Tuesday, March 31, 2015

What's the Meaning of All of This Employee Lingo?

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Confused by some of the employee experience lingo you're hearing? You're not alone!

A couple weeks ago, I participated in a webinar with Kyle Antcliff of Intradiem. We talked about the employee experience, employee journey mapping, and solutions that drive or impact workforce efficiency.

During the presentation, a lot of employee experience terms were used, and I attempted to clarify with some definitions. I thought those definitions were worthy of sharing.

Let's start with Employee Experience. I define it as:
The sum of all interactions that an employee has with his employer during the duration of his employment relationship. It includes any way the employee "touches" the company and vice versa in the course of doing his job.
It needs to be understood (using tools like personas, journey mapping, and surveys and other listening posts). And it can be designed/redesigned.

Employee Engagement is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot, so it's important to understand what engagement means and how it comes about. This definition of engaged employees comes from Gallup.
Engaged workers stand apart from their not-engaged and actively disengaged counterparts because of the discretionary effort they consistently bring to their roles. These employees willingly go the extra mile, work with passion, and feel a profound connection to their company. They are the people who will drive innovation and move your business forward.
Engagement cannot be forced upon employees or mandated, dictated, or declared. No one can make an employee engaged. It comes from within, and yet the company has a role in it, as well. When  there's some confluence of: (1) emotions, commitment, passion, sense of ownership, etc. on the part of the employee about the brand and (2) what the organization does (purpose, brand promise, who the company is and why, etc.) to facilitate and enhance those emotions or that commitment - then we have employee engagement.

…you have to want to be engaged. There has to be deep-seated desire in your heart and mind to participate, to be involved, and to make a difference. If the desire isn’t there, no person or book can plant it within you. -Tim Clark

What, then, is Employee Satisfaction? Is it the same thing? It is not. Sorry for the circular argument, but...
Employee Satisfaction refers to how satisfied employees are; it doesn’t address or include motivations or emotional commitment
To further clarify: some employees are satisfied because they get paid every two weeks, because the employer provides childcare, or simply because they have a job. That doesn’t really tell us much, unless we know what drives it. That puts the measure into context, but it's not the ultimate goal - for employees or for the business.

How is Employee Happiness related? There are a lot of definitions of Employee Happiness out there, but this one struck a chord with me:
Happiness at work is a function of engagement, morale, and satisfaction.
That almost makes it sound like an "umbrella metric." Does that mean it's a good measure of the overall employee experience? Or is it a chicken and egg story? Does happiness come before (drive) or after engagement, morale, and satisfaction?

What is Employee Morale? According to Wikipedia, it is...
Employee morale, in human resources, is defined as the job satisfaction, outlook, and feelings of well-being an employee has within a workplace setting. Proven to have a direct effect on productivity, it is one of the cornerstones of business.
And finally, how does Employee Experience differ from Culture? People often confuse the two. What is Culture? Herb Kelleher, former CEO of Southwest Airlines, defined it as...
...what employees do when no one is looking
I love that. I think it's...
...the set of values and norms that guides how the business operates. Culture happens when we operationalize the values.
I also agree with these six components of culture, as outlined in an HBR article: vision, values, practices, people, narrative, and place.

You may have other definitions or thoughts on the differences in these terms. I'd love to hear them!

It’s sad, really, how a negative workplace can impact our lives and the way we feel about ourselves. The situation is reaching pandemic heights – most people go to work at jobs they dislike, supervised by people who don’t care about them, and directed by senior leaders who are often clueless about where to take the company.” - Leigh Branham and Mark Hirschfeld, Re-Engage: How America’s Best Places to Work Inspire Extra Effort in Extraordinary Times

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Customer Experience Survival Guide

Sprinklr ebook cover
Feeling like you need some guidance with your CX Journey? Not sure where to turn?

I'm excited to share details about a new ebook for which I wrote a chapter. The book was compiled by Sprinklr, and it's aptly titled, The Survival Guide to Customer Experience.

