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Customer experience solutions are readily available these days.

There are robust platforms that promise a seamless journey for your customers. There are feedback tools to help you gather JUST the perfect, most meaningful insights. And there are data sets and analytics and pivot tables, oh my!

The real challenge in any customer experience scenario is the cold, hard fact that your customers are…human. Humans behave by their own set of rules. And by their own set of rules, I actually mean each individual THINKS they are making decisions based on an extremely personal set of values, lifestyles, restrictions, negotiations and on and on and on.

But the irony of course is that we tell ourselves these are the reasons we do things and these are loosely true based on the emotions we feel in the moment. Neuroscience tells us human beings are immensely irrational and emotional creatures, meaning each one of us is a puzzle that can’t be totally solved!

So, what’s a Customer Experience Leader to do?

While we might be able to accept the idea that grouping people always leads to exceptions and imperfect data, it’s still data.

If the majority of your front-line employees, for instance, are complaining about their system as clunky, cumbersome and an obstacle of the ideal customer journey, it’s time to find real customer experience solutions for that system! If the majority of your customers are telling you the mobile app isn’t worth installing, it’s time to create more value there!

Imperfect Data Leads to Closer-to-Perfect Customer Experience Solutions.

Let’s accept data as imperfect, and that human behaviors are difficult to decipher and predict. Let’s also accept how we want to provide a meaningful, memorable and effortless experience for our customers and those who serve them.

The secret to all this data management and Customer Experience Management is both simple and complex. I see it as three big ideas to lead to a better experience for all.

[Tweet “”Are you ready to accept the hard truths and create a closer-to-perfect experience for your customers?” -@jeanniecw”]

1. Know what the ideal experience is!

If you haven’t mapped your customer’s real journey in a while, or ever, that’s an important step. Know what their reality is. Not what you THINK it is, but what it actually is. Then map the ideal experience, based on reducing effort for customers, improving the outcomes they want, and making the experience of employees as seamless as possible.

This is not a quick fix, but knowing what the reality is today and where you want to go is really half the battle!

2. Look for patterns in the data you have.

Regardless of how robust your customer experience management system is, you have data. Find out what patterns are accepted as truth. Listen for those accepted realities about a hotspot in your customer’s journey.

If you hear things like “our customers all hate our invoices” repeated, it’s time to really look at what the data around that is telling you. What do they hate? Are you receiving payment late because customers can’t decode their complicated invoices? Is your accounting team insisting on codes that are easier for you but not the customer?

Whatever data you have, tracking those patterns month after month provides real insights. BUT you have to start somewhere.

Don’t let the feeling of overwhelm prevent you from gaining valuable insights you might already have in your data.

In this episode, 35-year customer experience pro Jeanne Bliss shares spoilers from her latest book “Would You Do That To Your Mother? The ‘Make Mom Proud’ Standard For How To Treat Your Customers.” 3. Decide what to improve. Then do it!

Your customers are depending on you to listen to their feedback, then act on it! If you don’t have a way to prioritize and execute on those ideas, then you don’t really have a reason to collect feedback. The best organizations have a cross-functional team to help determine how to execute, as well as a way to circle back with the customers who provided feedback. Sending the survey is not enough!

Are you ready to accept these truths and create closer-to-perfect customer experience solutions? It’s time to define your future, use the data you have, and act on it!

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Touchpoints aren’t what they used to be.

There was a time in our history when touchpoints were…finite. We could list them easily and agree easily to what they were. The list might have 5-6 things on it for a sophisticated organization. When asked, ‘how does a prospect or customer interact with your brand?’ a brand team might list something like the following.

  1. advertising
  2. signage
  3. in-store interactions
  4. packaging
  5. customer service calls

This is WAY oversimplifying, of course. But you get the idea.

Then came the brave new world where we live today.

Now, I dare you…try it. Try listing all the touchpoints where your brand interacts with your customer.

  1. Traditional advertising
  2. SEO – paid
  3. SEO – organic
  4. Yelp/Google reviews
  5. Facebook branded page
  6. Facebook product usage community
  7. Twitter
  8. Instagram
  9. Customer Service Calls
  10. Customer Service Chats
  11. Invoices
  12. In-store experiences: kiosks, price check, etc.
  13. Employee interactions

I’ll stop at lucky number 13! These aren’t exactly how you or I would define them every time, but again, you get the idea.

So what should today’s customer experience professional do about all these touchpoints? It’s not a matter of just recognizing the list.

