Thursday, June 29, 2017

CX Journey™ Musings: We Have All the Customers We Could Want!

Image courtesy of Pixabay
We have all the customers we could ever want...

... said no business ever!

Oh wait.

Except for Sears.

Wow! What would ever possess a CEO to say that?

It's what Ed Lampert, CEO of Sears Holdings, told investors as he was trying to reassure them that he could turn the retailer around. More specifically, he said:
“We don’t need more customers. We have all the customers we could possibly want,” Lampert said at Sears’ annual shareholder meeting. “As soon as we start making money, people are gonna say, ‘How did I miss this?’”

“I give you my assurance I am not in denial,” he added.
There are a lot of things wrong with all of that! So I did a little digging to see what I could find out about this "turnaround." First of all, he blames everyone, especially the media, except himself for the issues and current state of affairs at Sears. I don't know; the last time I checked, if a company is doing poorly, that typically falls on the shoulders of the leadership team, and more specifically, on the CEO.

One article states that...
Lampert said Sears would remain focused on improving its relationship with its customers.

"The strategy we've been talking about for over a decade, we think it's clear. We think it's working. We have a lot of data that shows where it's working, and where we need to improve," he said.
There's no explanation of how he's going to improve customer relationships or what that strategy is that he's referring to. And it's odd that he believes what they've been doing has been working. Is that why, just in the past week, they've reported more store closings?

Customer retention (which, I'm assuming, is why he thinks he has enough customers) is a big focus for many companies, although there are plenty of others who simply focus on acquisition and attrition. For those who focus on retention, which it seems that Mr. Lampert is implying (he cites in one article that his turnaround is based on the new Sears loyalty program), there's more to it than offering loyalty programs.

I shared a post on Twitter that Seth Godin wrote earlier this week about Training Customers, which I believe describes loyalty programs that retailers like Sears, Kohls, and JCPenney are using: When I get points, I'll use/buy. When I get a discount, I'll buy. Until then, I won't buy.

That's not retention. In the scheme of things, that's not true loyalty, either. You've got to have a brand that customers want to follow, a real experience that customers want to be a part of, to be able to say that you've got all the customers you want. (And I can guarantee you that even cult brands, like Harley-Davidson or Apple, have never, ever said that!)

I wrote a few posts over the years that focus specifically on retention and a couple about just such "loyalty" programs. Take a look:

The Secret to Customer Retention
Do Your Customers Talk About Your Products or Your Ads
Why Customer Really Leave
The CX Proof is in the (Diet) Pudding
Discounts Sabotage
Yea, But Will They Keep You as a Customer

No company should ever - let me repeat, EVER - state (internally or externally) that they've got all the customers they could want. Attrition happens, natural or otherwise. But retention still rules the day. And in order to maximize retention, you've got to constantly be understanding customers and their needs (both current and, especially, emerging), expectations, and jobs to be done - and then innovating as a result of that. Trust me; innovation is not a word that comes to mind when I think of Sears.

You cannot buy loyalty; you cannot buy the devotion of hearts, minds, and souls. You have to earn these things. -Clarence Francis

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Don't Underestimate the Power of a CX Vision

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Do you have a customer experience vision?

One of the 7 Deadly Sins of Customer Experience is "lack of CX vision and strategy." Have you created a customer experience vision for your organization? How will you know where you're going if you haven't?

A well-defined and clearly-communicated vision becomes the organization's north star and helps employees understand how they are consistently expected to deliver the experience for your customers. More specifically, as I've written before:
Your company vision is an inspirational and aspirational statement that outlines what the company is trying to achieve near-term and long-term; it also guides decision-making processes and subsequent, resultant courses of action. Your vision will (a) draw the line between what you're doing and for whom you're doing it and (b) create alignment within the organization. Your customer experience vision and company vision are always linked, and often one and the same. Without this north star, employees can easily go off track and focus on projects or ideas that aren't critical to what the business is trying to do.
Your CX vision is a tool to engage your employees in your CX strategy. To the latter point in the previous paragraph, your CX vision statement ought to allow your employees to say "no" if something isn't right or doesn't fit with the vision. It should allow them to evaluate what they are doing to ensure it aligns with the vision. If your statement doesn't guide employees in this way, then it's probably too mushy and not clear, specific, relevant, and meaningful.

