Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Amplify Your Transformation with CX Champions - Part 2

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This is the second part of my two-part series on how to stand up a team of CX Champions to activate your customer experience transformation efforts.

If you missed Part 1, see it here.

I'll dive right in with more details about your CX Champions team.

How often does the CX Champions team meet?
In the early days, the team should meet monthly, but this can be adjusted over time to meet more frequently or less frequently, as needed.

Who attends the meetings?
Attendees include CX Champions and members of the core CX team.

What should be on the meeting agenda?
Typically, the team will meet to discuss and showcase initiatives in order to get them prioritized and approved by the steering committee, if they haven’t already been; they’ll also provide updates on improvement efforts, issues, barriers to success, and more. The core CX team can also take this opportunity to share any feedback or learnings that they’ve received since the last meeting. And they can conduct ongoing CX training (pick a topic each time) during these meetings. Of course, the agenda should always include time for the CX Champions team to ask questions and to get their concerns addressed.

How do team members communicate between meetings?
There’s always email for communication, but it’s probably best to set up a shared directory where the team can find and share meeting notes, action plans, updates, journey maps, customer and employee feedback, and more.

Are CX Champions empowered to make changes?
Yes, they can be empowered to make changes, though they are often not the ones to actually implement change – unless it’s within their scope of work or skillset. (While I believe they should be empowered to make changes, your executive sponsor and steering committee will be the ultimate decision makers on this.) Regardless, they must be provided with the guide rails – based on the overall CX vision and strategy – within which they can design and implement changes.

Keep in mind that they will need ongoing guidance and direction. It’s not a “set and forget” program. Champions need to be trained, informed, and part of the team. They need to be supported, and they need to be able to discuss challenges, barriers, and successes with the other committees of the governance structure.

For how long do they serve as CX Champions?
Some organizations engage their CX Champions for two-year terms. I suggest keeping the first CX Champions on the team at least long enough to gain a foothold in the transformation, which tends to be about two years. The key is, after they rotate out, that they really continue on with the new way of doing things, not going back to how things were two years ago. It’s a learn and live role! In addition, consider setting up staggered tenures in order to keep continuity over time.

CX Champions need to be trained upon accepting this role. On what do I need to train them?
First and foremost, your CX Champions need to be trained on the basics: your CX vision and strategy. What is it? What are you doing? Why are you doing it? How are you doing it? What’s in it for me? What is the intended customer experience? How do you deliver it? And more.

Give the team details specific to what’s happening within the organization, how it’s going to happen, what the desired outcomes are, and how success will be defined. And don’t forget to talk about the culture and the employee experience. If you don’t make improvements there first, the CX work will all be for naught.

They should also be trained on the core customer experience competencies or principles. I would start with the six competencies put forth by the CXPA, which include:
  1. Customer-Centric Culture
  2. CX Strategy
  3. Experience Design Improvement & Innovation
  4. Metrics & Measurement and ROI
  5. Organizational Adoption & Accountability
  6. VOC Customer Insight & Understanding
Once your CX Champions are solidly grounded in these principles, you will want to go one layer deeper and teach them how to use the tools within the principles, including but not limited to:
  • What to do with customer feedback
  • What to do with employee feedback
  • How to analyze and operationalize feedback
  • How to map customer journeys
  • How to facilitate brainstorming sessions
  • How to tell stories with data or to sell the change initiatives
  • How to conduct root cause analysis
  • What change management is and what it entails
These are simply ideas and recommendations. You will determine the scope of what you want your CX Champions to do and how deeply you want them involved in each of the listed items and the six competencies. Remember that they are an extension of the core CX team; they are your eyes and ears on the ground. They can be hugely helpful in a lot of these areas.

Equip the CX Champions with the change story. And storyboard the intended experience in order to illustrate it for them; this also makes it easier for them to take it back and explain it to their departments. At the same time, guide them on how to best model the customer-centric behavior you expect from the company and provide those guard rails and guidelines for how to diagnose, design, and implement changes.

