Thursday, January 30, 2014

An interview with Denise Lee Yohn, author of WHAT GREAT BRANDS DO

Do you know what great brands do?

I first met Denise Lee Yohn in person when she spoke at the inaugural CXPA SoCal Local Networking Event in the fall of 2012. She spoke about good brands and great brands, and likened the difference between the two to the difference between failure and success. Great brands reap so many benefits, including: increased sales, higher profit margins, lower costs, greater customer loyalty, and higher market valuation.

Earlier this week, Denise launched her book, What Great Brands Do: The Seven Brand Building Principles that Separate the Best from the Rest. I'm so excited for her to get her message out via this  larger platform. And I was honored to be able to ask her a few questions about the book and about her brand-as-business approach. I think you'll appreciate her approach.

With that, let's dive into the Q & A.

Q: Why did you write this book?
A: The value-creating potential of brands needs to be unleashed.  Too many companies waste their time, energy, and money on advertising and marketing their brands, only to have their efforts fall short.  I wanted to show a different way, a more effective, sustainable way, to build a brand – the way that great brands do it.

Q:  How did you develop the brand-as-business approach to brand-building?
A: For over twenty-five years, I’ve had the privilege of working on some of the world’s greatest brands, including Sony and Frito-Lay, and I’ve researched many others.  I discovered that the most valued and admired brands shared certain distinctive, defining characteristics.  In What Great Brands Do, I describe what I’ve learned and convey the tools and methods I’ve developed for my clients to help them achieve brand success.

Q: How is your approach different from traditional branding practices?
A: Most efforts involve creating an image to serve as the “face” of a company – creating a look and tagline to promote a business or launching a new advertising or social media campaign to reinvigorate it.  But these activities simply serve to express a brand; great brands execute their brands.  They elevate their brands from an external-facing message to a strategic tool for managing the business.  They use their brands to shape their culture, focus their core operations, and design their customer experiences. This brand-as-business approach has proven to be far more effective than “branding.”

Q: Why is the brand-as-business approach more important now than ever before?
A: Today’s consumers are very savvy, and they’re equipped with tools that enable them to see beneath a veneer that a company puts up, so image and reality must be closely aligned.  Also, in practically every sector, competition is intensifying and so companies must differentiate themselves in substantive ways and deliver real value to customers. Finally most business models no longer allow for discretionary spending, and shareholders don’t tolerate it, so advertising budgets are getting squeezed, but expectations for brand awareness and preference remain.  The solution to all of these pressures is an integral brand strategy.

Q: Are many companies taking this integrated approach? What is holding them back?
A: Too few companies have adopted it.  Some business leaders think of brands only in terms of messages and marketing tactics because that’s all they know.  Others are looking for a quick fix and would rather simply change what they say about themselves than change themselves.  Still others understand the full business value of a brand but lack the tools and methods to realize it.  This book intends to educate the first group, persuade the second, and equip the last.

Sidebar: I think this sums it up well: Others are looking for a quick fix and would rather simply change what they say about themselves than change themselves. This is when I say: actions speak louder than words. You can advertise all you want, but if the experience doesn't match the message, you've failed. With the Super Bowl coming up this weekend, and people watching it for the advertising as much as for the game, there's a real opportunity to convey a great message and to then actually follow it up with doing great things. Let's see how many succeed.

Q: Can you name a few companies that epitomize the brand-as-business approach, and why?
A: Starbucks has taken an integral approach to building its brand:  starting with making manager and barista engagement a top priority, fostering an emotional connection with customers, and delivering delightful experiences at every touchpoint. The Container Store also stands out for the way it has used its Foundation Principles to create a distinctive customer experience and align and focus everyone who works on the business on delivering it.

Q: Can you share an example of how your approach has produced real business results?
A: Higher profit margins, greater customer loyalty, and lower operating costs are enjoyed by many of the great brands mentioned in my book. One specific example of business results comes from Firehouse Subs, a fast casual sandwich chain. One of the tangible manifestations of its brand-as-business approach is the Public Safety Foundation through which the company donates funds and lifesaving equipment and provides disaster assistance and educational opportunities to public safety groups. Units that have engaged most actively in the Foundation have generated 28% higher sales performance than those that have not. Given results like this, Firehouse’s CEO credits the approach with putting the chain at the top of its category’s growth and performance.

