Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The Culture Perception Gaps

Image  courtesy of Pixabay
Are you aware that there's also a Culture Perception Gap?

I've written and spoken many times about the CX Perception Gap (aka Bain's Delivery Gap), but there's not much said about the Culture Gap. Until now.

PwC recently released findings from their 2018 research among 2,000 respondents in 50 countries on workplace culture.The first shocking statistic is that 80% of employees feel that their workplace culture must improve significantly or a fair bit in order to succeed, grow, and retain the best people. That statistic compares to 51% only five years earlier (2013).

That's not the Culture Perception Gap, though.

The first Culture Perception Gap statistic PwC uncovered states that 71% of C-suite and board respondents believe that culture is a priority on the leadership agenda of their organizations, while only 48% of non-management employees agree.

Another Culture Perception Gap: 63% of C-Suite and board respondents believe their culture is strong ("what we say about culture is consistent with how they act"), while only 41% of employees agree.

So, employees believe that culture needs to improve but they don't necessarily agree that it's a priority for their leadership teams or that it's as strong as their leadership believes.This isn't surprising. There's often a disconnect between what leaders think they're doing or prioritizing and what employees are observing or feeling. Sadly.

Perception is reality.

Rather than lamenting the obvious, it's time to put together a plan on how to close that gap. Here are five things that PwC proposes you do.

1. Identify and address where culture and strategy clash
We know that culture eats strategy for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. As a matter of fact, PwC found that 65% of leaders agreed that culture is more important to performance than strategy or operating model. But, in reality, if they (culture, strategy, and operations) are misaligned, there's a lot of confusion, and any type of culture transformation you hope to achieve will be doomed from the start. An example they provide is if you aspire to be a culture of curiosity and innovation but compensate based on following processes and procedures.

2. Establish or change listening tours
If you're not already talking to employees, get to it. If you are, but you're not asking the right questions, then it's time to change it up. PwC advises to: challenge and foster healthy debate and real feedback from people across departments and across levels. Establish a Culture Committee, a group of employees who have a ground-level view of "how things work around here." They are a group of cross-functional employees who meet to identify, discuss, and plan ways to promote and to drive the desired culture throughout the organization. They already live the core values and model the behaviors you want to see throughout the organization. Listen and engage them to design and establish the culture you desire.

3. Identify the critical few behaviors that will shift your culture
As you know, a culture transformation is a slow and massive effort. It's not for the faint of heart, but it is for everybody - unless you're Zappos, Southwest, or one of only a handful of other brands who've got it down. So first identify the culture you desire, and then pick 3-5 behaviors (low-hanging fruit) that you can focus on to start the shift at every level of the organization. One exercise that I would strongly recommend, if you haven't yet done it, is to look at your core values (you've got them defined and communicated, right?) and define examples of behaviors that are "appropriate" for each one. And then, for each, specify desired outcomes. Then share with all employees and include in your orientation/onboarding.

4. Step into the show-me age
Quite simply: leaders must model the behaviors they wish to see. They are not exempt. As a matter of fact, what they allow, they accept; what they allow will continue. This quote from Larry Bossidy, former CEO of Honeywell, says it all: The culture of the company is the behavior of its leaders. Leaders get the behavior they exhibit and tolerate. You change the culture of a company by changing the behavior of its leaders. Amen. So, to follow on to the concept in #3 about defining the behaviors for each core value, the next step is for leaders to demonstrate these behaviors. Employees won't believe it until they see it. Then when you start seeing employees exhibit the "right" behaviors, recognize and reinforce. Employees should do the same for each other. Keep it going.

5. Commit to culture as a continual, collaborative effort
Just like any transformation effort, a culture transformation is ongoing and evolving, but it must also be collaborative. As you can see from #4, it's not one person making this shift; there's leadership modeling the behaviors that will eventually drive a grassroots groundswell to drive the change.

One final Culture Perception Gap from this study. Employees want a workplace they can be proud of. PwC found that 72% of C-suite and board members believe that culture is a strong reason people join their organization. They didn't provide the employee counterpoint. But, they did note this gap: 87% of C-suite and board respondents are proud of their workplaces, but only 57% of employees agree.

There you have it: three Culture Perception Gaps that scream disconnect between executives and employees. Businesses have their work cut out for them. You've got five ideas to start moving in the right direction. Get to work! And if I can help in any way, just let me know.

Culture is like a baby. You have to watch it 24/7. Needs to be fed at least three times a day. And when it makes a mess, you have to clean it up and change it. -Dan Guerrero, UCLA Athletic Director

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Why Customer Experience is a Marathon Full of Sprints

Image courtesy of CX Network
Today I'm pleased to share a guest post by Chanice Henry of CX Network.

According to CX Network’s latest Annual Global State of CX Report, showing return on investment (ROI) from CX projects is one of the top challenges troubling CX practitioners.

The report saw nearly 270 responses from the CX community, with each participant providing insight on the trends, challenges, and investments shaping customer experience. Just over 70% of those participants were part of the decision-making team in their organisations.

Evidencing ROI was highlighted by almost half of the respondents as the biggest block to gaining approval for future CX investments.

Some CX initiatives are relatively simple to justify financially because they have obvious cost or operational advantages which benefit both business and customer. The real challenge comes in when rationalising outlay to improve the brand’s customer experience based solely on predictions of increased future revenue.

As mentioned at the 14th Annual Global Summit for Customer Experience Management in Telecoms, to tangibly improve business results companies need to approach customer experience projects with the awareness that CX sprints are a part of a much larger journey.

Sprint towards the points of most value
When asked for the solution to this ROI problem, one common craving from research respondents was for better visibility on the initiatives that would have the biggest impact. This visibility is critical to prioritise the projects with the highest forecasted return.

CX projects with the most return will be rooted in the elements that customers value most. To detect where this value lies, you must build your awareness on what matters to your customers in their experiences with you.

Be warned – this may not be what you are expecting. For instance, radical feedback from a mother of five to a room of C-level executives led to phenomenal product innovation at Verizon. In reaction to the product the mother had suggested, Justin Reilly, Former Head of Customer Experience Innovation at Verizon said, "…no one in the room, some of the smartest people in the world, had come up with a switching product. So we built a switching product that went as far as the lawyers would let us go, and it’s been phenomenal. If you actually analyse the metrics of building it, it’s cheaper than building a product with discounts and all these things that we think customers want when they [in fact don’t.] Deep, personal research into what your customers want is often very time consuming, but if you get that right once a year [that can make a major difference]."

Internal cross-functional innovation teams are also crucial for breaking down silos of information and communicating the customer journey as it stands and where it needs to be. They can pinpoint the touches that are most crucial to the journey and in most need of improvement.

A group of CX practitioners based in Australia and New Zealand said the three critical make or break moments in their customer journeys are:
  • Finding answers to basic questions quickly
  • Resolving customer service
  • Receiving relevant and personalised offers and recommendations
And the areas in most need of improvement? You guessed it; it’s almost a direct match:
  • Resolving support issues
  • Resolving customer service (non-technical) issues
  • Selecting a product that best suits buyer needs
This self –awareness is key to knowing which factors are likely to move the needle the most on your customer index.

