Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Leaders Need to Show, Not Just Say

Image courtesy of Pixabay
How do leaders drive (lasting) change?

Last week, I enjoyed spending a few days in Vegas, speaking and networking at Fiserv's annual client Forum. The keynote on the second day of the event was Troy Aikman, who was interviewed by Fiserv's CEO Jeff Yabuki about sports, of course, as well as about leadership and business.

One of the stories that Troy shared resonated with me because it's exactly the kind of thing that I talk about when it comes to driving lasting change: leaders can't just talk the talk; they must walk the walk.

The story goes something like this.

Troy is a sharp-dressed man; when it comes to work/business, he is always dressed in a suit. After he bought his first car dealership, he walked in and noticed that all of the sales guys were dressed casual, in polo shirts and slacks. He wanted them to dress nicer, but he didn't want to come into his new business and be a hard nose right away. So, he didn't say anything. Instead, he just showed up at the dealership every day in a suit. By the end of the first week, a couple of the guys had upgraded their attire, and by the end of the second week, all of them were dressed in suits. And he never said a word!

It's a great reminder that you can drive change - lasting change - when you do a few simple, yet often forgotten, things. Troy didn't talk about any conversations he had with the staff after the two weeks, but I can only imagine he applauded their actions.

To drive lasting change...
  • Communicate the change, using a variety of vehicles and media. Share the change vision. Tell the change story. Let employees know what is changing, why it's changing, how it will impact them and what they do (differently) on a daily basis, and how they will be involved. If no one knows what the change is or why it's taking place, then they'll ignore it; they certainly don't want to be a part of it.
  • It's important that executives lead by example and model the change that they wish to see from their employees; if they don't live the change, why should employees?! If your CEO doesn't demonstrate commitment to the transformation by being the role model for how to deliver a great experience, it won't happen. If she doesn't live the core values, why should you? Actions always speak louder than words.
  • Recognize the right behaviors and reinforce with incentives, promotions, metrics, and more. Reinforcing the behaviors, actions, and changes that you want to see is more powerful than talking about them, especially when combined with modeling them.
  • Involve employees in the change process rather than forcing change on them. If they're involved, the solutions may be richer because they have other perspectives and experiences that the decision-making leader may not have. Better yet, present them (spoke or unspoken, as was the case with Troy) with a problem or a situation, and let them come to the conclusion themselves. If they believe it was their own idea, it'll stick; they'll own it.
Yes, change is hard. But it's not impossible. These four things are important and work together. Just remember this: leaders can't expect to see change happen if all they do is talk about the changes but don't do things differently themselves. Case in point: if you're talking about transforming your culture to one that is customer-centric, yet you continue to push staff to make their quarterly numbers and reinforce behaviors that speak to a focus on growth at all cost - sans focusing on the customer experience - then you're not walking the walk.

Talk is cheap.

If you cannot prove it by your action(s), you do not mean it. -Murad S. Shah

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Focus on the People and the Numbers Will Come

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's post for CallidusCloud. It appeared on their blog on July 12, 2018.

When companies focus on people, their people - employees first, then customers - the numbers will come.

This is a tough concept for a lot of executives to grasp. They know the old management adage, companies are in business to maximize shareholder value, all too well. And that knowledge typically equates to focusing on marketing and sales first, i.e., do whatever it takes to acquire customers, drive sales, grow the business, etc.

But if they change the focus, shift the mindset, to adopt Drucker's definition of the purpose of a business, to create and to nurture a customer, then things start to change. Nothing changes if nothing changes, right? But when they put the focus on employees first, ensuring employees have a great experience, employees will then, in turn, deliver a great experience for their customers.

Not convinced of this? Or trying to convince your executives that this is real? Here's something to turn the tide. Take a look at the service-profit chain. I've written about it before, but let me go into a bit more detail here. It is a concept well documented in the 1997 book by the same name, written by James Heskett; Earl Sasser, Jr.; and Leonard Schlesinger.

