Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Employee Experience - Customer Experience Connection

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Is the employee experience - customer experience connection real?

Last week, I had the pleasure of joining Sue Bethanis of Mariposa Leadership to talk about  that very connection and the importance of putting the employee first in your customer experience strategy.

It was a great conversation, and we covered a pretty broad range of topics, including:

  • what is employee experience
  • why the employee experience is so important
  • the role of culture in the customer engagement strategy
  • examples of companies who exemplify this connection
  • why companies still don't get it
  • how we can shift that thinking
  • how do we make the argument that employees come first
  • tools to impact the employee experience
  • how to use employee feedback
  • and more...
To listen to the podcast, go here.

For more information on the importance of the employee experience, here are a few posts I've written on this topic:

It's Time to Focus on Employee Experience
Employee Passion Drives Results
Building a Customer-Centric Culture
Exit Interviews? Why Not Do Stay Interviews?
Define Your Employee-Centric Culture
Putting Employee More First
This Trumps Customer Experience
CEM Toolbox: Employee Experience
Does "Employees More First" Disparage Customers?

To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace. -Doug Conant

Friday, September 26, 2014

How Are You Celebrating #CXDay?

It's that time of the year again! Time to celebrate CX Day!

As a member of CXPA (Customer Experience Professionals Association) and a team member of the CXPA SoCal Local Networking Events committee, I am actively involved in the organization and all it has to offer. If you're a customer experience professional and not yet a member, you should check it out.

In the meantime, I wanted to share some details about CX Day, which occurs on the first Tuesday of October every year.

First, what is CX Day? It's a celebration of customer experience professionals, those folks who work tirelessly to design and deliver a great customer experience to their customers. This day is meant to not only highlight the profession but also to continue to raise awareness of the importance of the customer experience.

Second, what happens on CX Day? A lot! Let me run down the list real quick.
I'm excited to be a part of this special day. I'll be hosting two of the Google+ Hangouts. Like last year, I'll be kicking off CX Day with the first Hangout, which takes place Monday, October 6, at 3:30pm PDT for the start of Australia's CX Day. And I'll help close out the online portion of CX Day celebrations by hosting the West Coast Hangout at 4:30pm PDT on October 7.

In between all of that, I'll be with my Local Networking Events team at Activision in El Segundo, hosting our CX Day event. If you're in Southern California, please join us for a great event.

If your company is celebrating, share what you're doing in the comments below. I look forward to hearing about your celebrations and seeing you either online or in person!

You are serving a customer, not a life sentence. Learn how to enjoy your work. -Laurie McIntosh

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

What's the Difference: Journey Map or Lifecycle Map?

Image courtesy of Unsplash
Today's post is inspired by a couple of different conversations that happened over the past week or so. 

What's the difference between a customer experience lifecycle map and a customer journey map? 

I thought it was worthwhile to clarify because the difference is in the details! Literally.

I'll start with the customer experience lifecycle map.

The lifecycle map shows the phases of the customer's relationship with your company. It's high level and is good for understanding the overall relationship the customer has with the organization, from before he's even considered a customer through when he is no longer a customer. It typically includes these stages: Need, Awareness, Consideration, Selection/Purchase, Experience, Loyalty, Advocacy, Engagement, Raving Fans. And, unfortunately, Exit. It's not necessarily linear and often circles back on itself.

This type of map is often handy for your marketing and sales folks to help them understand and identify where prospects or customers are in the relationship with the company so that they can better target communications, marketing campaigns, or sales pitches based on wants and needs at each stage. The problem is, it's a 30,000-foot view; it's too high level to be able to help the organization understand the customer experience or to effect change that is meaningful to the customer experience.

Lifecycle maps have their place and are important to nurturing the overall customer relationship, but to get to the heart of the matter, to really design a better customer experience, you must map the customer journey.

What, then, 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 within each stage of the lifecycle.  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 either, nor is it static. But it is the backbone of your customer experience management efforts.

This is where the details come into play, though. The journey map looks at each and every step a customer takes in order to achieve some task, i.e., calling support, ordering a product, etc., with the company. It describes what customers are doing, thinking, and feeling at each step in the journey. Lifecycle maps don't get to this level of detail, and they're not focused on some task the customer is trying to do.

Why do you need a customer journey map? I believe customer journey maps provide clarity for the entire 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
If you've done some mapping, take a look at the maps and tell me if you've gotten to the level of detail that you need to get to in order to improve the customer experience. Is it a lifecycle map or a journey map? If you haven't started with personas, described some task the customer is trying to achieve, and validated with customers, you need to go back to the drawing board. Literally.

