Thursday, March 31, 2016

Seeing is Believing

Image courtesy of jsawkins
Today I'm pleased to share a guest post by Josh Stern, CEO of Reality Based Group.

Strategic decisions are only as good as the information upon which they are based. Currently, most business leaders face the challenge of discerning the quality of information being supplied before determining how best to use it. To forge the way to sustained success and company growth, executives now can and should call for data free of bias and flaws.

Traditional models of data collection and customer research result in a variety of pitfalls, rendering the information obtained only fractionally useful at best. For example, customer surveys cannot objectively measure a store’s performance because survey respondents are prone to their own bias and subjectivity.

Customers do not enter a store expecting to evaluate the experience, and they are thus dependent on recollection and memory. Although customers may easily recall an especially positive or negative experience, their ability to recall the specific details sought in a survey with accuracy is extremely limited. Researcher Elizabeth Loftus of the University of California, Irvine, says of human recall that it is “more akin to putting puzzle pieces together than retrieving a recording from a video.” This means that it cannot be “played back” in sequence with accuracy but rather is reconstructed through small pieces that can be combined differently and, therefore, inaccurately.

The problem of inaccurate recall is further exacerbated when there is lag time between the actual service or sale and completion of the survey from a computer at home several hours — or even days — later. Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman notes that people’s recollections of an experience are dominated by two distinct things: how they felt at the peak of that experience and how they felt at the end of it. As such, customer recollection of multiple details during a store visit would be colored similarly by those two points in their shopping experience.

Additionally, the typical survey respondent is in either the top 10 percent or bottom 10 percent of satisfaction levels, leaving a full 80 percent of the customer base untapped for information. Often, the respondents are motivated by incentives such as discounts on future purchases, which introduces another degree of bias to the feedback collected.

Reduce the Waste
In sharp contrast, video mystery shopping is impervious to such characteristic flaws, making the information obtained far superior in terms of reliability and usability for improvement. Capturing employee performance on film documents all aspects and nuances of a customer’s experience without subjectivity or bias. Information can be obtained on the typical customer, not just those respondents driven by an exceptionally positive or negative experience, or incentivized by future discounts or other such programs.

Turning Data into Actionable Insight
Making the best use of high-quality customer data enables a company to have a consistent footprint across multiple sites nationwide, which is critical to brand and image management and, thus, customer retention. To achieve that consistency requires ongoing, uniform training at each location on the behaviors that drive performance.

Accordingly, the data collected from customer experiences must be actionable and placed into training plans. Video mystery shopping, because of its neutral bias, is a simple yet powerful means to capture information upon which to build a training program. Although customer surveys have a role in collecting data, they are sufficiently limited in providing information that can be translated into a behavior — an action — that is trainable.

Recycle the Results
To engage in non-stop performance improvement requires a company to continuously seek information and train their employees to higher standards. Although decisions about the good of the business may lie in the executive suite’s purview, the deployment of those decisions falls squarely on the shoulders of individual store managers through employee training.

For the corporate vision to permeate completely and accurately through the management ranks, it needs to be clearly defined and well-communicated through training modules delivered on an ongoing basis. After training is complete, it’s time to once again assess performance through video collection to determine where retraining would be beneficial. A continuous feedback loop cycles the information from the uppermost levels of management to the individual employees and back.

Without accurate data, decisions are faulty and training will be inconsistent and ill-suited to charting a path to sustained success. Surveys prove costly in terms of the value of information received at the given price; they simply cannot guarantee that a company will garner more market share nor can they prevent corporate decline.

Take it to the Bank
Frail data is extremely expensive in terms of time and dollars. Executives no longer need to dig through the landfill of flawed data to find the right information for strategic decision-making. Instead, it can be collected and delivered to the doorstep, enabling better decisions for the long-term good of the company’s success. Dispose of time-worn, faulty data collection methods, reap the rewards of reliable information, and experience the value offered from video mystery shopping.

Josh Stern is CEO of Reality Based Group, based in Austin, Texas. Founded in 1992, RBG is the premier customer experience management company installing programs that deliver actionable training and development to increase revenue, sales conversions, and improve customer service throughout organizations.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Knowledge Without Understanding is Useless

Image courtesy of Tricia h c
We have tons of data. But do we understand what it's telling us, what it means?

Knowledge without understanding is useless.

You've heard me write/say it before: You can't transform something you don't understand.

Do you understand your customers' needs, expectations, the jobs they're trying to do, and their desired outcomes?

There are really three ways to achieve that understanding. There may be more, but I tend to focus on these three. I'll review them in a second, but the problem with these approaches (or any others) is that, if not done correctly, you'll be no further ahead in terms of understanding than if you hadn't done them.

The three approaches are:
  1. Listen. Don't just ask customers about the experience, listen, as well. There are a lot of different channels and ways for customers to tell you about their needs and desired outcomes and how well you are performing against their expectations. Understanding these expectations and identifying key drivers of a great customer experience are important outcomes of this exercise.
  2. Characterize. Research your customers. Identify the jobs they are trying to do. Compile key personas that represent the various types of prospects and customers that (might) buy from you or that use your products or services.
  3. Empathize. Walk in your customers' shoes to get a clear understanding of the steps they take to do whatever job it is they are trying to do with your organization.  Map their journeys to understand the current state of the experience.
These are all learning exercises, critical learning exercises. We walk away from them with a lot of knowledge about customers, but we need to make sure we truly understand what we've heard about customers, their needs, and their expectations. Without that understanding, the exercises have failed. Make sure they're done right.