From the book...
Simply stated, service profit chain thinking maintains that there are direct and strong relationships between profit; growth; customer loyalty; customer satisfaction; the value of goods and services delivered to customers; and employee capability, satisfaction, loyalty, and productivity.
The strongest relationships suggested by the data collected in early tests of the service profit chain were those between: (1) profit and customer loyalty, (2) employee loyalty and customer loyalty, and (3) employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction.
Here's what the Service-Profit Chain looks like.

Image courtesy of The Service Profit Chain (book)

The chain begins with internal service quality, which is really about the work environment, the attitudes employees have toward one another, and how they serve their "internal customers." i.e., fellow employees. From the book: Internal quality is measured by the feelings that employees have toward their jobs, colleagues, and companies. Sounds like measuring the employee experience to me!

They provide examples of Southwest Airlines and American Express and how these two companies have linked internal service quality to profitability.

The next link in the chain is employee satisfaction, which is driven by the employee experience (aka internal service quality). It is linked to - or drives - employee retention. Southwest Airlines was again cited as an example for this linkage, as was a property and casualty insurance company (no name provided), for which they discovered that 30% of dissatisfied employees were likely to leave the company, a percentage three times higher than for satisfied employees.

Not surprisingly, the next linkage is between retention and productivity. When employee retention is an issue, companies spend time and money on recruiting, hiring, and training new employees. In addition to the financial impact, productivity is inhibited because companies basically start over with each new employee, teaching them the ropes, building new relationships with customers, and more.

Employee retention and productivity then drive external service quality. Southwest Airlines and American Express Travel Services were cited as prime examples of companies reaping the benefits of this connection. At Southwest, where we already know employee retention is high, their positions are designed so that employees can do several different jobs, if needed. That flexibility allows them to board more passengers faster than other airlines. At American Express Travel Services, productivity equates to the speed and accuracy in which tickets are prepared, showing that quality and productivity can go hand in hand.

This service quality then drives customer satisfaction. Customers are value-driven, and the book notes that value is a combination of results produced for customers and how they are delivered, i.e., not just fast and accurate but also in a professional and courteous way. As the diagram shows, customer expectations are met. The challenge is understanding what those expectations are.

Customer satisfaction links to customer loyalty, in the form of retention, repeat purchases, and advocacy. While this could be the least reliable linkage in the entire chain (for questions on that, take a look at my post on the Apostle Model), Southwest Airlines and American Express Travel Services would debate that, given their results.

When attained, customer loyalty is linked to profit and revenue growth. In their research for the book, Sasser et al took a closer look at market share and its impact on profitability. Once again looking at Southwest Airlines, at the time the seventh largest airline, they were able to conclude that the quality of market share, measured by customer loyalty, is as important as the quantity of market share. Their research at this time brought about the famous statistic we've all quoted time and time again: a 5 percentage point increase in customer loyalty could produce profit increases of 25-85% in the service industries they studied.

Here's how I interpret this chain, and it falls in line with what I preach: Put employees first. When they have a great experience, your customers will have a great experience. And so will the business. There are a lot of examples in The Service Profit Chain book of the linkages.

Still need convincing? Take a look at the book and use the examples to determine how you can do the same for your business. While the examples may not apply to every industry, I think you'll get a pretty good sense of what is required and what is possible.

Great leaders are willing to sacrifice the numbers to save the people. Poor leaders sacrifice the people to save the numbers. -Simon Sinek

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

You Aren't Journey Mapping

I hate to tell you this, but you're just not.*

I've been doing a bit of speaking lately, either about journey mapping or with journey mapping as a piece of the talk, and I've learned a lot - or, rather, confirmed a lot. Namely, you might think you're journey mapping; you call it journey mapping; but it's not really journey mapping.

Here's what happens.

I start by asking the audience if they're mapping customer journeys, and a bunch of hands in the room go up. A lot of hands, as a matter of fact.