It’s a matter of owning those touchpoints.

Yep. Owning the never-ending list is part of the customer experience professionals role now. And there isn’t much that’s simple or straightforward about it.

How can we take on the impossible list of touchpoints?

By focusing on the customer.

Many organizations who claim they are customer-focused are still operating from a product-focused environment. They are adding steps in their processes for things like alerting their customer service groups when a product update occurs, but they aren’t really thinking about what’s most important to the customer.

We need to move from the inside-out to become truly customer-focused and rein in these tricky touchpoints. We hang on to what’s not working because it’s ours!

[Tweet “”Many organizations who claim to be customer-focused still operate from a product-focused environment.” @jeanniecw”]

I was just listening to a leader lament about how they were paying several people on their technology team to keep up with programming for the social media direct channels that customers are using, but they had forgotten to invest in the very people they needed to answer those inquiries. So his team had become the defacto group to try to keep up with these touchpoints.

Meanwhile, customers were already frustrated because so many touchpoints were promoted, but not really used, by the organization. They might be great channels, but they become frustrating touchpoints for the customer.

Listen to my latest podcast episode to learn more about drilling down to what matters!

Knowing your channels and touchpoints and processes is not enough to save you from a customer who still can’t find what they need. Building your touchpoints around one product or service isn’t enough – you have to know the whole journey!

I know, I know. Some of you are already thinking, “but we don’t have the control we need! We can’t touch the digital touchpoints because those belong to the digital team. We don’t have a say in how customer service chats are handled, because that’s the contact center team.”

But…that’s my point. We need to find a way to build bridges between these touchpoints on the inside so we can help our customers across those bridges on the outside. Even if we don’t have full control, we need to reach out and share what’s actually happening for the customer so we can make smarter decisions and more informed choices.

You can do this!

Keeping stock of your touchpoints and using that list to make a difference is a lot of work! But your customers will thank you if you remember to do these things:

  • Understand the touchpoints in the context of your customer’s journey, not from your organizational view
  • Think about what matters most to customers in those moments
  • Take responsibility for what’s really happening and how it makes customers feel
  • Change or eliminate touchpoints that aren’t working for the customer’s benefit
  • Build bridges between the touchpoints and the people who have the power to change them

I hate to say it, but it’s up to us, as the customer experience professionals we are, to do this. It’s up to us to advocate for the customer, not the product or the touchpoint or the department. We must speak up on behalf of the customers.

We have to find ways to know and support how our customers are traveling between touchpoints, and not the other way around.

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It’s that time of year. We’re all making predictions and tracking trends in customer experience. What will happen in 2019? Which trends will matter? Which will fade away? One thing we predict will not change for a long time is the need to reduce customer effort.

CCW’s latest report, 2019 Trends, highlighted many great trends, but one of them really caught my eye:

“Reducing customer effort is the #1 CX Priority in 2018, and organizations believe customer feedback, agent training and digital engagement are the keys to achieving that objective. Reducing efforts will only begin when organizations understand customer journeys and personas.”

Customer Contact Week’s report is filled with great tips and facts to help you create better experiences. Get your copy here!

We’ve been talking about ways to reduce customer effort for a while now. And yet it continues to be an elusive and difficult to achieve goal. Understanding the customer journey is a key part of it. With the rise in journey mapping popularity, it’s easy to think we’re doing that! But there are serious limitations to our understanding today, and I think I have a few ideas why.

1. Journey Maps are not a one-and-done project.

In fact, they aren’t really a project at all. Viewing a journey map as a static and once-in-a-while tool leads to complacency around really understanding the rapid changes happening in today’s marketplace.

Customers are expecting more, even if the experience you provide is not changing. Using the journey map to help identify the hot spots on a constant basis is how the best organizations stay one step ahead.

Listen here for great tips on human-centric service design. 2. Leaders need to talk the talk and walk the walk around customer-centricity.

If employees are only asked to think about the customer in times of crisis or quarterly results discussions, they will stop thinking about the customer!

Leaders need to reinforce a focus on the customer through constant communication and tying the results back to that focus. Employees should feel compelled to include the customer impact in each decision. They need to understand how their daily work connects back to the customer journey. Leaders need to make sure the focus on the customer comes from the top.

3. However you reduce customer effort, it should never be measured on the “good enough” scale.

Reducing customer effort should never be about just becoming better than the not-so-great way of doing things. Instead of asking, “how can we reduce hold time at our contact centers,” ask “how can a customer contact someone directly on the first attempt?”