You will be communicating with – and training – the CX Champions on an ongoing basis. While they are an extension of the team, treat them as part of the team; when you do, they will embrace their roles and kick off that organization-wide groundswell that is necessary for any customer experience transformation journey to succeed.

This two-part series provides general guidelines on how you’ll set up your CX Champions team. While your approach may vary, just be sure to provide the knowledge, the guidelines, and the support to ensure that your Champions can rally their colleagues and be change agents on your CX journey.

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much. -Helen Keller

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Amplify Your Transformation with CX Champions - Part 1

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In this two-part series, I'll  outline how to stand up a team of CX Champions to activate your customer experience transformation efforts.

Do you have a governance structure in place for your customer experience transformation efforts? If not, it’s time to get that done! Not having a governance structure is one of the 7 Deadly Sins of Customer Experience.

Without a governance structure in place, you perpetuate silo thinking and fail to achieve cross-functional alignment, involvement, and commitment. Why? Because a governance structure is about oversight and execution. It outlines people, roles, responsibilities, rules, and guidelines when it comes to executing your customer experience strategy.

Changing the organization's DNA to be more customer-centric is not a journey for one person to undertake; this is an organization-wide effort. As such, the governance structure is critical to the foundation of any customer experience transformation. It outlines who will ensure that there is alignment and accountability across the organization, and it defines roles and responsibilities key to the transformation, including a core CX program team, an executive sponsor, an executive/steering committee, and cross-functional champions.

It’s this latter group – the cross-functional champions – that I’ll focus on now. To simplify, I’ll call them CX Champions.

What is a CX Champion?
A CX Champion is an employee who is engaged, loves the business and loves customers, and is enthusiastic about delivering a great experience for your customers. She knows the company’s vision, mission, and purpose well, and she lives the core values every day. She understands the CX vision, believes in the outcomes, and is committed to be a part of the transformation.

What other traits or qualities do CX Champions have?
They are well-respected and are often recognized as role models when it comes to customer service and customer experience. They are team players, work well with others, and have – or can build – strong cross-functional relationships. They are excellent communicators. They are influential in their departments and, perhaps, across the organization; they know people, the right people. They are leaders and add credibility to the transformation effort. They might or might not be managers, but they certainly have deep knowledge of their functional areas and how they mesh with other areas of the business, and they can hold others accountable for the work that needs to be done. They may have experience successfully executing change initiatives. And they are flexible and willing to learn.

That’s a lot! No, they are not unicorns. Trust me – these people exist in your organization!

What does the CX Champions team look like?
They are referred to as cross-functional champions because there should be representatives from each department on the team. This helps break down silos and allows for each department’s voice, feedback, and perspectives to be brought to the team and heard.

How many team members are there?

That depends on how many cross-functional departments you have. And if you’ve got multiple business units, is there a corporate shared services group from which you can pull folks? If not, be sure to get business unit representation, too. If you’ve got global office locations, you’ll want to consider representation across the globe.

Who does the CX Champions team report to?
Within the governance structure, the CX Champions team ideally reports to the core CX team, but they also get guidance and direction from the steering committee, who prioritizes and approves the various change initiatives on the docket.

Why do I need CX Champions?
There's a great quote from Benjamin Franklin that's so fitting here: Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn. Get employees involved in the process. When that happens, they feel like they're a part of it. Don't just force change on your employees; give them some ownership in the change. They'll be more accepting of it, without a doubt.

The core CX team can’t make the changes happen. The changes must be activated by your base, throughout the organization, by the people who are delivering the experience that needs to be improved. You’ll need folks who can take data and insights and operationalize them within their departments; they know best what needs to be done and how any changes or improvements connect to – and affect – other departments.

Think of the transformation as a grassroots effort. Use people throughout the organization to spread the word, make the changes, model the behavior, and more. According to a report from SAS and HBR: “A coordinated approach to customer experience management – and one that is built from the ground up – is more likely to take root. ‘You don’t want customer experience to sound like just another corporate initiative... the latest flavor of the week.’”

