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CX Journey Blog by Annette Franz - 6d ago
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I originally wrote today's post for CallidusCloud. It appeared on their blog on December 6, 2017.

The good news is, more and more company leaders are starting to get that they need to focus on the customer experience; the bad news is, many – most – are still struggling with the concept, choosing instead to focus on sales, metrics, and maximizing shareholder value. The crazy thing is that they think that they are customer focused.

There’s this thing called the customer experience perception gap; it was uncovered by Bain back in 2005, and they referred to it as a "delivery gap." Their findings were:
80% of executives believe that they are delivering a superior customer experience, while only 8% of customer agree. 
Wow! These companies are so off-base on their perceptions or understandings of their customers and the experience! How is that even possible? Why does this exist? It’s not because business leaders fail to recognize the importance of their customers; at least, they give customers lip service: more than 95% of management teams Bain surveyed claim to be customer focused.
Why does the gap exist? They cited two key reasons:
  1. They referred to the first reason as "a business paradox," where companies' growth initiatives hurt their main source of sustainable growth: loyal, profitable customers. They do so by trying to suck more revenue out of each customer by doing stupid little things like higher transaction fees, hidden fees, etc. On top of that, they focus on acquisition over retention, misdirecting their attention away from their current customer base.
  2. And good relationships are hard to build; it's challenging for businesses to keep promises made and to maintain a dialogue with customers that allows companies to adapt products and services to their changing needs. Bain believes that customer understanding efforts backfire because companies focus more on collecting and analyzing data ad nauseum, as well as on metrics, than on doing what it takes to improve the experience. No argument there.
Remember that this was 2005. As I read the article, I had already written down my thoughts on why this gap exists.
  • Companies don't take the time to really understand their customers: to listen (VoC), to characterize (personas), and to empathize (journey mapping).
  • If they do these things, then they aren't using what they learned to design a better experience.
  • And, finally, they fail to get the organization aligned around the work to be done and the experience to be delivered.
I guess I wasn't too far off.

Earlier this summer, Capgemini released a report that had similar findings, which means we have only made some progress in the last 12 years. Their findings still show a disconnect between customer expectations and companies' beliefs. Capgemini found that:
75% of companies believe that they're customer-centric, while only 30% of consumers agree.
The gap varies by industry, with Utilities (78% - 7%) and CPG (81% - 14%) having the largest gaps.

The gap also varies by geo. The UK takes the cake with a 77-point gap: 92% of companies believe they are customer-centric, but only 15% of customers agree. France has an interesting split with their 70-point gap: 70% of companies believe they are customer-centric, while none of their customers agree! Interestingly enough, in Asia Pacific, the gap is flipped in favor of customers: 79% of customers believe companies are customer-centric, while only 63% of companies believe they are!

What can companies do? What will it take for this gap to close?

First and foremost (and probably the big "duh"), company executives need to get it; they must truly get the importance of focusing on customers and the customer experience. They cannot just give lip service or think/believe they are customer-focused. It doesn't work that way! And most of them probably don't even know what that means, or what it entails. (That's how stats like these come along!) But they do need to know; they do need to understand what it means to be customer-centric, customer-focused, and customer-obsessed. They need to understand what the implications are for the customer and for the business.

Capgemini reported that 81% of customers are willing to pay more for a better experience; in some industries, it goes as high as 87%! We know that there's a linkage between customer experience leaders and stock performance. Focus on the customer, and the numbers, the revenue, will follow.

As a customer experience professional, or an aspiring customer experience professional, work on getting executive commitment. That's your first step.

The rest is much easier from there. I'm not saying that it's not a lot of work to transform the culture and the customer experience, but I am saying that it will be a smoother journey - and one where you'll achieve success - if your executives are all on board.
Your perception may not be my reality. -Aporva Kala
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I originally wrote today's post for HappyOrNot. It appeared on their blog on October 18, 2017.

Without employees, you have no  customer experience.

It all started with a tweet... (to the left)

My response was: “That’s a blog post on its own! Too much for 140 characters! But definitely need to start with listening to them.”

There’s a whole alphabet soup of terminology around the various states of the employee relationship with the company, so let me start off by defining a few of them. There are differences.

Gallup says that engaged employees “stand apart from their not-engaged and actively disengaged counterparts because of the discretionary effort they consistently bring to their roles. These employees willingly go the extra mile, work with passion, and feel a profound connection to their company. They are the people who will drive innovation and move your business forward.”

