Thursday, December 27, 2018

Change Vision: Getting Employees on Board with Your Transformation Journey

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's post for CallidusCloud. It appeared on their blog on March 28, 2018.

Change is hard. But it’s even harder when you don’t have a clear sense of the outcome – and how you’ll achieve that outcome.

Your culture transformation, your employee experience transformation, and your customer experience transformation are not cake walks. I call the whole thing a journey for a reason. It's never-ending. And it's a lot of work - a lot of really hard work. You can't change the culture and the way you do business overnight. It's just not going to happen!

And it's definitely not going to happen if your employees aren't on board! As a matter of fact, if they're suffering from change fatigue, if they can’t stand the thought of yet one more change initiative, then it's going to be really difficult to make change happen.

How do you get them on board?

You need to start with a vision for your change. A change vision is a statement or image of some desired future state, i.e., what the company will look like after you change, along with details about why this future state is desirable. It will give employees a sense of the magnitude of the change and the overall impact on the organization.

John Kotter, the master guru of change management, states that a change vision serves three purposes:
  1. It simplifies and clarifies the outcome of the change.
  2. It motivates people to make the change.
  3. It aligns individuals around the goal or outcome, giving them a shared sense of direction.
Just like your company vision or your CX vision, your change vision is inspirational, but it is realistic and drives strategy, as well as the execution of that strategy.

In his book Leading Change, Kotter says that an effective change vision has six important qualities. It is...
  1. Imaginable, conveying a picture of what the future looks like
  2. Desirable, appealing to the interests of employees, customers, shareholders, and other enterprise constituents
  3. Feasible, setting forth realistic and achievable goals
  4. Focused, providing clarity and guidance for decision making
  5. Flexible, allowing for individual initiative and alternative solutions due to changing conditions
  6. Communicable, being easy to communicate and explainable in less than five minutes
The latter point is a great one. Communicating your vision is an important piece of change management. If no one knows what it is or why it's taking place, then people start to ignore it; they certainly don't want to be a part of it. Of course, the key is to communicate the right information. Early. And often. Keep communicating.

Employees want to know:
  • What's changing?
  • Why is it changing?
  • How long will it take?
  • What's the impact on the business?
  • What does it mean for me?
  • What's my role?
  • What's in it for me?
  • What happens if I don't get involved?
  • What happens if I don't change?
  • What happens if we (company) don't change?
Kotter outlines seven key elements to effectively communicate your change vision. They include:
  1. Keep it simple: don't use jargon and language that is confusing to those who need to understand it.
  2. Use metaphors, analogies, and examples: paint a picture of what the current state is and what the future state will be. Tell stories about where you came from, where you are today, and where you're headed.
  3. Use multiple forums: there are different channels and methods to communicate the vision, including meetings, town halls, memos, email, conversations, etc.
  4. Be repetitive: it will really sink in when employees hear the vision over and over again.
  5. Lead by example: executives and leaders must be the role model for the change they expect to see; their behaviors cannot be inconsistent with the change vision.
  6. Explain seeming inconsistencies: if inconsistencies go unaddressed, they will derail the whole effort and kill the  credibility of the entire change effort.
  7. Give and take: use two-way communication; don't just talk, listen. Employees will have questions and feedback. Listen, answer, and address.
I would add that you should message with empathy and caring. Don't dictate. Don't ram it down their throats. Communicate in a way that lets people know not only that it's important but so are they and their feelings and perspectives about the change.

Of course, you can have the most amazing change vision in the world, but if you don't actually execute on it, you lose credibility, and you lose a great opportunity to improve the experience for employees and for customers. There's a Japanese proverb that states: "Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare." You can't really have one without the other. Set your vision. Outline the strategy to achieve it. And go do it.

Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world. -Nelson Mandela


Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Questions to Consider Before Forming a Customer Advisory Board

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's post for Clicktools. It appeared on their blog on March 26, 2018.

There are a lot of different ways to listen to customers and employees. 

Most companies think that surveys are the only way to go, but you can get feedback in a variety of other ways, as well. One of my favorite approaches is via a customer advisory board. (Keep in mind that you can also create an employee advisory board to get feedback from your employees.)

