Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Customer Relationships and Moments That Matter

Image courtesy of Corporate Traveller
Are you challenged at developing lasting relationships with your customers?

I was recently sent a copy of KPMG Nunwood's report titled B2B Customer Experience: Winning the Moments That Matter. The report is filled with some great nuggets, but I latched on to the phases of relationship connection and moments that matter.

How do you achieve relationship status with your customers? Do you know which moments matter most to them? And which are moments of failure?

When we engage with customers (or, when they engage with us), we are (hopefully) engaging for the long-term, developing a relationship. Some folks question the use of the term "relationship" when it comes to customers, but let's just use Merriam-Webster's definition, which tones things down a little: the way in which two or more people, groups, countries, etc., talk to, behave toward, and deal with each other; the way in which two or more people or things are connected.

That connection is what I'm referring to. We want to connect with our customers, not just transact with them. Relationships take time and work, every day; the focus and the desire to keep the relationship alive and strong should never stop because, when it does, the relationship will end. The connection is gone.

In KPMG Nunwood's report, they outline the key stages of relationship building. Sounds a bit like what happens in your personal relationships, but it's really not that far off for businesses to consider the same stages, both with their customers (B2B) and among their internal teams.

The following are the six stages, as defined in KPMG Nunwood's report.
  1. Wooing: the foundations for the future chemistry of the relationship are set during this stage.
  2. Purchase: selection is a key moment that matters, as this is where promises are made and expectations are set.
  3. Honeymoon: occurs immediately after the purchase, when both sides (customer and business) are looking for reasons to reinforce the decision they made to be in this relationship.
  4. Forming: during this stage, customer and company are finding the best way to work together.
  5. Storming: according to the report, this is a critical moment that matters; like in any other relationship, when that honeymoon period ends, reality sets in: the good and the bad. Issues happen, and if they're not dealt with appropriately, the relationship can sour quickly.
  6. Norming: standards are set and agreements are made on how the relationship with work.
The "Forming-Storming-Norming" stages really solidify the relationship. The better these steps are executed, the longer and stronger the relationship.

Bonding was also considered as one of the stages, but it doesn't just happen at once but across all of the stages - and often long before the customer engages with a specific company. It happens through experience with your products or services. If bonding doesn't happen, as we all know, the relationship is doomed.

Clearly, bonding is facilitated and driven by those moments that matter and hindered by moments of failure. In their report, KPMG Nunwood outlines examples of both for B2B companies and their customers along those key stages.

Moments that matter include:
  • Reputation and past practices
  • Demonstrating knowledge and understanding of industry, customer, and products
  • Onboarding and first impressions
  • Delivering on initial promises
  • The storming phase
  • Being flexible, responsive, and committed during times of change
  • Adding value by saving the customer time, money, and effort
  • Anticipating issues
  • Responding to issues
  • Demonstrating empathy and emotional intelligence
Moments of failure basically take the form of the opposite of the moments that matter or not taking advantage of moments that matter in a manner that is beneficial to the customer:
  • Reputation damage
  • Failing to connect with customers 
  • Over promising and under delivering
  • Cross-functional dynamics and failing to manage stakeholder relationships
  • Inadequate responses to issues 
  • Inconsistent knowledge about policies and processes from one agent or department to another
  • Quality of relationship manager - people buy from people
Those are just some examples. Know that there are plenty of others way to kill your customer relationships, as you well know.

I previously wrote about Nunwood's Six Pillars. In this latest report, they not only tie the moments that matter to the six stages of customer relationships but also to the Six Pillars, giving some great guidelines on how to deliver a great customer experience through the lens of the Pillars, as well. Be sure to check out the report for those details.

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

Thursday, February 16, 2017

On Becoming a Mindful Leader

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

Two books I enjoyed over the Christmas period have prompted me to reflect on being a Mindful Leader. By that slightly odd term I mean a leader making use of mindfulness principles to improve their effectiveness.