Employee engagement happens when there is some confluence of (1) emotions, commitment, passion, sense of ownership, etc. on the part of the employee about the brand and (2) what the organization does (mission, purpose, brand promise, etc.) to facilitate and enhance those emotions or that commitment.

Employee satisfaction refers to how satisfied your employees are (no surprise); it doesn’t address or include motivations or emotional commitment like employee engagement does. Some employees are satisfied simply because they get a paycheck or because they have a job. That doesn’t tell us how committed they are to the brand, to the job they do, or to the experience they deliver.

Employee happiness is a function of engagement and satisfaction. I’m satisfied with my job and am committed to the brand, which is committed to me; therefore, I am happy. It’s an emotional part of the equation and conveys contentment, energy, and enthusiasm.

OK, on to the good stuff.

Without a doubt, the employee experience drives the customer experience. There’s this concept called the spillover effect, which is described as the tendency of one person’s emotions to affect how other people around him feel. How do you ensure that your employees are engaged and happy so that they can deliver the experience that you expect them to and, in turn, yield happy and engaged customers?

Let’s start with some of the basics. Employee engagement isn’t about free food, beer Fridays, ping pong, and perks. They might make your time at work more fun, but they will not/do not drive your engagement. They may ease the pain of the stress, frustration, and long hours, but they don’t make you feel committed or feel some sense of ownership toward your employer and the brand.

Remember that employee engagement is about some confluence of emotions and commitment between employer and employee. So, each is party to employee engagement.

What Can Employers Do?
What is the employer's part in this equation? It's all about creating the right conditions to allow employees to become engaged. Those conditions include:
  • Hiring the right people for the right roles
  • Clearly communicating the mission, vision, purpose, and values of the organization
  • Living and breathing the mission, vision, purpose, and values
  • Listening to employees, hearing what they say, and acting on what you hear
  • Communicating openly and being transparent about company goals and performance allows employees to be more deeply invested in the company
  • Ensuring employees know how they contribute and how their contributions matter
  • Setting expectations and providing the right tools and resources for employees to meet those expectations
  • Creating a culture where employees come first
  • Ensuring employees are well taken care of, which includes tools, training, coaching, development, feedback, recognition, respect, appreciation, trust, balance, and more
  • Breaking down silos and be all-inclusive, e.g., the same experience from department to department, business unit to business unit
  • Leading by example; leadership should be role models for how they expect employees to act and to behave
  • Empowering employees and giving them control of their day-to-day decisions and roles
What Can Employees Do?
Employees obviously have ownership in this thing called engagement, as well: it starts with them; it comes from within them. Their role in becoming engaged includes:
  • Accepting a position for the right role in the right company
  • Being passionate about what they do and for whom they do it
  • Having a shared purpose and feeling like they belong to something bigger than themselves
  • Taking ownership, thinking and acting like they own the business
  • Being responsible for driving their own development and career path (which will be supported by the employer, as noted above)
  • Understanding the mission, vision, purpose, and values of the organization and ensuring alignment with all of them
  • Providing feedback to drive business success
  • Providing feedback about your role, your work, your happiness, etc.
  • Collaborating with co-workers to advance the business, to innovate, to develop new products and offerings, etc.
  • Working day in and day out toward the goals of the business
  • Understanding how their work ties to business outcomes
  • Coming to work every day ready to give their all
  • Stamping out gossip, office politics, and other things that make for a toxic environment
Why is this all important?
Besides the obvious reasons, engaged employees are more productive, stay longer, and want to see the business succeed – and they provide feedback and put forth the effort to make sure that happens. They drive customer happiness and loyalty, and ultimately, they drive the customer experience. Kevin Kruse has dubbed the following the Engagement-Profit Chain:

Engaged employees lead to…
  • Higher levels of service, quality, and productivity, which lead to…
  • Higher customer satisfaction, which leads to…
  • Increased sales (repeat business and referrals), which lead to…
  • Higher profits, which lead to…
  • Higher shareholder returns (i.e., stock price)
Making sure employees are engaged and happy is good for employees, customers, and the business. What are you waiting for?

Highly engaged employees make the customer experience. Disengaged employees break it. -Timothy R. Clark
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What is appreciative inquiry, and how can it help move your change management efforts forward - in a positive way? 

Change management is really key to any customer experience transformation. As you well know, the transformation always focuses on the bad, on what's going wrong - in hopes of improving and making it better; otherwise, I suppose, it wouldn't be called a "transformation."