A map does not just chart - it unlocks and formulates meaning; it forms bridges between here and there, between disparate ideas that we did not know were previously connected. -Reif Larsen, The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet

Friday, September 19, 2014

Are Your Customers Persona Non Grata?

I originally wrote today's post for Intradiem. It was published on their blog on May 19, 2014.

Have you thought about this question: "In your company, are customers persona non grata?"

OK, a little Latin refresher to start off. What does "persona non grata" mean?

According to Wikipedia, it means an unwelcome person. I like the definition from BusinessDictionary.com, which defines it as: A person who is rejected by those whose acceptance of him or her is required in a situation.

Can you see how this relates to your customers?

Why are we in business? For our customers, right? Their acceptance is required in this situation, no? And yet, we still see some dismal statistics about how many companies don't focus on the customer experience or think they focus on the customer experience but really don't.

$83 billion is estimated to be lost by U.S. businesses every year due to poor customer service.
Source: Genesys

Businesses lose $289 each year for every customer who leaves due to poor service.
Source: Genesys

80% of big companies described themselves as delivering “superior” service, but only 8% of customers say they’ve experienced “superior” service from these companies.

Source: The New Yorker

66% of consumers switched companies in at least one of ten industries due to poor service in the past year. 82% of consumers felt their service provider could have done something to prevent switching. 55% say they’d have stayed if the company had proactively contacted them, and 51% would have stayed had the company simply recognized them and rewarded them for their business.
Source: Accenture Global Consumer Pulse Research, 2013

Amazon is really a great example of a customer-focused, customer-centric company. Actually, the better phrase, their phrase, is "obsessed over customers."  Remember, Jeff Bezos is the one who regularly has an empty chair in meetings to represent the customer, i.e., "the most important person in the room."

So, I thought I'd tip my hat to Jeff Foxworthy and say, your customers might be considered persona non grata in your company if you...
  • focus more on acquisition than on retention
  • share nothing but sales metrics in your company meetings
  • sell things you shouldn't sell, just to make your numbers
  • focus solely on making your numbers
  • talk about nothing but sales metrics in your executive meetings
  • don't listen to your customers
  • don't make decisions based on what's best for your customers
  • don't include some reference to customers in the job descriptions for your customer-facing positions
  • listen to customers but don't act on the feedback (only listen to check a box)
  • don't train employees on what it means to deliver a great customer experience
  • don't teach employees how to deliver a great customer experience
  • don't create a clear line of sight for employees to the customer so that they understand their roles in, or contributions to, delivering a great customer experience
  • don't communicate your brand promise to employees
  • don't explain your vision or purpose to your employees
  • don't understand your customers or their needs
  • listen to customers but only focus on the metrics, not on improving the experience
  • develop products without understanding customer needs
  • are focused on shareholder value
  • don't make the employee experience a priority
  • don't hire the right people
  • have a siloed organization
In companies where customers are persona non grata, in the list of company priorities, it seems the customer falls somewhere low, after sales, metrics, products, and a variety of other things. The customer is an afterthought. An outcome.

No. The customer is not an outcome. The customer is an input. The customer is your reason for being. The customer cannot be persona non grata ... the customer must be persona grata. At all times. In all meetings. In all conversations. In all decisions.

Where is the customer in your organization?

You could also replace “vision” with the word “customer” in this quote from Simon Sinek, and it would still work.

Focus on the vision and the numbers will thrive. Focus on the numbers and the vision will struggle (and so will the numbers). -Simon Sinek

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Reputation Management or Customer Experience Management?

Background image courtesy of Unsplash
Which should you focus on: reputation management or customer experience management? Or both?

With sites like Yelp, TravelAdvisor, Angie's List, and more (not to mention Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc.), companies have a myriad of options for listening to customers online and uncovering when and where good and bad experiences are taking place. At the same time, customers rely heavily on online reviews before they buy a product, eat at a restaurant, stay at a hotel, and more; they want to know the good and the bad, as well, in order to make informed decisions.

This is great for customers, but some companies aren't thrilled with these review sites or with social media; they often don't have the staff to manage it all, and they don't want their dirty laundry aired in public to millions of people. Sites have even popped up where businesses can review customers! And just last week, California's governor signed a new law into effect that protects customers by prohibiting companies from going after those who write negative reviews about them.

What on earth is going on?!

In walks reputation management. What is it? Let me share a couple of definitions.

