Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Putting the Customer into Customer Experience

Image courtesy of Shep Hyken/ABR
Let's put the "customer" into customer experience.

What does that mean?

If you’re a customer of any business on this planet, no surprise here, you know this: most companies are not really focusing on the customer and the customer experience. They might be giving it lip service, but that’s not the same as actually doing the work, understanding the customer, and designing a great customer experience as a result.

What is customer understanding? And how can you achieve it?

Customer understanding is the cornerstone of customer-centricity.

What is customer-centricity? Exactly what the word says: ensuring that the customer is at the center of a business's philosophy, operations, decisions, or ideas.

This is the main topic that Shep Hyken and I discussed recently on my second time on his Amazing Business Radio podcast. I was thrilled to be back on the show to talk about something that is top of mind for me every day: putting the "customer" into customer experience.

In order to ensure businesses are putting the "customer" into customer experience, they must first understand customers' needs, expectations, the jobs they're trying to do, and their desired outcomes. And then use that information to design a better experience. You can't fake it. You just can't

In recent research conducted by Capgemini, they discovered that 75% of companies believe they are customer-centric, while only 30% of consumers agreed. Yikes.

I've written several times that there are really three ways to achieve that understanding: listen, characterize, and empathize. Shep and I talked about these three approaches in our conversation, and as we talked about journey mapping and walking in customers' shoes, we also got to expose Shep's humorous side, as he cited the Jack Handey quote: Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away from them, and you have their shoes. LOL.

I'd be honored if you'd take 30 minutes to listen to our conversation. I promise it won't feel like 30 minutes! The conversation is fast-moving and fun, yet packed with a ton of information that you need to consider in order to put the customer into the customer experience.

Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced. - John Keats

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Why Do I Need Data in My Journey Maps?

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Are you adding data to your journey maps?

Back in 2015, I wrote a post titled Hey! You Got Your Metrics in My Journey Map! In it, I advocated for mappers to add data to their journey maps. I wrote that...
...mapping tools had to evolve because people failed to see the value in mapping with the then-current approaches; in addition, maps were not proving to be that catalyst for change that they are designed to be. In order to be that catalyst, maps have to be actionable. And the only way they can be actionable is if you have some data to support or to drive that action. Executives love data and metrics, right? Data-driven decisions are all the rage, and rightly so.
What kind of data? There's no shortage of data, right?! Obviously, the data needs to be related to the journey you're mapping, but here are some examples of the types of data you can add to the map.
  • Voice of the customer/customer listening data, including reviews, ratings, diagnostics, and verbatims
  • Emotion data, especially from qualitative sources, e.g., text  and voice analytics, sentiment analysis
  • Persona data: incorporate what you learned about the persona for which you've mapped that might help you improve the overall experience
  • CX metrics, including NPS, customer satisfaction, customer effort score
  • Other customer data, including interaction, transaction, customer lifetime value, reason for call, number visits to site, where they went on the site, etc.
  • Operational/call center metrics, including agent performance, call volume, first call resolution, hold time, time to resolve, # transfers, channels used
  • Business data: for a lack of a better way to label it, this data is all about the business impact, which will then be used to prioritize moments of truth; it’s revenue, profitability, retention, cost to fix, time to fix, effort to fix, impact to fix type of data.
  • Artifacts, including call recordings, videos, invoices, receipts, pictures, documents, screenshots, etc.
Clearly, if you've started mapping with butcher paper and sticky notes, which I highly recommend, you'll need to digitize your maps and have them in a journey mapping or journey analytics platform that supports integrating various data sources into the map.

There are a lot of reasons to bring data into your maps. Data is a critical ingredient for improving the customer experience. It helps us to understand our customers, make better decisions, and deliver the experience they expect.

Other than bringing the maps to life, why incorporate data in your maps? Data helps or allows you to...
  • Measure the journey (each of the steps and the overall journey)
  • More deeply analyze the experience and facilitates understanding
  • Identify and clarify high points and pain points in the experience – what’s going well and what’s not
  • Understand where channel optimization needs to occur
  • Bring additional customer perspectives and behaviors (outside of those in the room) into the map, shifting the map and the process from one that's been fairly qualitative to more of a quantitative effort
  • Shift the perspective from inside-out to the outside-in by adding another component (data) to put the experience in the customer voice
  • Make the maps actionable
  • Add validity and credibility (because there are multiple data sources or feedback channels and because it's now quantitative rather than qualitative)
  • Identify key moments of truth
  • Prioritize improvements
These last two points are important ones to make: the maps themselves don’t identify or prioritize moments of truth. You must use feedback, data, and metrics to do that.