It doesn’t matter what your ads say. In today’s world, the only thing that customers care about is the experience. Customers want a consistent brand experience each time they interact with your brand – and they want it across all channels.

But how exactly do you pull this off? Through successful customer experience management.

This ebook brings together 20 CX thought leaders (including Barry Dalton, Stan Phelps, Gregory Yankelovich, Steve Curtin, Roy Atkinson, Jeanne Bliss, Ian Golding, and more), who write about how to create a sustainable customer experience management initiative.

The book has four sections:
  1. The New Customer-Brand Relationship
  2. The Need for a Holistic View of the Customer
  3. Why Social Media Shouldn't be a Separate Department
  4. What Good CXM Looks Like
In my chapter, which is part of Section 2, I write about a phrase that I've been throwing around a lot lately: "You can't transform what you don't understand."

There is so much great advice in this book. Be sure to download it.

The more you engage with customers the clearer things become and the easier it is to determine what you should be doing. -John Russell

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Employee Journey to a Better Customer Experience

Image courtesy of Pixabay
How does ensuring your employees have a great experience translate into better service for your customers?

Last week, I had the pleasure of co-presenting on a webinar with Kyle Antcliff of Intradiem. We talked about...
  • The link between employee experience and customer experience
  • The importance of treating agents like relationship managers (not assembly line workers)
  • The difference between employer brand and customer brand
  • Three critical stages of the employee journey
  • How to identify “moments of truth” in employee engagement
  • How real-time insights into your customer service operations can strengthen the employee journey
During my presentation, I spent a little time defining some key terms and then dove into the business benefits of a great employee experience. The conversation then shifted to how to design a better employee experience, starting with mapping employee journeys in order to understand what employees go through as they try to complete some task or do their jobs.

To view the webinar, visit Intradiem's webinar page.

You don't build a business  - you build people. And then people build the business. -Zig Ziglar

Thursday, March 19, 2015

CMO Brain Interview: All Things Customer Experience

Image courtesy of Unsplash
What is customer experience? And how do we improve it?

Andrew Mounier of CMO Brain recently asked to interview me so he could pick my brain about customer experience, and I happily accepted. Any time someone wants to talk about customer experience - any opportunity to continue to spread the word about its importance - I'm up for it!

We talked via Skype, and you can view the interview on his site. Despite a cold and congestion (pardon the sniffles throughout!), it was a great chat.

 Andrew posed some great questions:
  • What is customer experience?
  • What are some of the first things that an organization can do to start mapping the customer journey?
  • What are some of the tools that people can use to understand their customers better? 
  • How does Touchpoint Dashboard actually help in the mapping process and what does it do?
  • Why should an organization map the customer journey?
  • If there was one piece of advice that you could give to the CMO Brain community, what would that be?
To hear the answers to these questions - and more - check out the interview on Andrew's CMO Brain website. Let me know your thoughts...

And I dare you to ask Andrew to say "Touchpoint Dashboard" three times really fast!

When you’re trying to make an important decision, and you’re sort of divided on the issue, ask yourself: If the customer were here, what would she say? -Dharmesh Shah

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

It's Not About the Metric

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's post for Confirmit in November 2014. I've made some modifications.

In November 2014, I participated in the Hooked On Customers Summit, a webinar series hosted by Bob Thompson of CustomerThink. I joined Bob, along with Jeanne Bliss, in the first webinar to discuss Creating Actionable Insight from a Customer Listening Engine. Jeanne talked about the role of the Chief Customer Officer, while I ran through my Six Steps to Turn VoC into Action.

One of the questions posed by Bob during the webinar was: “How can managers avoid the metric becoming a goal rather than an indicator?” This is a great question and one that needs to be addressed early and often in any customer experience management effort. All too often, we see companies chasing the metric, whichever one they choose, and trying to figure out how to move the number rather than appreciating it for what it is – a number. A number that gives you a moment in time read on how you’re performing – and that’s it. It doesn’t tell you what you’ve done right or wrong, and it doesn’t tell you how to move the number.