Why not start reducing customer effort RIGHT NOW? You can make a difference today! Read more…

Think differently about what effort really means to customers.

That five-minute wait time might be an improvement over the 25-minute wait time of last year, but the real goal should be eliminating a wait altogether. Get specific about why. It’s not just the time, it’s the fact that our customer had to call in because he or she had a problem. That’s unnecessary effort for the customer. In fact, calling in at all is effort we should aim to eliminate!

Do you really know your customer’s journey well enough to reduce customer effort and eliminate some of the steps it takes to do business with your organization? It’s a big question with lots of questions underneath that one.

Want to learn more?

Then join me and 550+ Customer Contact and Customer Experience executives in Nashville for CCW Nashville 2019! I’ll be sharing my trademarked approach to creating a Customer Experience Mission as part of an amazing lineup of expert sessions.

Get the full agenda here!

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Thanks to a fun report from CCW, Customer Contact Week, and some clever customer experience pros (and prose – ha ha,) there is a discussion around leadership buzzwords we should have.

According to the report, the list of buzzwords is growing.

And I agree. Leaders toss around terms like “engagement” and “transformation” in ways that make those terms seem less important than they are. We aim for an exceptional “journey” for our customers but are only referring to marketing. We ask ourselves if our “culture” is really living up to a customer-centric experience but we don’t do anything more about it.

My esteemed colleagues in the report declared the three words that matter most to them – to dispel the idea of these words as purely buzz. I loved their answers, and thought I’d throw in a few of my own.

(Don’t forget to read the full report! You can download it here.)

My three words from this list that I feel are most meaningful for an exceptional customer experience don’t include experience. Is that odd? Probably, but I’m doing it anyway!

My 3 buzzwords:
  1. Engagement
  2. Culture
  3. Transformation

Here’s why.

Engagement

To become a truly customer-centric organization, engagement is not only critical, but it’s costly if it’s not there. Not engaging employees is like not putting fuel in your car and wondering why it’s not working. Leaders must engage employees to deliver a great experience.

Engagement means connecting their daily duties with the bigger vision, every day. It means internalizing what promises were made to customers and then living up to those promises.

Engaging customers means connecting with them emotionally. It means creating a real relationship that improves their loyalty and increases their positive feelings. It means building a customer experience WITH your customers, not just for them.

Culture

Culture is so much more than a buzzword! It impacts everything you do, from who you hire to what you create.

If your culture is one of chasing monthly sales goals and rewarding only those top performers in the front of the customer’s journey, it’s impossible to walk the talk of “we care about customers.” If your culture oppresses the truth because employees don’t want to get in trouble for speaking up about issues they see, then your customers will live with increased effort and pain that is never addressed.

A customer-centric culture is where innovation and imagination around the customer experience live.

[Tweet “”…culture is where innovation and imagination around the customer experience live.” @jeanniecw”]

Transformation

And, yes, perhaps the winning buzzword for 2018, transformation, made it to my top 3, as well.

Why? Because doing business today is unlike doing business in the past. Loyalty is not granted generationally based on what brands our parents used. Instead, loyalty must be earned with each and every interaction.

Every touchpoint, every service response, every communication, must be representative of an amazing experience. Transformation is simply a MUST for most organizations today. They must transform not only how they do business, but WHY. They must transform their experience both inside and out.

Buzzwords can be annoying, yes. But they become leadership buzzwords because a bunch of us realize they’re necessary! These buzzwords have power behind them. You just have to look beyond the buzz to see what they’re really trying to say.

I’m really excited to be a part of Customer Contact Week as they celebrate 20 years in 2019! This January, I’ll be sharing my trademarked approach to creating a Customer Experience Mission as part of an amazing lineup of expert sessions.

Join me and 550+ Customer Contact and Customer Experience executives in Nashville for CCW Nashville 2019. Get the full agenda here!

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The job descriptions for a customer experience leader vary between tactical analyst and strategic overlord.

Defining just what a customer experience leader does can be tricky. But what’s even trickier is when you may not have customer experience or customer insights in your title. Maybe you’re a survey pro or a journey mapping guide, but only when your regular duties allow.

Being a customer-focused leader is a tall order.

…with or without the fancy title and proper job duties. So how can you lead by example to make the experience better for your customers, regardless of where you are on the org chart?

Decide what type of leader you want to be!