Examples of CX vision statements
In case you're not sure what a CX vision looks like, here are a couple examples.
  • Warby Parker: We believe that buying glasses should be easy and fun. It should leave you happy and good-looking, with money in your pocket.
  • State Farm: Remarkable. Every day. Every customer. Every interaction.
  • The Ritz-Carlton: The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.
  • IKEA: Create a better everyday life for the many people.
  • McDonald's: McDonald's vision is to be the best quick service restaurant experience. Being the best means providing outstanding quality, service, cleanliness, and value, so that we make every customer in every restaurant smile. 
  • Salt River Project: Rewarding, easy, and pleasant. 
  • Hagerty: Deliver exceptional experiences with every single interaction creating life long clients that not only stay with Hagerty but tell their friends about Hagerty
How to develop a vision
Developing your CX vision is a process. You don't just decide that this is the vision because you say so. A lot of research and customer understanding goes into it. You'll need to understand the current state of the experience, as well as customer needs and expectations, in order to define the future, intended state. Understand the key drivers of customer satisfaction and loyalty. Map the journey and validate that with customers.

I've previously outlined three ways to understand your customers:
  1. Listen. Don't just ask customers about the experience, listen, as well. There are a lot of different channels and ways for customers to tell you about their needs and desired outcomes and how well you are performing against their expectations. Understanding these expectations and identifying key drivers of a great customer experience are important outcomes of this exercise.
  2. Characterize. Research your customers. Identify the jobs they are trying to do. Compile key personas that represent the various types of prospects and customers that (might) buy from you or that use your products or services.
  3. Empathize. Walk in your customers' shoes to get a clear understanding of the steps they take to do whatever job it is they are trying to do with your organization.  Map their journeys to understand the current state of the experience.
You'll use both quantitative and qualitative methods to lead to greater customer understanding: surveys, interviews, personas, journey maps, and even empathy maps. Before you can develop your vision - and the subsequent strategy to ensure everyone can deliver on that vision - you must ensure that you've got a solid understanding of your customers, their needs, wants, expectations, jobs to be done, etc. You can't spell out your vision without doing your homework.

How to use the vision
Once the vision is in place - and hence all the customer understanding homework you've done to get to that vision - you will next move on to developing your CX strategy. (More on that in an upcoming post.)

Most importantly, your CX vision must be communicated, shared, and reinforced. Every employee must (a) know the vision so that they know the experience they are to deliver and (b) understand why it's important to the company, to the employee, and to the customer. And they must understand how they can use it as a guide in their day-to-day actions.

CX vision tips
Some tips to keep in mind about your customer experience vision:
  • It must be grounded in customer insights and understanding.
  • It must be specific to your business and, thus, becomes your differentiator.
  • It cannot be vague or ambiguous. The State Farm example above might be considered a bit vague. "Remarkable," while inspirational, is also ambiguous. Employees will likely ask: What does that mean? How do I deliver a remarkable experience? 
  • It should align with the company vision.
  • Even better, the corporate vision should be the customer experience vision, and vice versa.
  • It must be communicated to employees - across the entire organization, regardless of channel, business unit, etc. If it's not known and understood, it cannot be lived, breathed, and acted upon.
  • It should be simple, clear, compelling, and easy to understand. 
  • If needed, define or explain it to employees, just so there is no question.
  • It should apply to every channel or context in which you serve customers.
  • The vision will guide your strategy.
  • It is realistic and achievable.
  • The vision should motivate and inspire; if it's not realistic or achievable, it will do neither.
  • Business decisions and (employee) behaviors should be based on this vision.
  • It is for internal purposes only, not to be shared with customers, competitors, etc.
  • It must have commitment and buy-in from those who live it and execute on it (a shared vision).
  • All employees must know how they contribute to, and align with, the vision.
  • Revisit it at a regular interval to ensure that it still reflects the experience you want to deliver based on emerging trends, changing customer needs, etc.
What's the power of a CX vision? It gets everyone on the same page, marching to the same customer experience beat. It's your employees' north star, their guiding light, telling them exactly what experience they'll deliver to your customers.

