Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Journey Mapping Your Way to Better Customer Communications

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's post for Zingle. It appeared on their blog on January 16, 2018.

Communication is important to any relationship, and it's no less important in the relationships that businesses have with their customers. When it comes to communicating, your company’s accessibility, availability, responsiveness, courtesy and professionalism, consistent voice, and consistent messaging go a long way toward building strong relationships and delivering a great experience for your customers.

Sadly, communications are often an overlooked piece of the customer experience and the overall customer experience strategy. And yet, like in any relationship, communications are often the point where the experience breaks down – or are the root cause for a breakdown.

How can we ensure that doesn’t happen?

Let me start by defining “customer experience,” and then I’ll answer that question. I like to start with this definition to ensure that we’re all on the same page.

Customer experience is (a) the sum of all the interactions that a customer has with a company over the course of the relationship and includes (b) the customer's feelings, emotions, and perceptions of the brand during the course of those interactions.

Customer experience is not customer service. The two are not one and the same. Customer service is just one of those interactions that I mention in my definition of customer experience. Need a better way to differentiate the two? Use Chris Zane’s definition: Customer service is what happens when the customer experience breaks down.

Now, back to the question I posed about ensuring that communications aren’t overlooked as part of the customer experience. How do we make sure they’re integrated into your customer experience strategy and design – and executed well? Simple. With journey maps.
What is a journey map? It’s an illustration made by walking in your customers’ shoes to capture their steps, their needs, and their perceptions for some interaction they have with your company, some journey they are taking to achieve a desired outcome. Journey mapping is a creative process that allows companies to understand – and then to redesign – the customer experience. The output is not just a pretty picture; once the map is developed, it is meant to be a catalyst for change.

Why journey mapping? It’s a learning process! When you map the customer steps for a specific journey, you will be jotting down every touch the customer has with your company, including any communications she receives from the company, as well as any contact she initiates. You’ll capture enough detail about the journey so that you can not only understand the experience but also identify where things are going well and where they’re not.

One of the goals of journey mapping is to identify key moments of truth, i.e., those make-or-break moments along the customer journey that need to be executed flawlessly in order to deliver a great customer experience. Oftentimes, communications are those moments of truth. And all too often, as I mentioned earlier, they are the reason the experience goes poorly.

What’s next? Critical to this whole exercise is that, once you’ve identified those moments of truth – particularly the ones that impact the experience negatively – you must quickly fix them.

In order to do that, you’ll want to undertake one more mapping exercise – this time, mapping the internal processes that facilitate and support those moments of truth. Process mapping is very different from journey mapping in that the focus is on what happens behind the scenes, what the company does to support the customer journey.

Process mapping is important because you can’t fix the customer’s experience if the backstage processes aren’t efficiently and effectively supporting it. Think about the tools, systems, and processes you have in place to support the customer experience today. Do they make sense? Do your employees have the resources and the know-how to execute flawlessly? Consider all of the areas where you’re communicating with customers. Are employees able to communicate clearly, consistently, and in a timely fashion in order to deliver a great customer experience? Are you communicating in the manner in which your customers prefer? And when they need you to?

I wouldn’t be surprised if your answers are “No.” Time to get to work! Start mapping your customer journeys – from the customer viewpoint. Don’t forget to consider various communication channels and sources. Identify where the journey breaks down. Take a look at your processes supporting these journeys. Fix what’s broken behind the scenes. Redesign the experience. And communicate the changes to your customers. Once again, communication is key.

To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others. -Tony Robbins



Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Developing Your #CustomerExperience Strategy

Image courtesy of SaleMove
How do you develop a customer experience strategy and roadmap?

That was one of many questions I was asked during my recent interview with Dan Michaeli, co-founder and CEO of SaleMove and host of the podcast, The CX Show.

I enjoyed my conversation with Dan. We covered a range of topics, and it was the first time I was interviewed about the five-phase approach I take with clients when developing a customer experience strategy and roadmap. Intermingled with the discussion about my detailed approach were other related/relevant topics, including:
  • the evolution of customer experience over the last 25 years
  • the evolution from market research to voice of the customer - and technology's role in helping to bring about the shift, allowing for immediate access to customer feedback and behaviors
  • the importance of connecting employee experience and customer experience - and when to focus on each one
  • the convergence of employee experience and customer experience - what that means for the business and for the customer and the customer experience
  • the customer experience transformation - it's a 2-4 year journey, until it becomes the new normal, the new way of doing business
  • technology needs as part of the customer experience strategy
  • the future of customer experience, and
  • some book recommendations to help you along your customer experience journey

To hear the full podcast, follow this link. I hope you enjoy it! And, as always, if you have any questions or if I can help in any way, let me know in the comments below or by contacting me.

I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen. -Ernest Hemingway


Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Imagine That You're a Human...

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Now there's a crazy statement to make during a customer experience design session...

"Imagine for a second that you're a human... "

Yikes!

Unfortunately, more companies need to start thinking this way!

Sadly, there is no shortage of stories about customers being treated badly, even inhumanely. The one that always - instantly - comes to mind is the one of the  poor doctor who got dragged off that United flight just a year ago. If there's ever a "Would You Do That to Your Mother?" moment, that is certainly it.

How does something like that even happen?

What’s crazy to me is that we are all humans! (At least, most days I think we are!) And we are all customers! So what happens when we walk into the doors of our employers’ offices? What happens when we cross that threshold from not yet clocked in to on the clock? Do we forget that we're all humans? Do we forget that we’re customers, too? Do we get dragged down by the corporate culture we work in day in and day out? Does that culture suck the empathetic life out of us? How can we treat each other so poorly?! There's really no excuse that ever makes it OK to not deliver a great customer experience to the customer in front of you.

Need help putting the human lens back onto your customers? Try doing these three things...
  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.
And it's not just how customers are treated. Think about employees, too. Richard Branson says: Take care of your employees, and they’ll take care of your business. So yes, when you don't take care of employees and ensure that they have a great experience, bad things can happen to your customers and to your business. Empathy for customers begins with empathy for employees!

How can you put the human lens back on employees? Use those same three steps. And remember that a great experience isn't about free beer and ping pong tables. It's about truly caring for your employees. Treating them like family. Making sure they have a career path, know their growth and development options/opportunities, receive feedback and coaching, feel appreciated and recognized for their hard work, understand the impact they make on the business, know that their work matters, and feel valued, trusted, respected, and cared for.

All of that stems from a culture that values and respects people (employees and customers) as humans - and a leadership team that, in Bob Chapman's words, views employees not as cogs in their wheels to success but measures success by how they touch people's lives.