1. The “Lead by Example” Customer Experience Leader

This role fits if you feel you’re on your own, trying to educate the masses about the gaps in your customer experience and how to fill them. You must get others on board by showing them the way.

Lead with data on why customer experience is important. Lead by sharing feedback from customers any way you can, and reinforce the importance of that feedback in every meeting. When you are asked about a design or an idea, ask the presenter what customers will think. Did we find out? What will we do to make sure they really like it?

Leading by example means extra preparation and never taking comfort in the status quo. It can be uncomfortable but also incredibly effective in changing a culture from the inside-out.

If you are this kind of customer experience leader, then you need to get comfortable being repetitive and patient. You need diligence and persistence in this type of leadership.

2. The “Big Idea” CX Leader

There is something powerful and magical about getting a group on board with the BIG idea. It can be a Herculean feat in some organizations, who are so focused on the daily dashboards and monthly reporting their eyes are never beyond the details.

The Big Idea Leader takes those small moments of reviewing a dashboard and asks big questions. What do you think would happen if we offered an unlimited product offering? Would our Customer Lifetime Value go up? Then how can we test it and find out?

Leaders who feel like the only movement is small may want to try on the Big Idea leader practices for a while. Once you start seeing OTHERS think big and act on those big ideas, you know you’re making a difference.

[Tweet “”Leading by example means extra preparation and never taking comfort in the status quo.” @jeanniecw”]

3. The “Data-Centric” CX Leader

These leaders seem to be in high demand, based on the job descriptions I’m seeing. But the irony, of course, is that the very places that want these types of leaders often already live in a data-centric culture.

The need is there in organizations who can’t quite put a finger on why customer experience matters. The nay-sayers asking “is it worth it?” don’t see any evidence that it actually benefits the organization.

This leader is necessary to share the real results of customer experience efforts. Data can help tell the story in real results for your business. Don’t focus on just data, but it’s important to understand and share its value.

The best CX leaders are ready to lead in each of these ways.

Based on what’s needed, what changes are on the horizon and who needs convincing, the best leaders use these skills and traits to share the stories that matter.

Are you ready to lead in a multi-faceted way? Whether or not your title reflects it, your customers need you to be!

This post was written for, and a version originally appeared on the Clicktools blog.

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We toss the word empathy around these days, especially in customer experience circles. And while most of us agree it’s vital to have and show empathy with customers, many rarely go beyond that in really capturing the touchpoints to understand emotions. The best customer-centric organizations leverage customer empathy to create a more positive journey for all customers.

Customer journey maps should highlight where empathy is critical to the emotional path your customers take with your brand. Many maps highlight the big ways of delight and disappointment. But, customers interact in big ways and small with your brand. Don’t reserve empathy for one set of customers or only the big touchpoints.

Empathy for Real Life Customers

We show customers empathy when we really appreciate what they are experiencing. Here’s my recommendation for how to show empathy for your customers. Step into their shoes in their real lives. Don’t be afraid to get real when documenting customer emotions. It’s one thing to be slightly disappointed. It’s another thing to be full-blown frustrated as a customer.

Empathy means acknowledging the experience AND emotion of a customer. So journey maps that reflect touchpoints as only big interactions like “pay at the cash register” miss ways to show real customer empathy. That interaction is one of many steps for the customer. Each touchpoint leads to an emotion. Help everyone have empathy for the customer by documenting those emotions on your journey map.

  • Where is the register?
  • What if they can’t find it?
  • How does that make someone feel?
  • Is there a long line or confusion about where to even line up?
  • What’s the signage like?
  • What if the customer doesn’t receive the sale price as promised?
  • And on and on and on…we must ask lots of questions and look for the places where negative and positive emotions are likely to occur.

Customer Empathy Means Going Beyond the Obvious

Positive emotions are great. It’s easy to pat ourselves on the back over something we know our customers like. “Our customers LOVE our loyalty program.” The loyalty program is represented as one solid and positive touchpoint on the journey map, and we move on to the more challenging ones.

Think of the benefits and opportunities if we ask those questions! What do they love about the program? How does it make them feel? They might love the way the program works, except when it doesn’t. Customers feel incredibly disappointed – or even mistreated – when the program doesn’t work for them. Customers who are highly loyal have more emotionally invested in the relationship. Customer empathy helps you identify those critical relationship touchpoints for loyal customers, and how to create even more delight around them.