The two books I referenced are: Mindfulness and Christian Spirituality by Tim Stead and Contact and Context: New Directions in Gestalt Coaching by Ty Francis & Malcolm Parlett. The first was a present and the second I have been asked to review for a Psychology journal. Both have been enjoyable reads and helpful to my personal development. In this post, I will focus more on the former, as I’ll be producing a fuller book review on the latter in coming weeks.

This post is too short and too high-level to provide even an introduction to Mindfulness. However, I would like to share four themes that have struck me from reading both books and that I feel offer insights into how to be a more mindful (and thus effective) leader.

Defining Mindfulness
By way of definition, Tim Stead offers the following:

Being more fully aware of your own experience, in the present moment, in a non-judgemental way.

For those of my readers who know more about mindfulness or have experienced its benefits, I hope that will pass as workable.

Tim goes on to define four "vital strands" to practising mindfulness:
  1. Awareness
  2. Experience
  3. Present Moment
  4. Non-Judgemental
It is those elements, or perspectives, through which I have been reflecting on how to be a more effective Customer Insight Leader in 2017. I hope the thoughts that follow are helpful.

1. Being a More-Aware Leader
My own experience with starting to practice mindfulness is that it’s not easy. Your thoughts wander. The first awareness I experienced was of how difficult I find it to stay focused (like herding cats in my head).

Apparently, the emphasis on awareness (of your own thoughts, body, and environment) is intended to offer an antidote to the way we so often go about on "autopilot." As we’ve shared before regarding  Behavioural Economics, much research in the field of Behavioural Psychology has shown the high proportion of "decisions" that are made using unconscious biases and other heuristics that help us avoid needing conscious thought. It takes a lot of oxygen and effort in the brain to consciously think about the right answers/responses to the plethora of decisions needed everyday.

That makes sense from an evolutionary perspective and when dealing with routines where habits can serve us well. However, for leaders there is a danger that this way of being also extends into our working lives, i.e., like the experience of "waking up" while driving and wondering how you got so far without apparently conscious thought. Have you experienced much the same in meetings or familiar work routines?

Before getting back into the familiar rituals of working life (with emails, meetings, and cycles of reporting), could it help to pause a while? Have you ever spent just a few moments at work to become really aware of what you are thinking, feeling in your body, or sensing around you? Try it. With a few minutes spent silently, calmly breathing, you may be surprised what strikes you.

How can you avoid just being a "cog in the machine" or a leader on autopilot this year?

2. Noticing What You Experience as a Mindful Leader
Do you sometimes suffer from analysis paralysis? Could it be that you are sometimes over-analysing problems or opportunities? In conversations with your team, peers, or boss, do you find yourself spending more time thinking up a smart reply than listening to what they have actually said? We have been taught for so long that the brain is king and rationale argument should win that we can miss the more nuanced reality of real life.

Given all the emphasis in recent years on Neuroscience (normally limited to the study of the brain), it’s interesting to now see important developments in a field called Neurogastroenterology. This has identified "intelligence" in the signals sent from our gut, heart, and other parts of the body, to inform or guide the brain. So, it seems there is some truth to the old analogies of "what your gut tells you" or "your heart not being in it." We are realising we are more embodied than we sometimes give credit to, in this age of focus on algorithms and technology.

So, back to being a more effective leader. I know from my own experience in both team leadership and exec meetings that there can be a lot of wisdom to noticing what you are experiencing. It’s not objective "truth," but if you experience a raised heart rate, a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, or a chill running down your spine — notice that. It may well be worth exploring what your body has noticed. Could you ask open questions, or explore more on a topic before committing?

Beyond a more introverted focus, being more aware of what you experience can also help you notice more of how others are feeling. Do you pay enough attention to the non-verbal signals being shown by your team? How could you improve as a leader if you focus not only on what those you work with say but also on how they act and appear to feel?

3. You Can Only be a Mindful Leader in the Present Moment
Although learning from past experiences is very valuable, it can also leave you fearful of repeating past mistakes or over-confident about somewhat similar opportunities. Likewise, too much focus on the future can paralyse your decision-making or action now. Too many of us spend too much time regretting the past or fearing the future. In reality, all you have is now. Whatever is going on inside your head, your ability to do something different is limited to the present moment.

