Thursday, May 29, 2014

#CX Inspiration from Maya Angelou

Image courtesy of Muneeb Ahmad
How much do you love Maya Angelou's stories, poems, and quotes?

It was a sad day yesterday when the world lost Maya Angelou. I've quoted her a few times in my blog posts, including one featuring a Union Bank commercial about what it means to do right. But today is all about her - her quotes, especially those that are relevant to customer experience - that inspired so many people.

Here are some of my favorites, with the first one probably being the most notable in this space.

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.

If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain.

All of us knows, not what is expedient, not what is going to make us popular, not what the policy is, or the company policy - but in truth each of us knows what is the right thing to do. And that's how I am guided.

If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.

Try to be a rainbow in someone's cloud.

You are the sum total of everything you've ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot - it's all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.

All great achievements require time.

If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love.

I think we all have empathy. We may not have enough courage to display it.

Whatever you want to do, if you want to be great at it, you have to love it and be able to make sacrifices for it.

We can learn to see each other and see ourselves in each other and recognize that human beings are more alike than we are unalike.

I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.

Nothing will work unless you do.

You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don't make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can't take their eyes off of you.

When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.

Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.

When you know better you do better.

... and finally...

I've learned that I still have a lot to learn.

That one speaks to my mantra that the customer experience is a journey. And we're learning and evolving along the way.

What are your favorite Maya Angelou quotes?

The need for change bulldozed a road down the center of my mind. -Maya Angelou

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

19 Signs Customers Are Just Not That Into You

Image courtesy of leonard cillo
Have you ever wondered, where did all the customers go?

Gosh, let's hope not! But stick with me here. Do you constantly scratch your head about lost customers, wondering where they went and why? Is acquiring new customers becoming a challenge?

I thought I'd have a little fun - along with a lot of seriousness - and list some signs that you might watch for ahead of time to figure out when customers (existing or prospective) just aren't that into you (any more). And when, perhaps, it's just not a good fit.

So, here they are: 19 signs customers aren't that into you - ever or any more.

No public displays of affection (PDA). They've stopped writing reviews about how much they love doing business with you, and they don't recommend you to their friends any more.

You're not friends on social media. They no longer follow you (or never have) on Twitter, Facebook, or any other social media platform.

They talk about their exes. They start comparing you to companies they've previously done business with: Company X used to do this or that for me; Company Y doesn't.

They talk to their exes. They start considering companies with which they've previously done business. Was it too painful? Is it worth going back there?

The conversation is one-sided. You send messages, have sales, offer discounts, advertise, and share on social media. There is no reciprocation; they don't respond or interact.

You make all the plans. There's no give and take. It feels like a forced relationship, like you're willing your customers to do business with you.

They have a roving eye. Customers start looking at other options in the marketplace. Is there better service? Are there better products, offers, etc.?

They don't introduce you to friends or family. Clearly you're not worthy of being introduced into the inner circle.

Three's a crowd. They always bring a friend along. When it's time to renew their contracts, they go out to RFP instead of just giving you the business.

Fear of commitment. Either that's an inherent fear in the customer, that they just don't commit to a brand, or you've wronged them in some way to scare them away from committing.

They're always critical of you. Those reviews that were once polite and raving have turned to hating everything you make and do. Now they're just ranting to friends and on social media about how bad and how wrong things are.

They avoid you, partially or completely. They don't buy your products or services any more, or you are now part of a consideration set - maybe they will, maybe they won't.

They don't care for your feelings. They publish negative reviews, rather than giving you the benefit of the doubt or telling you directly so that you can fix the problem.

They tell you about their ideal partner, but it doesn't describe you. Oops!

They expect you to change, and vice versa. Well, as we know, this is never a good place to be in a relationship. And to expect that your customers will change their attitudes, behaviors, and feelings - or for them to think you'll change how and why you do business - is likely out of the realm of possibilities. This is not a good fit.

Your values and beliefs are different. Customers buy from brands with which they align, whether that alignment is with the brand's purpose, the corporate social responsibility policy, or something else. This customer was/is not a good fit.