The world is now awash in data, and we can see consumers in a lot clearer ways. -Max Levchin, PayPal co-founder

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

6 Steps From Journey Maps to Outcomes

Did you know that journey maps are more than a tool?

I've written previously about 11 myths and mistakes about journey mapping:

5 Myths of Journey Mapping
6 Bonus Myths of Journey Mapping

I should add one more myth, which is really the umbrella myth that likely encompasses all the others:

Journey mapping is just a tool.

Nope, it's not just a tool; it's not just a workshop: it's a process. Journey mapping is a creative and collaborative process that allows you to understand – and then to redesign – the customer experience. You must view it as the process that it is, otherwise there's no point in mapping.

This diagram outlines the six-step journey mapping process I advocate.

CX Journey Inc.'s 6-Step Journey Mapping Process

At a high level, here's what each of the steps entail.
  1. Plan: This first step includes all the pre-work and prep work that needs to be done in order to get ready for your journey mapping workshop, including identifying the personas for which you’ll map, outlining the scope and the objectives of the map, determining the appropriate workshop participants, and educating the participants on what lies ahead.

  2. Empathize: This is the actual current state mapping workshop, where you'll map what customers are doing, thinking, and feeling along the journey you selected in Step 1. You'll also add data and metrics into the map to help identify moments of truth and bring the map to life with artifacts (e.g., pictures, videos, documents); identify moments of truth; and assign owners to each of the customers' steps.

  3. Introspect: Once you're done with the journey map, it's time to look inward and create a service blueprint, which outlines the people, tools, and systems that support and facilitate the customer experience, and a process map, which outlines the workflows that do the same, to correspond with the customer journey you’ve mapped.

  4. Identify: The map alone doesn't identify moments of truth; for that, you need data - and it's one of the main reasons you need to insert data into your maps. In this step, you'll prioritize moments of truth, research issues behind those broken moments, conduct root cause analysis, develop action plans, and assign owners and deadlines to the plan.

  5. Ideate: Next up, you'll conduct future-state mapping workshops - for both the customer journey and the corresponding service blueprints - during which you'll ideate solutions to customer and backstage pain points and then design the future state.

  6. Implement: And finally, it's time to get to work, time to implement the changes. Prototype and test the new design with customers – and fail fast; fix, test, and fail fast; implement the new experience; share the maps and train employees on the updated processes and the new experience to deliver to customers; close the loop with customers and let them know what's changed; and always update the maps to reflect the new current experience.
You might have thought that journey mapping was as simple as "map and done." But that couldn't be further from the truth. And that's where a lot of companies stumble with their mapping efforts.

Maps are really just the beginning; as you can see, the current state map was only the second step, with four more steps to follow! And the maps must be done right in order to be the catalyst for change that they are meant to be.

The process is not as simple as it seems. There are rules, considerations, and guidelines to adhere to in order to get it right; after all, you want to ensure that the maps provide meaningful information that will allow you to design a better experience.

Nothing changes if nothing changes. If you don't do anything with what you learn, then stop doing it. It's a waste of everyone's time. But that's not why we're here. Instead, you need to listen, learn, understand, and do something.

Now, go do it! And if you need help, I'm here. Just reach out!

Your customers don’t care about you. They don’t care about your product or service. They care about themselves, their dreams, their goals. Now, they will care much more if you help them reach their goals, and to do that, you must understand their goals, as well as their needs and deepest desires. -Steve Jobs


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

How to Make Your Customer Experience Stand Out in the Experience Economy

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Today I'm pleased to share a guest post by Chris Ryba of VHT.

To compete in today’s market, companies have to go beyond providing excellent customer service. Today, we work in an experience economy, where people are looking for a memorable business interaction, not just a successful one.

Companies like Apple have dominated the experience economy by making everything from the website to stores to packaging an Instagram-worthy event. Fortunately, you don’t have to be Apple to stand out in your industry; even small changes in the contact center can shift your service from forgettable to remarkable.

1. Build a Friendship
We all love to spend time with our social circles. In the contact center, you can give customers the pleasure of chatting with friends by treating them as friends.

Know your customer.
You expect friends to remember important information about you. And while individual agents won’t remember each caller, most contact centers have good CRM data. Use that information to call people by the names they prefer, use their favorite modes of communication and pick up seamlessly from the last conversation.

Accept responsibility.
A real friend who makes a mistake accepts responsibility and apologizes. According to a study by the W.P. Carey School of Business, call satisfaction jumped from 37% to 73% when complaining customers were treated with dignity, got an explanation of what went wrong, and received an apology.