Have you developed a CX vision for your company? If you have, I'd love to hear what it is and how the process of developing it went. Feel free to leave comments below!

Don't underestimate the power of a vision. McDonald's founder, Ray Kroc, pictured his empire long before it existed, and he saw how to get there. He invented the company motto, "Quality, service, cleanliness, and value," and kept repeating it to employees for the rest of his life. -Kenneth Labich

Thursday, June 22, 2017

6 Steps to Help You Put Customers at the Center of the Organization, Part 2

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's post for Clicktools. It was published on their blog on October 25, 2016.

In this second part of a two-part series, I continue detailing some important ways to ensure that your company is putting the customer at the center of all it does.

In Part 1 of this two-part series, I left off with Step 3: Outline the Customer Lifecycle. In today's post, I'll pick up with the next step, mapping the customer journey, an important tool that helps put the customer front and center.

Step 4: Map the Customer Journey
Journey mapping is a way to walk in your customer's shoes and chart his course as he interacts with your organization (channels, departments, touchpoints, products, etc.) while trying to fulfill some need or do some job within each stage of the lifecycle. It allows you to identify key moments of truth and to ensure that those moments are executed smoothly. Maps are created from the customer's viewpoint, not yours, and look at each and every step a customer takes in order to achieve some task, i.e., calling support, ordering a product, etc., with the company. They describe what customers are doing, thinking, and feeling at each step in the journey. They’re not linear either, nor are they static. They become the backbone of your customer experience management efforts.

Why do you need a customer journey map? Journey maps provide clarity for the entire organization, helping to provide that clear line of sight to customers and ensuring that each employee understands how he impacts the customer experience.

Step 5: Listen to Your Customers
While VoC stands for “voice of the customer,” I like to use it to refer to “voice of the constituents” because there are so many voices that companies should be listening to as part of their efforts to improve the customer experience: voice of the customer, voice of the employee, voice of the partner, voice of the market, voice of the business, and the list goes on.

Traditionally, most of these voices have been captured through surveys or some other structured form that was initiated by the company, i.e., companies asked customers to provide feedback. Today, listening has become a better term to use, as customers also provide feedback on their terms, in their preferred modes, typically initiated by them in response to some stimulus or interaction. While asking puts the onus on the customer to respond, listening puts the onus on the company to be wherever customers voice their opinions. Examples of listening posts include things like social media (Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc.), customer immersion, customer advisory councils, voice of the customer through the employee (sales, customer service, etc.), CRM data, and more.

It’s important to listen to customers, but equally or more important are the actions you take on what you hear because, when you do, the benefits to the company - as a result of an improved experience for the customer - include:

•    A reduction in churn
•    An increase in saved customers
•    Stronger customer relationships
•    Potential new business from existing customers
•    Process improvements
•    New features and product enhancements
•    New product ideas
•    Recommendations or referrals from existing customers

Harvey Mackay says: You learn when you listen. You earn when you listen - not just money, but respect. I can’t argue with that. If you listen to your customers, if you use their feedback to not only make fundamental improvements to the experience but also to innovate, if you deliver a great customer experience - then the business, and the profits, will come.

Step 6: Socialize the Insights/Findings
You've done the work to understand the customer; now it's time to ensure that he's front and center. It's time to socialize the feedback and findings so that the right people act on the right insights at the right time.

