Thursday, December 31, 2015

Customer Experience Resolutions

Image courtesy of BazaarBizarreSF
Are you into making customer experience predictions for next year?

Personally, I'm over predictions! Any predictions!

So let's forget about predictions. They never seem to be right. They never seem to be executed. And they seem to be the same year over year.


I think we're not getting enough traction yet with more-advanced, innovative CX work across the board because there are still so many newbies to this arena to turn those predictions into reality. In other words, the things that are being predicted are too advanced for the most basic, for those who are just getting started, which includes, well, a lot companies.

I think Seth Godin said it best in his recent post, Surefire Predictions.

Instead of predictions, let's make some resolutions, instead. Predictions are things you think will happen (sometimes based on past data/performance/trends), but resolutions are different. Resolutions are a decision to do something. And if you write them down and put them out into the universe, you definitely need to be accountable for them.

So, let's resolve to do something! Let's resolve to improve the customer experience. What shall we list as our resolutions for 2016?

Will you resolve to do the following?
There are a lot of other resolutions that you could put out there, but this is a huge start. There's lots to do, and you can't really get do more until you get these basics down.

Let me know how you make out on these resolutions in 2016! Good luck!

Good resolutions are like babies crying in church. They should be carried out immediately. -Charles M. Sheldon

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Window to the Soul of Your Organization

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Your frontline staff (all of your employees, for that matter) is the window to the soul of your organization.

Have you ever thought of them in that manner?

They truly are that window. They provide a glimpse into the organization and all its inner workings: your culture, your workplace environment, your employee experience, your customer experience, and more.
So, imagine if the window to the soul of your organization is broken.

If employees ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!  

If that's the case, know that it is your fault. Somewhere along the way, communication broke down or expectations weren't (properly) set.

Imagine if your employees aren't treating your customers well. Imagine if they take attitude with your customers or aren't willing to be helpful. What if they deliver an experience that is totally counter to what your customers expect? What if the way they act or the words they use with your customers don't reflect your culture or your brand?

Imagine if your employees make your customers feel like the women in this video make the main character feel. Granted, the women are fellow customers, but the point is still made: attitude and word choices impact those around you.

Do your customers feel deflated after interacting with your employees?

How does this happen? Again, it's your fault. You've hired wrong. Failed to train properly. Haven't communicated what a great experience looks like. Didn't provide the tools or resources for employees to do their jobs properly.

First impressions are everything. First impressions are lasting impressions. Those windows (your frontline) make a first impression - with every interaction. They give a glimpse into how your organization hires, prepares its employees, and feels about customers overall. They set the expectation for what lies ahead, causing customers to either return or move on. So make sure your windows aren't dirty or broken (so to speak).

Here are some tips to help you avoid or to fix the broken windows:
  • Hire the right people 
  • Hire for attitude, train for skills
  • Make the employee experience a priority
  • Teach employees what empathy means and how to use it to deliver the experience your customers expect
  • Lose the script; encourage employees to be real
  • Empower employees to do what's right - on the spot
  • Define and then clearly communicate to employees your CX vision
  • Train employees on what it means to deliver a great experience
  • Provide employees with the tools and resources needed to do what they're supposed to do
  • Communicate openly, choose words wisely
  • Role play and set examples
Take a look at your windows. What do you see? Do they need to be cleaned? Repaired?

If you want to fix the customer experience, the #1 thing you need to focus on is the employee experience.

The soul, fortunately, has an interpreter - often an unconscious but still a faithful interpreter - in the eye. -Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

Thursday, December 24, 2015

So, What Exactly is Customer Loyalty?

Image courtesy of m.muneeb381
Do you know what customer loyalty is?

When people at your company think about "customer loyalty," are they thinking about your customers' likelihood to recommend? likelihood to repurchase? likelihood to purchase additional products?

How does your company define customer loyalty?

I had a situation recently that caused me to call on a provider to whom I've paid thousands and thousands of dollars by way of monthly premiums for the last 20+ years. I've never filed a claim, but I did six weeks ago. It's not been a good customer experience since that day.

In conversations I've had with family and friends about this incident/relationship, they've questioned "customer loyalty." What does it mean? What does it really get you? Is that loyalty about being a long-term customer and getting an experience that reflects those 20+ years as a customer? Or is that loyalty about them wanting you to be customer forever, at any or all costs?

In other words, whose side, which side, defines customer loyalty.

Why do I ask? Because, typically, after the incident I had, companies drop their customers, regardless of said "loyalty."

Where's the "loyalty" in that? For either one of us? (Because, hey, maybe I'll drop them first!)

So, again, is loyalty about an individual being a long-term customer, or is loyalty about a company "appreciating" the fact that they've had a customer for a long term?

See the difference? Is the onus on the customer or on the company? Is it about them, or is it about us? Whose loyalty? Are you doing great things for your customers? Or are you expecting customers to do great things with and for you?

Big difference. Yet shouldn't they go hand in hand?

Maybe there's a better way to make this point, but when you talk about "customer loyalty" in your day-to-day role within your organization, do you mean:  loyalty to the customer? or from the customer? That is the question. (And, I believe I know the answer.)

We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better. -Jeff Bezos

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Do You Employ the 10th Man Rule?

Image courtesy of dullhunk
When it's decision-making time, is there someone on your team who always plays devil's advocate?

And how do you view that person? Does he frustrate you? Or are you happy for an opposing view to drive alternative thinking or to facilitate deeper conversation?

Either way, there's a rule that outlines what that person is doing or should be doing; it's the 10th man rule.

The 10th man rule comes from Israel, where all (government/military) decisions are put before a panel of 10 people. When nine of the ten people completely agree that a particular decision is the way to go, it's the job of the 10th man to question the decision, to disagree, to take an opposing view so as to avoid the pitfalls of groupthink.

Honestly, I can't disagree with this approach. It reminds me of this General George S. Patton quote:
 If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking.
And that reminds me of my approach to hiring. When I hire people, I look forward to having each person bring something of value, something different - different experiences, different perspectives. I want each person on my team to challenge the current approach, the current way of thinking, the traditional way of doing things.

I've also left a couple employers early in my CX career because the approach was: "We've always done things this way. We've done things this way for 40 years. We're going to continue doing them that way." Ugh. So frustrating. Let the record show: I hate that thinking!

And it also reminds me of situations where there have been employees who have stayed with companies for 15 or 20 or more years, who get comfortable with the way things are. Tenure is not a bad thing. But complacency is. Thinking we know everything there is to know is a bad thing, too.