[Tweet “”…real empathy with your customers leads to better business results.” @jeanniecw”]

Why does it matter to really identify these touchpoints and understand the emotional outcomes for customers? Because real empathy with your customers leads to better business results.

“Fully connected” customers are 52% more valuable than those who are “highly satisfied,” according to Harvard Business Review research.

Empathy matters, and it’s not just about the big interactions around channels with your customers. Emotions drive customer decisions, so taking care of them is the most important job you have!

Want to learn a TON more about Customer Empathy?

Then claim your 20% discount and join us in Austin this October!

October 9-12, 2018 | Austin, TX

Part conference and part expo, Customer Contact Week (CCW) is the largest customer contact event series in the world! Join 400+ Customer Experience and Contact Center executives and 75+ Speakers, including leaders from Haliburton, the NBA, Microsoft, Dow Jones, StubHub, and many more. But it gets better… Just for our community, use Jeannie’s discount code below to receive 20% off!

Discount Code: 2CCWA_JEANNIEWALTERS

Check out the full agenda here

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Have you had enough of the term omnichannel? It blasted into our vocabulary a few years ago, shoving out multichannel as the preferred ubiquitous business speak of our time.

Omnichannel paints a picture of an all-knowing customer journey. It’s agnostic about your specific channel sins, and instead is forgiving and welcoming to all. It’s an inclusive way to invite more customers into your well-prepared and personalized customer experience.

Don’t sweat the single channel any more. It’s all about the omnichannel experience.

So… what does that actually mean?

If there’s one thing that’s not quite ready for prime time, it’s an omnichannel experience. We get a vision of seamless interactions and effortless business. Customers can jump from the fancy mobile app to the highly personalized AI chatbot without missing a beat.

But let’s face it. Most of our experiences as customers are not like this. We tell our story several times to the receptionist, the service agent, and the next level support manager. Our experience reflects the way we channel hop, but our story often doesn’t.

This means brands see us as a ping, a technical bounce from one channel to the next.

The best omnichannel experiences consider more than simply adding channels. They consider the customer in a highly personalized way. How?

1. No channel is introduced without consideration of the entire journey.

This should be true regardless of the channel or the strategy, but it can still be overlooked.

Customer journey maps and feedback mechanisms can help! But don’t pilot each channel on an island. I’ve seen many strategies overshadowed by silos and their territorial chiefs. If you want your NEW channel to be part of your strategy, you must understand how it will serve the customer on his or her journey.

[Tweet “”…brands see us as a ping, a technical bounce from one channel to the next.” @jeanniecw”]

Don’t rely on process flows to show you the way. Rely on what customers have already told you about their pain. If you don’t use the information from one channel to the next to serve customers better, another channel with the same issue will not help.

Learn how your customers want to be served. Learn what the journey is like for them, from their perspective, not yours. And then decide the best way to integrate each channel into that journey.

2. Omnichannel design is about personalizing the experience for each customer.

To really get it right, you need to consider the ways a customer might come into contact with your brand, and the various entry points from there.

For example, in B2B sales today, it’s not enough to bank on your sales people being the sole entry point for customers. Today’s customers rely on outside resources like online reviews and social media as avenues to your brand. If your strategy ignores those areas, you neglect a major way your customer seeks answers.

While you don’t own those review sites, it’s important you actively engage with them. And while your new artificially-intelligent chat bots might delight some customers, others might insist on a real person-to-person phone call. If you sacrifice one channel for another, be prepared to set very different expectations with your customer segments.

3. Customers expect omnichannel to happen.

Customers expect you to know their story and history with your brand, regardless of the channel. This has been true since before we had the term omnichannel.

Watch your customer feedback for ways omnichannel might not be living up to these expectations. When customers don’t feel recognized or heard, many times it’s because they had to repeat themselves or feel unrecognized in certain channels.

[Tweet “”Don’t sweat the single channel any more. It’s all about the omnichannel experience.” @jeanniecw”]

It’s one thing to claim an omnichannel experience. It’s another thing to deliver it.

Customers expect you to know them, recognize them, reward them for their loyalty, and work together to solve their issues. That is omnichannel for customers.

Do you have an omnichannel strategy that delivers or an omnichannel dream that disappoints?

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Ever have a sneaking suspicion something just isn’t right, but you don’t know how to fix it? Is that happening with your organization’s customer experience design for service delivery?