I'll leave you with an Acura commercial that I just saw recently. The tagline is: When you don't think of them as dummies, something amazing happens. It gives me chills every time I watch it.


So, as you're designing processes, developing and testing products, writing an email, or answering the phone, think for a second. Take a moment (or two or three) to consider the human on the other end, the human who's going to use the product, receive the email, or rely on you to solve their problems. Then put yourself in their shoes. Don't think of them as dummies - think of them as fellow human beings who deserve better. Ensure their best interests are at heart - with every interaction.

Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another. -Alfred Adler


Thursday, May 31, 2018

Is Your Company People-Centric or Profit-Centric?

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Rather than thinking customer-centric, how about thinking people-centric?

While customer experience strategies must include a priority focus on the employee experience (i.e., they are first!), they often don’t. Many companies actually  believe that they can improve the customer experience without improving the employee experience.

I’ve heard that said many times over the last 25 years. It doesn't get any easier to hear over time. And the thinking is just as erroneous now as it was back then.

If you want to move beyond cosmetic changes and lip service to real changes in the customer experience, you must first look at the employee experience. In order to improve both, you must first look to company culture and leadership.

At the root of what both employees and customers experience with a company is its culture; and that culture must be one designed to focus on both of their needs – and put them and their needs before profits or shareholder value. Does your company have a people-centric culture, or is it profit-centric and profit-driven? Yes, companies must make money, but there’s a better way to do it that benefits all constituencies involved.

How do you design a people-centric culture?

I'm so glad you asked!

If you missed me talk about how to do just that in last week's webinar with CallidusCloud, you can still listen and view it on demand. In this webinar, I take the audience through the typical culture pyramid and then contrast that with what a people-focused culture looks like - and how to get there. Trust me. It's a very different culture pyramid from the typical organization's culture.

Be sure to watch the webinar, Be a CX Winner by Focusing on Culture and Employee Experience. Let's shift the way that everyone thinks about leadership, culture, and business. Let's drive outcomes by creating a culture where people are put before profits. Focus on the people, and the numbers will come!

Our philosophy is that we care about people first. -Mark Zuckerberg

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Customer Experience and Digital Transformation

Image courtesy of Quadient
Are you communicating with customers in their preferred methods?

That's only one of many questions we discussed last week, when I had the pleasure of participating in the keynote panel for Quadient's third virtual CX Transformation Day. The panel, moderated by Mirza Baig, Quadient's Director of Digital and Advocacy Marketing, included David Poole, with the Financial Services Center of Excellence at Publicis Sapient; Paul DeSantis, Chief Operating Officer of ANRO; and myself. It was a lively discussion to kickoff the day, as we talked about customer experience, journey mapping, digital transformation, print, and, of course, fax machines!

We covered a lot of territory as we discussed and deconstructed the hype around the latest disruptive technologies, citing real world and practical examples. At the same time, we talked about technology's impact on employee engagement and culture change. Just a few of the topics we hit on included:
  • The power of using data to comply with governance and legal frameworks in relation to your customers' marketing and privacy needs.
  • The concept of the "Enterprise Startup."
  • The core vs. the edge when starting a digital transformation pilot program.
  • How to build out out process workflows in parallel to provide faster application acceptance and better customer service.
  • Going beyond messaging bots and Alexa - a deep-dive into omnichannel interactions and communications.
  • Back to the basics - being customer-centric with the ability to interact with your customer on their terms.
  • And never forgetting that communication is a critical piece of the experience, during both purchasing and ownership stages.
In addition, you won't want to miss David Poole talking about developing the journey manager role and organizing the business around specific journeys.

And Paul deSantis talked about marketing developers, another interesting role that goes beyond simply placing graphical elements on marketing collateral, instead putting some data and some science behind it, as well.

The discussion is fast-paced, fun, and thought-provoking. Grab a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and enjoy this informative panel from CX Transformation Day!

Of all of our inventions for mass communication, pictures still speak the most universally-understood language. -Walt Disney


Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Tips for Designing a Closed-Loop Feedback Process

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Do you close the loop with customers after they provide feedback?

Many companies listen to customers, but a big chunk of these companies don't do anything with the feedback or follow up with customers about what they heard. What a shame! What a huge missed opportunity!

Remember the old Gartner stat: 95% of companies collect customer feedback. Yet only 10% use the feedback to improve, and only 5% tell customers what they are doing in response to what they heard. It's from a few years ago but still fairly representative. I've seen the 10% as high as 34% in some studies. Perhaps the 5% has bumped up a bit, but tell me the last time you heard from a company after providing feedback. It's pretty rare.

This week's #CXChat (they happen weekly on Wednesdays at 11am PT) is all about closing the loop with customers on their feedback, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to write again about the importance of doing so.

Customers take time to provide feedback, to help companies improve! Why don't companies act on the feedback or close the loop with customers? I've got a few thoughts on that:

At Some Point, You Have to Stop Listening
Two Major Flaws of Your Customer Listening Efforts
Today's VoC Program Challenges

A closed-loop feedback process begins with feedback. And that means it actually begins with the survey or the listening post from which the feedback is derived. Let's focus on surveys as the feedback channel.

First and foremost, you'll need to design surveys that provide you with actionable feedback. Some tips to do that can be found in these posts:

22 Tips for Proper Survey Design
20 Signs That It's Time for a VoC Redesign
Surveys Don't Sell!
Do You Employ Actionability Thinking in Survey Design?
How Do You Know When It's Time to Redesign Your VoC Program?
Customer Surveys are as Important as Ever
Improving the Respondent Experience

And you'll need to ensure that you maximize response rates.

Maximizing Survey Response Rates - Part 1: Defining Concepts
Maximizing Survey Response Rates - Part 2: 10 Tips to Achieve Your Goal

Once the feedback starts pouring in, you'll want to make some sense of it. There are many different ways to analyze the data.

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail
CEM Toolbox: Making Sense of Your Data
Data is Just Data...
Making Sense of Customer Words
The Definition of CX Insanity
The Future is Now: Take Your Customer Data to the Next Level
Data for the Sake of Data? Never!

