Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Journey Mapping Your Way to Better Customer Communications

Image courtesy of Pixabay
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... "

Yikes!

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