Wednesday, December 27, 2017

5 Fails to Avoid with Your VoC Program

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's post for CallidusCloud CX; it was published on their blog on June 21, 2017.

Not seeing the results or improvements you expected to see from your customer listening efforts?

Why is that? What's going on?

I've been known to cite two reasons for VoC program ineffectiveness:
  1. Companies simply “collect feedback, just like some people collect stamps, which requires you to: buy the stamps, put them in a book, put them on a shelf, and forget about them; similarly, companies listen to customers, analyze the data (often ad nauseum and erroneously), create these lovely management reports, put them in binders, and pass them to their managers, who then proceed to put the reports on their bookshelves, never to be seen again. (Of course, all of this takes several months, by which time, customers are gone.) Or...
  2.  They focus on the metric, i.e., they try to move the metric, not to improve the experience; moving the metric can actually be detrimental and cause inappropriate behavior, gaming, and other undesirables that derail from the purpose of listening to customers and does not involve the same actions required to improve the experience.
There are clearly more reasons than these for VoC program ineffectiveness, but let's assume you've done everything else right up to the point where you need to do something with the feedback. After you listen to customers, you actually need to use the feedback - this is a major requirement for program effectiveness. Trust me; I know I'm stating the obvious, but it clearly doesn't seem to be obvious for everyone. Not acting on the feedback your customers take their valuable time to provide is just plain wrong.

Some of the most-egregious VoC program fails happen after the feedback is received. (Again, assuming you did everything else, e.g., actionable questions, right audience, etc. right up until now.)

What are those fails? Detailed below are five of them. I need to get a bit more specific than simply saying "you need to act" because that's pretty nebulous; I think that's where people get paralyzed:  What should I do with the data? What do I do next? Who acts, how they act, and when are all critical pieces of information at this point. I hope the explanations for these four fails get you started on the right path.

1. Failure to close the loop at the personal level
Also known as service recovery, this is one of the most important ways to follow up with customers about their feedback; it lets them know that their opinions matter and that you are committed to improving the experience. The business benefits through customer retention, reduced negative word of mouth, product enhancements/ideas, and potential growth opportunities.

Outline a systematic approach for service recovery to occur at the individual customer level. Who will respond to the customer? Within what time frame? In what mode (phone, email, in person)? What will they say/ask (e.g., apologize, ask for more information to get to the root cause, schedule a follow-up call for more details, etc.)? How will you empower your staff to handle these calls? What information do they need to make the call? What is the intended outcome of the follow-up? When and how does the service recovery get escalated? How will you capture the discussion? Will you share best practices with others to learn from? How will you know if the customer is satisfied with the follow-up? How will you know if you've "saved" the customer?

2. Failure to close the loop at the tactical level
By tactical level, I'm referring to closing the loop with stakeholders, with those teams or departments with a vested interest in the specific feedback. Share the feedback with them so that they can address the following: What are some of the common issues, themes, or trends that arise from the data? How can/will each department respond to their respective issues? What will they fix? What improvements do they need to make to their specific policies and processes? What additional training does their staff require? What tools do they need? What communication is required to ensure the entire team or department is on board with the required changes? Are there best practices that they can share with other departments?

3. Failure to close the loop at the strategic level
Acting at the personal and tactical levels is paramount, but it's also necessary to step back and look at the big picture. Some of the improvements that need to be made are organization-wide and require C-level involvement to ensure the commitment is there for time, funds, and other resources. They'll need to view the insights you gain from customers under a larger lens: Are there common feedback themes across the organization? What structural changes does the entire business need to make? How should we incorporate the feedback into our decision-making processes? How can the feedback influence business performance and strategies? What communications are required to engage the organization in a more-strategic overhaul or transformation?

4. Failure to close the loop with employees
If employees don't know what they're doing wrong, then they can't change their own actions and behaviors. Your employees are the ones who deliver the customer experience; keeping them in the dark about how they are performing or how they are meeting customers' needs is detrimental to the business. They have the ability to immediately change the customer's experience, so share the feedback with them. Recognize them for the right behaviors and for delighted customers. Or coach them when the experience didn't go so well.

5. Failure to close the loop with customers
This is a must! Again, customers spend their precious time providing you feedback about your products and services; the least you can do is tell them what you did with their feedback, what improvements you made as a result, including both tactical and strategic changes. Communicating this to customers reassures them that: their feedback is valuable, their time wasn't wasted, you actually use their feedback, and they can provide feedback again. Always communicate back to your customers what changes were made as a result of their feedback and thank them for taking the time to do so. Given that this type of communication is more global in nature than personalized service recovery, it will cover more-strategic improvements but may also cover some of the tactical changes that you've made. Either way, don't forget this piece of communication.

One key point to keep in mind: remember that closing the loop is not just about acknowledging, addressing, and resolving the bad experiences; it's also a way to celebrate the good. If the feedback is positive, thank your customers and perhaps delve deeper into why they would promote your brand,  activate your advocates, share the good news internally to highlight what a good experience looks like, and give kudos and recognition to employees, where due.


Some companies close one of these loops but not the others; some companies do none of these. They are all critical. Hard wiring customer feedback into your operational processes, whether tactical or strategic, and into meetings, discussions, and business decisions is the only way you'll get value and results out of your VoC program. Using customer feedback for continuous improvement at the various levels outlined above ensures VoC program success.

Speaking of success, what are the success metrics for your program? You've outlined them, right? If you did, I would imagine that you'd include things like specific and measurable process improvements, cost efficiencies, culture changes, and customer retention as some of your critical KPIs. These things cannot be achieved without taking real action on the feedback.

Customer feedback must be engrained into the company's culture, into its DNA; when the customer's perspective becomes not only desired by - but also persuasive throughout - the organization, you have achieved a customer-centric culture.

If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it. -Margaret Fuller

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Using Communication To Make Your Brand Unforgettable in 2018

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Today I am pleased to share with you a guest post by Julian de Sevilla with PATlive.

An effective customer service solution has always been a tool that helps businesses stand out. However, customers recently have come to expect more from businesses in terms of service, forming a landscape that’s saturated with options, and thus hyper-competitive.

Many businesses now compete solely on the strength of their customer experience. Creating an experience that’s memorable and as effortless as possible for customers will likely be what makes them choose you from the dizzying amount of options available. This means making yourself available where your audience is comfortable, whether that’s the phone, a certain form of social media, or face-to-face.

Once you’re there, it’s essential to develop a voice for how your business communicates that’s unique and memorable. Equally important, however, is delivering that tone consistently across every point of contact with customers. This makes for a strong brand image that’ll remain on their minds.       