What will you do with the feedback? What will you do with the analysis? How will you socialize it with employees? Design a closed-loop process - and empower employees to follow up with customers.
  • Ensure that your VoC platform allows for automated alerts that are triggered based on customer responses to certain questions in the survey.
  • Set up workflows and case tracking. 
  • Thank customers for their feedback.
  • Share the feedback with employees.
  • Triage those customers who have issues, whether new or unresolved.
  • Conduct root cause analysis. 
  • Fix the problem.
  • Let customers know what you did and what the new experience will be. 
  • Train employees on the resolution/new experience.
  • Remeasure: What do customers think about the new experience? Do they consider the issue to be resolved? How well did you improve the experience?
Transforming the Customer Experience with Big Data
Five Fails to Avoid with Your VoC Program
Closing the Loop on CX Improvements
Tips to Help You Close the Loop with Your Customers

Two final things to consider:
  1. Follow up with customers who provided positive feedback, too. Appreciate the positive; improve the negative.
  2. If there's an issue, that's not the end. Research shows that customers who had an issue that was followed up with successful service recovery tend to me more loyal than if there had never been a problem.
Listen. Follow up. Appreciate. Recover. Delight.

It takes humility to seek feedback; it takes wisdom to understand it, analyze it, and appropriately act on it. -Stephen Covey

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

7 Customer Experience Strategies You Can Hack from Amazon

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Today I'm pleased to present a guest post by Jason Grills with ProProfs.

Ever since 1994, Amazon has been spreading its impact and dictating trends in the e-commerce industry. If you’ve ever used its services, you’ve probably had the chance to directly witness one of the crucial reasons for its success.

What makes Amazon a market leader with constantly-increasing revenue is the relationship that this company builds with every single customer. According to Statista, 67% of US Amazon customers were very satisfied and 28% rather satisfied with the customer support provided by Amazon as of March 2017.

So, if you’re interested in building a customer experience that will keep your customers coming back, it’s beyond convenient to adopt the extraordinary customer experience practices developed by Amazon. This is the reason I'm revealing some of the most important hacks for creating a superior customer experience in this article. Read on and find out more!

Hack #1: Customer Experience is a Reflection of Employee Experience
In other words, if you can’t keep your employees happy, they won’t be interested in keeping your customers happy. This is especially important to recognize when it comes to the employees in customer support, such as live chat agents, call center operators, etc.

According to Glassdoor, 74% of employees would recommend Amazon to a friend, which is definitely an important factor to consider. And this is not a surprise if we consider the fact that Amazon Career Choice program invests up to $12,000 in the employees’ education and certification.
Keeping these facts in mind, it’s obvious that Amazon employees are highly motivated to provide the best possible results and keep the customers happy. So think about the ways to make your employees happy and ensure they are well-trained for interacting with your customers. Your customers will definitely appreciate it.

Hack #2: Forget about Competition
Unless you’re trying to copy their good practices when it comes to the treatment of employees and customers, stop overthinking your competition. Once you realize you’re not in the game to compete with another brand but to make the ones who rely on you as happy as you can, you’ll be able to provide a better customer experience.

As Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, has stated for US News, if you focus on your competition, you’ll always be waiting for them to do something that you should react to. And that behavior reflects a passive approach that you should avoid. On the other hand, if you focus on your customers’ needs, you’ll always be working on new ways to keep them content and loyal. Practically, you’ll be the one to innovate and dictate new trends.

Hack #3: Help Your Customers Help Themselves
Taking up every query can be a hectic task for your support agents. And this can be due to various reasons.
  • There are days when too many customer queries flow in at once. Therefore, it can be tiresome for them. Plus, there may be questions that are frequently asked by visitors. To cater to customer needs and to ensure that agents are able to deliver answers instantly through a live chat support system, it is essential to create FAQs that fill the need for instant answers efficiently.
  • A shortage of customer support agents can also put a lot of pressure on the existing team. There could be scenarios where the entire team is not present. Although the other members do take the charge for a chat, it still puts them in a spot to perform well and provide every customer a delightful experience. But this can be resolved if a knowledge base is integrated into the process.
With knowledge base integration, you not only help your customers get instant answers but also achieve the following benefits. You'll create...
  • a more-efficient live chat support system, since agents will only deal with issues that cannot be solved among fellow customers;
  • a collaborative customer community that will strengthen their mutual bond, and, therefore, the bond with your brand by creating that sense of community and facilitating their interactions; and
  • an interactive, publicly-accessible knowledge base (a forum, a discussion board, or a group) that you can save and promote to help future customers find information easily, as well.
Hack #4: Provide a Responsive Help Center
The key advantage of great customer support is a well-developed help center that allows customers to look for the information they need. By introducing a help center that’s well designed and meaningfully organized, you will:
  • save your customers’ time, and 
  • increase the efficiency of the agents working in your live chat customer support by eliminating interactions when there’s no need for them.
If you’ve ever visited Amazon’s Help, you’ve probably realized that it’s got a large number of topics and subtopics with numerous articles offering concise information; however, even though the content is what matters the most, the minimalist layout that keeps you focused on finding the answers to your questions is equally important. And that’s definitely the way to go if you want to improve your customer experience.

Hack #5: Provide Easily Accessible and High-Quality Live Support
Not only is it important for you to provide a thorough help center, it's also necessary to make it easy for customers to get in touch with your support staff. At Amazon, customers are rarely put on hold, no matter whether they’re contacting the representatives using live chat or by phone.

Apart from providing a quick response, what makes Amazon the first-ranked company when it comes to customer satisfaction is the fact that they invest a lot in the employees’ education in the field of CX. According to Jeff Bezos, call-center training is an obligatory part of annual training not only for support staff but for all employees at Amazon, including managers. This way, the risks of delivering poor customer service are reduced, and managers are indoctrinated into the mindset of not only listening to but also understanding their customers.

Hack 6: Take Good Care of Your Customers
Regarding taking care of customers, I'm not only talking about responsiveness and 24/7 availability but also about providing the best purchase experience. So what did folks at Amazon do to deliver a great purchase experience? They implemented the innovative "One Click" solution that enables an incredibly fast purchase.

Amazon realizes that the idea of storing customers’ data to save time when making another purchase isn’t the best option for all of their customers. They understand that some of their customers prefer a traditional shopping basket purchase, particularly when it comes to multiple-item purchases. Accordingly, they’ve continued nurturing both shopping options, letting customers choose the shopping approaching they’re more comfortable with.

Hack 7: Use Abandonment to Your Advantage
Cart abandonment is a common issue that keeps e-commerce retailers preoccupied. Amazon takes a different approach; knowing that an abandoned purchase doesn’t always mean that customers don’t need a certain product anymore, Amazon has developed a well-planned system of subtle email reminders for each abandoned purchase. They help customers get back to the site in case they just got distracted during the process and still need to make the purchase. This way, Amazon gets the most out of "sales in process," which is a great way of improving business results.