Show customers you appreciate them.
We like to be with people who recognize our value. But 49% of customers who switch companies do so because they feel unappreciated. When people call in, acknowledge their effort and willingness to work with you. For example, agents can open with, “I see you’ve been with us for X years. Thank you!” They can also thank customers for their patience, positivity, and time.

2. Make it Easy
People love seeing a complex process operate smoothly. Consider the satisfaction of placing an online order with one click and having it delivered next day. When businesses boil difficult tasks down to one or two steps, it feels like magic.

Respect customers’ time.
Most people want to fix a problem or make a purchase and then get on with their lives. Respect their time by scheduling callbacks when queues are long or offering live chats from the website. And never ask a second time for information collected through the phone system or online.

Save them a step.
Save people work, and they’ll want to keep buying from you. For example, use a dynamic interactive voice response (IVR) system to create personalized menus based on caller needs. After complaint resolution or technical support, take the initiative and call back to ensure everything is OK.

3. Have Some Fun
Surprise customers with a little humor, where appropriate. Or if jokes hit the wrong tone, mix in some inspiration, fascination, or curiosity.

Add whimsy.
Many websites, like Forbes and Google, use wit or diversions to amuse viewers. Contact centers can do the same by sharing intriguing company history, inspiring stories, or interviews for people on hold.

Avoid clichés.
The more a contact center clings to tired norms, the more forgettable the experience. Remove any clichéd phrases such as “your call is very important to us” or “you can also visit our website.” Switch to FAQs and knowledge bases rather than strict agent scripts, so conversations feel more sincere.

Upgrade the audio.
Wooden phone prompts and tinny music make wait time crawl. Have voice prompts professionally recorded and upgrade text-to-speech. Also, consider giving the phone voice an appealing personality. People get a kick out of talking with characters like Alexa and Siri.

4. Engage Agents
No one understands customers better than front-line representatives. Mine their knowledge regularly for new ways to create a memorable customer experience (CX).

Collaborate.
Let agents work together on finding clever ways to upgrade CX. Employees can try out new ideas and help direct company-wide initiatives with first-hand knowledge.

Hire smarter.
The right people can make or break the service experience. Consider long-tenured agents that customers love. Identify their key personality traits and look for similar job applicants. Let some of those experienced agents interview new folks; they’ll have a good sense of whether someone is right for the job.

Engage agents.
Engaged employees are more relaxed, happy, and proud of what they do, and they share that attitude with callers. It’s important to recognize and appreciate agents as much as customers. A recent McKinsey study also found that giving new representatives more support in early days and providing the team with opportunities to socialize improved engagement and retention.


According to a Walker study, 86% of consumers will pay more for a memorable interaction, and by 2020, experience will outweigh price and product as the key brand differentiator. If your contact center already treats customers well, it takes just a little effort and some imagination to go from ho-hum to unforgettable.

Chris Ryba, PMP, is the Director of Professional Services at VHT. As a seasoned technology professional with over 20 years experience in the IT/Telecom industry, Ryba has been actively involved in formulating processes, procedures, and guidelines intended to streamline project lifecycles from post-sale integration kickoff through production deployment.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Employee Experience Comes First

Image courtesy of Worthix
There should be no doubt: companies must recognize that employees come first. Not at the expense of customer experience or anything else, but in the scheme of things, without a great employee experience first, the customer experience will suffer!

I had a great time talking about this and many other topics when I joined Mary Drumond and James Conrad with Worthix for their Voices of Customer Experience podcast.

Focusing on employees and making sure they have a great experience is something that I've been talking to clients and prospects about for the last 26 years. It's nice to see that this topic is finally starting to get a bit more attention.

As I mentioned, we covered a lot of ground during the 30-minute interview. We started off touching on the 10 commandments of customer experience and the 7 deadly sins of customer experience - and why I make these religious references! All in good fun.

The gist really is that these are fundamental or foundational elements that must be in place to ensure a successful customer experience transformation. You can't transform the experience if these commandments aren't adhered to and the sins aren't committed. Among the basics: executive commitment, listening to and understanding your customers, doing something with what you learn, putting employees first, and more. On this podcast, we do talk about how to get executives bought in and committed to the work that lies ahead.

From there, we talked a bit about today's typical culture pyramid, where revenue and profits are put before employees and customers - actually, customers then employees, in that order. Sadly. We then talked about what a people-focused culture pyramid looks like, and summed it up as: focus on the people, and the numbers will come. (I'll share my post on these two culture pyramids here soon, but if you haven't seen what these two pyramids look like, you can learn more here.)