Customers Expect More
Consider these statistics from the National Federation of Independent Business regarding what customers have come to expect in terms of service across channels:
  • When communicating via social media, 57% of customers expect a response within thirty minutes, regardless of the time of day.
  • 73% of customers prefer to solve a problem with a real person, but there’s another side to that coin: 32% of customers think the phone is the most frustrating way to connect with a business. Successfully bridging that gap - using human communication to help solve problems in an effortless way that doesn’t leave customers pulling their hair out - is precisely the goal in curating a customer experience.
  • Twitter-based customer service increased 250% from 2015 to 2017. Customers expect the convenience of having their voices heard and issues resolved with a few taps on a screen, and failing to deliver this will set you back.
What does this mean for how you communicate with customers? Primarily, that you must be prepared to play on their court. Your brand should exist everywhere your audience does and engage them wherever they’re comfortable. The less steps required of them, the better.

All Together, Now
Does your business have a voice? For example, well-known companies like Zappos and Amazon have a unique voice through which they deliver their brand message. While Zappos has a friendly and passionate customer communication style, Amazon is more known for their precision and timeliness. Though very different, each is consistent, which makes the process of dealing with a company a more organic experience.

The concept of developing a voice and a personality that embodies your brand might seem contrived or inauthentic, but the effect it has is just the opposite. If executed correctly, this creates a positive association in a customer’s mind that is reinforced with every interaction. It’s crucial, however, to ensure your voice is delivered consistently across touchpoints.

The Accenture 2013 Global Consumer Pulse Survey found that 58% of customers are frustrated with inconsistent experiences from channel to channel. This is a mistake that’s easily avoided with just a little attention to detail. If your razor-sharp customer service team responds to every phone call in seconds, the experience should be mirrored on Twitter, Facebook, and in person. If you respond to customers on Twitter in a fun and casual voice, training your phone support team to respond formally using strict scripts doesn’t make for a very cohesive experience.

Ensuring every touchpoint is covered and delivering the same level of service may seem daunting, but customers will take notice. Instilling confidence that they’re in for a pleasant experience no matter how they choose to connect with you eases a level of dissonance which will make the experience stand out - might even tell a friend.

Put Yourself Out There
You’re savvy to what’s expected; your brand’s voice is well thought-out, tailored to your audience, and second nature to your team. All that’s left is to carry it out. Here are some tips for where and how to do just that:

Your website
No matter how small your business, you need to be accessible online if you want to reach any sizable audience. Putting together an effective website is essential, and it’s easier than ever with tools like Squarespace and Weebly which are largely affordable or, in some cases, free.

Your website should be simple, easily navigated, and able to answer any question someone could have about your business. Additionally, a live chat service is quickly becoming requisite for any business online, as research shows that customers are most satisfied with a business when using live chat.

Social media
Think of your social media presence as an extension of your website. Rather than making them come to you, establish a presence on social media so that you’re easily reached.

Do your best to provide as much service directly on these channels as possible, to minimize the amount that customers have to switch between them to resolve their issue. 

The humble telephone. If your phone experience isn’t fine-tuned to perfection by now, you’re already behind. Did you know 75% of customers think it takes too long to reach a live agent on the phone? Important as it is, there frequently aren’t enough resources - or hours in the day - to manage phone calls in the midst of an already-packed schedule.

Using a live answering service to field your calls eases that burden. Your calls are handled by real live humans who are specially trained in your brand’s voice and the details of your business. This leaves you free to steer your ship, confident that your phone experience is the best it can be.

The Takeaway
Customers expect more in terms of service than ever before, so delivering a stress-free experience is your key to standing out from competitors. Developing a voice for your brand and making sure it’s present everywhere your audience is will make your excellent service impossible to forget.  

Julian de Sevilla is a Marketing Specialist at PATLive, a Florida-based 24/7 live answering service for small businesses. He manages the company’s social media accounts and writes about a range of topics regarding communication and the customer experience on PATLive’s blog.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Data for the Sake of Data? Never!

Image courtesy of Pixabay
"Data is just data until you do something with it," right?

That statement has plagued companies for a long time and for a variety of reasons - not the least of which is that they just don’t know what to do with the data: how to analyze it, how to use the outputs, what the outputs mean, etc.

Today, on a webinar with Logi Analytics, I am sharing tips on moving beyond data for the sake of data (and dashboards for the sake of dashboards).

In this webinar, I share the five steps you must take in order to drive action with the vast quantities of data available today - for the developers and the analysts who build dashboards and reports that customer experience professionals use to understand the customer and her experience in order to design and deliver a better experience.

While I go through the first four steps with some level of detail, I spend a lot of time on Step 5 (Socialize), outlining for listeners exactly how customer experience professionals need to see the data visualized and how we consume the data in order to use it to design a better customer experience.

Some of the critical things for us are:
  • getting the right data to the right people at the right time
  • a 360-degree view of the customer
  • company performance against customer needs and expectations along the customer journey
  • predictive and prescriptive outputs that tell us exactly what to do to achieve desired outcomes
  • linkages to other data, financials, and more
  • ROI, and 
  • what-if analyses that tell us the impact on the outcome of making some change
There are many more requirements that I outline for actionable reports and dashboards that can help CX professionals drive real change. Have a listen. And let me know what you think!

If you miss the webinar today, you'll still be able to access it on demand via the same link.

Design cannot rescue failed content. -Edward Tufte

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

"Not My Job" Syndrome

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Does your company suffer from the "not my job (NMJ) syndrome?"

When was the last time you heard someone being asked to do some task that wasn't outlined in their job description, only to respond with, "That's not my job?"


Yup. I believe it. It's an all-too-frequent occurrence that employees draw the line in the sand or draw a box around themselves, refuse to do some task, and say, "Not my job." They take longer to explain why it's not their job and what their job is than to actually do what was asked of them. That's a problem!

What causes this knee-jerk reaction? (Or maybe it's not really knee-jerk?)

I can think of a few things.
  • Silos. When those "non-physical barriers" are established in your company, it's easy for employees to feel like they don't need to help out. It's easy for them to say that the task belongs to another department, one for which they are not accountable. 
  • Leadership. Sadly, this silo mentality (and it is a mentality; again, there are no physical barriers from one department or business unit to another) is created by leaders within the organization, advocating that we only do what we need to do to ensure our unit is successful. There's this notion that what you do doesn't impact me or my work, and what I do doesn't impact you or the customer in any way; the department or business unit simply operates in its own box.
  • Core values. When core values aren't defined or clearly communicated, employees don't know what behaviors are expected of them. When everyone knows the values, it's tougher to claim the "not my job" excuse.
  • Communication. When roles and expectations are not clearly communicated, problems ensue, without a doubt! When employees understand the work that other departments or business units are doing and how that fits into the bigger picture, into the purpose, it's easy to get on board to help when help is needed
  • Purpose. Without knowing the company's purpose and the common goal toward which everyone is working, employees don't have a sense of urgency to pitch in for the greater success.
Here are a few options to help overcome the NMJ Syndrome.
  • Job descriptions. Put less emphasis on specific tasks and make them more about outcomes, not only for the individual but also for the company.
  • Core values. Make sure they are defined, communicated, and lived every day.
  • Communication. Be open and candid about values, guiding principles, purpose, and expectations.
  • Performance reviews. Include core values as part of the performance review. One of the metrics you might include is around servant leadership. 
  • Journey mapping. Really? Yup. Use the maps to help employees see where and how, working together, they all impact the customer experience. 
  • Model the behavior. If leaders do it, employees will, too.
  • Collaboration. Encourage situations where departments or business units work together toward a common end goal. Get cross-functional teams involved when there are issues or projects.
  • Appreciation. People who are recognized and appreciated are more apt to want to do more. It's self-perpetuating.
What am I missing? What else would you add?