Here are just a  few things you can do to infuse the customer into everything the organization does. Key to this is to start at the beginning, i.e., start with the first day an employee starts working for your company. (Even better: start with the first day you start your company.)
  • Onboarding: Showcase your customer-centric culture during the onboarding process so that new employees knows what that means. This is a great time for them to learn what it means to be a part of your organization, i.e., knowing your brand promise, values and commitment, what it means to live the brand, where the priorities lie, and how to deliver a great customer experience. Don't have a formal onboarding process? It's time to get one! This is a great time to set the tone for employees.
  • Ongoing training: You can't expect that, as both the business and customer expectations evolve, employees will automatically know what to do and adapt/evolve, too. You need to train employees regularly to ensure they are kept abreast of new customer insights and new approaches to delivering a great experience. Be sure to provide refreshers and reinforcement of anything you've learned about customers, the jobs they are trying to do, and their expectations.
  • Communication: What gets shared and communicated regularly is viewed as important to your employees. Not only does communication lend clarity, it is critical to a clear line of sight to the goal. Communication needs to be open and ongoing. Share customer feedback with employees; don't keep it from them. Tell customer stories and stories of great experiences to teach and to inspire employees to deliver the experience they need to deliver.
  • Rewards and recognition: When you recognize and reward those who consistently delight customers, you are reinforcing the behavior you expect from your employees, further confirming and solidifying the importance of putting the customer at the center of all you do.
For a list of tools to put the customer at the center of the organization, check out Tools to Put the Customer at the Center of All You Do. I outline six tools that will absolutely help you put the customer front and center for the business.

My favorite? I'm a fan of having a chair for the customer in all key decision-making meetings. There's no better way to draw attention to the customer and to ensure that all decisions made and actions taken are done so with the customer in mind. Try it for a while and see if it makes a difference in your company.

Are you using some of these steps? All of them? If not, when will you get started?

It is so much easier to be nice, to be respectful, to put yourself in your customers' shoes and try to understand how you might help them before they ask for help, than it is to try to mend a broken customer relationship. -Mark Cuban

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

6 Steps to Help You Put Customers at the Center of the Organization, Part 1

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's post for Clicktools. It was published on their blog on September 28, 2016.

In this first part of a two-part series, I'll outline some important ways to ensure that your company is putting the customer at the center of all it does.

Why are companies in business? For customers, right? To create and to nurture a customer, to be specific. And, yet, we still see some dismal statistics about how many companies don't focus on the customer experience or think they focus on the customer experience but really don't. In research published by Bain, they reported that:
  • only 50% of management teams tailor their products and services to the needs of customers
  • only 30% organize the functions of their company to deliver superior customer experiences
  • only 30% maintain effective customer feedback loops
Temkin Group recently reported that 67% of large companies rate themselves as being good at soliciting customer feedback, but only 26% rate themselves as being good about making changes based on the insights.

These are dismal statistics. How do we turn this around?

If you haven’t yet started to focus on the needs of the customer, where should you begin?  What can you do to turn the tide?

First you must decide. And then, when you’re ready to put the customer at the center of all you do, there are six important steps to take to get started:

1.    Identify the customer
2.    Understand the customer
3.    Outline the customer lifecycle
4.    Map the customer journey
5.    Listen to your customers
6.    Socialize the insights/findings

Step 1: Identify the Customer

Knowing who the customer is seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised by how many companies have never gone through the exercise of identifying the customer. In a B2B organization, for example, customers can be many and varied; look within each customer or partner organization at the people you interact with, e.g., purchasing, product, support, accounting, end-users, etc. to identify your customer. The company is not the customer; the people you interact with within the company are. Not having a clear understanding of who the customer is hampers any further steps in this process.

Step 2: Understand the Customer
Once you’ve identified who your customers are, you must understand them and their needs. How do they interact with your organization? Why do they buy products and services from you? What are their needs? What problems are they trying to solve? What are they trying to achieve?

A tool to use to answer all of these questions is personas. Personas are fictional characters created to describe your ideal prospect or actual customer. They are derived through primary research - research that can then also be used for your customer journey maps in Step 4. They are specific to your business, not to the industry. The descriptions include vivid narratives, images, and other items that help companies understand the needs of the customer (contextual insights) and outline feelings, motivations, goals, behaviors, challenges, likes, dislikes, objections, and interests that drive buying (or other) decisions. Each persona includes a human face and name. Used properly, personas keep the customer alive and front and center for the entire organization. They tie in nicely to your journey maps and are necessary to begin that exercise.