There's more pain than joy in the relationship. This sign makes me think about cell phone customers. Or airline customers. It's hard to commit to a brand when the brand constantly disappoints, frustrates, or shows they don't care about customers. Time to change your tune!

You keep arguing over the same issue. And neither one budges, so the relationship can't move forward. The issue doesn't get fixed. It's just a blame game. End of relationship.

You're not a priority. When the need arises, they think about going elsewhere first.

So, when you think about your lost customers - or, perhaps, disinterested customers, those on the way out the door - what do you see? They've stopped giving you feedback? They don't spend as much any more? They no longer recommend you? They just don't do business with you?

I've written about raving fans many times before. If you're not sure if your customers are that into you, know that if you have raving fans, they...
  • want to see the brand succeed and grow.
  • are happy to provide feedback, good or bad, to ensure that happens.
  • are less price sensitive.
  • choose the brand over the competition.
  • can't live without the brand, accept no substitutes.
  • are advocates; no, stronger. They are evangelists. They spread the word about your brand.
  • wear your brand, and want to show that they are part of something bigger than themselves. Tattoos, anyone? Have their own number?
  • openly recruit new members to the community.
Are you delivering the kind of customer experience that warrants committed, raving fans? If not, time to take a look inward.

You are not easily forgotten.
He doesn't need to be reminded you're great.
Men are never too busy to get what they want.
-Greg Behrendt, He's Just Not That Into You

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Customer Engagement or Market Engagement: What's the Difference?

Image courtesy of chezlarsson
Today I'm pleased to share the final installment of a three-part series co-authored with Peter Haid of E Source

In Part 1, Peter wrote about revisiting your corporate engagement initiatives to identify areas of improvement and to ensure that you had buy-in across the board for any change initiatives that were required.

In Part 2, Peter wrote about opportunities to improve the employee experience through praise, recognition, development, and empowerment.

In Part 3 of this series, Peter takes a look at the next area of your customer experience strategy that will likely require some spring cleaning: market engagement, which is all about understanding customers, listening to them, and acting on their feedback.

I'll turn it over to Peter to provide more detail and to wrap up this series.

Market Engagement
The third and final pillar that we base our practice on at E Source is market engagement. It’s not customer engagement because it’s important to realize that your brand reaches much farther than your customer base. E Source defines market engagement success to result from an organization’s ability to effectively integrate market engagement into its CX strategy, identify key customer transactions, gather customer insights, respond to their feedback, include them in the process of improving their experiences, and implement changes integral to the success of the CX strategy.

Said simply, market engagement is how you listen, analyze, act, and share customer insights. I’d like to propose a couple of fairly controversial ideas here to clean up your programs.
  • Start your journey maps with customer intention. As the Temkin Group mentioned in its 14 Customer Experience Trends for 2014, journey-mapping is a very hot trend this year. Do yourself a favor and just pick one intention to start with. This could be as simple as “find a representative” or “understand my bill.” We get wrapped around the axle on huge journeys, and then the butcher paper gets rolled up, shoved under someone’s desk, and we forget about it, not really knowing where to start. My recommendation is to prioritize the improvements you want to make by first mapping the “yes” groups (CX advocates) in the company and second by emotional impact. Don’t bother with the “no” groups; they will come around in time. Start small, go intention by intention, don’t forget to validate with your customers, and let customer emotion guide you. Oh, and solve the rolled-up-under-the-desk problem by looking into great digital ways to map, analyze, share, and present journey maps. My current favorite is the Touchpoint Dashboard because it’s easy to pick up, share, and take action.
  • Kick out the old-school market research companies. Why are we still doing 50-question surveys with a big deck that arrives in our rearview mirror after it’s analyzed by overpaid PowerPoint jockeys? Stop it! How far does that deck make it? How often is it reviewed? What actions does it spur? There are a bunch of old-school market research companies that call their services customer experience when they’re really just the same old brand and relationship studies. All you need is two questions from a vendor that can scale technology right down to each and every employee: 1) “How did we do?” and 2) “What can we do to improve?” If you’re dealing with massive transaction counts, you might need some text analytics to help you with the second question, but don’t overthink this. We spend millions on these programs, and most of what we gather is for internal slicing and dicing rather than true repair of human emotions. I know this will be controversial, but there’s a ton of wasted money in this space. Two questions + text analytics = actionable info. The “score” is only important to the bonus plan (that’s for another blog); therefore, you just need to get to work on fixing those emotional moments rather than explaining complex indexes and multiple-question surveys to every stakeholder who’s upset with the score. Empower and trust your employees! 
Thanks, Peter. It's been a pleasure to have you share your thoughts here with my readers. I like your thinking on journey maps. Start with personas or with jobs to be done; either approach will get you a meaningful map. Trying to map a journey by using high-level, meaningless customer demographics will yield meaningless outputs. And, to your point, the map must be shared. It's a living, breathing document - not to be created and stuffed in a drawer. I've written a lot about journey maps, and I agree that this is the year they become completely mainstream! I've seen their adoption blossom this year, no doubt.

