Tuesday, July 29, 2014

How to Lose a Customer in 10 Days

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Businesses are - knowingly or unknowingly - sabotaging their customer relationships. Customers don't want to put up with it anymore - and they make sure their friends hear about it.

After the popular post I wrote titled 19 Signs Customers Are Just Not That Into You, which sounded an awful lot like the romantic comedy, He's Just Not That Into You, I was inspired by the title of another rom-com, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, for today's post.

When we engage with customers (or, when they engage with us), we are (hopefully) engaging for the long-term, developing a relationship. Some folks question the use of the term "relationship," but let's just use Merriam-Webster's definition: the way in which two or more people, groups, countries, etc., talk to, behave toward, and deal with each other; the way in which two or more people or things are connected.

That connection is what I'm referring to. We want to connect with our customers, not just transact with them. Relationships take time and work, every day; the focus and the desire to keep the relationship alive and strong should never stop because, when it does, the relationship will end. The connection is gone.

My 19 Signs post was more about how customers were not showing their love to brands anymore. In this post, the focus is on companies and the things they are knowingly or unknowingly doing to sabotage their customer relationships..

Let's get started. What do companies do?

They have roving eyes. They're always looking for the next best thing. Once they have the customer, they move on to finding the next one. Their first priority is acquisition, not retention. What they have isn't good enough.

They don't answer the phone or emails. Customer service is a major painpoint. Wait time to talk to a customer service representative or to get a response to an email inquiry is painfully long, if they  answer at all.

They don't listen. Or act - on customer feedback. Enough said.

They don't try to really get to know their customers. They think they know best. They do what they do and sell what they sell without regard for who the customer is and what he's trying to do.

Their focus is misplaced. They focus on sales/metrics and not on customers. Customers can tell when they're not the  priority.

They keep pushing their wants, needs, preferences on customers. It's never the other way around. The relationship should be a two-way street.

They argue over little things. Don't argue with customers. Make it right and move on.

After the first date/interaction, they text immediately and incessantly. Just because customers make a purchase or call or visit your website doesn't necessarily mean that companies can immediately flood their inboxes and mailboxes with endless emails and catalogs.

They're too clingy. See above. And don't be a stalker.

They play games. Bait and switch should never be a brand's approach to marketing or selling.

They say they'll call back but don't.

They ignore the little things that are important to their significant other, er, customer. Always remember the little things.

They stop showing - or don't show - appreciation.

It's all about me, me, me. Marketing messages are all about the company rather than about what the company can do for customers, what the company does for the community, how customers will benefit from using their products, or how they can help customers do whatever it is they are trying to do.

They're rude and disrespectful. Hire for attitude; train for skill. 

They don't apologize for their mistakes or major incidents. A delayed non-apology does not have the same impact as a swift, sincere apology that makes amends.

They have nothing of interest to say; interests are misaligned. When messages (and the experience) aren't personalized to the customer, customers lose interest.

Their hygiene has slipped. Are employees and facilities (store, restaurant, restroom, etc.) clean?

They ignore customers. They haven't trained their employees to acknowledge customers in their periphery.

They don't remember details they've already been told. They keep asking for the same information over and over again.

Their actions don't match their words (and vice versa). Have you ever heard, "Your call is important to us..." in the 20th minute of your hold time?

They ask for things they've never asked for before. With no explanation, rhyme, or reason. O dear. It can feel a bit creepy.

They just don't care. Organizations that are not customer-focused and customer-centric lose customers. It might not happen right away, but it will happen.

Several of these items alone could kill the customer relationship; certainly all of them combined are a disaster! You may not lose a customer in 10 days, but if you're not customer-focused - and customer-centric - and haven't clearly come to terms with what that means, you will lose them eventually. And they will tell their friends. And no one will want to date you, er, buy from you.

You can't lose what you never had, you can't keep what's not yours, and you can't hold on to something that does not want to stay. - Unknown.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Friend or Foe: How Do Your Colleagues Perceive Your VoC/CX Program?

Image  courtesy of Pixabay
Today I'm pleased to share another guest post by Sarah Simon.

An Interesting Conversation with a Neighbor

Neighbor: So what do you do for a living again?

Me: <Begins to summarize my career calling as succinctly as possible, which as those of us in the industry know, is not always easy…>

Neighbor: <Interrupting> Oh, no, you don’t do that NPS bull$**t, do you?