Accordingly, if you want your customers to finish a purchase, make sure to get in touch with them and check if they need any help. You may be surprised by the number of customers willing to buy something even after they’ve abandoned your site.

How to Create a Business Strategy Inspired by Amazon
As you can see from these hacks, Amazon has developed a business model that clearly focuses on customers and the customer experience. To create a business environment where your customers will feel comfortable and appreciated, you must:
  • keep your employees motivated to provide better results and make a stronger connection with your customers;
  • stop thinking about your competition’s next move and start providing superior service by actively listening to your customers’ needs and demands; and
  • provide high-quality support based on the use of live chat customer support, a well-structured help center, and a community of/for your customers.
Finally, deliver a personalized and proactive experience; for example, find ways to address the customers who abandon the purchase process before they buy a product. Not only will they appreciate your willingness to help them out if they get confused during the purchase, but they’ll also become aware that you pay attention to their needs, which can only make them more satisfied and loyal.

Jason Grills is a Sr. Technical Writer with ProProfs. He enjoys writing about emerging customer support products, trends in the customer support industry, and the financial impact of using such tools. In his spare time, Jason likes traveling extensively to learn about new cultures and traditions.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

On Which Does Your Company Focus: Customer Acquisition or Retention

Image courtesy of Quadient
Where does your company put a greater focus, on acquiring new customers or on retaining existing customers?

It seems there ought to be a balance, or a shift in balance, no?

The old debate stands: should companies focus on customer acquisition over retention? Despite the fact that the cost of bringing in new customers is much higher than the cost to keep existing customers, companies place a disproportionate focus on marketing and advertising in order to attract new customers. In doing so, they create what’s called “the leaky bucket syndrome,” i.e., as fast as companies are bringing new customers in the front door, existing customers are running out the back door. Should companies plug the leak or keep filling the bucket?
The debate about where brands should focus their energies and currencies is strong. Despite the statistic that acquiring new customers costs 5-25 times as much as retaining existing ones, marketers (and, generally, their CEOs, as well) believe that resources should be spent on acquiring new customers. Why? Well, I wrote a whitepaper for Quadient recently to more deeply explore this conundrum. I'd be honored if you would download the whitepaper, read it, and give me your thoughts.

Here's my bottom line on this dilemma: Both acquisition and retention will always be important. Companies need to work on both. Without acquiring new customers, there will be no customers to retain. Without retaining existing customers, companies will suffer through the leaky bucket syndrome, and acquisition costs will be outrageous. So there needs to be a better balance between both, along with a strategy for how to do just that.

Make a customer, not a sale. -Katherine Barchetti

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

CX Journey™ Musings: A Lesson in Living Your Core Values

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Have you seen Jeff Bezos' annual shareholder letter for 2018?

Within the last few weeks, Bezos released his 20th annual shareholder letter. Each year the letter is filled with strategy lessons about customer experience, employee experience, leadership, innovation, and culture. And I love how he always attaches his very first shareholder letter to each year's letter. (Because it's always Day One at Amazon.) It's been great to follow and to see the evolution, maturity, and growth in him, his thinking, and the business.

Bezos writes in a style and a tone that is likable and relatable - not in corporate speak but in human terms, words we use every day. That alone wins him major points!

There seemed to be an even stronger obsession for all things employee and customer (if that's possible) than in the past, and I felt that he was really trying to convey a powerful message to teach others about how to do business right. Retailers are already on red alert - as more and more shut down - but there's a lot to be learned from Amazon. Retailers - and other businesses alike - can survive and grow in today's environment, if they have a similar obsession.

While I understand that not everyone has an amazing experience with Amazon, my own personal experience has always been that when it's wrong, they make it right. No business is perfect, but I would imagine that any other company that gets it right 98% of the time would be pretty pleased. And so would their customers.

As I read this year's letter, I thought it was heartfelt and had a slightly different approach from previous letters. It became apparent to me a couple paragraphs in that it was written through the lens of Amazon's core values, or leadership principles as they are now referred to.

As you read the letter, think about their 14 leadership principles, quoted here from their site:

Customer obsession
Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.

Ownership
Leaders are owners. They think long term and don't sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. They act on behalf of the entire company, beyond just their own team. They never say "that's not my job."

Invent and simplify
Leaders expect and require innovation and invention from their teams and always find ways to simplify. They are externally aware, look for new ideas from everywhere, and are not limited by "not invented here." As we do new things, we accept that we may be misunderstood for long periods of time.

Are right, a lot
Leaders are right a lot. They have strong business judgment and good instincts. They seek diverse perspectives and work to disconfirm their beliefs.

Learn and be curious
Leaders are never done learning and always seek to improve themselves. They are curious about new possibilities and act to explore them.

Hire and develop the best
Leaders raise the performance bar with every hire and promotion. They recognize exceptional talent, and willingly move them throughout the organization. Leaders develop leaders and take seriously their role in coaching others. We work on behalf of our people to invent mechanisms for development like Career Choice.

Insist on the highest standards (this was a major focus of the letter)

Leaders have relentlessly high standards—many people may think these standards are unreasonably high. Leaders are continually raising the bar and driving their teams to deliver high-quality products, services, and processes. Leaders ensure that defects do not get sent down the line and that problems are fixed so they stay fixed.

Think big
Thinking small is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Leaders create and communicate a bold direction that inspires results. They think differently and look around corners for ways to serve customers.

Bias for action
Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. We value calculated risk taking.

Frugality
Accomplish more with less. Constraints breed resourcefulness, self-sufficiency and invention. There are no extra points for growing headcount, budget size, or fixed expense.

Earn trust
Leaders listen attentively, speak candidly, and treat others respectfully. They are vocally self-critical, even when doing so is awkward or embarrassing. Leaders do not believe their or their team’s body odor smells of perfume. They benchmark themselves and their teams against the best.

Dive deep
Leaders operate at all levels, stay connected to the details, audit frequently, and are skeptical when metrics and anecdote differ. No task is beneath them.

Have backbone, disagree and commit
Leaders are obligated to respectfully challenge decisions when they disagree, even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting. Leaders have conviction and are tenacious. They do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion. Once a decision is determined, they commit wholly.

Deliver results
Leaders focus on the key inputs for their business and deliver them with the right quality and in a timely fashion. Despite setbacks, they rise to the occasion and never settle.

This year's letter is a lesson both in leadership and in living your core values. The two go hand in hand, without a doubt. Executives aren't exempt from living the core values, and Jeff Bezos is no exception. As a matter of fact, he's the cheerleader!