Lately, I’m seeing a lot of good intentions gone awry with customer experience. And a lot of leaders and followers defending the INTENTIONS of the design, instead of dealing with the reality of the situation.

Your customer experience design needs work!

Allow me to share a few recent examples from my consulting and speaking work, and see if you recognize anything in your organization.

1. “But, Jeannie, the approval for this process took 18 months! It would be so embarrassing if we had to change it.”

I call this one the “but we tried syndrome.” In this particular case, the process to steamline B2B customer billing had completely backfired:

  • Customers suddenly received a one-page bill with cryptic acronyms, instead of the lengthy, detailed invoice they’d grown to expect.
  • The invoicing team correctly identified the problem: customers had trouble understanding their complex bills.
  • The invoicing team incorrectly deployed the solution: using acronyms to shorten the length of the bill didn’t solve the confusion!
  • An internal team created these acronyms, and even field tested them a bit with customer groups.
  • Focus groups and random survey results led to confidence in this solution.

But once several thousand invoices were sent without enough communication, the service calls increased and the frustration grew.

It’s time to regroup and find another solution to the identified problem.

[Tweet “”‘But we tried’ isn’t a good reason to keep something that’s broken for your customers.” @jeanniecw”]

2. “Our customers used to love us, so we are banking on them loving us through this challenging time.”

I call this one the “love the one you’re with myth.”

Once upon a time, your customers DID love you. They loved your innovation. They loved your disruptor status. And they even loved your scrappy approach to business.

But ten years later? It’s not so cute anymore because there are other disruptive innovators wooing these customers away. It’s time to stop living in the past!

This is a myth that we tell ourselves because it used to be easier. It was so easy when our customers would advocate for us at every turn. It was so easy to feel like the underdog winning.

It’s not supposed to be that easy forever. It’s time to innovate. And quickly! Show your customers your love through thoughtful customer experience design, don’t just bank on it from them.

Listen for some of Jeannie’s favorite ways to become a powerful force for positive change in your organization. 3. “Let’s optimize our customer experience design for Loyal Loretta. That’s who our ideal customer is.”

Something I often say to my clients – think of your WORST customer on his or her WORST day.

I call designing just the ideal experience for customers “the Pollyanna Problem.” What happens to a great customer when they have tons of trust built up with you is totally different than what happens when Grumpy Gus has a bad experience after a bad day.

It’s time to prepare for the worst case scenarios, not just the happy idealistic ones. This is when you’ll really discover how to be ready for the hiccups that are bound to happen, even with your best customer.

It’s time to face the facts about your customer experience design.

If your organization is guilty of one (or more!) of these, you can’t keep saying you’re doing your best for customers.

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What is the backbone of CX success?

They say in every relationship, it’s important to have more positive interactions than negative ones. In the healthiest of relationships, the ratio of positive to negative is 2:1 or greater.

The same holds true for the relationship you have with your customer. In fact, your customer needs even MORE from you. The best customer experience brands, those Forrester labels as “Elite Brands” in their 2018 U.S. CX Index, achieve CX success by providing an average of 22 emotionally positive experiences for each negative experience.

That’s 22:1 – eleven times what your significant other expects!

The recommendations for brands looking to achieve this elite status is to focus on emotion for greater CX success.

To which I say, didn’t we already know this? Not to be a know-it-all, but I’m pretty sure I did and you did, too.

I see a disturbing pattern in what’s perceived as “CX success.”

We don’t believe what we know to be true unless we have a report or index or dashboard that tells us so.

The best brands focus on emotion because…wait for it…they actually CARE about their customers. They proactively consider each experience their customer has with their brand and they do their very best to make it a good one. They reduce effort for customers everywhere and they show a little – or a lot – of their authentic brand personality.

Emotion is not new, for goodness sake. And humans have never NOT had emotions. We’ve been these nuanced, irrational and emotional creatures since DAY ONE.

Think about the last big decision you made.

Maybe it was who to marry. Or taking a big job. Or buying a car.

I doubt you can think of those big decisions without considering the emotions that you felt. You were weighing options based on logic, yes, but also based on how you felt. Sometimes we can identify those emotions immediately, like worry or joy, but sometimes it’s trickier. We just feel a certain way and can’t always articulate why.

Why are we forcing ourselves to define our customers’ decisions based on pure logic and analysis? Even your most pragmatic customer is still human. Yes, this applies in business-to-business situations, too.

No matter what those reports list, those numbers still represent customers. They still represent humans. And those humans will always have emotions which play into every decision.