Reputation management is defined on Wikipedia as:

The practice of monitoring the reputation of an individual or brand, addressing contents which are damaging to it, and using customer feedback solutions to get feedback or early warning signals to reputation problems. Most of reputation management is focused on pushing down negative search results. Reputation management may attempt to bridge the gap between how a company perceives itself and how others view it.

That last sentence reminds me of this Abraham Lincoln quote: Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.

TechTarget defines reputation management as the practice of attempting to shape public perception of a person or organization by influencing online information about that entity.

I found one site that defined it as having three components, depending on where you are in the maturity of your business: building, maintaining, and recovery. In our world, I think we focus mainly on the latter.

What's the point of this post? Reputation management is an important tool in our customer experience management (CEM) coffer, but I've heard some companies say it's the only tool they need to listen and to improve the customer experience. This is erroneous thinking.

I'm not saying that reputation management should be discounted - it's an important tool in the customer listening and service recovery arena, but it's not the only tool.

  • It's reactive, not proactive.
  • It's too late.
  • If we focus on the experience, specifically on delivering a great customer experience, the reputation will follow.
Reputation management falls into the category of listening tools at your disposal for your CEM strategy, right next to surveys and other customer listening methods. It is not a strategy on its own that supersedes an overall, umbrella CEM strategy.

What should businesses do instead? Focus on that CEM strategy and what it takes to deliver a great experience. What does that involve? All the same stuff I'm always writing about:
  • Outline and share your CX vision
  • Understand your customers (personas)
  • Know customer preferences
  • Treat different customers differently
  • Map the customer journey
  • Listen to customers
  • Measure your performance
  • Act on what you hear
  • Watch for signs of emerging trends (industry and customer experience) and changing (customer) expectations
  • Take a holistic, not siloed, approach to customer experience
  • Innovate and differentiate
  • Improve processes
  • Hire the right people
  • Train employees on what a great customer experience looks like
  • Communicate and live the brand promise
  • Stay focused and obsessed
  • Always save a chair for the customer
If you need help getting started, take a look at my CX Framework for more-specific details.

Let your experience - and hence, your reputation - speak for itself. Build a bank of trust and relationship currency so that, if/when things do go wrong, you can recover more easily. Create those raving fans, who...
  • Are less price sensitive
  • Will pay a premium for a better experience
  • Stay longer, spend more, churn less
  • Expand their purchases/relationships to other/new products or services you offer
  • May overlook product shortcomings
  • Are more likely to forgive occasional/infrequent service shortcomings (just make it right, though!)
  • Cost less (e.g., marketing, advertising, promotions)
  • Have fewer complaints
  • Provide feedback and want to help you improve and succeed
  • Become technical support for you by helping other customers (answer questions, solve problems)
  • Will evangelize the brand for you
When you consistently deliver a great customer experience, when your customers work for you and not against you, you won't need reputation management, right?

It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently. -Warren Buffett

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Do Your CX Improvements Rob Peter to Pay Paul?

Image courtesy of Pixabay
When you make organizational improvements - be they for the benefit of employees and/or customers - are your efforts spot on or misguided?

I recently read an article about a new dress code being imposed on Wal-Mart employees (effective later this month). The purpose of the new dress code is to help customers more-easily identify employees. I don't have a problem with that; given my recent experiences in a few different stores, more stores could benefit from this.

Unfortunately, some employees are groaning because the dress code - which consists of white or navy blue collared shirts, khaki or black pants, closed-toe shoes, and a royal blue Wal-Mart vest - is not being subsidized by Wal-Mart. In other words, employees need to buy the clothes, and Wal-Mart will provide the vest. For part-time, minimum wage employees, this could pose a financial hardship.

The article went on to say that this isn't the first time in recent years that Wal-Mart has imposed a dress code (It doesn't say, but apparently those didn't work?) and that there are other issues Wal-Mart should address, like understaffed stores and product shortages.

Reading the article, I stopped and wondered what was really going on. And wondered if this is a more-pervasive problem, not just one for Wal-Mart. I started to ask some questions:
  • Is there perhaps a misguided focus on what's important to the customer? Is the issue identifying who's an associate? Or is the issue really that there aren't enough associates to begin with?
  • Have they made these changes because of what they've heard from customers?
  • And relative to other improvement priorities, was this one most important?
  • Or did they just go for low-hanging fruit that costs little to Wal-Mart but puts the (financial) burden on the employees instead?
  • Are they making improvements in one area to the detriment of another?
  • Are they making improvements for one constituent (customer) to the detriment of another (employee)?
  • What's really important to their customers?
  • What's most important to the employee experience and employee happiness?
  • Are there other underlying issues that should be addressed first?
Is Wal-Mart robbing Peter to pay Paul? Is your company making customer experience improvements in a vacuum, without considering the full ramifications? Or is it reasonable to request that employees do something that causes them pain but is for the benefit of the customer? After all, the customer is always first and always right, right?

