Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Focusing on Doing More of the Good Things

Image courtesy of Pixabay
What is appreciative inquiry, and how can it help move your change management efforts forward - in a positive way? 

Change management is really key to any customer experience transformation. As you well know, the transformation always focuses on the bad, on what's going wrong - in hopes of improving and making it better; otherwise, I suppose, it wouldn't be called a "transformation."

What if we focused on the positive, too? or instead? And did more of what's going well than (or in addition to) trying to change what's not going well. I'm hoping most companies already do some of that, but I tend to see/hear more about the focus on changing the bad than on embracing the good.

There's a concept called appreciative inquiry (AI) that shifts the thinking on this. What is it? From David Cooperrider, Lindsey Godwin, and Jacqueline Stavros (Cooperrider is the co-creator of this concept)...
At its heart, AI is about the search for the best in people, their organizations, and the strengths-filled, opportunity-rich world around them. AI is not so much a shift in the methods and models of organizational change, but AI is a fundamental shift in the overall perspective taken throughout the entire change process to ‘see’ the wholeness of the human system and to “inquire” into that system’s strengths, possibilities, and successes.
Yet another mindset shift to consider and to push us to do things differently! When thinking of change, focus on the good, perpetuate that, and drive change by embracing and building on the positive. The concept is framed on the notion that organizations will move in the direction of what it studies or focuses on.

From TechTarget, it is...
...a change management approach that focuses on identifying what is working well, analyzing why it is working well, and then doing more of it. The basic tenet of AI is that an organization will grow in whichever direction that people in the organization focus their attention. If all the attention is focused on problems, then identifying problems and dealing with them is what the organization will do best. If all the attention is focused on strengths, however, then identifying strengths and building on those strengths is what the organization will do best.
I'm all for focusing on what's working well! What do you think? Is this a viable approach for CX professionals? Is there enough good in organizations when it comes to delivering both the employee experience and the customer experience that there's something to build on?

How does appreciative inquiry work? There's a 5-D model associated with it that looks like this.
  1. Define: What do you want to study? What do you want more of? What are the desired outcomes? When has the customer experience gone well, what can we learn from that, and how can you do more of the same?
  2. Discover: Talk about and define what's working well. What have some of the company's successes been? What are its strengths? When you think about periods or pockets of organizational excellence, what does/did that look like? What did each of those periods of pockets of excellence have in common?
  3. Dream: Having identified what the organization does best, ideate the future state and imagine what could be. How do you return to that period of greatness? What's the shared vision for the future?
  4. Design: If you want the ideal, what does it look like? What steps do you need to take to achieve that? Continuous learning and adjustment are key to this phase. (The model steps start to feel a bit like design thinking.)
  5. Destiny: Implementation of the design. How will the design be delivered? How is it socialized and embedded within the organization? How will you celebrate successes?
These five are an ongoing cycle... once you've achieved success, the process loops around and continues to build on itself, always looking for the positive, embracing it, and improving on it.

A rising tide lifts all boats. -John F. Kennedy

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

CX Journey™ Musings: Culture is More Than Hiring the Right People

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Don't believe everything you read or hear on the Internet.

Yea, I know. Your mom probably warned you about that, but I'm just going to reiterate.

It's a fact.

Sometimes well-meaning folks put themselves out there as experts in a field and then think they can provide expertise about an unrelated (or perhaps, ancillary) field, knowing/assuming their followers will buy into what they are saying. With that authority or expertise comes a lot of responsibility - a responsibility to not mislead your audience!

Case in point.

I follow a digital marketer who just recently launched a podcast. In his teaser post to get people to listen to the podcast, he said that building a great company culture starts with hiring the right people.

Not so fast.

Recall from a post that I wrote a few months ago about the 7 Pillars of a Strong Culture...
Culture is best defined as "values plus behavior" and is often described as "how employees act when no one is looking."

I've previously defined culture as the set of values and norms that guides how the business operates; culture happens when we operationalize the values.
Building a culture starts with defining the seven pillars, not the least of which is the values that are the foundation of your culture!