Adam Toporek and and Jeannie Walters explore neuroscience and new study data to better understand the emotional impact on customer experience. Can we stop the madness!?

Can we stop acting like emotions don’t belong in business, and like the data will save us?

[Tweet “Elite Brands provide about 22 positive experiences for each negative #CustomerExperience.”]

The data is only as good as the questions we ask. But some questions don’t need to be asked at all.

If you find yourself thinking, “this is a terrible way to treat people,” or “why don’t we make this easier?” or “no wonder everyone hates this company…” Then, maybe, possibly, you should rely on the emotions you’re feeling. Are you feeling shame or a loss of control? Are you feeling overwhelmed with the way customers are being treated?

That’s enough. It’s enough to get started. It’s enough to do your best to make a difference for customers. And it’s enough to trust your emotions and honor and respect those of your customers.

Heresy in a world driven by data?

I hope not. Data has a big place in understanding customers, but we need to stop acting like emotions are a new idea. They matter, both for you and your customers.

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If you’ve never thought about how you engage customers, then what’s to stop them from becoming actively disengaged? Sometimes we set ourselves up for this! It even echoes back to us in the way we engage within our own organizations.

Consider this real-life scenario:

I used to have a joke with some colleagues at my first job. We were constantly walking into meetings in conference rooms with LONG agendas that could get pretty boring and stuffy.

There was a joke of how to save yourself if you had drifted off and were lost when someone asked you to engage in the conversation.

The amazing way to snap out of it and yet STILL look like you were in the game? Some variation of this statement:

Well, I’m wondering how it will affect our costs and budget.

Why did that work so well? Because everyone cares about the money. The leaders of any organization have their eyes on the bottom line, and any business person understands how the goal is to make more money than was spent. Better yet, to make more money than last month.

Instead of focusing solely on the revenue generated by increasing customer retention, improving customer engagement and creating more customer loyalty…

What happens when we do not engage customers? It Starts with A Sale

A customer isn’t a customer until they purchase something from you, right? Yes but no. The Customer Experience begins before the sale, and if your prospects feel their experience with your brand is anything less than divine, they might never make it to even consider a purchase.

Prospects see how you treat current customers, then form opinions about your brand. With social media and the amplification of customer service issues, any brand risks losing customers before they event get them.

How many prospects hear about a nightmare of a customer experience, either as a viral video or simply a story from a friend, and decide your brand is simply not worth it?

What if you could capture 10% more sales from your current prospect base? What if you could capture 1% more? Not getting customers in the first place is a COST to your organization.

And Then The Sale Goes Awry

Maybe you’ve avoided the pitfalls of poor prospecting. There are lots of ways the sale experience can impact the overall customer experience. Whether it’s a salesperson throwing your merchandise in a bag roughly or it’s a complicated negotiation, not examining how you engage customers during the sale experience can hurt you.

Jeannie and Adam interviewed Merit Gest, author of Myth Shift: Challenging The Truths That Sabotage Success, to discuss powerful engagement and onboarding strategies for customer-focused sales teams. Listen in!

If a transaction leaves the customer thinking, “I’ll never shop here again,” then it did more harm than good.

Many see making the sale as the end-game. But when the sale doesn’t engage your customer positively, you’ve already cost yourself good will. That lack of good will from a new customer often translates into poor word of mouth marketing and a lack of loyalty in the future.

How much does that cost your organization in renewals, repeat sales, and customer lifetime value?

Or Maybe It’s Just Apathy

It doesn’t always take a big moment for a customer to disengage. Sometimes it’s just the way communications are handled after being a loyal customer.

Communicating in a way that’s generic, punitive or just plain boring can feel like the company simply doesn’t care. Maybe it’s not the first communication that leads to chipping away at the trust for the brand, but it could be the second or the twentieth.

Feeling a total lack of engagement means that customer is more likely to move to a competitor who shows just a little more care. How many customers have you lost to competitors who just try a *bit* harder to engage customers of their own?

[Tweet “”If a transaction leaves the customer thinking, ‘I’ll never shop here again,’ it did more harm than good.” @jeanniecw”]

The real costs of not engaging with customers are often written off as the “costs of doing business.” In my humble opinion, that’s just phooey. The costs of doing business should not include losing customers who feel ignored, neglected or disengaged.

Next time you’re trying to determine the return on the investments of proactive and personalized experiences to engage customers, think about the real costs of NOT doing so.

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