I'll end with this fun story about whose job it is, in case you haven't heard this one yet.

This is a little story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody's job. Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn't do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Avoiding Change Fatigue

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Are your employees suffering from change fatigue?

Not familiar with the term "change fatigue?" I suppose that's probably a good thing!

Maybe it's happening, but you're just not aware of it?

What is change fatigure?

According to Wikipedia:

Organizational change fatigue is a general sense of apathy or passive resignation towards organizational changes by individuals or teams. Organizational change efforts are all too often unfocused, uninspired, and unsuccessful. Research shows, 70 percent of transformation efforts fail, often caused by change fatigue.

Customer experience management is all about change management; that also means that it's all about change. At least that's what your customers are hoping for.

You've listened to customers. You've mapped their journeys. And you've found a lot of improvements to be made. The problem is, these improvements need to be added to a master list of projects and initiatives underway at the company, initiatives to improve the employee experience, the customer experience, your processes, your policies, your benefits, the workplace, your accreditations, your award standings, and whatever else change initiatives you've got underway.

There's no shortage, and not every change initiative impacts everyone in the company. But everyone knows about them. They hear about them. And they know that many of the initiatives are either a waste of time or will just simply fail. Why? Been there, done that.

Where does change fatigue come into the picture? Well, with the "been there, done that" experience and attitude, for starters. Especially when change initiatives constantly fail, there's this sense that each initiative is a "flavor of the month."

Why does change fatigue happen? For a variety of reasons.
  • There's a non-stop flow of change initiatives.
  • Many of them are flavors of the month or reactionary, with no thought given to long-term strategy and goals.
  • Each one requires employees to do more work - work they view as superfluous - on top of their already hectic workloads.
  • Many initiatives don't have clear owners, objectives, or outcomes.
  • Or the importance, purpose, and outcomes are not clearly communicated to the team or to all employees.
  • But, the change is all you talk about.
How do you know change fatigue has set in?
  • Employees are skeptical when any new initiative is introduced.
  • They no longer volunteer to help, participate, or be part of a change project team.
  • They view that as a waste of time.
  • Employees watch from the side lines, snickering that this is just another flavor of the month.
  • For those who chose to participate, they lose interest and no longer pay attention or actively engage in their piece of the work.
  • They've lost sight of the end game, the outcomes, the reason for the change.
  • Executives start to shift budget and resources to other initiatives.
  • Employees leave the company; too much change creates havoc and uncertainty.
How can you mitigate the fatigue?
  • Talk about it, just not all the time. Be transparent. Convey important information. And then let the work get done.
  • Celebrate successes along the way so that people know that real change is happening and having a positive impact.
  • Revisit objectives and desired outcomes to make sure everything is still on track. 
  • Remind those involved about the end game and its benefits.
  • Chunk up the change into major milestones. Work toward the milestones and then celebrate reaching each one.
  • Swap out the teams. Bring in new people, if needed.
  • Offer incentives for staying with the plan. Nothing perks up a tired team than money or some other incentive.
  • Listen to customers again. Map customer journeys. Remind everyone why change is happening and who it impacts. Tell the story.
There are more things you can do, for sure. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below. But, as customer experience professionals, we know that our work is not done until change has happened. So we need to be a part of the solution, not the problem. Help keep teams energized and remind them of why they're doing what they're doing. And celebrate the quick wins and the big milestones along the way.

And it doesn't hurt to have a CEO cheerleader.

We, the unwilling, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much, for so long, with so little, we are now qualified to do anything with nothing. -Konstantin Jireček

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Online Communities: Help Your Customers Help Each Other

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's post for CallidusCloud CX; it appeared on their blog on May 23, 2017.

In this very social world, customers have a lot of options when it comes to getting support from companies about the products and services they buy: there's phone, email, FAQs, knowledge bases, forums, chat, social media, and much more. Because expectations (including the need for speed and the need for more effortless service) have changed, many customers prefer a self-service route, seeking help through social media and online communities/forums, among other channels or options facilitated by others who have used the company's products and services.

Online communities have become a popular alternative lately. They're much more prevalent now than ever before, and customers are turning to other customers for assistance with common and not-so-common issues. There are both what I'll call "sanctioned" and "non-sanctioned" online communities, where the former is created, moderated, and owned by the brand, and the latter is stood up by fans of the brand or others who are simply willing to help their fellow customer. I'll focus on the sanctioned type.

Online communities that are created by companies have a lot of benefits for customers, including allowing them...
  • to build relationships with other customers and, potentially/ultimately, with the brand
  • greater convenience, i.e., they can get help on their schedule or on their time; sometimes issues happen at midnight, and not all customer service call centers are staffed at that hour
  • to get the help they need, oftentimes bypassing a lot of the most-basic questions that a support agent may ask, thus getting to the root of the matter - and to the solution - much quicker
  • to help others, which is often a motivating factor; this allows customers to build their own personal brands via these communities
  • to share feedback with the company and other customers about the product, the service, and the company, with hopes that their voices will be heard and improvements will be made
  • to talk about their experiences with the product, the service, and the company, again, to be heard and to drive change or improvements
Companies with online communities have reported higher customer satisfaction rates, improved retention, reduced call volumes, and more-efficient support systems. Doing the math on that means that communities not only benefit customers but companies, as well.

Companies get...
  • relationships, i.e., online communities encourage and facilitate customer relationships
  • raving fans who want to help other customers; in the end, this is one of the characteristics of raving fans, i.e., wanting to help the brand, work for the brand, and see the brand succeed
  • feedback about their products; when the community text is mined and analyzed, rich insights can and will be uncovered
  • feedback about other parts of the customer experience; we know that people don't often stick to the topic at hand, and when offered a forum to communicate, they take advantage of it
  • to listen to customers and learn about the overall support experience; they can use what they hear from the community to redesign the phone and email support experience
But these communities don't become successful just by setting them up and having people ask and participate. There must be a concerted effort to ensure this doesn't become an avenue where customers can be disappointed.