Anaheim Angels first baseman Albert Pujols was quoted as saying: I don’t get caught up in numbers. I think when you start doing that, you start disrespecting the game. You start forgetting what your main focus is, and that’s winning and helping your ball club to win.

Amen to that! When we get caught up in the metric, when we place our focus solely on the metric, we lose sight of what it is that we’re really trying to do: improve the customer experience. When we focus on the metric, we try to tinker with things here and there just to see what moves the needle and don’t think about the big picture.

Sure, the metric can help to rally the troops – but that’s only if it’s presented in the right context. It’s not the right context if you…
  • mention the score without even talking about the customer and the customer experience
  • game surveys just to get a score
  • threaten disciplinary actions or lost compensation if an employee doesn’t achieve a score
How, then, do we avoid the metric being the goal rather than an indicator? Here are a few suggestions:
  • Talk about customers – and what your customers are saying
  • Make the metric the last thing you talk about – or don’t talk about it at all
  • Share what’s important to customers
  • Tell stories about customer successes and customer experiences
  • Focus on behaviors and what it takes to improve the experience
  • Share customer feedback and verbatims
  • Act on the feedback
  • Coach and praise based on feedback and the experience the customer had
  • Focus on business outcomes
  • Ensure that employees have a clear line of sight to the customer
  • And give them a clear understanding of how they contribute to the customer experience
Don’t measure for the sake of measuring, and don’t listen just for the sake of measuring. Listen because you want to understand the customer and where the experience is falling down (or standing up). And then act on what you hear. Don’t just focus on improving the score; improve the experience, and the numbers will follow.

I think Simon Sinek said it best when he said: Focus on the vision and the numbers will thrive. Focus on the numbers and the vision will struggle (and so will the numbers).

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Engagement and Culture are Related, But Different

Today I'm pleased to share a guest post by George Jacob of PeopleMetrics.

As companies focus inward to understand how to achieve their customer experience goals, the term “engagement” is often used interchangeably with “culture.” It’s understandable. The two terms are related, and they’re both elements of customer experience improvement. But it’s important to make a distinction between the two terms, because they differ in the ways they’re measured, improved, and capitalized on.

Employee Engagement: The “I” Point of View
Employee engagement is the functional and emotional connection that employees have with an organization. It’s often measured using a short set of questions that get at behavioral intention. So using a Likert scale, questions might include:
  • “I recommend this company as a good place to work.” (Advocacy),
  • “It would take a lot to get me to leave this company.” (Retention), or
  • “I am motivated by this company to give extra effort in my work” (Discretionary
  • Effort)
At PeopleMetrics, we measure engagement using a similar set of outcome questions, but our model also prioritizes the eight emotional and functional drivers that impact the level of engagement of a company’s workforce.

When we administer engagement surveys, we focus on the personal experience of employees as they perform their roles, and their perceptions of how they feel and what they get in return for their efforts. That means employees answer questions from the “I” perspective. (“Do I feel purpose? Do I have room to grow? Do I feel rewarded?”) When analyzed in aggregate, the responses say quite a bit about whether or not the workforce feels supported, well directed, and motivated to stay and give extra effort.

Organizational Culture: The “We” Point of View
We like Herb Kelleher’s (former CEO of Southwest Airlines) definition of organizational culture: “Culture is what people do when no one is looking.” We’ve developed a diagnostic instrument to help companies measure their culture based on that premise—to put numbers around the types of things people do when no one is looking, and in particular, the types of things that support customer-centricity. We craft our surveys to explore the perceptions that employees have inside their organizations. Employees respond to these prompts from the “we” perspective, and our proven model measures culture along five organizational dimensions. Prompts might include:
  • “We know who is responsible for the customer.” (Management),
  • “We share stories about customers.” (Storytelling), or
  • “We hire people who care about the customer.” (Hiring)
The responses tell you how the workforce perceives the internal mechanisms of the

Engagement, Culture, and Customer Focus: Three Amigos
Put another way, to drive employee engagement, you need to concentrate on helping employees feel motivated in performing their work. To drive cultural improvements, you’ll need to look at the behaviors, language, norms, and expectations inside your company walls.