Uh oh.

I smile, explaining that yes, in fact, designing, deploying, and analyzing Net Promoter Score and customer satisfaction survey programs is indeed part of what I do. “But why do you call this BS?

My neighbor goes on to tell me about his job commissioning, trouble-shooting and servicing industrial cooling systems and how his customers “don’t understand half of what I do, so how can they rate my performance?” Worse, he explains, some customers bear a grievance with his company or a company they acquired and “take this out on him” in his NPS – even if this grievance dates back several months, years…or even decades. Sometimes the customer concern that impacts the NPS is far out of the technician’s control – for instance, the company is too big, the client doesn’t like a product, or the account is a business “Hostage” trapped by a high cost of changing vendors. The client resents the technician’s employer – and this resentment manifests itself in the NPS given in response to the technician’s visit. “How is it fair that I’m held accountable for whether or not a customer is willing to recommend a company with tens of thousands of employees?


What else bothers you about this program?” I ask, the researcher in me kicking into high gear.

How can you tell me an 8 isn’t a good score? For some customers, an 8 is a good score, yet I get dinged by my management if the customer rates me lower than a 9.” He explains that the customer will even write glowing commentary about his demeanor and technical skills in the verbatim box, yet a score of 8 still doesn’t satisfy the suits in corporate.

I look away from my neighbor and think: Boy, his company’s VoC/CX team has a problem. Then I wonder: How many of my clients have a program that suffers from a bad reputation among their frontline staff? The startling answer spinning in my head is: Probably most of them (at least to some extent).

Ouch again.

So, What’s a Customer Experience Management Team to Do?

There’s a good chance that, despite your best efforts, at least some of your frontline staff hate your VoC/CX initiative, and frontline animosity can limit the efficacy of your efforts. What steps can you take to overcome negative perceptions of your program and win the support of customer-facing teammates?

Step out of corporate la la land

One of the things that stunned me about this conversation with my neighbor was this image of all of my MBA/MS/MA wielding cohorts sitting behind laptops in business casual deciding people’s compensation and performance review fates with the click of a keyboard while people in workpants and a name badge suffer “taxation without representation.”  The word “hubris” wafted around my head like a bad smell.

I thought about high-skilled trades persons like my neighbor. I thought about the staff at the cell phone store. I thought about the cashier at the grocery - people getting their hands dirty welding pipes, fixing broken mobile devices, and bagging groceries.  One thing they have in common relative to our VoC and CX programs is this – most of them are impacted by the program without getting to provide any direct input.  The program is something done “to” them, not “by” them and sure as heck not “for” them.

Change your mindset

My neighbor has spent almost 30 years in his field; he’s only 47 years old.  He started his career as an apprentice right out of high school and has worked the same industry ever since. I love customer intelligence, data analysis, and insights and value their place in the business world.  But don’t think for one minute that your 4 or 6 years in college and a well-designed VoC dashboard trump three decades with a tool box on client sites. My neighbor runs face-to-face with clients and their chilling systems every day. Your frontline is the same – day in and day out, they know the people who pay your bills and the challenges those customers face. They watch the client interact with your products and services and know the gaps in your service model by heart.  Remember this – your frontline embodies the customer-facing expertise of your brand.  Respect this fact.

Shut up and listen
Stop talking at your frontline staff long enough to pause and listen to them and hear what they have to say instead.  Go and meet these people face-to-face, if at all possible, and get to know them on a human level. That’s right. Don’t just send them a survey via email. Get on a plane or hop in your car  and go meet face-to-face with these folks, or at least pick up the phone and open a dialogue.  Ask them questions and hear them out.
  • What do they know about your VoC and CX initiatives?  How do they feel about it?  What do they like / dislike about your program?
  • How do they determine whether a customer interaction was successful?  How does their manager measure their performance?  And are these measures accurately reflected in your VoC program?
  • Who is the customer, in their own words?  How do they interact with the customer?
  • What challenges do they face day-to-day in their jobs delivering a quality experience to the customer?  What can management change to resolve known issues?
  • What challenges does the customer face using your company’s products / services and how can these be alleviated?
  • If they could tell you one thing about the customer they don’t think “corporate” knows, what is it?
  • As a VoC / CX practitioner, how can you be a better partner to the frontline staff?  What do they need from you to feel good about the initiative?
Note: To be sure, you’ll want to coordinate with department heads and team leads to facilitate these discussions, but make sure they don’t place themselves between you and the customer-facing representative as a block, as this can result in watered-down, filtered feedback.