What is a customer advisory board? According to Wikipedia...
A Customer Advisory Council (also referred to as a Customer Advisory Board or CAB) is a form of market research whereby a group of existing customers is convened on a regular basis to advise company management on industry trends, business priorities, and strategic direction.
There are a lot of reasons to set up a CAB, but CustomerAdvisoryBoard.org says CABs will deliver:
  • Early warnings of shifts in customer needs and emerging opportunities (Market Research)
  • New product development feedback (Innovation)
  • Reduce customer attrition and churn, especially among Customer Advisory Board members (Customer Loyalty) 
  • Advice on approaching and appealing to similar customers, including referrals (Sales)
  • Intelligence on competitor's tactics and strategies - what’s working and what’s not (Market Intelligence)
  • A Customer Advisory Board can drive significant new revenue if managed effectively!
Clearly, there are a lot of benefits to setting up and managing a customer advisory board - from listening to networking and relationship building. But those benefits can only be achieved if the CAB is properly managed. Running a customer advisory board is really a full-time job.

Here are some things to consider and questions to answer as you begin to set up your CAB. The answers to these questions can then become the basis for your CAB charter, which is an important document for the internal audience to keep everyone aligned; it is also be used to set expectations for members.

Objectives
Keep in mind that a customer advisory board is all about customer listening. What you do with what you hear may drive different outcomes (including customer retention and new business), but ultimately, you are creating the CAB to listen, hear, and share information. What's the purpose of your CAB? Is it purely about understanding customer expectations and the customer experience, or is it also strategic, centering on market trends, industry trends, regulatory climate, etc.? Or is it about identifying new products or solutions? Clearly spell out the objectives and desired outcomes for your CAB.

Scope
Who will your CAB members be, i.e., executives, daily contacts, end users, etc.? What segment (product, geographic, size, etc.) of your customers will this CAB include/cover? (Note that CABs are not meant to be comprised of only your happiest customers.)

Personnel
It's really important to note, as I mentioned earlier, that managing a CAB can be/is a full-time job. Who's going to manage the CAB? Who's your executive sponsor? Who will facilitate the meetings? Will you have a graphic recorder and/or a videographer?

Membership
Your CAB members will be invited to participate for a specific period of time, often two years. How long will membership last? And who can sit in for a member if he/she can't attend a meeting? How will you replace a member if she needs to drop out? What happens at the end of those two years, e.g., a member may be asked to remain on the CAB or will be replaced? How many members will you have? Typically, in my experience, 15-20 members is about the right size, keeping in mind that not everyone will make every meeting.

Meeting Frequency
How often will you hold in-person CAB meetings? What will you do in the interim? Will you have a virtual/web meeting between in-person meetings? At what cadence or frequency? And how long will the meetings last?

Meeting Location(s)
Where will the meetings be held? Will they always be in the same place, or will they move from city to city?

Membership Roles & Expectations
How many meetings can a member miss without being removed from the CAB? Will CAB members' names be listed anywhere publicly? What does "participation" mean for members? What is a member's role in the CAB meetings? Who pays travel expenses to/from the CAB meeting?

Member Benefits
How will you explain the benefits of CAB participation to your members? What value will they get as a result of being a member?

The topic areas listed above can be a part of the charter document that is shared with members. There are some internal-facing topics that your customers don't need to be privy to, including the following.

Rules of Engagement
Who owns the CAB? How will they manage it? What are expectations in terms of agenda setting before the meeting and closing the loop with members after the meeting? Who will drive the agenda for each meeting? How will members be involved in defining the agenda? Who will prepare objectives, content, and materials for each meeting? Who will receive a report of the meeting afterward? Who will participate in the meeting, not only as observers but also presenters? How frequently will the CAB manager communicate with members before, after, and between meetings?

Success Metrics - Business Outcomes
How will you measure success of the CAB for the business? What are the desired outcomes and what are the associated metrics?

Success Metrics - CAB Manager
How will you measure success of the CAB for the CAB Manager?

There are a lot of other details that are specific to recruiting, agenda development, communications, and overall CAB management. My hope is that this post gives you some high-level questions to consider as you start to consider and define for your customer advisory board.

Keep in mind that CABs are not platforms for selling anything; they are another listening post in your CX tool box. Your company attendees should not outnumber CAB member attendees. And you/your company attendees will spend 80% of your time listening and 20% of your time talking. This last point is an important one to keep in mind!