For communities to be successful, brands need to be sure to...
  • design the community experience, i.e., design it to be effortless or to require much less effort and more flexibility than phone and email
  • seed help/knowledgebase links and other support content throughout the community forum to address the most-commonly asked questions
  • keep all such content fresh and relevant
  • seed questions to get the community going
  • categorize questions and topics to make the UI, search, and interactions simple
  • encourage and let customers help each other, but...
  • make sure questions don't go unanswered
  • assign and rotate subject matter experts to the forums; these experts will offer assistance, when and as needed
  • encourage participation from influencers and other forum participants, even going so far as to award them with points toward some reward for their involvement
  • reinforce good behavior and professional conversations; nothing makes an online community go south faster than when the profanity and arguments start rolling
  • not just help customers but listen to them, as well
  • make it a great experience for your customers
Companies can reap real financial benefits - in terms of cost savings, process improvements, reduced call volume, and customer retention - if these online communities are managed correctly.

We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided. -J.K. Rowling

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

CX Journey™ Musings: Culture - The Soul of the Organization

Image courtesy of Pixabay
In business, your culture is the soul of the organization.

The soul is the essence or the moral force of a person, their emotional or intellectual energy. It's the the part of you that consists of your mind, character, thoughts, beliefs, and feelings.

Translate that to your company, and it becomes a good proxy definition for culture. The culture embodies the soul of the organization. As I mentioned in a previous post, we know that Culture = Values + Behavior. Core values are the fundamental beliefs of an organization. Further clarified, they become guiding principles, which dictate behaviors and can help people understand the difference between right and wrong. 

“The only thing we have is one another. The only competitive advantage we have is the culture and values of the company. Anyone can open up a coffee store. We have no technology. We have no patent. All we have is the relationship around the values of the company and what we bring to the customer every day. And we all have to own it.” -Howard Schultz

But what happens when your executives' and your employees' behaviors don't align with your values? Bad things. Here are some examples, taking us back to the financial crisis of 2007-2008.
  • Take a look at Enron. Enron's core values were: integrity, communication, respect, and excellence. But their leaders destroyed the company and went to jail for fraud.
  • I've searched for MCI-WorldCom's values, but the company is gone, and so are any traces of their core values. 
  • I couldn't find Lehman Brothers' values either, but I found plenty of articles talking about their toxic culture. And I did find an article stating that executives and employees were rewarded for taking risks - at all costs. That led to fudging the books, as well. So, integrity and ethical behaviors went out the window.
  • If you take a look at Goldman Sach's principles and standards, you'll see the first one states that they do everything in the best interest of their customers - and the last one on the page is all about honesty and integrity. And yet, they admitted to defrauding investors in 2008.
  • Merrill Lynch's principles, which were replaced by Bank of America's core values when they acquired Merrill Lynch, were all about teamwork, client focus, integrity, and more. Merrill Lynch was headed in the same direction as Lehman Brothers because it carried a lot of the same toxic debt/assets.
Do you have any more-recent examples? Maybe not a total fail but some bad outcomes of not living your core values? Perhaps Uber? Others with similar issues/stories?

It's not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are. -Roy Disney

What's my point? 

It's not to belabor the mistakes of those who failed - and failed badly.

The point is this: values are meaningless unless they inspire and drive the behavior that you expect your employees and executives (they're not exempt!) to display. In other words, your core values mean nothing if everyone in the company doesn't live them.

Is there a reason that employees aren't living them? Are the values regularly-communicated, not just posters on a wall? Is it time to revisit them? Once values are defined, they must be communicated regularly, and they must be reinforced. They can - and should - be updated as the business evolves or changes.

If you don't know your company's values, if they aren't a driving force behind your culture - or if you believe they aren't the soul of your organization - it's time to dust them off and put them in the spotlight where they belong. Don't have any core values? Make sure everyone understands why they are critical to the organization, to the employee experience, to the customer experience, to your culture - and then make the time to get the important task of developing them on the docket right away.

It's the job of any business owner to be clear about the company's nonnegotiable core values. They're the riverbanks that help guide us as we refine and improve on performance and excellence. A lack of riverbanks creates estuaries and cloudy waters that are confusing to navigate. I want a crystal-clear, swiftly-flowing stream. -Danny Meyer

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

We Have a Crisis in Leadership

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Why is employee engagement at an all-time low? Why is turnover as high as it is? Why are employees constantly looking for better opportunities?

When you think about those questions, combined with what I wrote in my post on Employee Engagement: A Confluence of Passion and Purpose...

That engagement comes from within the employee, and yet the company has a role in it, as well. When there's some confluence of: (1) emotions, commitment, passion, sense of ownership, etc. on the part of the employee about the brand and (2) what the organization does (mission, purpose, brand promise, etc.) to facilitate and enhance those emotions or that commitment - then we have employee engagement.
... it makes you question where the company is lacking. And, by company, I mean, the leadership of the company.

So let's talk about leadership.

It's been more than five years since I first listened to - and wrote about - Bob Chapman's TEDx talk about Truly Human Leadership. I've included links to that post in several other posts since then. His message is a powerful one and probably resonates with me even more today. It doesn't hurt that I had a great conversation with him a few months after I wrote that post and learned more about what he and Simon Sinek were doing together to stand up a leadership institute. And since then, I've read his book and watched his Amazon Prime documentary short by the same name, Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family.

Here's his basic, yet powerful, underlying message:
We have a crisis in leadership in this country and in this world. ... In the United States, an estimated 88% of the workforce, 130 million people, go home every day feeling that they work for an organization that doesn't listen or care about them. That is seven out of eight people! These are our mothers and fathers, our brothers and sisters, our sons and daughters; they all have a high probability of working for an organization that doesn't care for them as individuals but instead sees them merely as functions or objects, as means to the success of the organization.
He goes on to say:
We're destroying people and killing our culture because we send people home after treating them as objects and functions, instead of caring about them as human beings. We want them more engaged because we want them more productive. We want more productivity out of them because that creates more profits and that creates a better future for the company, but we don't care about them as people.
 Ouch! And yet, so true.

And then this...
The good news is we have the power to change this and begin healing tomorrow. We just need to engage our heads and our hearts in an approach to leadership that validates the worth of every individual, an approach in which everybody matters.
Everybody matters. Amen.

Leaders have an awesome responsibility over their employees. Treat people like people. We are all human. Why do leaders fail to see employees as humans? Why do employees lose human status the second they walk into their employers' offices?

There's more - and the quotes above are from Chapter 4 in his book - but you'll just have to read it to find out what's next. (And, no, I don't get an affiliate fee if you click the link, and Bob hasn't paid me to write about his book. It's just that powerful - and that important.)

If you want to better understand the crisis, check out this video.

It's a compelling message; if this message doesn't move you to do something in your organization, I'm not sure what will. We can change the world. We can change how we treat each other, every day. We can change those employee engagement numbers. As leaders, as executives, we choose.

But what can we do? Where does it begin? How do we move from me-centric leadership and a me-centric organization to a we-centric organization? (Sounds a little like Weology, doesn't it?)

It comes down to culture, right? That's one piece of it.

Having the right values and guiding principles in place is a solid foundation and really creates the framework within which leaders can create an organization that puts people first, profits last, aka Truly Human Leadership. Take care of your people, and they will take care of the business.