We also talked about
  • my five-step approach to working with clients on their CX transformations; 
  • how to engage, empower, and motivate employees;
  • core values and how important they are;
  • and more!
I'd be honored if you'd listen to this conversation. It's a 30-minute podcast. If you don't have 30-minutes to listen, there's also a transcript of our chat.

I constantly remind our employees to be afraid, to wake up every morning terrified. Not of our competition, but of our customers. Our customers have made our business what it is, they are the ones with whom we have a relationship, and they are the ones to whom we owe a great obligation. And we consider them to be loyal to us — right up until the second that someone else offers them a better service. -Jeff Bezos

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

5 Ways to Enhance Your Customer Experience with a Knowledge Base

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Today I'm pleased to share a guest post by Swaathishree Sridhar with Freshdesk.

Creating a memorable customer experience (CX) is not every brand’s cup of tea. Only a few brands ensure great customer experience throughout the customer journey. Of the many ways in which you can enhance the customer service experience, self-service is one of the least-explored options.

What is self-service?
As the name suggests, self-service is a form of customer support where customers help themselves find answers and solutions to problems with your product or service. There are different ways in which you can provide self-service as a form of support to your customers.
  • Knowledge base
  • Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
  • Online forums and communities
  • Interactive voice response (IVR)
  • Chatbots
And of all these self-service options available, knowledge base is the most-preferred choice of self-service. In fact, millennials prefer using a self-service portal to talking to a support agent.

What is a knowledge base?
A knowledge base is a repository of information on the various aspects of an organization from its company policy to how-to solutions for its product and services.

In other words, it can be called an online library where your customers can find answers to questions that don’t require human support.

In this article, I’ll discuss five different ways in which you can enhance customer experience using a knowledge base.

1. Round the Clock Accessibility
Complete reliance on customer support agents without any alternatives can make way for a negative experience when things go wrong. Because it's quite a task to deploy agents round the clock, especially during the holiday season and when your customers belong to different time zones. During these times, a knowledge base can be of great help when the customer is unable to contact your support team. They can get an instant solution from your knowledge base without having to wait for your support agents.

Being accessible in some way or the other is important for creating a good customer experience. Hence, make sure that your customers are able to find your knowledge base easily.
  • Include the knowledge base as part of your Support page
  • Add a Support button on top of your website
2. Creating Customer-Friendly Content
Customers these days prefer using a knowledge base to talking to a support agent. However, it’s not just enough to set up a knowledge base; it is also essential that the knowledge base content is user-friendly. Your customers should be able to find the solution in a single search. This leads to quicker resolution, in turn, providing a great customer experience.

A smart way to do this is to prepare a list of questions for making your knowledge base content-rich. Add solutions that are easily comprehensible to your customers. But, which questions? How do you decide?
  • Ask your support agents for questions that are asked by many customers or go through your support tickets for the same.
  • Take a look at your customer feedback and their online reviews.
  • Ask your customers for suggestions.
3. Timely Solutions
While complex issues take time to get resolved, customers don’t want to wait in a queue to talk to a support agent for simple issues. Product-related questions like how-tos or setting up an account can be resolved with the help of an optimized knowledge base. Implement your knowledge base in such a way that your customers can find solutions quickly.
  • Order the FAQs based on the number of customer searches.
  • Include a search bar.
  • Use explainer videos and screenshots to make the solutions easily comprehensible.
4. Repetitive Issues
When it comes to handling customer conversations, the support agents are required to resolve issues quickly while also providing  a pleasant customer experience. But that can be quite difficult, as a significant portion of an agent’s day is spent handling repetitive issues. This lessens their focus on the complex ones, thus missing out on creating a good customer experience.

In such situations, developing a knowledge base with solutions to those repetitive issues is the best way to quickly answer customers' questions without direct assistance from agents. This reduces the ticket volume and allows the support agents to pay more attention to top-priority, more-difficult  issues. As a result, every support agent will be able to resolve their issues better and provide a great customer experience.

5. Training Your Chatbot
If there is a smarter version to a knowledge base, it’s none other than an AI-powered chatbot. Though many companies have started adopting the chatbot technology, not every chatbot does conflict resolution effectively. The reality is that many customers end up having a bad experience with chatbots.

In order for the chatbot to be intuitive, it needs to get trained, and a vast amount of data and information needs to be fed to the bot. This is because everyone ask questions in their own terms, and the chatbot must recognize and understand these nuances accurately. Here’s where an up-to-date knowledge base can prove to be a rich source of information. When your chatbot gets trained based on the information in your knowledge base, it is more likely to give relevant solutions to your customers. Though there’s more to creating a customer-friendly chatbot, your knowledge base will play a major role in training your chatbot and, in turn, providing great customer experience.

