Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Creating a Culture that Delivers Results

Image courtesy of hundrednorth
I originally wrote today's post for Clicktools. It was published on their blog on April 26, 2016.

I recently came across some research conducted among customer experience (CX) practitioners that found that their #1 challenge this year is creating a customer-first culture. I'm an "employees more first" advocate; so while I understand their point and this challenge, I'd still like to see more focus placed on employees. It all flows together in the end, though: creating a customer-first culture requires making the employee experience a more-first priority. You know by now, of course, that the employee experience drives the customer experience.

How does an organization create that customer-first culture? Well, it's a huge undertaking. Know this: just because you say it is so doesn't make it so.

I'll take you through some steps you can take, and I'll start at the top. Literally.

Executives are key to success of any culture transformation. Without them, it won't happen. Executive commitment, not just buy-in, is a must. Not just one executive, all of the executives: the CEO and her entire e-staff. Without their commitment, you won't get the resources (human, financial, etc.) to get things done. Without every executive across the organization, there will be barriers that will inhibit any progress toward a cohesive, consistent culture, and ultimately, experience for the customer. Without executives setting the tone and the direction, change will not happen.

A set of values, or guiding principles, also needs to be defined and communicated. Values outline which behaviors and actions are right and which are wrong, both for your employees and toward your customers. Everything you do must be aligned with your values, and they should be integrated into everything you do. If employees ever question what they should do, or if what they're planning to do is aligned with the organization's expectations, they can refer back to these values.

By the way, those values will also guide how you hire. And hiring the right people is key to building and maintaining that customers-first culture. Imagine running a service organization and hiring people who don't like talking to or helping people. Yikes.

Not only do you want to hire with the culture in mind, you also need to make sure these people have the right tools and resources to do their jobs. So onboarding, ongoing training, setting clear expectations, providing ongoing feedback and coaching, and communicating openly and transparently are important components of this culture you're creating.

Employees in a customer-first culture know how their work matters, and they know how they contribute to the customer experience. (Journey maps are great tools to help with this.) Employees are recognized and rewarded for actions and behaviors that create delight for their customers.

Another thing that's important with regards to employees and the culture transformation is that you'll want to get buy-in, commitment, and adoption from existing employees. Involve employees in what you're doing as you transform the culture. Invite them to be a part of the transformation; don't just force it on them. And then, if you find that someone is no longer a fit, perhaps it's time for them to move on. You need everyone on the bus; for those who chose the wrong route, it's time to get off.

Leadership is key, and it's different from being an executive or a manager. Sadly, some executives and managers don't have great leadership skills. Hire the right people, trust them, listen to them, empower them, and let them do what they need to do; be their guide but set them free. They were hired for a reason. Set the course, outline the vision and the purpose, and then let them execute based on the bumper guards you've provided them.

Communicate! The things you talk about are deemed important; those you don't talk about, aren't. So talk about customers. Share their feedback, their painpoints, and their stories. Talk about great customer experiences, what went well and what delights customers.

Give the customer a chair. In every meeting, in every decision. Don't do anything without asking, "How does this impact our customers?" "How will this make the customer feel?" "What does this do to the experience?"

Make sure everyone knows your brand promise. If employees don't know what it is, how can they live it? How can they deliver it? The brand promise creates alignment. 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 you do must support and reinforce the brand promise: every product, every person, every interaction, every touchpoint, all of it. Every time.

There's more, but these are the basics. None of this is easy; and it takes time. Just get started. Make sure you have the right people on board and then begin to lay the right foundation, and you'll reap the rewards soon enough!

If you quit on the process, you are quitting on the result. -Idowu Koyenikan

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Is your work environment toxic?

You wake up every morning and drag yourself into the office. You know there's a reason you drag and don't skip. The thought of being in your office makes your stomach turn, and you wake up every morning checking your temperature to determine if today might be a sick day rather than a work day.

Don't worry. We've all been there!