How do we fix that? I can think of a couple ways:

  • encourage continuous learning, always being up to date on the latest industry happenings, technology, methodologies, approaches, etc.
  • hire new people, bring in different backgrounds and fresh perspectives
  • do your homework and research the pros, cons, alternatives, etc.
  • conduct a pre-mortem in your decision-making process
  • employ this 10th man rule

You don't actually have to have 10 people in a room making a decision. If you have fewer, call one person out to be the naysayer, the devil's advocate.

Have you used this, or a similar, approach before?

The important thing is not to stop questioning. -Albert Einstein


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Desired Outcomes Matter

Image courtesy of Pixabay
What happens when we really understand our customers' desired outcomes or the jobs they are trying to do?

Something pretty incredible happens!

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Faster Horses... and Customer Outcomes and the importance of asking the right questions - to understand desired outcomes - in order to develop products your customers will want to use/buy.

In that post, I wrote:

... step back and ask customers about their pain points with the current product, what it's not doing for them, what they're trying to achieve that they can't. Or bypass thinking about the current product; focus on a situation for which you'll develop a new or better solution. Focus on what customers are trying to do and uncover unmet needs to aid in your new product design efforts.

When we understand pain points, desired outcomes, and what customers are trying to do, we can truly innovate and create some incredible products. Case in point, here's an example of what happens when we understand these things:

Pretty awesome concept! Imagine if that technology appeared on more trucks around the globe.

I thought it was important to share an example of what happens when we understand what our customers are trying to do and how we can help them do it - or what the current experience is and how we can improve upon it. This particular example is pretty powerful because it's a lifesaver. Literally.

You've got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology - not the other way around. -Steve Jobs


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

On Becoming a Strong Leader

Image courtesy of pedrosimoes7
What are some of the key questions that you might have about becoming a leader - or just about leadership, in general?

Two weeks ago, I was honored to be featured alongside other leadership experts on Mashable's #BizChats Twitter chat about  leadership and on how to become a strong leader. The conversation was inspiring and fast moving, as these chats often go.

The questions asked during the chat include... with a few of my thoughts woven in...

Q1. What are some defining traits of a leader?
A leader doesn't tell her team what to do; instead, she inspires them to use what's already inside to do great things. She supports and uplifts her team. She's honest, transparent, has a great attitude, communicates well, is always learning, empowers others, and does the right thing. One thing to remember is that a leader doesn't necessarily have a team but must have followers.

Q2. What are some common mistakes that new leaders make?
Some common mistakes I've seen include:
  • Believing they have to have the answer or all the answers
  • Talking more, listening less
  • Thinking you have to do everything; it's ok to delegate
  • Not working well with others
  • Trying to do things themselves, on their own, in isolation

Q3. How can a leader take on more ownership without becoming overwhelmed?
They can delegate and then empower their followers. They'll still be accountable, but it's OK to pass on responsibility to the team. Also, leaders don't have to take on more ownership; they ought to inspire and guide and teach - and give up some ownership.

Q4. What are some useful tips for leaders managing a team for the first time?
A few of the tips I offered up include:
  • You don't have to have all the answers
  • You don't have to be the sage on the stage; be the guide by your team's side
  • Give credit where credit is due; don't take credit for your team's work
  • But when your team fails, you're the first to fall on the sword
  • Recognize your employees for a job well done
  • Take care of your team, really care about them
  • Think about a leader in your past: To be like them or to not be like them? That is the question.

Q5. What steps should a leader take when dealing with office politics and/or conflicts?
Recognize that there is conflict; discuss what it is and what it means for the team. Understand the opposing positions, and figure out how you'll work together. Don't let things get personal, and don't take things personally. Communicate early and often. And in the end, don't forget patience and respect.

Q6. How does emotional intelligence play into effective leadership?
When you understand how your emotions affect others, when you have this emotional awareness, you can better control your reactions. It then keeps you from attacking others, allows you to feel empathy, and allows you to resolve conflict more effectively and diplomatically.

Q7. What are some myths about leadership?
A couple of common myths (there are so many more) include:
  • You have to have a team to be a leader
  • Managers and leaders are one and the same
  • Leaders have all the answers
  • Leaders can't ask for help

Q8. What final tips do you have into evolving into a leader?
A few of my tips included:
  • Don't be afraid to speak your mind, and when you do, be prepared for what you hear
  • Inspire, don't tell or yell
  • You are in charge of your destiny and the type of leader you will become
  • Think of past leaders and pull lessons from the good ones and swear off traits from the bad ones!
To see the full wrap-up of the chat, check out Mashable's write-up on it or the Storify version.

Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other. -John F. Kennedy

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Understanding the Cost of Not Doing (the Right) Personas

Image courtesy of nicolasnova
Today I'm pleased to share a guest post by Raviv Turner.

When it comes down to it, how well do you truly understand your customer base? Do you understand their motivation, lifestyle, and other attributes that affect their spending habits? Understanding what makes your customer tick can help you hone in on buying behavior and plan everything from ad copy to new product lines. From start to finish, use accurate data to create customer personas. Not taking the time to get to know and understand your customers can doom you to mediocrity.

In 2012, JCPenney decided to launch a dramatic rebrand under the leadership of new CEO, Ron Johnson. The plan was to not only change the look and feel of the stores but also overhaul how the company did business completely. He decided to discontinue lucrative JCP private label brands and replace them with designer clothing. The clothes he replaced the line with were priced higher than the average JCPenney’s customer would budget. He pretty much changed everything about the brand, without thinking of his company’s loyal customers. The rebranding flopped and sales figures fell flat.

Johnson later admitted he had made assumptions about his customers without looking at the data. He told Business Week that he’d believed that customers were tired of all the special sales promotions and coupons. It turned out that the very thing he had cut was what had been driving customer loyalty all along. It was a tough and expensive lesson for the brand.

The problem with many personas is that they are either based on irrelevant data about your prospect, use poorly sourced data, or are based on what is sometimes referred to as “ouija board personas” — customer profiles built from no actual data at all.

Personas are meant to be fictionalized representations of buyers, based on actual existing data. The fiction isn’t meant to be entertaining; it’s meant to provide insight that helps marketers understand their buyers as real people with concrete motivations, desires, and needs. If you don’t understand your customers, you can’t sell to them.

Buyer personas can help businesses truly harness the perception and usefulness of their brand through the eyes of their customer, and it can’t happen too soon.

There’s a failure to thrive among brands that struggle to understand some of the basic motivations their customers have. For example, a Brandshare study recently found that 51% of their respondents are disappointed with the way brands respond to their needs. Only 10% of this same group believed that brands understand and respond well to their needs.

An accurate buyer persona can help you see inside the mind of your customer, anticipate their needs, and develop products to fulfill those needs. It’s a marketer’s dream to get inside the customer’s head.