What if we focused on the positive, too? or instead? And did more of what's going well than (or in addition to) trying to change what's not going well. I'm hoping most companies already do some of that, but I tend to see/hear more about the focus on changing the bad than on embracing the good.

There's a concept called appreciative inquiry (AI) that shifts the thinking on this. What is it? From David Cooperrider, Lindsey Godwin, and Jacqueline Stavros (Cooperrider is the co-creator of this concept)...
At its heart, AI is about the search for the best in people, their organizations, and the strengths-filled, opportunity-rich world around them. AI is not so much a shift in the methods and models of organizational change, but AI is a fundamental shift in the overall perspective taken throughout the entire change process to ‘see’ the wholeness of the human system and to “inquire” into that system’s strengths, possibilities, and successes.
Yet another mindset shift to consider and to push us to do things differently! When thinking of change, focus on the good, perpetuate that, and drive change by embracing and building on the positive. The concept is framed on the notion that organizations will move in the direction of what it studies or focuses on.

From TechTarget, it is...
...a change management approach that focuses on identifying what is working well, analyzing why it is working well, and then doing more of it. The basic tenet of AI is that an organization will grow in whichever direction that people in the organization focus their attention. If all the attention is focused on problems, then identifying problems and dealing with them is what the organization will do best. If all the attention is focused on strengths, however, then identifying strengths and building on those strengths is what the organization will do best.
I'm all for focusing on what's working well! What do you think? Is this a viable approach for CX professionals? Is there enough good in organizations when it comes to delivering both the employee experience and the customer experience that there's something to build on?

How does appreciative inquiry work? There's a 5-D model associated with it that looks like this.
  1. Define: What do you want to study? What do you want more of? What are the desired outcomes? When has the customer experience gone well, what can we learn from that, and how can you do more of the same?
  2. Discover: Talk about and define what's working well. What have some of the company's successes been? What are its strengths? When you think about periods or pockets of organizational excellence, what does/did that look like? What did each of those periods of pockets of excellence have in common?
  3. Dream: Having identified what the organization does best, ideate the future state and imagine what could be. How do you return to that period of greatness? What's the shared vision for the future?
  4. Design: If you want the ideal, what does it look like? What steps do you need to take to achieve that? Continuous learning and adjustment are key to this phase. (The model steps start to feel a bit like design thinking.)
  5. Destiny: Implementation of the design. How will the design be delivered? How is it socialized and embedded within the organization? How will you celebrate successes?
These five are an ongoing cycle... once you've achieved success, the process loops around and continues to build on itself, always looking for the positive, embracing it, and improving on it.
A rising tide lifts all boats. -John F. Kennedy
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Don't believe everything you read or hear on the Internet.

Yea, I know. Your mom probably warned you about that, but I'm just going to reiterate.

It's a fact.

Sometimes well-meaning folks put themselves out there as experts in a field and then think they can provide expertise about an unrelated (or perhaps, ancillary) field, knowing/assuming their followers will buy into what they are saying. With that authority or expertise comes a lot of responsibility - a responsibility to not mislead your audience!

Case in point.

I follow a digital marketer who just recently launched a podcast. In his teaser post to get people to listen to the podcast, he said that building a great company culture starts with hiring the right people.

Not so fast.

Recall from a post that I wrote a few months ago about the 7 Pillars of a Strong Culture...
Culture is best defined as "values plus behavior" and is often described as "how employees act when no one is looking."

I've previously defined culture as the set of values and norms that guides how the business operates; culture happens when we operationalize the values.
Building a culture starts with defining the seven pillars, not the least of which is the values that are the foundation of your culture!

Hiring the "right people" cannot happen until you've defined the values. How can you objectively identify if someone is the "right person" or is a "culture fit" if you haven't first defined your culture (values + behavior)? How will you know if their values match the company's values? How would you define the "right people?"

Please define your culture/values first, then hire the right people. These "right people" will fit, add value to, contribute to, be a part of, and build on the culture that exists/was created as a result of your core values.

Hiring people doesn't build a culture. Yes, hiring the right people is important to maintaining and sustaining your culture; however, your values are the foundation of that culture, which means they are the foundation for hiring, promoting, and firing. Building a culture starts with defining your values.

I think this quote from Tony Hsieh says it all...