A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul. -George Bernard Shaw

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Trust Isn't About Keeping Score

Image courtesy of Pixabay
How is low trust impacting your organization? Your business results?

I've written about trust at least a dozen times in the past. In response to my recent post, A Culture of Distrust, Richard Fagerlin reached out to me about his book Trustology: The Art and Science of Leading High-Trust Teams. He wanted to get my thoughts on his stance on trust.

The book is about employee engagement through trust relationships, or in a nutshell, building a culture of trust. It's a fast read, but make no mistake, it's packed with a lot of practical ideas that you can put to work today.

A few things resonated with me, but this was probably one of my favorites: Trust isn't what we "do" - it's what results from what we do.

I've written that trust is earned and that it's a two-way street: you choose to trust the other party, and they choose to trust you back. And vice versa. And I've said to trust until you have a reason not to trust (or to be trusted).

Richard takes an interesting approach and says that trust cannot be earned; it can only be given - that it is the responsibility of the person who wants to be trusted. He likens earning trust to keeping score; you get points for certain behaviors and lose points for other, less desirable actions. Earning trust is about control and constantly being evaluated. That doesn't sound like a trust or trusting relationship, does it?

Instead, trust keeps no record of wrongs. Richard says to stop keeping score, stop tracking the good and the bad. Trust is not risk-free, but its strength is based on mutual vulnerability. That statement is powerful, and I agree that that mutual vulnerability is the basis of trust.

So let me step back a minute and look at how Richard defines trust: confidence in others. In his chapter on The Trust Model, he further defines trust as confidence in the other person...
  • doing what they say they will do (integrity)
  • having the knowledge and skills to perform the job (competence)
  • having your best interests at heart (compassion)
Trust is strong when confidence in all three exists. He says that confidence equals predictability. And predictability is so important.

In those previous posts I'd written about trust, I attributed things like integrity, consistency, honesty, and predictability to trust and as drivers of trust. I have said in the past that predictability begets trust. So it sounds like we might just be in agreement.

In the book, Richard provides two trust assessments: one for teams and another for individuals. He then follows those up with tips and guidelines on how to fill the trust gap, which is defined as: the difference between where you would like to be as a team and where you are right now; the root problems that keep you from functioning as a high-trust, high-performance team. Here are a few examples of gaps he identifies in his three components of trust.

Gaps in integrity include:
Gaps in competence include:
  • unwillingness to share information or expertise with associates
  • a skill and knowledge gap that slows down the rest of the team
  • frequently failing to meet goals and objectives
Gaps in compassion include:
Once the gaps have been identified, the team must agree on them and then own them. As Richard says, the gaps are OK; it's doing nothing about them that is not OK.

As you can see, there are a lot of great nuggets in this book to help you develop high-trust, high-performing teams. I've only scraped the surface with this post, but it's definitely worth reading to get some ideas on how to identify and resolve trust gaps within your organization.

The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them. -Ernest Hemingway

Thursday, September 4, 2014

6 Tools to Create a Clear Line of Sight to Customers

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's post for InsideCXM, where it was published on April 2, 2014. I have modified the post slightly since then. 

Do your employees have a clear line of sight to your customers?

First, what does "line of sight" mean? In a nutshell, it's the straight line between you and your target. In this case, the target is the customer and the customer experience. When employees have a clear line of sight, they...
  • know how they contribute to the customer experience
  • know what it means to deliver a great customer experience, and 
  • they have the tools and training - and are empowered - to do so
Attempting to improve the employee experience, transform the culture, and delight your customers without the entire organization, from the CEO down to the frontline, in alignment with the goal(s), is impossible.

I saw this quote the other day, and while it's not specifically about organizational alignment, I think it sums up nicely what I'm trying to say:

Just as your car runs more smoothly and requires less energy to go faster and farther when the wheels are in perfect alignment, you perform better when your thoughts, feelings, emotions, goals, and values are in balance. -Brian Tracy

Think of your employees as that car: they will work more efficiently and more effectively if their goals, values, and purpose are aligned with those of the organization.