In the Annual Global State of CX Report, Mark Gubbins, Business Performance & Insight Manager at British Airways, pointed to the driver model the airline developed from customer feedback. The model "...uses regression techniques to predict the impact on recommendation of any particular CX initiative based on the number of customers affected and the importance of the affected journey touchpoints to our recommendation metric (NPS). In this way, together with understanding the value of the customer segments affected, we can compare very different CX initiatives and prioritise those which deliver most for the customer.”

This sort of research helps CX teams build a business case that clearly articulates what they expect to achieve. References to historical improvements in NPS can be useful to rationalise investments.

This business case will lay the foundation for a formalised road-map for the CX sprint. This clear view of the CX sprint allows participants to track trajectory and make necessary adjustments.

Businesses often fall down by having CX processes and strategies that are too flimsy. In these instances, the firms enjoy financial returns but struggle to link it to the hard work put into customer experience projects.

Take a pit-stop
After or during the CX sprint, it is important to make sure movements in your customer index or metric actually correspond to the reality. This is needed in businesses that have relatively healthy satisfaction and NPS levels but still suffer from concerning customer churn rates.

When providing direct feedback, customers can say one thing but inevitably do another.

In order to untangle this strange dynamic, teams should measure customer sentiment using tools such as text analytics to discover signals that indicate what is actually making customers leave your business. Once you uncover these pain-points, instead of focusing on NPS, use these stumbling blocks as your main employee metrics. This method will ensure your brand is improving the factors that are of real value to customers and influential to their retention.

The race isn’t over yet, remember CX is a marathon
Firms that run inconsistent CX programs that are measured independently of each other will greatly struggle to see improvements in business results. This lack of strategic vision can negatively affect the company and its financial return.

Businesses can suffer from the temptation to use driver models to calculate the economic benefit of every customer initiative, however small. Mark Gubbins warns, "It is very easy to get too granular and to think of the customer journey as a series of business processes rather than view it holistically through the customers' eyes." He adds, "Don’t expect to find a simple mathematical relationship between NPS and revenue. At BA, we have explored such relationships and have concluded that the critical thing to understand is the relative importance that customers put on the various elements of the customer journey."

Instead of seeing CX initiatives as self-contained entities, businesses need to think holistically about how these projects connect in the story. This holistic view will reveal new tangential opportunities for CX wins.

It’s all about endurance, so always keep watch
Be sure to frequently assess your CX initiatives to spot opportunities for improvement and inform the next CX investments.

It can be tricky to isolate the impact of a CX initiative amidst the many variables influencing a business. CX expectations are fast moving, so initiatives may begin by providing marginal benefits but then evolve to provide revenue protection if the competitive set changes.

Mark Gubbins concludes, "CX programs to meet new expectations are not nice-to-haves, they are vital to stay in the game."

The businesses that enjoy the most CX traction and see ROI from projects hold onto that holistic, long-term view while they operationalise individual best practice improvements.

Chanice Henry graduated with a BA in Journalism, before diving into the world of B2B editorial  focused on property finance. Shortly after this, for three years as editor of Pharma IQ and Pharma Logistics IQ, Chanice led the editorial direction of the portals to educate and inspire pharmaceutical professionals working to treat the world’s patients with targeted and effective medical care. Now as Editor CX Network, she continues to produce a range of premium-level content, but now for senior customer experience, service, insight, digital and marketing leaders.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

5 Ways to Make Customer Experience Your Competitive Advantage

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Today I'm pleased to share a guest post by Neetha Edwin with Freshworks.

Customer experience has become pivotal to growth and profitability strategies of businesses worldwide. There is now a deeper understanding of customer experience as an incredibly important piece in the success (or failure) of any brand. Research states: By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. Is your business prepared for this?

The present-day customer has a myriad of choices on products or services they are looking for. While easily switching brands due to a bad experience, customers are socially influential in making or breaking brand reputation. We are witnesses to the impact social media can have and an individual’s reach in getting noticed. That said, what do businesses need to do to not only make their customers happy but also ensure customers stick with them? Here are some pointers:

#1 Find out what customers want
To successfully meet customer expectations, first research what customers actually want from your services. Convenient, fast, personalised, and proactive are some service elements customers expect. While all of these are good, it is more important to know at what point in the customer journey these factors come into play. Timely and relevant engagement helps reap valuable benefits.

For example, personalization and proactivity when a lost credit card is reported, i.e., in addition to a quick replacement, alert them of bills likely to be affected. Customers like and remember these little experiences with your brand, and this makes all the difference.

#2 Pick the right channels
Very few companies actually put time and effort into tracking customer channel preferences. The proliferation of communication channels prompted many businesses to ensure their presence on popular mediums like email, phone, chat, social, and more. However, to deliver exceptional customer experiences, availability alone doesn’t cut it. Channel convenience is pointless if customer needs are not met or are delayed or if the experience is bad.

To stay ahead of the curve, identify appropriate channels for customer engagement at various steps/stages of the customer journey. For example, things like checking a statement balance or order status can be achieved via a self-service system, while other tasks, like disputing a charge on a bill, definitely need direct interaction (e.g., by phone) with a person.

#3 Offer a unified experience
The omnipresent customer needs an omnichannel experience. Customers reach out any time, from anywhere, and through various sources and still expect fast answers. They often start on one channel, such as email, and then report the same issue on social media or chat, hoping to get the attention of a service agent sooner. These are routed to multiple agents who then need to tie up context, troubleshoot the issue, and respond on the appropriate channel.

When a customer calls for support, can your support agents see the email or live chat conversations between the customer and your fellow agents that occurred prior to the call?

Omnichannel support allows for a connected customer experience, regardless of entry point. Therefore, not only be available on relevant channels, but equip agents with the right context and expertise so they can effectively engage. Only then can your support teams strategize to deliver consistency and continuity in experiences across channels. Service teams empowered with a single view of the customer and the right training are confidently set up for success.

#4 Technology for faster service

Artificial intelligence (AI)-powered chatbots in customer service have been a hot trend for a while now. Successful businesses effectively leverage this technology to complement service efforts and lessen agent load. AI-powered chatbots prove to be effective delivering frontline service and agent assistance, reducing their load of trivial and mundane tasks.

For example, chatbots can help direct customers to the right solution on the website/knowledge base or collect necessary information before connecting them with a live agent. At a deeper level, AI-powered chatbots assist agents with context, history, and insights to help them make informed decisions and deliver proactive, personalised solutions - fast!

AI-powered chatbots are a solution to enhance - not replace - agent-led customer support. Agents can focus on and tackle complex decisions, as chatbots take care of repeat or first-level questions. The predictive analytics capability enables agents to deliver high-quality problem solving from first contact. Businesses have been able to cut down on escalations and overall ticket volumes.