A couple tips...
  • When you listen, ask the right questions at the right time of the right audience to elicit the feedback you need to understand what's going right and what isn't. And then do something with it.
  • When you characterize, ensure that the research is rooted in the right data, i.e., relevant prospect and customer data and interviews.
  • And when you empathize, when you walk in your customer's shoes to understand his experience, you need to make sure you capture the experience from his viewpoint because creating from yours defeats the purpose of this process. And then fix what's wrong.
To wrap up today's post, I thought I'd share some insightful quotes about understanding, with the first one really hitting home for that last bullet point.

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view. -Harper Lee

Understanding human needs is half the job of meeting them. -Adlai E Jr Stevenson

"Understanding" is much deeper than "knowledge." There are many people who know us, but very few who understand us. -Author unknown

It is understanding that gives us an ability to have peace. When we understand the other fellow's viewpoint, and he understands ours, then we can sit down and work out our differences. -Harry S. Truman

There is a great difference between knowing and understanding: you can know a lot about something and not really understand it. -Charles F. Kettering

If you want the people to understand you, invite them to your life and let them see the world from your window! -Mehmet Murat ildan

Just because you don't understand it doesn't mean it isn't so. -Lemony Snicket

Those who know, do. Those who understand, teach. -Aristotle

Any fool can know. The point is to understand. -Albert Einstein

Thursday, March 24, 2016

NPS, CSAT, or CES: What’s the True Measure of Customer Loyalty?

Image courtesy of avrene
Today I'm pleased to share a guest post by Adam Rogers at Kayako.

There is an abundance of metrics out there that can measure the quality of your customer support. But which one really shows how loyal your customers are?

When measuring customer support, metrics help you see whether the service you’re providing meets the expectations of your customers. The overall goal is to maximize loyalty and reduce churn.

On the opposite side of loyalty is churn because, simply put, a loyal customers is less likely to churn. But how do you find a customer that might want to churn? Which support metrics can you analyze and rely on to find the true meaning of why a customer wants to leave?

Normally you’d start by looking at the interaction they had with your support team, pulling up the customer’s data on their customer effort score (CES) and customer satisfaction scores (CSAT), and later Net Promoter Score (NPS).

Why choose CSAT and CES to predict churn?
CSAT and CES are closely related because they measure two vital things at the beginning of the support journey.
  • CES is a survey question appearing as a Likert scale (scale of 1 to 5), “How easy was it for you to get your problem solved?” It is a strong predictor of future customer loyalty – those with high effort scores are less likely to become return customers.
  • CSAT directly measures the customer's satisfaction with your product or service. It also helps identify pain points in order to see which aspects of your support could be improved.
These metrics measure everything involved in the whole support process: the ease of getting in touch with you, the actual conversation you have, and any follow up correspondence you might have sent.

The CSAT and CES metrics are easy and quick ways to keep track of your customers' satisfaction. Keeping your support easy and efficient is one of the easiest ways to keep your customers happy and to view their risk of churn.

But what are the limitations of CES and CSAT?
It really comes down to some of the underlying numbers.

For example, you might have a customer who rates their interactions with support really highly; let’s say they give you over 90% on all five cases they create with you - that gives you a really high CSAT. But the customer then decides to leave, and you are left baffled because CSAT indicates that they were happy.

When you drill down into the issues, it turns out the customer actually reported the same problem affecting them five times in a row. They were happy support fixed it every time but were unhappy with the product, in general, for having that problem.

The same applies for CES, too.

A customer can have a really low effort experience contacting you, but if they have to consistently get in contact, that’s another kind of problem the stat is not going to highlight. When looking just at ease of contact and problem resolution - you’ll find these are the customers sitting with a high level of product frustration, or not seeing enough value to stay. These customers are at a high risk of churning.

It can take up to twelve good experiences to overcome the unhappiness caused by one bad experience. Customers don’t easily forget a problem!

NPS is a good way to see how customers feel about your product
Net Promoter Score (NPS) helps you identify which customers are at risk of churning. NPS was specifically developed to measure customer loyalty. It’s a measurement that calculates the likelihood of your customer recommending your product or service to someone in their network.

NPS surveys can capture an overall trend in customer loyalty, but the results won’t tell you WHY that trend is happening.

How do I measure customer loyalty with metrics?
The key is to combine and layer NPS data with other customer metrics to get a more complete picture of your users. Layering NPS and customer satisfaction scores on top of each other paints an interesting picture of whether your customer support is driving loyalty or if it’s a possible reason for churn.

The trick is not to view them in their own world, but view them together. If you read them without comparing them to each other, you can get a distorted view.

How to combine your NPS and CSAT scores
1. Pull data from your NPS surveys and recent satisfaction scores. Place them in a spreadsheet with the corresponding survey responses (order them using your customer or account names).

2. Use a scatter graph to plot customer data for both NPS and satisfaction.

3. You’ll be left with four types of customers based on these types of clusters.

Example: CSAT and NPS combined
VIP support
These are promoters of your brand or product, but they have suffered bad service experiences.

These are loyal customers who have also had really great experiences with your support team.

These are customers who are not satisfied and are not loyal.

These “satisfied but disloyal” customers are an important segment of your customer base that you might not otherwise notice without running NPS surveys.