Conclusion
Among the many ways to improve a brand’s customer experience, self-service has rarely been utilized to its full potential. Even the brands that are ready to experiment with chatbots don’t sweat much on improving their knowledge base. But, with customers considering the support team as their last resort, it is imperative that brands offer the option to customers to help themselves. After all, who wouldn’t fancy a knowledge base software that provides the right solution in a single search?


Thursday, November 1, 2018

Are You Part of the Convenience Revolution?

Image courtesy of Shep Hyken
Want to disrupt your business and your industry? And create fierce customer loyalty?

Who doesn't? Right?

Well, there's a secret to doing that, and if you haven't yet read Shep Hyken's latest book, The Convenience Revolution, you're missing out on the secret!

This book is shorter than Shep's last couple of books, but it packs a mighty punch. It's a quick read, but don't let that fool you. Shep gives away the keys to the castle!

In a recent post, I wrote that in a world where products and services are becoming more and more commoditized, customer experience is the only true differentiator. That means that brands need to fight to stay relevant - yet truly struggle to not get Blockbuster'd.

I bet Blockbuster and a few other brands wouldn't be extinct today if they knew what I now know after reading this book. Shep not only outlines in detail the six principles of the Convenience Revolution but also provides a ton of examples of companies doing it right and those who, well, either no longer exist or need to step up.

I'm going to just briefly write about Principle One, which is "reduce friction." This is really the umbrella principle for the other five. I love the quote he shares from Shayla Price at the start of the chapter:
Friction is the enemy of customer experience. It frustrates the customer, annoys your team, and stops business growth. And if friction remains within the buyer’s journey, it can stop future sales
Amen.

I think that, ultimately, this is the goal of all customer experience transformations: to reduce or remove friction from a customer's interactions or transactions. I don't know of a single customer experience professional who would not agree with that.

What is friction?
  • A couple of definitions from Merriam-Webster include: the rubbing of one body against another; the force that resists relative motion between two bodies in contact; the clashing between two persons or parties of opposed views.
  • Study.com notes that friction is the force that opposes the motion of an object.
  • One definition from Cambridge Dictionary: disagreement or dislike caused by people having different opinions.
It's easy to see how those definitions translate to a poor customer experience, if friction exists. Fortunately, Shep provides several real-world examples of companies that have handily reduced friction to create great experiences for their customers: Uber, The Ruhlin Group, Ace Hardware, QuikTrip, CLEAR, and more! Read, learn, and adapt to your situation, where plausible.

Want to know what the other five principles are? You'll have to read the book. Trust me. It is worth the time and money!

Life’s too short to build something nobody wants. -Ash Maurya

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

#CX Buzzwords or the Real Deal?

Image courtesy of CMP
The customer experience profession has a lot of buzzwords. Or does it?

I was recently given access to a report by the team at Customer Management Practice, organizers of the popular CCW (Customer Contact Week) events. The report is titled "Navigating Industry Buzzwords" and contains a compilation of thoughts by the nine members of the CCW Advisory Board on those so-called buzzwords.

For this report, the advisors were asked to identify three words that resonate with their organizations and to dispel the buzzwords myth by getting to the core of why these words (listed below) are the real deal.
  • Journey
  • Voice of customer
  • Engagement
  • Culture
  • Automation
  • Security
  • Experience
  • Metrics
  • Transformation
Let's start with a definition of "buzzword." According to dictionary.com, it is a word or phrase, often sounding authoritative or technical, that is a vogue term in a particular profession, field of study, popular culture, etc.

Given that definition, honestly, none of those words are "in vogue" terms; they're all an important part of what we do, part of our (customer experience professionals') daily language. I feel like calling them buzzwords gives a negative connotation or refers to a fly-by-night term that will be gone next week.

Where I see the problem with these words is how they're defined and how they're used. For example, I heard recently that someone thought "customer journey" was the hot new word for "customer experience," which is now passe. OK, please don't buy into that. Let's stop renaming things - customer experience is customer experience - and focus more on understanding and executing.

On that note, let's take a look at how the Advisory Board members define and use the three terms they picked.