#5 Upraise self-service for a seamless experience

When customers want a problem solved, they look for the fastest way to resolution. Most of them prefer to solve problems on their own first. Here’s where an effective self-service portal needs to be an integrated part of your customer experience strategy.

For example, processing refunds is a better experience when customers don’t have to spend hours on the phone or emailing multiple people. Offering a range of service types, from self-service to full-service, gives customers flexibility and saves time and money by routing them to the best channel for the quickest, best-suited support.

It is doubly important that data gathered from self-serve channels are not siloed. They need to be integrated with email, calls, and social media for greater insights and a truly seamless experience for your customers.

Correlation between customer experience and your company’s bottom line
Building happy and loyal customers is the best way to improve your bottom line. Service is transitioning away from a cost center to one of an additional growth engine. By generating new sales opportunities and improved brand experiences, businesses are competing through customer experience.

70% of service teams say their strategic vision over the last 12–18 months has become more focused on creating deeper customer relationships. -Walker Report

To get deeper insights into customer experience influencing increased customer engagement and revenue, join this webinar featuring Forrester Research. Guest speaker Kate Leggett, VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester, shares trade secrets and data insights on Customer Experience driving business value.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Raving Fans? Meh. How About Immortal Fans?

Image courtesy of Pixabay
The ultimate fan is an immortal fan!

This past weekend, I attended the Good is the New Cool event in Los Angeles, an event that is based on the book by the same name. It was such an inspirational event with a lot of great speakers sharing stories of how they're making an impact and fighting for change in a variety of social arenas, including child slavery, mental health, gun violence, bullying, the water shortage, plastic in the oceans, recidivism, and more. The stories were all emotional and amazing, but one that stood out for me, given the work I do, showcased the power of supporting your brand and being the ultimate fan.

I've written about raving fans before, starting with this post about the customer experience lifecycle, in which the ultimate experience yields raving fans. Other posts include:

Is Yours a Cult Brand?
Employees Can Be Raving Fans, Too!
Customer Experience: Marketing without Marketing
Why Bother Giving Great Service?
Do You Have a 12th Man Advantage?
Raving Fans vs. Fairweather Fans
What is the CX End Game?

Raving fans...
  • want to see the brand succeed and grow
  • are happy to provide feedback, good or bad, to ensure that happens
  • are less price sensitive and can withstand price increases
  • choose your brand over the competition
  • can't live without the brand, accept no substitutes
  • are advocates; no, stronger: they are evangelists, happy to spread the word about your brand
  • wear your brand, and want to show that they are part of something bigger than themselves. Tattoos, anyone?
  • openly recruit new members to the community
  • care about each other, want to help each other
  • feel like they belong to something bigger than themselves (think "tribe")
  • require less support because they are more familiar with your products
  • are more likely to be using several of your products/services, not just one
  • wait in line - long lines, early morning lines - to buy your products
  • elevate your brand, earning favorable placement in stores and more
The tattoos and the wearing of the brand were on my mind as I sat through a talk by Paco and Beto of social change agency Activista. They are the brains behind a movement called Immortal Fans, a campaign they created in 2013 for Sport Club Recife in Brazil. We all know that soccer fans are passionate, fanatical, and rabid. But they've gone beyond raving fans to becoming immortal fans. They are the ultimate fans. They are committed to being fans in life and in death. Forever fans.

Sport Club Recife wanted to use its power to do more, to do good. They asked fans to become what was coined "immortal fans," to sign up to be organ donors and donate organs after they die so that their love of the club could live on in someone else's body. What was at stake was a transplant wait list that saw only five or six patients getting much-needed organs per year. With this campaign, they increased organ donors by 54%; 66,000 fans had signed up to donate by the end of the second year of the campaign. As a result, the wait list dropped to almost zero; the following year, 28 patients received transplants.

I can't do this justice. The video explains it best.

What an incredible movement!

Think your employees, customers, or fans would die to live for your brand?

Inspiration x Innovation = Impact. -Good is the New Cool

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

On Metrics and Complacency

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's post for CallidusCloud. It was published on their blog April 19, 2018.

The customer experience is a journey; your transformation work is, too!

I was recently asked for suggestions on how to prevent different business units and divisions within a larger organization from becoming complacent when they are performing well based on their customer experience metrics. In other words, their scores, e.g., NPS, are high, so they act like their goal is met, and there's nothing more that needs to be done about the customer experience.

One piece of advice I have is: never rest on your laurels! Don't ever believe that the experience is "good enough." This is a journey! And there are a lot of reasons that you should keep going and never think that your work is done.

If you do rest on your laurels, you will, without a doubt, be overrun by your competitors. Never mind that your customers will no longer want to do business with you. Remember: it's a journey, not a destination. Here's what happens and why the work is never done:
  • Expectations change. What delights customers today may not delight tomorrow. It's important to always keep your pulse on changing customer needs.
  • Customers change. Old ones go, new ones come along. New ones may have different problems they are trying to solve or jobs to be done.
  • Customer needs, desires, and expectations change. As long as that's happening - and I don't see that every changing - there's no resting on laurels.
  • The business changes. New products are launched. Acquisitions are made.
  • New competitors enter the marketplace, and industry trends emerge.
  • Weak signals become strong signals.
Oh, and one more thing. Not that we're going to blame the survey for your consistently great scores, but how long has it been since you've revisited your surveys? You'll want to make sure you're capturing feedback about: the latest experience (assuming you've improved the experience but haven't updated your surveys), new products and services you've introduced, and emerging customer needs and trends in the industry. Have you looked at verbatims for emerging trends/pain points/weak signals? That's a great place to start.

And those scores, are they for a specific transaction or for the overall relationship? If they’re transactional scores, it’s probably time to look at the big picture and measure how the customer feels about the entire relationship – and not just with that division or business unit but with the entire company. That’s where the rubber meets the road. You are one company/one brand, after all.

Also, is your company metrics-focused or experience-focused? If you're doing what it takes to improve the metric, not the experience, you are advocating a different type of behavior than if you're focusing on improving the experience. Your scores will likely change if you focus on the experience, instead. As the department head or business unit head what he/she has done to improve the experience since the last measurement.

You may also want to re-assess your personas and who you think your customers are today versus who they were when you started listening to them. As mentioned earlier, customers change. Their needs change. The jobs they are trying to do change.

Take a look at benchmarks. How are the scores relative to different business units? How do they stack up against competitors? Look at emerging industry trends relative to your scores. You may think your scores are great in a vacuum, but when benchmarked, you may not look so good. This is an important consideration.

Bring in non-survey customer and industry data and insights - things that will keep you from resting on your laurels. There may be other industry trends and customer needs that could be disruptors, things you haven't even thought about. A phrase I heard the other day... Don't get Blockbuster'd. Ouch.
"Neither RedBox nor Netflix are even on the radar screen in terms of competition,” said Blockbuster CEO Jim Keyes, speaking to the Motley Fool in 2008. “It’s more Wal-Mart and Apple."
Also, how do your customer retention numbers look? NPS might not be telling the whole story. What do the business metrics tell you?