Engagement and culture are different, but they affect each other. Engaged employees impact culture, and a strong culture can lead to engaged employees. (Alternatively, disengaged employees can suffocate culture, and caustic cultures can chase away engaged employees.)

We examined employee engagement in one of our annual independent research studies. Engaged employees are more productive, more loyal, more likely to advocate on behalf of their employers, and - perhaps for those of us in the CX world, most importantly - more focused on doing right by the customer.

The research also revealed that employees working in customer-centric cultures are more engaged than those working in company-centric cultures - regardless of industry.

That means companies that make customer happiness a priority - companies that align their internal systems, processes, and other cultural elements to that goal - will likely earn greater employee engagement. And so the cycle will continue. (Which is something we get excited about.)

“Yeah, I help our company make customers happy.”
It’s important to distinguish between culture and engagement. They involve different perspectives and different strategies for improvement. The difference between “culture” and “engagement” is the difference between “we” and “I.”

But both areas are essential for the customer experience professional and for organizational leadership. (Particularly their alignment.) By managing a customer-centric culture that supports engaged employees, you can transform your organization into one that truly puts customers at its heart.

And when customers are in your heart, you are more than likely in theirs.

George Jacob is the Inbound Content Architect at PeopleMetrics, where he works to share
insights and understanding about customer experience and customer-centric culture. You can
read more of his work on - and subscribe to - the PeopleMetrics blog.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Is Your Company a "Best Employer?"

You know the source! Unfinished Business
What does it take to be a "Best Employer" company? And why is that a goal worth setting - and achieving - for your organization?

I was doing some research for a webinar on employee experience that I'll be hosting with Intradiem on March 18, and came across Aon Hewitt's Global Trends in Employee Engagement 2014 report. There are some interesting findings, which you can download for yourself.

The area of the report that most interested me focused on their Best Employer findings. What makes a company a Best Employer? And why is that even important?

Aon Hewitt defines Best Employers as companies that: "...drive consistent long-term performance through organizational cultures marked by strong leadership, strong performance orientation, a strong brand and, ultimately, strong employee engagement."

So, picking that apart, there are five attributes that go into defining a company as a Best Employer. They are...

1. Strong culture: When it comes to talent, "they attract the best through a strong reputation; they select and retain the best through a compelling value proposition; and they focus and engage their talent through a performance orientation that is driven by many facets of performance management,
growth and rewards

2. Strong employee engagement: "Employees at best employer organizations want to invest their energy in these companies and are at lower risk of taking their talents elsewhere than the average employee at the average employer."

3. Strong brand: This one is an interesting attribute, almost a chicken-and-egg story of sorts.  "Best employer companies are created through strong reputations. Strong reputations are also created through being known as one of the best places to work." To help clarify, though, the report goes on to state: "Strong brands also come from strong financial performance, social responsibility, and a compelling EVP (employee value proposition) that connects an external brand promise to customers with delivery on the internal brand promise to employees."

4. Strong performance orientation: It is "supported by enabling performance management processes, effective people management, ensuring learning and development support the capability required to perform, and reinforcement of performance through rewards and recognition." And it is "critical not only to having an engaging work environment with a great reputation, but also to having a healthy organization that is clearly focused on definition, enablement and delivery of high performance. This performance outcome is apparent in both individual and company performance."

5. Strong leadership: I think this is my favorite. You can't be a Best Employer if you don't have strong leadership that gets it. I've written about executive buy-in many times, mainly as it pertains to the customer experience, but it applies to the employee experience, as well - nothing happens without it. The report states that these companies are differentiated through leadership in four different ways; leaders set the tone by: 1) cultivating and developing talent; 2) having an unrelenting focus on talent beyond a typical performance management cycle; 3) aligning leadership programs and practices with business strategy; and 4) living it, i.e., leadership is a way of life; it's embedded in their values, expected behaviors, and culture.

Many of these remind me of a post I wrote about Brand Integrity.