I recently read an article in Forbes titled 5 Signs You're in a Toxic Workplace. I'll briefly summarize the five here:
  1. Narcissists on top: Leaders believe they can do no wrong and don't believe the rules apply to them. They seek perfection from others, even though they don't meet those standards themselves. And they believe disagreement is defection: it's my way or the highway.
  2. Commiserating colleagues: Employees drown out the bad environment by listening to music with earbuds in their ears and then commiserate about their leaders through chat or text. When their bosses aren't around, employees happily interact, gossip, and count down the hours til the days is over.
  3. Lack of transparency: Are your performance expectations clearly defined? Do you know how your performance will be measured? Do you know what your position entails? Is there a clear job description for your role?
  4. Inconsistent rule book: This one's pretty self-explanatory; rules aren't applied equally across all staff, including the leadership team.
  5. The place is sick, literally: Employees are often calling in sick, fighting off colds at their desks, etc.
A few years ago, I wrote a post called A Culture of Distrust. It lists 19 signs that you're in a culture of distrust and even includes a couple of the items mentioned in the Forbes article. Take a look, as this type of culture is definitely toxic.

Shortly after writing that post, I wrote another one about culture issues called Circle the Wagons and Shoot Inward. My favorite lines from that one?
What happens when they circle the wagons and shoot inward? It's exhausting. And quite toxic.

What does that look like? It's like an autoimmune disorder, where the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue, thinking it's an antigen. Quite simply, the culture and the employee experience are a mess.
So why am I writing about this yet again? Nothing much has changed since 2014, right?

Exactly. Three years later, employee engagement is still dismal, and you hear more and more stories about toxic workplaces. Have you read about Uber's culture lately? That's not a unique story, sadly. Stories like that bring to light other, uglier issues that make the workplace quite toxic.

I've been thinking about more about this topic and wanted to add a few more signs to the lists in my earlier posts. I may have mentioned some of them in the previous posts, but if I have, it just means they're worth mentioning frequently! Here goes...
  • You're not having fun. (Listen. You spend a third or half of your day at the office; you need to have some fun there, too.)
  • Missing: sense of humor! You're not allowed to laugh, be playful, or make jokes (at your own expense or anyone else's). 
  • There's a lot of anger and yelling. And name calling.
  • And bipolar behavior. How are employees or leaders going to act today? Will it be the same as yesterday or the polar opposite?
  • Oftentimes, conversations with managers and leaders can be described as patronizing and disrespectful.
  • Men and women are treated differently. I'm not just talking about pay; I'm referring to assignments, respect, appreciation, inclusion, harassment, and more.
  • Employees avoid each other or their managers.
  • There's no appreciation or recognition or acknowledgement for a job (well) done.
  • Emails to/from colleagues go unanswered. People don't care or don't want to help each other.
  • Employees no longer collaborate.
  • But they do gossip.
  • The company (seems to) lack direction, purpose, a mission, and a vision.
  • There's infighting among the leadership team.
  • Employees are monitored. Office arrival time, departure time, emails, work from home time, etc.
  • Trust is broken. Or non-existent.
  • There's a clear lack of meaningful and transparent communication, i.e., information about the company and how the business is faring, from leadership is sparse or lacking.
  • Accountability is missing, especially among leaders.
  • Negativity abounds.
Doesn't sound like a great place to be everyday, does it? I'm sure it's not. There have to be great places to work. And there are. These great places build cultures that encourage trust, pride, collaboration, and fun.

Take a look at a post I wrote several years ago about about defining your employee-centric culture, which can be described as having strong leadership, trust, respect, communication, collaboration, empowerment, appreciation, recognition, and a solid understanding of vision, goals, and objectives. That's a complete 180 from working in a toxic workplace!

To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace. -Doug Conant

Thursday, March 16, 2017

CX Journey™ Musings: No #CX Budget? No Problem!

