Wednesday, November 30, 2016

When #CCM and #CX Collide

Image courtesy of GMC Software
What are you doing to bring your customer communications into the 21st century and into alignment with customer expectations?

Companies are making a huge effort to move their customer communications from traditional channels to the digital and social realm, while continuing to use and maintain offline communications, as well; however, there's a disconnect between the voice, tone, style, and messaging that is used in digital channels versus in traditional media. This is a problem.

Communication is important in any relationship, and it's no less important in the relationship that you have with your customers. Communications are an important component of the customer experience that are often overlooked but are, ironically, the one aspect of the experience that seem fairly straightforward when it comes to executing and improving. The right cross-functional teams need to be involved to ensure that disparate voices, systems, and channels don't sidetrack the brand messaging and, hence, the experience. Consistent messaging, just like consistent experiences, builds trust. Trust keeps customers coming back. Communications support both the brand promise and the customer experience.

When it comes to the customer experience strategy, efforts tend to focus on frontline communications – training and coaching employees regularly on how to best speak (and interact) with customers. Yet, customer communications such as contracts, call center inquiries, customer correspondence, emails, welcome kits, invoices, and statements, are equally important to the overall customer experience. These communications must all mesh with the messaging that you're using in the digital world.

It is this - the convergence of traditional and digital communications - and how they impact the customer experience that became the premise for the second whitepaper that I wrote for, and in conjunction with, GMC Software: The Convergence of Customer Communications Management and Customer Experience Management.

Download the whitepaper and find out...
  • How to give CMOs and CXOs visibility into all customer communications
  • What tools are available to align the operations folks with those in charge of delivering seamless branding and experiences for the customer
  • How to reduce the friction between operations and experience professionals
  • How organizations can come together in the name of a better customer experience
GMC's unique software platform combines customer communications management (CCM), customer journey mapping (CJM), and customer experience management (CEM) all in one place, allowing you to ensure that all of your messaging is aligned and cohesive.

There is a real need to have such a centralized system to (a) map the customer journey, being sure to call out communications along the way, and (b) ensure all communications, regardless of medium, deliver a seamless brand experience for the customer. Having the right people, the right systems, and the right strategy in place will go far to give you a leg up in this new world of communications - and in designing a great experience for your customers.

The more elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate. -Joseph Priestley

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Saying "Thank You" - Today and Every Day

Image courtesy of _D.s.G._
How do you thank your customers?

On this Thanksgiving week here in the United States, it's a great time to pause and give thanks for all of the good things in our lives.

It's also a great reminder to say "thank you" to your customers, as well, now and throughout the year. Without customers, you wouldn't be in business. Saying "thank you" is an essential part not only of your relationship with your customers but also of the overall customer experience. When you express gratitude, written or spoken, it should be:
→ Sincere
→ Timely
→ Personalized
→ Consistent
Companies must appreciate the customers they have, saying "thank you for your business" at every available opportunity; if they don't do this, customers certainly have a lot of other options to choose from, competitors who will appreciate them. Remember, retention is more important (and less costly) than acquisition, so appreciate the customers you have.

There's no need to offer discounts or freebies. A thank you is a thank you. It doesn't have to be about getting more business down the line. It's about appreciating the business you already have. And if you get the experience right - expressing appreciation simply supports what has already been done. And the business will come.

Express appreciation for their business not only when customers walk in the door (acquisition) but also when they leave (cancel, churn). Manners and etiquette go a long way toward building, securing, and solidifying a relationship. And yes, even (especially) when customers end the relationship, be sure to thank them for their business. It leaves a great last impression, which in turn becomes a lasting impression.

Thank yous don't just belong to customers; you need to be thanking your employees, as well. Gratitude goes a long way for employees: knowing they add value, knowing what they do matters, knowing that their work is appreciated, receiving recognition for a job well done - those are all factors that play into employee engagement. Make a point to let them know they are appreciated.

Thank you for always taking the time to read my blog. If you didn't read, I wouldn't write. So thank you.

Give thanks for a little, and you will find a lot. -Hansa Proverb

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Be a Customer Experience Leader. Measure the Right Way.

Today I'm pleased to share a guest post by Martha Brooke of Interaction Metrics.