Naturally, you’ll want to jump on the Churners category and try to convince them to stay - don’t. This will be time consuming, and in most cases, it’s too late to rescue these customers. Especially when satisfaction doesn’t drive loyalty: 60-80% of customers who ultimately churn said they were satisfied or very satisfied in their last CSAT survey.

If you want a shot at turning around any customers at risk of churn, focus on your Wildcards. These customers are sitting with a high level of product frustration, or not seeing enough value to stay. To keep them engaged, invest in education, product fixes, and proactive customer success calls to drive higher value and to help them achieve their objectives.

Nurture your VIP Support customers to become promoters
It’s important to focus on the VIP Support category because there is a very strong chance you can turn them into Advocates who help you drive new business.

When analyzing this category, you’ll see a high number of responses with low satisfaction scores but middling to high NPS responses. These are the customers that need love and are at risk of churn! You can prioritize these customers early on by giving CES its own quadrant. You can do this by calculating the average of CES over the lifetime of support tickets vs. likelihood to repurchase (based on CSAT and NPS results). Their average CES score should show how close or far they are from being an Advocate. The easier you make it for these customers, the more likely they are to repurchase.

To make these customers promoters of your services, invest in support to improve the experience they have with your support team. Try some tactics to make them feel appreciated as a customer:
  • Set some time aside and really hear out the problems they have,
  • Offer them some personalized support, and make sure you take care of their issue,
  • Or send them some merchandise with a personalized thank you note.
Don’t silo your customer data
There’s not one true metric to measure loyalty. But by charting your NPS with other data, you’ll have a much more complete view of the state of your customer base. It will be clear which customers are unsatisfied with your product or service and at risk of churn. Take the time to nurture these customers, and you can move them on the NPS chart to Advocates.

Adam Rogers is a content marketer at Kayako. His writing helps customers get better at customer service. You can find Adam writing about marketing and books on his own blog, as well.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Is It Time to Create a Hassle Map?

Image courtesy of Phillie Casablanca
How do you identify, measure, and resolve painpoints and difficulties that your customers experience when they are trying to do some job with your products?

I'm a huge advocate of journey maps as a tool to help you walk in your customers' shoes in order to better understand the steps they go through to do some job or to achieve some task with your organization. So I was interested to learn more when I stumbled upon an article about hassle maps. Maybe I'm late to the game on this topic, but I thought what I read was an interesting take and perspective on how to understand customer needs and improve jobs to be done.

What are hassle maps? How do they differ from journey maps? And how can you use them to improve the experience?

"Hassle map" is a term/concept coined by Adrian Slywotzky. In an Inc. interview, he defined hassle maps as follows.

Whether you're talking about a consumer or a corporation, a hassle map defines all of the actual steps that characterize the negative experiences of the customer. Think about these questions: Where are the emotional hot spots, the irritations, the frustrations, the time wasted, the delay? Where are the economic hot spots? And then think about this: What are the ways that businesses can radically improve the hassle map for both the customer and themselves?

Upon initial research, it seemed like hassle maps weren't as rooted in redesigning customer interactions, per se, as customer journey maps are. They seemed centered more around product innovation and demand creation. In other words, they take jobs to be done and make them simpler through product design and innovation.

What do I mean?

Consider the example of renting videos from Blockbuster and the subsequent evolution to Netflix and OnDemand (or any other video streaming service). Hassle maps visualize the pain of driving to the video store, finding the right video, waiting in line to check out, and then remembering to return the video without incurring late fees! They bring the pain of the experience to life and help paint the picture to support finding a better product solution, one that goes from the more complex to the simpler. These maps are all about solving problems and making life easier for customers through product evolution.

And yet, Netflix isn't just a product; it's an experience redesign. So perhaps hassle maps and journey maps are members of the same family - more similar than different.

Not that journey maps don't solve problems and help simplify the customer experience, but they tend to encompass various aspects of the experience (product, service, and other interactions), not just products, product innovation, and demand creation. (This reminds me of a debate on CustomerThink last year, where several people weighed in on Bob Thompson's question about whether customer experience is only about interactions or also includes product and price. I do believe product and pricing are simply two other types of interactions customers have with an organization and clearly fall under the customer experience umbrella.) And journey maps focus on more than just the negative experiences.

After reading more about hassle maps, perhaps there's a broader application of "hassle map thinking," as Adrian puts it, for other aspects of the customer experience. That's definitely something to consider. Adrian writes in "The Art of Hassle Map Thinking:"

Each extra step, wasted moment, avoidable risk, needless complication, less-than-optimal solution, awkward compromise, and disappointing outcome is a friction point on the hassle map. And each represents an opportunity for a creative organization to create new demand by eliminating the friction or even reversing it, turning hassle into delight.

Hassle maps reveal the gap between what customers buy and what they really want and need - based on what jobs they are trying to do or tasks they are trying to complete. Adrian notes that that gap is where the opportunity for demand creation lies. But I believe that gap is also where the opportunity for experience (re)design lies.

Adrian writes that there are other types of hassle maps: (1) those that take you through the steps of the process a customer goes through to do something; (2) those that also chart backstage and front-stage people, tools, and systems; and a third one (3) that graphs desirable yet mutually-exclusive customer needs, e.g., price vs. quality, convenience vs. variety, etc. (1) and (2) sound to me like a couple of different approaches to journey mapping. And yet, I feel like hassle maps are a slightly different flavor. I'm conflicted on this, though like I mentioned, they focus on negative experiences and demand creation, whereas journey maps are used for all experiences and process/experience redesign. Both are valuable customer experience tools.