Q: Who do you hope will read this book, and what can they expect to take away from it?
A: What Great Brands Do is for CEOs, COOs, entrepreneurs, and other leaders – people who have the responsibility – and the desire – to grow their organizations. The book challenges the conventional rhetoric about brands and teaches the essential brand-building principles and tools.

Thanks, Denise!

Note: Denise sent me the book, and I look forward to sharing my thoughts about it in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Transparency Leads to Well-Informed Participation

Image courtesy of pierluigi.ricci
Does your company operate with a culture of transparency? How transparent are your executives with employees, customers, shareholders?

There's a quote on Wikipedia that reads: For well-informed participation to occur, it is argued that some version of transparency, e.g. radical transparency, is necessary, but not sufficient. It's unattributed, but I've seen it a few times.

For what it's worth, I agree with it. If you want employees and customers to "participate." i.e., become engaged, work for you, and buy from you, it's important that they are well informed about the company, as well.

Transparency with employees fosters a culture of trust. When executives are transparent with employees, employees then follow suit with their own openness and communication.

With transparency also comes clarity. (Remember my post, What Happens in Vagueness Stays in Vagueness?) That assumes that executives communicate and are transparent about the right things, i.e., purpose, vision, values, brand promise, goals, expectations, etc. And that lays the foundation for your employees to deliver a great customer experience.

That's a good segue to talking about transparency with customers. I wrote about how a culture of transparency translates to great customer experiences. Why? Because companies that share information so that customers can make informed decisions about their products, brands, employment, etc. are more easily trusted. Customers can make informed decisions about whether they want to have a "relationship" with a company.

I won't belabor the points here, since I've written about transparency several times; feel free to read the posts linked above to read more of my views on transparency. But what I do want to share for the remainder of the post is an amazing and beautiful car factory in Germany.

You're probably thinking, "What on earth does that have to do with transparency? You've lost it, Annette. Four days in the heart of the Polar Vortex last week, and your brain has been frozen." Not quite.

That car factory is none other than the Transparent Factory in Dresden, Germany. Never heard of it? Neither had I. Until a couple months ago. It's the factory where Volkswagen's controversial luxury sedan, Phaeton, is built. It's called the Transparent Factory for both its obvious physical characteristics as well as its transparency of the production process. Take seven minutes to watch this video and to be impressed.

It's pretty amazing to watch! The building itself is fascinating - it's an architectural, engineering, and production dream come true. And I love how...
  • the concerns of the community were addressed when the factory was built, .e.g., the CarGo Tram that brings materials into the factory;
  • customers get to watch their cars being built or even help to build their cars; they're invited to pick up their cars at the factory;
  • tourists can come in and watch, and visitors can use several virtual displays to test drive and to design their own dream cars; and
  • employees benefit not only from technology that simplifies the car building process but also from the materials used to build the factory; for example, the Canadian maple floors are said to reduce worker fatigue, and indirect lighting is used to reduce eye strain.
They've even taken measures to keep the birds from flying into the glass! They built an outdoor speaker system that speaks in "bird language" and lets birds know that this spot is taken.

Volkswagen's Christian Haacke says: People in the Saxony region carry a special engineering gene in their hearts and minds. It took a lot of time and patience for locals to be convinced this was a good idea, but for us, transparency was a metaphor. We had to be truly credible to the bone.

It seems there's a great experience for everyone: neighbors, community, employees, and customers. This is definitely transparency in action!

Eyes so transparent that through them the soul is seen. -Theophile Gautier

Thursday, January 23, 2014

15 Competencies for Delivering Effective Social Customer Service

Image courtesy of Frau Holle
Have you been looking for an instruction manual that guides you through the trials and tribulations of implementing a social customer service strategy?

Look no further. Have I got a great book for you to read! I just finished Delivering Effective Social Customer Service: How to Redefine the Way You Manage Customer Experience and Your Corporate Reputation by Martin Hill-Wilson and Carolyn Blunt. Martin sent met the book a while back, and I'm excited that I finally had a chance to read it.

Martin and Carolyn do an excellent job of touching on a variety of topics to help you get on your way with developing and implementing your social customer service strategy. The book is an engaging read, and you'll find yourself thanking them both for writing it all down in one place!

