; the final version may have different names or different orders to the 9 inches than what I've outlined below.)

Stan calls the first three inches "The Basics," defined as creating a stable environment.

First Inch: Onboarding/Food and Beverage
Make a solid first impression with your employees. Get onboarding right and get your new hires started off on the right foot. Stan says that less than 25% of companies have a formal onboarding process.

Second Inch: Shelter and Wellness
Your workspace, your physical environment, where you work - these are all important to moving to the second inch of the journey. In addition, supporting healthy living and healthy behavior results in healthy, happy, productive employees.

Third Inch: Time Away and the Modern Family
Having time off is key, but in the States, we have the fewest number of days off work every year. Typically, full-time employees get two weeks, plus maybe 10 holidays throughout the year. Here's the problem: many of us don't even take what we get. As David Murphy of North Face said: "Vacation days are like aspirin; they only work if you take them."

The other component of the third inch is the needs of the modern family; this doesn't just refer to same-sex couples but also to spending time with family, caring for elderly parents or ill family members. Companies who support all of these scenarios are well ahead of the pack.

Stan refers to these next three inches as "Belonging," defined as enabling high-functioning teams and recognizing their efforts.

Fourth Inch: Retirement and Flexibility
Flexible work arrangements improve satisfaction and productivity. I can speak to that. I work from home, and I always say that I get more done in six hours at home than in 10 hours in the office. I love working from home.

As for retirement, both matching and contributing along with retirement planning services help to prepare employees for the "after life."

Fifth Inch: Team Building and Transparency
Being part of a team and feeling connected to those you work with, all working to achieve a common goal, is critical to employee engagement. Working in an open, transparent environment toward that goal is even better.

Sixth Inch: Attaboys and Attagirls
Without a doubt, recognition for your work gives you that sense of accomplishment and belonging. We feel like we've added value, while at the same time, it boosts our own sense of worth.

Stan calls the last three inches "Building," which he describes as empowering employees to learn, give back, and take control of their destinies.

Seventh Inch: Training and Development
Wouldn't you be excited about working for a company that helps you (or wants you to) grow as an individual and as an employee? That includes both in-house and external training, as well as tuition reimbursement. Both companies and employees benefit from this leg of the journey, where companies truly invest in their employees.

Eighth Inch: Giving Back and Paying It Forward
Making it easy for employees to give back, pay it forward, and offer up their time to serve those in need certainly shows that the company cares about humanity, in general.

Ninth Inch: Empowering Dreams and Goals
Stan describes this final inch of the journey as enabling employees to do their best. Help them find their way, support them with training and resources, and then step aside so they can do what they need to do.

Grab a copy of the book. It's fun to read what companies are doing for their employees, and it will give you some ideas that you can probably easily implement (while other examples require a bit of heavy lifting) within your organization.

Love this quote from the book by Google's Chief People Officer Laszlo Bock when ask why Google sets the gold standard for taking care of customers:

"It turns out that the reason we're doing these things for employees is not because it's important to the business, but simply because it's the right thing to do. And from a company standpoint, that makes it better to care than not to care."

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Jeff Bezos Gets Customer Experience - But What About Employee Experience?

Two weeks ago, I wrote a post about Jeff Bezos' latest shareholder letter and his commitment to, or obsession with, his customers. One of the responses I got to that post was from Micah Solomon, who suggested that it would be equally valuable to review how Amazon treats its employees.

In response to Micah's note, one of the things I looked at was the situation at Amazon's Lehigh Valley warehouse, where employees were subjected to unbearable working conditions in the heat of the summer. Conditions were so bad that people were taken away in ambulances to receive medical attention for dehydration, heat exhaustion, and more. The Morning Call, a Lehigh Valley newspaper, has kept tabs on Amazon employees in the area and how they are treated; they have a section of their site devoted to stories about Amazon.

While those events occurred in 2011, as recently as February of this year, there was an issue with the way employees were being treated in Germany. A similar story comes from a British warehouse.

The issues reported in Lehigh Valley, Britain, and Germany occurred with warehouse (fulfillment center) employees. A factor to consider in these scenarios is that vendor partners were involved, whether it was to provide the talent or the security. This begs the question, does Amazon not appropriately vet its partners? Is Amazon responsible for the experience these partners provide? Yes.
  • Amazon has a responsibility to contract with reputable partners who treat their employees well - and who provide services that meet Amazon's standards.
  • If Amazon doesn't hold their partners to their own standards, then they are as culpable as the partner.
In an e-commerce world, is employee experience as important to customer experience as it is in a physical, brick-and-mortar retail world? On its own, yes, the employee experience is always important. But thinking of the impact on customer experience, in a world where human interaction is really limited to a rare customer service call (I've never called Amazon, though I've been a customer for a long time), service that is often circumvented by proactive systems and great policies... what then? Note this:
  • Employee experience is always important! 
  • Employee experience, frontline or behind the scenes, always drives customer experience. 
  • Employee experience unleashes passion and innovation that creates that wonderful customer experience. 
  • For those employees that can't see it, make the connection to help them understand their impact on the customer experience, of course!
But I digress...