So how do you get to know your customers, anyway? The answer is data. (Accurate data, to be more specific.) Qualitative research is a great way to start getting to know your customers. You can start to gather this data through the use of customer surveys, telephone interviews, in-person interviews, and focus groups. For each task, make it short and sweet, 7-10 questions designed to give you the best insights based on their behavioral drivers, objections to purchasing, and motivation to buy. Once you’ve got the data, you can start to put a whole image together of your customers and begin creating accurate, insightful customer personas.

Other data-gathering activities such as data mining, social media usage, etc. can come together at a later date, giving you further insight into your customers.

Note: This post was originally published on the Caliber UX blog and is reposted here with permission.

Raviv Turner is the Co-Founder & CEO of Caliber UX, a customer journey mapping and analytics SwaS (Software with a Service). Raviv has been developing custom software experiences for over 15 years in industries ranging from animation, gaming, architecture, marketing, and healthcare. He was Co-Founder at Guerillapps, a social gaming platform. Prior to founding Caliber UX, Raviv was Director of UX at FullContact and VP Product at TapInfluence. He is a Product Design & UX mentor at Techstars and holds a MPS in Interactive Media from New York University.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Are You Driven to Delight?

Today I'm pleased to share a guest post by Joseph Michelli.

Throughout the years, Annette has championed the importance of customer journey mapping and
executing across key touch points to delight customers. I’m honored to provide a guest blog, in keeping with her thought leadership on these important topics.

For the sake of this post, imagine that you lead a company with an excellent product and equally outstanding marketing. You have a steady stream of customers frequenting your business but fear your competitors may have a more-consistent or elevated customer experience. In your mind, it is only a matter of time before customers churn to your competitors, unless you improve the overall experience you provide.

According to Forrester Research, 92% of leadership teams face this challenge, and thus place customer experience improvement among their top strategic priorities. Unfortunately, the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) reports consumer satisfaction (let alone delight) is at a 9-year low. 

In summary, leaders have concern and prioritize experience improvement strategy, but customers aren’t reporting progress.

This “execution gap,” as I like to call it, often comes from not treating customer experience change like they do any other large-scale transformation initiative. So let’s look at 5 key lessons from one company who has successfully executed and “driven delight” for their customers. That company, Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA), is the focus of my recently released book Driven to Delight: Delivering World Class Customer Experience the Mercedes-Benz Way.  Leaders at Mercedes-Benz have taken a product-centric brand quickly in the direction of customer-centric people, process, and technology innovation by focusing on the:

1) Creation of a compelling vision of customer experience excellence: Mercedes-Benz claims they are the “best or nothing,” but on some third-party evaluations their customer experience was “middle of the pack” among luxury automotive manufacturers. Leaders at Mercedes-Benz USA made a compelling case for why customer experience needed to be improved. They continually championed a message of how the future could be different for customers, staff, and dealers. They also offered insights as to what could bring improvement and sought individual buy-in such that each individual would drive delight for “every customer, every time, no excuses.”

2) Mapping of the Customer Journey and Simplifying that Map: While the brand had rich departmental level process maps, Mercedes-Benz USA never had a comprehensive view of typical customer journeys through pre-sale, sale, and post-sale. Marketing, sales, and service all had their own siloed views of the customer journey. These disparate perspectives left gaps for customers at transition points and often were developed from the brands’ perspective, not the customer’s viewpoint. After the comprehensive maps were created, those maps were simplified into journey wheels that create line-of-sight improvement opportunities for everyone representing Mercedes-Benz.

3) Measuring and Leveraging Customer Feedback: MBUSA was quick to acknowledge that they lacked the core competency of effectively leveraging customer feedback in real-time. That changed with the development of measurement tools which are deployed at key points along the customer journey and which capture both transactional satisfaction and relational engagement.

4) Aligning Incentives: Leaders at Mercedes-Benz USA worked with dealer partners to link performance on customer experience metrics to the amount of margin dealers would earn. Poor customer experience scores resulted in less money per car. The money that was not earned by under-performing dealers was cycled back in the form of a bonus for those performing at the highest levels on customer ratings of experience.

5) Committing for the Long Term: MBUSA is in the customer-centric transformation for the long haul. To hear leaders talk, there is no turning back and no time to linger on past victories. They want to not only be best in automotive but to also be among the “best-of-the-best” customer experience providers irrespective of industry. MBUSA leaders talk about customer experience in terms of legacy, dynasty, and a never-ending journey.

So, how do you shape-up against the 5 keys shared above? Are you bridging the “execution gap” for customer experience delivery? Most important, are you confident your people are consistently “driven to delight” one another and your customers?

Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D., C.S.P., is an internationally sought-after speaker, author, and organizational consultant who transfers his knowledge of exceptional business practices in ways that develop joyful and productive workplaces with a focus on the total customer experience. His insights encourage leaders and frontline workers to grow and invest passionately in all aspects of their lives.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Work Harder or Smarter?

Image courtesy of Pixabay

I originally wrote today's post for Intradiem. It was published on their blog on June 18, 2015.

Are your employees working hard, working smart, or both?

I've previously written about employee effort and employee empowerment. In this post, I'll tackle employee efficiency.

How is that different from the other two? Let's start by defining efficiency or being efficient, and then I'll come back to that question.

According to, efficiency is: the state or quality of being efficient, or able to accomplish something with the least waste of time and effort; competency in performance; accomplishment of or ability to accomplish a job with a minimum expenditure of time and effort.

If we reduce employee effort and increase employee empowerment, the outcome ought to be improved employee efficiency. If we hire the right employees*, if our employees are engaged and passionate about what they do, the outcome ought to be improved employee efficiency; they'll find the right way to work.

*Inefficiencies can be introduced when we hire the wrong people - those who don't have the right skills or who just don't know how to get the job done. Inefficiencies can also be introduced when we ask employees to do more than they are capable of doing in the allotted time, often resulting in burnout.

Assuming the two items mentioned in the previous paragraph are not a factor, how do we know if our employees are or aren't working efficiently? First, we can see where they are wasting time, effort, and materials. Second, we can measure efficiency with various metrics. Of course, the key is not to focus on the metrics but on the outcomes. When we identify an inefficient process, let's fix it - not beat up the employee for doing what he was told to do with the tools he was given. And third, employees can tell us about the inefficiencies themselves.

How can we fix inefficiencies? First we need to understand them; we need to uncover why the employee is not working efficiently. To do that, there are two great tools:

1. Journey mapping: When we walk in the employee's shoes and map what he is trying to do, we can easily identify areas of the process that are painpoints, that are taking more steps than reasonable, or that are being done with the wrong tools. Bottom line, mapping can help call out inefficiencies in any process. Map from the employee's perspective and incorporate the employee's voice and feedback into the map to ensure you really understand what he's going through or dealing with.