Are you achieving your goals for the customer experience? If not, you’re probably not measuring in the right way. Learn what that way is.

Companies want to give and get value through the customer experience - what are your goals? Some companies seek to deliver proactive customer service. For others, it’s about increasing customer loyalty or selling more through each customer interaction.

To achieve your goals, you’ll need to measure the fine-grained elements of your customer interactions. Only an up-close view - not a high-level view - will show you how to actually improve.

Where most companies get it wrong (really wrong) is they spend copious resources tracking the consequences of their customer experience (dashboards, Net Promoter Scores, etc.). But, they barely consider the factors that cause those experiences.

Outcome Metrics: They’re Indicators…But Too Simplistic
Outcome metrics are your results. For example, after a hotel stay, you might get a survey with the Net Promoter question: “How likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?” Your answer - if you answer at all - will be a result of your experiences at the hotel.

Outcome metrics, whether satisfaction or Net Promoter Scores, allow you to track progress over time. They’re indicators of general performance, but they’re too simplistic - and they don’t show you how to improve.

Elemental Metrics: The Actionable Alternative
The customer experience is complex. It consists of broad factors, such as connection and timing, which break down into smaller elements: smiles, frowns, word choices, answer clarity, and more.

These small elements comprise the customer experience - and they’re what you can actually change.

To uncover gaps, opportunities, and areas to improve, you need metrics that track your performance with specific elements.

Quick Example:
Imagine you own a coffee shop and want to sell more coffee. A number of factors and elements are involved:
  • Product: Do customers like the coffee? Is it burnt or bitter?
  • Timing: How long do customers wait? Is there music in the background, so it doesn’t seem so long?
  • Connection: Did the cashiers focus on each customer? Or were they busy talking to each other?
  • Competition: Was a coffee shop on the next block offering free pastries?
You’ll increase sales revenue if you improve underlying factors like coffee quality, wait time, and cashier attentiveness. But if you only look at your sales numbers, nothing will change.

Think of it like training to run faster.
To get results, you have to improve factors like flexibility, endurance, and nutrition.

Each factor is comprised of myriad elements. For example, flexibility depends on muscle strength, activity level, and body temperature. Improve each element, and you’ll run faster. But simply measuring your speed (the outcome) won’t tell you what - or how - to improve.

While you CAN’T run faster overnight, every day you CAN add 20 minutes of endurance training, 15 minutes of stretching, and eat healthier foods.

Satisfaction vs. Wow:
To manage the customer experience, you’ll need to work at an elemental level - but how often you examine your elements depends on whether you seek to satisfy or wow.
  • Satisfaction: If you’re the market leader, achieving satisfaction may be enough - and while you’ll monitor your performance on key elements, a quarterly review is probably sufficient.
  • Wow: In a competitive market, or if customer experience is one of your differentiators, you’ll have to “wow” your customers. This requires measuring and optimizing the fine-grained elements of your customer interactions - and doing so at least monthly.
Bottom Line: To lead through the customer experience, you’ll need to stop relying on outcome metrics and embrace complexity by using elemental metrics.

Martha Brooke is the Chief CX Analyst and Founder of Interaction Metrics, a customer experience agency that dramatically boosts the value of surveys, customer service evaluations, and other CX methods. Interaction Metrics offers a free MetricsLAB™; it’s a great way to learn about the pros and cons of various metrics, and the best ones to achieve your goals.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

7 Steps to Get Executive Commitment for Your #CX Transformation

You know that your customer experience initiatives will die in the planning stages if you don't have executive commitment, right?

I've written several times about the importance of having that executive buy-in and commitment for your customer experience transformation.

Help! My Execs Don't Get It!
Kicking the #CX Can Down the Road
So You've Got Executive Commitment...

I've called it a Deadly Sin if you don't have your executives on board, supporting and driving the culture change and the improvement efforts. Without them, you'll never get resources - human, capital, or other - to execute on your customer experience strategy.

So I was thrilled to get an email from Zarina de Ruiter, editor of CX Network, that included a whitepaper written by my friend, Ingrid Lindberg, founder and CXO of Chief Customer and
former Chief Customer Experience Officer for both Cigna and Prime Therapeutics. If anyone knows about executive commitment, it's Ingrid; in this paper, she writes about seven key steps for customer experience leaders to take to gain senior management buy-in. I'll highlight them for you, but be sure to get your hands on this report to get the details.