Too much focus on the past or future is also associated with a build-up of stress. So, mindfulness also focuses on helping you bring your thinking back to the present moment. What are you aware of now? What is being experienced now?

I’m sure the applicability to Customer Insight Leaders is obvious. With so much analysis of past data (including success or failure of past actions) and research into customers’ future intentions (including fears and hopes), straying away from "now" is an ever-present risk. But the real value add of both insight teams and their leaders is to take all this information and use it wisely to inform what to do now.

For 2017, how could you focus more on action in the present? Are you aware of past experiences which may be making you unduly cautious? Can you notice what is different this time? Are you aware of repeated fears about the future that may even be disturbing your sleep? What would you do differently if you weren’t running that "film reel in your head?"

Take some time to just focus on now. What is the most helpful thing for you to do right now?

4. Could a Non-Judgemental Leader be More Effective?
This may seem the most counter-intuitive of all four strands. Surely the job of leaders is to judge, to make decisions, and to only keep doing what works? With much of corporate life requiring judgements from managers and leaders (from performance management systems to who gets budget), how could a non-judgemental mindset help?

Let’s step back to you as a whole person first. Like most of us human beings, you undoubtedly have elements of your personality, behaviour, thoughts, or desires that you dislike or find unacceptable. Both the route to depression and addiction can lie in simply trying to suppress these parts of ourselves. Much study in the field of PsychoSynthesis (amongst others) has been to encourage us to listen to more of the multiple voices or personas that we all experience within ourselves. If that sounds a little unhinged, think of the way you might describe yourself as a different person in different circumstances.

There is growing evidence from the use of mindfulness to help addicts and those suffering from depression that a key element is to be able to suspend judgement. Can you just be aware of some of the thoughts and feelings you are having, without having to immediately rush to judgement? That doesn’t mean giving yourself carte blanche to do anything, rather increasing your awareness of everything you are feeling and experiencing. Like a good conversation, quite often if you stay quiet for longer than is comfortable, something else comes to light.

Are there challenges in your team or problems in your business that you could do with understanding better? Could you just gather information or listen to colleagues for longer before rushing to a judgement? Giving yourself more time as a leader, to experience more about the situation, may help you make a better decision in the end.

Do You Want to be a Mindful Leader in 2017?
I hope those musings were useful. I’m certainly becoming convinced that there is something in this.

If you’d like to give it a go, why not start by sitting quietly and reflecting on what you have read. See what thoughts and feelings arise. After sufficient time to hear all your internal "witnesses" (including your body), what do you want to do differently as a leader this year?

Want to explore Mindfulness yourself? You can find some helpful resources and books on the Frantic World website.

Have a great 2017 and I look forward to learning from your responses.

Paul Laughlin has over 20 years experience of leading teams to generate profit from analysing  data. Over the last 12 years he’s created, lead and improved customer insight teams across Lloyds, TSB, Halifax and Scottish Widows. He’s delivered incremental profit of over £10m pa and improved customers’ experiences.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Do You Employ Actionability Thinking in Survey Design?

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Today's post is a slightly-updated version of one I originally published on Compellon's blog on January 25, 2017, which is a largely-modified version of a very-popular post I wrote on CX Journey™ five years ago titled 22 Tips for Survey Design.

You’ve been running your voice of the customer (VoC) program for the last couple of years, and you’re frustrated because you can’t seem to move the needle on the customer experience.

Why are your customers still unhappy? Why is the service so bad? When will those product issues be resolved? Why don’t your customers recommend your company? Why don’t they buy again? What’s going on?

We need to get to the root cause of this situation.

I think I can safely narrow it down to this: your surveys. Don’t be offended. I’ve seen a lot of bad surveys over the last 25 years, and I can tell you that if you don’t get them right, it’ll be a challenge to improve  anything. Consider this: Are you asking the right questions? Are the (right) questions you’re asking actionable? Do you know what to do with the feedback you’re getting?