How do you find CX Champions?
There are at least two approaches to finding CX Champions. (1) You can set some parameters (see the traits outlined previously) and ask for volunteers; or (2) you can accept nominations based on those same traits, e.g., reputation, well-respected, team player, easy to work with, leader, change management knowledge or experience, department and inter-departmental knowledge, etc.

What is the CX Champion’s role?
CX Champions are change agents! They aren’t expected to do the work (though they might) but to influence and to motivate others. They facilitate and champion change initiatives. They are an extension of the core CX team because the core team is typically small and can’t be everywhere and do everything – and don’t have the cross-functional or departmental expertise or rapport/connections to get things done.

CX Champions are the voice of the customer and the voice of the employee; they advocate for customers and for employees and bring their voices to the core CX team and to the steering committee.

Communication with CX Champions is a two-way street: (1) they share feedback, insights, quick wins, and successes from the core CX team with their departments, but (2) they also share feedback, insights, learnings, quick wins or successes, changes made, etc. with the core CX team.

In addition, they:
  • role model and train fellow employees on customer-centric behaviors
  • spread CX vision and knowledge across the organization
  • help to align their fellow employees with the vision and the cause – rally the troops
  • tell the change story and teach others about the intended experience
  • inspire and motivate co-workers to become customer-focused and customer-centric
  • deliver brown bag lunches on the latest employee and customer experience findings
  • problem solve and brainstorm solutions for employee and customer issues
  • don’t necessarily implement the solutions (unless they can) – that’s left to the folks with the expertise to do so
  • map customer journeys
  • and more!
That sounds like it takes a lot of an employee’s time. Does it?
This role could take up about 20% of an employee’s time, but quite honestly, in the end, isn’t it all about the customer and the customer experience?! That’s what their jobs are, day in and day out: to serve the customer. Being a CX Champion translates to a more-focused and more-deliberate way that they work going forward.

For some, this role could take up a lot more time, maybe up to 50%, depending on the severity and the volume of issues, etc. In other words, how bad are things really? Don’t short change on time if that’s what is needed to get the job done right, right now.

In the second-part of this series, I'll answer questions about team meetings, empowering the CX Champions, and what training they'll need in order to take on this role.

Individual commitment to a group effort - that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work. -Vince Lombardi

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Annette Franz Accepted into Forbes Coaches Council

Annette Franz, founder and CEO of CX Journey Inc., a boutique customer experience strategy consulting firm, has been accepted into the Forbes Coaches Council, an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches.

Annette joins other Forbes Coaches Council members, who are hand-selected, to become part of a curated network of successful peers and get access to a variety of exclusive benefits and resources, including the opportunity to submit thought leadership articles and short tips on industry-related topics for publishing on

Forbes Councils combines an innovative, high-touch approach to community management perfected by the team behind Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) with the extensive resources and global reach of Forbes. As a result, Forbes Council members get access to the people, benefits, and expertise they need to grow their businesses — and a dedicated member concierge who acts as an extension of their own team, providing personalized one-on-one support.

"I am always honored to be recognized for my work, and being invited into the Forbes Coaches Council is truly icing on the cake. Forbes Coaches are not only passionate about the work they do but also about helping others - and each other - succeed. I'm thrilled and grateful to be a part of this prestigious community, which will certainly continue to solidify my role as a thought leader in the fields of employee experience and customer experience coaching." -Annette Franz

Scott Gerber, founder of Forbes Councils, says, "We are honored to welcome Annette into the community. Our mission with Forbes Councils is to curate successful professionals from every industry, creating a vetted, social capital-driven network that helps every member make an even greater impact on the business world."

For more information about Forbes Coaches Council, visit To learn more about Forbes Councils, visit

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Corporate Culture and the Bottom Line

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Is there a linkage between corporate culture and the bottom line?

In a nutshell... yes. Corporate culture is linked to so many business decisions and business outcomes. You might be surprised!

Today's post is a follow-on to last week's post, A Fish Rots from the Head Down, in which I wrote about the need for company leadership to model the behaviors they want to see from their employees in order to transform, inspire, and drive the company's intended culture.

Culture is such an important part of any business. It really is the foundation upon which the business happens, i.e., fails or succeeds. And there's some academic research that supports this stance.