Identify and neutralize the sources of resentment
All the corporate sponsorship on earth can’t force customer experience success if your frontline folks loathe the initiative.  To paraphrase Dennis Leary, you can have a big executive sponsorship cake walk right through the middle of corporate square and your program efforts will be dead on arrival if the frontline resents them.  Your customer-facing colleagues hold the power to execute on customer experience improvement efforts on a daily basis. Your program can’t afford to be the object of their resentment.

Keep the lines of communication open

Once you’ve listened to your customer-facing teammates, make sure to follow through with closed-loop communication. Summarize what they told you – and what you’re doing to be a better partner and make the VoC/CX program work better for them.

Then, make sure they know their opinions are desired and respected in an ongoing fashion.  Let them know who to contact if they have questions, suggestions or concerns about your initiative.

In Summary
After hearing out his grievances, I explained to my neighbor the benefits of his company’s customer listening system, including:
  • The opportunity to solicit feedback from customers who may not be inclined to draft a comment to management.
  • The systematic capturing, analyzing, and sharing of customer feedback that might otherwise get hidden and die at the middle management level, enabling “corporate” to make important changes that benefit the customer and maybe even make my neighbor’s job easier and more fulfilling.
  • The reality that some customers may provide him (my neighbor) with constructive criticism through a survey that they wouldn’t provide to his face, enabling him to improve his performance.
  • The good feeling that customers get from having their opinions actively solicited.
He conceded that the modern Voice of Customer listening system is ultimately better than the old “the client will call if they have a problem” non-system.  And I, in turn, promised to share his insights with you, the VoC/CX community.

I’m not telling you to stop quantifying customer sentiment. I’m not suggesting you design your VoC/CX program by a committee thousands strong. I’m not saying you need to make program adjustments every time someone’s feelings are hurts. I am suggesting, though, that you take a moment to consider the impact your program has on your frontline and think of ways to make your efforts work for them, not against them. Be an ally to your organization’s frontline troops, not a hindrance.

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, July 22, 2014

Do You Guarantee Your Customer Experience?

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Should companies offer guarantees for their products and services? Or is the better question, why don't they?

I saw a commercial the other day where the company offered a money-back guarantee for its product. That got me thinking, as these things often do, about guarantees. If we truly care about our customers, the customer experience, and keeping customers happy and returning, are guarantees a good idea? Are they a given? Shouldn't all companies guarantee their offerings (products, services, customer experience)? After all, if they don't, do they not stand behind their quality? Are they crap? Hmmm.

According to Google, to guarantee means to "provide a formal assurance or promise, especially that certain conditions shall be fulfilled relating to a product, service, or transaction; to promise with certainty."

Ah, it's a promise. Like, a brand promise, right? You do have one, don't you?

A brand promise is a promise to your customers; it tells them what they should expect from all interactions with your people, products, services, and company. Everything you do should reflect this promise. Is that a guarantee? Or just a statement? Do you stand behind that statement? Or is it just checking a box so you can say you have one? Do brand promises and guarantees work together?

OK. I got a little side-tracked, but you can see why.

Back to the guarantee. The guarantee sets expectations, too. It says, "We believe our products (or services, experience) are so good that you'll want to try them; you'll enjoy them, and if not, we'll take them back and give you your money back." Promise made. Expectations set. Consequences outlined.

What's the difference between a promise and a guarantee? Mainly consequences.

A promise is pretty black and white; if we don't deliver on a promise, the result is that we lied and, hence, we failed. But there are no consequences. Technically. A guarantee, on the other hand, has conditions for failure (customer is unhappy, product didn't work, etc.), and there are consequences (you must do something to correct it).

So, a guarantee goes beyond a promise. Perhaps we shouldn't make a brand promise - but instead, a brand guarantee?!

What does a guarantee look like? I was recently reading Lee Cockerell's book,  The Customer Rules: The 39 Essential Rules for Delivering Sensational Service. Rule #24 is Don't Just Make Promises; Make Guarantees.