In order to improve the customer experience, you definitely need to listen to your customers. That’s a given. You need to understand who they are and what they are trying to do. And how well you’re helping them achieve what they’re trying to do. But you need to be sure to structure your survey questions in such a way that the feedback is meaningful and actionable, that it truly helps you understand the experience and how well you’re helping the customer do what he needs to do.

Data that is not actionable is just data. -Unknown

When you’re designing your surveys, are you thinking “actionable?”

What does that mean?

When you’re thinking “actionable,” you’re considering the following as you propose and design the questions:
  • What will we do if this question is rated low (or high)?
  • How will we act on it?
  • Who owns this question?
  • Who else needs this information?
  • Who will act on it?
  • How quickly can we make changes?
  • Is this something we can actually change?
  • Why are we asking this?
Asking for feedback about something you can’t change - or in such a way that you’re not sure what you need to change - is pointless. You’re wasting your customers’ time and your company’s time. If you can’t succinctly answer these “actionability” questions, then reconsider what you’re asking.
Once you’ve thought about – and clearly answered – these higher-level questions, it’s time to think about question design. How are you going to ask your survey questions to ensure that you can effect real change for the customer experience?

Here are a few survey design tips – still using our “actionable thinking” approach – to make sure you’re asking meaningful questions.

1. Don’t ask double-barreled or compound questions. If you’re not familiar with this phrase, I’ll give you an example: “How satisfied are you with the speed and quality of the solution you were given?” You’re asking about speed of the solution and quality of the solution, two very distinct things. First, this will confuse the respondent. What if speed was great, but the quality wasn’t? or vice versa? Next, it will frustrate whoever needs to act on it because it’s not clear what needs to be fixed, one or the other or both. Keep your questions to just one thought/concept.

2. Don't ask leading or biased questions. "We know you loved our new soft drink. How much did you love it?" OK, silly example, but you get the point. Don’t bias the question wording by putting a positive or negative spin on it. Simply ask what you want to ask; don’t lead the witness.

3. Don’t ask generic, high-level questions that aren’t specific enough to drive change. For example, asking customers to “rate your overall satisfaction with our website” without additional detailed attributes about the site or without an open-ended question to understand the why behind the rating is not helpful.

4. For open-ended questions, be specific. Ask exactly what you want to know, e.g., "What can we do to ensure you rate us a 10 on overall satisfaction the next time you do business with us?" Or, "Tell us the single most important reason you recommended us to your friends."

5. Make sure your questions are not ambiguous. Write questions clearly. If a respondent pauses and says, "What do they mean by that?" then the question is poorly constructed. Poorly constructed questions result in responses that are not actionable; nobody really knows what they mean.

6. Your question response choices and rating scales should be mutually exclusive. When response choices overlap or don’t make sense, they become meaningless; and that means they are also not actionable.

7. Do your homework. Make sure you provide a complete list of response choices. I hate when the one answer that should be there is missing. Be sure to provide an "Other (please specify)" when appropriate. Not offering this latter option either forces people to skip the question or to select something that may not be accurate – and that’s not actionable; it’s misleading.

8. Only ask questions that are relevant to that customer and his experience – don’t mix in a bunch of marketing research questions or other nice-to-knows. Those questions are out of context and are also not relevant to what you’re trying to achieve, which means they aren’t actionable for your cause.

9. For future question ideas, review verbatims for emerging and actionable topics. These verbatims are a rich source of information, for a variety of reasons!

If you really want to improve the customer experience, then you need to start with good data! You need to ask the right questions: relevant, meaningful, and actionable questions. Then analyze to identify the key drivers and next best actions. And don’t forget to act!

Insight alone does not cause change. Change requires action. -Lolly Daskal

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

An Ambitious First 90 Days for a #CXO

What do the first 90 days on the job look like for a brand new CXO or VP of CX?

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of co-keynoting GMC Software's CX Transformation Day virtual event with Scott Draeger of GMC Software. If you missed our conversation, you can find it on their site.

