Friday, August 28, 2015

CX Journey™ Musings: Busy Work vs. Real Work

Image courtesy of myfrozenlife
Think about the things that you're doing to transform your organization and your customer experience. Are you doing busy work? Or are you doing real work?

Today's post is inspired by this quote from Thomas Edison:

Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing.

Wow. Doesn't that just describe what's required to make some real improvements when it comes to customer experience transformation! defines busy work as work assigned for the sake of looking or keeping busy. defines it as work or activity performed with the intention or result of occupying time and not necessarily to accomplish something productive.

As customer experience professionals, we have no shortage of work. But are we spending time on things that matter? Or are we spinning our wheels, doing tactical things, and looking like we're making improvements - when, in reality, we're applying bandaids and simple fixes rather than making/doing meaningful overall process improvements and customer experience redesign work.

You might be doing busy work if you...
  • were moved into a CX role with no real, clear direction or support
  • were put into said CX role because "everyone does it" or "we know we need this"
  • think tactics only, not strategy
  • are not focused on customer outcomes
  • don't make improvements based on what's most important to your customers
  • don't listen to customers
  • make decisions and improvements based on what you've been told is best for the company
  • don't have executive commitment and support
  • haven't assembled a cross-functional team to drive initiatives forward
  • are working in your silo without thinking about the holistic experience
  • haven't defined and/or communicated your CX vision
  • haven't outlined a roadmap for change / change management plan
  • think you can do it alone (change the experience)

I hate to say this, but I will: (unless you're working on building your business case to get executive commitment for your customer experience transformation) if you are only trying to fix things in your corner of the world, you're doing CX busy work. Seeming to do is not doing. The customer experience goes well beyond what happens in your department, so while you're fixing the experience for the customer in one step or area, he's having a completely different, disjointed experience with another. While it may feel like you're doing something, making progress, and making an impact, you're not. It's not enough. The entire organization must be in on it, starting with executive commitment and that shift to a customer-centric and customer-focused culture.

How do you ensure that you're doing the right work and that you're set up for success? Take a look at The 7 Deadly Sins of Customer Experience post I wrote earlier this year. Make sure that you're not committing any of them.

Being busy and being productive are two different things. -Unknown

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Validating Your Journey Maps for #CX Design Success

Image courtesy of ~db~
Today's post is a modified version of a post I originally published on Touchpoint Dashboard's blog on March 19, 2015.

In a post from earlier this month, I wrote about the most-basic and most-important rule of customer journey mapping: maps must be created from the customer viewpoint. This is a must; otherwise we perpetuate inside-out thinking that is anything but customer-centric.

In that post, I mentioned four steps/ways to bring the customer perspective into the map:
  1. Create the assumptive map from the customer's viewpoint to begin with (using "I phrases")
  2. Validate the map with customers
  3. Infuse with the voice of the customer
  4. Add performance and importance metrics based on customer feedback
In today's post, I'm going to spend some time focusing on #2, validating your maps with customers.

Why do we need to validate maps?
Assuming you've started the exercise by building assumptive maps, you have yet to bring the customer into the process. Recall, an assumptive map is created by internal stakeholders, without customer input; it’s a map based on what stakeholders assume to be the steps customers go through to complete some task. It is, however, a common starting point for mapping. Validating with customers is the critical next step; after all, that's the whole point of mapping, to walk in your customers' shoes.

Why else?
When we validate the maps with customers, we:
  • confirm we have captured all the steps customer take
  • identify any steps that we've missed
  • identify painpoints, areas of effort, and highlights (what's going well)
  • identify key moments of truth, those make or break moments that keep customers moving forward or that cause them to deviate from the plan
  • identify gaps in the internal perception of the experience; this is a huge learning opportunity, and there is great value in doing this
How do we validate with customers?
I would recommend doing 3-5 sessions, ensuring that you get a good representation across your personas in each session; if you find that you're hearing common themes/steps across the first 2-3 sessions, then you've probably done enough. Each session should have 8-12 people, again, representing your various personas. Allow 4 hours for each session. You'll likely need to incentivize, just like a focus group.

You might also prefer to do some 1:1 interviews to validate. There are benefits to both approaches. In the 1:1 interviews, you can get an individual/unbiased perspective, while in a group setting, participants will likely bounce ideas and steps off each other, perhaps reminding others of what they may have forgotten about the process.