We believe that it’s really important to come up with core values that you can commit to. And by commit, we mean that you’re willing to hire and fire based on them. If you’re willing to do that, then you’re well on your way to building a company culture that is in line with the brand you want to build. -Tony Hsieh, CEO, Zappos
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CX Journey Blog by Annette Franz - 1M ago
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Do you feel like you're not making the progress in your customer experience transformation efforts that you thought/hoped you would by now?

You started years (not months - it's a journey - it takes time!) ago, but you don't think your organization has evolved.

What's the reason for that?

I've seen several posts lately about CX being all talk and no action - that it's a lot of effort to pull off a customer experience transformation (and no doubt, it is!) with little to no return.

Nothing has changed. Lots of effort has been put forth to improve the customer experience, with no apparent improvements. Companies are still treating customers poorly. And customers are still complaining.

In other words, customer experience improvement efforts are failing.

I have a couple of thoughts on what's causing this. We advocate, as customer experience professionals, getting to the root cause of issues. That's the only way we can address this issue. So here goes. Here's where I think the root causes lie.

1. Executives aren't aligned
Executives aren't aligned with the customer experience transformation journey - or amongst themselves, i.e., with each other.

Unfortunately, most executive teams are not in alignment; they don’t work as a team. Instead, they function more as a “working group” or as a “committee” than as a team. If they're in alignment, they make a decision, support it and each other, and champion the decision down into their organizations.

Worse yet, they aren't aligned about customer experience transformation efforts and what that means for their employees, their customers, and their business. I've seen it. If they're not all on board, if they don't all agree that the purpose of the business is create and to nurture customers, then there's a lot of short-term thinking that focuses on the numbers rather than a long-term vision to transform the culture and the business.

I'm sure some folks will say that's all fluff. But executive alignment alone is not the problem. It's definitely one of the problems. One big problem.

2. CX is not a standalone effort
Listen. It's all CX! When I continue to hear people ask questions like, "Doesn't more customer focus means less focus on products, etc.?" then I know we are in trouble. Big trouble. These are not conflicting priorities. Customers and the voice of the customer need to be woven into all you do. Isn’t it all about the customer experience? Isn’t all you do in business for the customer?

Instead, customers aren’t considered when executives and employees are making decisions, creating new products, designing new policies and processes, developing messaging and communications, etc. They're an after-thought. It happens all the time.

When we get to the state of "What the Hell is Customer Experience?" then we know we won't be answering questions any more about how a customer focus conflicts with the product focus. 

Money is being spent by businesses every day to make changes or improvements, and yet they don't factor in the needs of the customer? Weird, no?

This is not about creating more work or adding more to your plate. You're already doing these things: enhancing the product, changing processes, updating the website, revising policies, hiring new people, developing new training programs, etc. All I ask is that, while you're doing your day job, you think about: your customers, the impact of what you're doing or creating on your customers, how customers would feel about changes you want to make, etc.

3. It's about the employee experience more first!
Certainly not last or least is the employee. In all of the posts about why customer experience transformation efforts are failing, I don't recall anyone mentioning the fact that the most important component in the equation is the employee!

I've been talking about the importance of employees to the customer experience since my days at J.D. Power and Associates 25 years ago; sadly, in the heat of customer experience design efforts, employees are still forgotten. Company executives say: "We'll collect feedback from employees later. We'll incorporate employee input after we hear how our customers feel. We’ll do something for employees next year. We’ll think about our culture at another time. Let's start with customers." This is not in any way, shape, or form acceptable. Without your employees, you have no customer experience.

The transformation must begin with the employee experience. Solve the employee experience challenges and create a culture in which employees thrive, and you're more than halfway into your customer experience improvement efforts; the transformation becomes much easier.

Are there more?
Those aren't the only reasons your customer experience transformation efforts fail. But they are three key reasons: (1) Executives must all be on board, aligned, and walking the same walk, talking the same talk, modeling the behaviors they want to see. (2) Employees must be first; focus on the employee experience. Get the employee experience right, and employees will deliver the experience your customers want. (3) And the customer voice must be infused into all you do; the customer experience cannot be viewed separately from what the business is already doing.

The bottom line is that we need to get the basics right. If you're committing any of The 7 Deadly Sins of Customer Experience, you're definitely not getting the basics right. If you believe that technology will solve people problems or that it's the fix for customer experience challenges, you're wrong; technology - any and all of it - is a tool to facilitate the customer experience, not to fix it.