One of the things that I found extremely helpful in the book is the framework they propose to create a roadmap for how you will execute on your strategy. They present the framework as an assessment that includes 15 competencies to deliver effective social customer service. You rate each competency on three criteria. It's a great resource and a smart exercise that you can do yourself or use with your team to begin the buy-in and alignment process.

The competencies include having...
  1. A social customer service strategy that fits into a broader service strategy and social media strategy.
  2. The right leadership and development model that optimizes our impact in social customer service.
  3. An effective way of listening to social mentions of our brand and can accurately categorize those that need a response.
  4. A level of integration between social and traditional that allows you to deliver the intended customer experience.
  5. The right people on the bus, as a result of knowing how to recruit, train, and manage social customer service teams.
  6. Alignment between social customer service competencies and traditional ones, e.g., culture, policy, infrastructure, SLAs, etc.
  7. A platform and channel mix that works for our customers and the markets they are in.
  8. A clearly mapped customer journey.
  9. Access to relevant customer service knowledge and using socially-sourced knowledge effectively.
  10. The ability to build and to access social interaction history.
  11. A level of readiness for unexpected volumes of social traffic.
  12. The right balance of metrics the reflect customer priorities and management priorities.
  13. SLAs that outperform the competition.
  14. An understanding of what works and doesn't work on social channels, based on customer feedback.
  15. The ability to learn from social interactions and track improvements.
I love that Martin and Carolyn go into some detail on each of the competencies, outlining why each one is important, issues and consequences of each, how to achieve quick wins, some follow-up action items, and a few additional tips. It's very comprehensive yet not unachievable.

The book also includes a chapter on using Facebook for social customer service and another one on best practices for using Twitter. There's also a great chapter on the legalities of social media, including a section on social media policies for your employees.

Here's a brief video from Martin to give you an idea of what the book is about and why it was written.

If you don't have a social customer service strategy in place, grab this book to help you understand why you need one and how to take that first step. 

Not yet convinced that you need to have a social customer service strategy? Know that there are some things that you need to do - must do - because customers expect them. Or as Scott Monty, Ford's Social Media Manager explains it (in response to social media getting a bad rap for ROI): What's the ROI of a TV commercial? What's the ROI of a press release? What's the ROI of putting your pants on every day? It's hard to measure, but there's negative consequences for not doing it. 

The good news is, the impact of social customer service is not one of those things that's hard to measure. But there are negative consequences for not doing it!

People don’t care how much you know, but they know how much you care by the way you listen. -Robert Conklin

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Actions Really Do Speak Louder Than Words

Image courtesy of caluwe
I originally wrote this post for Shep Hyken's blog on December 13, 2013. I've made some updates to the original.

It was Mark Twain who said, “Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often.” This has become my favorite saying, both with regards to customer experience and to life in general.

I've used this quote recently with my kids, and it's an important code to live by. It speaks to honesty, integrity, and trust. It's something that is just as important to your business and how you interact with them as it is to your friends and family and those relationships. As a matter of fact, if we raise our kids on this principle, perhaps they'll become a part of the solution and never have to question the intentions of businesses of the future. We can only hope.

Why do I bring this up now? I have a few examples that I want to share that, pardon the pun, speak volumes on this topic.

In October, Debbie Laskey wrote a blog post about an experience she had at Office Depot that was celebrating a grand opening; what struck me (and her) was the sign on the outside of the store; it states:

"NOW OPEN. Be a part of our new experience."

What exactly does that mean? It seems that sign would set an expectation that, perhaps, great things are in store. Based on Debbie's experience, Office Depot needs to work on various aspects of the experience, not the least of which is the employee training.

The sign reminds us that actions speak louder than words. If you have to say that you have a new experience, a great experience, or focus on your customers, then I'm suspicious. Just show me... don't tell me. And then disappoint.

Next, Bernadette Jiwa wrote a post around the same time that elicited the same response.  Her post takes a different angle, but it conveys the same message: "You can market all you want, but in the end it’s your intention, not your marketing that shines through. The truth is that people will know and that’s not a drawback, it’s an opportunity."

Don't tell me what you're going to do to try to make me love your brand, show me. Especially once you tell me, don't disappoint - or else, game over. Now you've lied to me; how am I supposed to trust you in the future?