Wendy Liu is VP, Customer Care and Executive Care Response Liaison at Comcast. Her three terms are transformation, journey, and culture.
  • Transformation: Taking the best of what we know about ourselves, examine closely where we have challenges, and enlist our team members in making the change together. 
  • Journey: A view and practice that treats our team members and customer interactions not as single transactions or destinations but as an experience with well-defined maps and thoughtful guides to help our teams and customers navigate and discover. 
  • Culture: What we stand for, our common purpose and how we have a shared consciousness in how we fulfill the common purpose
Brad Nichols, Global Customer Service Leader for Dun & Bradstreet, defined his three favorite terms as follows.
  • Metrics: The barometer of successful performance
  • Culture: The way ‘things are done’ around here. What gets rewarded, punished, and how to behave to get ahead. 
  • Voice of Customer: The direct words, feedback and input of those we serve or want to serve
And when Shep Hyken was asked what his three favorite terms meant for his organization, he answered as follows.
  • Experience: We are all about creating an “amazing” experience for our customers (and for our employees).
  • Metrics: You can’t manage what you don’t measure.
  • Culture: Without the right culture in place, we won’t deliver the experience we want our customers to have. To be the best place to do business with, we have to be a great place to do business with. What’s happening on the inside is felt on the outside by the customer.
Be sure to check out the report to find out how the other six Advisory Board members chose and defined their "buzzwords." And then join me in Nashville from January 15-18, 2019, for CCW Nashville, when Jenn Lim, CEO & Chief Happiness Officer, Delivering Happiness, keynotes the event, and amazing speakers from Postmates, Subway, HBO, and Toll Brothers, just to name a few, speak on the same stage.

IABC Gold Quill entry: Our challenge was to design and implement a multi-faceted customer experience initiative supported by a change-management strategy.
Judge’s comment: Someone graduated with honors from buzzword college.

-International Association of Business Communications Gold Quill awards

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

How to Create a Superb Customer Experience on the Web

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Today I'm pleased to share another guest post by Lexie Lu of Design Roast.

If you want customers to return to your site, you have to create an amazing customer experience (CX). People tend to remember how your site makes them feel over the specific elements of the site. Everything from the overall design of the pages to customer service to overall functionality plays into CX.

Out of the companies working actively to improve customer experience, about 84 percent saw an increase in revenue. If you want to focus on CX and improve your image with your customers, here are 11 key steps.

1. Show That You Care
Seventy-nine percent of people want to know that a brand cares before they buy something. Brands that show they understand what the customer needs and that have a strong commitment to delivering a solution attract loyal followers. Be upfront about your policies and the attention to detail you offer to make sure your customers are happy. In addition, remember that testimonials are a great way to show that you already have happy customers.

2. Interact with Your Customers
Most people are on at least one social media platform. Social media creates a culture where people expect interaction, including interactions with brands. For B2B businesses, the stakes are higher, with many business buyers expecting a brand to interact with them immediately. Not to mention, most consumers expect a real-time response, as well.

3. Know Your Target Audience
This advice appears over and over because it's so vital to successful branding and the overall customer experience. You can't create a positive experience if you don't understand what your typical customer wants and needs. Knowing your target audience involves studying general data and then digging deeper and learning about purchase history as well as polling current customers to see where your services could improve.

4. Revamp Your Website
For many of your leads, your website is the first impression they have of your brand. If your website loads slowly, is ugly, or has broken links, the user experience suffers. Take the time to audit your website and see what needs updating. Make sure the site matches your overall branding efforts and that customers get a consistent experience whether they visit your website or see you on social media.

5. Offer a Guarantee
People want a positive experience from brands. About 55 percent of customers say they'd pay more if they were guaranteed a good experience. Think about what kind of guarantee you can offer to your customers. What about your brand stands out from all the other brands out there? How can you turn that into a promise?

6. Focus on Mobile
More and more people demand a positive mobile experience. About 56 percent of people said they felt disappointment if they liked a brand but the mobile site wasn't a good experience. On top of that, if the experience on mobile was bad, then 52 percent became less likely to engage with that brand going forward.

It's a smart use of your resources to invest in the mobile version of your site. Test it thoroughly, and make sure it looks good and functions properly on smaller screens.

7. Remain Consistent
Omni-channel is a buzzword these days and simply means that you offer the same or similar customer experience across different platforms. If a customer phones you and asks a question, they should get the same answer as if they walk into a store or talk to an agent via live chat on your website.

In addition, you should track conversations so that customer service reps can review the previous contact from that customer. Eighty-nine percent of individuals dislike repeating the same issue to multiple people. Make them explain the problem only once, even if you have to transfer them to another department.