Culture = values plus behavior. The way executives communicate with their employees, their customers, and their shareholders is a reflection of the core values, and hence, of the culture.

How do your executives communicate? Is it through a lens of the company's core values?

The CEO is not in charge of the company; the values are. If, at the end of our careers, we have not passed along positive values, we have abdicated our leadership role. -Dave Logan


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

From Journey Map to Experience

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Today's post was originally written for Brand Quarterly. It appeared in their November 28, 2017, issue. It has been slightly modified.

Customers are yearning for better experiences. But what are you doing to design a better experience?

How do you know what your customers’ expectations are? What are they trying to achieve? And how well is that going for them? Are you listening to customers? Are you mapping their experiences? How are you driving the necessary change within your company?

What is Journey Mapping?
Let me start with explaining what journey maps are not: they are not lifecycle maps, sales funnels, buyer funnels, buyer lifecycles, etc. Those are marketing tools and are too high level for customer experience design. Customer experience professionals require a lot more detail at a micro level in order to understand the pain points and to, ultimately, fix them. As such, journey maps are an illustration made by walking in your customers’ shoes to capture their steps, needs, and perceptions for some interaction they had with your company, some journey they were taking to achieve some outcome.

Journey mapping is a creative process that allows you to understand – and then redesign – the customer experience. The output is not just a “pretty picture;” once the map is developed, it is meant to be a catalyst for change.

Why Map Journeys
Mapping isn’t just a lame exercise; it’s a learning exercise. Companies learn about their customers and about the experience they put them through to interact with the business.
Done right, maps help companies in many ways, including to…
  • Understand experiences. You can’t transform something you don’t understand, is what I like to say. Maps bring understanding. They highlight and diagnose existing issues and opportunities; at the same time, they capture what’s going well, too.
  • Design experiences. Once you understand the current experience and moments of truth, maps help you prioritize and rethink existing processes and/or create new ones. 
  • Implement and activate new experiences. The maps become blueprints or statements of direction for the work to be done to improve and to redesign the experience. 
  • Communicate and share experiences. Maps are great communication and teaching tools. They can be used during onboarding, training, and other ongoing education opportunities to unite the organization around the customer, to teach employees about the current and the future experience, and to further ingrain the customer-focused culture of the business.
  • Align the organization. Use the maps to get executive commitment for the CX strategy, get organizational adoption of the customer-centric focus, provide a line of sight to the customer for employees, and help employees understand how they impact the experience.
One thing to note is that journey mapping is not just for customers but for all constituents, including employees, vendors, partners, franchisees, licensees, etc. It’s a tool - and a process - to design a better experience for anyone who interacts with your company.

The Benefits of Mapping Journeys
There are a ton of benefits of mapping customer journeys. They can probably best be summed up in the following five categories, which clearly overlap with the reasons you should map.

1. Align the organization
  • Executive and employees, as well: get everyone on the same page about the importance of delivering a better experience
  • Break down silos: get people collaborating and sharing data for the benefit of the customer
2. Understand the customer and his experience
  • Build empathy for the customer: when executives see the steps they put customers through to do business with the company, it’s an eye-opener!
  • Improve the experience: understand the customer, what she’s trying to do, and how well the company is performing against that so that you can redesign a better experience
3. Identify experience and process efficiencies
  • Identify and remove ineffective touchpoints
  • Kill inefficient rules, policies, processes
4. Optimize channels
  • Learn about the different steps customers take to purchase or use the channel that they use so that you can be prepared to deliver the expected experience at the right channel at the right time for the right persona
5. Shift the culture and the organization’s mindset
  • From inside-out to outside-in: maps are created from the customer viewpoint and are validated with customers; bringing their voice into the organization is the first step toward shifting that mindset
  • From touchpoints to journeys: think about the entire customer journey, the entire relationship with the organization; realize that journey thinking means to consider both what happened prior to this interaction that you’re mapping and what the customer will do next
A Catalyst for Change
Based on those benefits, you can really start to see how maps are a catalyst for change. There are so many different ways to use them as part of your overall people-focused culture transformation.

As you can imagine, this is a good spot to jump in and write about how to go from journey maps to a great customer experience. Let me start with some of the things you need to do before you even begin mapping:
  • Make sure you have the right people involved in creating the map. First and foremost, your customers must be involved; this can happen either during the initial mapping session or later, when you ask them to validate what we call an assumptive map that was built internally based on what we know and have heard from customers about the experience. Second, make sure you’ve got the appropriate stakeholders in the room, as well. No excuses; they must be there. Include folks from various departments in the room because you need to take into account what’s happening upstream and downstream from the interaction you’re mapping. And they need to have a reasonable level of influence on what actions need to be taken as a result of the workshop.
  • Similarly, ensure that they are committed to act on what they learn. I don’t really need to explain this one much more than that. If there’s no commitment to act, change, or improve, you’ll be wasting everyone’s time. 
  • Select the personas for which you’ll be mapping the experience. Personas are research-based representations of the customer type for whom you’ll be mapping; customer experience personas differ from marketing personas as they include details around problems to solve, pain points, jobs to be done, tasks they are trying to achieve, etc. 
  • Select the journeys to map. You’ll be mapping a lot of journeys over time, but select the most impactful ones to begin with. Where’s the low-hanging fruit? What journeys cause the most pain for your customers today? Where can you make the greatest impact?
  • Hold a prep meeting with stakeholders. Get everyone in the room before the session to ensure that everyone understands what you’re doing and what their role is/will be.
  • Outline the scope, objectives, and desired outcomes. Make sure attendees know what they’ll be mapping and why. And, most importantly, what they’ll be doing with the output.   
  • Give attendees homework. Have them start thinking about the journey and what the potential steps are. Have them “mystery shop” the journey themselves, if they don’t yet have a full picture of it. Ask them to get feedback, comments, and insights from their employees about the journey. They can also gather any customer feedback, insights, behavioral data, and emotional data about the journey. And have them bring to the session any artifacts (documents, audio files, videos, images, etc.) that support the journey and bring it to life.
  • Begin to formulate a plan for next steps. Go into the session prepared. What happens when you leave the room? How will you operationalize the findings? How will you assign ownership? Who is responsible and accountable? How will you manage the improvements going forward? Etc.
  • Line up process mapping or value stream mapping sessions. Process mapping should be done in conjunction with journey mapping. You can’t fix the front-stage/on-stage experience if the backstage processes aren’t efficiently and effectively supporting it.
Taking Action
I could write another full article on where to go after the mapping session is over, but I’ll give you a couple high-level bullets to get you thinking of where to go next.