Last year, I wrote about post titled What's Your Customer Effort (Score)? In it, I mention an example of an online shoe purchase I made. The retailer touted "Effortless Exchanges & Returns," but if you read my story, you'll see that it was nothing close to effortless. Just because you say it doesn't make it so.

Here's a different example. A few days ago, I saw a Blue Shield of California (BSC) commercial where they touted that they were named one of the world's most ethical companies for the second year in a row. What does that mean for the consumer? BSC was awarded for their ethical business practices, but how does that translate to the actual customer experience? Apparently the two are not entirely related, as they received an "about average" rating for overall experience in the latest J.D. Power and Associates rankings.

Customers have their own expectations, but when you influence or raise expectations as a result of your words, your marketing efforts, then you need to deliver.

Performance - Expectations = (Dis)Satisfaction

Last year, Shep broached this topic from a different angle, and I like his closing statement:  Actions do speak louder than words. And when the words make a promise or set an expectation, meeting and exceeding that expectation is the big step toward creating “Customer Amazement.”

Amen to that.

Talk doesn't cook rice.  -Chinese Proverb

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Half a Million Dollars Worth of Customer Experience

Image courtesy of Wikipedia
Today I'm pleased to present a guest post by James Lawther.

In the late 1960’s, Eric Clapton found a second hand Fender Stratocaster for sale in a guitar shop in London.  He paid £150 for it and gave it the nickname “Brownie.”

In 1970 he used Brownie to record “Leyla.”

If you were born in the 20th century, then chances are you know “Leyla;” it is one of the quintessential Rock anthems -- I hate Rock with a passion, and even I am word perfect.

In 1999, Christie’s in New York sold Brownie at auction.  It was expected to reach $100,000.  It sold for £497,000.  That is almost half a million dollars, a lot of money for a forty-year-old guitar, particularly one with a lot of miles on the clock.

Why does everybody rave about Stratocasters?
The Stratocaster is to electric guitars what McDonalds is to burgers.  Pete Townsend, Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, and Eric Clapton all played them.

So what is all the fuss about?

Leo Fender, the man who designed the Stratocaster, wasn’t a musician; he was an electrician who made amplifiers for a living. 

He designed the Stratocaster after listening to the problems that electric guitar players complained about.
  • The electric jack on a Stratocaster plugs into the front of the guitar, not the bottom; this makes it easier for the musician to connect it to an amplifier.
  • All six tuning pegs on a Stratocaster are on the top of the head (not three on the top and three on the bottom).  This makes it easy for the musician to tune it.
  • The Stratocaster has a characteristic curved body so that when it is being played it doesn’t dig painfully into the musician’s ribs.
Leo’s attention to detail didn’t just stop with the needs of the guitarist; he even went as far as to make the Stratocaster modular, so it is really easy for a repair man to fix it.

Image courtesy of TF28
The Stratocaster is a customer experience triumph
Is it surprising that after all that care and attention paid to customers' needs that the Stratocaster went on to be a massive commercial success and the choice of every aspiring Rock and Roll Legend?

If you listen to what your customers have to say - and then act on their advice - your business might just become legendary as well.

My first wife said, ‘It’s either that guitar (Strat) or me,’ you know – and I give you three guesses which one went. -Jeff Beck

James Lawther writes about customer service and business process improvement at  In his spare time he listens to Funk and Soul.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

B2B Customer Experience Management Best Practices

If you work for a B2B company, is customer experience still an important focus?

Yes, without a doubt! That question should never cross your lips! A customer experience management (CEM) strategy for B2B will be different from that for B2C, but it is, nonetheless, equally, if not more, important.

The focus shifts in B2B customer experience to the relationship between the account manager and the customer. "People buy from people" becomes the mantra here. (That can be good and bad.) That means that your account managers must be armed with all the right tools, data, and insights in order to deliver an experience that will ensure that he meets his business goals, which typically include: satisfaction, retention, acquisition, expansion, and referrals.