Here are his criteria for a guarantee:
  • Include explicit details. Provide clarity. Tell the customer exactly what to expect and eliminate any ambiguity.
  • Tell customers how to reach you to make good on a guarantee. What should customers do if they are not happy with a product or service.
  • Minimize exceptions. A guarantee should be unconditional. Exceptions really make a guarantee worthless.
  • Be meaningful to your customers. I would add, be relevant to your customers. He uses the example that customers in a hurry will benefit from a guarantee for fast service.
  • Clearly state the reward if the guarantee is not met. What do customers get if they are not happy.
  • Make the reward easy to redeem. Don't make them fill out endless forms or jump through a dozen hoops. Make it simple, effortless.
Christopher Hart of Harvard Business School provided his thoughts on why service guarantees work. They...
  • push the entire company to focus on the customer’s definition of good service - not on your  assumptions
  • set clear performance standards, which boost employee performance and morale
  • generate reliable data when performance is poor, i.e., every time you pay out, you have a data point for when/why performance failed
  • force the organization to examine its entire service-delivery system for possible failure points
  • build customer loyalty, sales, and market share
I would add that guarantees instill a bit of trust. If you stand behind what you do - at every touchpoint and at every interaction - am I more likely to trust you? Am I more likely to trust companies that offer guarantees?

Think about it. If you commit to a flawless customer experience, with consequences for falling short, will you be more apt to deliver said experience? Will customers be more inclined to interact with you?

Don't make promises that you can't keep.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Is Your Customer Experience Suffering from Short-Sightedness?

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's post for The DiJulius Group; it was posted on their blog on May 15, 2014.

Is your company short-sighted when it comes to the customer?

I've been using the phrase "short-sighted" a lot lately, and it got me thinking about how too many companies are short-sighted when it comes to customer experience management. If you're not familiar with the phrase, Merriam-Webster defines it as: not considering what will or might happen in the future; made or done without thinking about what will happen in the future.

Does that sound like it applies to any companies you know? Unfortunately, too many of them still either don't think about the future customer experience* or think focusing on customer experience is a one and done/project. It's not; it's a journey, as we know. As such, we need to envision the experience not only for now but also for well into the future.

*I confess. Many of them still don't think about customer experience, period.

What are some of the symptoms of customer experience short-sightedness?
  • Operating in the moment, for the moment
  • Making decisions in the moment, for the moment
  • Operating in a siloed manner
  • Failing to make decisions based on what's important to the customer
  • Thinking that the purpose of the business is to maximize shareholder value
  • Not putting the customer at the center of business decisions today and every day
  • Failing to view customer experience management as an enterprise-wide discipline
  • Not sharing the vision with employees
  • Not helping employees understand the importance of a great customer experience, how they contribute, and how their contributions matter
  • Failing to focus on the big picture, the end game, the outcomes
  • Or focusing on the wrong outcomes 
  • Not considering the employee experience and its impact on the customer experience
How do we avoid short-sightedness in our customer experience management efforts?

Start with a vision. Your customer experience vision will be inspirational and aspirational; it will outline what you see as the future state of the customer experience. It will briefly describe the experience you plan to deliver. And it will serve as a guide to help choose future courses of action. That little statement packs a lot of punch!

Having a vision shows you understand it's a journey.

Some customer experience vision tips include:
  • It should align with the company vision
  • Even better, the corporate vision is the customer experience vision
  • The vision will guide your strategy
  • Strategy drives execution and subsequent actions
  • Business decisions should be made based on this vision
  • It is internal
  • It must be communicated
  • It must have commitment and buy-in from those who live it, execute on it (shared vision)
  • All employees must know how they contribute to, and align with, the vision
  • The vision should motivate, inspire
  • Revisit it at a regular interval to ensure that it still reflects the experience you want to deliver
Need some inspiration? Here are a few examples of corporate vision statements from brands you know well.

Amazon: To be the earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.

San Diego Zoo: To become a world leader at connecting people to wildlife and conservation.

Avon: To be the company that best understands and satisfies the product, service, and self-fulfillment needs of women — globally.

IKEA: The IKEA vision is to create a better everyday life for the many people. We make this possible by offering a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.

Kraft Foods: Helping people around the world eat and live better.

The Walt Disney Corporation: To make people happy.

Toyota: Toyota will lead the way to the future of mobility, enriching lives around the world with the safest and most responsible ways of moving people. Through our commitment to quality, constant innovation, and respect for the planet, we aim to exceed expectations and be rewarded with a smile. We will meet our challenging goals by engaging the talent and passion of people, who believe there is always a better way.