Hiring the "right people" cannot happen until you've defined the values. How can you objectively identify if someone is the "right person" or is a "culture fit" if you haven't first defined your culture (values + behavior)? How will you know if their values match the company's values? How would you define the "right people?"

Please define your culture/values first, then hire the right people. These "right people" will fit, add value to, contribute to, be a part of, and build on the culture that exists/was created as a result of your core values.

Hiring people doesn't build a culture. Yes, hiring the right people is important to maintaining and sustaining your culture; however, your values are the foundation of that culture, which means they are the foundation for hiring, promoting, and firing. Building a culture starts with defining your values.

I think this quote from Tony Hsieh says it all...

We believe that it’s really important to come up with core values that you can commit to. And by commit, we mean that you’re willing to hire and fire based on them. If you’re willing to do that, then you’re well on your way to building a company culture that is in line with the brand you want to build. -Tony Hsieh, CEO, Zappos


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Why #CX Transformations Fail

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Do you feel like you're not making the progress in your customer experience transformation efforts that you thought/hoped you would by now?

You started years (not months - it's a journey - it takes time!) ago, but you don't think your organization has evolved.

What's the reason for that?

I've seen several posts lately about CX being all talk and no action - that it's a lot of effort to pull off a customer experience transformation (and no doubt, it is!) with little to no return.

Nothing has changed. Lots of effort has been put forth to improve the customer experience, with no apparent improvements. Companies are still treating customers poorly. And customers are still complaining.

In other words, customer experience improvement efforts are failing.

I have a couple of thoughts on what's causing this. We advocate, as customer experience professionals, getting to the root cause of issues. That's the only way we can address this issue. So here goes. Here's where I think the root causes lie.

1. Executives aren't aligned
Executives aren't aligned with the customer experience transformation journey - or amongst themselves, i.e., with each other.

Unfortunately, most executive teams are not in alignment; they don’t work as a team. Instead, they function more as a “working group” or as a “committee” than as a team. If they're in alignment, they make a decision, support it and each other, and champion the decision down into their organizations.

Worse yet, they aren't aligned about customer experience transformation efforts and what that means for their employees, their customers, and their business. I've seen it. If they're not all on board, if they don't all agree that the purpose of the business is create and to nurture customers, then there's a lot of short-term thinking that focuses on the numbers rather than a long-term vision to transform the culture and the business.

I'm sure some folks will say that's all fluff. But executive alignment alone is not the problem. It's definitely one of the problems. One big problem.

2. CX is not a standalone effort
Listen. It's all CX! When I continue to hear people ask questions like, "Doesn't more customer focus means less focus on products, etc.?" then I know we are in trouble. Big trouble. These are not conflicting priorities. Customers and the voice of the customer need to be woven into all you do. Isn’t it all about the customer experience? Isn’t all you do in business for the customer?

Instead, customers aren’t considered when executives and employees are making decisions, creating new products, designing new policies and processes, developing messaging and communications, etc. They're an after-thought. It happens all the time.

When we get to the state of "What the Hell is Customer Experience?" then we know we won't be answering questions any more about how a customer focus conflicts with the product focus. 

Money is being spent by businesses every day to make changes or improvements, and yet they don't factor in the needs of the customer? Weird, no?

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

3. It's about the employee experience more first!
Certainly not last or least is the employee. In all of the posts about why customer experience transformation efforts are failing, I don't recall anyone mentioning the fact that the most important component in the equation is the employee!

I've been talking about the importance of employees to the customer experience since my days at J.D. Power and Associates 25 years ago; sadly, in the heat of customer experience design efforts, employees are still forgotten. Company executives say: "We'll collect feedback from employees later. We'll incorporate employee input after we hear how our customers feel. We’ll do something for employees next year. We’ll think about our culture at another time. Let's start with customers." This is not in any way, shape, or form acceptable. Without your employees, you have no customer experience.

The transformation must begin with the employee experience. Solve the employee experience challenges and create a culture in which employees thrive, and you're more than halfway into your customer experience improvement efforts; the transformation becomes much easier.