What do you think? Why are customer experience transformation efforts failing?

My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure. -Abraham Lincoln
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CX Journey Blog by Annette Franz - 1M ago
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Is your company culture best described as a culture of excuses?

If so, then you need to think about why that's happening. Why are people making excuses? Why do they feel they need to? Why is that OK?

And then consider making "no excuses" one of your core values. Seriously.

Have you ever had a conversation with one of your employees or a colleague about some topic - be it customer experience, employee experience, strategy, or the business in general - a topic, perhaps, where you asked about its progress or why something was or wasn't being done? How did that conversation go? What were the responses to the questions? Did you hear what was being said? Were the responses satisfactory? Or did you feel like you were being put off? Were there excuses for why things weren't be done?

Is the standard response to that type of inquiry in your organization to explain it away or to cover up a known wrong?

Sadly, a culture of excuses is real.

Why do excuses become a thing? Why do people default to them? I think there are a few reasons this happens.
  • Don't know any differently: we've always done it that way; we've always made excuses (a self-perpetuating problem!); it's what we do.
  • CYA: cover your ass in order to avoid criticism or punishment or to avoid doing what needs to be done.
  • Fear of failure: if I don't do the thing that I'm afraid to do and just make an excuse instead, all will be fine.
  • Fear of recourse or lack of psychological safety: if I say or do what I'm supposed to, I'll be punished, chastised, fired, etc.
  • Fear of [fill in the blank]: fear is probably one of the biggest drivers of an excuse culture.
  • Lack of accountability: people need to take ownership and to be held accountable, but you can't just tell them they are accountable and leave it at that. Check in with them and offer help, praise, and encouragement.
  • Executive behavior, i.e., if they can make excuses, why can't I?
  • No clear vision: with a clearly-defined and clearly-communicated vision, employees can never say that they didn't know what was expected of them or what they should do/should've done.
  • Lack of training and development: if you properly train and develop employees, giving them the knowledge and the resources they need, they can't say that they didn't know what to do or how to do it?
  • Lack of clear expectations: when reasonable expectations are set and communicated, excuses should be minimal to zero.
  • Lack of leadership: leadership that puts employees' needs first, creates an environment of open and honest conversation (so people can ask questions or ask for help rather than make excuses), ensures that employees have the tools and resources to do what they've been tasked with,  communicates that no question is stupid, and ensures them that we all learn from mistakes.
  • Laziness: there is a percentage of people who make excuses who are just plain lazy.
How do we stop this cycle of excuses?

First, we have to acknowledge that it's a problem. That's the biggest step - being self-aware, i.e.,  knowing that you're making excuses, not simply giving valid reasons or explanations.

Second, executives must model and foster the right behavior. They need to be accountable and be held accountable. They need to do what it is they say they're going to do. They need to not make excuses.

Third, discuss and communicate. Talk about it. Don't let it be the elephant in the room. We all know it's happening. Acknowledge it and address it. If not, then it becomes acceptable by default.

And, fourth and probably most important, get to the root cause. Understand why people feel they need to make excuses. If I had to guess, fear would be the reason - but get to the root cause of that fear; otherwise, that's just an excuse, too.

Don't let your organization's culture become one where finding excuses overshadows finding a solution, making a decision, and taking real action. As I mentioned at the top of the article, consider making "no excuses," or something comparable, one of your core values. And give employees the guidance and the freedom to live that value.

Do you find yourself making excuses when you do not perform? Shed the excuses and face reality. Excuses are the loser's way out. They will mar your credibility and stunt your personal growth. -Alexander Pope
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Change. It's inevitable.

And it's hard. Many - as high as 70% of - change initiatives fail.

But don't let that stat scare you. And don't let it change your attitude about what lies ahead. Don't let that become a self-fulfilling prophecy! You know you need to make the change. You know that it will take a Herculean effort. You can do this! And I'll help with a few tips.

Your transformation efforts are much more likely to be successful when you incorporate some of the most basic tenets of change management. John Kotter's got his eight principles of change management, but I'm going to expand on those a bit and put things into customer experience management terms. There's definitely overlap; after all, as you start to think about the strategies and steps involved in customer experience management, you realize that it is a change management process in and of itself.