A hardware client of mine developed supplier personas in order to better understand the different supplier personnel with which they interact. Different supplier types and different roles within a supplier company have different needs and interact differently with your organization; understanding those then allows you to create a better experience for all involved. For their personas, we looked at the different roles within supplier companies and came up with six primary personas: operations management, logistics, production schedulers, inventory management, shipping, and accounting. A lot of research went into defining these personas, which were then used to develop journey maps that laid out the experience they had when trying to achieve whatever it was each did with the client. These personas were then used to better manage supplier relationships and to design a better supplier experience with the client, one more personalized to each specific role/persona. The client saw a remarkable uptick in supplier satisfaction, and hence retention, as a result of this increased understanding.

Step 3: Outline the Customer Lifecycle
The lifecycle map shows the phases of the customer's relationship with your company. It's high level and good for understanding the overall relationship the customer has with the organization, from before he's even considered a customer through when he is no longer a customer. It typically includes these stages: Need, Awareness, Consideration, Selection/Purchase, Experience, Loyalty, Advocacy, Engagement, Raving Fans. And, unfortunately, Exit. It's not necessarily linear and often circles back on itself.

It's great to understand the lifecycle at this high level before moving on to the next step. Lifecycle maps, while important to nurturing the overall customer relationship, are a natural first step to identifying listening needs along the lifecycle; however, to get to the heart of the matter, to really understand when and where to listen and to really design a better customer experience, you must dive deeper into the lifecycle stages, inventory the touchpoints, and map the customer journey, which I'll discuss further in Step 4.

In my next post, I'll wrap up the other three steps you can take to ensure that customers are front and center in your organization.

When a brand connects with their customer, that in some ways is the easy part, the hard part is keeping the customer at the center after the success/profits comes flooding in. Success can breed complacency, success can breed arrogance. -Anna Farmery

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

6 Things You Can Do to Advance Your Career in the CX Profession

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What can I do to advance my career in - or to get started in - the customer experience profession?

I'm asked about this on a regular - quite frankly, almost weekly - basis. That's exciting because I love when people see this as a great career progression or a field to they want to get into. The more people we can have on the customer's team, the better.

After responding so frequently to this question (or questions - one version is how to get started, one is how to advance) lately, plus hosting a CX Expert Office Hours session at the 2017 CXPA Insight Exchange on this very topic last month, I thought it was time to document some of the advice I give on this. So, in no particular order, here on my thoughts.

1. Build your personal brand
Whether you're just entering this field or looking to advance your career, having a personal brand that speaks to your passion and expertise in customer experience will take you far. There are a lot of different ways you can build your personal brand. I was almost 20 years into my career in this space before I started writing my own blog, but I had written for my employers' blogs prior to that, and I had been interviewed for articles, podcasts, etc. and spoken at industry events. (Note: Not all employers are thrilled about you building your personal brand, even though it aligns quite nicely with your role and area of expertise.)

There are a lot of different ways to build your personal brand, including: creating your own blog and writing articles on a consistent basis, getting those posts syndicated across a variety of other sites and media, guest posting for like-minded sites/bloggers, doing interviews/being interviewed, publishing case studies of your work, conducting webinars, speaking at industry events, answering questions on industry forums, participating in Twitter chats or Google Hangouts about customer experience, and more. Market yourself. Put yourself out there. Get your voice and your expertise heard.

If you're relatively new to this field - let's say you've been on the frontlines for the last couple of years - and want to branch out to consult, my advice to you is this: consultants in this field are a dime a dozen; find your niche, build your brand, and help others understand how you're different and why they should hire you.

2. Get/have client-side experience
Being on the vendor side and getting consulting experience in this field is awesome. It provides a breadth and depth of knowledge that you can get in no other way. But having client-side experience, being a practitioner and having done the work, is an even better calling card. It's great to not only have CX experience on the client side but to also have had some cross-functional experience and to have experience across multiple companies and industries.

3. Educate yourself
I cannot say this enough: read, read, read. Books like the Ultimate Question series, Outside In, and Jeanne Bliss' books about the Chief Customer Officer role are great resources. Attend webinars. Sign up for blog newsletters. There is no shortage of CX resources out there!