2. Root cause analysis: It provides us with answers - not off-the-cuff answers but drill-deep-down answers - to product or service issues. Sometimes the answers are not the obvious. We need to step back and think deeper about why things are the way they are. I like using 5 Whys to conduct root cause analysis. How it works: State the problem and then ask "Why?" five times to drill down to the ultimate cause. You can adapt this process to your needs; sometimes asking "Why?" five times is too many, and sometimes you need to ask it more than five times.

How can we help employees work more efficiently? In a nutshell, we need to ensure they have the knowledge and tools to meet the day's challenges. How do we achieve this?
  • Open and ongoing communication: let's ensure employees are working on the right things, things that matter; if we're not talking to them regularly about what's on their plates and what's important, they may be spending too much time on low or lesser priority items. Help them prioritize.
  • Eliminate ambiguity and uncertainty: vagueness is the absence of clarity, which is required for employees to know what is expected of them, both in their roles within the company and how what they do contributes and relates to the customer experience.
  • Culture: think about your workplace culture. Does it encourage or inhibit productivity? Is yours a culture that supports employee innovation and values employees who question "why do we still do things this way?"
  • Teamwork: when people collaborate or work in teams, the hope is that they find better ways to work together and get the job done. (That's the hope; it doesn't always work out that way.)
  • Feedback: give employees feedback about their work but also listen to their input and opinions about how things are getting done. Don't discount their opinions and what they have to say. Ask them about their work and about inefficiencies and listen for painpoints. Then do something about it.
  • Share best practices: if someone's doing it right or doing something well, don't be shy about sharing that approach with others.
  • Help and support employees: when they say they need it, act.
  • Consistency: stay the course in what you are doing (unless change is desperately needed, especially to introduce efficiencies); constant change causes everyone to have to adjust, adapt, start over, and lose efficiencies.
  • Education and training: the better educated your employees are about the task at hand, the vision, the mission, the brand promise, your products, the desired customer experience, etc., the smarter they will work.
  • Outcomes: make sure employees understand and focus on the desired outcome.
  • Goals: make sure employees have reasonable goals; re-evaluate those goals and make sure they are tied to the desired outcome. Make sure goals and expectations are clearly communicated.
  • Skills: ensure employees' skills are matched to the role and to the customer need.
  • Behaviors: model and reward the behaviors you want to continue, especially those that simplify getting the job done (right).
  • Tools and resources: ensure employees have the right tools and resources to do the job.
  • Automation: any time you can automate manual processes, you're sure to introduce efficiencies.
I'm sure there are other - perhaps more tactical - ways to help employees work more efficiently. But if you can get some of the basics down, you should see immediate progress.

Work smarter, not harder? Yes, that's what they say. Me? I think there's room for both. Work smart and work hard. Nothing wrong with that.

Working hard and working smart sometimes can be two different things. -Byron Dorgan

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Faster Horses... and Customer Outcomes

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Are you asking your customers the right questions?

We all know the Henry Ford quote that goes like this:

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses

(It's fair to note that some don't believe he actually said this, but let's go with it.) It's cited often when naysayers try to tell us that customers don't know what they want, i.e., customers can't help us innovate because they just want "faster horses." Instead, they feel that some visionary can create a better product; the problem is, these visionaries don't come along every day.

So back to the faster horses problem. To that I say, "That's what happens when you ask the wrong question!" This is an issue that I've been calling the "Henry Ford Principle" in recent conversations.

In truth, most customers don't know what they want. And that's OK. They don't know what they want because they're focused on what they are trying to do, not on designing products - that's your job; if you can solve that problem for them - design a product to help them do what they're trying to do - then you'll sell some products and have some very happy customers.  

Steve Jobs said: You can't just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they'll want something new.

This is true. So, don't ask them what they want. Ask them what they're trying to do, what they're trying to achieve. Ask them about their pain points, their needs, their desired outcomes in what they're doing. 

If you ask them what they want, they'll kill you with features and enhancements that will have that faster horse looking like an alien with three eyes, four ears, five legs and seven tails that trots sideways. None of the enhancement requests will be cohesive or make sense to the big picture. You'll just keep adding on more features and functionality, until, in the end, you have a product that's far too complex to use and doesn't suit anyone's needs. (I've seen this happen! It's not pretty.)

Instead, step back and ask customers about their pain points with the current product, what it's not doing for them, what they're trying to achieve that they can't. Or bypass thinking about the current product; focus on a situation for which you'll develop a new or better solution. Focus on what customers are trying to do and uncover unmet needs to aid in your new product design efforts.

I think a good approach is this:
  • Identify the need and level set: ask about the pain points, needs, outcomes; identify the problem to solve; get at the root cause for a truly successful product
  • Develop some success metrics: how will you know that you've met your customers' needs? solved their problems?
  • Ideate: brainstorm and develop a couple of solid ideas based on what you heard (here's where the visionary in you and your team might come out!)
  • Co-create: take some ideas, develop, and iterate - with customers
  • Develop: based on co-creation and iteration, select the final product design and build it
  • Test your product: this will be a larger test than to those who helped co-create
  • Measure performance/success: how well does this product help customers achieve their desired outcomes? what's the experience?
  • Continuous listening: over time, the needs and outcomes evolve and so should the product
Does that sound too complex? It shouldn't. The customer needs to be at the center of your product design process. If not, and your competitors include them, who do you think will have the advantage?

This doesn't mean every product is going to be designed in this manner. Sometimes, products just happen because someone is truly a visionary and has an amazing idea. And there's a willing and ready audience for it. But keep this in mind: If you don't have a customer for your product, then you don't have a product; you just have an idea.

If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask; for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes. -Albert Einstein

Friday, November 27, 2015

Thank You for Your Business

Image courtesy of hellojenuine
How often do you say "thank you" to your customers?

Yesterday, across the United States, individuals and families celebrated Thanksgiving and set aside some time to give thanks for all of the blessings in their lives.

While it's awesome to have a day set aside just for that, it's never a bad thing to adopt an attitude of gratitude every day.

Imagine if businesses did the same thing, adopted a daily attitude of gratitude? Or also made Thanksgiving about being thankful for what they have? (A few do.) Instead, they've spent the week shoving Black Friday sales and deals down our throats so they can make their year-end revenue goals. But I digress; this post isn't about that.