1. Start with understanding where the company needs to go
Yogi Berra was the one who said: If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else. That's what we're talking about here, i.e., creating a Future State Architecture Map that spells out the path to what you're trying to achieve as a company.

2. Understand the lifetime value of your customers
Customer lifetime value helps you understand how and when a customer becomes profitable. Ingrid advises that if you correlate the projects you're trying to fund to the profit of the company, i.e., using math, not passion, then people will listen.

3. Customer experience leaders don't need to drive the actual projects
This is a big mistake. As a CX leader, you cannot, nor should you, do everything. Instead, you should be influencing others to do the work they are ultimately accountable for. This not only spreads accountability, but it also spreads the funding. And Ingrid notes that no CEO wants to give all the money for projects to just one person.

4. If you aren't at the table, find sponsors
If you're not on the executive team, find a champion who is. He or she may not have the data to support a transformation, but you as a customer experience professional likely have a lot. Work together to get what you need.

5. Find ways to tie the customer experience work into existing projects
Companies typically have dozens of projects going on at one time. These are opportunities to bring in the voice and the needs of the customer. Any new project or effort is a chance to do things right for the customer.

6. Tell an epic story
When you tell a story, you can really grab someone's attention. Ingrid has learned that data are not always the answer; sometimes, telling an epic story is. Especially when you bring the story to life with real customer examples or real customers telling it.

7. Help the CEO understand the impact
Set expectations with your CEO. Let her know how long the improvement initiatives will take. And then let her know the impact on the customer and the business overall. The other side of this is to take advantage of your CEO's competitive nature, letting her know what your key competitors are doing and how well they've fared as a result.

Take a look at the report for more details, plus find out about the five stages that customer experience (or any organizational) buy-in and transformation follow.

If your organization requires success before commitment, it will never have either. -Seth Godin

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The CX Journey Continues...

Image courtesy of Pixabay
CX Journey™ turns 5!

This week marks five years since I started blogging at CX Journey. It's been an amazing journey so far! I started the blog as a way to share what I've learned over the last 25+ years, and I can honestly say that, through this process over, I've learned so much more.

I've made some new friends, worked with some new clients, and have just had a great time! I'm looking forward to working with more new clients and meeting and learning from more brilliant customer experience professionals going forward. This profession has advanced immensely, even just in the last five years, and I'm looking forward to where it will be five years from now.

Thank you to all who continue to read what I write. I appreciate the comments, the feedback, the encouragement, and the sharing of my posts. If my readership didn't continue to grow, I'd probably stop writing. I remember that first month, that first year, wondering if anyone cared about what I had to say. Thank you for caring.

I thought I'd share your top five posts over the last five years...
... as well as five other favorites of mine that you might want to revisit...
It was hard to stop at five, but I'll let you be the judge. If you have a favorite post of mine from the last five years, please feel free to share it in the comments below.

The only impossible journey is the one you never begin. -Tony Robbins

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Understand The Current State of Your Customer Experience - Without Hiring a Consultant

Image courtesy of Pixabay
For today’s post, it was my pleasure to collaborate with Ben Motteram to compile some ideas you may not have considered with regards to ways you can measure  how well you're delivering your  customer experience - without hiring a consultant to do the work with or for you. For over 20 years, Ben has been developing customer acquisition and retention strategies for a variety of industries; he is currently a customer experience consultant in Australia.

There are three main components of any good CX strategy:
  1. An understanding of where the company is today,
  2. The desired future state, and
  3. A plan for how the company will get there.
A wise person once said: “You can’t transform something that you don’t understand,” and she was absolutely right. If you want to improve your CX, the best place to start is to assess the experience you’re customers are having now.

Some businesses will pay a consultant to do that for them, and no doubt, they will get a great report on where they stand. But you don’t have to pay thousands to take the temperature of your business. Don’t let that be the thing that keeps you from listening to and understanding your customers and the experience they expect.

Here are some activities you can undertake without a consultant in order to understand the experience that you’re currently delivering to customers.