And don't go to just one source. Don't settle for just one perspective; keep an open mind and decide for yourself. It's OK to read and to understand opposing views. I was once lambasted on Twitter because I shared a view that opposed the mainstream position on NPS. Sometimes I share these kinds of articles because it's OK for people to consider other views and perspectives. NPS is not for everyone; we know that. So do your homework and go into this with an open - and educated - mind.

Read about, or attend, Disney U. Take the Zappos tour. Study companies with great customer experiences (like Amazon, Apple, Nordstrom, Ritz-Carlton, Warby Parker, etc.) and identify and understand what they do to stand out.

Participate in the CXPA Mentor Match Program. I'm a mentor, and I must say that I love teaching, but I also love learning from my mentees. It's a two-way street, for sure.

Take a course with one of CXPA's Authorized Resource & Training Providers. They are a network of independently-provided resources designed to help candidates prepare for the CCXP exam. They provide training and educational resources on the six core competencies of customer experience.

4. Network, network, network
There are no more-helpful peeps in this world than fellow CX professionals. We are all facing the same challenges and are happy to share with one another our experiences and provide resources and guidance about our favorite topic. Reach out to your network; share and learn from each other. Find a mentor who can guide you on your journey (know that that may come at a cost).

5. Promote yourself - literally
No CX role in your company? Build the business case for customer experience. Take ownership. Show some quick wins and identify a framework for a sustainable CX strategy. Sell it up the chain. Get executive commitment. Get yourself a promotion - or a second day job!

6. Check your skills
As a CX professional, you must have a wide range of skills. You will be a coach, a trainer, a teacher, a communicator, a salesperson, and an advocate. You have to be well-versed in change management. You must have the patience of a saint, be an influencer, and be persistent, politically savvy, flexible, adaptable, and tenacious. You've got to have a strong will. And you must have thick skin and be able to handle rejection, yet at the same time know how to stay the course and come back even stronger. If you fall short on any of these, get some help shoring up your weaknesses.


These are just some of the things to consider; I know there are others. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below.

Identify which part of CX inspires or excites you. Which of the six core competencies of customer experience do you want to master? Then go master them using the steps above.

Experience is one thing you can't get for nothing. -Oscar Wilde

This post is part of the Customer Experience Professionals Association‘s Blog Carnival celebrating customer experience. It’s part of a broader celebration of Customer Experience Day 2017. Check out posts from other bloggers at the blog carnival. And learn more about CX Day at:

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Rise of the Customer Experience Executive

Image courtesy of GMC Software
Do you need one? A customer experience leader, that is.

There's an alphabet soup of letters thrown together to title the customer experience leader role, whether it's CCO, CXO, CCXO, etc. They all lead to the same definition: the C-level executive who champions, or advocates for, the customer and his needs throughout the organization.

Why is this position necessary? Quite simply, it's time to create memorable customer experiences! And the customer needs someone in the executive suite who represents him and his needs. Without that representative dedicated to shepherding the voice of the customer and the needs of the customer throughout the organization, it's really difficult to transform the organization's culture to one that is customer-obsessed or to redirect the focus onto the customer as opposed to solely on the business of creating shareholder value.

I recently finished writing an eBook for GMC Software titled Rise of the Customer Experience Executive: How CX Earned a Spot in the C-Suite. In the eBook, I go more in-depth on whether every company needs a CXO and answer other questions, including:
  • What are the CXO's critical success factors?
  • What are the biggest challenges to success?
  • Why do you need a CXO?
  • and more...
I also interviewed five global CCOs to get insights into how they landed their roles, their key challenges and how they overcame them, and advice for current and future CX executives. I was honored to speak with:
    • Christine Corbett, CCO, Australia Post
    • Nick Frunzi, CCO, Esri
    • Ingrid Lindberg, former 4-time CCO, most recently with Prime Therapeutics
    • Isabelle Conner, CMO/CCO, Assicurazioni Generali Spa
    • Donna Peeples, CCO, Pypestream
    Take a moment to download the eBook. Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy some great advice from these thought leaders! Thank you in advance for reading it!

    If it's a pain point for your customers, it is generally a pain point for your people. -Christine Corbett