The other piece of it is that your CEO and her executive team (the entire team, everyone on the same page) must choose to lead differently. It begins with them. The choice is theirs. The day they choose to lead differently is the day employees take notice. And it's the day that they'll want to become part of the change.

How do you lead differently? Consider adhering to Bob's 10 Commandments of Truly Human Leadership:
  1. Begin every day with a focus on the lives you touch.
  2. Know that leadership is the stewardship of the lives entrusted to you.
  3. Embrace leadership practices that send people home each day safe, healthy, and fulfilled.
  4. Align all actions to an inspirational vision of a better future.
  5. Trust is the foundation of all relationships; act accordingly.
  6. Look for goodness in people and recognize and celebrate it daily.
  7. Ask no more or less of anyone than you would of your own child.
  8. Lead with a clear sense of grounded optimism.
  9. Recognize and flex to the uniqueness of everyone.
  10. Always measure success by the way you touch the lives of people.
Imagine if every CEO ran her company based on these Commandments!

Everybody Matters is about what happens when ordinary people throw away long-accepted management practices and start operating from their deepest sense of right, with a sense of profound responsibility for the lives entrusted to them. -Bob Chapman

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

7 Pillars of a Strong Culture

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Culture is best defined as "values plus behavior" and is often described as "how employees act when no one is looking."

Culture is such an important part of your business. It's really the foundation of the organization.

I've previously defined culture as the set of values and norms that guides how the business operates; culture happens when we operationalize the values.

Herb Kelleher's definition of culture is still my favorite: Culture is what people do when no one is looking.

But while some say culture cannot be designed or is not deliberate, I disagree; it certainly doesn't just happen by chance. If you've ever read about Amazon's culture or Zappos' culture, to name just two, they both are what they are because they were designed that way. They were quite intentional, not happenstance.

Their cultures are rooted in strong core values, as should yours.

Culture should really stand on the following seven pillars:
  1. Mission: describes the business you are in, i.e., what you're doing and who you're serving.
  2. Vision: defines where the company wants to go in the future.
  3. Values: the fundamental beliefs of the organization that guide your employees, identifying right and wrong, good and bad, and how to interact with each other and with customers. If there were no other pillars - and all you had was values (and behavior) - you'd still have a pretty solid foundation for your culture.
  4. Guiding Principles: are more specific than values in how they guide the organization through everything it does; they are more prescriptive in nature. Principles are objective "truths" or "laws," while values are subjective and provide a sense of direction.
  5. Purpose: the company's reason for being, the why. It's typically stated in such a way that helps employees understand who the business is trying to impact and in what way.
  6. Legend: if we tell the story about how the company started or where it came from, it creates a connection for employees, perhaps similar to purpose; it lets them feel how special and unique the company was/is and encourages them to carry that legacy forward, every day.
  7. Behavior: driven by all of the above, but especially by values/principles.
When culture truly stands on these pillars, it's really most strongly reflected in the seventh one, behavior. You can have the other six in place, but if what employees and executives actually do doesn't align with any of them, then it's a big culture fail.

Behavior is reinforced in the following:
  • People: it starts with hiring the right people, those whose values and purpose align with the organization's values and purpose. Culture fit is no joke. Hire for attitude; train for skill.
  • Executive Alignment: executives are not exempt from culture fit, and they certainly must all be on the same page when it comes to each of the seven pillars, the goals of the business, and how the business should be run. Key for executives is to lead by example, to model the behavior that they wish to see from their employees; if they don't live the values, why should employees?!
  • Servant Leadership: leaders within the organization must always put people first and recognize that their employees' needs come before their own. This should be a basic tenet of any culture.
  • Rules and Policies: if policies are out of line with the core values of the business, your employees will be confused; as a matter of fact, if your culture is strong, there's no need for excessive rules and policies.
  • Metrics and Measures: measure what matters; if your performance metrics are not aligned with your core values, don't expect employees to live them. Performance reviews should include core values.
  • Rewards and Recognition: reward the behavior you want to see, the behavior that supports your culture, your values.
  • Events and Programs: these should also reflect your core values; if happy and healthy employees are important to your culture (and they should be!), take a look at wellness programs and similar programs that help employees achieve that state.
  • Communication: the way executives communicate with their employees - and the way employees talk to each other - is a huge part of your culture, as well. Communications, including those to/with customers, should reflect the values, always. And, by the way, values should/must be regularly be communicated.
The bottom line is that it's important to have all seven pillars in place, but culture really is best defined as "values plus behavior."

I'll leave you with this quote, which reminds me of the "What the Hell is Water" story.

Determine what behaviors and beliefs you value as a company, and have everyone live true to them. These behaviors and beliefs should be so essential to your core, that you don’t even think of it as culture. -Brittany Forsyth, VP of Human Relations, Shopify

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

CX Complacency and the Lack of a Burning Platform

Image courtesy of Pixabay
When it comes to a customer experience transformation, is there a burning platform in your business? Or is everyone happy with the way things are? No need to change how you do business? How leaders conduct themselves? How your people are treated?

I've been writing a bit about complacency in business lately, including my last post from two weeks ago, Complacency or Innovation: You Decide.

As I'm working with clients through their transformations, I often revisit Kotter's 8-Step Process for Leading Change. I've written previously (at a high level) how that process applies to customer experience transformations.

The one step that resonates with me quite often is the first one, especially as it pertains to garnering executive commitment and, eventually, employee buy-in: creating a sense of urgency.

In his book, Leading Change, Kotter cites nine reasons for complacency, and it typically has nothing to do with inept or unintelligent leaders; instead, their focus is misplaced or misguided, they fall into a "not in my department" mentality, or they choose to believe that things will get better (seemingly on their own).

The first reason he cites is the lack of a burning platform or a major, visible crisis. What's the burning platform in your business? Customers are leaving. Employees are leaving. Costs are rising. Processes are out of whack. The culture is a mess. Bankruptcy. Impending hostile takeover.

Pick one. They are all bad. Absent all of them, you find yourself with the first source of complacency and inability to create and drive that sense of urgency that Kotter states is the first step in change management. In other words, if things aren't so bad, why should we change?

The second reason is too many visible resources. Perhaps a false sense of hope is a better name for this one. It means that there are a lot of lavish furnishings, perks, parties, trips, and events. Things must be positive because it looks like we're doing really well, i.e., we're spending a lot of money.

Low overall performance standards is the third reason. Performance standards are relative and can't be discussed in a vacuum. Your NPS may be up 3 points this year, but perhaps last year you were down 10 points from the previous year. And how does that compare to the rest of the industry?

The fourth reason revolves around organizational structures that focus employees on narrow functional goals instead of on broader business goals and outcomes. Departmental goals and metrics are fine, but they must all tie into the bigger picture, into the overall business goals.

The next one is a favorite one: internal measurement systems that focus on the wrong performance indexes. Again, they tend to focus on the department or on simplistic goals that don't necessarily tie into the big picture, giving the false sense that all is well.