Then I proceed to explain what journey mapping is, why you must map, how maps are used in a variety of ways, and what the journey mapping process is.

I then ask the question again. "How many of you have mapped customer journeys?" No - or very few - hands go up this second time around. What gives?

One of the things I talk about after I ask the question the first time is that, if your map has Need, Awareness, Consideration, Selection, etc. as the column headings, and within each column you've specified relevant or corresponding touchpoints or channels, then you're not journey mapping; you're mapping lifecycle stages, and you're touchpoint mapping. (This is typically where the difference in hands up is rooted.)

You see, journey maps are defined as "walking in your customer's shoes to understand her experience." That means you go step by step by step to depict the journey, to capture the customer's story of the experience, to depict the timeline of steps she took to go from Point A to Point B.

If you've got lifecycle stages and touchpoints mapped, you are not...
  • viewing things from the customer's perspective
  • capturing any kind of detail about the experience
  • able to tell where things go right or wrong
  • able to develop the corresponding service blueprint to fix what's happening inside to support the experience 
  • understanding what the customer is doing, thinking, and feeling throughout the experience
As a matter of fact, the customer isn't even in those maps.

The second likely culprit of the gap in hands between the first time I ask and the second time is that folks are creating assumptive maps, which are maps visualized by well-meaning stakeholders who believe they understand the experience; they assume they know. And when people create assumptive maps (which aren't wrong but typically aren't done right), a couple of things happen:
  • there's a lot of inside-out thinking; in other words, the map is not created from the customer's perspective
  • it's likely that they've actually created a process map
  • the map doesn't get validated with customers
  • the map gets rolled up, stashed under a desk, and goes nowhere from there
The first scenario (lifecycle/touchpoint mapping) is the one I hear most often. Neither scenario is good.

Take a look at what you're doing today or what you've done. Revisit the six steps from maps to outcomes. And then tell me if you've actually created journey maps - or something else.

... what you think is right isn't the same as knowing what is right. -E.A. Bucchianeri

*OK, some of you actually are. But just some of you.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Prioritizing Your #CX Improvement Initiatives

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's post for CallidusCloud. It appeared on their blog on April 13, 2018.

How do you prioritize your CX improvement initiatives?

You've listened to customers. You've mapped their journeys. And you've identified a lot of improvement areas that would make the experience light years better for your customers.

You've got a governance structure in place that includes a team of folks who are keeping a running list of all of those improvement initiatives.

But there's a problem. There are a lot of things to fix. And there are a lot of competing priorities in your company. Now what?

You need to help your executives see how all of the improvements go hand in hand with many of the company's other initiatives/priorities - after all, everything you do is for/about the customer, right?! - but you also need to, within your own customer experience (CX) improvement initiative list, help the executives see some order of priorities.

Yes, they are all important. Customers told you so, right?! And we as CX professionals believe it's important to fix everything that breaks the experience. But you know you're not immediately going to get budget to solve all of the world's problems. So, as I like to say, let's take some baby steps.

When you go in for the big ask, paint the big picture, i.e., how is it all connected? But also paint the little picture, i.e., help them identify, within your list of immediate needs, which are more immediate than others.

There are a lot of different ways to prioritize your CX improvement initiatives. You'll need to determine the ways that speak most loudly to your executives. They include looking at:
  • cost to fix
  • time to fix
  • effort to fix
  • resources required to fix
  • impact on the business
  • impact on the customer
Know that they are not linear; the prioritization typically requires a combination of two or more of these metrics. I recommend that that combination always includes "impact on the customer," i.e., what is most important to the customer? what matters most to the customer? if we do this and not that, will the customer stay or leave?

If you always frame the prioritization that way, it should also speak volumes to your executives, especially when you tell them that if certain actions aren't taken, you will lose X% of customers. I've written previously that, in order to get executive commitment, you need to build the business case. This holds true for prioritizing the improvement initiatives. Build the business case, tie it to business outcomes, and speak their language.