Ralph Marston said:
What if you gave someone a gift, and they neglected to thank you for it – would you be likely to give them another? Life is the same way. In order to attract more of the blessings that life has to offer, you must truly appreciate what you already have.
This makes me think of two things, both of which fall under the umbrella statement: Businesses need to appreciate the customers they have. (1) They need to be sure to say "thank you for your business" at every available opportunity; if they don't, well, customers have a lot of other options to choose from. (2) They need to remember that retention is more important (and less costly) than acquisition.
Never let the things you want make you forget the things you have.
Appreciate the customer standing in front of you.

That doesn't always mean the customer is physically standing in front of you; it also refers to all of the customers you have today, regardless of where they are. It means to focus on what you have, not on what you don't have (or hope to have some day).

When companies express gratitude, they don't have to offer discounts or freebies. A thank you is a thank you. It doesn't have to be about getting more business today or down the line (by including a coupon). It's about appreciating the business you already have. And if you get the experience right - expressing appreciation simply supports what has already been done. And the business will come.

Keep in mind that you'll want to express appreciation to your customers for their business when they walk in the door (acquisition), on a regular basis throughout the relationship, and when they leave (cancel, churn). Yes, even (especially) when customers end the relationship, be sure to thank them for their business. It leaves a great last impression, which in turn becomes a lasting impression.

By the way, everything I've said applies to your employees, too. Regularly showing appreciation for what they do goes a long way to delivering a great employee experience.

I'd like to take a moment to say "thank you" to you for continuing to follow me, for reading my posts, for commenting, and for being interested in what I write about. It's been four years since I started this blog, and you inspire me to continue writing every week!

You simply will not be the same person two months from now after consciously giving thanks each day for the abundance that exists in your life. And you will have set in motion an ancient spiritual law: the more you have and are grateful for, the more will be given you. -Sarah Ban Breathnack

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Customer Service Matchmaking

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's post for Mattersight. It was published on their blog on May 29, 2015.

Placing a call to customer support just got a little nicer and a little easier.

Think about the last time you called a company's customer service number. Did you feel like you connected with the rep who answered the phone? Did the approach the rep took with you fit how you talk to others? Did your personalities mesh or clash?

Now, think about the next time you need to call. Does it make you cringe?

I know how painful it can be to call customer service. There's the IVR menu that requires 17 prompts to get to the rep. And then the wait time for a rep to actually take/answer your call. Then the rep asks you questions that he should already know the answers to, based on the number you called from or the information you input through the IVR. And the time it takes to understand the issue, never mind to resolve it. All the while, you hope that the rep is patient, helpful, and nice. And more.

The following outlines four things that companies need to remember as they design the customer service experience.

1. First impressions are so important
What is the first thing that you want your customers to know, hear, see, or experience with/about your brand? I can guarantee you that it's something positive. If that first impression isn't positive, then the chance that they'll pursue a(nother) purchase or a relationship is slim to none. No. Let's just call it what it is; the chance is none. The first impression sets the tone for what lies ahead; it sets expectations. Make it a great one!

2. Treat customers the way they want to be treated
The Platinum Rule states: Do unto others as they would have you do unto them, not as you would have them do unto you. Contrary 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. This Rule is much more empathetic.

3. Personalize the experience for the customer
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/for different people.

4. Train for skills but hire for attitude
You know the drill: Hire for attitude, train the skills. Get the right people in the door - not just those folks who fit your culture or your values but also those who truly want to be there, for the right reason. Hiring people with great attitudes (nice, friendly, professional, willing to help, courteous, empathetic, etc.) will help them connect with customers much easier than those folks with a bad attitude that no one wants to be around or talk to. Hire for attitude. Happy employees are more likely to yield happy customers.

These four items are important for any call center (or retail outlet, or for that matter, anywhere  frontline staff are interacting with customers) to embrace. Wouldn't it be cool if there was a tool to help your call center with a couple - if not all - of these?

Well, there is. And it is cool.

Mattersight developed an award-winning solution, Predictive Behavioral Routing, that automatically matches customers to like-minded reps. Using algorithms that analyze customer speech for tone, tempo, and syntax to identify the customer's personality type and behavioral preferences, Mattersight can easily and instantly route each caller to agent who has demonstrated a high level of rapport with that type. When that match is made, agents can more easily and more genuinely help customers; the whole process becomes more efficient, and without a doubt, this makes for a better experience for customers.

Forrester researched - and developed a case study based on - Mattersight's predictive behavioral routing and discovered that companies that used this system experienced four benefits:
  1. incremental revenue
  2. reduced customer service cost and effort
  3. improved customer satisfaction
  4. reduced hiring costs due to a decrease in turnover
Not only does this tool improve the customer experience, but it enhances the employee experience, as well. When reps are paired with customers they're easily able to communicate with, there's an increase in positive interactions, which translates to a greater sense of pride because they are able to perform their jobs better.

It's a win-win all around. And you can see how this system can help companies deliver on the four customer experience design requirements I outlined above.

The bottom line is that people buy from people; and people especially like to buy from - or interact with -  people they like and connect with.

Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless. -Mother Teresa

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Cracking the Code on Customer Journey Mapping

Image courtesy of Crack the Customer Code
Have some questions about journey mapping? You're not the only one!

I recently sat down with Jeannie Walters and Adam Toporek for a Crack the Customer Code podcast on one of my favorite topics: journey mapping.

During this podcast, I answered their questions about customer experience and, more specifically, about journey mapping. I shared some tips and ideas that I hope you find useful.

You'll find our chat in Episode #68 of Crack the Customer Code. Jeannie and Adam asked me questions like:

  • Customer experience transformation happens in baby steps. Can you elaborate on that?
  • How can you take advantage of quick wins?
  • How do you describe and define customer journey mapping?
  • What are some of the key principles of journey mapping?
  • What is the balance between how detailed journey maps should go and making sure you get at the core of the experience?
  • What is the one thing any organization can do to get started, without undergoing a massive journey mapping effort? What are some of the basics they can start with?

Be sure to listen for Adam's very profound statements about journeys and journey mapping. I think you'll enjoy this conversation!

For more information about journey mapping and the items we discussed in this podcast, here are some related blog posts:

Journey Maps Are Not an Exercise in Futility
Hey! You Got Your Metrics in My Journey Map!
5 Basic Journey Mapping Principles

If you've not had time to listen to other Crack the Customer Code podcasts, make the time to do it. They are fast-moving, information-packed conversations. 

Thanks, Jeannie and Adam!

A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it. -John Steinbeck

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Get Ready for Your Customer Journey Mapping Workshop!

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Today's post is a modified version of a post I originally published on Touchpoint Dashboard's blog on June 15, 2015.