But the business overall has some motivators or goals, as well. And for a little more detail on that, I want to share some of the findings of ClearAction's 4th Annual Business-to-Business Customer Experience Management Best Practices Study - 2013. In the study, customers were asked about the  top three goals motivating B2B CEM, and the following were cited most often (in rank order by frequency of top mentions):
  • increase customer loyalty (i.e., share of budget)
  • increase retention (i.e., reduce churn/defections)
  • stronger competitive differentiation
  • increased revenue, increased profit
  • acquiring more profitable customers
  • increased market share
  • improved industry leadership position
It's great to have motivators, but are these actually achievable by focusing on the customer experience? Yes! The following are examples of B2B firms' greatest achievements when they pursued their #1 CEM goal.
  • $200M revenue increase in the last year as a result of taking action on customer feedback.
  • 35% growth rate over the past year due to Client Success layers with Sales.
  • 25% increase in NPS in the last year due to comment analysis and closed-loop activities.
  • 10% increase in project profit due to service excellence over the last year.
  • 20% increase in customer engagement over the last 3 years due to CEM technologies.
  • 5% increase in share of budget among buying customer base in the last year as a result of better account management.
  • Service recovery on low NPS saved a $500K account.
That all sounds great, but not everyone sees that kind of success. Respondents were asked about the five greatest obstacles to B2B CEM success, and these are the top mentions (listed by frequency of receiving a top ranking, i.e., #1).
  • Lack of executive sponsorship
  • Limited bandwidth of managers
  • Budget restrictions
  • Lack of CEM strategy
  • Difficulty correlating CEM to business results
  • Lack of cross-organization cooperation
Clearly, executive sponsorship is a major concern and inhibitor. How bad is it? Respondents were asked about their agreement with the following statements. Tell me what you think! We have our work cut out for us. Or it's time for some new executives!

Respondents were also asked about the importance of VOC relative to a few other items, and here are the findings. Looks like we have a lot of management personnel out there who think they know better than their customers, since 44% agree/totally agree that VOC is less important than management instincts.

I don't know about you, but that chart doesn't make me feel all warm and fuzzy.

At the beginning of the post, I mentioned that account managers are important to the B2B experience and relationship. In order for them to deliver a great experience, though, they must be equipped with the right tools to do so. When asked to rate how well respondents' companies conduct activities to center employees on customers, the results looked like this (listed by percent of respondents who indicated world-class or well-established):
  • Present customer feedback to all employees and execs (43%)
  • Expect action on survey results by owners of customer experience key drivers (40%)
  • Use customer metrics in performance reviews (36%)
  • Reward customer experience improvement by teams (27%)
  • Onboard all employees regarding customer experience programs (18%)
  • Align incentive pay to customer experience metrics (18%)
Most important to account managers as it relates to managing their day-to-day customer relationships are the first two. But from an overall culture of listening and of customer focus, they are all important.

The report is filled with a lot more findings and recommendations on how you can improve your B2B customer experience. Take a look - and feel free to share your own thoughts below.

Note: Lynn Hunsaker, ClearAction founder, shared the report with me last month.

The customer experience is the next competitive battleground. -Jerry Gregoire, CIO, Dell

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Customer Experience Optimization is a Round Trip

Mount Eolus, CO, USA 14,085' (4,293 m) | Photo by Joe Aldridge
Today I'm pleased to present a guest post from Sarah Simon.

This post marks another installment in Sarah's series on lessons from the high country.

What the Mountain Teaches
Mention the phrase “mountain climbing” and many people imagine a climber striking a “hero’s pose” on the summit of a peak.  Climbers look at these photos backed by an important piece of wisdom: Getting to the top is only half the challenge – you still have to get back down safely.  

Climbing isn’t just about the destination, the glory shot on the summit, it’s about the journey; and if you’re having a good day, that journey will be roundtrip.  Upon reaching the top, the trip is far from over.  That same mountain that pushed your abilities on the way up is going to push right back on the way down.  There’s no resting until you’re back at the trailhead, Jeep doors open, boots kicked off, pack stuffed in the cargo space, roundtrip complete.

Sometimes things get in the way of making it to the summit: Bad weather, tired or sick climbing partners, technical challenges beyond the team’s abilities.  This is the mountain’s way of saying: Not today, buddy, thanks for playing – come back and try some other time.  And even once that dream summit is attained, the goal achieved and the climber safely back home, new challenges present themselves.  Goals are set, met, and new objectives spring up where old objectives once stood.