Something else to take into account when you think of impact on the business and impact on the customer are two models that come out of Harvard Business Review. One is the Apostle Model, and the other is the Loyalty-Profitability Model. The Apostle Model segments customers by combining their loyalty with their satisfaction levels, allowing you to identify and then to place greater priority on those things that will help you keep your most loyal and most satisfied customers. On the other hand, the Loyalty-Profitability Model segments customers by combining their loyalty with their profitability, allowing you to identify and to place greater priority on what it takes to keep your most valuable customers.

Both of them provide roundabout ways to prioritize initiatives by prioritizing customers. These models also help you understand why taking a two-dimensional (or more) approach to prioritization paints a better picture.

One other option is to conduct a So What exercise, which allows you to identify the importance and the impact of implementing an improvement solution. This methodology was developed by the U.S. Army to move beyond simply uncovering root causes to prioritizing - and then actually implementing - ideal, impactful improvements. It allows you to identify the impact of various improvement initiatives and weight them against each other, getting at the list of top initiatives that best support desired company and customer outcomes.

Having said all that, ultimately this prioritization has to be based on criteria that were established by the CX governance team, namely, the executive steering committee. They will take a look at all of the company's initiatives and prioritize one relative to another; when they do this, I would simply ask that they remember: you are in business for and because of the customer. Choose wisely!

Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least. -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

10 More All-Too-Common VoC Program Mistakes - Part 2

Image courtesy of Pixabay
This is the second of a two-part series on common VoC program mistakes.

In case you missed the first post in this series, you can find it here.

Note that I haven't prioritized or categorized these mistakes, but take a close look at each one to ensure you're not committing any of them. If you recognize one, you've got to take corrective action immediately. If your listening program is failing, there are a tone of ideas here to consider to get it back on track.

OK, so let's dive in on the next installment of VoC program mistakes.

11. Not sharing feedback with the organization
This one makes no sense. As part of the core program team, you don't want to hold onto this data. What are you going to do with it? You've got to get out out to the people who can use it! You must share it out to the organization so that the respective departments can learn from it then act on it, do something with it. That action involves not only fixing what's wrong but also coaching employees based on feedback about their (or their department's) performance.

12. Not doing anything with it, failing to act
Don't just survey for the sake of surveying, to check that box. What a waste of everyone's time. As a follow-on to #11, once the feedback is analyzed, insights are gleaned, and those insights and recommended actions are shared with the organization, each department has a responsibility to take action. If you're not sure about who needs to do what with the feedback, check out this post on 5 Fails to Avoid with Your CX Program. You'll see that one of the biggest problems addressed in this post is closing the loop - with employees and with customers.

13. Failing to view it as a continuous process
Your VoC program is all about continuous improvement. Just because you've gotten feedback from customers doesn't mean you're done listening. Your listening program must be always-on. It must evolve to listen and ask in ways that customer want to provide feedback. And it must be updated to ensure you get feedback on improvements you've made as a result of previous feedback. Never stop listening.

One of my new favorite quotes at the moment is this one from Susan Scott: The conversation is the relationship. If the conversation stops, so does the relationship.

Keep the conversation going!

14. Not revisiting VoC programs over time 
I've written about this a couple of times, so I'll let those posts speak for themselves, but just know that you need to do a refresh every so often.

20 Signs That It's Time for a VoC Redesign
How Do You Know When It's Time to Redesign Your VoC Program?

15. Not sending surveys at the right time
On that note, a critical thing to do is to send the surveys in a timely manner. The main issue here is not sending the surveys while the experience is still fresh in the minds of your customers. Don't wait a week or a month to send a survey about an experience. Do it within 24 hours.

16. Not using an enterprise-wide feedback management platform
You thought you could go on the cheap with this whole customer listening thing and just use a free survey platform to listen to customers. Well, that's likely going to set you up for failure in a lot of  different ways, including:
  • You won't have alert, action management, and service recovery capabilities, which are all key tactical next steps in your VoC program
  • You get to do all of the analysis by hand in Excel, which will not be efficient or effective, because those free platforms give you 
  • Others in the organization won't get to see the feedback and use it within their organizations, e.g., think departments, business units, geographic regions, etc.