I think it's very important to have a feedback loop, where you're constantly thinking about what you've done and how you could be doing it better. I think that's the single best piece of advice: constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself. -Elon Musk

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Hiring Tips for Your CX Team

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Today I'm pleased to share a guest post by Liliana Petrova of DoingCXRight that is based on her experience hiring CX teams. This post originally appeared on her site on November 21, 2018.

Although customer experience has been around for a long time, hiring for CX has become a greater priority for executives and funding committees only in the last five years. With that shift comes the rise of the CX Team in the organizational structures of banks, insurance companies, consumer brands, and B-to-B entities.

How to Build a CX Team
Within the CX Team, the Customer Experience Director (or Customer Insights Director) leads the charge. Let’s say this is your role in your organization. Typically, you are the company’s first CX hire, tasked with building a team from scratch. Likely, in that first year you have to assemble your CX Team, you have limited funding until you prove the value of investing more in customer experience efforts.

The pressure to demonstrate business impact and ROI quickly makes your first hire even more important. As usual, there is no answer that fits all scenarios perfectly. We have some helpful strategies to consider based on the structure of your organization and your goals.

Hiring without a Customer Insights Team in Place
The CX cycle begins and ends with customer insights (the Voice of the Customer program). With no customer insights team in place, it is hard to know where to begin. If that team does not exist, your first order of business is to set it up. If you only have funding for one hire, hire a customer insights expert to learn what is not working well for your customers and what measures you need to take to improve the customer journeys.

Hire a manager-level professional with a strong analytical background who is not afraid of doing the grunt work in the beginning. You will need strong insights to convince your leadership of the need for investment in CX.

Hiring with a Customer Insights Team in Place
Once you know the parts of the customer experience that need to be addressed, you can hire an operations person – preferably an internal hire. An operations person on your CX Team helps you learn why your organization is not able to deliver great customer experience. An operations person is also invaluable for change management.

This CX Team member knows how to “sell” the changes in procedures and processes to the frontline. He/she is also invaluable with testing and trialing new solutions in the field. I promise you this hire is not going to be afraid to stand in front of customers and try new ways of doing things. That’s the kind of power you want to bring to drive the customer experience changes in your business.

Hiring with Customer Insights and Operations Expertise in Place on Your CX Team
Once you have the two foundational pieces of customer experience – the insights and the frontline know-how – you can hire a Project Manager or a Program Manager. The size of your portfolio will determine whether you should hire a project manager or a program manager.

If you have scoped one or two projects and have sufficient funding for them, it may be better to start with a Project Manager. If you have a bigger mandate and a higher level of responsibilities, hire a Program Manager for your CX Team. You will need this person to run the funding and reporting of your efforts smoothly. He/she will also hold different parts of the organization accountable for their pieces of your CX projects.

Hiring When You Have All of the Above on Your CX Team
The next two recommendations may surprise you, but they are critical to a successful CX Team: a dedicated brand manager and a finance person. If you have the basic CX hiring in place, and you have significant budget and responsibilities, you need to start doing some internal and external PR. You also need to maintain your credibility with finance in order to secure future funding. To achieve these goals, you need to add a dedicated brand designer and a finance person to your team.

These two positions on the CX Team are the hardest to sell to senior leadership because they technically exist somewhere else in the organization. The key here is to show why these professionals need to be dedicated to your Customer Experience program. For your CX Team to succeed, you have a lot of creative to do. If you are a change agent for the brand you are servicing (as you should be), you have to tell stories to your internal stakeholders through internal PR as well as to external stakeholders and the media.

Your success depends on a brand designer and finance expert more than you may anticipate. When I did not have a finance pro on my CX Team, I ended up doing the finance role at night, since I had that skillset from my previous life. That, of course, is not ideal.

Hiring members of the CX Team requires you to take a long view of customer experience design, execution, and goals. Internal and external hiring for CX forces you to look at the short and long-term goals of your CX strategies, how to implement them for your customers, and how to communicate them to the C-Suite.

As a result, CX hiring is another good exercise in doing CX right for your customers and for your brand.