One of the questions that Scott asked me during our session is what I'd call the customer experience officer's (CXO's) "first 90 days." He asked me what CXOs would be doing in their early days, and my response, in a nutshell, was around information gathering and education. Let me expand a bit. Given a bit more time to consider it, I would actually put the first 90 days into three phases: info gathering, customer understanding, and strategy development. Education falls into each of those phases but certainly is important to getting everyone on board.

Phase 1: Information Gathering
Having a CXO is critical to success for any customer experience transformation. When we think transformation, we need to make real change that customers can see and feel. We're going to change the culture and ensure we increase revenue (existing customers continue to buy or buy more or new customers come on board) and decrease costs (referrals reduce sales and marketing costs and operational efficiencies reduce operating costs). This requires a huge coordination of effort; someone needs to oversee that effort.

The first step in any new role is to sit, listen, and learn. And ask questions. The CXO is going to gather information about the corporate and competitive landscape, the people, the politics, the who's who, the tools and technologies currently in place, the organization's current state of customer-centricity, current approaches to change management, any CX-type initiatives (listening, mapping, understanding, characterizing, etc.) underway, the company vision, the mission, the brand promise, corporate values, and more. Basically, she'll be getting the current state lay of the land.

At the same time, she'll be building relationships and finding partners in crime, so to speak. Who gets it and who doesn't. Who's an advocate or an ally? Who's not? Who needs to be convinced or brought on board?

And she'll want to get a sense of what employees, in general, know and understand about customer experience. This sets a baseline for where we are today versus where we need to be. At the same time, she'll be talking to folks about what customer experience is, why it's important to the success of the company, how employees impact it, and, at a high level, what the expectation is when it comes to delivering a great customer experience.

Without that foundational information, it's going to be really difficult to do anything. All this information gathering - including that which is done in Phase 2 - feeds into the third phase, developing the CX strategy.

Phase 2: Customer Understanding
While there may already be some listening and understanding efforts underway, this next phase solidifies, unifies, reinforces, and builds on these efforts to ensure that the right initiatives are underway, where and when they matter most.

During this phase, the CXO is going to again listen and learn while getting more hands on in making sure that things are moving in the right direction, as the team: listens to customers, characterizes them (persona research and development), and maps the current state of various experiences/journeys. She'll use this information not only for design work that lies ahead but also to educate employees about the customer experience, how they impact it, and where it needs to be fixed.

This is also a good time to start talking to HR and the executive team about the employee experience and how critical it is to focus on that in order to deliver a great customer experience. This will feed into hiring practices and onboarding and training programs that will set the employee off on the right foot from Day One.

And finally, she'll want to identify other constituents critical to the customer experience ecosystem and other voices that the organization will want to listen to, using their feedback to improve both their experience and the customer experience.

Phase 3: Strategy Development
The foundational work in the first two phases lead to - and feed into - the development of the CX strategy that is to be executed on going forward. A lot is going on at this point, including developing the strategy, getting the right players (governance) into place and in alignment, educating and aligning the organization, putting training and communication plans and initiatives into place, getting to work, and securing some quick wins to begin to tell the ROI story and to build the business case.

Don't be fooled by the short descriptor for Phase 3. There's a lot of heavy lifting going on!

Given that the average CXO tenure is 24 months, they've got to move to prove that this is a worthy endeavor. And, in turn, extend that average tenure!

What do you think? Is that a lot to ask for in the first 90 days?

Culture does not change because we desire to change it. Culture changes when the organization is transformed – the culture reflects the realities of people working together every day. -Frances Hesselbein

Thursday, February 2, 2017

6 Ways to Motivate and Inspire Your Customer Service Team?

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock/Robert Kneschke
Today I'm pleased to share a guest post by Elena Lockett with FM Outsource.

People are motivated by very different things. Money, personal achievements, or workplace goals – it differs person to person. To ensure your customer service (CS) teams remain motivated, whatever gets thrown at them, you need to make sure you are providing them with the inspiration and tools to do their job well and be happy!