Similarly, another thing to consider is: what does that metric really mean for the business? To what outcome (financial metric) is it linked? If the score is high, but you haven't taken the time to figure out if it's meaningful to the business in a financial way, it's time to do that analysis.

There are a lot of different aspects to consider before any company can even think about becoming complacent about the customer experience. As I said before, it's a journey, not a destination.

You will never be entirely comfortable. This is the truth behind the champion - he is always fighting something. To do otherwise is to settle. -Julien Smith, The Flinch

Thursday, February 21, 2019

How to Improve Your Conversion Funnel with a CX Design Update

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

How do you turn site visitors into raving fans? You spend a lot of time and money driving traffic to your website and reaching out to new potential customers. Once they land on your site, it needs to finish the work you started and convert a high number of visitors into customers. However, your conversion funnel may be lacking, creating a problematic customer experience (CX) rather than a positive one.

Only 22 percent of business owners like their conversion rates - the other 78 percent seek improvement but aren't always sure where to start.

Fortunately, there are some clear CX design updates that improve your overall conversion rates and funnel site visitors through the areas you want them to go.

1. Know Your Audience
"Know your audience" is advice you'll hear over and over again. It is one of the first things you should do before working on your customer experience. How can you improve your website and make it user-centered if you don't know who your customers are?

Start by digging into your website analytics through tools such as Google Webmaster Tools. Look at various complaints your customers filed with you that are related to their experience on your website. Poll your customers and do split testing to see at what point in your sales funnel customers leave your site.

Armed with this knowledge, move forward and improve the rest of your conversion funnel on your site with a customer-based approach that turns visitors into fans of your brand.

2. Improve Your Headline
When a visitor lands on your page, is it obvious what your purpose is? Your landing page headline turns up in search engines, appears on social media posts, and sums up the main topic. Your headline should entice readers to visit your page, explain its unique purpose, and sum everything up in a handful of words.

Researchers found some phrases work better than others for headlines. For example, the phrase "will make you" had more than twice the engagements on Facebook as other phrases.

3. Declutter Your Page
Do you want visitors to take action once they land on your page? Streamline your design and remove any clutter. Over time, designers add various elements and features, but this creates a cluttered look and confuses readers as to the purpose of the page.

Sum up the singular purpose of your landing page - perhaps collecting user emails or sending the visitor to a shopping page. Remove anything that doesn't point the user toward the goal.

4. Gain User Trust
Consumers are less trusting than ever before. A recent survey shows that people's trust in business, government, NGOs, and media is in a sharp decline. Gaining the confidence of site visitors is more difficult than ever before.

One of the best ways to show consumers you're trustworthy is transparency. Explain your return policies clearly, for example. Consumers also look at how professional your design is and how easy your site is to use. Broken links or nonworking forms harm trust levels. Include any prominent organization memberships or BBB ratings, as well.

5. Voice Search
The use of voice-based search exploded in recent years, thanks to devices such as Alexa and Google Home. Around 20 percent of American adults own a voice-enabled speaker.

Improve the experience of those tapping into this new technology by enabling voice search on your website. Voice search also makes your site more accessible to those with vision impairments.

6. Find Pain Points
Identify the main problems your typical buyer faces and address the issue on your landing page. Convert visitors by offering a simple solution to their problem.

The needs of your customers are what drives them to your site in the first place. Address the need and offer a solution, and they're more likely to convert into customers. Address needs on your landing page before the user reaches your call-to-action (CTA) button.

7. Keep Old Customers Engaged
Although new customers drive growth in your company, your old customers are far more valuable. Improving customer retention by a mere 5 percent ups your profits as much as 25 percent. Current customers often spend more than new ones per transaction, too.

A smart conversion strategy considers both old and new customers and treats them equally in importance. You may require more than one landing page to address the needs of both current and potential customers fully.

Add a community area for current customers and provide a login as a perk of remaining loyal. Offer specials and deals no one else gets, such as discount codes and first looks at new products.

8. Personalize Calls to Action (CTAs)
Your CTAs should speak directly to individual site visitors. Personalized CTAs have approximately 202 percent better conversion rates than basic CTAs. Adapt the CTA based on the visitor's geographic location, the language they speak, or if they've visited your site in the past.

Even the language of your CTA has an impact on your conversion rates. Use first-person language for a more-personal feel.

9. Confirm Orders
One of the essential elements in your conversion process is a follow-up. Once a customer places an order with your site, they want to know their order went through and what the next step is. If engagement is one of your goals as a brand, order confirmation emails have a 70 percent open rate.

Include a message that lets the user know the order went through, and follow up with an automated email. Keeping new customers informed about where they are in the ordering and shipping process builds trust and increases the chances they'll do business with you in the future.

Improving the Conversion Funnel
Every little change to your landing page that enhances the customer experience gives you a better chance of converting visitors into customers. Customer acquisition is about far more than merely getting an order from a new person. A strong CX strategy includes changes to your site's design and a focus both on gaining new customers and keeping them as lifelong fans of your brand.

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.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

You Can Lead a Horse to Insights...

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Is your customer experience transformation work stuck at good intentions?

One of the biggest showstoppers in customer experience transformations today is execution - actually, it's the lack thereof. You've got a ton of data, insights, and intentions, but action is the key - and it's not happening. Customers can feel it.

No brainer, you say? Not so fast. If it was a no brainer, would I call it one of the biggest showstoppers today? I think not. You know it's a problem!

Execution is critical. I talk about the proverbial "lead a horse to water and make him/her drink" conundrum regularly with clients.

For starters, at the root of - and the catalyst for - this needed and necessary action and execution is customer understanding. Customer understanding is the cornerstone of customer-centricity and the foundation for the transformation work that lies ahead. But if you don't do anything with what you've learned, it's all quite pointless. You're wasting everyone's time. So I question how companies even get this far, and I fear the answer is a focus on the metrics. Or siloed good intentions.

Awareness and understanding are only 50% of the solution. The other 50% is using what you know to make improvements, aka execution.

So, what's holding you back? Why can't you act on the findings?

Think about this quote from General Eric Shinseki: If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.

Yikes! We already see this happening with plenty of brands and industries. Don't get Blockbuster'd. You've got the data and the insights in front of you. Don't become irrelevant! Use them! Innovate. Disrupt. Fight to stay relevant.

OK, let's get practical for a few minutes. What's it going to take to go from insights to action - and better yet, insights to advantage?

Here's the solution: it's going to take a mindset shift. From one of inaction to one of action. You've got to think differently! Again, what's got you/your company stuck? Why? How can this change?

Do you want to be an agent of change or an agent of complaint? Do you want to be a change leader and executor or do you want to just sit on your hands and hope for change, hope for the best?

So, that's the answer?