Image courtesy of Tax Credits
No customer experience budget? No problem!

As a follow-on to my post earlier this week about companies having no budget for customer experience improvements, I thought I'd compile a few ideas on how to move beyond the "no budget" excuse and make improvements that cost little to nothing.

After reading that last post, did you feel like it was all gloom and doom? Like there wasn't anything you could do? Not a good feeling when you're a customer experience professional. It's your job!

I really do question how companies prioritize their budgets and how they categorize and talk about their improvement efforts.

But not to fear! I am a hopeless optimist! There's always a way. And I'll find it! So let's do this. I'm assuming you've built your business case and are either waiting for approvals (and the responsible department is waiting for budget approval) or you've all been flat out denied. You did take the time to build the case, right?

How can you make customer experience improvements if your leadership team tells you there's no budget for said changes?

There are things that you can do that don't cost any money, just time. And time well spent, at that. Many of them are soft skills, but they can all make a difference to the customer and her experience (and could even save the company money in the long run). I'll list a few, and I'd love to get your thoughts in the comments below on what else we could do/add to the list. There are a lot of folks in this position, and I think it's a worthwhile discussion/exercise.
  • Smile
  • Be friendly, courteous, and professional with your customers
  • Write thank you notes/cards
  • Answer the phone in a timely manner and with a smile
  • Be willing to help
  • Know your product so well that you can answer customers' questions on the first call
  • Make simple fixes on your website that make your company easier to do business with
  • Make sure your phone number and contact information are easy to find
  • Personalize messaging and the experience (may require a financial investment, depending on industry)
  • Respond to emails in a timely manner
  • Fix things right the first time
There's a common thread or requirement for each of these: training and education, neither of which should cost you anything but time. Train employees on soft skills and on what it means to deliver a great experience for your customers.

Additionally, companies can:
I realize that a lot of customer experience improvements include investments in technology and infrastructure, but truthfully, there are a lot of things that companies can do to improve both the employee experience and the customer experience that don't cost a dime. They just need to do the work and put in the time.

What else would you add to the list above?

A budget tells us what we can't afford, but it doesn't keep us from buying it. -William Feather

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

CX Journey™ Musings: No Budget for #CX Improvements

Image courtesy of aliceheiman
No customer experience budget?

I haven't written a CX Journey™ Musings post lately, but I found a topic that warrants a bit of reflection.

I recently read an article on MyCustomer about a study that Ovum and BoldChat conducted in which they found that many companies don't have the necessary budget to improve the customer experience. Specifically, the findings noted in the article state:
Conversely, 43% of contact centre managers feel they don’t have the necessary budget to invest in the technology to improve experiences, whilst 48% say they are hampered by outdated technology
This got me thinking about what I've heard from clients both recently and in the past: we don't have the budget or the resources to listen to the customer, subscribe to tools that ensure action will be taken on insights, make those improvements for the customer, etc.

It seems ironic to me that companies are in business to create and to nurture customers, and yet they are unable to do what is necessary to actually create and nurture customers!

It seems odd to me that many companies are constantly innovating and evolving, and yet they don't have budget to make sure the customer's voice is heard and implemented into those innovations.

It seems strange to me that those companies that are not constantly innovating and evolving are always in some state of flux or change, and yet those changes don't incorporate what's important to the customer but actually make things worse.

It seems strange to me that companies that are not constantly innovating, evolving, and focusing on the customer are even still in business.

Money is being spent by businesses every day to make changes or improvements, and yet they don't factor in the needs of the customer? Weird, no?

Here's my thinking on this, given the purpose of a business. Everything you do is (for the) customer experience.

Isn't it? Am I off base here? Isn't it all customer experience?

Whether you're installing new technologies, reducing waste, improving efficiencies, hiring new employees, developing new training programs, etc., isn't that all going to impact the customer experience?