Motivating your employees not only keeps them in a good place, it positively affects your customers, too. If you want your customers to see your business in a positive light, your employees need to shine it.

But why is this motivation so important? If your employees have goals of their own, both inside and outside of the company, shouldn’t they already motivate themselves? You can’t rely on that assumption when your employees are directly conversing with old and new customers; they could truly be the difference between customers walking away or making a purchase. It’s worth both the time and money to properly invest in motivating all members of your team.

How do you go about motivating your customer service team then? Here are our top six ways to inspire your employees:

1. Provide learning opportunities
We all like to learn and grow as part of our day-to-day lives, so providing training opportunities to further an employee’s development is beneficial in many ways. Training means better service to your customers and helps your employees feel more confident in the service they're providing. It will also ensure that they can deal with their customers' queries to a high standard. These learning opportunities should focus both on company policies and on how to deal with customers, so you don’t end up with employees who have excellent knowledge but lack in other areas. Make sure to help employees who are falling behind in certain skill sets; by giving them opportunities, you’re showing you believe in them.

Not only should you help your employees learn, you should also try to learn from their knowledge. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback and to ask them to be brutally honest. You, as a company, could be completely unaware of a huge issue that is only affecting your frontline team; if no one tells you, you won’t ever improve upon it.

2. Understand what motivates them
As I said earlier, not everyone is motivated by the same goal. You need to understand what motivates your teams and, honestly, each individual employee. Whether it be an extra day’s holiday, a potential promotion, gift cards for favourite retailers, or even the knowledge that they’ll get their monthly working lunch paid for, it’s important to know what will work best.

Don’t just rely on asking them outright for these motivators, as some people may become embarrassed or awkward when talking about something so personal. Send out surveys or questionnaires, or hold brainstorming sessions to allow all your employees to add their two cents.

3. Create a strong, creative, working environment
If you enjoy going to work every day, you bring a more positive attitude to the workplace. By giving your workplace a strong, corporate environment, it helps both you, as a business, and your employee understand how you can both benefit.

A good way to create these atmospheres within your business is to hold regular brainstorms to promote creativity and the sharing of ideas between employees. They're interacting with your customers every day and will be able to provide useful insight.

If the environment your employees are working in day-to-day is stressful, they may convey this back to any customers they're dealing with. This can both negatively affect their performance and the customer’s experience of the business. Ensure you create a happy, easy-going environment (at appropriate times), so your employees feel comfortable and can do their jobs to their best.

4. Constantly reevaluate your company's attitude
Tone of voice inside a business is incredibly important; it conveys who you are and what you believe in, and it creates a solid brand identity. This can be disrupted by certain attitudes displayed by employees, especially if that attitude is negative. For example, if your employees come to work and are automatically talked-down-to and made to feel unimportant, they may no longer feel confident in the work they’re doing.

5. Encourage friendly competition
We all know the thrill of entering a competition, and that thrill increases if it’s against people you know. Setting up some friendly (we don't want any falling out) competition between team members can give them a little more motivation. This will not only increase individual performance but also improve performance across the team.

You could even set goals for employees to reach as a team if you don’t want to encourage competition between team members. This will mean they’ll work together to reach that goal and help each other out if someone is falling behind.

6. Have a little fun too!
Creating a fun, joyful workplace will help your employees relax and feel at ease while they’re working. It also helps your business connect to your employees on a more personal front, so they feel included. Arrange family days, themed events in office, fundraising activities, and much more to keep the joy in your workplace.

There are so many ways to keep your employees motivated in a CS environment, some which require lots of time and money, while others can be as simple as not bringing a negative attitude with you when you go to work every day. It’s unfair to expect employees to be responsible for all their own motivation, so give them goals to help them achieve. It'll pay off for both your business and your employees.

Elena is a Marketing Assistant at FM Outsource. She is constantly looking for press opportunities for the business, whether it be entering awards, attending events, or getting FM featured in relevant articles online and in print.