Well, let's think about this for a minute. I can give you all of the steps that you'll need to execute (and I will do that in just a moment), but I suspect you already know some or many of these things. So, I can just keep writing and preaching, and you can just keep reading. And doing nothing.

Or, you can shift your mindset (and the organization's mindset) to one that's action oriented - and go and do it. You have to want to do it. (Maybe it's not "you" per se, but the one in your company that makes the decision and assigns the resources to move from intentions to execution.) What do they say about happiness? It comes from within. Well, so does the desire to do anything. You've got to decide and commit. And just do it.

What's that going to take? Some folks need more convincing than just a rah-rah "change your thinking." Typically the following help to shift the mindset to one of "let's do this" - and actually making the changes. Know that you may get pushed outside your comfort zone. Which of these will help you?
  • I've got to see and hear the evidence. Why should I do this? What's the pain point for me? for the business? What's the burning platform? What happens if I don't change or don't fix the pain point? I need to know the business case for the change. Tell me a compelling change story. Convince me.
  • Any information about the needed change has to speak my language and motivate me. What do I need to see in the data that moves me?
  • What's the CX vision? It will guide my thinking, and it will guide the change process. But I need to know it and understand it. Supplement that with the change vision.
  • You've got to earn my trust. Is this just another flavor of the month change initiative? Or are we in this for the long haul? Show me. Prove it to me.
  • You've got to involve me. You pulled together the data and the insights; don't just force this work on me. I need to feel like I'm part of the decision and part of the solution. This will help me own it and want to do it. When I know why I'm involved, I'll be more likely to step up, commit, and help ensure we execute properly. Force it on me, and I'll push back.
  • Talk to me. Listen to me. Let me ask questions. Help me understand. Keep the lines of communication open.
  • Give me something to measure myself by. I want to do the best work possible; if I have metrics that I can track, I'll be able to own it.
  • Empower me. You want me to do the work. Give me the information I need to do it, and just set me free. Assure me that I'll get to work with the teams that need to make things happen, and don't micromanage. You gave me metrics; I'm tracking toward those.
  • Nudge me, but give me freedom of choice. I'm fine if you hold out some carrots to point me in the right direction and get me to drink, but allow me to still choose the best course of action. Again, metrics.
A mindset shift isn't a bad thing; don't let anyone tell you that it is. Sometimes, it's a necessity. But as you can see, mindset shifts are all about information and understanding: You can't be kept in the dark. Tell me, and I'll understand. I can get on board if I'm in the know.

Now, that begs the question about those who are in the know: why don't they execute? First, they have to be the right people to execute. Then, I suppose that if they are and haven't, that would require a behavior shift, from inaction to action. Even that shift must happen in the mind. It comes from within.

Now what? If you're in the know and on board with making the change, it's time to get to work. Here are some things to get you going - and keep you moving forward.
  • Don't get stuck in analysis paralysis. Identify a problem and move on to the next step.
  • Don't feel like you need to boil the ocean. Pick one thing. Focus on one thing and see that through, for starters.
  • Know what needs to be fixed. Conduct a root cause analysis to ensure you change the right thing, that you fix the root of the problem.
  • Design the new experience. Design the new processes to support the new experience.
  • Develop a project plan for each change initiative. What are the steps and the milestones to achieve the goal?
  • Conduct a pre-mortem. Identify risks and obstacles. Sometimes these are the things that deter people from executing. Find out what these things are. And then devise a plan for how to get ahead of these things.
  • Identify your objectives and your success metrics.
  • Make sure they are linked to the desired outcomes - for the business and for the customer.
  • Develop your lead measures. What will you be doing in the coming week? How will you ensure that you do these things?
  • Assign ownership. Who owns each step of the plan?
  • Accountability. Who and how will you hold the owners accountable to achieve these things every week? And what are the repercussions for not achieving them?
  • Pilot and test the changes. Test and fail fast.
  • Implement the fix or the change. Roll it out to employees and to customers.
  • Recognize and reward milestones and successes.
  • Measure and monitor.
Strategy, meet execution.

Holistically, you've got to ensure the following big picture items are in place as part of your customer experience strategy. Organizational change doesn't happen by one person; it takes a village.
  • A governance structure that includes an executive committee that provides approval and oversight, as well as drives accountability;
  • Activation of your base, also part of your governance structure, because the work must be dispersed across the organization; and
  • A change management process that outlines the basics that must be in place to go from current state to future state.
Be a change leader. Create the CX vision (and then the strategy to implement it). Communicate the vision. And get folks on board to deliver it. Not everyone will be a change leader, but there are roles for others, such as subject matter experts, storytellers, customer champions, etc. Showcase those who are on board. Talk about the pockets of change success that are happening around your organization. Get people excited and motivated to be a part of the future of your business.

Of course, there's one more shift that has to happen, and it's a big one: execution is a culture shift. If it's not part of your culture today, it needs to be. If you work for a company where ideas remain ideas, data remains data, etc., then your culture is not one of execution. Do any of your core values scream - or at least hint at - "get shit done!?" If not, perhaps it's time to re-evaluate.

The first step after you lead the horse to water is to answer this question: why won't the horse drink? So answer this: What's got you stuck? Why can't you execute? Is it fear? Is it complacency? What is it? There is no remedy or solution to move you to act until you can identify the reason you're not acting or executing. After that, I think the things I've outlined here will help the majority of you get onto the right path.

Update 2/20/19: I just saw this Stephen Covey quote in an article I was reading: Everything starts with the individual because all meaningful change comes from the  inside-out. Systemic organizational change can’t happen without changes in individual  behavior.


Genius is in the idea. Impact, however, comes from action. -Simon Sinek

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Have You Digitized Your Journey Map?

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Do you know why it's important to digitize your journey maps?

In the past, I've written about some of the myths of journey mapping. One of those myths was:

Without a digital mapping platform, I can't even begin to map.

You probably know by now that I'm an advocate of digitizing your maps, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that it checks the box for the basic tenets of mapping, including maps must be:
  • created collaboratively, with customers and with other stakeholders
  • shared with the employees who impact the journey that was mapped
  • updated to always reflect the current state of the experience
  • communicated by using them as onboarding and training tools for your organization
  • brought to life with data and artifacts
  • validated by customers, if you started with assumptive maps
  • actionable, meaning they must include enough detail and data to not only truly understand what's going well and what's not but to also be able to identify the moments of truth

Let me go back to the myth for a moment: Without a digital mapping platform, I can't even begin to map.

You absolutely can map without a digital platform; as a matter of fact, I often like to start my journey mapping sessions with butcher paper and sticky notes because it gets people: out of their seats and involved; up and thinking; and collaborating, questioning, and learning. It's more of a design-thinking, creative approach.

But you can't stop there. I think this is often why maps fail. Digitizing your maps makes all of those basic tenets possible. Some digital platforms offer features that allow you to assign ownership and to develop actions plans to ensure accountability for making improvements and driving change. No more maps rolled up under your desk or stored in a closet! Of course, you must take that step to transfer from analog to digital, but that's fairly straightforward.