Meet after the workshop internally to debrief on how it went, what people heard, action item brainstorm, ownership, action plan, etc.
  • Gather on a weekly basis to discuss quick wins, action plans for longer-term fixes, next steps, success metrics, etc. This is important to keep the momentum going, to lend oversight, and to ensure nothing falls through the cracks.
  • Identify the key moments of truth, those make or break moments during the journey that must be executed well in order to satisfy – and to keep – the customer.
  • Take the break points and prioritize in a systematic way; factors considered include: time to fix, cost to fix, impact on the customer, and impact on the business.
  • Assign ownership and teams for the improvement items. Develop project plans for each improvement initiative.
  • Get commitment from executives to assign resources.
  • Develop a service blueprint and a process map relevant to the journey you've mapped. Journey mapping can't be done in a vacuum; in order to fix what's happening onstage, you must understand and improve backstage and behind-the-scenes at the same time.
  • Map the future state to design the new experience – with customers.
  • Design the new processes to support the experience from behind the scenes.
  • Implement changes.
  • Pilot. Test. Fix. Roll out.
As you can see, there’s a lot to mapping and redesigning the experience. Don’t let that be daunting. It’s actually a fun process that has very tangible outputs and outcomes. When done right.

Never confuse movement with action. -Ernest Hemingway


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

CX Journey™ Musings: A Trojan Mouse and Your #CX Strategy

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Are you challenged in your efforts to implement organization-wide changes to improve your culture, the employee experience, and the customer experience?

Have you considered how a Trojan Mouse might help you gain traction in these efforts?

Trojan Mouse. What is it? And how does it differ from a Trojan Horse?

Well, right off the top of my head it seems like "Trojan Mouse" elicits an image of smallness, speed, and agility, while "Trojan Horse" makes me think of a larger undertaking that is a bit slower and more labored - in both planning and execution - and likely rejected.

Let's start with what a Trojan Mouse is. From TrojanMice.com:
Much change is of the "Trojan Horse" variety. At the top of the organisation a decision is taken to introduce a strategic change programme, and consultants or an internal team are commissioned to plan it down to the very last detail. The planned changes are then presented at a grand event (the Trojan Horse) amid much loud music, bright lights, and dry ice. More often than not, however, a few weeks later the organisation will have settled back into its usual ways and rejected much of the change. This is usually because the change was too great to be properly understood and owned by the workforce.
Trojanmice, on the other hand, are small, well-focused changes, which are introduced on an ongoing basis in an inconspicuous way. They are small enough to be understood and owned by all concerned, but their effects can be far-reaching. Collectively a few trojanmice will change more than one Trojan Horse ever could.
What do you think of that?

I am immediately drawn to these two sentences: More often than not, however, a few weeks later the organisation will have settled back into its usual ways and rejected much of the change. This is usually because the change was too great to be properly understood and owned by the workforce.

Trojan Mice seem like a great approach to implementing change for a variety of reasons:
  • Trojan Mice address the last point in that second sentence - they are small enough to be understood and owned.
  • We often talk about quick wins and showing some successes before we do a full roll out of a CX strategy. Those small wins, those quick wins, are great examples of Trojan Mice, allowing for gradual adoption of - and engagement with - the larger journey.
  • Making small, nimble changes also limits risk or makes risk more tolerable as you design a new experience, develop new products, and find creative solutions to old problems. Think: fix fast, fail fast, fix fast.
  • You can deploy various changes at the same time, which means you can test which ones work and which don't - allowing you to quickly retract the ones that won't have the intended impact, learn from them, and redeploy with updates. Again: fail fast, fix fast.
  • Given that these changes are small and nimble, they will certainly help increase speed to market, i.e., you can get the solution out there quicker.
  • Small changes that are quickly accepted, understood, and owned will add up and make for a bigger impact quickly - and over time - than rolling out a Trojan Horse that baffles people and is immediately rejected.
People hate change. And if they don't know what it is or why it's taking place, they ignore it; they certainly don't want to be a part of it. Why not break it down for them, simplify it, and help them understand and own it.

As I've said before, improving the customer experience happens in baby steps; Trojan Mice - small, yet impactful, examples with tangible value - may just be the quickest way to successful adoption of the CX strategy and to transformation success.

Fail often so you can succeed sooner. -David Kelley, Founder and Chairman of IDEO

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Do Leaders Really Care About Their Employees?

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Does your CEO - and your entire leadership team - really care about their employees?

I had another blog post in the hopper for this week, but when this article came across my desk, followed by a phone conversation with Bob Chapman, I knew I needed to write something different, something that is top of mind for me now - and often - as I work with my clients.

The article?

"Beyond Nice,", which you can find in Conscious Company Magazine's Spring 2018 issue - or just click the article name to download the PDF. It features Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry-Wehmiller, and his approach to leadership that we can/should all learn from. Sooner rather than later.

I've written about Bob Chapman several times in the past, starting with a 2012 post about his TEDxScottAFB Talk:

Truly Human Leadership - Everyone Matters
Define Your Employee-Centric Culture
Employee Engagement Strategy? Nay! Leadership Strategy
A Customer Experience Carol
"Be Positive" is Not a Strategy
We Have a Crisis in Leadership

I have followed Bob since that first post back in 2012, and I've spoken to him twice since then. He's a very genuine and caring person, and I love how he's trying to shift the leadership paradigm. And, clearly, I believe he's on to something: we have a crisis in leadership.

Look at some of the stats:

- 88% of employees in the US feel they work for a company that doesn't care about them
- 75% of employees are disengaged
- 67% of employees don't trust their leaders
- 50% of employees are dissatisfied with their jobs
- 7% of people in one survey said they'd been hospitalized due to workplace stress
- 120,000 deaths due to workplace stress every year

Yikes!

Each one on its own is bad; all of them combined are insane. The problem: leaders don't care about their employees; instead, employees are viewed as a cog in the wheel to their success. Leaders drive to growth, to the numbers, and forget about the needs and the lives of the employees who help them get there.

Bob notes that...
We measure success all wrong in this country. Many people have made millions, billions of dollars, who have incredibly broken personal lives. Would we view those people as successful?
We are going to measure success by the way we touch the lives of people.
Imagine the employee experience if that was the case, if leaders cared about employees, their families, and their well-being! And measured success by how they touched their employees' lives! A little humanity and humaneness would go a long way.

