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