Here's the thing. As customer experience professionals, we don't really own any budget, except for maybe listening tools, analytical tools, and personnel. (That doesn't make our roles any less important, though!) But oftentimes, that budget sits elsewhere, e.g., marketing, operations, customer service, etc., too.

Quite simply, the budget for any improvements to be made comes from the departments making those improvements. But it feels like we, as customer experience professionals, get dinged for this. So when you hear folks say that they have no budget for customer experience improvements, they're really saying that they have no budget to make operational or technological improvements that will allow them to succeed in business, that they'll be behind the times for a bit until their executives allow them to invest in the tools and technologies to advance the business. And, ultimately, that translates to: "We don't have budget for customer experience improvements" because that's what they really are. And yet that's bad on us.

The net result of those types of statements? Customer experience is not a priority. The customer is not a priority. Because companies always seem to have money to spend on something - and it's usually advertising, to attract more customers. Wrong decision. Yes, we want more customers, but if we can't keep the ones we already have, attracting more is not the answer!

Maybe I can't have it both ways. I want the attention on customer experience improvements, but it seems when we call it that, perhaps executives cringe because it's still taboo to focus on the customer. How is that even possible in 2017? What do you think?

We must consult our means rather than our wishes. -George Washington

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Definition of #CX Insanity

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Know the definition of customer experience insanity?

It was Albert Einstein who said: the definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result.

Sadly, this is a concept that voice of the customer and customer experience professionals are quite familiar with. When these professionals continue using the same tools and the same processes over and over again, yet find they're not making any progress, well, that's customer experience insanity. And this is a very real thing.

I spoke at an event last week on the topic of disrupting voice of the customer programs. It is time to disrupt them. It became very clear to me based on the audience's reactions and responses that it's time. If you manage a VoC initiative or use the findings or insights from your customer feedback, you know what I'm talking about.

Think about this first.
  • What tools do you use to analyze the data?
  • When was the last time you got a meaningful, actionable insight from your analysis?
  • Do the insights you get from your analysis motivate you?
  • Do they help you drive change? 
  • How long does it take you to conduct said analysis?
  • Do you get answers that are clear and relevant?
And then...
  • Are you using correlation or regression analysis?
  • And the beloved quadrant chart?
  • Have you ever made any improvements based on the quad chart?
  • Does the quad chart paralyze you?
This last series of questions is what elicited an interesting, guttural reaction from the audience. The collective moan let me know that quad charts are a huge problem for everyone.

Originally put on a pedestal as the best way to determine how to get the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to improvement priorities, quad charts have quite literally paralyzed their users with ambiguity. For years and years.

In case you're not familiar with a quad chart, I'll explain.

Once you've got your survey responses, including ratings on attributes about the experience and some outcome variable (e.g., overall satisfaction), you'll calculate the performance score (mean) for each attribute and use correlation or regression analysis to derive the importance of each. You'll then plot each data point's performance and importance on the grid, as shown in the example below. Each quadrant is defined as follows:
  • If an attribute has low performance but is of high importance to the customer, it is a priority improvement
  • Attributes where both performance and importance are low are considered secondary improvement areas
  • Those attributes of high performance and high importance to customers are areas where you want to keep doing what you're doing to maintain current levels. 
  • And attributes where performance is high but importance is low are considered table stakes, or the price of entry.
The problem is that people truly do become paralyzed by these charts. What do the quadrants mean? Why is one better than the other? What do you mean those are fundamentals/price of entry? But there are two dots right next to each other; which one is the priority? And do I act on those two dots in the upper left first or can I spend time on one of the other dots in that quadrant? Where were those dots last year? Last quarter? How do I know the impact on the business, the experience, the customer? And on and on and on...

After 25 years, I've heard and seen it all. People really don't know what to do with this information. And then, nothing happens. No one does anything. No improvements are made. And as Tony Robbins said: By changing nothing, nothing changes. I know. Very profound, right? But nothing gets done when you don't understand what you've got. Insights that result in no action are just expensive trivia. Trust me. You've all got some expensive trivia on your desktops.