How do leaders turn things around? First and foremost, it's a choice. Everything you do in your life, as a human, as a leader, is a choice. Choose to lead differently. Choose to align with the rest of the leadership team and the goals of the business. Choose to care.
  • Leaders must choose to put their employees' well-being ahead of all other goals and outcomes. It starts with the CEO and the executive team. The choice is theirs. 
  • Establish core values and guiding principles that set the tone for the company culture, a culture that puts people first. 
  • Create an environment based on trust, respect, and caring.
  • Adopt a servant leader mentality.
  • Take a look at the checklist in the article; it provides a dozen essential actions that leaders must take. Put a check next to those you already do, and look inward for the ones that you don't.
The bottom line is this: when leaders take care of their people, their people take care of the business.

When you look at somebody as somebody’s precious child that you have a chance to impact, it profoundly changes the way you view people. They are no longer a function for your success. -Bob Chapman

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Drive Real #CX Change with Journey Maps

Are journey maps a waste of time, or can you really use them to drive CX change?

There's a big problem brewing out there when it comes to journey mapping:
Too many folks view journey maps as useless, when instead, the maps should be seen as one of the (if not the) most powerful tools and processes in the customer experience professional's arsenal.
Done right, you can drive real CX change with your journey maps!

So, it was with great pleasure that I accepted James Dodkins' invitation to be a guest on his ROCKSTAR CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE program via Facebook Live to talk about how to drive real CX change with journey maps. I think a lot of people talk about how to create the maps (even if they are erroneous in their ways), but not many talk about what to do next.

In the forty-minute interview, we covered a lot of territory, including:
  • What journey maps are and why they are so powerful
  • How journey maps differ from process maps and service blueprints - and why all are important to improving the customer experience
  • Why it's important to consider customer emotions - and why it's important to distinguish between what they do and what they feel
  • Which mistakes companies make while mapping
  • What to do after the mapping workshop to drive real CX change
  • What the difference is between personas and segments, and why we use personas over target segments in journey mapping
  • Why maps aren't just fluff and how to convince those who think so that they aren't
  • How to prep for and run a journey mapping workshop
  • What skills are needed to map journeys
  • How to get customer data and information for your journey maps
  • What the best strategy is for a successful journey mapping program
  • And much more!
 As you can see, we covered a lot of territory. The ultimate goal of this conversation is to help you realize that journey maps are:
  • the beginning, not the end
  • a catalyst for change
  • not just a tool but a process
Hopefully the interview helps you start to think a bit differently about how you're mapping or why you should map if you aren't yet.

I invite you to watch the interview - and to share your thoughts on it below. Thank you!

Customer experience is a journey. Only you hold the map.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

How Do You Measure #CX Success?

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How do you measure success of your customer experience initiatives?

For any type of project or initiative that you undertake, it's important to be able to track progress and measure success. In order to do that, you must first outline what success looks like and what metrics you'll use to measure that. Outlining what success looks like starts with: specifying the problems to solve, establishing the objectives, and defining the desired outcomes.

CX initiatives require you to identify and outline those items for (at least) three different constituents, since the initiatives will impact the business, the employee, and the customer. What matters most to each of these?

Some examples of outcomes for each include:

Business
  • Increased revenue: from new customers, existing customers making additional purchases, and existing customers deepening their relationships by expanding to other product lines 
  • Provider and employer of choice
  • Reduced costs: often in the form of process efficiencies and improvements
  • Culture change: a shift to a people first culture
  • Increased referrals: as a result of an improved experience
Customers
  • Achieved a job to be done 
  • Solved a pain point
  • Reduced effort or simple interaction/transaction
  • Memorable experience
Employees
  • Career growth and development
  • Got a promotion
  • Increased job satisfaction
  • Expectations met
  • Great experience
Add yours to the list; I'm sure your company, employees, and customers will have plenty of other desired outcomes.

How will you know the outcomes? You will have asked and listened to understand. For employees and customers, you will have used surveys or other listening posts, developed personas, and mapped their journeys. For the business, you will have had discussions with executives to understand where the business' priorities lie. As you already know, executives will want to see how CX initiatives and investments will impact business performance (yes, ROI); if they can't make that connection, it will affect their commitment, including resources to continue to fund and to staff CX improvements initiatives.

Now, think about how you'll measure progress toward - and success of - each those outcomes. What does that look like? Here are some examples:

Business
  • Cost savings
  • Revenue/recurring revenue
  • Retention (employees and customers)
  • Profitability
  • Customer lifetime value
  • Share of wallet 
  • First call resolution
Customer
  • Net promoter score
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Customer effort score
  • Ease of doing business
  • Expectations met
  • Accuracy of transaction
  • First call resolution
  • Speed of resolution
  • Quality of resolution
Employee
  • Employee engagement
  • Employee satisfaction
  • Employee happiness
  • Retention/turnover (overall, by manager)
  • Internal promotions
  • Learning and development metrics
  • eNPS
Other success metrics
  • % ownership of customer issues
  • % employees know who our customers are
  • % employees who know key drivers of customer experience
  • % improvements implemented as a result of customer feedback
  • % improvements implemented as a result of employee feedback
One bit of advice on your metrics: don't wait til the end (outcome achieved, or you think the outcome has been achieved) to see how you're preforming. Check the temperature along the way; track the metrics along the journey. Are you on track to achieving the goals? Are you getting close? If not, what needs to change to ensure that you do? What adjustments do you need to make?

And one more thought: don't get metrics crazy. Pick a couple; keep it simple. Just because you can measure it doesn't mean you should. Track the metrics that give you a solid picture of whether or not you will - or have - achieved the desired outcome. You don't need a three-page spreadsheet filled with a variety of (often irrelevant) metrics to tell you that.

Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don't quit. -Conrad Hilton


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

What's in Your #CX Budget?

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What's in your customer experience strategy budget?

Traditionally, customer experience professionals have no budget.

By that I mean that they have no allocated financial resources for improvements to be made as a result of the learnings from surveys and other listening posts, journey mapping, and other customer experience strategy exercises that become the catalyst for onstage customer experience or behind-the-scenes process improvements. Those financial resources fall into the budgets of the departments where changes are to be made.

Despite that, customer experience professionals still need to develop a budget for the work that they do and for the resources they need for that work. After all, none of that work or technology is free!

I thought I'd capture some of the items that you should be sure to include in your CX budget. Here's what I've come up with, so far.

1. Personnel
Obviously, this important work cannot all be done by one person. So you'll want to ensure that your team's fully-loaded salaries are included in your budget.