Why is being a Best Employer an important goal to achieve? Well, there's this thing called a spillover effect, which I've also written about a few times. Remember that the employee experience drives the customer experience; if your employees aren't engaged, it will be very difficult for them to delight your customers. And that translates to the bottom line.

Need proof? The report tells us this:

Best employer companies drive higher engagement, revenue growth and shareholder value than do companies with top quartile engagement levels alone. They outperform the average company on revenue growth (6 percentage points), operating margin (4 percentage points) and total shareholder return (6 percentage points). They even outperform those companies marked by high employee engagement alone.
Source: Aon Hewitt Global Trends in Employee Engagement 2014
I've written about employee engagement and the employee experience many times. I'm constantly reminding clients and readers alike that the employee experience cannot be an afterthought. For more of my thoughts, check out the EmpExp Posts page on my site. The bottom line is that you can no longer ignore the employee experience. There's too much riding on it, not the least of which is the success of the business!

On what high-performing companies should be striving to create: A great place for great people to do great work. -Marilyn Carlson, former CEO of Carlson Companies

To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace. -Doug Conant, former CEO of Campbell’s Soup

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Doing Less Better Starts with the To-Do List

Image courtesy of John R. Bell
Today I'm pleased to share a guest post by John R. Bell.

Six weeks ago, my business book was released. Do Less Better. The Power of Strategic Sacrifice in a Complex World concerns itself with focus and simplicity. In it, I draw on personal experiences from my days in the C-suite and the boardrooms of my consulting clients to make the case that sacrifice is the surprising secret to successful long-term viability. Business complexity has never been greater, but it is not the phenomenon itself but rather the inability to cut through the clutter that comes in the way of resurrecting clarity and coherence

In the weeks following the release, I’ve had several challenging questions about the concept from podcast interviewers and traditional journalists. One of the more biting ones was how doing less better impacts the organization’s average Joe or Jane. This question concerns itself with activities at sea level, not up there in the stratosphere where corporate strategy is crafted

I say that “focus touches every department and every employee in well-run do less better companies.” I suggest that the “to do” list is a good place to set the stage for a do less better mindset. You need a “to do” list. Your boss needs a “to do” list. So does the President of the United States. But understand that the list’s effectiveness is in direct proportion to the number of items on the list. Fewer projects = bigger impact

Know what is essential.

Know what to delete from your screen, and when to move on.

Know what will bring the greatest return on effort. This is your personal ROE ratio.

Sure, there are menial tasks that we all must do. If they consume 75% of your day, prioritize the other 25%. Some people set up their lists according to operational and strategic projects. Some differentiate by the value of the task. Some establish goals based on what they can do really well. For example, should a blogger go for quantity or quality of posts? Is a daily post that’s been slapped together in a half hour better than a weekly post of insightful, engaging content that might take days to research and write? The answer depends on the blogger’s objectives and his or her working style.

When I was a CEO, one of my marketing managers made a request to hire an extra brand manager. Credit to him for his courage; he was well aware of my distaste for adding employees. My belief, then and now, is that the greater the number of employees, the greater the corporate complexity. Anyway, he said his project list had reached a point that precluded him from doing the kind of job he wanted to do. He believed that the recruitment of an assistant would make all the difference. I asked him to update his project list and organize it, beginning with the most important and ending with least important projects. The following day, he brought me the list

We discussed the projects, and when satisfied that I understood the twenty or so items on his page, I scratched out the bottom third of them. “Stop working on these,” I said. “Do you think you can manage the rest without that assistant?”

Of course he could. Okay, I’ve simplified the interaction but not the part about scratching out a third of the projects. Ultimately, that marketing manager became far more effective and far more motivated by doing the work that matters. Properly deployed, do less better is a winning strategy for employees, customers, and shareholders

John R. Bell, the author of Do Less Better: The Power of Strategic Sacrifice in a Complex World, is a retired consumer packaged goods CEO and global strategy consultant to some of the world's most respected blue-chip organizations. He has served as a director of several private, public, and not-for-profit organizations. John can be reached at www.ceoafterlife.com or www.dolessbetter.ca. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The #CX Proof is In the (Diet) Pudding

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I have a few questions for you about your company: 

Are you focusing on acquisition or retention? 

