Thursday, July 27, 2017

Question Everything

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But we've always done it that way!

Is that one of the favorite sayings within your company? from your leaders?

Or maybe it's, "That's just the way we do things around here."

Regardless, you never want to hear either of those phrases uttered within the four walls of your organization.

In my webinar last week with CallidusCloud|CX, I talked about nine behaviors of CX Losers. (There are more than nine, without a doubt!) One of the behaviors was the failure to question everything, the failure to question the status quo, to be OK with the way things have always been done.

"We've always done it this way" is a culture killer, an innovation killer, and employee experience killer, and a customer experience killer.

You know the old saying: What got you here won't get you there.

It's true.

Companies change. Employees change. Customers change. Customer needs change. Companies develop new products and services. New competitors enter the market. As a result, companies need to regularly revisit rules, policies, processes, and approaches in order to ensure that the way things are done today is still relevant to changing/changed market conditions and that we are still able to deliver a great experience for both employees and customers.

So, question everything.

If employees and leaders are constantly asking questions, they...
  1. Learn more about their customers and employees
  2. Are better able to understand customer and employee needs
  3. Learn about partners, the market, emerging trends, etc.
  4. Are prompted to, and will, ideate and innovate
  5. Create new/better products, features, and services
  6. Design better experiences
  7. Eliminate rules, processes, and policies that are harmful to the experience
  8. Change the way they do business (for the better)
Don't keep things status quo for the sake of comfort, convenience, or keeping things status quo. If you keep doing the same thing, you're going to keep getting the same results, right?

Is there a better way to do something? Does this still make sense for us? For our customers? Is there a stupid rule or policy in place whose origin cannot be recalled by anyone? Are there rules that make it painful for customers to do what it is that they're trying to do? Are bad policies making it painful for employees to do their jobs well or to deliver the desired customer experience? Never let "that's just how it's always been done" get in the way of doing things more efficiently and with less effort.

With some of the statistics about customer experience as bad as they continue to be, I think companies are continuing to do the same thing. It's time to start asking some serious questions. And time to stop being afraid of the answers - or the consequences and changes as a result. Things can only get better!

You can’t afford to stand still when it comes to customer experience. The best companies innovate and disrupt their market. Challenge the status quo in order to improve. By continually questioning your processes, your company can keep improving and refining what it's doing to help it stay ahead of the competition and become a leader in your industry.

But, how you ask the questions can be an art form, too, as I wrote last year in The Power of Questions. Ask the right questions. As Drucker said: Nothing is more dangerous than the right answer to the wrong question.

I'll leave you with this awesome talk by Seth Godin called, This Is Broken! In it, he shares some funny, yet sad, examples of broken experiences. He categorizes them as "7 Kinds of Broken:" not my job, selfish jerks, the world changed, I didn't know, I'm not a fish, contradictions, and broken on purpose. Watch the video, and you'll understand his classifications. Well worth the 20 minutes!

You're welcome!

We get wise by asking questions, and even if these are not answered, we get wise, for a well-packed question carries its answer on its back as a snail carries its shell. –James Stephens

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Don't Be a #CX Loser!

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Is your company a CX Loser or a CX Winner?

If you answered "CX Loser," I know it's tough to stand up and admit that. It's a difficult thing to acknowledge, especially when many simply don't think they are CX Losers. But they are!

And it's important to understand what makes one a CX Winner versus a CX Loser, which is why I tackled this topic in a recent webinar with CallidusCloud|CX.

What is a CX Loser?  It's a company that doesn’t understand its customers and doesn’t take the customer into account in all that it does; the customer is not a priority. And neither is the employee.

These CX Loser companies still believe that being in business is about maximizing shareholder value. They haven't yet adopted Drucker’s thinking that companies are in business to create and to nurture a customer.

Why focus on CX Losers? Why now?

There are a lot of reasons, but I’ll start with just two.

First, customer experience is a differentiator. In this world where products and services are becoming more and more commodotized every day, customer experience is the one true differentiator. We know that customers are willing to pay more for a better experience, so price can no longer be the main reason people buy; as a result, companies need to do do what's right and deliver a great experience.

Second, I’ve talked to so many people lately who’ve been "volun-told" into a customer experience role. In case you don’t know what "volun-told" is, it means you didn’t previously hold a specific customer experience professional role, i.e., it wasn’t your day job, but you were somehow assigned to "do CX" because someone on the leadership team heard that customer experience is important.

I suppose that’s a good thing. But you cant just "do CX," as I wrote last week. It’s a culture shift, a mindset shift, a behavioral shift. There are so many new folks getting into this profession that we just need to be really clear on what customer experience is, how that shift happens, and what the foundational elements of customer experience are.