I also agree that we need to do away with lagging PowerPoint decks that allow us to look too far into (or from) the rear-view mirror. We need fresh data and fresh insights - real-time, now, today - in order to adjust the customer experience on the fly, as it's happening.

As promised in the first two parts of this blog series, you can now download the E Source’s Customer Experience Readiness Assessment, which will help you identify both where your organization stands on CX maturity as well as what actionable next steps are required to achieve your CX goals.

Have a place for everything and keep the thing somewhere else; this is not a piece of advice, it is merely a custom. -Mark Twain

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Drop the Hammer on Bad Managers!

Image courtesy of kelehen
Today I'm pleased to share Part 2 of a three-part series co-authored with Peter Haid of E Source.

In Part 1, Peter wrote about revisiting your corporate engagement initiatives to identify areas of improvement and to ensure that you have buy-in across the board for any change initiatives.

In Part 2 of this series, Peter takes a look at the next area of your customer experience strategy that will likely require some spring cleaning: employee engagement, which is all about hiring the right people and giving them the tools to do the job they were hired to do. It's also about empowering employees to do the right thing for and by the customer in order to deliver a great customer experience.

With that, I hand it over to Peter to give his thoughts on spring cleaning requirements around employee engagement.

Employee Engagement
You’ve heard it said many times that engaged employees create engaged customers. I won’t harp on that here, but what I will emphasize is taking a bolder stand against behaviors that deteriorate your strategy. E Source considers employee engagement to mean that a utility recruits, develops, and retains employees to create a culture that reinforces customer-centric behaviors and advances the CX strategy.

Here are some quick ideas - listed in chronological order - to build a stronger bridge to the front line:
  • Take a stroll in the frontline’s shoes. Put a half day aside and go to the contact center, field team, or sales team and ask them to let you do their job for a few hours. Put on the headset and answer some calls. They will love you for appreciating the challenges they have and for being brave enough to get down in their trenches. The purpose of this is several-fold; you will: 1) receive street cred with the employees who create (and destroy) value for your customers; 2) find even more quick wins that employees haven’t been successful at elevating; 3) not only have a stronger appreciation for the work they do but will also have the chance to clearly identify operational challenges they face daily in delivering a great customer experience; 4) quickly identify tools, resources, and training that are clearly lacking for your employees; and 5) find opportunities to coach but also opportunities for praise and recognition.
  • Name-drop gratitude from customers. This is a great tool to use with those departments that are giving you the cold shoulder. Find the individual names of highly-satisfied or loyal customers in verbatims that come from your transactional surveys. Without permission, start blasting e-mails directly to those employees, with the verbatim attached. Copy their boss and one more layer up. Thank them for creating great experiences, and ask them to share what they recall from the laudatory interaction. The idea here is to promote the good before you come stomping through with the bad. Bosses will start to soften up and wonder who else on their team is doing such great work.
  • Drop the hammer on managers who allow or encourage employee gaming on surveys. We all know that surveys are dying in 5 to 10 years, but we don’t need to accelerate that demise by propagating discouraging and unethical practices. Recently I received two voice mails from a local car dealership that made me feel awkward and obligated to give employees high marks. The messages tell me that the company doesn’t really know how to empower employees because if it did, employees wouldn’t feel threatened by the “score.”  Have a listen, and you’ll know where the cringing occurs. 
Thanks, Peter. Yes, that practice continues! It drives me (and everyone else) crazy, but it really means that these dealerships are only focused on the score and not on the experience. Shame on them for perpetuating this behavior by threatening a reduced or minimal commission for low scores. Dealerships are not the only ones guilty of this behavior, but they are certainly the most notorious. It must stop. How about focusing on giving employees the tools and training to deliver a great customer experience? Let's empower them to do the right thing rather than threaten their livelihood. Time for the automotive industry, especially, to change its course!