To develop a hassle map, you start by thinking about needs, painpoints, and desired outcomes. We absolutely want to think about these things as we design a great customer experience. But, as Adrian outlines in a Fast Company article, Hassle Maps: The Genesis of Demand, hassle maps can be mental constructs (journey maps are not) or literal maps. He states that these maps determine your engineering, design, marketing, partners, and competitors.

There's no right way to create hassle maps, but he suggests...
  • Look at different personas, as different customer types have different problems, painpoints, and desired outcomes. Understand your customers and what drives them crazy about your products.
  • Start by asking what customers hate and what makes them furious. Watching customers is an even better approach. What jobs are they trying to do? What painpoints are they experiencing? What problems are they trying to solve? 
  • Identify what it's like to use your products. Consider strengths and weaknesses. 
  • Look to other industries and other game changers for inspiring solutions.  
  • Then quantify the economics (dollars spent, time wasted, steps required, etc.) for the customer and for the business; what saves money for both? 
  • And like journey maps, hassle maps are also not static. Update the maps as technologies and needs evolve.
What's critical to success here? Understanding customers. Talking to customers. Listening to customers. Observing customers. Characterizing customers. Empathizing with customers.

Much of what's written about hassle maps is about how these maps are critical to demand creation and new product development. Like journey maps, the objective and desired outcome of hassle maps is to simplify and to improve the customer experience. In addition, hassle maps have a grander objective: to develop products that make customers' lives easier.

Is it time for you to walk in your customers' shoes as they use your products, identify the painpoints and the frustrations, and develop the next iPod (figuratively speaking)?

I'll borrow today's closing quote from "The Art of Hassle Map Thinking"...

When you discover a problem, you discover a business. - Henk Kwakman, CEO, Nestle (Nespresso)

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Creating Employee Experiences That Drive Customer Delight

Image courtesy of mdennes
Today I'm pleased to share a guest post by Maansi Sanghi of CloudCherry.

Discover the importance of employee engagement and happiness in driving customer delight.

Achieving customer delight is paramount to the success of a business. Customer satisfaction is no longer enough – at least for businesses that want to thrive instead of just survive. But creating a delightful customer experience can be difficult, especially if you’re focusing solely on the customer.

We’ve had it hammered into us that only companies that put the customer first succeed, which is true. Up to a point. The key to creating a delightful customer experience lies not in the quality of the product, or your pricing strategy, or your marketing campaigns. It lies in the little things your company does, in going the extra mile (or ten) for your customers. And the people who do that are your employees.

Thus, technically, to build a customer-oriented business that is fully engaged in creating a delightful experience for your customers, you need to put your employees first. Happy employees lead to happy customers, and delighted employees lead to ecstatic customers.

The Connection between Employee Engagement and Customer Satisfaction
On a logical level, you can probably already see the connection between employee engagement and customer satisfaction. However, just in case you are still skeptical, or would rather have some clear facts proving what you might consider pure speculation, here are some studies that prove without a shadow of a doubt that there is a powerful link between how happy your employees are and how satisfied your customers are.
  • The Gallup State of the American Workplace study discovered that the companies in the top 25% ranked from highest to lowest in terms of employee engagement had customer ratings higher by 10%. In other words, the higher the level of employee engagement, the better the ratings from customers.
  • A Washington State University study found that there is a clear connection between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction, namely that the happier employees are, the more delighted customers will be. They also found a direct link between the degree of satisfaction customers experience and the financial performance of a business. Ergo, employee satisfaction is connected to financial performance, which means that the happier your employees are, the more money your business will make.
  • A series of studies conducted by Bain & Company show that how employees act and their attitude is one of the most important aspects in achieving customer satisfaction. The more engaged an employee is, the more dedicated they will be to making customers happy, which eventually leads to customer delight and a better bottom line for your business.
And it’s not just studies that prove this connection. Many companies have posted improved results after improving employee engagement, such as:
  • Morris Management Specialists found that for every 2% increase in employee engagement, customer satisfaction went up by 1%;
  • Sears focused on improving employee engagement in an effort to improve their results in the 90s and they found that a 4% increase in employee satisfaction over a 12-month period led to an increase of 4% in customer satisfaction, which amounted to approximately $200 million in additional revenues over that same time frame.
Clearly, the higher the level of employee engagement, the happier customers will be and the more money your business will make.

A Few Strategies to Help You Increase Employee Engagement
We’ve established that there is a direct connection between employee engagement and customer satisfaction, and that businesses should focus on improving employee engagement to eventually improve revenues and profitability. But how do you go about improving employee engagement? Here are a few strategies to help you get started.

Lead by Example
The first thing a business should be doing is leading by example. The company’s leadership needs to walk the walk and talk the talk, which means that you need to act and behave precisely how you want your employees to act and behave. You expect them to go the extra mile for your customers? Then you need to do the same. And not just for your customers, but for your employees too. It’s been shown that employees are 55% more engaged and 53% more focused in a company where the management leads by example.