I reviewed Amazon's shareholder letters from 1997 through 2012. Mr. Bezos doesn't devote much time to the employee experience in these letters, but he does talk about hiring and hiring the right people. I appreciate that and have no qualms about that, but just like customer acquisition is expensive, so is employee acquisition; hence, heavy focus should be place on retention.

Here's a smattering of what he's said about employees over the years in his shareholder letters:

1997: The past year's success is the product of a talented, smart, hard-working group, and I take great pride in being a part of this team. Setting the bar high in our approach to hiring has been, and will continue to be, the single most important element of's success.

It's not easy to work here (when I interview people I tell them, “You can work long, hard, or smart, but at you can't choose two out of three”), but we are working to build something important, something that matters to our customers, something that we can all tell our grandchildren about. Such things aren't meant to be easy. We are incredibly fortunate to have this group of dedicated employees whose sacrifices and passion build 

1998: It would be impossible to produce results in an environment as dynamic as the Internet without extraordinary people. Working to create a little bit of history isn’t supposed to be easy, and, well, we’re finding that things are as they’re supposed to be! We now have a team of 2,100 smart, hard-working, passionate folks who put customers first. Setting the bar high in our approach to hiring has been, and will continue to be, the single most important element of’s success.

During our hiring meetings, we ask people to consider three questions before making a decision
(I've abbreviated):
  • Will you admire this person?
  • Will this person raise the average level of effectiveness of the group they’re
  • Along what dimension might this person be a superstar?
 ... We intend to invest in teams, processes, communication and people development practices. ...

Can you believe it? In 15 years of letters, that's it. Technically, he repeats this message when he adds the 1997 letter to each year's letter, but that's not the same thing. He does briefly acknowledge and thank the employees for their hard work in a few letters, but it's nothing more than half a sentence or a word acknowledging the employees in the same breath as processes and systems. Keep in mind, he does a fabulous job of verbalizing his obsession with customers and the customer experience. I don't want to take away from that. You can just feel it when you read the letters. But...  employees are important, too.

He talks about hiring, which is really important, but what about the things Amazon is doing for its employees after their Day One? What's the culture? According to Jeff Bezos: "Our culture is friendly and intense, but if push comes to shove, we’ll settle for intense." Define intense.

What do employees say about working at Amazon? For that, go to Glassdoor and Indeed for employee reviews. Glassdoor ratings are average, but I think if we cut those reviews by role and/or by country, they will vary greatly. My unscientific review proved to fit that hypothesis. Indeed offers forums for people to ask questions about working conditions, etc., and this particular string about Amazon's culture shows that Fulfillment Center employees have no kind words about working conditions; even a developer has some harsh words, but closes with:

"Some of this might sound harsh but the fact is that most of us love what we do - we're always creating new and awesome things, get to see our work in the wild and feed off of each others enthusiasm and energy. The technical side of Amazon is not for everyone but if you're passionate and good at what you do, have had some measure of success and are a alpha-type personality, you'll do fine. In fact, there is quite a bit of attention put on hiring to make sure you fit all these criteria because, like I said, Amazon is definitely not for everyone."

Not for everyone.

Hiring the right people is key to delivering the right customer experience, but it's also important to achieving employee engagement and to having a great employee experience.

What does Amazon say about the employee experience? What do they tell recruits? Despite the fact that Jeff Bezos makes little mention over the years about the employee experience, Amazon does devote a few pages to what it's like working at Amazon, including their values, which they call Leadership Principles, and a page about Working at Amazon. This is a recruiting video about working at Amazon:

Is a relentless pursuit of customer experience excellence OK at any and all costs? Or is this what it means/takes to be "customer obsessed?" What do you think of their latest employee patent that "facilitates improvement in the results of human performance of tasks" but is apparently also about not paying people for unsatisfactory work?

I'd love to hear from Amazon employees. What's your take on the employee experience at Amazon?

To promote cooperation and team work, remember, people tend to resist that which is forced upon them. People tend to support that which they helped create. -Vince Pfaff