As mentioned in Part 1, at the end of the three-part series, we'll provide a link to E Source’s Customer Experience Readiness Assessment tool, which will help you identify both where your organization stands on CX maturity as well as what actionable next steps are required to achieve your CX goals.

I enjoy the cleaning up - something about the getting of things in order for winter - making the garden secure - a battening down of hatches perhaps... It just feels right. -David Hobson

Thursday, May 15, 2014

It's Time for Your Annual #CX Spring Cleaning

Image courtesy of holdosi
It's already May. Have you done any customer experience spring cleaning in your company?

Ah, spring... a time of new beginnings, a time for spring cleaning. What is spring cleaning, you ask? It is a much-celebrated occasion every spring during which we do a thorough cleaning of our households: out with the old, in with the new, in preparation for an exciting new year, summer, and more.

How does that relate to customer experience? The same can apply to our organizations; it's a good time to do away with the things that don't work and to try or implement new approaches that will help to improve the customer experience and, ultimately, to grow the business.

I'm pleased to share a three-part series co-authored with Peter Haid of E Source on this very topic. We'll touch on three areas of engagement that could benefit from a second look this spring. Is it time to clean house and start over, or is it time to refresh your current approach?

Let's dive in.

In Part 1 of this series, Peter takes a look at the first area of your customer experience strategy that will likely require some spring cleaning: corporate engagement, which is all about linking the customer experience strategy with the corporate strategy (and vice versa), developing a corporate customer experience ownership and governance structure, and monitoring the customer experience.

Corporate Engagement
We all have to work hard to develop and to maintain the political capital required to advance our customer experience (CX) programs. I like to call this "working sideways and up" in an organization. E Source defines "corporate engagement" as "having a CX strategy and structure that integrate the voice of the customer to routinely improve its people, processes, policies, and technology while connecting to financial benefits and business outcomes."

Following are some simple ideas to not only reconnect with your peers and executives but also to identify potential areas for spring cleaning.
  • Interview 3x3x3. Ask these three questions across three departments at three levels in the organization (front line, director, and executive):
    • What have we done right in the past year in connection to our CX strategy? (Promote this internally.)
    • What is our single biggest blind spot internally? (Acknowledge this internally.)
    • If you had $1 to invest in the customer experience, how would you split it up among people, process, policy, data, and system improvements? (Notice the difference at each level in the organization, and remember that most quick wins come from people and policy improvements.)
  • Invite Finance to build your business-case template. Without backing of the Finance team, your spring cleaning efforts will not go far. Take your CX initiative list over to the head of Finance - hopefully the CFO - and ask him or her to develop the business-case template for you to determine priority. The trick here is that any numbers you put together without Finance will get challenged, and you’ll waste time. If Finance develops the ROI template, the view of payback for moving someone from unhappy to happy to loyal, you’ll have a great view into how much is possible along with expectations about what to start, stop, continue, or improve. With the CFO’s team behind your portfolio, you just got a shot of jet fuel.
Thanks, Peter. I love the 3x3x3 concept. Listening to employees to identify customer experience improvement opportunities is an often-overlooked approach. Your approach is a great way to get input across a swath of the organization and at various levels, knowing each level has different interactions and different viewpoints. And you absolutely must have buy-in, especially from Finance, before you undertake any spring cleaning efforts.