I recently stumbled upon some culture research done by Duke University's Fuqua School of Business a couple years ago. The findings are quite interesting, as they uncovered the link between culture and both business successes and business failures. If you'd like to read the details of this research, there are two papers: Corporate Culture: Evidence from the Field and Corporate Culture: The Interview Evidence.

I'll focus on the latter, which was based on both surveys of 1,348 CEOs and CFOs and in-depth interviews with executives representing 20% of the U.S. equity market capitalization. Questions addressed in this paper included:
  1. What is corporate culture?
  2. How important is corporate culture?
  3. What mechanisms underlie the creation and effectiveness of corporate culture? How do other formal institutions (e.g., governance or compensation) reinforce or work against culture?
  4. Do companies think their culture is effective and if not, what deters firms from having an effective corporate culture?
  5. Are the upside benefits of an effective culture greater than the downside costs of ineffective culture?
  6. What aspects of business performance does corporate culture affect? Does culture impact firm value, productivity, corporate risk-taking, growth, M&A, financial and tax reporting, whether employees take a long-run view, and/or corporate ethics?
  7. How can corporate culture be measured?
The answers to these questions are fascinating and really support everything we (at least, I) tend to believe and write/talk about when it comes to corporate culture and how critical it is to a business.

Some interesting findings from this research include:
  • Most executives would walk away from an M&A deal if the target acquisition is not aligned culturally with their existing cultures; others would require a heavy discount on the purchase price.
  • Culture is set by the CEO.
  • The Board doesn't drive culture but can influence it through their choice of a CEO.
  • Executives agree that for a culture to be effective, the values must be backed up by behaviors and norms.
  • Culture is a top-three value driver of the business and one of the most-important forces behind value creation.
  • An effective culture improves the company's value and profitability through:
    • fostering creativity and encouraging productivity
    • higher risk tolerance
    • mitigating myopic behavior
    • creativity and innovation
  • Effective cultures (a culture that promotes employee behaviors that drive successful execution of the company's strategies) happen when the company walks the talk and lives the values.
  • An ineffective culture (does not promote those behaviors and might even work against the right behaviors) increases the chances that employees will act unethically or illegally. 
  • Few executives agreed that their culture is where it ought to be.
    • Why not? Leadership needs to invest more time to develop the culture.
  • Ways to measure the culture include:
    • conference call transcripts/analyst calls
    • employee age, tenure, and turnover
    • external communications by the company
    • portrayal of the CEO in the press
    • understanding the circumstances around a CEO change
    • employee opinions, e.g., Glassdoor
    • assessments of whether the culture is aligned with the needs of the business
    • evaluation of internal communication patterns
    • management actions
These are just some of the highlights from this research. There is so much great information in both of these reports; I'd recommend taking the time to download and read both of them. I don't think you'll be disappointed in what you learn! You might even learn a new word - at least, I did: shibboleth: a custom, tradition, value, norm, etc. that is no longer important. Do you have any of these in your organization?

I used to believe that culture was "soft" and had little bearing on our bottom line. What I believe today is that our culture has everything to do with our bottom line, now and into the future. -Vern Dosch, Author, Wired Differently

Thursday, July 12, 2018

A Fish Rots from the Head Down

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A fish rots from the head down - and so does your culture.

What does "a fish rots from the head down" mean? It means that the problem starts at the top, that the problems, failures, issues, toxicity, etc. in your organization - or any organization - start with the leadership team.

Senior leaders and executives: take a good, hard look at how you and your colleagues act, behave, make decisions, walk the walk/talk the talk, live the values, etc. How would you feel if your employees did what you just did? If you say, "Great!" Kudos to you. But if you scratch your head and think that what you do is fine because you lead a team or lead the company - but wouldn't want your employees to act the same way - you are wrong. Everyone in your company must live by the same standards, by the same values.

That's how cultures are purposely created. That's how cultures are sustained. That's how cultures are transformed.

