Tuesday, October 30, 2018

#CX Buzzwords or the Real Deal?

Image courtesy of CMP
The customer experience profession has a lot of buzzwords. Or does it?

I was recently given access to a report by the team at Customer Management Practice, organizers of the popular CCW (Customer Contact Week) events. The report is titled "Navigating Industry Buzzwords" and contains a compilation of thoughts by the nine members of the CCW Advisory Board on those so-called buzzwords.

For this report, the advisors were asked to identify three words that resonate with their organizations and to dispel the buzzwords myth by getting to the core of why these words (listed below) are the real deal.
  • Journey
  • Voice of customer
  • Engagement
  • Culture
  • Automation
  • Security
  • Experience
  • Metrics
  • Transformation
Let's start with a definition of "buzzword." According to dictionary.com, it is a word or phrase, often sounding authoritative or technical, that is a vogue term in a particular profession, field of study, popular culture, etc.

Given that definition, honestly, none of those words are "in vogue" terms; they're all an important part of what we do, part of our (customer experience professionals') daily language. I feel like calling them buzzwords gives a negative connotation or refers to a fly-by-night term that will be gone next week.

Where I see the problem with these words is how they're defined and how they're used. For example, I heard recently that someone thought "customer journey" was the hot new word for "customer experience," which is now passe. OK, please don't buy into that. Let's stop renaming things - customer experience is customer experience - and focus more on understanding and executing.

On that note, let's take a look at how the Advisory Board members define and use the three terms they picked.

Wendy Liu is VP, Customer Care and Executive Care Response Liaison at Comcast. Her three terms are transformation, journey, and culture.
  • Transformation: Taking the best of what we know about ourselves, examine closely where we have challenges, and enlist our team members in making the change together. 
  • Journey: A view and practice that treats our team members and customer interactions not as single transactions or destinations but as an experience with well-defined maps and thoughtful guides to help our teams and customers navigate and discover. 
  • Culture: What we stand for, our common purpose and how we have a shared consciousness in how we fulfill the common purpose
Brad Nichols, Global Customer Service Leader for Dun & Bradstreet, defined his three favorite terms as follows.
  • Metrics: The barometer of successful performance
  • Culture: The way ‘things are done’ around here. What gets rewarded, punished, and how to behave to get ahead. 
  • Voice of Customer: The direct words, feedback and input of those we serve or want to serve
And when Shep Hyken was asked what his three favorite terms meant for his organization, he answered as follows.
  • Experience: We are all about creating an “amazing” experience for our customers (and for our employees).
  • Metrics: You can’t manage what you don’t measure.
  • Culture: Without the right culture in place, we won’t deliver the experience we want our customers to have. To be the best place to do business with, we have to be a great place to do business with. What’s happening on the inside is felt on the outside by the customer.
Be sure to check out the report to find out how the other six Advisory Board members chose and defined their "buzzwords." And then join me in Nashville from January 15-18, 2019, for CCW Nashville, when Jenn Lim, CEO & Chief Happiness Officer, Delivering Happiness, keynotes the event, and amazing speakers from Postmates, Subway, HBO, and Toll Brothers, just to name a few, speak on the same stage.

IABC Gold Quill entry: Our challenge was to design and implement a multi-faceted customer experience initiative supported by a change-management strategy.
Judge’s comment: Someone graduated with honors from buzzword college.

-International Association of Business Communications Gold Quill awards

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

How to Create a Superb Customer Experience on the Web

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Today I'm pleased to share another guest post by Lexie Lu of Design Roast.

If you want customers to return to your site, you have to create an amazing customer experience (CX). People tend to remember how your site makes them feel over the specific elements of the site. Everything from the overall design of the pages to customer service to overall functionality plays into CX.

Out of the companies working actively to improve customer experience, about 84 percent saw an increase in revenue. If you want to focus on CX and improve your image with your customers, here are 11 key steps.