I'm not as big a fan of taking a more quantitative approach to validating the maps, as the logistics are a bit challenging, but I suppose you could do that in the form of a survey.

Can the validation sessions be done online or offline?
You can do them either way. With a tool like Touchpoint Dashboard or some other digital journey mapping tool, the virtual/online sessions become a no-brainer, though you can use these digital tools for in-person sessions, as well.

With whom do we validate?
Maps should definitely be validated with current customers. If you have the ability to (or if they are willing), potential and lost customers should also be included in the exercise. Make sure you've got your key personas represented, as different customers have different needs/goals/outcomes and difference experiences.

How do customers validate the maps?
Obviously, the first step is to explain the exercise to them. After that, outline the scenario that you're mapping and validating. You've likely got an assumptive map in hand, so there are two approaches that you can take to validation. The approach you take may be driven by time constraints.
  1. Show the assumptive map and let them review it and react to it, e.g., you missed a step, etc.
  2. Have them map the journey on their own
Or you might want to do both, starting with a clean slate and then identifying the gaps between the two.

What do they need to validate?
Customers should tell you the steps they take to achieve the task; the people, tools, and processes they used or interacted with; what they were thinking (needs) and feeling (emotions) at each step; and the effort each step took, so you can identify painpoints and highlights.

What next?
Once they've shared all of that with you, you'll want to capture what the ideal experience would/should be. What did they expect the process to be? Where do opportunities exist to enhance the experience? What did they like about the experience/steps to complete that task?

Don't make any promises at this point, but take it all in so that you can formulate a future state as a next step.

Just know that you can't move on to designing the future state without (a) understanding the current state, (b) identifying what works well and what doesn't, and (c) capturing expectations about how it should/could work.

I much prefer the sharpest criticism of a single intelligent man to the thoughtless approval of the masses. -Johannes Kepler

Thursday, August 20, 2015

CX Journey™ Musings: Guiding Principles

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Does your company have a clearly defined set of guiding principles?

On the heels of the Amazon "exposé," I thought I'd tackle a slightly different angle of the story. I'm not going to weigh in on what's happening there - I don't work there, so I have no idea. Besides, there are always three sides to every story: yours, mine, and the truth, right? Somewhere in between all of it lies the truth about what's really happening behind the scenes. The only thing I will say is this: the employee experience drives the customer experience; and we know their customer experience rocks.

OK, on to the subject at hand: guiding principles. What are they? Quite simply, they are beliefs or philosophies that guide the organization through everything it does. They help employees understand what's right and what's wrong. They outline how employees are expected to act and behave. They help employees make decisions and do the right thing; when faced with a challenge, they can first question, "Is my intended action in line with our guiding principles?"

The first article I read about issues at Amazon's workplace called out the 14 principles that outline how their employees are expected to think and act. They're called leadership principles, and they state that leaders...
  1. are customer obsessed
  2. take ownership and never say "that's not my job"
  3. invent and simplify
  4. are right, a lot
  5. hire and develop the best
  6. insist on the highest standards
  7. think big
  8. have a bias for action
  9. are frugal
  10. learn and are curious
  11. earn trust
  12. dive deep; no task is beneath them
  13. have backbone, disagree and commit
  14. deliver results
I don't know. Those sound like pretty solid principles to me. I'd work for a company with those principles. Before you accept employment from a company, be sure your principles align with theirs. My guess is, no one at Amazon had issues with those 14, nor should they.

But here's the rub...

The interesting thing about guiding principles is just that ... they are guiding, they guide. How they are communicated, interpreted, and executed seems to be the problem. Bruce Lee said: Obey the principles without being bound by them.

And perhaps that's where Amazon ran/runs into issues, should the other side of the story contain some truth. Did someone get a bit overzealous? Are they being "enforced" in a way that's unbecoming of the intended outcomes?

What do you think? How do your guiding principles affect employee behavior? Are they referred to often?

Everyday, you will make millions of choices - subconscious and conscious. Your choices will reflect who you are. Who you wish to become should affect nearly all of such choices — allow it to. -Unknown

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Moments of Truth

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Do you know the moments of truth for various tasks customers attempt to achieve with your organization?

Before you can know or identify your moments of truth, you must first know what that means.

So, like I usually like to do, I'll start by defining the concept. defines moment of truth as an: instance of contact or interaction between a customer and a firm (through a product, sales force, or visit) that gives the customer an opportunity to form (or change) an impression about the firm. states that a moment of truth is a critical or decisive time on which much depends; a crucial moment.