I'm often asked about journey mapping platforms: which one to use, capabilities to consider, etc. Think about what you want your platform to be able to do. Here are just some of the questions your should be asking:
  • Is it flexible, allowing you to adjust the columns and the swim lanes?
  • Can you map actual customer steps, not just stages and touchpoints? 
  • Does it allow you to capture not only what the customer is doing but also what the customer is thinking and feeling?
  • Can you display the persona for which you are mapping right there with the map?
  • Are you able to bring data into the map? Is it connected to or integrated with a VoC platform or a CRM system?
  • Are you able to analyze the maps and prioritize moments of truth within the platform? 
  • Does it help you take the map from tool to process?
  • Can you assign tasks and owners?
  • Does it allow you to create action plans?
  • Is it collaborative? Can others view/edit the maps?
  • Does it have validation capabilities, often in the form of an integrated online community platform or survey platform?
  • Can customers add comments, video, or pictures to help bring the journey to life?
Regarding which one to use, here are a couple of informative sources to help you get started.
An important thing to note is this: Just because you've mapped doesn't mean your done. The map is really just the beginning. It should be detailed enough to help you understand the current state experience and to identify what's working and what's not. From there, you must do the work. You have to conduct root cause analysis, prioritize moments of truth, design the future state experience, test the new experience, and fail fast. Do it again.

Nothing changes if nothing changes. Get mapping!

Man is always inclined to be intolerant toward the thing, or person, he hasn't taken the time adequately to understand. -Robert R. Brown

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Customer Personas - The What, The Why, and the How

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Today I'm pleased to share a guest post by Stacy Sherman. This post originally appeared on the DoingCXRight blog on July 10, 2018.

Whether you're new to CX or looking to expand your current knowledge, it is important to learn about what, when, and how to develop personas so that you can serve your customers better. Knowing what personas are not is equally important to create desired outcomes versus hinder them. Let’s begin by defining:

What is a Customer Persona?
In basic terms, it is simply a semi-fictional model that includes characteristics and mental models of target buyers. When developing customer personas, you need to thoroughly research and document all insights about them so you can create experiences that enable them to accomplish their goals and choose your products over competitive offers.

Customer Personas are Not...
A Replacement For Market Segmentation. Think of market segmentation as a BROAD view. It is a way to divide customers into groups that can be targeted by demographics (i.e. age, race, religion, gender, ethnicity, income), psychographics (i.e. social class, personality characteristics), behavioral patterns (i.e. spending, usage) and geography (i.e. customer locations). Personas are formed by leveraging segmentation information, and are not based on a “one size fits all” mindset.

Buyer Journeys. Personas define WHO you are designing products, services, market messaging for. It is not about mapping out desired customer experiences across all  channels and touchpoints.

Based on a single observation. Understanding a particular customer experience (what went wrong or well) can be useful to inform business decisions, however, it cannot be generalized for an entire group of buyers.

Documented one time. Customer needs and interactions with brands are changing as well as their expectations as technology advances. Persona development is an evolution that needs to be reviewed, updated (small tweaks, not necessarily a complete redo) and communicated throughout organizations periodically.

Based on assumptions. Research is an important part of making personas “real.” Interviewing and surveying customers are effective methods of learning what drives your target audience and appeals to them. There are more ways to gain customer insights, which I will share in upcoming articles.

Constructed for every customer. You can’t please everyone, so prioritize and focus on the top buyers who provide the highest revenue potential.

Based on one “right way.” There is no single correct method to developing personas. Yet, it does need to include certain components to help teams understand essential information about customers and target prospects. As a general rule, you want to keep your document to one page. If it’s too long, you likely did not focus on the most important points, and stakeholders may not read it. Key elements include:
  • Who are typical customers? What do they do? Typical day?
  • What are their frustrations, pain points and challenges?
  • What are happy / satisfying moments? What does success looks like?
  • What are their goals. What do they want to accomplish?
  • What are they saying? (quotes/verbatims)
  • Photographs to “humanize” customers

When to Create Personas?
Persona development typically occurs at very early stages of new product development and marketing launches. It needs to happen before journey mapping activities begin, as maps are created from persona documents. Personas need to be referenced throughout the project lifecycle so that decisions consistently address customer needs.   

Why Develop Customer Personas?
  • Help identify what problems to solve for when developing new products, services, and capabilities.
  • Enable marketers to tailor content and messaging. A business executive, for example, relies on different sources of information for learning about brands and has different buying criteria than a technical IT Manager.
  • Drive internal employee alignment. Including cross teams in the persona development process is an effective way to create a more customer-centric organization.  
How to Build Your CX Skills?
  • Take a course at a prestigious institution, such as Rutgers University, who offers an affordable online and offline certification course. (Read about my experience here.)
  • Observe and learn from companies who are DoingCXRight. Hubspot shares a great article about “7 Companies That Totally ‘Get’ Their Buyer Personas.”
  • Watch informative videos. I especially like this one by Gregg Bernstein, as he visually shows what persona development is all about in a simple, creative way. 

Stacy Sherman is Head of Customer Experience and Employee Engagement for Schindler Elevator. Learn more about Stacy here

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Using Journey Maps to Tell the Customer’s Story

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's post for Story of Business. It appeared on their blog on August 3, 2018.

Stories are a wonderful communication tool and a powerful teaching tool. They allow you to deliver a message in a way that engages the audience, helps them understand the characters in play, and, hopefully, inspires them. People tend to connect to stories and, therefore, remember them and the message they convey.

Customer experience professionals use storytelling to gain buy-in and commitment from their audiences (typically executives, as well as employees) and to deliver impactful emotional and rational perspectives and messages, thereby capturing both the hearts and minds of the intended audience. When they tell the customer’s story, they paint a picture of who the customer is, what problems she’s trying to solve, and the experience the company puts her through in order to solve her problem. They end up taking the audience on a journey, the customer's journey, and it humanizes the customer experience for the audience.

One of the best tools available to develop and to tell that customer story is journey mapping.

What’s journey mapping?

It’s a creative process in which you illustrate not only the steps customers’ take as they interact with your brand to achieve some task but also their needs along the journey and the emotions elicited by each step of the journey. Said another way, journey maps depict a timeline of what customers are doing, thinking, and feeling throughout each interaction with a brand. They tell the story of the customer’s journey as she interacts with the brand, helping to build empathy for her and struggles she endures as she journeys to her desired outcome. And the maps also help you co-create better experiences with your customers.

Journey mapping is a learning exercise. Journey maps tell the story from the customer perspective, not the company’s, so it forces the company to focus on the customer. As a result, companies learn about: their customers, the experience they put them through to interact with the business, and how well (or not) they perform along the journey.

