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.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

So You Want to Be a CCXP...

Image courtesy of CXPA
Are you looking to earn your CCXP this year?

I get a lot of questions every week from customer experience professionals who are interested in taking the CCXP exam but aren't sure how to prepare for it. There's a website for the exam with a lot of details and resources; it now also includes a document that lists books, whitepapers, websites, etc. that you can read to help you prepare.

But there's no substitution for experience and having done the work.

As such, you need to make sure you're qualified to take the exam. You don't need to be a CXPA member to sit for the test, but you have to meet the following qualifications: you must have a bachelor’s degree and three years of full-time experience in a customer experience role or have five years of experience if you don't have a bachelor’s degree.

Once you've determined eligibility, you'll go through the application process and get approved to take the exam.

To study for the exam, check out the resources listed on the site, including training providers who offer courses that teach exam content. As I mentioned, the latest addition to the site is an Exam Resource Guide that provides just that. It includes many of the books that I typically recommend for exam prep:
  • Outside In by Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine
  • The Ultimate Question by Fred Reichheld
  • The Ultimate Question 2.0 by Fred Reichheld
  • Answering the Ultimate Question by Dr. Laura Brooks
  • Chief Customer Officer by Jeanne Bliss
  • Chief Customer Officer 2.0 by Jeanne Bliss
  • Driven to Delight by Joseph Michelli
  • Everybody Matters by Bob Chapman
There are a lot of other great books to read, but you should have these in your library, for sure.

Also, check out Michael Bartlett's CCXP Exam Simulator and his CCXP Exam Preparation book. I've heard these are pretty good.

Hopefully this is helpful and points you in the right direction. Good luck with the exam!

Disclosure: I'm an active member of the CXPA. I am Vice Chair of the Board of Directors, a CX Expert, a CX Mentor, and involved in the CXPA SoCal Network. And, of  course, I'm a CCXP.

The way to a customer’s heart is much more than a loyalty program. Making customer evangelists is about creating experiences worth talking about. –Valeria Maltoni

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Resurrecting the Dead Horse Theory

Sleeping (not dead!) horse image courtesy of Pixabay
I challenge you think about things differently in 2019.

What got us here won't get us there, right?

I recently came across The Tribal Wisdom of the Dakota Indians, a 1999 article in the Guardian, that I felt needed to be resurrected. I had never seen this before.

You can read the article by clicking the link above, but here it is in its entirety. I guarantee that you'll nod your head and chuckle embarrassingly as you read it!

As a preface, if you're unfamiliar with the "beating a dead horse" idiom, it means that it's a waste of time to continue doing something where the outcome is already decided.

The tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians, passed on from one generation to the next, says that when you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount

But in modern business, because heavy investment factors are taken into consideration, other strategies are often tried with dead horses, including the following:
  1. Buying a stronger whip.
  2. Changing riders.
  3. Threatening the horse with termination.
  4. Appointing a committee to study the horse.
  5. Arranging to visit other sites or countries to see how they ride dead horses.
  6. Lowering the standards so that dead horses can be included.
  7. Reclassifying the dead horse as "living-impaired."
  8. Hiring outside contractors to ride the dead horse.
  9. Harnessing several dead horses together to increase speed.
  10. Providing additional funding and/or training to increase the dead horse's performance.
  11. Doing a productivity study to see if lighter riders would improve the dead horse's performance.
  12. Declaring that the dead horse does not have to be fed, it is less costly, carries lower overhead and therefore contributes more to the bottom line than some other horses.
  13. Rewriting the expected performance requirements for all horses.
  14. Promoting the dead horse to a supervisory position.
Don't defend the dead horse (strategy, project, etc.). Don't keep doing things that aren't delivering results or making the desired impact. Don't go from one dead horse to another. Fix the things (people, processes, systems) that are broken. You know what they are. Stop talking about them. Make a decision and fix them. Make the change. Don't be afraid of change. Do the right thing.