And, contrary to popular belief, Jan Carlzon did not come up with the phrase when he wrote his book by the same name. The phrase was first introduced by Richard Normann, who was a strategy consultant for SAS when Carlzon was CEO. Normann defined it as that moment where quality as perceived by the client is created.

While Carlzon did't coin the phrase, he popularized it with his book. Carlzon's definition of "moment of truth" is: anytime a customer comes into contact with any aspect of a business, however remote, is an opportunity to form an impression. In his book, he states that those moments determine whether the company will succeed or fail and that they are moments when companies must prove to their customers that they are the best alternative.

So, you get the idea; it's an important moment. I usually define moment of truth as that make or break moment in the customer journey, that moment when, if all goes well, the customer will continue the journey and complete the task or interaction; he will do (or continue to do) business with you. If things go awry, he will not complete the interaction and will go elsewhere.

I don't agree with Carlzon that every touchpoint, every interaction, is a moment of truth. I think he's right that every touchpoint is an opportunity to form an impression, but I don't think every touchpoint becomes a make-or-break point. Think about the customer journey to purchase a product online, for example. Is every step, every touch critical? No. Every step is certainly important to the process, but there are only a few that will ultimately be make-or-break points for the customer to want to (a) complete that transaction and (b) buy again.

Let's take a closer look at Normann's definition. I'd never heard "moment of truth" described using this definition of value or posing it in terms of value creation; it's an interesting way of looking at it.  This video by FutureSmith explains Normann's definition and the value-creation concept further.

In the video, the narrator (Don Smith) presents the concepts of vicious circles and virtuous circles created by failed and successful moments of truth, respectively.

A vicious circle occurs when failed moments of truth form a chain reaction; he states that once a company slides into a vicious circle, it's difficult to get out of it. A vicious circle is defined by negative, defeatists attitudes that create a toxic culture where customers are considered the enemy and are hated and ridiculed.

The opposite is true in a virtuous cycle, which happens when successful moments of truth propagate more successful moments of truth, i.e., the positive energy from one interaction spreads to the next and creates more successful moments of truth. Customers who experience positive, successful moments of truth are positive going into future moments of truth - and they tell others about their experience. Employees feel good because they feel valued, and they are part of a contagious positive energy that is hard to extinguish.

Either way you slice it - vicious or virtuous - those moments of truth are moments that matter; they matter to the customer, first and foremost, but they subsequently matter to your employees and, ultimately, to your business.

So let's go back to my original question: have you identified your moments of truth? If not, identify tasks that your customers are trying to complete and map the journey. (And act on your findings!) What happens along the way that causes customers to stay? to flee? If you know what they are, then what are you doing to execute them flawlessly?

I guess they're called moments because they don't last very long. -Sarra Manning, author

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Most Important Rule of Journey Mapping

Today's post is a modified version of a post I originally published on Touchpoint Dashboard's blog on March 9, 2015.

Creating a customer journey map is an important first step when it comes to your customer experience transformation.

Notice the word that I used a couple times in that sentence: "customer."

So, it's no surprise, then, that the most important thing to do when mapping the customer journey is to do it from the customer's viewpoint, right? And yet so many companies create an assumptive map and then leave it at that. An assumptive map, by the way, is a map that we build with internal stakeholders and is based on what we assume to be the steps customers go through to achieve some task with the organization. This is fine to do, but we must then take that map and bring the customer perspective into it. We think we know the steps, but customers are best equipped to tell us their journeys. Often, the most important parts of the journey happen between the touchpoints, and customers are the ones who can and need to tell us about those parts.

We also need to make sure we capture what the customer is thinking and feeling, and he is the only one that can tell us that. What he’s thinking and feeling are important to identifying those key moments of truth, those make or break points on the journey. The map is a catalyst for your CX transformation – and identifying those points is critical to doing that.

There are four steps/ways to bring that perspective into your map:
  1. Make sure that you create that assumptive map from the customer's viewpoint to begin with. How? Here's a tip to get your team thinking in the customer’s voice: plot the steps using what I call "I phrases," i.e., I entered my username and password to log into my account; I clicked the link to pay my bill; I then selected the dollar amount of my payment, etc.
  2. Then validate the map with customers, using both quantitative and qualitative research. Through validation, we confirm that these are the customers’ steps.
  3. Next, bring  the maps to life by infusing the voice of the customer. Bring customer data and feedback into the touchpoints to really accentuate the pain, effort, or highlights of the touchpoint. You can even add metrics, e.g., customer effort score, to a touchpoint, which is my fourth point.
  4. Score touchpoints (on performance and importance) to prioritize improvements and resource allocation – again, based on customer feedback
The most important rule of journey mapping: it's critical to create maps from the customer's viewpoint and to bring in the customer voice. How many of these are you utilizing as you create your maps?