Here are the fundamental steps - or pillars - to successful customer experience change management.
  1. Understand the current state. You can't transform something you don't understand. In order to really learn about the current state and to identify and help prioritize what to fix/change, do two things: (1) listen to employees and to customers, and (2) map their journeys. These are the two greatest tools in your customer experience management toolbox.
  2. Create a vision for change. Once you know what needs to be changed, you need to define what the future state will look like. Your change vision is a statement or image of some desired future state, i.e., what the company and the experience will look like after you change, along with details about why this future state is desirable. It will give employees a sense of the magnitude of the change and the overall impact on the organization, on themselves, and on the customer. On the heels of your vision, develop the plan for how it will be executed.
  3. Build your business case. Answer the questions: Why is this change necessary? And what impact will it have on the business if we make this change? Identify your objectives first and then align the business outcomes and benefits tied to each. Your outcomes may be customer retention, account growth, new business through referrals, culture change, etc. Benefits might include cost savings and other efficiencies. Building your business case is not only about the why but also about the what: teach executives who might not understand the connection between focusing on culture, employee experience, and customer experience and increasing revenue and profits. You'll have to appeal to both the rational and the emotional sides of their brains. And establish the burning platform.
  4. Get executive commitment. If company leadership isn't on board with the change, then forget it; it won't happen. You might have localize or departmentalized efforts, but those will be silo'd efforts that translate to silo'd experiences for employees and customers. Without executive commitment, you'll never get resources - human, capital, or other - to execute on your customer experience strategy. And while we're talking about executives, they must also all be aligned. If they're not on the same page about the change initiatives, then it'll be a challenge to successfully execute.
  5. Establish your success metrics. You've defined your objectives and your desired outcomes. But how will you know when you've achieved them? What does success look like? How will you measure success? Define your success metrics early so that you can track progress over time.
  6. Develop a governance structure. Changing the organization's DNA to be more customer-centric is not a journey for one person to undertake; this is an organization-wide effort. As such, the governance structure is critical to the foundation of any customer experience management effort. Without an executive sponsor, an executive committee, the core program team, and cross-functional champions, your transformation won't get very far.
  7. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. I can't say this enough. Communicating your vision is an important piece of change management. If no one knows what it is or why it's taking place, then people start to ignore it; they certainly don't want to be a part of it. Of course, the key is to communicate the right information. Tell the change story. Early. And often. Celebrate milestones and successes. Keep communicating.
  8. Involve and empower employees. Get their buy-in and commitment. There's a great quote from Benjamin Franklin that's so fitting here: Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn. Get employees involved - early in the process. When that happens, they feel like they're a part of it. Don't just force change on your employees; give them some ownership in the change. They'll be more accepting of it, without a doubt.
  9. Model the behavior. It's important that, once executives are committed to the change effort, they lead by example, to model the change that they wish to see from their employees; if they don't live the change, why should employees?! If your CEO doesn't demonstrate commitment to the transformation by being the role model for how to deliver a great experience, it won't happen. Often times, some quick wins will help to drive the point home that this change is real - and it's happening.
  10. Stand up a group of culture ambassadors. Put together a group of people who exemplify the change you envision. They already live the change. They get it. Find ways to not only involve them in the change initiatives but to also be ambassadors for the change: model it, sell it, champion it.
  11. Build on initial successes; keep going. Change fatigue can set in at any time because there's always some initiative within the organization that pulls people away from what they are doing on a daily basis. Keep people informed of the progress being made. Celebrate each milestone. Be relentless and just keep going until the outcome has been achieved.
  12. Monitor and adjust. Once you’ve implemented the change, once you're in the "future state," your job is not done. The customer experience is a journey, as are your customer experience management and improvement efforts. The business evolves. New products are launched. Customers’ needs change.  New competitors enter the marketplace. Continuous improvement is the name of the game.
Having problems getting adoption for your latest change initiatives? Avoid change fatigue and the skepticism that comes with change feeling like the flavor of the month. You must have a vested interest in getting the process right, in sticking with the journey and not giving up because it's hard. No one ever said this was going to be easy; nothing worth doing ever is!

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. -Thomas Edison
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CX Journey Blog by Annette Franz - 1M ago
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Does your company put profits before people?

I bring this up because I've seen a particular phenomenon many times: executives decide to put their employee experience and customer experience improvement efforts on pause because sales figures are down. Clearly the blame is that the people focus has derailed them from business development and closing deals; there can be no other reason for this (she said with all the sarcasm in the world).

We know that the employee experience and customer experience transformations are a journey. Unfortunately, the immediate pressures of the business often drive out long-term goals and objectives.