1. Show That You Care
Seventy-nine percent of people want to know that a brand cares before they buy something. Brands that show they understand what the customer needs and that have a strong commitment to delivering a solution attract loyal followers. Be upfront about your policies and the attention to detail you offer to make sure your customers are happy. In addition, remember that testimonials are a great way to show that you already have happy customers.

2. Interact with Your Customers
Most people are on at least one social media platform. Social media creates a culture where people expect interaction, including interactions with brands. For B2B businesses, the stakes are higher, with many business buyers expecting a brand to interact with them immediately. Not to mention, most consumers expect a real-time response, as well.

3. Know Your Target Audience
This advice appears over and over because it's so vital to successful branding and the overall customer experience. You can't create a positive experience if you don't understand what your typical customer wants and needs. Knowing your target audience involves studying general data and then digging deeper and learning about purchase history as well as polling current customers to see where your services could improve.

4. Revamp Your Website
For many of your leads, your website is the first impression they have of your brand. If your website loads slowly, is ugly, or has broken links, the user experience suffers. Take the time to audit your website and see what needs updating. Make sure the site matches your overall branding efforts and that customers get a consistent experience whether they visit your website or see you on social media.

5. Offer a Guarantee
People want a positive experience from brands. About 55 percent of customers say they'd pay more if they were guaranteed a good experience. Think about what kind of guarantee you can offer to your customers. What about your brand stands out from all the other brands out there? How can you turn that into a promise?

6. Focus on Mobile
More and more people demand a positive mobile experience. About 56 percent of people said they felt disappointment if they liked a brand but the mobile site wasn't a good experience. On top of that, if the experience on mobile was bad, then 52 percent became less likely to engage with that brand going forward.

It's a smart use of your resources to invest in the mobile version of your site. Test it thoroughly, and make sure it looks good and functions properly on smaller screens.

7. Remain Consistent
Omni-channel is a buzzword these days and simply means that you offer the same or similar customer experience across different platforms. If a customer phones you and asks a question, they should get the same answer as if they walk into a store or talk to an agent via live chat on your website.

In addition, you should track conversations so that customer service reps can review the previous contact from that customer. Eighty-nine percent of individuals dislike repeating the same issue to multiple people. Make them explain the problem only once, even if you have to transfer them to another department.

8. Speed up Customer Service
Around 77 percent of people think it takes too long to get in touch with a live agent. Don't leave your customers on hold. If you need to hire more customer service agents to keep up with volume, prioritize this task. The longer a customer waits, the more likely they are to grow frustrated. If someone contacts you, they likely already have an issue and are frustrated. Making them wait only magnifies the problem.

9. Get Customers Involved on Social Media
Encourage your customers to get involved with your brand on social media. Ask a question, take a poll, or run a contest where users share their own content, such as a picture of them using your product along with a specific hashtag. Figure out ways to keep them engaged, even when they aren't making a purchase. If you develop a relationship with your customers, they're more likely to remember your brand the next time they need to make a purchase.

10. Make Their Lives Better
Is your brand seen as one of the better brands out there? In the United States, 62 percent of people think the brands they love make their lives better in some way. How can your brand make the customer experience better overall?

Create a follow-up program where you contact the customer after the sale to make sure they're satisfied. Keep the order form simple and easy to complete, saving the consumer time. Figure out other problems your target audience faces, and create solutions for those issues, too.

11. Start a Loyalty Program
Loyal customers are five times as likely to buy from you again and more likely to forgive an error on your part. Building loyalty takes time and commitment. You must first build that relationship with your customers, but starting a loyalty program is a good first step. Reward customers who buy from you over and over or refer others to you.

A Better Customer Experience
Creating a better customer experience doesn't have to be rocket science. Look at your website and brand through the eyes of your typical site visitor. What elements work well, and what needs to be fixed? The more seamlessly your site functions, the better your customer experience, and the more loyal your users.

Lexie is a web designer and typography enthusiast. She spends most of her days surrounded by some HTML and a goldendoodle at her feet. Check out her design blog, Design Roast, and follow Lexie on Twitter

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

What Does the Future of #CX Look Like?