8. Speed up Customer Service
Around 77 percent of people think it takes too long to get in touch with a live agent. Don't leave your customers on hold. If you need to hire more customer service agents to keep up with volume, prioritize this task. The longer a customer waits, the more likely they are to grow frustrated. If someone contacts you, they likely already have an issue and are frustrated. Making them wait only magnifies the problem.

9. Get Customers Involved on Social Media
Encourage your customers to get involved with your brand on social media. Ask a question, take a poll, or run a contest where users share their own content, such as a picture of them using your product along with a specific hashtag. Figure out ways to keep them engaged, even when they aren't making a purchase. If you develop a relationship with your customers, they're more likely to remember your brand the next time they need to make a purchase.

10. Make Their Lives Better
Is your brand seen as one of the better brands out there? In the United States, 62 percent of people think the brands they love make their lives better in some way. How can your brand make the customer experience better overall?

Create a follow-up program where you contact the customer after the sale to make sure they're satisfied. Keep the order form simple and easy to complete, saving the consumer time. Figure out other problems your target audience faces, and create solutions for those issues, too.

11. Start a Loyalty Program
Loyal customers are five times as likely to buy from you again and more likely to forgive an error on your part. Building loyalty takes time and commitment. You must first build that relationship with your customers, but starting a loyalty program is a good first step. Reward customers who buy from you over and over or refer others to you.

A Better Customer Experience
Creating a better customer experience doesn't have to be rocket science. Look at your website and brand through the eyes of your typical site visitor. What elements work well, and what needs to be fixed? The more seamlessly your site functions, the better your customer experience, and the more loyal your users.

Lexie is a web designer and typography enthusiast. She spends most of her days surrounded by some HTML and a goldendoodle at her feet. Check out her design blog, Design Roast, and follow Lexie on Twitter


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

What Does the Future of #CX Look Like?

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I'm already seeing it: people are starting to talk and write about customer experience trends for 2019. 

It's only the start of Q4! We haven't even made it through 2018 yet! Still lots of time to make things happen. (Right?!)

Regardless, I'm not big on talking about customer experience trends for the new year any more. I have in the past, but I gave up a couple years ago.

Why?

Because I'm finding that a lot of companies are still trying to figure out the basics. Sadly.

They can't begin to focus on omnichannel, digital, personalization, AI, AR, and VR, oh my, when they can't even get their executives to commit to putting customers at the top of the priority list (right after employees, of course).

So, when I'm asked about customer experience trends for the next year and what customer experience strategies will look like, I say it's a bit like this:


You know that episode! Lucy and Ethel struggled to keep up with the chocolates on the conveyor belt and ended up using whatever was at their disposal to catch the chocolates and keep them from over-running the conveyor.

Unfortunately, that's where a lot of brands sit today: trying to keep up - if they're even focusing on the chocolates, er, customer experience. Innovation isn't even in their vocabulary.

In a world where products and services are becoming more and more commoditized, customer experience is the only true differentiator. That means that brands need to fight to stay relevant yet  truly struggle to not get Blockbuster'd. It means that brands need to shift the focus onto the customer - and on keeping the customer.

So the trends I'm focusing on for next year are really the same as this year (and last year, and the year before that, and... ): ensuring that companies successfully design and deliver a better customer experience by first having several foundational elements in place.

First and foremost, there must be CEO and executive commitment for the work that lies ahead; without that, the transformation journey ends pretty quickly. Beyond that, there must be a well-defined customer experience vision and strategy, a governance structure to provide guidelines and oversight for the work ahead, a focus on improving the employee experience along with recognition that employees drive the customer experience, and a people-first culture. And finally, companies must take the time to understand both employees and customers, act on what they learn and embrace outside-in thinking, weaving the customer and her perspective into all they do.

Where to begin? With customer understanding.
  • It feeds the customer experience strategy
  • It is the cornerstone of customer-centricity, and 
  • Quite simply, without it, you cannot put the "customer" into customer experience.
Without doing the work to understand your customers, your customer experience strategy will fall flat and fail to outline a plan to deliver an experience that not only meets your customers’ needs but may also delight them.

What does the future of customer experience look like? Good question. No one really knows. What we do know is that companies have their work cut out for them. And until then... customer experience professionals must continue to fight the good fight, helping executives understand the importance of putting customers at the center of all they do.

As I mentioned a couple years ago, going forward, let's not make predictions; let's make resolutions. And stick to them!

The trend that should definitely die is following trends. -Kemp Muhl

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Customer Experience and Customer Success: What's the Difference?

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Time to tackle another differentiation!

Last week, I once again tackled the topic of the differences between customer experience and customer service. This week, I'm going to see if I can do justice to the differences between customer experience and customer success.