Give Your Employees More Control
The more control someone has over their life, the happier they will be and you can use this to great effect to improve the happiness of your employees. Give your people a greater level of control over their environment and their work habits. People have demanding lives both in and out of work and nothing boosts employee engagement and loyalty quite as effectively as a boss who tries to help their employees achieve a good balance between their personal and work lives.

Encourage Socialization
Humans are highly social and interaction with other people significantly improves our mood, even for people who are more introverted. So, if you want to improve the mood of all your employees, create a work environment that is boosts social interaction. Things such as arranging workstations so employees can easily communicate with each other, encouraging holiday and birthday celebrations and providing an eating area where employees can have lunch together will go a long way towards increasing employee happiness.

Make Work Enjoyable
If you really want your employees to be happy, then make sure their work life is enjoyable. Forget about the rules that drove the 20th century when an employee’s value was directly tied to the number of hours worked. Instead, focus on their results and allow people to work when and where they want, if possible.

Get them the equipment and software they need to make their life easier. Listen to their concerns and address them. Make your employees feel valued and they will repay you by making your business the best it can be.

Acknowledge Their Hard Work
People love to have their hard work acknowledged, even if it’s just with a simple thank you. Surprisingly, many of those in management positions, especially in large organizations, forget the value of thanking their employees. It’s simple, but so important.

Acknowledging the hard work of your employees is the fastest way to build trust and motivate people to want to do even better. But don’t just limit your praise to closed doors. Publicly praise great employees and you’ll encourage everyone else to want to achieve the same standards.

And if a customer praises your employees, let them know that their work is paying off. You’d be surprised at how much more engaged and happy your employees will be to know that their efforts are being noticed and acknowledged by your customers.

Using Employee Engagement Surveys to Measure Results
Once you’ve devised a plan and implemented it to improve employee engagement, you need to measure your results. You need to find out what whether what you’re doing is effective or not and the best approach is to survey them.

Imagine your employees are your customers and survey them to find out what you can do better. If you are worried about skewed results because employees are worried about telling the truth, you can allow them to fill in the surveys anonymously. But if this is the case, then you might have a more serious problem because if your employees are afraid to talk to you and tell you the truth, you might need to review your organization’s culture.

Employee feedback is as critical as customer feedback. Not only will you be able to discover other approaches you can take to improve happiness and engagement, you’ll also be able to find out where you’re going wrong. And, in many cases, you’d be surprised how much the small things matter. Just like you internalize and act on your customers’ feedback to improve their experience, you should do the exact same thing with your employees. Take what their saying on board and act on it. Otherwise, you risk alienating your employees or, at the very least, creating a laissez-faire attitude because if they come to believe you will never act on their concerns or to fulfill their needs, they’ll take the same attitude with your customers.

The happier your employees are, the happier your customers will be. And, usually, it doesn’t take a lot to make your employees happy. Just like with customers, it’s all about the details. But even if those details seem small to you, when you put them all together, they will help create an experience that will have your employees eager to come to work and ecstatic about doing as much as they can to create a delightful experience for your customers.

Maansi Sanghi was with SaaS-based startup Hotelogix - part of the founding team – for 7 years before joining CloudCherry as VP Online Business. Incubated and managed the Inbound Sales team of Hotelogix for International markets like North America and South America. Maansi also managed remote and consultative sales for markets ranging over 80 countries and strategized and reduced sales cycle cost of acquiring customers.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Should #CX Professionals Care About the Four Moments of Truth?

What are the Four Moments of Truth? And do they fit into experience design?

Last year, I wrote about moments of truth, defining them 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 recently read Brian Solis' latest book, X: The Experience When Business Meets Design. In it, he devotes a chapter to moments of truth. He writes about the Four Moments of Truth:

Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT): This moment of truth was introduced by Google and refers to that moment when people go online and search for what they need/want.

First Moment of Truth (FMOT): This moment of truth was coined by P&G and refers to when people first see the product - or its alternatives - they are looking for.

Second Moment of Truth (SMOT): Also introduced by P&G, Brian says this isn't just a moment but a collection of moments. This is when the customer uses and experiences the product and the company supports the relationship.

Third Moment of Truth (TMOT): Ex-P&Ger Pete Blackshaw introduced this MOT back in 2006, and he basically refers that powerful inflection point where the product experience catalyzes an emotion, curiosity, passion, or even anger to talk about the brand. By opening up that pipeline, we not only absorb insight and deeper consumer understanding but also nurture empowerment and advocacy

Ultimate Moment of Truth (UMOT): Brian coined this term to refer to that moment when customers go online to review or to talk about products and the experience, basically the same thing as that TMOT, and cited that one person's UMOT is another's ZMOT. Interesting.

(I know. Technically, that's five. Brian only wrote about four in his book; he wrote about UMOT, not TMOT, which others have cited as the fourth moment of truth.)

Here's what's interesting: these xMOTs help marketers and advertisers, but they aren't helpful to customer experience designers. I'd say these are more stages of truth than moments of truth. Moments are, well, moments; they are a (brief) point in time. These xMOTs relate more to stages in time, stages in the customer lifecycle, than they do to brief points in time.

The xMOTs are focused on the buyer journey and the customer lifecycle, not on the specific steps of a customer experience journey, where a customer is trying to achieve some task. That appears to be the difference between how we refer to moment of truth in customer experience design and these xMOTs. These xMOTs don't tell me what to fix; they might drive my digital/content strategy, though.