To be a climber is to be an insatiable passenger on a relentless conveyor belt of self-imposed trials.  Finished all fifty USA state highpoints?  Stood on top of every Scottish Munro?  Climbed the world’s Seven Summits?  Congratulations – because a new challenge will blossom in your mind, demanding as much, if not more, of your focus, energy, and passion.

What This Means for CX / VoC
Improving the customer experience is not a linear, one-way trip.  Just like you can’t reach the top of a mountain and quit, you cannot make a one-time customer experience improvement and call things “fixed.”  Customer experience optimization is not a one-trick effort or one-year initiative.  It is a never-ending cultural change welling from deep within your organization; the smart practitioner knows her job is never complete. Customer experience isn’t about the summit - the destination - it’s about the journey toward a moving target. Improving the totality of your customer experience with your organization cannot rely on resting on your laurels or instigating a series of one-way trips.

Some goals will be missed, and you’ll need to try again to improve the customer experience.  Other goals will be attained, only to be replaced by new objectives to achieve. Customer experience optimization is a relentless pursuit of an evolving goal. A Customer Experience team needs to constantly re-measure the efficacy of their efforts and be on the lookout for new improvement opportunities as they emerge. This involves a never-ending cycle of listening to the customer to learn areas of strength and weakness, responding to feedback in ways that improve the experience, verifying the experience is actually improving, adjusting listening mechanisms as necessary, then starting all over again.

The Customer Experience team never really gets to sit back and call things “good” because today’s customer has more options and power than ever before.  To be a customer experience practitioner is to be an insatiable passenger on a relentless conveyor belt of self- and customer-imposed trials.  The payoff is happy and engaged customers, leading to an improved long-term bottom line, well worth the struggle.  Keep up the fight, roundtrip after roundtrip.  Celebrate too long on one summit, and watch the competition pass you by.

Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory. -Ed Viesturs

Sarah Simon is a career insights professional with 16 years of experience in the feedback industry. Specialties include VoC architecture, journey mapping, developing linkages to business performance, reduction of customer defection, results analysis and communication, with expert survey design skills.  She is the survivor of a botched early-generation "big data mining" operation and is happy to live to tell about it.  

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Your Customer Experience is Only as Strong as the Weakest Link

Image courtesy of Calsidyrose
Where are you on your customer experience (CX) journey? Well down the path? Just starting? Dreaming of the days when "customer experience" will become a conversation topic, never mind a priority?

Regardless of where you are, I believe a customer journey map is in your future. If you've never created one or have never even heard of one (your name wouldn't happen to be Barney Rubble, would it?), then some basics are in order.

What is a customer journey map? In simplest terms, it's a way to walk in your customer's shoes and chart his course as he interacts with your organization (channels, departments, touchpoints, products, etc.) while trying to fulfill some need or do some job.  It allows you to identify key moments of truth and to ensure that those moments are executed delightfully. The map is created from his viewpoint, not yours. It's not linear, and it's not static. But it is the backbone of your customer experience management efforts.

Consider for a moment you want to go to Starbucks to get a cup of coffee. Your journey is not as simple as "want coffee - get coffee" or "get coffee - drink coffee." No, there's more to it than that, but hold that thought for a moment.

Why do you need a customer journey map? I believe customer journey maps provide clarity for the organization. There are a ton of benefits, including (to name just a few):
  • getting organizational buy-in for customer focus and customer centricity
  • understanding your customer and his interactions with your organization
  • aligning the organization around a common cause
  • speaking a universal language (customer)
  • breaking down organizational silos
  • getting a single view of the customer
  • improving the customer experience
Is there a way that you can simply explain customer journey mapping to the folks within your  organization? Yes. I stumbled upon a video a couple months ago, and I've shared it with several people to do just that. Here's the video. (If you have issues viewing it, I've linked to it in the previous sentence and in the paragraph below.)

Remember the scenario about going to get coffee. In the video, Stanford outlines the journey to get coffee. While some of the initial steps in the coffee journey have nothing to do with the coffee shop, they are still important steps. Why? Well, there are many choices for coffee, so when your experience is so great that the customer doesn't mind walking the extra block or sitting through one more traffic light, you win.