You’ve got buy-in and commitment … all the right people in your company are on board to map your customers’ journeys. They realize the importance of walking in the customer’s shoes in order to understand the experience before they can fix it.

Awesome! Now what?

It’s time to get all of your key stakeholders into a room and start building an assumptive map of the journey. Hold that thought for a moment; let’s talk about the stakeholders first.

Which stakeholders? You’ll want to involve key departmental leaders from across the organization; they should represent the various departments that touch the journeys you’ll be mapping – and even some (departments) that don’t.

Why? They each bring a different understanding or perspective, as well as different datapoints, to the table. Their involvement allows them to see that most journeys are impacted by multiple areas of the organization. And it (a) fosters buy-in, (b) gets them involved early on, and (c) gets everyone on the same page.

In addition, those who are going to fix it should be there to build (map) it and understand it. Stakeholder involvement means that we can ensure that each touchpoint has the appropriate individual or departmental ownership assigned to it.

Before you can bring the stakeholders into a room to begin your workshop, there are a few things you’ll need to do.

  • Outline the objectives of the mapping exercise and your intended outcomes
    • Define the scope of the assumptive map
      • Reiterate that you’re mapping the current state
      • Pinpoint the start and end points for each scenario you’ll be mapping
        • Don’t map too high level, as the map is a catalyst for transformation – if you don’t understand the steps, you can’t fix them; get to the details
        • There may be micro-journeys to map; determine if those will be mapped in your first workshop or in a future workshop
    • Determine for which personas experiences will be mapped
    • Identify which framework to be used for mapping, i.e., define your columns and rows
  • Hold a pre-meeting to give attendees background details, provide mapping guidelines, and generally prepare them for the exercise
    • Ask them to start considering the steps in the journey and to gather artifacts to bring into the workshop
Now it’s time to bring your attendees together in one room so that you can start building an assumptive map. I like starting with an assumptive map because it (a) gets the process started, (b) brings different groups together to discuss the experience, which not only helps them see the breadth and depth of organizational involvement in one customer experience but also helps to start breaking down those silos, and (c) allows you to identify gaps in organizational thinking about the journey (gaps that will be seen only after you validate with customers or have customers map the journey themselves); this alone is a valuable, eye-opening learning from this exercise.

This last point, about validating the maps, is a crucial step when building assumptive maps. The most important rule about mapping is that the map is created from the customer viewpoint and with customer input. The assumptive map is built by stakeholders but from the customer viewpoint; it’s not an internal process map. It’s a starting point to get the organization putting collective heads together to outline what is already known (based on customer feedback, customer data, the fact that you are likely a customer of your own business, etc.) about the experience, but it is not the definitive map. Only your customers can outline the definitive map. And that happens during the validation process in the instance when you start with assumptive maps.

There are many different approaches or frameworks to use for journey mapping. Find the one that works best for you – and just remember two key things: (1) always map from the customer’s perspective; and (2) be sure to capture what the customer is doing at a detailed enough level that it’s meaningful and actionable. And I don't mind capturing what the customer is thinking and feeling at the same time.

Focusing on the customer makes a company more resilient. –Jeff Bezos

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Moments of Truth Day 2015 - at Legoland

Image courtesy of Routemaster 4 Hire

Today I'm pleased to share a guest post by Paul Laughlin.

Legoland, home to the legendary construction toy, never struck me as a conference venue. But it works well. Joining 200 others, I spent Moments of Truth Day 2015 (part of NCSW) here, thanks to Rant & Rave.

As you’d expect, there was time to play with Legos and to learn how playing can enhance both customer and employee experiences. All in all, it was an engaging day that was clearly popular. Apparently this was also the third annual CX Day organised by the CXPA (global association for CX professionals).

My reason for attending was to get closer to the customer insight requirements of these key customers for many insight teams. Although I write a lot about Marketing requirements, customer insight is also key to designing and delivering for CX teams.

So, what happened and what would such a day hold for you if you thought of attending next year? 

Here are the highlights I still recall:

First off, the always knowledgeable Prof Moira Clark from Henley Centre for Customer Management talked about generations and technology. Highlighting insights about the different mindsets, service expectations, and use of technology, she reviewed generational segments since 1925. Starting with the ‘Silent Generation’ (born prior to 1944), she compared the ‘Baby Boomers’ (1945-64), Generation X (1965-89) and Gen Y (1990+). It was interesting to note the, at times, conflicting service experience requirements of these segments.

Moira then went on to review both recent and coming technology developments, as boundaries between online and offline worlds blur. A resident artist usefully captured a summary in this picture of her talk:

Now, I’d be amongst the first to caution against the inappropriate use of such a broad brush segmentation (your customer behaviours and attitudes may vary greatly within these area ranges). But it is a timely reminder to not get so focused on automating your service experience in such a way that may work for Gen X or Y but could disappoint your richest customers (Baby Boomers).

Next, we had an excellent presentation from Ian Golding, an independent consultant who is passionate about customer experience. It was really good to hear him extol the importance of storytelling in communicating your customer experiences (good, bad, and downright ugly), a previous recommendation on this blog. This included a terrible experience with SAS airline and the positive example of Hector (a taxi driver in Rome).

Once again, our resident artist captured most of Ian’s key themes in a useful visual summary. I felt challenged to use personal stories more, and service tales are a great way for us insight professionals to bring to life research or analytics findings through the eyes of one customer.

Later we had time to learn about "Lego Serious Play." Patrizia Bertini got some unsuspecting volunteers to play with Lego in a reconstruction of such a workshop. It was a fascinating method, with real psychological and philosophical grounding. Themes stressed included the role of the body in memory and intelligence (especially the hands), as well as the importance of metaphor as a way of communicating, especially through creative activity and play. Do your hands know more than you do?

After initial warm-up exercises, it was interesting to see these volunteers express their customer insight challenges through Lego creations. This included visual metaphors that some were not aware they had intended to reveal. There is a real depth to this technique, and it’s akin to methods I’ve also seen work well in coaching scenarios. Why not try tackling your business problems through play?

After lunch, a MaKey MaKey workshop gave us opportunity to play with electronics, fruit, and play-doh. I kid you not. Getting (or not getting) a pair of bongos to work, through tapping a lump of play-doh and a satsuma, is quite an experience. To check out more of these creativity aids see their website.

The point of our exercise, where much went wrong – but that is the curse of the ‘live demo’ – was to design more fun ways for customers to give feedback. Once again, if you can make it play for customers, you will up participation.

Toward the end of the day, we then heard about how to gamify the employee experience. Most businesses now recognise that genuinely engaging your employees is a key to improving customer experience. So, it makes sense to think about gamification here. too. Like the success of TripAdvisor levels/badges and fun competitions to creatively tackle business issues, there appears to be real value in looking for opportunities to do this. Plus more tools to deliver this.