2. Technology
There are various CX technologies that you'll want to include in the budget, including but not limited to:
  • VoC platform
  • VoE platform (if different)
  • Text analytics solution
  • Predictive/prescriptive analytics solution
  • Journey mapping/management platform
  • Project management software
In addition to these external solutions, your budget might also get hit by fees from your IT department for work they perform to trigger surveys, store data, develop an intranet for you to share ongoing progress, and any other tools or data needs they must provide for.

3. Consultants
Yes, you may need to engage with consultants to assist you along the way - whether they are there to coach and advise or to actually conduct a chunk of the work. Be sure to factor in their time, materials, resource, and travel needs and expenses.

4. CX Initiatives
There are various initiatives along your journey that you'll want to be sure to factor into your budget, including:
  • Survey design and associated costs (not technology): these might be allocated under 3. Consultants, but just keep associated costs in mind under this header.
  • Customer journey mapping workshops: even if you don't hire a consultant to conduct the mapping sessions with/for you, you'll still need to factor in location costs, materials, food and beverages, etc.
  • Design thinking workshops: again, even if you don't hire a consultant, you'll probably want to factor in some location, materials, and food and beverage costs for this.
  • CAB meetings: be sure to factor in moderator fees, graphic recorder fees (if any), location fees, materials, food and beverages, any travel expenses you might incur yourself or reimburse for attendees, etc.
  • Persona development: while this may fall under the marketing budget, the CX design personas are more specific and require fine-tuning beyond what marketing and UX (which are often product-specific personas) develop.
5. EX Initiatives
This list for employee experience initiative expenses will look similar to #4. You'll notice that there are no pizza parties or pool tables included in this budget! Be sure to factor the following into your budget:
  • Survey design and associated costs (not technology): these might be allocated under 3. Consultants, but just keep associated costs in mind under this header.
  • Customer journey mapping workshops: even if you don't hire a consultant to conduct the mapping sessions with/for you, you'll still need to factor in location costs, materials, food and beverages, etc.
  • Design thinking workshops: again, even if you don't hire a consultant, you'll probably want to factor in some location, materials, and food and beverage costs for this.
  • EAB meetings: be sure to factor in moderator fees, graphic recorder fees (if any), location fees, materials, food and beverages, any travel expenses you might incur yourself or reimburse for attendees, etc.
  • Culture Ambassador meetings: again, factor in location, materials, food, and beverages for these meetings.
  • Persona development: different roles and responsibilities have different experiences within the company; it's important to understand how the personas differ in order to design the corresponding experience.
6. Training and Education
This is an important part of your career development. Make sure to include in your budget a line item each for CXPA membership, certification, and events, as well as for attending other CX conferences.

7. Miscellaneous
Nobody likes to see a "miscellaneous" line item without good reason, but this is where some things like marketing swag and other branding for this journey will fall. Unless, of course, your marketing team wants to eat that in their budget! I'm sure there are other items that will land in this bucket, as well.

I know I haven't captured everything. What am I missing?

A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went. -Dave Ramsey

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The #CX Perception Gap

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's post for CallidusCloud. It appeared on their blog on December 6, 2017.

The good news is, more and more company leaders are starting to get that they need to focus on the customer experience; the bad news is, many – most – are still struggling with the concept, choosing instead to focus on sales, metrics, and maximizing shareholder value. The crazy thing is that they think that they are customer focused.

There’s this thing called the customer experience perception gap; it was uncovered by Bain back in 2005, and they referred to it as a "delivery gap." Their findings were:
80% of executives believe that they are delivering a superior customer experience, while only 8% of customer agree. 
Wow! These companies are so off-base on their perceptions or understandings of their customers and the experience! How is that even possible? Why does this exist? It’s not because business leaders fail to recognize the importance of their customers; at least, they give customers lip service: more than 95% of management teams Bain surveyed claim to be customer focused.
 
Why does the gap exist? They cited two key reasons:
  1. They referred to the first reason as "a business paradox," where companies' growth initiatives hurt their main source of sustainable growth: loyal, profitable customers. They do so by trying to suck more revenue out of each customer by doing stupid little things like higher transaction fees, hidden fees, etc. On top of that, they focus on acquisition over retention, misdirecting their attention away from their current customer base.
  2. And good relationships are hard to build; it's challenging for businesses to keep promises made and to maintain a dialogue with customers that allows companies to adapt products and services to their changing needs. Bain believes that customer understanding efforts backfire because companies focus more on collecting and analyzing data ad nauseum, as well as on metrics, than on doing what it takes to improve the experience. No argument there.
Remember that this was 2005. As I read the article, I had already written down my thoughts on why this gap exists.
  • Companies don't take the time to really understand their customers: to listen (VoC), to characterize (personas), and to empathize (journey mapping).
  • If they do these things, then they aren't using what they learned to design a better experience.
  • And, finally, they fail to get the organization aligned around the work to be done and the experience to be delivered.
I guess I wasn't too far off.

Earlier this summer, Capgemini released a report that had similar findings, which means we have only made some progress in the last 12 years. Their findings still show a disconnect between customer expectations and companies' beliefs. Capgemini found that:
75% of companies believe that they're customer-centric, while only 30% of consumers agree.
The gap varies by industry, with Utilities (78% - 7%) and CPG (81% - 14%) having the largest gaps.

The gap also varies by geo. The UK takes the cake with a 77-point gap: 92% of companies believe they are customer-centric, but only 15% of customers agree. France has an interesting split with their 70-point gap: 70% of companies believe they are customer-centric, while none of their customers agree! Interestingly enough, in Asia Pacific, the gap is flipped in favor of customers: 79% of customers believe companies are customer-centric, while only 63% of companies believe they are!

What can companies do? What will it take for this gap to close?

First and foremost (and probably the big "duh"), company executives need to get it; they must truly get the importance of focusing on customers and the customer experience. They cannot just give lip service or think/believe they are customer-focused. It doesn't work that way! And most of them probably don't even know what that means, or what it entails. (That's how stats like these come along!) But they do need to know; they do need to understand what it means to be customer-centric, customer-focused, and customer-obsessed. They need to understand what the implications are for the customer and for the business.

Capgemini reported that 81% of customers are willing to pay more for a better experience; in some industries, it goes as high as 87%! We know that there's a linkage between customer experience leaders and stock performance. Focus on the customer, and the numbers, the revenue, will follow.

As a customer experience professional, or an aspiring customer experience professional, work on getting executive commitment. That's your first step.

The rest is much easier from there. I'm not saying that it's not a lot of work to transform the culture and the customer experience, but I am saying that it will be a smoother journey - and one where you'll achieve success - if your executives are all on board.

Your perception may not be my reality. -Aporva Kala