The video clearly demonstrates how the journey for a job a customer needs to do - whatever it is - is not as simple as going from point A to point Z. There's point A and point B and point C and point D and more, perhaps even circling back to point C before going all the way to point Z. Mapping the journey forces you to think about all of those points and to learn how you are performing at each one. As they say, your experience is only as strong as your weakest link. Identify the point of failure. Fix it. Monitor it.

If you've never created a map, it's time to do it - and then show it to your executives. Help them understand the journey your customers are taking in order to do what they are trying to do. I wonder how many of the execs will be surprised?

If you've already created maps, then it's time to dust them off and update them.

Let's declare 2014 the Year of the Journey Map!

The journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. -Chinese Proverb


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Top 13 Posts to Kick Off a New Year of Great Customer Experience

Image courtesy of mandar_mulherkar
You know you're just as excited about diving in to all the good things 2014 has to offer as I am. Right? 

I think it'll be a year where we'll see major improvements in the customer experience. What?

I'm an optimist! Hey, when Chris Elliott starts writing about improved airline experiences, either we're in for some good times ... or the world is about to end!

Before we get too optimistic about this year, let's look back and see what everyone enjoyed reading and learning about last year.

Here are my top 13 posts of 2013, based on overall engagement. (I'm bummed to not include some of the posts I wrote late in the year, but those from earlier clearly had more time and exposure.)

The 12 Essentials of the Customer Experience
In this post, I recap the 12 essentials as detailed in Sean Van Tyne's and Jeofrey Bean's book, The Customer Experience Revolution, from executive commitment through continuous improvement.

Jeff Bezos is a CX Dream Come True!
You've experienced it. As recently as the Christmas Delivery Debacle of 2013, you saw that Amazon is customer-focused and exemplifies a customer-centric culture. I outline 12 characteristics of that culture in this post.

Customer Service or Customer Experience?
This post answers the question: Are they the same? Hint: The answer is "No."

A Ton of Scary #CustExp Quotes and Stats
I scoured the web for quotes and stats that ought to scare even the worst skeptics and change their minds about the importance of a great customer experience.

31 Henry Ford Quotes about Leadership and Customer Experience
People love quotes, and Henry Ford is well known for saying some things that are both inspirational and purely spot-on business tips.

American Airlines Responds - Sorta
The Modernization of American Airlines
Wow. Remember this story? American Airline modernizes its brand, i.e., a new look and feel, and claims it's all about a new and better experience for travelers. Do you feel like the overall experience with American is better today than it was a year ago?

Customer Experience: Humans vs. Technology
Without a doubt, this is a discussion that will continue well into the future: Can technology replace humans to provide a better customer experience?

The 15 Senses of a Great Customer Experience
In this post, I outlined some other senses that come into play to create and deliver a great customer experience.

Employee Engagement Strategy? Nay! Leadership Strategy!
I continue on with my quest to educate that employee engagement is not a strategy. What we should be talking about is a leadership strategy. While employee engagement is a two-way street, what leadership can do is create the right conditions to allow employees to become engaged.

14 Brand Trends of 2014
I've outlined the brand trends that Brand Keys proposes for 2014; the list covers a pretty broad spectrum of what lies ahead. Read, rinse, and repeat.

"Sucking Less" is Not a #CX Strategy
This one led to a pretty interesting exchange on CustomerThink, and I'm glad that it got people thinking and debating. If you suck the least in your industry, is that the same as offering the best experience possible for your customers? And is that OK as a customer experience strategy?

14 Ways to Protect Your Brand
This was the final installment of my thoughts on the Starbucks experience and their issues that lead to inconsistencies from store to store. I give my thoughts on how retailers (especially those who license or franchise) can protect their brands and the customer experience.


What are my takeaways (other than: readers like blog posts with lists)? We have our  work cut out for us! And it's not just in one area - but in many.

Where do I think we're headed in 2014? I believe the omnichannel customer experience will be the focus (or dare I say, "buzzword"). But again, that means not focusing on just that one thing - it means focusing on all of the pieces of the customer experience puzzle and getting them right. Being able to deliver a great omnichannel experience is a major undertaking. Before we can get omnichannel right, we need to be able to get one channel right (you know what I mean, get the basics right); otherwise, we're just rolling out something supremely bad for the sake of saying "we do omnichannel."

Good luck!

Happy New Year! Best wishes for a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2014.

There are three kinds of people: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened. -Nicholas Butler Murray