Liliana Petrova, CCXP is a visionary and a proven leader in the field of customer experience and innovation. She is an inspirational leader who pioneered a new customer-centric culture, energizing the more than 15,000 JetBlue employees with her vision. She has been recognized for her JFK Lobby redesign and facial recognition program with awards from Future Travel Experience and Popular Science. Ms. Petrova is co-founder of DoingCXRight, a resource for customer experience professionals across industries. She is committed to creating seamless, successful experiences for customers and delivering greater value for brands.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

5 #Leadership Books You Must Read in 2019

Image courtesy of Pixabay
What's in your library?

I still love to hold and read physical books (as opposed to audible, Kindle, etc.). I don't know how many books I added to my library this year, but it was a lot. I thought I'd share some good ones that I'd recommend you add to your reading list for 2019.

These books are not customer experience books per se - but the outcomes of implementing what you learn in them will certainly lead to better experiences for employees and for customers. Let's dive in.

I read the first two books on cross-country travel last week, with time to spare for chatting with my seatmates. (In other words, quick reads but packed full of good stuff.)

The Truth About Employee Engagement by Patrick Lencioni
Similar to Patrick Lencioni's other books, this one is also a fable. In this book, Patrick writes about the three root causes of job misery, which can be summed up as immeasurement, irrelevance, and anonymity. In a nutshell, measure what matters, understand who your work impacts and how you impact them, and take a real interest in co-workers. The story takes you through several examples of how one CEO, who loves to lead and to manage, uncovered these three root causes and how he put them into practice at a couple different companies in different industries.

A Journey Into the Heroic Environment by Rob Lebow
I read the original edition of this book, which was written in 1997. I believe the latest edition was updated in 2004. Here's a great quote from Rob Lebow: Imagine a place where everyone puts the interests of others before their own. Where everyone tells the truth and where trust and mentoring abound. That place is called a Heroic Environment®. This book is also written as an engaging fable that leaves you not wanting to put the book down until you understand the difference between Business Values and People Values, learn what a Heroic Environment is, read about the four corporate personality traits, and more. Rob created a Shared Values Process/Operating System, which is a training and culture change tool. This book outlines the foundation for his "people operating system."

Crave: You Can Enhance Employee Motivation in 10 Minutes by Friday by Gregg Lederman
This is Gregg Lederman's third book. In 2012, I wrote about his first book, Brand Integrity, and in 2013, I wrote about his second, Engaged!. His latest book, Crave, delves into the three things that humans crave at work that, when attained, make them happier and more productive: respect, purpose, and relationships. Interestingly enough, this book is based on 80 years worth of research Gregg dug up that overwhelmingly supports these three motivators. Gregg writes about how you can motivate employees in "10 minutes by FridayTM" and provides clear guidelines, plus supplemental worksheets, on how to develop this weekly habit.

Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family by Bob Chapman
If you've been a follower of my blog for a while, you know that I first started writing about Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry-Wehmiller, and his leadership approach, i.e., Truly Human Leadership, back in 2012, and have written about him several times since. This book chronicles Bob's history with Barry-Wehmiller and, more importantly, his own epiphany about leadership, i.e., that leaders have an awesome responsibility over their employees and must treat people like people. In his own words: Everybody Matters is about what happens when ordinary people throw away long-accepted management practices and start operating from their deepest sense of right, with a sense of profound responsibility for the lives entrusted to them. In a truly human organization, the worth of every individual is validated; people are allowed to be who they were meant to be; and there's a common purpose that creates value. As a result, employees go home to their families every night feeling good about themselves and have a more meaningful life.

The Transformational Power of Executive Team Alignment by Miles Kierson
There are a lot of factors that contribute to a leadership team's success, but none as important as team alignment. One of my favorite quotes from the book is: Calling most executive groups teams would be a stretch of imagination since by definition a team is a group of people who are working on some common end together. Ouch. As you probably already know, executive team alignment is critical to the success of any transformation or strategic implementation. Miles defines alignment as a relationship to decisions whereby you own them completely. It is also a commitment to have a decision work. And it's a choice. Each individual on the executive team must choose to be aligned. It's a fascinating read, and you'll learn how to become an aligned team and how to sustain that alignment.

Share some of your must-reads for 2019 in the comments below.

In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you. -Mortimer J. Adler


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. 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.
  4. 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. By linking the service blueprint to the customer's journey, you've got that end-to-end picture of the journey plus the surface to core view, giving you the complete picture of what's working and what's not. 
  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.

Remember, you can't transform something you don't understand.

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?