More companies are starting to get that they need to focus on the customer experience, but many – most – are still struggling. They need help, in many ways. There’s a lot of work to be done, and it’s certainly not straightforward. The more we talk about, educate folks on, and help them understand CX, what’s good and what’s bad, what’s right and what’s wrong, the foundational elements that need to be in place to "do CX," the better off we will all be.

Bain uncovered this thing called the "delivery gap," or the customer experience perception gap; you know the stat: 80% of executives believe that they are delivering a superior customer experience, while only 8% of customer agree. Companies that are so off-base on their perceptions or understandings of their customers and the experience are clearly CX Losers. 80% is a pretty significant chunk of companies!

Don't want to be on the CX Loser list? Watch the recording of last week's webinar, How to Stay Off the CX Loser List, to hear about nine behaviors of CX Losers - and what to do to turn those around to become a CX Winner!

The difference between winners and losers is that winners do things losers don't want to do. -Dr. Phil McGraw

Friday, July 21, 2017

Shift Happens - or Does It?

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You can't just "do CX." There's more to it than that!

Have you been tasked with improving the customer experience in your organization? Were you volun-told into a CX role? Were you asked to "do CX" because it's now the topic du jour?

Guess what? You can't just "do CX." Transforming the customer experience is much more complex than that simplified command. Transforming the customer experience requires a culture shift, a mindset shift, a behavioral shift. And that shift needs to come from - or start from - the top, from the executive staff, from your CEO.

Shift happens, right?

Yea, not so fast! Shift can't be forced. And it just doesn't happen on its own.

How does shift happen? What does that require?  Unfortunately, as most customer experience professionals know, it requires some heavy lifting. In order to shift mindsets and behaviors, whether it's that of executives or of employees, you'll need to do the following...
  • Be clear on what you are changing to; in other words, what is the current state and what is the desired future state?
  • Know and understand your audience: how do they learn? what motivates them?
  • Frame the proposed shift in a way that they'll understand
  • Create context and tell a story: stories are a Trojan horse for learning 
  • Build your business case
  • Start small and show some quick wins to help build momentum, to help get people on board (it won't happen all at once)
  • Communicate clearly, openly, candidly, and regularly
  • Make sure that everyone knows the purpose, the vision, the goals, the desired outcomes - and that they understand the Why behind all of it - create a "greater cause" mentality
  • Regularly reinforce and reaffirm the change
You've got to shift the thinking and the messaging and the education to "customer" and away from "us" or "we." That's critical.

Communication is, obviously, a huge part of making this shift a reality. Leaders must clearly communicate about the change:
  • Why it's important to the audience and, ultimately, to the business
  • That it's not a quick fix or the flavor of the day - it's a way of doing business from here on in
  • How it affects each individual personally
  • Give examples, including ROI
  • How priorities have been redefined and why
  • Role model the change
  • How it will be measured - and why 
  • Who's already on board; there's power in numbers, and it grows from there
You can expect pushback, but you have to just push through. This is important. Persistence is key.

That's a good segue into why mindset shifts, behavioral shifts, and culture shifts won't happen. I recently came across an article from Matthew E. May titled 20 Reasons Why Your Company Won't Change. Among the ones Matthew mentions, I've picked some of the most popular ones that I've heard from other customer experience professionals and have listed them below. (Check out the article; you might think some of the other reasons apply, too!) This explains a lot, but don't let it stop you! Push through it.

  • Fear. We have an innate fear of the unknown. “I’m afraid of what will happen.”    
  • Myopia. We can’t see that change is in our broader self-interest. “This won’t help us.” 
  • Selfishness. Unless change immediately pays off for us, we’ll resist it. “What’s in it for me?”
  • Ego. Those with power have to admit they’ve been wrong. “I feel I’ve positioned us well for the future.”
  • Sleepwalking. Too many people live un-examined lives. “I just don’t get it.”
  • Human nature. We are naturally self-centered, and change requires some selflessness. “Others will benefit more than me.”
  • Complacency. We like the path of least resistance; we’re not natural maximizers or optimizers. “I’m satisfied with the ways things are.”
  • No constituency. The power base of the status quo is greater than that of those trying to bring about change. “There’s no critical mass behind us.” 
  • Short selling. Perceived lack of knowledge, skills, tools, and experience. “We’ve never done this; we don’t know how to do this.”
  • Exceptionalism. People can’t see the situation objectively. “That may work elsewhere, but we’re different.”
What are you going to do? How are you going to "do CX?" How will you shift the culture, the mindset, and employee behaviors to make the customer the primary focus (with employees more first) of your organization. What's stopping your company from making the shift? I'm curious if there are other reasons besides the ones listed above or in Matthew's article?