So many executives today still live by the old management adage, companies are in business to maximize shareholder value. In doing so, they put profits before people, rather than the other way around. Ironically, in the 1970s, Jack Welch was a huge proponent of that adage, but within the last ten years he has renounced it, calling it "the dumbest idea in the world" and saying:
Shareholder value is a result, not a strategy. Your main constituencies are your employees, your customers, and your products. Managers and investors should not set share price increases as their overarching goal. Short-term profits should be allied with an increase in the long-term value of a company.
While creating and maximizing shareholder value is important to any public company, it is an outcome, not a means. There are means to achieving that outcome, and they including putting employees and customers first, ahead of profits. Companies succeed if and when employees want to work for them, customers must be willing to buy - and actually buy - their products, vendors and suppliers want to partner with them, people want them to locate in - and be a part of - their communities, and shareholders buy their stocks. Companies have more constituents than just shareholders and more responsibilities than delivering value for them. The rest of their constituents must receive value, as well.

When companies (executives) put profits before people, they are driven by:
  • short-term thinking
  • short-sightedness
  • impatience
  • money, metrics, margins, numbers, revenue
  • shareholders
These are the things that cause executives to stop improvement efforts and shift focus and resources solely on closing deals and making the numbers.

When, in reality, focusing on the employee and focusing on the customer first are all about ensuring you can close deals and make your numbers.  Focus on the former, and the latter follows.

Peter Drucker says that the purpose of a business is to create a customer. You can't create a customer if you don't have the right people in place to deliver value to the customer, if you don't understand who the customer is and what her needs are, and if you're not designing and creating products that help them solve problems or get jobs done.

Seth Godin writes in his post, What are corporations for?...
The purpose of a company is to serve its customers.

Its obligation is to not harm everyone else.

And its opportunity is to enrich the lives of its employees.

Somewhere along the way, people got the idea that maximizing investor return was the point. It shouldn't be. That's not what democracies ought to seek in chartering corporations to participate in our society.

The great corporations of a generation ago, the ones that built key elements of our culture, were run by individuals who had more on their mind than driving the value of their options up.
So how do companies do that? How do they drive up value for employees so that they can deliver value for customers?

  • Define and socialize your values and guiding principles.
  • Create a culture where people are first.
  • Hire the right people, particularly those that fit your culture.
  • Take care of employees, and they will take care of customers. Don't just treat employees as cogs in the wheel. Trust, motivate, reward, and respect them.
  • Let employees know how their work matters and how it impacts the business. Be open to ideas and suggestions from employees and use them.
  • Listen to employees, learn from what you hear, and do something with the feedback. They want the business to succeed as much as you do. Value their input, and show them that you care by using it to make changes and improvements.
  • Invest in your employees. Coach, train, and develop them and ensure they are on a path to career success.
  • Treat people like people. See human. Be human.
  • Create a workplace where policies and processes don't hinder an employee's ability to do his job - and do it well. Or hinder his ability to deliver a great experience to his customers.
  • Live a life of servant leadership. Put the needs and interests of your people before your own.
  • Leaders must communicate, and be open and transparent. Develop a culture of transparency.

It's a mindset shift. I can tell you all of those things have to happen, but your CEO and her executive team (the entire team, everyone on the same page) must choose to lead and to run the business differently. It begins with them. The choice is theirs.

But it doesn't often happen on its own - and certainly not overnight! As always, if you can start to show some quick wins and ROI, you'll build the business case for why the shift is necessary. And there's a ton of data out there already to show the impact of focusing on employees and the employee experience. Don't be afraid to use some of that to build your case.

Your employees come first. And if you treat your employees right, guess what? Your customers come back, and that makes your shareholders happy. Start with employees and the rest follows from that. -Herb Kelleher
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Today I'm pleased to share a guest post by Paul Laughlin. This post was originally published on his blog on October 2, 2017.

Do you have a stakeholder map? Is it up-to-date and do you use it?

Those questions frequently come up when I’m working with clients. In either training or coaching, the need to "know your stakeholders" is a common one.

It’s not surprising that it matters. Today’s businesses are more complex than ever. Plus, it’s not enough for insight or analytics leaders to generate insights, they need to be able to act on them. Few, if any, of today’s leaders can do that in isolation.

Whether you need to partner with IT, Sales, Marketing, or Operations, you will need to cooperate. The challenge, of course, is that other people have their own priorities, challenges, and values. These may not accord with yours, or may at least make your intended action less important now.

