Thursday, May 31, 2018

Is Your Company People-Centric or Profit-Centric?

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

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

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

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

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

How do you design a people-centric culture?

I'm so glad you asked!

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Customer Experience and Digital Transformation

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Tips for Designing a Closed-Loop Feedback Process

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

7 Customer Experience Strategies You Can Hack from Amazon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

On Which Does Your Company Focus: Customer Acquisition or Retention

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

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

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

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

Make a customer, not a sale. -Katherine Barchetti

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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