So, as a customer experience professional trying to redesign the experience, should you focus on the xMOTs? No, they're not meant for that purpose. They're just too high-level to be meaningful for design; design requires details.

This reminds me of when I wrote about the differences between lifecycle maps and journey maps: focusing on the lifecycle is high level and is good for understanding the overall relationship the customer has with the organization, from before he's even considered a customer through when he is no longer a customer.

To really transform the experience, you need to focus on those specific make-or-break points the customer experiences along the journey to complete some task or to do some job. Details are important. You can't transform something you don't understand. The xMOTs don't help you understand those moments that cause customers to stay or go. They can help you engage with customers, but after you engage, then what? If the experience itself is broken, then your engagement is over.

A moment of choice is a moment of truth. -Stephen Covey

At the moment of truth, there are either reasons or results. -Chuck Yeager

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Building Relationships - In Business and In Life

Image courtesy of vasilennka
Today I'm pleased to share a guest post by Paul Laughlin.

So, the romance day of the year - Valentine's Day - is now behind us. It is surely a time when people think about their relationships.

Beyond their significant others, though, I wonder if many business leaders spare a thought for their work-related relationships?

I ask because of seeing so many companies, over so many years, take a simplistic, and at times patronising, approach to "building relationships" with both their customers and their employees. Now, I’m not saying the principle of building relationships with these two communities is wrong - far from it.

The evidence is overwhelming as to the relative value of retaining a satisfied customer rather than just acquiring new ones. Many a manager will also tell you how much more productive and cost-effective it is to keep motivated employees rather than keep spending more on recruitment. So, there is nothing wrong with the goal.

Businesses get it wrong
Where, I feel, businesses fall down is the approach taken to achieving this goal. All too often, it feels like these are just "relationships" as a means to an end. Talking about "loving" your customers or colleagues while really just seeking the latest route to greater profit will fall through. People are not stupid, and disingenuous actions are almost always seen through over time. Besides, I fear the approach taken by many such communications comes across more like a "player" than as a person wanting to build a mutually-rewarding relationship.

Perhaps the root cause is not too much focus on relationships, but too little. After generations of industry experts talking about CRM, Customer Centricity, Customer Insight, CXM, and numerous other buzzwords, I can fully understand you still feeling skeptical. But please bear with me. What I mean is that for all the business and technical waffle, perhaps the relationships analogy (on which all the above are based) is too superficial an understanding of real world relationships.

Valentine’s Day
Let’s return to the theme of Valentine’s Day.

Imagine the scene. You remembered the card, flowers, present, and dinner reservation (which would be a minor miracle for me). There you both are, gazing lovingly at each other over a candlelit table in your favourite restaurant. What do you do next?

Here are a few options inspired by real life and business, you can judge which is which:

  • Remind your "love" how much you spent on this evening (so they "value you")? 
  • Eat meal quickly and suggest you go straight to "intimacy" ASAP? 
  • Take time to talk and enjoy each other’s company? 
  • Offer to upgrade to the premium menu selection, if they will sign a contract to stay with you for another year?
  • Keep using their name and reciting past interactions, to prove that you remember them? 
  • Offer them money for their time and "services?"
  • Give them a tacky gold star and tell them you’ll be publishing their photo on Facebook as "date of the month?"

Well I think you get the point (and if you’re thinking of trying some of those, you better be prepared to duck when the slap comes!)

Faking it won’t always make it
As I’m sure you can see, my point is that what businesses routinely do to their customers and staff to "build relationships" is tacky and fake compared to real life. You will know, from your own experience, that such behaviour comes across as manipulative or downright creepy when translated to your real relationships. But, somehow, we forget these basics in the strange world of corporate marketing. Simplistic versions of personalisation, that try too hard, seem to make sense. Overtly buying loyalty or even bribing "recommendations" sounds acceptable, and there is always the pressure to close the sale after the briefest of customer foreplay.

Perhaps just as telling is how this same behaviour is seen in the ways leaders seek to motivate their employees: tacky recognition schemes, paying cash bonuses for doing a job well, or using performance management systems to tell some of your team that they are better than others.

Is there another area of your life where you would consider gold stars, bribery or giving someone an "A" to be an authentic way to build a relationship? Worse still, there is compelling research that such an approach devalues the work your people do. In his fascinating book, Punished by Rewards, Alfie Kohn shares how the nobility and meaning people seek in their work is undermined by training employees to just do it for the money or promotion.

Hope from your relationships
Enough doom and gloom. Not everyone gets this wrong, and I want to end on a positive note.

After over 30 years of mostly happy married life, even I have learnt a few things about building and maintaining a loving relationship: taking time to keep getting to know that person better; being considerate and kind to them; protecting time to really give them your attention; enjoying their company & opening up about so many areas of your shared life; trying new things. All these and more play such an important role in long-term happy relationships of all genders and orientations.

Are there any signs that businesses are "getting it?" Well, I’ve spotted a few encouraging developments over recent years.