Whoever understands the customer best wins. -Mike Gospe

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Outside-In vs. Inside-Out Thinking

Image courtesy of 10ch
In the world of customer experience, what's the difference between outside-in and inside-out?

Inside-out thinking means your focus is on processes, systems, tools, and products that are designed and implemented based on internal thinking and intuition. The customer's needs, jobs, and perspectives do not play a part in this type of thinking; they aren't taken into consideration. You make decisions because you think it's what's best for the business - not for customers. Or you think you know what's best for customers.

On the other hand, outside-in thinking means that you look at your business from the customer's perspective and subsequently design processes, tools, and products and make decisions based on what's best for the customer and what meets the customer's needs. You make decisions because you know it's what's best for your customers. Why? Because you listen to them, and you understand them and the jobs they are trying to do.

It might be inside-out thinking when there's a conscious decision to make process, policy, people, systems, or other changes that:
  1. Don't improve the customer experience at the same time
  2. Are about maximizing shareholder returns, not about benefits for the customer
  3. Improve internal efficiencies but to the detriment of customer interactions
  4. Are cost-cutting measures that also negatively impact the  customer experience
  5. Might be the wrong process, policy, people, or systems to change
By contrast, outside-in thinking flips each of those points on its head and looks like this. There's a conscious decision to make process, policy, people, systems, or other changes that:
  1. Improve the customer experience at the same time
  2. Are about maximizing benefits for the customer
  3. Improve internal efficiencies known to be painpoints when executing customer interactions
  4. Are cost-cutting measures that significantly improve the customer experience
  5. Are the right process, policy, people, or systems because you've listened to customer feedback and know how customers are affected
It's clear that outside-in thinking is the way to go. It leads to a number of things, none of which you'll get by making decisions that are not based on what's best for your customers...
  • reduced complaints
  • increased satisfaction
  • increased referrals
  • increased repeat purchases
  • improved ease of doing business
  • fewer lost customers
These then translate to reduced costs and increased revenue for the business.

How can we ensure that we're operating in an outside-in manner? Here are some tips.
  • Understand customers and what they are trying to do
  • Use that understanding to develop products for the customer, products that solve their problems and help them do what they are trying to do
  • Listen to customers at all key touchpoints
  • Close the loop with customers on their feedback
  • Act on what you hear
  • Share the feedback and ensure it's used throughout the organization to make decisions and to design the best experience for your customers
  • Do right by the customer; ask "Is this decision what's best for the customer?"
  • Reduce customer effort rather than making the experience convoluted and confusing
  • Save a seat in the room (a la Jeff Bezos' empty chair) for the customer/customer's voice
  • Map customer journeys and ensure all employees - frontline and back office - have a clear line of sight to how they impact the customer experience
  • Talk about customers and what they are saying
The customer and his voice need to be incorporated into all decisions, design, and development. Weave the customer throughout your organization's DNA and watch what happens.

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, CTO of Hubspot

Thursday, August 6, 2015

A #CX Topic to Avoid at the Dinner Table

Image courtesy of thedcoy
The rules of etiquette state: never discuss certain topics at the dinner table.

You know your mom warned you about this one: never discuss money, politics, or religion at the dinner table.

With a hat tip to Joe Bruketta, I'd like to add another topic: VoC metrics. (Survey scales is another one of those topics, but for today, let's just go with metrics.)

It's almost impossible to get into a conversation about metrics where everyone agrees on which one(s) to use or which ones are meaningful or which one is "best." Is it customer satisfaction? customer effort score? net promoter score? or something else? I'm sure you could poll the room you're in and get a 50-50 mix on feelings toward NPS any day of the week.