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I'm already seeing it: people are starting to talk and write about customer experience trends for 2019. 

It's only the start of Q4! We haven't even made it through 2018 yet! Still lots of time to make things happen. (Right?!)

Regardless, I'm not big on talking about customer experience trends for the new year any more. I have in the past, but I gave up a couple years ago.


Because I'm finding that a lot of companies are still trying to figure out the basics. Sadly.

They can't begin to focus on omnichannel, digital, personalization, AI, AR, and VR, oh my, when they can't even get their executives to commit to putting customers at the top of the priority list (right after employees, of course).

So, when I'm asked about customer experience trends for the next year and what customer experience strategies will look like, I say it's a bit like this:

You know that episode! Lucy and Ethel struggled to keep up with the chocolates on the conveyor belt and ended up using whatever was at their disposal to catch the chocolates and keep them from over-running the conveyor.

Unfortunately, that's where a lot of brands sit today: trying to keep up - if they're even focusing on the chocolates, er, customer experience. Innovation isn't even in their vocabulary.

In a world where products and services are becoming more and more commoditized, customer experience is the only true differentiator. That means that brands need to fight to stay relevant yet  truly struggle to not get Blockbuster'd. It means that brands need to shift the focus onto the customer - and on keeping the customer.

So the trends I'm focusing on for next year are really the same as this year (and last year, and the year before that, and... ): ensuring that companies successfully design and deliver a better customer experience by first having several foundational elements in place.

First and foremost, there must be CEO and executive commitment for the work that lies ahead; without that, the transformation journey ends pretty quickly. Beyond that, there must be a well-defined customer experience vision and strategy, a governance structure to provide guidelines and oversight for the work ahead, a focus on improving the employee experience along with recognition that employees drive the customer experience, and a people-first culture. And finally, companies must take the time to understand both employees and customers, act on what they learn and embrace outside-in thinking, weaving the customer and her perspective into all they do.

Where to begin? With customer understanding.
  • It feeds the customer experience strategy
  • It is the cornerstone of customer-centricity, and 
  • Quite simply, without it, you cannot put the "customer" into customer experience.
Without doing the work to understand your customers, your customer experience strategy will fall flat and fail to outline a plan to deliver an experience that not only meets your customers’ needs but may also delight them.

What does the future of customer experience look like? Good question. No one really knows. What we do know is that companies have their work cut out for them. And until then... customer experience professionals must continue to fight the good fight, helping executives understand the importance of putting customers at the center of all they do.

As I mentioned a couple years ago, going forward, let's not make predictions; let's make resolutions. And stick to them!

The trend that should definitely die is following trends. -Kemp Muhl

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Customer Experience and Customer Success: What's the Difference?

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Time to tackle another differentiation!

Last week, I once again tackled the topic of the differences between customer experience and customer service. This week, I'm going to see if I can do justice to the differences between customer experience and customer success.

Controversial? Yes. I think there's controversy when trying to delineate customer experience with customer service, but the conversations become a bit more heated when it comes to customer experience and customer success.

Regardless, let me preface this post by saying: as long as we all work toward a common goal, as long as we all try to do what's right for the customer, it's all good!

So, let's start with defining customer experience again:

Customer experience is the sum of all the interactions that a customer has with an organization over the life of the “relationship” with that company… and, especially, the feelings, emotions, and perceptions the customer has about those interactions.

What is customer success?

I have always defined it as ensuring that customers get the value they expected out of the products they purchased, that they achieve their desired outcomes. The business outcome is retention. I have typically associated customer success as a B2B endeavor, specifically B2B technology customers.

I did a little homework and came up with the following definitions from the customer success experts.

Lincoln Murphy, who wrote Customer Success: The Definitive Guide, defines it as follows: Customer success is when your customers achieve their desired outcome through their interactions with your company.

I wasn't too far off, but I wanted to keep looking.