Lack of sufficient performance feedback from external sources is the sixth reason. If you're not listening to customers, vendors, or shareholders and hearing from them how well you're performing, then you're missing a huge opportunity to uncover whether all really is well or not. Inside-out thinking rather than outside-in thinking rules the day. If the business is successful, leaders often get arrogant and think they don't need to listen to anyone outside of the organization. Until they need to.

I'd add here, too, that if you're not listening to your employees, empowering them, allowing them to innovate and find ways to do things better or to solve customer problems in a different way, complacency has also set in.

The seventh reason Kotter cites for complacency is a kill-the-messenger-of-bad-news, low-candor, low-confrontation culture. Any attempts to resolve reason #6 and bring in an outside perspective is viewed as treason.

Denial. Reason number eight is all about denial: human nature, with its capacity for denial, especially if people are already busy or stressed. We don't want to hear it. We don't hear it. So it must not exist. We're busy enough, so if we ignore the problem rather than doing something about it, we won't put more work on our plates. (And maybe it will just go away.) This is head-in-the-sand logic.

And, finally, reason number nine is one that I've written about before, as well: too much happy talk from senior management. The post I wrote is "Be Postive" is Not a Strategy. Your problems aren't gone just because everyone acts like they're gone.

I'll leave you with a thought from John Kotter:

Never underestimate the magnitude of the forces that reinforce complacency and that help maintain the status quo.

There are many forces... and they are strong.

It's so much easier to do nothing, sadly. And, oftentimes, fear of change rules the day.

But remember that what got you here won't get you there. The world is changing. Your customers are changing. Their needs are changing. The industry is evolving. New competitors (disruptors) come along all the time.

Executives must light that fire! Create that sense of urgency (not panic, urgency). It's time for your culture, your employee experience, and your customer experience to change!

Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well. -Theodore Roosevelt

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Preparing Employees to Deliver a Great Customer Experience

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's post for CallidusCloudCX. It was published on their blog on April 24, 2017. 

When you think of the phrase "inside out" relative to the customer experience, you probably cringe. This is not a phrase that customer experience professionals take lightly.

Inside out means companies focus on processes that are designed and implemented based on internal thinking and intuition. The customer's needs and perspectives aren't considered in this type of thinking. Company leaders make decisions because they think they know what's best for the business, not for the customer. 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
On the other hand, outside in means that executives look at the business from the customer's perspective and subsequently design processes and make decisions based on what's best for the customer and what meets the customer's needs. They make decisions based on what they know is best for customers - because they've asked/listened.

So imagine my surprise when CallidusCloud CX started talking about "inside-out CX." It made me pause for a moment; but when you hear them define it as "how employees impact customer satisfaction and, ultimately, the customer experience," that makes a whole lot of sense. That does not make me cringe. Employees are critical in the customer experience equation.

Let's think about this for a minute. What exactly does that mean?

It can really only mean one thing: you better make sure that your employees are prepared to impact customer satisfaction, to deliver a great experience!

But employees need the right tools and the right information to do that.

Like what?

First and foremost, they need to know what it means to your organization to "deliver a great experience." Without that information, they will always fall short. How do we ensure that employees are informed and ready? How do we ensure that they know what's expected of them? How can we be sure they know the difference between right and wrong actions, behaviors, and more?

Let's take a look at some of the tools that will address those questions.

Core Values: Your core values are guiding principles for your employees; they outline which behaviors and actions are right and which are wrong. Everything they do must be aligned with your values, and those values should be integrated into everything employees do. If employees ever question what they should do or question if what they're planning to do is aligned with the organization's expectations, they can refer back to these values.

Brand Promise: Make sure you've clearly communicated your brand promise to employees. If they don't know it, how can they live it? How can they deliver it? The smart CEO uses the brand promise to align all of the activities of the organization; that promise guides people, processes, products, systems, etc. Everything the organization does must support and reinforce the brand promise: every product, every person, every interaction, every touchpoint, all of it. Every time. This is probably one of the key tools for your employees when it comes to delivering a great customer experience.

CX Vision: Your customer experience vision is an inspirational and aspirational statement that outlines what you see as the future state of the customer experience. It briefly describes the experience you plan to deliver. And it serves as a guide to help choose future courses of action. It should align with your corporate vision. The hope is that this vision fuels innovation and reminds employees that there's a human being on the other end of your CX strategy and transformation.

Corporate Vision
: Your corporate vision not only outlines what the company is trying to achieve but also guides decision-making processes and the resultant course of action. It not only spells out what you're doing and for whom you're doing it but also creates alignment within the organization. Your corporate vision and CX vision ought to be closely connected, if not one and the same.

Customer Understanding
: Employees need to be well-informed and well-versed on who your customers are and how they impact each customer and his experience: provide persona definitions, journey maps, and customer feedback. The better employees understand customers and the current experience - alongside the desired experience - the better they are able to adjust course and deliver the experience that is expected of them.

Training and Communication
: I'll lump these two together because they go hand in hand but, individually, are equally important. Training and communication begin at the point of hire, with a solid onboarding program and communication around the importance of customers and the customer experience to the organization; if you don't have an onboarding program, it's time to develop one. Then throughout the life of the employee's employment, provide regular training opportunities (especially as customer feedback, customers, and the experience evolve), communicate and set clear expectations, and provide ongoing feedback and coaching about how well the employee is delivering on those expectations.

Not sure where to begin? It might be a good idea to start with an Employee CX Assessment to identify what employees know and don't know about your customers and the customer experience. This assessment is time well spent by the entire organization, not just frontline staff. You'll use the results to better frame training efforts and to provide the right tools needed to ensure employees have a clear line of sight to customers and are equipped to deliver the experience you need (and customers want) them to deliver.

If you’re not serving the customer, your job is to be serving someone who is. - Jan Carlzon

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Improving the Respondent Experience

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's post for CallidusCloudCX. It appeared on their blog on March 24, 2017.

There's a lot of talk about improving the customer experience.

And there's a lot of talk about using surveys to listen to customers so that we know where we need to improve the experience.

But have you ever considered that those very surveys are another touchpoint in the customer experience? That the experience with the survey must be considered and improved as much as the experience with any other touchpoint?

If you haven't, then it's time to start thinking about your surveys differently.

What are some of the areas that you need to consider as you design the survey experience? Read on, as I've put them into somewhat chronological categories to help you walk through the experience yourself. It wouldn't hurt to actually map the survey experience from the customer's perspective.


Like with any other experience you're going to design, you want to make sure you personalize the survey experience to the audience. So, first things first: make sure you've got the right people in your respondent pool. And then make sure the topic and the questions are relevant for the audience.

As you think about the audience, also consider how often you will survey them. You'll want to make sure that the survey cadence is just right, e.g., don't survey one customer more than once every six months, and that you prioritize that cadence across surveys, too. In other words, if you're fielding multiple surveys at a time, ensure that the touches and the frequency are prioritized so that one person does not get multiple surveys too frequently within a specified period of time.


