Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Prioritizing Your #CX Improvement Initiatives

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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

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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

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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

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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