Here’s what looks like better practices to me:

  • A focus on identifying customer irritants and fixing them (without a big song & dance)
  • If a customer gives a bad rating/feedback, follow-up with prompt contact to apologise, learn, and fix
  • Content marketing that is relevant to customers and just given away for free (without requiring sign-up)
  • Leaders encouraging technical excellence in their teams and listening to what those teams know needs fixing
  • Leaders taking time to meet customers
  • Employees encouraged to be themselves so their responses to customers are authentic
  • Co-creation with customers, to share understanding of what products or service could be built
  • Insight generation (from data, analysis, and research) that is managed well, tested, and improved over time
  • Fair pricing that rewards loyalty, without going on about it all the time
  • Transparency of sharing feedback on websites, demonstrable accountability
  • When things go wrong, businesses and leaders who first apologise (not first make an excuse)

Over to you
Those are only a few situations. I’m sure you’ll have examples from your experience. Please do share what you’ve seen and what you appreciate.

For now, just let me take time to encourage a more genuine, longer-term approach to relationships with customers and employees; honesty about what you can offer and want in return; taking time to listen to the other person and learning from the insights you glean; valuing them with attentive service and conversations that interest them.

Perhaps if we all take that ethos away from Valentine’s Day this year, we might even start to build real relationships for the rest of the year.

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, March 8, 2016

Why Be a Great Place to Work?

Image courtesy of Unsplash
How does your employee experience rate relative to other companies? 

Would your employees consider the company a great place to work?

Why does that matter?

While a "great place to work" might be in the eye of the beholder, I have my thoughts on what drives a great employee experience and what comprises an employee-centric culture.

Included in my list are things like:
  • leadership
    • a leader that people want to follow
    • a leader that cares about his/her people
  • communication
    • transparency
    • vision, goals, values
    • guiding principles
  • lack of politics and bureaucracy
    • no playing (power) games
  • camaraderie
    • collaboration
    • work together, play together
  • empowerment
    • responsibility
    • ownership
    • accountability
  • respect
    • given and received
  • trust
    • given and received
  • recognition
  • appreciation/feeling valued
    • doing work that matters
I thought I'd see how the Great Place to Work Institute defines a great place to work. They take two perspectives on the definition, citing trust developed through management credibility as a key driving force.

A great workplace from the employee's viewpoint is one where they:
  • TRUST the people they work for;
  • Have PRIDE in what they do; 
  • and ENJOY the people they work with.

A great workplace from the manager's viewpoint is one where they:
  • With employees who GIVE THEIR PERSONAL BEST; 
  • and WORK TOGETHER AS A TEAM / FAMILY in an environment of TRUST 

There are nine practice areas where leaders and managers create an environment of trust. Great workplaces achieve organizational goals by inspiring, speaking, and listening. They have employees who give their personal best by thanking, developing, and caring. And they work together as a team / family by hiring, celebrating, and sharing.

Do any of those describe the organization you work for? As an employee, do you feel your employer cares about you and adheres to these tenets of a great workplace and a great experience?

Employee experience on its own is an important area on which every company should focus. It impacts employee satisfaction, engagement, and retention. It also impacts the customer experience. I've written and spoken about that many times. 

The real kicker is that when we impact the customer experience through a better employee experience, we also impact the bottom line. There's a 1998 article from Harvard Business Review that summarizes the work that Sears executives did to rebuild the company to focus on customers. The article talks about the new business model and what they discovered: "There is a chain of cause and effect running from employee behavior to customer behavior to profits." 

Also, it's been reported that organizations in the Best Companies to Work Study for the period 2004 – 2008 increased their revenues by 94% and their profits by 315%.

I was delighted to find more evidence of this from Watermark Consulting, the firm that publishes the annual Customer Experience ROI Study. They've taken a look at the employee experience leaders based on Great Place to Work findings and charted their performance on the S&P 500 for the last 18 years, from 1997 to 2014. (Unfortunately, there is no laggards list from this source to compare them to, but this is pretty enlightening on its own. I can only imagine that the laggards have polar opposite results, especially if you consider the Customer Experience ROI Study findings.) Their annualized returns outperformed the stock market by nearly double.

Source: Watermark Consulting
Still questioning why it matters? Creating an environment within your organization where employees feel they are valued, do work that matters, are empowered and trusted, and have a great experience is good for employees; it's good for customers and, subsequently, for the business, too.

A great place to work is one in which you trust the people you work for, have pride in what you do, and enjoy the people you work with. -Robert Levering, Co-Founder, Great Place to Work®

Friday, March 4, 2016

The Biggest VoC Problem ... and How to Solve It

Image courtesy of throughtheeyesofadancer
Do you know about the biggest problem with VoC today?

Why do we listen to customers and other constituencies today? To learn. To understand.

We can't transform something we don't understand. We listen. We understand. We transform the experience.

So, what's the biggest problem with VoC today? Well, VoC.

OK. Not quite.

The problem is all of the data that listening generates.

OK, that's not quite it, either.

The biggest problem with all of the data is that it doesn't get used. That's a big problem. It doesn't get transformed into anything digestible that can then be used to transform the customer experience.

It's not just enough to listen for the sake of checking the box or for tracking the metric. It's not about that. But there are plenty of companies who do just that.

I partnered with Passenger, an online communities solution provider, to host a webinar earlier this week on this very topic, The Biggest VoC Problem... and How to Solve It. Click the link to have a listen. The solution I provide is not an easy one; as a matter of fact, if you can't get past Step #1, you won't be able to solve the problem, at all.

Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong. -Donald Porter

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Is Your Customer Experience the Stuff That Legends are Made Of?

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Is your customer experience legendary?
Do companies even know what it means to deliver "legendary customer service?"