Multichannel doesn't just apply to customer interactions; your listening posts (all, not just surveys)  should also be multichannel. Offer up a variety of ways/modes for customers to provide feedback. Let them provide feedback via whatever mode or channel is easiest for them. Make sure your surveys are mobile-friendly/responsive.

Speaking of modes, don't forget to listen and to ask; there's a difference.

Survey Design
When creating your surveys, make sure you use survey design best practices. There are many "rules" to consider, but start with:
  • Keep surveys short and simple.
  • Ask questions that are  relevant to the audience.
  • Ask unambiguous (clear, not double-barreled) questions.
  • Don't use corporate language and acronyms; instead, use customer-friendly language that they can easily understand.
  • Speaking of languages, if you serve a global base, offer up your surveys in various languages.
  • Make sure each question is actionable. If the survey isn't actionable, you're wasting your customers' time.
  • Make the survey easy to use; in other words, check for grammar, make sure skips aren't broken, etc.
  • Ask open-ended questions (not too many) to allow respondents to share thoughts about things that you may not cover in your closed-ended questions.
  • The look and feel of the survey should match your branding; don't confuse customers (and possibly scare them away) by using a look and feel that doesn't align with your corporate branding.
This may seem like something that doesn't impact the respondent's survey experience, but it does. Make sure you survey the customer in a timely manner. If you send a survey about an experience that took place six months ago, the customer will be frustrated because he won't recall the details of the experience. Be timely in your deployments.

While you might also think that Act has nothing to do with the respondent experience, it actually has everything to do with it!

Why are you asking for feedback? Why are you listening?

You need to use that feedback; do something with it. Action takes place at strategic, tactical, and personal levels. (The latter includes not only personalizing experiences but also conducting follow-up/service recovery calls as a result of survey feedback.) And then let customers know what improvements you made as a result of the feedback and how those improvements will impact them. That communication is important to the experience. When customers know how you used their feedback, they feel like they didn't waste their time providing it and will, as a result, likely continue to tell you how you're performing in the future.


Respondents often provide feedback about your surveys that should be considered in order to improve the respondent experience. They may not understand the point of a question, may have gotten questions not relevant to them, called out ambiguous questions, told you about broken links, etc. These are easy fixes to make in order to improve the experience.

In addition, as you make improvements to the experience about which you're receiving feedback, the survey should be changed to reflect and to measure those improvements. Read verbatims and capture any emerging trends or issues about which you'd like to learn more; incorporate those into your survey or listening posts going forward.

And you thought surveys were just as simple as set and forget! They really aren't. A lot of care and thought needs to be put into designing surveys so that they, too, are a great experience for your customers.

The more you talk about them, the more important they will feel. The more you listen to them, the more important you will make them feel. -Roy T. Bennett

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Complacency or Innovation: You Decide

Image courtesy of Pixabay
How can anyone become complacent about running a business? or about winning at business?

It happens!

It's a broad question, but if you think you're going to become complacent about the customer experience - and think that's OK - then you might as well be complacent about your business, in general.

I was recently asked for suggestions on how to prevent different business units and divisions from becoming complacent when they are performing well based on their customer experience metrics. In other words, their scores, e.g., NPS, are high, so they act like "the goal is met, and there's nothing more that needs to be done about the customer experience."

I've written a post on that (complacency about metrics), which I'll share in the future. But it got me thinking beyond metrics to the broader customer experience. A lot of the same logic applies (that I mention in that post), but I'm stepping back to take more of a big picture look.

If you rest on your laurels, you will, without a doubt, be overrun by your competitors. Never mind that your customers will no longer want to do business with you. (Right, Blockbuster?!)

Remember: customer experience is a journey, not a destination; once you've improved it, you've got to keep improving it. Continuous improvement is key to this journey, to staying ahead, to winning at customer experience, to winning at business!

Here's what happens and why your work is never done:
  • Expectations change. What delights customers today may not delight tomorrow. It's important to always keep your pulse on changing customer needs.
  • Customers change. Old ones go, new ones come along. New ones may have different problems they are trying to solve or jobs to be done.
  • Customer needs, desires, and expectations change. As long as that's happening - and I don't see that every changing - there's no resting on laurels.
  • The business changes. New products are launched. Acquisitions are made. Growth happens.
  • New competitors enter the marketplace, and industry trends emerge.
  • Weak signals become strong signals.
Companies will not become complacent if they develop a customer-focused and customer-centric culture. Some would argue that customer-obsessed, like Amazon, is the better way to go; you will certainly never have to worry about complacency, if that's the case! But when the customer is at the center of the business, at the center of all decisions that are made, in your entire company's DNA, then you'll never be complacent about customer experience. It's impossible.

When you become complacent about customer experience, it is no longer your competitive advantage.

If you become complacent about the customer experience, just know there's always a competitor or a disruptor in the wings, waiting with the next big thing. That disruptor swoops in and does the employee experience and the customer experience far better. If you think that doesn't happen, think about these brands:
  • Netflix
  • Apple
  • Uber
  • Airbnb
  • Warby Parker
  • Rent the Runway
  • Virgin America
  • and more!
As Tom Fishburne says: If you want to remain number one, you have to think like number two. Check out his post on "Where complacent brands go."

What can you do?

Listen. Listen to customers. Listen to employees. Listen to the market. Listen to the industry. Pay attention. What are you hearing? What are the emerging needs? What jobs are your customers trying to do? Can they be fulfilled elsewhere? Can you innovate and fulfill better? What are the weak signals? How weak are they, really?

Create a culture of innovation that allows employees to be creative and entrepreneurial. Don't stifle new ideas and innovation. Allow employees to pose, develop, and try new ways of doing the same old thing. Encourage efficiency, simplicity, and killing old rules and making new ones. Stifling creativity, growth, and innovation is painful and kills employee engagement quicker than anything - and then there goes your customer experience.

Make sure there's a sense of urgency around this, not just around innovation but also around the need to act when signals and trends are identified. Urgency is kryptonite to complacency!

Always do what's right for the customer; ask, "How does what I'm doing right now impact the customer?" And never forget that the customer experience is a journey. Don't be content with what you're doing today; always be innovating and improving. If you don't, your customers will go elsewhere.

The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic. -Peter Drucker

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Break Down #CX Barriers with Storytelling

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Have you used storytelling in your customer experience management journey?

The art of storytelling is an important one in the customer experience world. Storytelling is a great communication tool and an awesome teaching tool, as I wrote about in my post titled Storytelling is a Trojan Horse for Learning.

When you tell stories, people listen, and they don't even realize that they're (supposed to be) learning! Stories allow you to deliver a message in a way that engages people, inspires them, and helps them understand a desired or intended outcome as a result of a series of steps or actions taken.

Storytelling delivers an impact from both the emotional and the rational perspective, capturing both the hearts and minds of the intended audience.