17. Not including VoCe
Your VoC program must be broader than just surveying customers. There are other ways to capture feedback about and from your customers, e.g., social media, online reviews, interviews, CABs, etc. One piece of feedback that is often overlooked is Voice of the Customer through the Employee (VoCe). Customers share feedback with your employees regularly. There must be a simple way for employees to log that feedback and share it with the folks who need to see it and use it.

18. Not appending customer data to survey responses
You already know a lot of things about your customers. When you upload your customer contact/upload list into your EFM/VoC platform (not the free one because they probably limit the number of fields in your file, and you can't really do any great analysis in that platform, anyway), be sure to include things that you already know about the customer. It shortens the survey because then you don't have to ask about things you already know, and then it makes your analysis much more robust.

19. Not personalizing the survey
When you include customer data in your customer contact/upload list, it not only affords shorter surveys but it also allows you to personalize the survey emails and the survey, with names, dates, products, etc. If this information is in your customer data, you can also deliver the survey to the individual in their language of choice. By the way, not offering the survey in multiple languages, when applicable, is also a fail.

20. Creating surveys that are not about the customer
It seems a no-brainer to create surveys about the customer, but I've seen plenty of self-serving surveys that left me scratching my head, wondering how the questions would help improve the experience for me. Don't be that company.

And here's a bonus mistake!
21. Forgetting that the survey is a touchpoint
This is definitely a major pain point with surveys. You must know by now that surveys are another touchpoint in the customer experience. The experience with the survey must be considered and improved as much as the experience with any other touchpoint. For some tips on that, check out these two posts:

Improving the Respondent Experience
How's the Customer Experience of Your VoC Program?

There are a lot of other mistakes that companies make with their VoC programs. Use this post and the first part of this series to ensure that you're at least not making these 21 mistakes! And if I can help in any way, just let me know!

The customer's perception is your reality. What they think about your products matters. If you don't put your customer's perception first, THE GAME IS OVER. -Sarfaraz Ahme

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

10 All-Too-Common VoC Program Mistakes - Part 1

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's post for CallidusCloud; it appeared on their blog on October 1, 2018.

As I sat down to write this month's post, I reflected on several conversations I had this week that were tied together with a common thread: common VoC program mistakes. I started to reflect on what was said and then began jotting down a list that grew much longer than I thought it would!

In this first part of a two-part series, I've outlined the first 10 common VoC program mistakes I came up with; part two will have at least 10 more.

It's important to note that these are mistakes that are made either knowingly or unknowingly - either way, they need to be rectified.

But before I outline those 10, there's an even bigger issue that needs to be addressed: thinking that you don't need to listen to customers or ask for feedback at all! If that mindset is prevalent in your organization, you need to squash it as quickly as possible and shift the thinking to one of customer listening - always!

OK, on to the list of common VoC program mistakes.

1. Not defining your objectives
With any program, initiative, or journey you undertake, you must always start from the beginning: outline your goals, objectives, outcomes, and success metrics. If you don't know where you're going, how will you know when you get there?

2. Not getting executive commitment
Yes, you need executive commitment for your VoC programs. If you don't have it, how will you get the resources you'll need to improve what customers tell you is broken? You

3. Failing to outline the program plan
"Fail to plan, plan to fail" definitely applies here. Your program plan needs to outline, among other things, the audience, a sampling plan, business rules to avoid survey fatigue, language options, customer data to append to the survey, alerts, closed-loop process, and more.

4. Poor survey design
I've seen more poorly-designed surveys than I care to admit. Some of the design issues include: survey is too long; there are navigation and UI issues; the survey is littered with poor grammar; it's not designed for mobile; questions are not relevant to the experience being evaluated; questions are not actionable; didn't ask open-ended questions; didn't survey via customers' preferred channels or methods; and the list goes on.