Mystery shop yourself

There are many different ways to do this work yourself. It will be eye-opening, and it will allow you to see firsthand what the experience is truly like for customers. You just need to remember to wear your “customer hat” and walk in your “customer’s shoes.”

– Your physical premises
: Either disguise yourself Undercover Boss-style or get a friend or family member to do it for you. Was the site neat and clean? Were there weeds out the front of your office? Were staff smoking at your front door? Was it easy to get in or did someone have to come and let you in? Once inside, did you feel welcome or out of place? Did the first employee you saw quickly acknowledge your presence, smile, and look you in the eye? If you have a waiting area, spend time there. Is it the kind of space you’d be comfortable in?

We suggest conducting this mystery shopping during your busiest period. If staff can remain calm, courteous, and professional when they’re flat out, they’ll certainly maintain good customer service standards when they’re not.

– Your call center: Call your own contact center both during a slow and a busy period. Was your call answered by an agent or by an IVR that required you to work your way through a myriad of self-service menu options before you could finally speak with a human? Were you kept waiting for long? Were you given an indication of when your call would be answered? Were you offered the opportunity to leave your details so someone could call you back? What was the hold music like?

Was the agent that took your call engaging or reading from a script? Did she take the time to really understand the problem you were trying to solve?

– Online: Take a look at your company website with a fresh pair of eyes – your customers’ eyes. When was the last time you updated the information on it? Take the five most-common questions people have when they call into your contact center or the five most-common tasks people are trying to achieve when they go to your website: how easy are they to answer/perform? Do you have quick, easily-found links to them?

If your company is on social media, how up-to-date is the information you have on your profile pages? Is the company contact information on your profile? Have you deleted any potentially offensive comments on your Facebook page lately? Are there any unanswered questions or requests from customers?

– Read your own process manuals: We know, reading process manuals is  about as enjoyable as reading the 4-point font fine print of a certain software company’s User Agreement, so keep that in mind during this exercise because your customers enjoy it just as much. Start by taking a single process and reading the manual for that. Who is the manual geared toward? For whom was the process designed? The company or the customer?

Get customer feedback online

Discussion forums are a great source of feedback, as are review sites, such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, or Urban Spoon. For the telecommunications industry in Australia, for example, search your company name on Whirlpool. Find the relevant discussion forum for your industry and see what people are saying about you.

Google yourself. Set up a Google Alerts on your company name so you’ll get notified whenever you get mentioned online. Search Twitter for mentions. Search YouTube for videos. For negative feedback, try typing “sucks” after your company name (prepare yourself for what you may find after hitting ‘Enter’).

Get direct customer feedback
You don’t have to create a survey to get customer feedback. Stand outside your store and ask store visitors/customers, call the CEO of the company that spends the most money with you, spend some time on the phones in your contact center.

You’re looking for answers to questions like: Why do you do business with us? How easy was it do business with us? How would you rate the person you spoke with today? What was one thing we could have done better?

Get employee feedback
Companies will often say that their greatest asset is their people, but when was the last time you asked employees for their opinions. Frontline staff are a goldmine of information about your customers. Encourage employees to share customers stories, whether successes or pain points, to drive home the customer experience.

The benefits of asking your staff for feedback are twofold. Firstly, you’ll get some great insight into your customers, and secondly, staff will be more engaged if they know you care about their opinions. It’s a win-win!

Immerse yourself in your customers’ world
Walking in customers’ shoes has become a cliché in our world, but that’s what customer immersion programs are all about. They allow executives to experience what customers experience when they (try to) do business with you. Executives embed themselves into their customers’ lives to gain a better understanding of how they live, work, and do the jobs they need to do. This type of research is called ethnography and you can read more about it here.

Create a Customer Advisory Board
Customer advisory boards (CAB) offer up benefits for both members and the company. The company benefits from feedback, stronger relationships, and more, while the customer gets access to key executives, gets her voice heard, and is viewed as a thought leader. For more information on how to found a CAB, click here.

As you engage in these efforts, take a methodical approach. By that we mean: have a plan. Start with goals and objectives. Identify what you’ll do with what you learn. And get to it!

Effective questioning brings insight, which fuels curiosity, which cultivates wisdom. – Chip Bell