Can any of these double as customer experience vision statements, too? What's your customer experience vision? How do you inspire employees every day to deliver a great customer experience?

The very essence of leadership is [that] you have a vision. It's got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can't blow an uncertain trumpet. -Theodore Hesburgh

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Customer Service or Lip Service?

In your company, is "customer focus" just a poster on the wall? Or is it a way of doing business?

How many times have you walked into an establishment and been bombarded by posters or signs about customer satisfaction, listening to customers, great customer service, etc.? Do you wonder if those posters are just posters, i.e., all fluff and no stuff? Do you question what your experience will truly be like? Do you think about whether employees were trained on how to ensure customers are satisfied? Do those posters mean employees are going to be gaming the system for a bonus?

Wow! The questions could go on and on!

Cynical? Yes and no. This isn't my first rodeo. I'm sure it's not yours, either.

My latest exposure to such a poster was over the weekend, which is, of course, what prompted this post. A little background first: a few weeks ago, I had a little fender bender with an inconveniently placed post in a local self-service, drive-through car wash. The damage was minimal; it looked worse because of the paint transfer. Nonetheless, I needed to get the damage repaired, so I made a trip to a local collision shop that my dealer recommended.

I walked in the door and was promptly greeted. Nice. Then, on the far wall, I saw a poster titled, "What is a Customer?" Hmm, this should be interesting.

And it was.

But first, the poster. There was also a smaller version of it in a lucite holder on the counter (picture above), as well. We've probably all read the abbreviated version of this, which is often attributed to Gandhi; apparently this version (or some variation of it) is from a 1946 Forbes article attributed to Paul T. Babson, Chairman of the Board, Standard & Poor’s Corp. It reads:

 What is a Customer?

Our Customers are the most important people ever in this office, either in person or on the telephone.

Our Customers are not dependent on us. We are dependent on them.

Our Customers are not an interruption of our work; they are the purpose of it. We are not doing them  a favor by serving them; they are doing us a favor by giving us the opportunity to do so.

Our Customers are not an outsider to our business; they are part of it.

Our Customers are not cold statistics - names on file cards or ledger sheets. They are human beings with feelings and emotions, like your own.

Our Customers are not someone to argue with. Nobody ever won an argument with a Customer.

Our Customers are people who bring their wants. It is our job to handle them profitably - to them and to ourselves.

Did my experience live up to it? Yes. I was assisted immediately and blown away that they fixed the damage while I waited. I mentioned it was minimal, right? I had my car back in 10 minutes, and it looked like new again. At no cost to me! Will I go there again, should the need arise? Yes. Would I recommend? I know my experience was brief, but I was impressed with not only what they did for me but also with the attentiveness of the staff in the front office. So, yes.

Do you have these posters in your business? Is it for your customers? Or a reminder for employees? Or both?

If you're going to put a poster like this on your wall for customers to see, you better deliver on it. You've set expectations; you've set the bar high. Take care of the customer. Deliver a great experience. Not lip service.

To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest. -Mahatma Gandhi

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Transforming the Customer Experience with Big Data

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's post for Intradiem. It appeared on their blog on March 17, 2014. 

What is big data? and how is it used to deliver a great customer experience?

"Big data" has been defined in many different ways and seems to most often refer to the sheer volume of data, but for the purpose of this article, I'm going to refer to the data sources.

Data Sources
Any initiative to improve the customer experience will be unsuccessful without understanding the customer and his needs. To do that, we must have the right data at our fingertips. What is the right data? There are many sources, but they are best classified as:

  • Voice of the Customer (VOC), which also includes voice of partners, franchisees, and other constituents, is structured and unstructured data from solicited and unsolicited feedback; I'll also add behavioral/purchase data here, as well as anything else we know about the customer
  • Voice of the Employee (VOE) includes similar data formats about the employee experience, employee engagement, and the workplace culture
  • Voice of the Business (VOB) includes financial and operational metrics
  • Voice of the Market (VOM) includes market research, brand perceptions and research, benchmark data, and other competitive data
I think that probably covers 98% of the data out there that's relevant to the customer experience. But I've said before that data are just data until you do something with them. If you're going to listen to each of these voices, then you need to use the data in a meaningful way.

So now what?