Are there more?
Those aren't the only reasons your customer experience transformation efforts fail. But they are three key reasons: (1) Executives must all be on board, aligned, and walking the same walk, talking the same talk, modeling the behaviors they want to see. (2) Employees must be first; focus on the employee experience. Get the employee experience right, and employees will deliver the experience your customers want. (3) And the customer voice must be infused into all you do; the customer experience cannot be viewed separately from what the business is already doing.

The bottom line is that we need to get the basics right. If you're committing any of The 7 Deadly Sins of Customer Experience, you're definitely not getting the basics right. If you believe that technology will solve people problems or that it's the fix for customer experience challenges, you're wrong; technology - any and all of it - is a tool to facilitate the customer experience, not to fix it.

What do you think? Why are customer experience transformation efforts failing?

My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure. -Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

A Culture of Excuses

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Is your company culture best described as a culture of excuses?

If so, then you need to think about why that's happening. Why are people making excuses? Why do they feel they need to? Why is that OK?

And then consider making "no excuses" one of your core values. Seriously.

Have you ever had a conversation with one of your employees or a colleague about some topic - be it customer experience, employee experience, strategy, or the business in general - a topic, perhaps, where you asked about its progress or why something was or wasn't being done? How did that conversation go? What were the responses to the questions? Did you hear what was being said? Were the responses satisfactory? Or did you feel like you were being put off? Were there excuses for why things weren't be done?

Is the standard response to that type of inquiry in your organization to explain it away or to cover up a known wrong?

Sadly, a culture of excuses is real.

Why do excuses become a thing? Why do people default to them? I think there are a few reasons this happens.
  • Don't know any differently: we've always done it that way; we've always made excuses (a self-perpetuating problem!); it's what we do.
  • CYA: cover your ass in order to avoid criticism or punishment or to avoid doing what needs to be done.
  • Fear of failure: if I don't do the thing that I'm afraid to do and just make an excuse instead, all will be fine.
  • Fear of recourse or lack of psychological safety: if I say or do what I'm supposed to, I'll be punished, chastised, fired, etc.
  • Fear of [fill in the blank]: fear is probably one of the biggest drivers of an excuse culture.
  • Lack of accountability: people need to take ownership and to be held accountable, but you can't just tell them they are accountable and leave it at that. Check in with them and offer help, praise, and encouragement.
  • Executive behavior, i.e., if they can make excuses, why can't I?
  • No clear vision: with a clearly-defined and clearly-communicated vision, employees can never say that they didn't know what was expected of them or what they should do/should've done.
  • Lack of training and development: if you properly train and develop employees, giving them the knowledge and the resources they need, they can't say that they didn't know what to do or how to do it?
  • Lack of clear expectations: when reasonable expectations are set and communicated, excuses should be minimal to zero.
  • Lack of leadership: leadership that puts employees' needs first, creates an environment of open and honest conversation (so people can ask questions or ask for help rather than make excuses), ensures that employees have the tools and resources to do what they've been tasked with,  communicates that no question is stupid, and ensures them that we all learn from mistakes.
  • Laziness: there is a percentage of people who make excuses who are just plain lazy.
How do we stop this cycle of excuses?

First, we have to acknowledge that it's a problem. That's the biggest step - being self-aware, i.e.,  knowing that you're making excuses, not simply giving valid reasons or explanations.

Second, executives must model and foster the right behavior. They need to be accountable and be held accountable. They need to do what it is they say they're going to do. They need to not make excuses.

Third, discuss and communicate. Talk about it. Don't let it be the elephant in the room. We all know it's happening. Acknowledge it and address it. If not, then it becomes acceptable by default.

And, fourth and probably most important, get to the root cause. Understand why people feel they need to make excuses. If I had to guess, fear would be the reason - but get to the root cause of that fear; otherwise, that's just an excuse, too.

Don't let your organization's culture become one where finding excuses overshadows finding a solution, making a decision, and taking real action. As I mentioned at the top of the article, consider making "no excuses," or something comparable, one of your core values. And give employees the guidance and the freedom to live that value.

Do you find yourself making excuses when you do not perform? Shed the excuses and face reality. Excuses are the loser's way out. They will mar your credibility and stunt your personal growth. -Alexander Pope