5. Not listening where customers are
VoC is not all about asking; you need to listen, as well. Know the difference between "ask" and "listen" when it comes to VoC. Be sure to listen on social media, in online reviews, via customer advisory boards, etc.

6. Trying to sell with surveys
Years ago, I read an article that stated: "The easiest way to grow sales and double customer loyalty is to send a survey and then do nothing with the feedback." I'll just simplify my response: "Just don't." I don't even know how that makes sense. I've seen some surveys with poor intentions, and it really doesn't help the rest of the folks who are trying to do the right thing.

7. Similarly, failing to keep the survey focused on the experience
Sometimes well-intentioned people design surveys about the experience a customer had with the brand but also include questions that could best be described as purely for marketing purposes. Keep it simple. Ask about the experience - and only the experience. Marketing questions should be saved for marketing surveys.

8. No owners for survey questions
Quite simply, if the question doesn't have an owner, there's no reason to ask it. If there isn't a stakeholder who can claim the question and say that he/she will make improvements or do something with the feedback to that question, then don't ask it.

9. Asking about things you can't change
If you ask customers for feedback about some aspect of the experience, you set the expectation that you will do something about that aspect. But if there are things that you cannot or will not be able to change, then don't ask about them. Looking to shorten your survey? Start here.

10. Focusing on the metrics, not the outcomes
Too many companies survey just for the metrics. Instead, survey to find out what's going well and what's not for the customer - and then use that to improve the experience. When you focus on the metrics and what it takes to move the needle, you end up driving the wrong behaviors. When you focus on improving the experience, the numbers will come.

Take some time to ponder these mistakes. How many of them are you guilty of? Not sure? Audit your program - or get someone to do an audit for you. Never a bad idea to do that on a regular basis, anyways. It's not too late to make improvements. After all, you want to make sure you do this right so that you can get the right feedback in order to design and deliver a better customer experience.

A customer talking about their experience with you is worth ten times that which you write or say about yourself. -David J. Greer, Wind In Your Sails

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Customer Understanding: The Cornerstone of Customer-Centricity

Image courtesy of Pixabay
If you don't know by now, customer understanding is the cornerstone of customer-centricity.

Customer-centricity means putting the customer at the center; customer understanding is how you'll achieve that.

What is customer-centricity?
A lot of people talk about being customer-centric, but it’s one thing to say that and another to be it! Customer-centricity is about putting the customer at the center of all you do.

Customer-centric companies ensure that they make no decisions, design no products and services, and implement no processes without first thinking of the customer and the impact that the decision or the design has on the customer. They ask, “How will this impact the customer? How will it make her feel? Does it add value, or does it create pain?”

In customer-centric companies, decisions are always made with the customer’s best interests in mind. The customer’s voice is brought into meetings and into conversations; the customer is always represented. Jeff Bezos’ empty chair concept is a great example of this and has been widely adopted by other brands.

It’s important to note that a customer experience transformation can only happen when there is a commitment to change the culture to one that is customer-centric, even customer-obsessed.

Being customer-centric happens by design. Customer-centric companies do the following to ensure the organization knows its reason for being, i.e., the customer, and to embed the customer into the DNA of the organization. They…