Culture is like the wind. It is invisible; yet its effect can be seen and felt.
-Bryan Walker, Partner and Managing Director, IDEO

Leaders must model the behavior they want to see - this is where the real culture transformation begins. Because, metaphorically speaking, "What's good for the goose (leader) is good for the gander (employee)." In other words, if you, as a leader, want employees to act a certain way, then you must live the values, lead, model, and show them what the right or acceptable behavior is. And only then does culture become "how employees act when the CEO isn't looking." Because, let's face it, most of the time the CEO is not there, looking over an employee's shoulders. But if employees see that executives put themselves "above the law," forget it; that's a major culture fail.

If you're in the midst of transforming your business to a customer-focused/customer-centric culture, then employees look to you for what that means. It means that you'll...
  • create meeting agendas that always include customer experience and employee experience topics and metrics, customer and employee stories, etc.
  • walk around the office, talking to employees and asking them about their work days, their careers, their passions, their lives, their jobs, etc., ensuring they have everything they need to have a great experience, and letting them know how their work matters and that you care about them as humans (not just cogs in your wheel to success, as Bob Chapman notes)
  • motivate and inspire employees to do their best work - and to deliver the best for your customers 
  • empower employees
  • listen to employees and to customers - and act on their feedback 
  • communicate with employees openly and candidly - about the vision, the purpose, the mission, the strategy, the business, etc.
  • visit customers regularly to understand their experiences - and act on what you learn
  • field calls from customers and mystery shop your own phone lines to ensure that the customer experience is what you expect it to be
  • deliver regular company updates via email and/or video that always incorporate some mention of employees and customers, their importance to the business, great things they've done or are doing, and how the CX vision and strategy are moving forward
  • develop core values that support this customer-focused/customer-centric culture
  • talk about and live the core values, always!
  • recognize and reward employees for the behaviors that drive great customer experiences
  • ensure all employees know that they impact the customer and the customer experience (and how)
  • consider the impact of all decisions - yours and the ones that your employees make - on the customer and her experience
  • make decisions through a "people-first" lens 
  • and more!
Remember this: the things you talk about a lot are deemed important to employees, and employees realize the things you don't talk about are inconsequential.

Don't let your culture rot from the head down. If you, company leader, do these things, it sets the tone for your employees. They'll get it. They'll see that you mean business. But if you never do any of the things listed above, your employees won't believe that they - or your customers - are important or that there's any kind of transformation underway.

When employees have confidence in their leadership team and the mission they've undertaken to transform the business, they buy in, they believe, and they align with you and with the goals of the transformation, of the organization.

When employees align with senior leaders and with the mission, when everyone is working together and focused on the same goals, then the real magic can happen.

Why is culture so important to a business? Here is a simple way to frame it. The stronger the culture, the less corporate process a company needs. When the culture is strong, you can trust everyone to do the right thing. -Brian Chesky, co-founder and CEO, Airbnb

Thursday, July 5, 2018

The Continuum of Data-Driven Success

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I originally wrote today's post for Logi Analytics. It appeared on their blog on December 14, 2017.

Data is just data until you do something with it, right?!

That statement has plagued companies for a long time. For a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that they just don’t know what to do with the data.

In December 2017, I hosted a webinar with Logi Analytics titled 5 Steps to Making Data Actionable, in which I shared tips on moving beyond data for the sake of data – and dashboards for the sake of dashboards – to recommending insights and outputs that drive action, I thought I’d share some details about one of the areas I covered during my presentation: how data-driven decisions and actions have evolved, particularly for customer experience professionals.

Customer experience professionals know that, in order to deliver a great experience, companies must listen to customers, link customer feedback to transactional (and other) data, and act on what they hear. There’s an old Gartner statistic that I still like to share because I believe it’s relevant to this day:

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.

This statistic is a good, high-level representation of how companies have matured or evolved (or haven’t) along the continuum of data-driven success.

Let’s take a closer look at that continuum. And let’s assume that Phase 0 is not listening or looking at data at all.

Phase 1 (Feedback) is where we see companies in the primitive stages of understanding the importance of data, i.e., they know they need to listen to their customers, oftentimes because everyone else is doing it. But that’s all they do; they check the box to say, “We listen.” And they’re paralyzed by the reams of data that exist within their systems.