Done right, maps help companies in many ways, including to…
  • Understand experiences. You can’t transform something you don’t understand, is what I like to say. Maps bring understanding. They highlight and diagnose existing issues and opportunities; at the same time, they capture what’s going well, too.
  • Design experiences. Once you understand the current experience and moments of truth, maps help you prioritize and rethink existing processes and/or create new ones.
  • Implement and activate new experiences. The maps become blueprints or statements of direction for the work to be done to improve and to redesign the experience.
  • Communicate and share experiences. Maps are great communication and teaching tools. They can be used during onboarding, training, and other ongoing education opportunities to unite the organization around the customer, to teach employees about the current and the future experience, and to further ingrain the customer-focused culture of the business.
  • Align the organization. Use the maps to get executive commitment for the CX strategy, get organizational adoption of the customer-centric focus, provide a line of sight to the customer for employees, and help employees understand how they impact the experience.
How should you start to tell this story?

With the characters, of course. Who are they? Whose story are you going to tell? Identify the characters of your story; in other words, start by identifying the persona for which you’ll map a journey. A persona on its own tells a story – by definition, it is a story about the customer, who she is, what her needs are, what problems she is trying to solve, how she prefers to interact with the company, and more. You will create journey maps for each persona: different stories – different experiences – for different customers.

Next, choose which story – or the scope of the story – you’ll tell; in other words, determine which interaction or which journey you will map. Choose some Point A to Point B, a clear start point and a clear end point, for the story. You will typically select known issues or pain points – for the customer and for the business – that are low-hanging fruit to start with; next, you might select journeys based on areas of importance to your customers during which your company’s performance is known to be less than optimal (based on customer feedback).

And last, but not least, identify the objectives and the desired outcomes. Why are you mapping? What business problems are you trying to solve? What value will the map bring to the organization? What are the intended outcomes? What changes will you make as a result of its findings? And, is the organization prepared to make those changes? Is the organization ready to hear this story?

Initial journey mapping considerations in a nutshell: Whose story is it? What story are you going to tell? Why this story? Why is it important? And what will you do with what you learn from this story?

The maps themselves, when developed correctly, bring the story to life, in a couple different ways:
  • You walk in your customer’s shoes. The map captures the steps – in detail – that the customer takes for a specific interaction with the company.
  • You understand, relate, and instantly build empathy for the customer. How the customer feels about each step is highlighted on the map, ensuring that the audience knows where the high points and the pain points occur and building empathy along the way.
  • You see the data that supports what the customer is telling you. Customer feedback is also incorporated into the map, adding broader, quantitative data and perspectives to the story.
  • Artifacts add visualizations that support what the customer/journey map is telling us. Artifacts include video, audio, pictures, documents, and any other item that might help the audience understand exactly what happened at each step.

I’m simplifying the process quite a bit, but once we know the current story of the customer’s experience, we can then move into writing their future story, i.e., designing the experience of tomorrow. During future state mapping, customers tell us the story of the ideal experience they’d like to have going forward. We incorporate their ideas into the map and take those back to the group who will need to consider the feasibility of transforming those ideas into the new experience.

The journey map – the story of the customer’s experience – is shared with the organization to:
  • help employees understand the customer and her interactions with your company
  • show employees how they impact the customer and the experience
  • convey the importance of being a customer-focused and customer-centric organization
  • align around a common cause and a common purpose
  • break down silos by highlighting how various departments are involved in any one interaction a customer has with the organization
  • build empathy and understanding for the customer
  • achieve a single view of the customer, and
  • improve the customer experience

When the story is created, told, and shared, the business has the information it needs to be more proactive in developing products, processes, and services that better meet their customers’ needs.

There's always room for a story that can transport people to another place. -J.K. Rowling

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Building Blocks of a Customer Experience Transformation Strategy

Do you know all of the building blocks of a customer experience transformation strategy?

I've mentioned the CX Perception Gap before, right? You might know it as Bain's Delivery Gap, which states findings from their 2005 research: 80% of executives believe they deliver a superior experience, while only 8% of customers agree.

What gives? I wrote about that massive gap last year and cited two reasons that Bain offered up for its existence: (1) a focus on acquisition over retention, and (2) a misplaced focus on collecting data, analyzing ad nauseum, and improving metrics. There are different behaviors happening when companies are focusing on acquisition over retention, and when they focus on moving the needle on these metrics rather than on improving the experience. Acquisition often includes discounts, while metrics include free candy bars and oil changes in exchange for a 5-out-of-5 rating. Not exactly the stuff that improves the customer experience; that requires a magnitude of effort that can't even be compared to free candy bars and 20% off coupons.

A customer experience transformation is a lot of work. Most folks have no idea what all it entails. In this post, I'll give you just a taste of what's included. For starters, I've compiled a graphic (above) that depicts the building blocks of a customer experience transformation strategy. It looks overwhelming - and it can be, especially if you don't know what you're doing.

Yes, there are a lot of blocks! A successful transformation requires all of the right pieces to be in the right place. I don't have enough room in this article to go deep on each block, but I'll provide some quick highlights for each one.

The Foundation
There are fundamental, foundational elements that must be in place in order for a customer experience transformation to be successful, namely the following:
  • Core values that are supported with examples of associated and acceptable behaviors that are in line with your customer-centric goals
  • Mission, vision, purpose, and brand promise that are clearly communicated and lived.
  • Executive commitment to the transformation and to the work that lies ahead.
  • Leadership alignment, which means the leadership/executive team has chosen to commit and support each other in achieving the goal.
  • A deliberate focus on the employees and their experience, with the acknowledgement that they are the driving force behind a great customer experience.
  • Customer understanding through listening, developing personas, and mapping customer journeys and corresponding service blueprints, with decisions made and actions taken based on what is learned. Don't forget about linking your operational data to each of these learnings.
  • A governance structure that outlines not only the people involved in the transformation but also their roles and responsibilities as wells as rules and guidelines on how they'll execute the various components of the strategy (think change agents and change management).
  • Organizational adoption and alignment, which means employees must understand the what, the so what, and the now what - and be involved in both the decisions to be made and the work to be done; attempting to execute a strategy when employees are not engaged or aligned with it will prove to be futile.
The Core
At the core of your CX transformation is the vision. What is the intended future experience for your customers? What are their desired outcomes? What are the business' desired outcomes? A vision without a strategy is just an illusion, right? How will you achieve that vision? What's the plan?

The organizational infrastructure includes your people, processes, systems, and tools. These are all necessary to implement and to facilitate the customer experience you wish to deliver. As part of the transformation work, you must identify and understand how each one of these components of your infrastructure contributes to the experience. You can't fix what's happening outside unless you fix what's going wrong on the inside. It's amazing how many companies want to simply apply lipstick to the pig, but you've got to get to the root cause, i.e., the problems with people, processes, and systems, and correct those issues in order for the customer to see a real difference in the experience.