  • Have visible (and visibly) customer-centric leadership, demonstrating a customer commitment from the top down
  • Develop and socialize customer personas
  • Speak and think in the customer’s language
  • Use customer feedback and data to better understand their customers
  • Are engaged in continuous improvement as a result of the customer understanding efforts
  • Focus on products and services that deliver value for their customers, i.e., solving their problems and helping them with jobs to be done
  • Have a commitment to customer success
  • Engage with customers from the beginning
  • Walk in the customer’s shoes to understand today’s experience in order to design a better experience for tomorrow
  • Foster a customer-centric culture
  • Empower the frontline to do what’s right for the customer
  • Ensure all employees (front line and back office) understand how they impact the customer and her experience
  • Recognize the customer across all channels
  • Design processes and policies from the customer’s point of view
  • Measure what matters to customers
  • Encourage customer innovation
  • Include customer-driven values in their core values
  • Recruit and hire employees passionate about customers and about helping customers
  • Incorporate the customer and the customer experience into their onboarding processes
  • Train employees on how to deliver the experience that customers expect
  • Establish a customer room that is open to employees 24/7 so that they can learn more about their customers and the customer experience 
  • Rewards and recognition reinforce employee behaviors that align with customer-centricity
  • Have a C-suite executive who champions the customer across the entire organization
  • Customers before metrics, i.e., every meeting begins with and includes customer stories
  • Invest in the latest technology to support and deliver the experience customers expect
As you can see, becoming a customer-centric organization is a commitment that requires a mindset shift and a behavior shift. And, especially, some investments – financial, human, time, resources, technology, and more.

What is customer understanding?
Customer understandings is all about learning everything you need to know about your customers, i.e., their needs, their painpoints, the jobs they are trying to do, etc., and their current experiences in order to deliver the experience they expect going forward.

There are really three ways to achieve that understanding. The problem with these approaches is that, if not done correctly, you'll be no further ahead in terms of understanding than if you hadn't done them.

The three approaches are:
  1. Listen. Don't just ask customers about the experience, listen, as well. There are a lot of different channels and ways for customers to tell you about their needs and desired outcomes and how well you are performing against their expectations. Understanding these expectations and identifying key drivers of a great customer experience are important outcomes of this exercise.
  2. Characterize. Research your customers. Identify the jobs they are trying to do. Compile key personas that represent the various types of prospects and customers that (might) buy from you or that use your products or services.
  3. Empathize. Walk in your customers' shoes to get a clear understanding of the steps they take to do whatever job it is they are trying to do with your organization.  Map their journeys to understand the current state of the experience.
These are all learning exercises. We walk away from them with a lot of knowledge about customers, but we need to make sure we truly understand what we've heard about customers, their needs, and their expectations. Without that understanding, the exercises have failed. Make sure they're done right.

And then make sure you do something with what you learn! This is where customer understand manifests into customer-centricity and becomes the cornerstone for it. Make sure to put the customer front and center.

Here are just a  few things you can do to infuse the customer into everything the organization does. Key to this is to start at the beginning, i.e., start with the first day an employee starts working for your company. (Even better: start with the first day you start your company.)
  • Onboarding: Showcase your customer-centric culture during the onboarding process so that new employees know what that means. This is a great time for them to learn what it means to be a part of your organization, i.e., knowing your brand promise, values and commitment, what it means to live the brand, where the priorities lie, and how to deliver a great customer experience. This is a great time to set the tone for employees.
  • Ongoing training: You can't expect that, as both the business and customer expectations evolve, employees will automatically know what to do and adapt/evolve, too. You need to train employees regularly to ensure they are kept abreast of new customer insights and new approaches to delivering a great experience. Be sure to provide updates on anything you've learned about customers, the jobs they are trying to do, and their expectations.
  • Communication: What gets shared and communicated regularly is viewed as important to your employees. Not only does communication lend clarity, it is critical to a clear line of sight to the goal. Communication needs to be open and ongoing. Share customer feedback with employees; don't keep it from them. Tell customer stories and stories of great experiences to teach and to inspire employees to deliver the experience they need to deliver.
  • Rewards and recognition: When you recognize and reward those who consistently delight customers, you are reinforcing the behavior you expect from your employees, further confirming and solidifying the importance of putting the customer at the center of all you do.
Other ways to ensure the customer is always front and center, include:
  • Personas on every wall: these help to remind employees who the customer is, what she's trying to do, her pain points, what delights her, etc. - again, keeping her front and center in all you do
  • Customer cut-outs: place these around the office - and especially in meeting rooms -  to keep the attention on who really matters; they should include details of who the customer is and what she thinks and feels about the current experience
  • CCO/CX professionals: in key decision-making meetings, especially, there needs to be a representative from the CX team present to represent the customer voice and perspective
  • A real customer: imagine that! ask a customer (or multiple customers) to attend a meeting in which you'll be making decisions critical to the customer experience
  • Customer feedback: have you gotten feedback about the product or the touchpoint you'll be discussing; share it with meeting attendees so they understand how customers feel about the current experience
  • Journey maps: this might seem like a stretch, but if you can show executives/employees how the changes they plan to make impact the experience through truly walking in customers' shoes, then that's a powerful tool to have at your disposal, too
As you can see, all of the tools to facilitate and drive customer-centricity are rooted in customer understanding. In case there was any doubt, customer understanding really is the cornerstone of customer-centricity!