Controversial? Yes. I think there's controversy when trying to delineate customer experience with customer service, but the conversations become a bit more heated when it comes to customer experience and customer success.

Regardless, let me preface this post by saying: as long as we all work toward a common goal, as long as we all try to do what's right for the customer, it's all good!

So, let's start with defining customer experience again:

Customer experience is the sum of all the interactions that a customer has with an organization over the life of the “relationship” with that company… and, especially, the feelings, emotions, and perceptions the customer has about those interactions.

What is customer success?

I have always defined it as ensuring that customers get the value they expected out of the products they purchased, that they achieve their desired outcomes. The business outcome is retention. I have typically associated customer success as a B2B endeavor, specifically B2B technology customers.

I did a little homework and came up with the following definitions from the customer success experts.

Lincoln Murphy, who wrote Customer Success: The Definitive Guide, defines it as follows: Customer success is when your customers achieve their desired outcome through their interactions with your company.

I wasn't too far off, but I wanted to keep looking.

Gainsight defines it as: The business methodology of ensuring customers achieve their desired outcomes while using your product or service. Customer Success is relationship-focused client management, that aligns client and vendor goals for mutually beneficial outcomes. Effective Customer Success strategy typically results in decreased customer churn and increased upsell opportunities.

I found this on Wikipedia: Customer success is the function at a company responsible for managing the relationship between a vendor and its customers. The goal of customer success is to make the customer as successful as possible, which in turn, improves customer lifetime value (CLTV) for the company.

Todd Eby of SuccessHacker says: At its heart, customer success is about understanding why your customer hired you, what are they attempting to achieve and then doing all that you can to help them achieve that.

Mindtouch says customer success encompasses the ongoing efforts of an organization to continue delivering value to its customers. A good customer success program aims to deliver value throughout every step of the customer journey, from pre-purchase to post-sale and beyond. This can include (but isn’t limited to) onboarding, product training, customer service and support.

Starting to see a pattern? Yes. Customer success is rooted in companies delivering value and customers achieving their desired outcomes. Guess what? So is customer experience. One more...

The Customer Success Association defines customer success as: a long-term, scientifically engineered, and professionally directed strategy for maximizing customer and company sustainable proven value.

Um...

So, I then took a look at some of the ways people differentiated customer experience and customer success.

Helpshift noted that customer success is just one part of customer experience, and includes a longer description of the differentiation, which you can find here, but the key part is summarized at the end of their article: The real key to a phenomenal customer experience is a company-wide, top-down philosophy on what the result of the customer journey should be. It’s not enough to just have good CSAT; you want your customers to have an overall positive association with your brand as a whole. Customer success is just one part of this macro vision of the customer.

Sue Duris of M4 believes that the two will converge, but until then notes that customer experience is strategic, while customer success is transactional and product-centric.

This one is interesting. The Future of CIO blog differentiated between customer experience, customer service, and customer success as follows: Customer service is reactive, available when customers need it, in the channel when customers want it. Customer experience needs to be interactive, to delight customers in every touch point. Customer success is proactive, identifying ways to help customers gain value from the product or service you provide. Customer Experience is the broad umbrella that you deliver from purchase throughout the full "journey." Customers need all of these areas to be a focus of the business if you want them to continue to buy and recommend your products/services to others.

ChurnZero differentiates the two by saying that customer experience is focused on the overall impression a customer has, while customer success is focused on the end results (or lack thereof) of those interactions.

***

I've read a lot of articles about customer success in the last few days, and the lines between customer success and customer experience are blurred by many; some don't even come close. There are differences, but it seems fuzzy, for sure. Here's how I've boiled it down.

Customer success is:
  • B2B
  • Product/value focused
  • Customer/outcomes focused
  • Account focused
  • Relationship focused
  • Retention/repurchase focused
  • Tactical in the scheme of things, but strategic as it relates to the account
  • One part of the equation, a subset of customer experience
Customer experience is:
  • B2B and B2C
  • People focused: employees and customers
  • Culture based/driven
  • Design focused - design products that deliver value, help customers achieve their desired outcomes
  • Product/value focused
  • Customer/outcomes focused
  • Relationship focused
  • Business outcomes focused
  • Emotions, feelings, perceptions
  • Strategic, enterprise-wide
Makes me question if the customer success role/discipline is really necessary. What do you think? Customer experience is the umbrella. Get the experience right - listen to customers, understand the problems they are trying to solve, innovate, and design and deliver a better experience - and customer success management becomes obsolete, no? After all... it's all about the customer.

Make everyone think about things from the customer’s perspective. -Mike Grafham