Your strategy is useless if you don't put it to work. Knowing what you need to do and doing nothing with it is really a crime. There are a lot of things that fall into this category, and your strategy will outline them in more detail, many of them covered in these building blocks:
  • Design and innovation are critical next steps to achieving your vision and desired outcomes. Customer understanding work done earlier will feed into this, as well as the rest of the Action items, in order to design and to deliver the experience your customers expect.
  • Strategic improvements are longer-term, broad-based, and company-wide but are not to be confused with tactical improvements, which are operational in nature, are made at the department or touchpoint level, and are often the source of quick(er) wins.
  • Personalized responses include service recovery efforts, often with at-risk customers, and follow-up with customers who indicated they've experienced issues that haven't been resolved.
  • Closing the loop with employees and customers is an important and necessary part of the transformation work. Letting them know that they are heard and valued and that you've done something with what they've told you is critical to continuous improvement efforts.
  • Coach employees on those areas where they need improvement (and recognize them for jobs well done) and train them on what customer experience is, who their customers are, how they impact the customer experience, and how to deliver the best experience.
  • Communicating with both employees and customers about what you heard, what it means, what you'll be doing with that information, and more is a critical part of the customer experience transformation journey. it's also an important part of the actual customer experience.
Ultimately, Action is about using what you've learned to improve the experience. Too many companies stop short of action, and it's where many transformation efforts fail. Execution is key. You've come this far. Do the work!

The payoff for doing the work is achieving your desired outcomes. These can be outcomes for the business, for the customer, and/or for employees. In the Core section, you defined the vision and you outlined the desired outcomes. At a high level, business outcomes might fall into one of these buckets: (1) people-first culture, (2) reduced costs/operational efficiencies, or (3) increased revenues. For the customer, outcomes might include: (1) achieving the job to be done, (2) an improved experience, or (3) expectations met. Your research will help you identify desired customer outcomes.

And finally, success! But you don't know if you've achieved success without measuring it. Early on, you should have defined your success metrics. Track those metrics along the journey.

What's next? Don't rest on your laurels. This is a continuous improvement process. It's never-ending. It's a journey. Keep listening to customers and updating the experience as their needs evolve, the business evolves, products change, the world changes, etc.

If I've missed any blocks, let me know. Trust me, there's a lot more detail behind the ones that are depicted than I wrote about here

Respect the building blocks, master the fundamentals, and the potential is unlimited. -PJ Ladd

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Defining Your People-Centric Culture

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's post for CMSWire. It appeared on their blog on May 8, 2018.

While customer experience strategies and transformations must include a priority focus on the employee experience, they often don’t. Many companies believe they can improve the customer experience without improving the employee experience.

Big mistake. The correlation is real. Happy employees lead to happy customers.

So why don’t we just talk about people experience strategies, instead? Let’s focus on making companies more people-centric rather than profit-centric. Yes, companies must make money, but there’s a better way of doing it that benefits all constituencies involved.

Linking People-Centricity to Business Success
We already know that a great customer experience drives business growth and success. What most companies fail to acknowledge is that the people behind the delivery of that customer experience must come more first. And focusing on employees is good for business! This is nothing new; witness the Service-Profit Chain, a linkage established more than 20 years ago. As you can see, when you put employees first, they’ll do right by your customers – and the business benefits in the end.

Image courtesy of The Service Profit Chain Institute
Image courtesy of The Service-Profit Chain Institute

Need some proof that this is real? Look no further than companies like Southwest Airlines, Zappos, Virgin, and The Ritz-Carlton!

Changing Culture, Mindsets, and Behavior
How do you design a people-centric culture? It’s definitely a culture shift, a mindset shift, and a behavior shift for most companies!

Let’s start with a definition of culture. What is it?

My favorite definition is Herb Kelleher’s: "Culture is what people do when no one is looking.” To add a little more detail to that, culture = values + behavior.

That’s it: core values and behaviors. When a business' core values are clearly defined, the right behavior is easy, a no-brainer. That’s what Herb refers to as “what people do when no one is looking.” And these behaviors are part of what I’m referring to when I talk about a culture shift, a mindset shift, and a behavior shift.

Focusing on culture and a culture shift is good for business!
Companies that are customer-centric are 60% more profitable. –Deloitte

A stronger culture leads companies to perform higher in revenue growth, operating margin, and total shareholder return. –Aon Hewitt
Those stats are all rosy and lovely, but the current reality and the current culture story for most companies is much different. More like this…
18% of companies with CX programs still aren’t engaged in any major programs to create a customer-centric culture. -Forrester
I’ve used these stats because I’ve allowed for “customer-centric” to include a primary focus on employees, something that I’m sure these reputable consulting firms have taken into consideration.

So, the key to developing this culture, first and foremost, is well-defined core values and guiding principles, which provide a clearer outline of behaviors that align with the core values, behaviors that support a people-first mindset.

Painting the Big Picture
Next up are mission, vision, and purpose. When everyone knows the vision and the objectives of the company, they feel included and part of something bigger, working together to make sure the business is successful.

Once the company is grounded in well-defined and clearly-communicated mission, vision, values, and purpose, they’ve got a solid foundation for a people-first culture.

Company Leadership Plays a Critical Role
But there’s one more critical component to this culture: company leadership. There are three aspects with regards to leadership that I believe are important to a people-first culture.
  1. Executive alignment
  2. Servant leadership
  3. Truly human leadership
Executive Alignment
No culture transformation can be successful without executive alignment; executives must all be committed to the vision and goals of the transformation. They must all be on the same page when it comes to your organization’s culture, the goals of the business, and how the business should be run. They must also all lead by example and model the behaviors they wish to see from their employees.

Unfortunately, most executive teams are not in alignment. They don’t work as a “team;” they function more as a “working group” or as a “committee.” Simon Sinek says that a team is not a group of people who work together but a group of people who trust each other. Trust is key among your executive team, as is psychological safety, or the ability to speak freely without recourse from the person in charge. If your executives don’t feel like they can share an opinion with the CEO without recourse, then there’s definitely an issue. And that ends up trickling down to their interactions with their employees. It certainly limits their ability to create an environment that feels safe for employees.

Servant Leadership
Executives and leaders must come to work every day and put their people first and themselves second. They must trust, respect, listen, empathize, and recognize that their employees' needs come before their own. They must also develop people and ensure they become high performers. This is servant leadership. It’s a mindset shift and a behavior shift; you are a servant first, leader second. Servant leadership must be a basic tenet of any people-first culture.

Truly Human Leadership
While servant leadership is powerful, I believe Truly Human Leadership goes one step further to encourage leaders to not only adopt a servant leader mentality but to also treat their people like family. In addition to a workplace culture based on trust, respect, and caring, leaders must choose to put their employees' well-being ahead of all other goals and outcomes. Truly human leadership is about measuring success by the way company leaders touch the lives of people. Instead of viewing employees as a cog in the wheel to company success, truly human leaders view employees as humans, as family, as family members.

Imagine the employee experience if that was the case, if leaders cared about employees, their families, and their well-being! And measured success by how they touched their employees' lives! A little humanity and humaneness would go a long way.

You don't build a business. You build people, and people build the business. -Zig Ziglar.