Are you rebranding your image or are you reinventing the customer experience? 

What are your priorities?

I recently wrote some posts about how companies have this misguided focus on anything but the customer experience.

With one, I posed the question: Are you delivering a great customer experience - or are you just relying on advertising to create awareness and sell your products?

Do Your Customers Talk About Your Products or Your Ads?

With another, I asked: Have you ever wondered why customers say they buy your products based on price - and then, in the end, they also stop buying because of price?

Why Customers Really Leave

And finally, the last one pondered this: Is your customer acquisition (and retention) strategy based on discount pricing? How's that working for you?

Discounts Sabotage

So imagine my (lack of) surprise when I read this in last Friday's Business Insider Closing Bell email (bolding is mine):

Weight Watchers' shares tumbled as much as 34% Friday after the company reported fourth quarter adjusted earnings per share of 7 cents on revenues of $327.8 million, down 10.4% year-over-year. Expectations were for revenues of $389 million, while EPS was in line with forecasts. During the earnings call Thursday, CEO Jim Chambers said recently launched ads and customer promos couldn't avert the 15% loss in active subscribers last quarter.

I clicked the link to read more. I wanted to find out if that was really their strategy to save the business. Sure enough, it is. They've been rebranding their image and trying to overcome some obstacles of late. The article goes on to say that, during his earnings call, Jim Chambers stated that a new marketing campaign and promotions to build membership were the company's main strategies. That's not unusual (unfortunately). The problem is that he's talking acquisition here, not retention. What about the 15% of subscribers that he lost. What's he doing to keep his customers? Instead, he's just trying to plug holes.

The article then cites some Duke University research that uncovered that the average user was getting less value (and weight loss) for his or her money at Weight Watchers than at competitors like Jenny Craig. Ah, the "V" word. Value. So they're paying a lot of money and not losing any weight, or not as much as promised/hoped.

Promising is the fact that Jim did mention the member, member feedback, and the member experience in the earnings call. I'm just not convinced that he's doing anything more than lip service at this point. I don't think there's a concerted effort there. And I'm a bit skeptical when someone (their CFO) says: We are getting excellent feedback on the product, as Jim mentioned 90% really like it. So that’s why we feel we have got a good platform on which to build. Why skeptical? Well, Jim actually said (bolding mine again):

Importantly personal coaching is receiving extremely positive feedback from our members. Over 90% would recommend it to a friend, demonstrating the power of personal support and accountability on member experience and success. While the take-up rate for personal coaching has been low so far, with about 3% of recruits choosing this option over the course of the year, we’ll actively explore ways to bring this rich experience to more people.

Did 90% of the 3% recommend it? That's a lot different from 90% of all of your subscribers. I can't imagine someone who hadn't used it would recommend it. Ah, semantics...and pedantics.

A Bloomberg article states that Weight Watchers is just not keeping up with customers' needs and the way they are tracking activity, weight loss, and more. “Weight Watchers really has to change what they’re offering -- they have to get modern,” said Meredith Adler, an analyst at Barclays. “People are just more digital now than they ever were.”

Frankly, we were slow to innovate and add value to our products,” Weight Watchers Chief Financial Officer Nicholas Hotchkin said at an investor conference on Nov. 11. “We were particularly susceptible to the proliferation of free apps and activity monitors.”

I think it's time for them to listen to customers and understand: who they are, what their needs are, how they want to lose weight and track their health and fitness activities, and more. They talk about member feedback, but if it's the wrong kind of feedback, if it's the wrong kind of - or approach to - listening, it's meaningless. And if you do nothing with the feedback you get, if it doesn't prompt deeper investigation, innovation, and change, then it's pointless. Focus on retention over acquisition; focus on the customer experience; you won't have to work so hard to acquire new customers - your existing customers will do that for you.

Most of us understand that innovation is enormously important. It's the only insurance against irrelevance. It's the only guarantee of long-term customer loyalty. It's the only strategy for out-performing a dismal economy. -Gary Hamel