At the end of the three-part series, we'll provide a link to E Source’s Customer Experience Readiness Assessment tool, which will help you identify both where your organization stands on CX maturity and what actionable next steps you can take to achieve your CX goals.

Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. - William Morris

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Culture of Distrust

Image courtesy of lennox_mcdough
What does a culture of distrust look like?

I've written a lot about trust in my blog over the last several years, much of it devoted to how it relates to the customer experience and customer relationships; there have been a few posts about trust and the employee experience, as well. But I think it's time to punctuate this latter thought.

We talk and write about a culture of trust and its impact on employee engagement and, as a result, on the customer experience. But what about a culture of distrust? It's certainly not something someone brags about, but it exists. It's completely opposite of a trust culture. And it's quite toxic.

How do we get there? Very easily and very quickly, unfortunately. Especially when the wrong leadership is in place. Have you ever had an executive or an executive team that just sucked the life out of your employees, out of your culture? This is absolutely, 110% a leadership issue. Are employees smart enough to realize when the culture has turned sour, when executives no longer trust them to do the job they were hired to do? I think so. And I think they're smart enough to leave, knowing there's nothing they can do about it. Remember, employees don't leave companies; they leave (bad) managers. Or bad executives.

Why is this a big deal? Well, you know all the talk about employee engagement, or more likely, disengagement? It's important because trust is a precursor to loyalty and engagement. Without trust, there can be no engagement.

What does an organization with a culture of distrust look like? What are some of the things happening behind closed doors?
  • There is a serious lack of trust. This is obvious, but it needs to be stated. 
  • Another given is that solid, trusted leadership is a myth in such cultures. Trust is a two-way street. It must be earned. Actions and behaviors must reflect the desire to earn that trust.
  • At the same time, there is a lack of integrity among leaders.
  • Executives and managers micromanage employees. They don't trust them to produce anything worthy of "shipping," as Seth Godin would say, so everything must have executive sign-off before it is distributed, even internally.
  • As a result, employees are paranoid.
  • Clearly, employees are not empowered to do anything.
  • Employees are monitored. Everything they do is tracked. Timesheets are not just for project profitability but for tracking and monitoring. Computers are tapped into to make sure they only do what they're "supposed to be doing."
  • Lack of clarity. Employees don't know what it is that they are "supposed to be doing." Or why.
  • Closely tied to that is no vision or, if there is one, it is not communicated.
  • There is a general lack of communication.
  • If there is communication, it is not open and candid, nor is there any transparency.
  • There is a lack of praise and recognition.
  • Contributions are not acknowledged or celebrated.
  • Office politics are rampant.
  • Lawyers and legalese prevail. 
  • As do policies, processes, and scripts. O my. Rather than providing guidelines to work within, employees are constantly reminded to adhere to the script.
  • Employees waste a lot of time complaining to each other about how bad things are.
  • Mistakes are viewed as failure, rather than learning opportunities, and often end in termination.
  • Employees aren't asked for feedback about the employee experience or about anything else.
 The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people. -Woodrow Wilson

What are some of the outcomes of such a culture?
  • Employees are not happy.
  • Employees are disengaged.
  • Productivity declines.
  • Employees quit.
  • Employees don't recommend others to work for the company.
  • Employees spread the (bad) word.
  • The company reputation is smeared.
  • The company is not able to hire good/the right people.
  • The customer experience suffers.
  • The business suffers.
Have you ever worked in a company where you felt like employees were not to be trusted? How did that make you feel? What did you do?

Distrust all in whom the impulse to punish is powerful. -Friedrich Nietzsche

Friday, May 9, 2014

What's the Cost of Listening to Customers?

Image courtesy of nixter
What's the cost of listening to customers?

Someone asked me recently about the percentage of revenue that customer-focused companies spend on their VOC initiatives. Although they wanted some guidance on what to spend on a VOC solution, I thought it was a fair question but one for which I don't have the answer. That didn't bother me much because I do have an answer, just not the one he was looking for.