In Phase 2 (Metrics), companies pick up their next bad habit when it comes to customer listening and understanding: they focus on a metric, on making their number, on moving the needle on the score. Doing that, instead of using data to improve the customer experience, is not really progress, and it’s not really a good thing. When you focus on the metric, you reward the behaviors that move the number, not on those that deliver a better experience. those (former, not latter) behaviors are often bad behaviors.

The next level in the data-driven success continuum is Phase 3 (Insights). Now we’re starting to make some progress. Companies at this level are interpreting the data, digging for insights, and telling the story of the data. They are making some data-driven improvements, mainly tactical at this point.

In Phase 4 (Outcomes), companies realize they cannot just make improvements without linking the findings and the work to be done to operational metrics and business outcomes. They realize they’ll make greater progress and get the resources (human, capital, and more) if they can show that “if we do X, it will impact Y.”

And finally, in Phase 5 (Innovation), we see some real progress! Companies us the data, the insights, and the linkages to make some real, significant, strategic improvements: they use the data to develop new products that solve problems for customers and help them do some job, and they redesign the customer experience to better meet customers’ expectations.

The important component along each phase is, obviously, the data and what is done with the data. Critical to that is the way the data is presented to the one who consumes it and needs to do something with it. There’s definitely an evolution in analysis and reporting, as well, as companies mature along the continuum. The output goes from basic descriptive statistics to metrics and trends to insights and stories to ROI and financial linkages to predictive and prescriptive recommendations that retain customers.

Consider these things when you’re developing reports and dashboards for customer experience professionals or for those who need to consume customer data in order to improve the experience. The data needs to be presented in a way that’s actionable; more specifically, it needs to tell the user exactly what needs to be done, why, and what the impact of making the change will be.

There are two goals when presenting data: convey your story and establish credibility. -Edward Tufte

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

CX Journey™ Musings: Golden Rule or Platinum Rule?

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Here's another age-old debate... gold or platinum?

Personally, I prefer platinum.

Oh wait. What are we talking about? LOL.

Rules. I'm talking about rules.

I still prefer platinum!

On the heels of my recent post about imagining that you're a human... I thought I'd take a look at which one, the Golden Rule or  the Platinum Rule, puts us into more-human and more-empathetic shoes.

You're probably well aware of both rules I'm referring to. The Golden Rule states that you should treat others the way that you would want to be treated, while the Platinum Rule shifts the focus a bit and says that you should treat others the way that they want to be treated.

I'm positive the Platinum Rule was created by a customer experience professional! While the Golden Rule ignores the feelings of others and assumes that we all want to be treated the same way, the Platinum Rule recognizes that we don't, that we want to be treated the way we want to be treated. It acknowledges that we all have different needs and want to be respected as individuals. It's quite the improvement to the Golden Rule. It's much more empathetic.

The Platinum Rule speaks to customer experience professionals. We are constantly preaching that companies need to be more empathetic and do a better job of understanding customers wants, needs, pain points, problems to solve, jobs to be done, and more... so that they can design the products and the experiences that customers want - or that solve customers problems and painpoints.

Put differently, I think the Golden Rule perpetuates inside-out thinking, while the Platinum Rule inspires outside-in thinking.

What's the best way to perpetuate the Platinum Rule? Three ways that I write and talk about all the time are:
  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.
These are all critical learning exercises. We walk away from each one with a lot of knowledge about customers wants, needs, problems to solve, etc. Use that information to live the Platinum Rule with your customers.

If you still think the Golden Rule is the better rule, consider this golden rule: He who has the gold makes the rules. Your customers hold the gold, and they will spend it elsewhere if you don't take the time to get to know them.

I've said it before: maybe it goes beyond those rules to just simply doing what's right. But does that mean we need to rely on common sense? And how common is common sense? Maybe that's the problem.

The golden rule for every business man is this: Put yourself in your customer’s place. – Orison Swett Marden

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Journey Mapping Your Way to Better Customer Communications

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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... "


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.

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.

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