It's not only moving that creates new starting points. Sometimes all it takes is a subtle shift in perspective, an opening of the mind, an intentional pause and reset, or a new route to start to see new options and new possibilities. -Kristin Armstrong

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Why Does Your Company Need a Customer Experience Executive?

Image courtesy of GMC
Who needs a customer experience executive? Why? What does this  person do? What are the critical success factors for this role? What advice is there for future customer experience executives?

Those are just some of the questions addressed in an eBook I wrote - and GMC Software released - about six weeks ago. And during a recent podcast with GMC Software.

If you've seen the eBook, you'll know that 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
If you haven't seen it yet, please take a moment to download the eBook. The response has been overwhelming, and the feedback has been quite generous and thoughtful. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to not only download and read it but to also share your thoughts on it.

For a CliffNotes version, have a listen to this podcast with Mirza Baig of GMC Software, during which he and I discuss some of the highlights of the CCO interviews, and I answer his questions about this role. One of my favorite questions was about my "Shark Tank sales pitch" about the CXO role: Why does a company need a customer experience executive? I won't give away the answer here... you'll have to listen to hear my response.

You are serving a customer, not a life sentence. Learn how to enjoy your work. -Laurie McIntosh

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Employee Engagement: A Confluence of Passion and Purpose

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Why is it so difficult to understand what employee engagement is all about?

I recently saw a note from a reporter with a reputable online publication asking for sources who had used company perks, as well as apps to track rewards and perks in the workplace, noting that he was writing an article about employee engagement.

It's great that there's an ongoing  spotlight on employee engagement because it's still at an all-time low.

But let's just all say it in unison one last time:

Perks and employee engagement should not be used in the same sentence. One has nothing to do with the other.

I've written about this topic many times, but I feel it warrants repeating on a regular basis, especially when unknowing reporters want to write articles that continue to misinform.

What is Employee Engagement?
Here's what employee engagement looks like, according to Gallup.
Engaged workers stand apart from their not-engaged and actively disengaged counterparts because of the discretionary effort they consistently bring to their roles. These employees willingly go the extra mile, work with passion, and feel a profound connection to their company. They are the people who will drive innovation and move your business forward.
What is Employee Engagement Not?
Employee Engagement is not...
  • a strategy
  • a mandate
  • employee motivation
  • employee recognition
  • something that is "done" (I read an article once that included a note about "if employee engagement is done properly.")
  • an organizational competence
  • a morale booster
  • a performance booster
  • performance goals
  • a reward program
  • an investment
  • an incentive
  • a survey
  • trainable
  • coached
  • a training program
  • technology-driven
  • a management style
  • a party every Friday afternoon
  • unlimited free food and similar perks
  • a plaque on the wall
  • a shirt with your logo on it
  • education reimbursement
  • employee satisfaction
  • employee happiness
The list goes on. I'm not making this stuff up! These examples all come from well-meaning bloggers and reporters over the years who want to create a quick fix to engage employees. There is no quick fix! On top of that, a lot of what is written about what employee engagement often defines the "employee experience" in general.

A Confluence of Passion and Purpose
No one can make an employee engaged. Perks and rewards do not drive employee engagement. 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.

…you have to want to be engaged. There has to be deep-seated desire in your heart and mind to participate, to be involved, and to make a difference. If the desire isn’t there, no person or book can plant it within you. -Tim Clark

What Can Employers Do?
Employee engagement involves two parties, the employee and the employer. What's the employer's part in this equation? It's all about creating the right conditions to allow employees to become engaged. Those conditions include:
  • Hiring the right people for the right roles
  • Clearly communicating the mission, vision, purpose, and values of the organization
  • Communicating openly and being transparent about company performance and how employees' contributions matter
  • Setting expectations and providing the right tools and resources for employees to meet those expectations
  • Creating a culture where employees come first
  • Ensuring employees are well taken care of, which includes tools, training, coaching, development, feedback, recognition, respect, appreciation, trust, balance, and more
What Can Employees Do?
Employees obviously have ownership in this thing called engagement: it comes from within them. Their role in becoming engaged includes:
  • Accepting a position for the right role in the right company 
  • Being passionate about what they do and for whom they do it
  • Taking ownership, thinking and acting like they own the business
  • Understanding the mission, vision, purpose, and values of the organization and ensuring alignment with all of them
  • Providing feedback to drive business success
  • Working day in and day out toward the goals of the business
  • Understanding how their work ties to business outcomes
I'm sure there are more conditions for both sides of the house, but as you can see, neither side lists anything about perks!