All in all, this was a valuable day. I’d advise other Customer Insight leaders to think of attending similar events. Build bridges with your Customer Experience Leader as increasingly you should have common cause and challenges.

Have you seen the value of play in your business? How do you use serious play to tackle business problems or to engage your customer or employees?

Paul Laughlin has over 20 years experience of leading teams to generate profit from analysing  data. Over the last 12 years he’s created, lead and improved customer insight teams across Lloyds, TSB, Halifax and Scottish Widows. He’s delivered incremental profit of over £10m pa and improved customers’ experiences.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

It's Not Where You Start... or Is It?

Image courtesy of degconsulting
How do you know where to start your CX journey?

I've been asked this very question a few times in the last couple weeks.

Don't know where to start?

Just get started. You know you have to transform the customer experience with your company; don't let uncertainty paralyze you or derail you from getting started.

As you already know, without executive buy-in and commitment, your transformation efforts won't get very far. It's mission critical that you have that commitment; without it, you'll never get resources - human, capital, or other - that you'll need to execute. I've already shared my thoughts on how to get that commitment, so make sure you start there and have that.

Let's just move past that and start with the next step. Let's assume that your executives are now on board.

So, what's next?

In the spirit of "you can't transform something you don't understand," there are two things you need to understand before you can move forward: the current state of: (1) your culture and the employee experience and (2) the customer and the customer experience.

Assess the Current State: Culture and Employee Experience
The employee experience drives the customer experience. If employees aren't happy, satisfied, engaged, and passionate about what they do, your customers will be the recipients of their backlash. So we need to get a handle on a few things. Below are some tools that you can use identify where you are today in your journey. It's important to do this level set before you start changing things; in other words, don't just blindly dive in. You need a strategy.

Customer Experience Maturity Assessment: I put this tool under Culture and Employee Experience because it's a baseline on where you are with regards to a customer-centric and customer-focused culture. It's really a great way to start to understand if the customer currently has a seat at the executive table, and if not, how ready each and every employee is to listen to customers about their needs and expected outcomes going forward. It will be a read on where the organization is currently lacking (or not) and can be very eye-opening. It’s a great baseline that can be revisited and re-measured to gauge progress over time.

Employee CX Assessment: What if we asked employees what they know about customers and the customer experience? We then use the results to better frame our training efforts and to provide other (the right) tools needed to ensure employees have a clear line of sight to customers and are equipped to deliver the experience we need (and customers want) them to deliver.

Voice of the Employee: Listen to employees. Get their feedback about how well they feel they can do their jobs and what's expected of them. Do they have the right tools and resources? Do they feel like their contributions matter? Understand their levels of engagement. Identify what's missing. Conduct a culture assessment, as well. Do your employees know your purpose, vision, core values, and guiding principles? Do they live them every day?

Assess the Current State: Customers and the Customer Experience
How well do you understand your customers and the experience they are having? Do you know who your customers are? The following are some tools to get you started with understanding the current state of the customer experience.

Personas: Because we can't design the experience for each individual customer (though we can ultimately personalize when we have the data to do so), and designing for segments is too high level, we develop personas instead. Personas are fictional characters created to describe your ideal prospect or actual customer. They're derived through primary research. They represent a behavioral segment and are specific to your business, not to the industry. The descriptions include vivid narratives, images, and other items and artifacts that help companies understand the needs of the customer (contextual insights) and outline motivations, goals, behaviors, challenges, likes, dislikes, objections, and interests that drive buying (or other) decisions.

Customer Journey Map: If there’s going to be any customer-driven transformation, we need to think about the journey, not just about individual, singular touchpoints. The map is a way for you to walk in your customer's shoes, to really understand what he goes through as he tries to complete a task with the company. For the organization, it builds awareness, understanding, and empathy. The research you use to create your customer personas can also feed your journey mapping efforts. Journey maps are the ultimate tool to help connect all employees to how they contribute to - and impact - the customer experience.

Current State Analysis: Conducting a current state analysis will be important to help you understand which improvement initiatives, if any, are already underway so that you don't move forward with disparate, disjointed, and siloed efforts. This analysis might include creating a feedback map that charts the various sources of customer data, i.e., direct, indirect, attitudinal, and behavioral, also underway. This is a great time to catalog and map your operational metrics, as well, and figure out how you will link them to your improvement efforts.

Voice of the Customer: Listening to the voice of the customer through various channels is a no-brainer; if we don't listen and learn about the experience, we'll have no idea where improvements need to be made or where we're doing things well/right. If we don't listen, we'll never know anything about our customers' needs and desired outcomes. We should take a methodical approach to surveys, but listening through other channels (e.g., social media, call center data/feedback, voice of customer through employees) is an "always on" venture.

Build Your Plan
We can't just do all of the things mentioned above in a vacuum. And none of them are "one and done" tools. Each one builds on another area, and next we need to put it all together to create a transformation plan.

Governance: Governance is about both oversight and execution. Your governance structure will outline and define people, roles, and responsibilities. Who is going to ensure that there is alignment and accountability across the organization? This is typically referred to as your core program team, and they will provide oversight to ensure the organization executes on the CX vision, strategy, and transformation. This governance will also include clearly-defined rules and guidelines for how the customer experience management strategy will be executed.

Roadmap: To guide execution of your strategy, you must build a roadmap. Take everything you learn as you complete the assessments and utilize the other tools mentioned above to (a) identify action items and (b) lay out your plan for how you'll execute. Not just how, but who, when, how, how much, impact to fix, time to fix etc. It will be a detailed plan to guide next steps; it'll include a prioritization of action items and ownership for each.

Training and Education: Perhaps this is a line item in your roadmap, but I thought I'd call it out separately. All of this learning that you do about your employees and your customers can't remain on your desktop. It needs to be shared out to the organization. If employees are lacking the know-how to do their jobs or can't tell you how they impact the customer experience, there's a need for training. The customer understanding and customer experience feedback needs to be shared with those who are expected to deliver a better experience. Use what you've learned, plus my 6 tools to create a clear line of sight to customers, to frame training and orientation programs that will yield enlightened employees who know what's expected.

It seems overwhelming when you think about how to get started. But companies are in business to create and to nurture customers. If you're not doing this well, the business fails.

So, remember: it's not where you start... it's that you start! It's a journey. A long one. Rome wasn't built in a day; nor will you transform your customer experience that quickly. You'll do the items I outlined in this post. You'll then do the work. Customer expectations will evolve. You'll transform again. It's a continuous improvement process. Yea, a journey. Good luck!