Time to get a fresh horse.

Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go. – Herman Hesse

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

What #CX Professionals Wanted to Know in 2018

Image courtesy of Pixabay
What was on the minds of CX professionals in 2018?

And, most importantly, what does it mean for 2019?  That has yet to be determined, but "execution" and "results" are two words I'd like to see more of this year!

It's fun to see what was interesting for you - my audience - to read in 2018. I shared 58 blog posts (that includes a few posts from guest authors) in 2018; here are the top eight (because 18 would be way too many!) posts, the most-read CX Journey™ posts, that I wrote last year.

How Do We Ensure Employees are Happy and Engaged?
I'm excited that this post made the most-read list for 2018. It's about time that companies start focusing on the employees. As I always say, "Quite simply, without employees, you have no customer experience." And if your employees aren't having a great experience, neither will your customers. In this post, I not only defined employee engagement for the reader but also underscored that employee engagement is about some confluence of emotions and commitment between employer and employee, meaning: each is party to employee engagement. I outlined how each contributes.

How Do You Measure #CX Success?
This is an ongoing conversation: What does customer experience transformation success look like? How do we measure it? How do we show ROI? First, it's important to recognize that there are three different audiences of this transformation: employees, customers, and the business. In this post, I outlined potential success metrics to get your wheels turning. I'm sure you can think of others. Keep in mind, though, that you don't need a ton of metrics; decide on a one or a few, and stick with them.

What's in Your #CX Budget?
I think this is an important thing to consider - your CX budget. Traditionally, customer experience professionals are thought to have no budget. This is true. Kinda. They have no budget for making the fixes and improvements that they uncover in the course of their work. But, they do need funds to complete that work. In this post, I offer up seven categories that must be covered in the CX professional's budget. Please add to the comments if you can think of others.

Customer Experience and the Bottom Line
Similar to measuring CX success, this post/topic is an ongoing conversation: How does customer experience impact the bottom line? How do we show ROI? This is a 2016 post, but it's still getting quite a bit of mileage. I summarize some of the findings of a Sitecore/Avanade report that outlines the clear benefits of focusing on the customer and on improving the customer experience. The returns in their research are incredible.

The #CX Perception Gap
There’s this thing called the customer experience perception gap; it was uncovered by Bain back in 2005, and they referred to it as a "delivery gap." It states that 80% of executives believe that they are delivering a superior customer experience, while only 8% of customer agree. And, clearly, this gap is on CX professionals' minds. The reasons that Bain cites for it are real, yet trivial and overcome-able in the scheme of things. Let's fix these in 2019!

Customer Experience and Customer Service: What's the Difference?
I cannot write about this topic enough. Customer experience and customer service are not the same thing. They are very different. After having written about this three times prior, I'm glad to see this one hit home and got people reading and taking notice. One more time: Customer experience is the sum of all the interactions that a customer has with an organization over the life of the “relationship” with that company… and, especially, the feelings, emotions, and perceptions the customer has about those interactions. Customer service is one of those interactions.

Do Leaders Really Care About Their Employees?
I am beyond thrilled that this one made the top eight reads of the year. We have a crisis in leadership. The problem: leaders don't care about their employees; instead, employees are viewed as a cog in the wheel to leaders' and to the company's success. Leaders drive to growth, to the numbers, and forget about the needs and the lives of the employees who help them get there. In this post, not only do I define the problem, but I also propose a few solutions. Be sure to read this, if you haven't yet.

What Does the Future of #CX Look Like?
I'm often asked about the future of customer experience. And while I'd like to report that it's all about  omnichannel, digital, personalization, AI, AR, and VR, it's tough to talk about that when most companies can't even get their executives to commit to putting customers at the top of the priority list (right after employees, of course). What does this year look like? What should companies be focusing on? The same things I've been telling them to focus on for years. Only this year, they must execute!

The first step in exceeding your customer's expectations is to know those expectations. -Roy H. Williams