Gainsight defines it as: The business methodology of ensuring customers achieve their desired outcomes while using your product or service. Customer Success is relationship-focused client management, that aligns client and vendor goals for mutually beneficial outcomes. Effective Customer Success strategy typically results in decreased customer churn and increased upsell opportunities.

I found this on Wikipedia: Customer success is the function at a company responsible for managing the relationship between a vendor and its customers. The goal of customer success is to make the customer as successful as possible, which in turn, improves customer lifetime value (CLTV) for the company.

Todd Eby of SuccessHacker says: At its heart, customer success is about understanding why your customer hired you, what are they attempting to achieve and then doing all that you can to help them achieve that.

Mindtouch says customer success encompasses the ongoing efforts of an organization to continue delivering value to its customers. A good customer success program aims to deliver value throughout every step of the customer journey, from pre-purchase to post-sale and beyond. This can include (but isn’t limited to) onboarding, product training, customer service and support.

Starting to see a pattern? Yes. Customer success is rooted in companies delivering value and customers achieving their desired outcomes. Guess what? So is customer experience. One more...

The Customer Success Association defines customer success as: a long-term, scientifically engineered, and professionally directed strategy for maximizing customer and company sustainable proven value.


So, I then took a look at some of the ways people differentiated customer experience and customer success.

Helpshift noted that customer success is just one part of customer experience, and includes a longer description of the differentiation, which you can find here, but the key part is summarized at the end of their article: The real key to a phenomenal customer experience is a company-wide, top-down philosophy on what the result of the customer journey should be. It’s not enough to just have good CSAT; you want your customers to have an overall positive association with your brand as a whole. Customer success is just one part of this macro vision of the customer.

Sue Duris of M4 believes that the two will converge, but until then notes that customer experience is strategic, while customer success is transactional and product-centric.

This one is interesting. The Future of CIO blog differentiated between customer experience, customer service, and customer success as follows: Customer service is reactive, available when customers need it, in the channel when customers want it. Customer experience needs to be interactive, to delight customers in every touch point. Customer success is proactive, identifying ways to help customers gain value from the product or service you provide. Customer Experience is the broad umbrella that you deliver from purchase throughout the full "journey." Customers need all of these areas to be a focus of the business if you want them to continue to buy and recommend your products/services to others.

ChurnZero differentiates the two by saying that customer experience is focused on the overall impression a customer has, while customer success is focused on the end results (or lack thereof) of those interactions.


I've read a lot of articles about customer success in the last few days, and the lines between customer success and customer experience are blurred by many; some don't even come close. There are differences, but it seems fuzzy, for sure. Here's how I've boiled it down.

Customer success is:
  • B2B
  • Product/value focused
  • Customer/outcomes focused
  • Account focused
  • Relationship focused
  • Retention/repurchase focused
  • Tactical in the scheme of things, but strategic as it relates to the account
  • One part of the equation, a subset of customer experience
Customer experience is:
  • B2B and B2C
  • People focused: employees and customers
  • Culture based/driven
  • Design focused - design products that deliver value, help customers achieve their desired outcomes
  • Product/value focused
  • Customer/outcomes focused
  • Relationship focused
  • Business outcomes focused
  • Emotions, feelings, perceptions
  • Strategic, enterprise-wide
Makes me question if the customer success role/discipline is really necessary. What do you think? Customer experience is the umbrella. Get the experience right - listen to customers, understand the problems they are trying to solve, innovate, and design and deliver a better experience - and customer success management becomes obsolete, no? After all... it's all about the customer.

Make everyone think about things from the customer’s perspective. -Mike Grafham

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Customer Experience and Customer Service: What's the Difference?

Image courtesy of CXPA
It's that time of year again...

This week, we are celebrating CX Day and Customer Service Week. I love that they land on the calendar at the same time, and yet, let's just keep adding to the confusion!

I've written about the differences before:

Customer Experience is More Than Just Customer Service
Customer Service or Customer Experience
Customer Experience Isn't Just about Customer Service

Looks like I need to get more creative with my blog post titles!