Dream big. Start small. But most of all ... start. -Simon Sinek

Thursday, November 5, 2015

A Great Customer Experience Isn't Enough

Today I'm pleased to share a guest post by Denise Lee Yohn.

To excel in customer experience, you can't just rely on good design and solid execution. Your customer experience shouldn't just be great -- it should also be differentiated.

Customer experience has evolved just as product and service did. Time was, all you needed was a good quality product. But then, as competition and customers' expectations increased, product manufacturers realized that quality was no longer a strong enough appeal. Products needed to be different in order to stand out among all the customers' choices, to give people specific reasons to choose them, and to prompt repeat purchases.

The same thing has happened with customer service. Truly excellent service may still be hard to find, but generally speaking, friendly, knowledgeable employees have become table stakes for most companies. Retailers now look to tactics like equipping employees with digital devices and providing personal consultations as ways to differentiate their service.

Differentiation is just as important in customer experience. Because customer experience is still an emerging discipline in some industries, you may think that simply undertaking a more rigorous approach to designing and managing your customer experiences may be enough. And to be sure, customer experience fundamentals -- being more attuned to customers' need along their entire journey, integrating different elements into a cohesive and seamless experience, and consistently executing with excellence -- are all important.

But to establish your customer experience as a true competitive advantage, it must be distinctive -- it must be noticeable, valuable, and memorable to customers. Good, generic customer experiences will soon simply define the playing field. Differentiation will be how brands win.

And your customer experience can't just be different for the different's sake. Your customer experience must be developed and delivered based on unique brand attributes and values. In fact, your customer experience is the most powerful way to make your brand uniqueness real and valuable.
Consider how Westin Hotel & Resorts has aligned its customer experience with its brand positioning rooted in wellness. Westin goes beyond providing a seamless reservation and check-in process, clean and comfortable rooms, and good amenities

The Westin wellness brand experience started back in 1999 when the company introduced the luxe Heavenly Bed to help guests sleep better. This extended into relaxation and stress-reducing offerings like the Heavenly Bath and Heavenly Bath. Now there's WestinWORKOUT fitness centers, RunWESTIN group runs and running maps, and a program in which guests can borrow fitness apparel and shoes during their stay. Room service and restaurant menu options feature juices, smoothies, and other healthful offerings. And just last year, Westin introduced a Sleep Sensor Wearable-Lending program, in which guests can use digital devices to improve their sleep through sleep pattern tracking and virtual coaching.

PIRCH, the high-end appliance and plumbing retailer, provides another example of a brand-driven customer experience. PIRCH's unusual brand motto, "Live Joyfully," is baked into every aspect of the store experience. A "Barista of Joy" greets customers at the entrance to the store and offers them a complimentary coffee or infused water. In the “Sanctuary” section of the store, customers will find working shower heads, saunas, and tubs, along with an invitation to  schedule a time to test the showers -- PIRCH will even provide bathrobes. Samples of food prepared using PIRCH products flow freely throughout the kitchen area and a "Department of Yes" sign designates the customer service area.  New employees are trained to empathize with customers and to tap their own personal experiences of joy to shape their customer interactions. All this adds up to customers feeling joyful because of the genuine, thoughtful experience PIRCH deliberately designs and manages around joy.

These are just two examples of extraordinary experiences; many other companies are following suit.  Customer experience has become a critical business discipline. Now it's time for you to make it a powerful brand differentiator.

Learn more about creating distinctive customer experiences in Denise Lee Yohn’s the new book, Extraordinary Experiences: What Great Retail and Restaurant Brands Do – available now.  Blending a fresh perspective, twenty-five years of experience working with world-class brands including Sony and Frito-Lay, and a talent for inspiring audiences, Denise is a leading authority on building and positioning exceptional brands. Denise is also the author of the bestselling book What Great Brands Do: The Seven Brand-Building Principles That Separate the Best from the Rest (Jossey-Bass).

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Empower Employees to Increase Productivity

Image courtesy of hattie.burgher
I originally wrote today's post for Intradiem.It appeared on their blog on May 21, 2015.

When we empower employees, does that impact their productivity?

Employee empowerment is one of those phrases that often causes people to groan. Is it just another piece of employee lingo or a catch phrase? No, absolutely not. It's an important concept to both reducing employee effort and increasing employee engagement. When employees feel empowered, they are in charge of reducing their own effort and responsible for engaging with the business.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me first define empowerment. According to Google, it means, quite simply: to give (someone) the authority or power to do something.

According to, it is:

A management practice of sharing information, rewards, and power with employees so that they can take initiative and make decisions to solve problems and improve service and performance.

Empowerment is based on the idea that giving employees skills, resources, authority, opportunity, motivation, as well holding them responsible and accountable for outcomes of their actions, will contribute to their competence and satisfaction.

My own thoughts on it? I wrote previously:
 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.
You might be starting to get a glimpse into how and why empowerment and productivity are related.

When employees are empowered, they walk around with a sense of ownership, thinking and acting like they own the business. When you own a business, you put your heart and soul into it, into making it succeed. Empowered employees don't stand on the sidelines waiting to be spoon-fed; they know what to do. They take the horse by the reins and run with the directive (aka the brand promise), being accountable for their roles in the execution of the customer experience and in the success of the business. They work together with others who are just as passionate and who share a common goal. These things combined result in efficiencies from a variety of angles.

An empowered organization is one in which individuals have the knowledge, skill, desire, and opportunity to personally succeed in a way that leads to collective organizational success. -Stephen Covey

So, benefits of employee empowerment include:
  • Unleashing a sense of ownership and pride in their work
  • Improving the employee experience
  • Boosting employee satisfaction
  • Increasing employee loyalty
  • Encouraging collaboration and teamwork
  • Unleashing employee creativity
  • Increasing employee productivity
  • Improving work output/quality
  • And more, including cost benefits, as well
Empowered employees become "better, " more conscientious, employees overall. So it would seem that empowerment is a pretty important thing - to your employees and to the organization. How, then, do we empower our employees?
  • Define what empowerment means within your organization, to set some boundaries
  • Set expectations
  • Train, communicate, provide a framework, and then let employees do their jobs
  • Trust employees to make the right choices and the right decisions for your customers
  • Provide feedback and coaching so that 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
  • And ensure they know how they impact business outcomes
  • Lose the script; empowered employees don't need a script
  • Allow for common sense, but don't necessarily rely on it (since not everyone has it!)
  • 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
It seems like there's a lot to do in order to empower employees, but it is important that we reduce any vagueness and that we really set appropriate expectations about what that means. They need to understand your vision and the desired outcomes. And then be allowed to execute.

The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it. -Theodore Roosevelt