I've been dealing with a provider for the last three and a half months that claims to deliver "legendary customer service." They tout this on their website, in their emails, and even on their voicemails. The problem is, their service is not legendary - at least not in the (positive) way I'm sure they want it to be.

I'm meeting with this provider again this week, and in preparation, I thought I'd take a look at what it means to deliver legendary service. Perhaps I just don't understand what they're striving to deliver.

I'll start with defining "legendary."

Google defines legendary as:
  1. based on legends
  2. remarkable enough to be famous; very well known
Again, my guess is they want to be "very well known" for their levels of service, but known for it in a good way.

Since legendary is based on legends, I should understand that term, too. Wikipedia defines legend as:

...a narrative of human actions that are perceived both by teller and listeners to take place within human history and to possess certain qualities that give the tale verisimilitude. Legend, for its active and passive participants, includes no happenings that are outside the realm of "possibility" but which may include miracles. Legends may be transformed over time, in order to keep it fresh and vital, and realistic. Many legends operate within the realm of uncertainty, never being entirely believed by the participants, but also never being resolutely doubted.

Synonyms are "myth" and "fairy tale."

I'm still waiting for the miracles. And that "never being entirely believed" part is what I'm wondering about. Perhaps their legendary service is just a fairy tale.

I went on a Google hunt to see how people/companies define "legendary customer service" or "legendary customer experience." I found that not many brands tout this; I supposed it's a pretty extreme thing to say or to claim. And those that did, well, they were really describing what I call "the basics."

Perhaps claiming that you've got legendary service is a bit pointless.

Sam Walton said: The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best but legendary. Do you feel like you get legendary customer service when you go to WalMart? Is it legendary in a good way or a bad way?

The companies that deliver that extraordinary level of service don't have to tell customers in their voicemails and emails, quite honestly; they just do it! We know they do it. Think: Zappos, USAA, The Ritz-Carlton, Southwest, Nordstrom, et al.

Want to talk about customer experience legends? Google "Nordstrom returns tires."

Some of the brands that mentioned legendary service defined it as making sure they met and exceeded the expectations of their customers. (Without a doubt, key to that is understanding what customers' expectations are. Exceeding expectations cannot occur without understanding expectations first.) But is that legendary, or is that, too, "just the basics?" Saying you're going to meet and exceed expectations is quite generic. As a customer, what does that mean to me? And how do you, as a company, know that you've exceeded my expectations.

At the very least, I would hope that all businesses strive to meet their customers' expectations. Remember, Performance - Expectations = Satisfaction. Your performance must be greater than those expectations in order to be positively reflected in that equation!

So if you're going to tout legendary service, well then, by George, you better have something special!

Legendary service means going the extra mile, but you can't go the extra mile until you get the last mile right. Delivering on the last mile is all about giving your customers what they expected. The extra mile is that piece that really adds the component of delight. 

What most organizations think is legendary is really (barely) the basics; they're just striving to get to/through the last mile. The extra mile, or that legendary service, is a pipe dream for them.

Let's look at the basics first; they include things like...
  • Treating customers with respect
  • Acting with integrity
  • Being polite - definitely not rude!
  • Trusting your customers - don't call them liars!
  • Being responsive - set an SLA for response time that shows you care! And stick to it!
  • Doing what's right for the customer - you and your organization know what that means; and if you don't, ask your customers
  • Doing right by the customer - again, you and your organization know what that means; if not, then ask
  • Showing empathy and understanding for the customer's situation
    • Walk in the customer's shoes; don't make him walk in yours (e.g., "Oh, that's easy for me; I can do that. Why can't you?"
  • Putting the customer's best interests before your own
  • Caring about your customers (we can tell when you don't) 
  • Being willing to help your customers
  • Adopting an attitude of "yes"
  • Doing what you say you'll do
  • Understanding your customers - the person, the situation, their expectations, and more!
  • Making it effortless for customers to do business with you
  • Meeting my expectations
Honestly, this is just meeting today's customer expectations.

And yet, the provider I'm meeting with fails on all of these. All of them.

If those are the basics, then figure out how you can go above and beyond. Every service situation differs. Know your customers. Figure it out. Find out how you can go above and beyond in a way that is meaningful and relevant to the customer in front of you.

It takes a lot to deliver a legendary level of service. Here's what I think legendary customer service includes:
  • All of the items/basics listed above, plus...
  • Identifying/understanding my expectations - and exceeding them 
  • Doing the unexpected, and 
  • Adding elements of delight that I would appreciate (Need examples? Check out this book!)
  • Being proactive - why should the customer wait for you? and wait, and wait, and...
  • Personalizing it - make it for me and about me, no one else
  • Being remarkable - at all you do, in every interaction
  • Being consistent - from interaction to interaction, from employee to employee
What would you add to this list?

Just because you say you deliver legendary service doesn't make it real. Just because you tell customers that's what you deliver doesn't make it real. As a matter of fact, once you say it, you better darn well deliver on it. And remember, actions speak louder than words.

Perhaps this particular provider that I'm dealing with does deliver on it for other customers, but I'd like to reiterate this: legendary service is not selective; legendary service is consistent. You need to uphold the same high standards for every interaction, by every employee. And if you have an employee that can't deliver, perhaps he's not a good fit and needs to go!

That's a great segue into what this means for the inner workings of your organization. In a nutshell, there must be:
Is your company's culture and customer experience the stuff that legends are made of?

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. -Maya Angelou