Anyway, here's how I define them.

Customer experience is the sum of all the interactions that a customer has with an organization over the life of the “relationship” with that company… and, especially, the feelings, emotions, and perceptions the customer has about those interactions.

Customer service is one of those interactions or a type of interaction.

And most of you probably already know how I like to differentiate, thanks to Chris Zane of Zane’s Cycles: Customer service is what happens when the customer experience breaks down.

(Am I the only one who sees the irony in the fact that customer experience has one day in the midst of a week of customer service celebrations. By definition, it should be the other way around!)

I thought I'd scour the web to see how others have defined the differences. Here's what I found.

In her recent blog post, Debbie Laskey asked Bill Quiseng to differentiate the two. Bill's response: 
Customer service is all about what you do for a customer. But, customer experience is all about how the customer feels about your company. It’s not only how the customer feels about your service, but also how he feels about every aspect of your company, from the ease of navigation on your website to the simplicity of understanding the final invoice, and literally every sensory touchpoint in between. In today’s very competitive marketplace, great customer service merely gets you into the game. Great customer experience makes you a winner.

In an HBR article, Disney Institute differentiated the two as follows: Customer experience is the sum of all interactions a customer has with a company. This can include everything from a customer’s initial awareness or discovery of a company, product, or service and progressing through the purchase and use of those products or services. Together these all add up to the critical moments - the touch points - that create an organization’s overall customer experience. Customer experience moves us beyond the traditional definition of customer service - those individual moments when employees are providing direct service to customers. It is also about the bigger picture of what happens before and after these service interactions.

Ameyo provided this differentiation in an article from last year: Customer service and customer experience are not that far apart. In fact, customer service is only one part of the overall experience. Customer service is reactive - it only comes into play when a dissatisfied customer contacts the company. The business can only take action once something goes wrong, and not beforehand. Customer experience, on the other hand, is proactive - a business can take action to optimize the customer journey before the customer becomes dissatisfied. Customer experience is a holistic approach that goes beyond customer service and takes into account the overall customer journey by building long term relationships with customers.

Gartner noted that customer service can significantly impact the customer’s perspective of overall experience but added that they both have a shared outcome: customer loyalty. To differentiate, they added: Customer service works to make it easy for customers to resolve specific issues. The challenge of customer experience is to inject that same ease across all the cumulative interactions the customer has with the organization over time.

Maximizer differentiated the two as follows: Put simply, customer service is assisting customers and meeting their needs. It helps to shape the overall customer experience but doesn’t fully define it. Customer experience includes a customer’s perception of a company, a customer’s interactions with a company and a customer’s recollection of that entire process, from start to finish, at all touch points.

In a nutshell, HelpScout defined each as follows: Customer service is the assistance and advice provided to a customer for your product or service as needed. Customer experience, or CX, refers to the broader customer journey across the organization and includes every interaction between the customer and the business.

In their article outlining the difference between the two, Genesys writes that customer service will continue to be an integral part of a much broader and strategic practice of customer experience. In its simplest terms, customer experience is strategic - a holistic view that connects all the dots of each event. It dives deeply into solving the root cause of an issue, bridges organizational silos, and helps to drive clearer business strategies. Look across the customer experience from the customer’s perspective and across all touchpoints. It’s a smarter way to do business.

I could go on and on. The interesting thing is that there have now been a ton of articles written about the differences - and yet, people still use the terms interchangeably.

Why is it important to differentiate? Think about "potato" and "tomato?" Sound similar. Look similar. But they are very different, right? You wouldn't want to use them interchangeably in a recipe, would you?

Yea, I didn't think so.

Well, the same goes for customer experience and customer service. One is proactive; one is reactive. One is about the entire relationship, while the other is a point in time.

They have distinct meanings. They require different skills. They are not one and the same.

Spread the word.

I know there is strength in the differences between us. I know there is comfort where we overlap. -Ani DiFranco