Your website isn’t the center of your universe. Your Facebook page isn’t the center of your universe. Your mobile app isn’t the center of your universe. The customer is the center of your universe. -Bruce Ernst

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Do You Believe in Your Company's Core Values?

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Do employees believe in the core values? Do they even know their company's core values?

Core values are the fundamental beliefs of an organization; they  guide executives and employees in identifying which behaviors and actions are right and which are wrong.

Everything you do must be aligned with your core values, and core values should be integrated into everything you do. When in doubt, ask: "Is this the right thing to do? Does it fit with our core values?"

I've written about core values a number of times; a few of those posts, for reference, are:

CX Journey™ Musings: A Lesson in Living Your Core Values
What Employees Do When No One is Looking
7 Pillars of a Strong Culture
CX Journey™ Musings: Culture - The Soul of the Organization

The good news is that most companies (89% globally) have written values statements.Read on for the not-so-good news.

I'm a fan of including employees in the selection of the core values. The following quote from Benjamin Franklin is so fitting here: Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn. It's even more fitting when you see the statistics about how many employees don't know their company's core values.

Research from late 2016 shows that only 53% of employees know their employer's core values. In a more-recent webinar poll, only 11% of HR professionals reported that 80% or more of their employees know the core values. With a little convoluted math, you can figure out that it's not an impressive response. Those numbers should be 100%. But they aren't.

What's a brand to do? If you are one of the 11% of companies that doesn't have core values, make it a priority to establish them this year. Let's just say you've got core values, but employees don't know them or live them. Now what?

Well, let's think about this for a minute. And let's not put all the onus on employees. Did the core values just show up on a wall one day without any communication or explanation to employees? Yes, this happens more times than I care to count. Just in the last month alone, I heard two examples of this!

And do the values actually resonate with your employees? According to Gallup, only 23% of U.S. employees believe that they can apply the core values to their work, while only 27% believe in the values.

When employees believe in the values, align with them, and live them, they are more likely to stay with the company. So let's get on the right track here.
  • Involve employees in selecting/defining your core values and the associated behaviors.
  • Once you've established what those core values are, you've got to communicate them. It's not too late to do this. If you can't remember the last time there was any communication about the core values or if they just showed up on posters one day without explanation, it's time to outline your communication plan. And then stick to it.
  • It's so important for executives and leaders to model the behaviors that they wish to see, the behaviors that align with the core values. Actions speak louder than words. Words on the wall are a start, but behavior is where the rubber hits the road. Executives, how are decisions made? How are resources allocated? What are your priorities? Do they jive with the core values?
  • Recognize behaviors that align with the core values, and reinforce with incentives, promotions, metrics, and more. Reinforcing the values and the corresponding behaviors makes them real.
In a Booz Allen Hamilton/Aspen Institute survey, 85% of respondents stated that their companies rely on explicit CEO support to reinforce values, while 77% say CEO support is one of the most-effective  practices for reinforcing values. It starts at the top. Maybe it's time for a chat with your CEO.

Values are like fingerprints. Nobody's are the same, but you leave 'em all over everything you do. -Elvis Presley

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.