Engaged employees are not just committed. They are not just passionate or proud. They have a line-of-sight on their own future and on the organization’s mission and goals. They are ‘enthused’ and ‘in gear’ using their talents and discretionary effort to make a difference in their employer’s quest for sustainable business success. I’ve never had control and I never wanted it. If you create an environment where people truly participate, you don’t need control. They know what needs to be done and they do it. –Herb Kelleher, Southwest Airlines

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Mission, Vision, Guiding Principles, Values. Oh My!

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Do you know the difference?

There's a bit of an alphabet soup going on when we talk about some of the statements that an organization must have in place to get all employees marching to the same beat. You need a mission statement, vision statements, core values, guiding principles, brand promise, purpose, and more, right?! Are these important? Yes. Is it detrimental if we don't have them? Maybe. Would it be common sense to take the time to develop and communicate them? Yes. If you want to be in business, you (and your employees) probably ought to know why and what you're trying to do.

Bain wraps up all of these various statements into a nice little package - because they are intertwined and support each other - with the following:
A Mission Statement defines the company's business, its objectives, and its approach to reach those objectives. A Vision Statement describes the desired future position of the company. Elements of Mission and Vision Statements are often combined to provide a statement of the company's purposes, goals, and values.
The mission statement describes the business you are in, i.e., what you're doing and who you're serving, while the vision statement defines where the company wants to go in the future. By the way, I love this tip from bplans about mission statements (link also includes great examples of mission statements)...
To test the value of a draft of your mission statement, take a step back and ask yourself whether or not the same words could apply to any other business; and whether anybody could identify your business from hearing your mission statement.
... although, I must say, after reading the examples, I don't think this is a hard-and-fast rule. Many of the statements could apply to any of the companies' competitors.

An inspirational and aspirational statement, your corporate vision not only outlines what the company is trying to achieve near-term and long-term but also guides decision-making processes and your subsequent, resultant course of action. It will answer the question, "Where do you see the company in five years? or in ten years?"

Your customer experience vision will also be inspirational and aspirational and 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. It should align with your corporate vision, or they may be one and the same.

Core values are the fundamental beliefs of the organization; they really describe or define the culture. Core values are broad statements that guide your employees, identifying right and wrong, good and bad, and how to interact with each other and with customers.

Guiding principles, on the other hand, are more specific in how they guide the organization through everything it does. They are more prescriptive in nature. There's often confusion between values and principles: aren't they the same? In a way, yes; they get the same message across but in a different way. Principles are objective "truths" or "laws," while values are subjective and provide a sense of direction.

The company's purpose is its 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. Employees are inspired when they know they are doing something for the good of something or someone else. Define the who and the what, and you've got your why.

Your brand promise is the expectation you set with your customers; in essence, it's a promise you make to your customers about the experience and the benefit they can expect from engaging with your brand. Everything you and your employees do should reflect this promise. It’s a combination of the brand purpose and the reality of what the brand can deliver. In most cases, it defines the benefits a customer can expect to receive when experiencing your brand at every touch point.

Hope that's helpful. Here's the thing with each of these: it's not enough to just define them. They must be communicated and understood; employees then need to live and breath them and refer to them every day.

From my very first day as an entrepreneur, I've felt the only mission worth pursuing in business is to make people's lives better. -Richard Branson

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

CX Journey™ Musings: Customer Focus - at What Cost?

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Customer focus... at what cost? 

Are you kidding me?

I recently attended a webinar about how to develop a customer-centric culture. One of the questions during the Q&A at the end of the webinar was something along the lines of, "Doesn't more customer focus means less focus on products, etc.?"

I happened to have just taken a sip of my coffee, and I think it came out of my nose. I cleaned up the coffee and held my breath, in hopes that the presenter would answer the question the way it should be answered. She did.

And yet, at the same time, I'm shocked that someone would ask that question. (OK, only mildly shocked, given the challenges that we CX professionals have, but go with it.)

Isn't it all the same stuff?

Listen. It's all about customer focus. It's all about the customer. It's all about the customer experience.

What's the purpose of a business? Why are you in business? To create and to nurture customers, right? Can't do that if you're not infusing the customer into everything that you do! What are you doing? Why are you doing the things you're doing for your business if it's not in the best interest of the customer?

This is not about creating more work or adding more to your plate. You're already doing these things: enhancing the product, changing processes, updating the website, revising policies, hiring new people, etc. All we ask is that, while you're doing your day job, you think about: your customers, the impact of what you're doing or creating on your customers, how customers would feel about changes you want to make, etc.

That's not so hard, is it?

Instead, we get push back that it takes too much time or that there's no budget for customer experience. What?! How does that even happen?!

It's all customer experience. If it's not, you'll be joining the likes of Blockbuster, Borders, Kodak, etc.

You've got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology - not the other way around. -Steve Jobs