Transforming Data
Once we've inventoried all of our data, it's time to put it to good use; it's time to transform it into a usable format so that the business can consume it and affect the  customer experience in a positive way. I have six rules for transforming and consuming the data.

1. Data must be centralized. Data are useless to improving the customer experience when they remain siloed; siloed data mean siloed experiences.  You cannot deliver a personalized customer experience across your various channels if the data are housed in several disparate systems. You need a way to bring the data together in one place so that it can be analyzed in a sane way.

2. Data must be analyzed. Analysis takes many forms because there will be many different types of data to make sense of. You'll need a way to crosstab, predict, identify key drivers, and prioritize improvements with survey data; mine and analyze your unstructured data; and track, review, and prioritize social media inputs and influencers. You'll conduct linkage analysis to link customer and employee data, customer feedback with operational metrics, and all data to financial measures. And you'll need to conduct a root cause analysis to understand the why behind it all.

3. Data must be synthesized. Once data have been broken down and analyzed for better understanding, they are most useful for the end user when transformed into insights. Put all the pieces of the analysis together to tell a story, to put it into context for those who need to act on it - a story that can be easily understood and translated into a better customer experience.

4.  Data must be socialized. Those insights and their corresponding stories must be shared across the organization and in such a way that people know what to do with it. Insights and resultant recommendations must get into the hands of the right people who will do something with them.

5. Data must be strategized. To strategize means to define your strategy or your action plan, and in this case, it involves both tactical (how you'll respond to each and every customer) and strategic (how the business will respond, including operational, product, and process changes) measures. This is where we turn insights into action.

6. Data must be operationalized. Ensure that you have the right feedback at the right time from the right customers, then glean insights, create action plans, and drive it all back to the right departments and right employees who take action at the right touchpoints at the right time. Then close the loop on your own change management process: track and measure your efforts in order to maintain a continuous improvement cycle.

I might make this sound simple and simplistic. I know it's not. Challenges arise, especially as we try to identify the data sources and as we run up against silos and other issues. Using tools like customer journey maps, customer feedback maps, and a general data architecture/map can help to bring it all into focus. It's also important to conduct the proper analysis to uncover the desired outcomes. Enlist the help of an analyst to review your needs, if needed.

Action through Insights
Quite simply, the more we know about our customers, the more we are able to deliver a great customer experience. But siloed raw data doesn't help anyone, so figure out what's available and make sense of it. Transform your data into insights to transform the customer experience into one that will delight your customers.

Without big data, you are blind and deaf and in the middle of a freeway. –Geoffrey Moore

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Who has the responsibility?

Voltaire said it first: With great power comes great responsibility. Others prefer a more-recent attribution, citing Peter Parker's Uncle Ben in Spiderman.

Winston Churchill said: The price of greatness is responsibility

Either way, it's an interesting quote that raises a great question, one that was posed to me by Jase Clarke during a webinar I did a couple weeks ago: If customers have the power, who has the responsibility?

Customers certainly do have the power. They dictate the experience they desire, and they spend their dollars with those companies that deliver it. Today, customers are looking for:
  • personalized and effortless experiences
  • consistent cross-channel, multichannel, omnichannel experiences
  • proactive communication, insights, products, and service
In a nutshell? Customers are screaming, "Know me!"

So, back to the question: who has the responsibility? My initial response was, if the customer has the power, I think responsibility lies first and foremost with the customer to tell companies what they like and don't like, what they're trying to do, who they are, etc. In order for companies to deliver what customers want, they need customers to give up some information; customers need to let companies know more about themselves, e.g., their wants, needs, likes, dislikes, jobs they're doing, how they shop, why they buy, etc. so that companies can better adapt to how customers (want to) interact with them. Customers also have a responsibility to provide feedback so that companies know when they are hitting the mark or falling short.

At the same time, though, companies must also shoulder the responsibility. Yea, customers have the power, but if companies don't take on some of the responsibility, customers will go elsewhere. They need to...
  • listen to customers and act on what they hear
  • capture in-the-moment feedback
  • ensure that they capture information that is relevant and matters - those things that can impact the customer experience, those things that result in customers returning for more or recommending products and services
  • develop collaborative relationships with customer, and 
  • design with the customer rather than forcing on customers what they think customers want
Don't just listen to check a box. Get to know your customers. Listen. Innovate. Iterate.

What's the golden rule? Those who have the gold make the rules, right? Your customers will spend their gold elsewhere if you're not prepared to take some responsibility.