That target, ensuring employees have a clear line of sight to the customer, seems clear and straightforward to frontline employees, but the customer experience isn't just created at the frontline. How do we ensure that everyone has their sights set on the right target?

The following six tools are a good place to start.

Vision: An inspirational and aspirational statement, your vision not only outlines what the company is trying to achieve near-term and long-term but also guides decision-making processes and your subsequent, resultant course of action. Presumably, your vision will (a) draw the line between what you're doing and for whom you're doing it and (b) create alignment within the organization.

Values: Your core values are beliefs that guide you in identifying which behaviors and actions are right and which are wrong, both for your employees and toward your customers. Everything you do must be aligned with your values, and they should be integrated into everything you do. When in doubt, ask: "Is this the right thing to do? Does it fit with our values?"

Brand Promise: A brand promise is the expectations you set with your customers.  It’s a combination of the brand purpose and the reality of what the brand can deliver. It defines the benefits a customer can expect to receive when experiencing your brand – at every touchpoint. It's meant for both customer and employees, as employees at all levels, frontline and behind the scenes, must deliver on the promise.

Voice of Customer: Listening to customers and ensuring that their feedback is shared (and acted upon) throughout the organization helps connect the dots for employees - they hear how what they do relates to, and translates into, what the customer experiences.

Customer Journey Map: A customer journey map is the ultimate tool to help connect all employees to how they contribute to - and impact - the customer experience. The map is the backbone of the customer experience, and while it details what the customer experiences as he's trying to complete a task with the company, it's important to add a section to the map that shows when, where, and how employees contribute at each touchpoint along the way.

Communication: Last, but certainly not least, is communication. This is perhaps the umbrella tool over the other five. It's important on its own, but it must also be used in conjunction with the other five tools. What gets shared and communicated is viewed as important to your employees. And communication lends clarity, which is critical to a clear line of sight.

When employees know the target and know how their work contributes - and matters - to the end game, they...
  • Feel a sense of pride
  • Display a sense ownership
  • Are more productive
  • Are less likely to leave
  • Recommend the company, which attracts talent and customers
  • Defend the company and its reputation
  • Make suggestions to improve the business
Yikes! Does that sound a bit like, dare I say, "engagement?"

If you are not working toward something, your life will end with nothing. -Habeeb Akande

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Listen with the Right Intent

Image courtesy of Unsplash | André Spieker
When you listen to customers or to employees, do you really listen? Or are you already anticipating your response or your reaction before they're finished talking?

Stephen R. Covey said:

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.

Unfortunately, this is so true.

I previously wrote:  
When we think about a conversation, we typically understand that it has two parts: speaking and listening. It's a two-way street. I would actually add a third component: hearing. Yes, we talk; and yes, we say we listen. But do we actually hear what has been said? I think hearing requires a subsequent action or reaction. And in the customer conversation, that part is often missing.
When you listen, make sure you hear what is being said before you act or react. When you stop, listen, and really hear, you are better able to understand customers' (or employees', as this applies to both) needs and jobs they are trying to do, allowing you to better design for those jobs or to fulfill those needs. You're also better able to understand their questions or issues and address those or point customers in the right direction to get the issues resolved. In a timely manner.

Not only does hearing ensure you better understand but you may also discover that the customer is  saying more than you thought. The tone, pitch, or inflection of his voice or his body language (if you're seeing him in person) can tell you more than the words he is saying. Use those cues, combined with what is being said, to form your response - after the customer is finished talking. If you're ready to reply after his first sentence, you might be missing some things.

The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't said. -Peter Drucker

If you listen with the intent to reply, you don't hear everything that is being said. The focus of the conversation is singular rather than broader, perhaps opening up doors to other topics, features, sales, options, etc. If you listen with the intent to reply, you...
  • judge before you know all the facts
  • are disrespectful
  • analyze and prematurely form opinions
  • will misunderstand
  • miss opportunities
On the other hand, if you listen with the intent to understand, you open up the possibilities. Better yet, listen with intent to...
  • understand
  • clarify
  • show respect
  • let customers or employees know they are valued
  • improve the experience
  • connect 
  • hear
Use active listening as a way to show that you've heard what is being said. Active listening means that you paraphrase back to the person you're speaking with your understanding of what he just said to you. This exercise allows you to confirm not only what you heard but also what your understanding is. It can really help to avoid confusion.

Have you trained your frontline staff to listen with the right intent in their customer conversations? Do they use active listening? Are you hearing- really hearing - what your employees are saying to you?

One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say. -Bryant H. McGill