And yet, we keep using these quad charts as tools of change, as tools to drive action. We've been using them year after year for the last umpteen years. I know. I was a party to it. I've worked for vendors who have perpetuated this CX insanity. But I'm here now trying to help you return to sanity. (These charts, by the way, are not the only thing hindering your ability to quickly drive change while the feedback is still fresh and the customer is still, well, a customer)

But now it's time to think about things differently and to uncover some new tools that will move you forward, that will move your program forward, that will truly help you drive change within the business and for your customers. You've heard about predictive and prescriptive analytics, as I've written about them before; they are the future. It's time to shift the dialogue and the work to insights and answers that accelerate decisions and drive real action. It's time to shift to the future of analytics - today. It's time to shift away from doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Stop being one of the crazy ones!

One person's craziness is another person's reality. -Tim Burton

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Impact of a Customer-Centric Culture Transformation

Image courtesy of dkalo
How do you know if the work you're doing to transform your company's culture is effective and is making an impact?

Customer experience professionals fight hard for the customer and are often challenged when it comes to making the case for improving the customer experience and transforming the company culture to be customer-centric versus other, more easily quantifiable company initiatives.

CX Network and Forrester's Sam Stern collaborated on a report titled Leading Indicators of an Effective Culture Transformation, which identifies how to track indicators of progress toward customer-centricity. Culture change requires a lot of heavy lifting and is slow to happen and to show ROI. In today's post, I'll take a look at the four indicators they've identified in their research with 30 companies that have gone through culture transformations. The most-successful companies tracked these indicators from the start to understand if their transformation efforts were on track.

1. A shared vision
Start with a vision. Your customer experience vision will be inspirational and aspirational; it will outline what you see as the future state of the customer experience. It will briefly describe the experience you plan to deliver. And it will serve as a guide to help choose future courses of action.

Importantly, it must be communicated, shared, and reinforced. Every employee must know the vision for the intended experience and understand why it's important to the company and to what they do day in and day out.

2. Job-specific behaviors
As a follow-on to that last statement, employees need to translate that vision into reality, into how they act both internally and with and for their customers. Their actions must be aligned with the vision. Ongoing training and reinforcement of customer-centric behaviors are a must.

3. Consistent performance
Employees' consistent customer-centric behaviors and actions that are aligned with the customer experience vision are critical. To assess employee behaviors, Forrester recommends using some observational techniques like mystery shopping, surveying employees about their customer-centric behaviors, including those behaviors in their performance reviews, and analyzing customer feedback to learn if they've noticed any improvements.

Employee consistency drives organizational/cultural consistency, which ultimately results in customer experience consistency. And that consistency breeds trusts and builds relationships.

4. Transformed outcomes
It's important to measure and evaluate those employee behaviors to ensure that employees truly are displaying customer-centric abilities and actions. In addition, to gauge the transformation's full effect on both customers and employees, companies measure improvements and track business metrics. Forrester notes in the report that most companies track these four metrics (and they also include examples of companies who have done just so):
  • reported customer outcomes
  • actual customer outcomes
  • reported employee outcomes
  • actual employee outcomes
The report wraps up with a section on understanding (and communicating) your purpose behind the transformation before embarking on it because, as you as a customer experience professional know, a culture transformation is a huge undertaking and requires not only complete executive buy-in and commitment but also full organizational involvement. A few "whys" uncovered during Forrester's research include:
  • helping passionate employees who lack a shared direction
  • expanding the organization's definition of excellence to include customer experience
  • differentiating the business with a great customer experience, and
  • getting out of a self-inflicted rut
Those are all lofty - yet necessary and attainable - goals. Be sure to remind the entire organization of the why on a regular basis as you're traversing this journey.

Why does your company need a culture transformation?

For individuals, character is destiny. For organizations, culture is destiny. -Tony Hsieh