There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them. -Denis Waitley

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Time to Kill a Customer Experience Snake

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Snakes! Why did it have to be snakes?! 

I was recently reminded of that famous quote by Indiana Jones from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Recall that he absolutely hates snakes; they're not exactly my favorite creature, either. When I came across Jim Barksdale's Three Rules of Business, I laughed with that movie quote in mind; nonetheless, I think I like his reference to snakes. Sounds bizarre? Read on.

A little background. Jim is the former president and CEO of Netscape, and he's well known for some of the interesting things he says - many of his sayings or quotables include references to animals, and they are all thought-provoking. Here's one, just to get you thinking: In a fight between a bear and an alligator, it is the terrain which determines who wins.

So, back to his Three Rules of Business, which he established while at Netscape. The rules tell us how to kill a snake, metaphorically; when he says "snake," he's referring to a problem.

The Three Rules are:   
  1. If you see a snake, don't call committees, don't call your buddies, don't form a team, don't get a meeting together, just kill the snake.
  2. Don't go back and play with dead snakes. Too many people waste too much time on decisions that have already been made.
  3. All opportunities start out looking like snakes. Look at problems as if they are opportunities. Opportunities arise out of solving problems.
Rather than thinking about the snakes as problems, let's dig a little deeper, get to the root cause, and think of them as processes and policies. You know the ones I'm referring to: the ones that increase customer effort and decrease efficiency of steps customers go through to achieve what they are trying to achieve with your business. So many companies are overrun by cumbersome policies and processes that hinder not only the customer experience but also their employees' ability to do their jobs efficiently and effectively or to deliver a great customer experience.

Do you have old, outdated, or unnecessary processes that customers go through to accomplish a simple task? Do you need examples? How about that antiquated phone tree on your IVR system? Or the dozen clicks that customers need to go through to purchase an item on your website? Or the multiple calls that need to be made to get an issue resolved? Or the search for a phone number just to call your support line? Or your return process? I could keep going.

Where are your snakes? And what rules does your company have to kill them? Or do you just step around them to avoid their bite?


In case you've never seen Raiders of the Lost Ark and don't know the reference to snakes, here's the scene. 

When solving problems, dig at the roots instead of just hacking at the leaves. -Anthony J. D’Angelo, The College Blue Book

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Do Customers Need a Safety Net?

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Do you have a safety net in place for your customers? Or can they unintentionally hurt themselves?

I had an interaction with my bank recently that got me thinking about a lot of things, not the least of which was, "Why is the banking experience still so bad?" Beyond that, I also wondered:
  • Does technology really improve the customer  experience or not? (I've written about this previously, here and here.)
  • When will banks focus on the multichannel experience, where the responses, information, and policies spewed forth are consistent not only from one customer service rep to another but also from the call center to the branch?
  • When will they get the concept of the omnichannel experience? Don't they have the technology yet to facilitate multi and/or omni?
  • Should companies have a "customer safety net?"
This last question is the one I want to explore a bit more right now.

In this recent interaction with my bank, there were no fewer than three points of failure for me because I didn't know all of the bank's rules and policies. (Turns out, neither do its employees.)

Absent human intervention - assuming the humans knows all the rules, too - could there have been a safety net built into their technology to save me from failure, embarrassment, and a boatload of stress? The answer: absolutely. Three little flags or checks in their system, and my weekend wouldn't have been ruined. Those flags would have stopped me from doing something that I apparently wasn't supposed to, or allowed to, do.

But there were no flags, no safety nets; instead, companies assume their customers know all the rules and can, therefore, abide by them. I can't possibly know all the rules; their employees don't even know them.

So, why not help your customers? Why not make it easy to do business? Isn't it time to focus on the amount of effort your customers need to put forth to do business with your organization - and remove those items that cause the most pain? Wouldn't it be great if companies simply walked in their customers' shoes every once in a while?

So I ask you:
  • Do your customers know all of your rules and policies?
  • Do you expect them to?
  • Do your employees know all of your rules and policies?
  • Do you penalize customers for not knowing your rules and policies?
  • Or do you have a safety net in place to keep your customers from hurting themselves?

Nobody wants to fall into a safety net because it means the structure in which they've been living is in a state of collapse, and they have no choice but to tumble downwards. However, it beats the alternative. -Lemony Snicket