Don't get me wrong. Listening to customers - and acting on what you hear - is paramount to business growth and success. But that's not what executives want to hear. They want to know how much it's going to cost and what the return on investment will be. To that I say, the cost will vary, depending on your approach, and the ROI will mostly be viewed in dollars but can me measured in many other ways, as well.

I think the problem, though, is that they're thinking about it the wrong way. First, they're thinking about the wrong costs. How about considering the cost of:
  • acquiring a new customer
  • retaining existing customers
A recent study by Oracle shows that businesses could lose as much as 20% of revenues as a result of a poor customer experience. That should be a wake-up call. 

And, it's not just a VOC solution that they'll be paying for; they'll need to consider all the factors that go into - and outcomes as a result of - improving the customer experience, i.e., they need to act on what they hear and be thinking big(ger) picture.

You learn when you listen. You earn when you listen - not just money, but respect. -Harvey Mackay

They're also not thinking about the benefits of listening to customers, acting on what they hear, improving the customer experience, and building a base of raving fans who:
  • want to see the brand succeed and grow
  • are happy to provide feedback, good or bad, to ensure that that success happens
  • are less price sensitive
  • require less support because they are more familiar with your products
  • choose your brand over the competition
  • can't live without your brand and accept no substitutes
  • are advocates or, even stronger, evangelists, spreading the word about your brand
  • wear your brand, and want to show that they are part of something bigger than themselves
  • openly recruit new members to the community
  • are more likely to be using several of your products/services, not just one
Most, if not all, of these over-shadow the price you pay to implement a VOC solution. The real focus needs to be on how to improve the customer experience, and if we don't understand who our customers are, what jobs they are trying to do/achieve, and how well that's going, then none of the above will happen.

So let me pose this. I think they're asking the wrong question; they should be asking: What's the cost of NOT listening to our customers?

The first step in exceeding your customer's expectations is to know those expectations. - Roy H. Williams

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Employee Empowerment

Image courtesy of hattie.burgher
Are your employees empowered to do what's right for your customers?

I know some people think "employee empowerment" is an over-used phrase. I think there's some good in that term, and I'm not quite convinced that it's over-used. Perhaps it's over-used in the sense that it becomes meaningless when we just carry on about how employees should be empowered, but then we don't really know what it means or why.

My focus, of course, is on employee empowerment and how it relates to delivering a great customer experience.

What does it mean to be empowered or to empower? According to Google, it means: to give (someone) the authority or power to do something. That's exactly what I'm referring to.

Consider these examples from the hospitality industry:
  • Ritz-Carlton allows employees to spend up to $2,000 (per incident) to make a situation right with a customer or to ensure full customer satisfaction, without having to get anything approved by a supervisor first. I'm told this is rarely used.
  • Hyatt has an empowerment program that allows employees, at their discretion, to do little extras for their customers, e.g., buy flowers, comp a meal, send a bottle of wine, etc. Unfortunately, this program seems to get used too often for things it shouldn't be.
  • Diamond Resorts' employees have been given the power to say "Yes" when a guest approaches, even before the guest makes a request. The CEO believes that guests aren't going to ask for anything ridiculous but that they will have reasonable requests, requests that employees need to (should) fulfill in order for guests to have the best experience.
I like that there's an example without money tied to it; after all, it's not really about the money, is it? It's about doing whatever it takes to do the right thing. It's about making it right if it's not and doing right. Customers don't necessarily expect you to spend any money for/on them; they do, however, want to know that you: understand them and the situation (empathy), are reasonable and listen, and will do what's right. (I'm no fool; sometimes they do want more.)

From the employee perspective, it's about responsibility, ownership, and accountability. It's also about trust; the employee is given the keys to the castle and trusted to do what's right for the customer and for the business. Empowerment means never having to ask, "Is it OK if I do this for my customer?" Empowerment means not having to ask for permission.