Whether you're just launching into your customer experience journey or are well on your way, storytelling is a valuable tool. It serves as a great way to deliver your message, to overcome the barriers to success of your journey, and to motivate and inspire those who will be a part of the journey. In short, stories are used to...
  • Inform, i.e., help people understand the what, why, where, how, and WIIFM  
  • Motivate employees to take action
  • Build trust in the storyteller, presumably your CEO or CCO
  • Build trust in the company
  • Build trust in the journey
  • Convey the values
  • Inspire collaboration
  • Share knowledge
  • And more
There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place. -J.K. Rowling

As you begin your journey, it's going to be important to tell a story about the company, its employees, and its customers: past, present, and future. Talk about where the company has been, where it is today, where it needs to go, and why. Paint a picture that connects the employees to yours customers and, ultimately, to a profitable, solvent organization.

How do you do that?

I found the concept of the Story Spine several years ago, and I've been waiting to put it to good use. It's a excellent tool to use to learn the art of storytelling, but it's also a practical outline to tell a great story.
Image courtesy of Kenn Adams and aerogrammestudio
It's pretty straight forward, and you can see how the story builds. One piece missing from this image is the addition of "And the moral of the story is..." at the end.

So, imagine if you will...

Once upon a time... there was a company that was losing employees, customers and, ultimately, money.

Every day... the leadership team became more and more frustrated, not understanding what was happening.

But, one day... they heard about successful brands that talked about (and focused on) employee experience, customer experience, customer-centric culture, customer-focused culture, and other key words and phrases that linked to business outcomes such as employee retention, customer retention, and revenue growth.

Because of that... they hired a Chief Customer Officer and a Chief People Officer.

Because of that... they were able to transform their culture to one that not only focused on - but also obsessed over - employees and customers.

Because of that... they created an advantage that was unmatched by their competitors.

Until finally... their customer and employee retention figures went through the roof, and their market performance surpassed that of other companies in their industry.

The moral of the story is... focus on employees, and they'll make customers happy; make customers happy, and they'll return. And your shareholders will be quite pleased.

It's a simplistic version of the Story Spine and how to use it to tell your culture transformation story, but I think you get the picture. Or the story.

 How do you tell the story of your customer experience transformation.

Stories constitute the single most powerful weapon in a leader’s arsenal. -Dr. Howard Gardner, professor Harvard University

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Bringing Your #VoC Program up to 2020 Standards

Image courtesy of Pixabay
How can you be sure that your VoC initiative stays fresh and relevant?

Continuous improvement is just important for your VoC initiatives as it is for your entire customer experience journey/transformation. What are you doing to ensure that your listening efforts are always fresh and relevant?

Yes, even customer listening programs become stale and must be updated. You've made changes to the experience that you want to measure and track; there are emerging trends in the industry and with customer needs; customers change, and new customers come into the fold; and you're offering new products and services. If you're using the same survey you did a year ago, it's time to check that.

But listening programs are not just about surveys, and even if you continue to use surveys, there are much more innovative approaches to surveying than a year or two ago. Mobile survey capabilities have evolved, such that all surveys are now mobile - there's no distinction between desktop, mobile, and in-app. (What? Your surveys aren't mobile friendly? Time to get on that!) Don't forget short, simple text surveys, as well.

The timing of mobile surveys is another consideration; no longer is post-transaction the only (or even the best) way to capture customer feedback. Consider brief, in-the-moment surveys that allow you to get feedback while the customer is, well, in the moment of the transaction or experience.

And surveys are becoming more like a conversation. Some providers are offering more-dynamic surveys, where they've incorporated predictive capabilities that go beyond the traditional skipping and branching approaches of yesterday.

Also, I've seen folks take new approaches to designing the surveys. Don't assume you know what's important to your customers. Traditionally, we might have designed surveys with attributes that were derived from customer conversations, focus groups, or simply from what we knew/heard about the experience. Lately, companies have been asking open-ended questions and then analyzing those comments to identify not only attributes but perhaps emerging trends that should be fleshed out a bit more through the surveys.

Lastly, don't just use surveys. Use other methods to listen to customers, as well. There are so many options, some qualitative, some quantitative: online communities, online reviews, customer advisory boards, social media, and more.

Important to note is that you don't want to make it cumbersome for customers to provide feedback. Make it easy; offer forums and feedback options in places where your customers prefer to be; and, finally, act on what you hear!!

If you make listening and observation your occupation, you will gain much more than you can by talk. -Robert Baden-Powell

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Internal Communication Growing Pains and How To Solve Them

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Today I'm pleased to share a guest post by Rae Steinbach.

Good internal communication can make a big difference for any company. A failure of communication can cause projects to fail, increase costs, and can contribute to an atmosphere of discontent among your staff.

For so many businesses, the drive to develop an effective feedback loop only comes after a failure has made the need for change obvious. Instead of waiting for a disaster, you can follow some of these tips for solving problems with internal communications.

It Starts on the First Day
You want to start by thinking about how you introduce new employees to the company. So many companies just throw new employees into the job and expect them to figure things out as they go. If you want employees to fit in and understand the workplace culture, you should start them out with some type of training or orientation.

You want to train them on their job and familiarize the new employee with their responsibilities, but there is more to it than that. Teach them about the internal dynamics of the company, the company culture, and protocols for different internal processes. Waiting for them to learn the ropes on their own is inefficient. By taking the time to get them ready for the job, you can instill the attitude that contributes to a positive workplace culture from the beginning.

Have a Clear Vision
Every company should have some kind of mission statement and a vision of what they stand for. What are your goals as a company? What principles do you want employees to value in their work? You need to answer these questions and make sure that these ideas filter down to every level of the organization.

Get a team of company leaders together to work on these answers. Share your ideas and develop a short statement that represents these values. Communicate this to all of your employees and find ways to instill a sense of this vision in every person at the company.

Have an Open Door
You need to encourage your employees to share their thoughts. Employee feedback is important and can provide valuable insights. You don’t want people to feel like they have to keep their concerns to themselves. Make sure they know that you are always willing to listen to feedback and that you are willing to consider any idea.

Do Some Team Building
You might want to keep everybody working for every hour that you have them at the office, but it can be beneficial to take some time away from the job. Take your employees to do something fun. When they get some time away from the office, they can build bonds that will carry over into their work. This can improve internal communications and help to build a more cohesive team.

Write it Down
Most companies have common questions and procedures that people are going to need to refer to regularly. Instead of answering these questions and explaining these procedures every time they come up, develop internal references that employees can access when they need them. Build something like a company FAQ that answers common questions. You can build a core FAQ to begin with, and as new issues arise, you can add to the resource.

With improved internal communications, you can run a business that is more efficient. Employees will be able to work together in a way that is more effective, and it can also make for a workforce that is more content in their jobs. You just need to commit to the concept of better communications and take the proper steps to make it a reality.

Rae is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to NYC to pursue her career and continue curating quality content. Rae is passionate about travel, food, and writing, of course.