Anna Post, Emily Post's great-great granddaughter, suggests that when you're pulled into one of these "unmentionables" conversations, you should:
  • Stick to the facts
  • Have an exit strategy
  • Know the purpose for the discussion
  • Know when it's appropriate
  • Don't assume you know the other person's position
Don't get me wrong. There are definitely times when the "which metric" discussion is necessary. But, at the proverbial dinner table, perhaps the discussion should shift focus. Rather than debating the merits of the various metrics, how about this: talk about how a/the chosen metric drives employee behavioral changes, i.e., to focus on the customer, not to focus on improving the number, which happens all too often. Don't make the metric the goal, make the customer and delivering a great experience the goal.

How do we avoid the metric being the goal rather than an indicator? What conversations should we be having instead?
  • 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
  • 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
Put the focus squarely on the customer. The metric is just that, a metric, a way of measuring your progress. If you make that the endpoint, you'll fail at the journey.

Ideal conversation must be an exchange of thought, and not, as many of those who worry most about their shortcomings believe, an eloquent exhibition of wit or oratory. -Emily Post

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Moving at the Speed of Innovation

Do you think that the speed of innovation is too fast for your customers? or just right? Do you know how your customers feel about the pace?

I was reading about the 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer the other day and saw this finding:

More than half of the global informed public believe that the pace of development and change in business today is too fast, that business innovation is driven by greed and money rather than a desire to improve people’s lives and that there is not enough government regulation of many industry sectors.

I'm curious how that differed by age/age groups but was only able to find that "informed public" respondents were 25-64, with no breakdown by age group.

Only 30% of respondents believed that improving people's lives was a catalyst for change/innovation, and only 24% felt innovation was driven by a desire to make the world a better place. So if you're not innovating for your customers, for whom are you innovating? Apparently respondents felt that technology, business growth, and greed are the top three drivers of innovation.

Toluna QuickSurveys found that 45% of US iPad owners were not happy about the timing of the new iPad 4 launch (only 7 months after the release of the latest iPad 3). Was that greed? or innovation?

Are companies upgrading and updating too quickly? Are they offering new features and functionality at a pace that customers can't keep up with? And not necessarily with regards to purchasing the latest gadgets but also from the perspective of, "Hey, I'm still trying to figure out this one. Now you've built a new one with a zillion more features I'll need to learn." Is that driven by greed? Is that truly innovation? Or is that just the normal enhancement of products in the product cycle?

And yet, innovation is important to the growth of a business, to developing new categories or businesses or industries, and, ultimately, to improving lives/making the world a better place, so it's sad that the perception is that companies innovate because of greed and a misguided focus (on themselves rather than on customers). Perhaps some do.

I read in another article that you have to innovate both to prepare for change and to make change. If you don't innovate, then you'll always do what you're doing today; you'll remain stagnant; your competitors will sail past you; and your customers will get bored and leave. Unless, of course, no companies innovate, or they all slow innovation, and then we'll just all be bored. Imagine if you were still walking around with a Walkman today. And isn't it more convenient and fun to scan Netflix for a movie you want to watch than to walk into a Blockbuster - assuming it's open when you want to watch that movie - hoping that one of their five copies of your chosen movie is available?

The Edelman findings go on to say that: Building trust is essential to successfully bringing new products and services to market, and building trust in new business innovations requires that companies demonstrate clear personal and societal benefits, behave with integrity and engage with customers and stakeholders throughout the process.

The last point is an important one. Innovation can't be done in a vacuum. Or, as Jeremy Gutsche says: Innovation starts by intimately observing your customer. If you want to innovate for your customers, you need to engage with them, listen to them, understand who they are and what they're trying to do, and so much more - but most importantly, you need to understand what they are trying to do: what task, what job, what are they trying to achieve.

So how do you know if you're innovating too fast? Should you be moving at the speed of innovation? or at the speed of customer?

In Michael Schrage's HBR article, Are You Driving Too Much Change, Too Fast? he states:
The issue is less about how fast CEOs are willing to move than how quickly their most reliable customers are prepared to change. The most effective and important diagnostic I’ve observed for assessing organizational speed and tempo appears obvious but underappreciated: How fast are your customers willing to change? Your own rate of change is determined less by the quality or price/performance of your offerings than the measurable readiness of your customers and clients. Their internal readiness matters more than yours. Their inertia matters more than your momentum.
Bottom line: it always comes down to listening to your customers.

What do you think? Some say that customers don't know what they want/need, so how then can they tell you at what pace they are willing to change? Can they be trained to change or turn on a dime, as Michael Schrage states has happened in some industries (mobile, computers, social media)?

When you innovate, you've got to be prepared for people telling you that you are nuts. -Larry Ellison