How do you unleash employee empowerment? How do you set employees on the path to deliver the experience you expect them to deliver? A few thoughts...
  • It's important to define what empowerment means within your organization, to set boundaries
  • Train, communicate, provide a framework, and then let employees do their jobs; trust them to make the right choices and the right decisions for your customers
  • Feedback and coaching are critical for employees to know if they are on the right track
  • Define what "doing right" means and what it looks like
  • Ensure employees have the knowledge, skills, and training to do what you're expecting of them
  • Define and reinforce what a great customer experience is and what it means for the customer and to the business
  • Ensure that employees have a clear line of sight to the customer
  • Lose the script; empowered employees don't need a script
  • Teach empathy
  • Allow for common sense, but don't necessarily rely on it (yea, that's the cynic in me; that's why we set boundaries)
  • Remind employees that going the extra mile doesn't have to cost a dime; customers want you to listen and act, to do what makes sense
Going back to the definition of empowered, do your employees have the authority (and the knowledge) to do whatever they need to do to make things right for your customers?

Do you have examples of other companies that empower their employees to deliver a great customer experience? I'll give two more examples, to get the ball rolling. Nordstrom employees can do whatever they need to do to ensure the customer is satisfied; their empowerment embodies ownership, as they are encouraged to do what's best for their customers, as if it was their own business. FedEx employees can send apology gifts or credit an account up to $100 without asking permission.

The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud. -Coco Chanel

Thursday, May 1, 2014

CEM Toolbox: Empathy, Journey Mapping, and the Platinum Rule

Image courtesy of appoulsen
Got empathy?

There's been a lot of talk this year about empathy and the customer experience; Bruce Temkin even advocates for making 2014 the Year of Empathy.

What's empathy?

Merriam-Webster defines empathy as: the feeling that you understand and share another person's experiences and emotions; the ability to share someone else's feelings.

We're not so far apart. I advocated for making 2014 the Year of the Journey Map. To me, the two go hand in hand; after all, journey maps are created by walking in your customer's shoes. (That alone is the fundamental underlying premise for journey mapping.) And empathy is all about understanding and sharing the needs and feelings of others. To walk in another's shoes is to understand and live what they are doing, thinking, and feeling; these details are all part of the journey mapping process. When we know this, we can deliver a great customer experience for them, for the individual.

So, the two go together like bacon and eggs.

As I was thinking about how empathy and journey mapping relate, in walks the Platinum Rule, which states: Do unto others as they would have you do unto them, not as you would have them do unto you. As opposed to the Golden Rule, which focuses on treating others the way you want to be treated, the Platinum Rule recognizes that we don't all want to be treated the same, that we want to be treated the way we want to be treated. It's quite the improvement to the Golden Rule.

Why do we need to understand these concepts? Because we are all different. We all have different needs, different feelings, different thoughts, different preferences, different perceptions, etc. As such, we want and need to be treated differently. Deliver a different experience to different people.

I've written several times in the past about my five criteria of a great customer experience; it must be personal, memorable, remarkable, emotional, and consistent. Personalized is key here: what's remarkable, memorable, and emotional to me might not be to you. If companies consistently deliver what is considered a great experience by me, my faith and trust in them will grow. And I'll want to continue to do business with them.

What's my point? Empathy is a tool in your CEM Toolbox. It's used by your frontline. The key here is to teach employees what empathy means and how to use it to create a great customer experience. I think empathy can be taught; some people just need more help with it than others.
  • Use journey maps as a training tool to help employees understand and live what the customer is going through. 
  • But don't forget to teach them to really pay attention to what the customer is saying, both verbally and through body language.
  • Employees need to recognize when/how to use empathy; role play for them to really make it click. 
  • Teach them the cues that signal time for empathy to kick in. 
  • Show them that it's important to always be listening and be prepared to respond in the way the customer needs you to respond, not in the way a script tells you to respond. 
  • Lose the script. 
  • Continue to reinforce using empathy when interacting with customers.
  • And make sure they understand that empathy and sympathy are not the same thing.
Do you include empathy training in your employee onboarding and/or customer experience training and education efforts? If not, you should.

The quickest way to profits is to serve the customer in the way the customer wants to be served. -Alfred B. Sloan, former Chairman of GM