Consider a stakeholder map for better stakeholder management.

Creating a Stakeholder Map: Step 1
The first challenge, when seeking to manage your stakeholders better, is to identify them. This might sound patently obvious, but I often see too little time spent on this stage.

Leaders (including data/analytics/insight leaders) will easily recall others they work with often. But, one of the benefits of a well-designed stakeholder map is having taken the time to spot others.

So, I suggest taking some time to think. Use mind-mapping techniques to identify a 360-degree view of all your stakeholders. To get you started, consider the following possible direct relationships:
  • Whose investment/permission do you need to proceed?
  • Whose process approval do you need to comply?
  • Whose resources do you need in order to deliver change/action?
  • Whose engagement do you need to do the work?
  • Whose expectations do you need to meet to succeed?
  • Whose cooperation do you need in order for it to work?
  • Who thinks they are affected (but aren’t) and needs reassurance?
In other words, consider your: sponsors, gatekeepers, suppliers, team, clients, peers, and others who may be worried.

Once you have identified these immediate relationships, then think about who they need. Can you identify their line manager, internal suppliers, teams, peers, etc?

Some simple examples of different visualisation techniques for this stage are available from Stakeholdermap.com.

By this stage you may be thinking this could be a never-ending journey. You are free to stop once you find newly-identified stakeholders who wouldn’t really be impacted. Either they would have no stake in what you are working to achieve, or you don’t need them.

My advice is to work on this a little longer than you want to. It’s surprising how often, toward the end, you identify a team or a leader you had not considered.

Creating a Stakeholder Map: Step 2
The output of Step 1 may look unwieldy, even if you have produced a beautiful "spider web" on flip charts. That is because it is. Of itself, the above exercise has identified too many stakeholders for you to viably manage.

The point of Step 1 is not to create your priority list but first to think broadly enough so you’re not stuck on "the usual suspects." Step 2 is all about prioritization. Anyone who has worked on project/change management will be familiar with the Boston Consulting Grid (BCG). This works on a similar representation.

To prioritize the stakeholders identified in Step 1, you need to assess each one against two dimensions:
  1. How much influence do they have?
  2. How interested are they?
The first question is all about their impact on what you are seeking to achieve. Let’s say you have produced a targeting model for a marketing campaign. Perhaps all your testing has proven (to you) that it is much more accurate than the current approach used by Sales & Marketing teams. In this context, Question #1 means: Who has the authority to decide if new targeting is implemented?

One caution here is to consider different types of power. It’s easy to identify those who are more senior in the organization. Also look for those with significant influence over others or recognized expertise. Score highly all those who have high influence over the decision to use the new model.

The second question (above), concerns engagement. Frankly, are they bothered? You should score highly those who are very interested (either as advocates or detractors). Also consider stakeholders who have significant "skin in the game," i.e., those you know will be interested once they understand the impact on them.

Once you have relatively scored every stakeholder (from high to low on both axes), you can plot them. This is where the exercise looks like a BCG. Plot the relative position of each of your stakeholders identified in step 1 on a 2×2 grid of the above axes.

In classic BCG fashion, the ideal quadrant should be top right. That is the stakeholder with high influence and high interest. But, be ruthless. Don’t just keep stakeholders near that top right because you like them or usually work with them. Take a hard look at relative scores – because you need to prioritize down to those who need to be managed.

A tidy visual explanation of this technique is published by Karim Vaes:

Image courtesy of Karim Vaes

Using a Stakeholder Map: What Next?
Hopefully you have seen above the benefit of identifying your stakeholders and prioritizing those who matter most. Such a stakeholder map (output from Step 2) can help you prioritze your limited time.

Every insight or analytics leader I meet is busy. They often refer to things like "not enough hours in the day." So, personal effectiveness and productivity should matter to such technical leaders, too. This mapping exercise is all about helping you be more productive.

Managing stakeholders takes time. The way to avoid burnout and to stay sane is to focus your efforts. Be disciplined in who you spend time with and how you communicate.

This is how you should treat the different quadrants of your map:

Key Players (Top Right)
This is where to really focus your efforts. Get to know these stakeholders, what they are like, what matters to them. What is there preferred way to be briefed (face to face, call, email summary, etc)? Plan in time to proactively ensure they understand your proposal and keep them informed in a way that works for them. Clearly communicate what is in it for them.

Keep Satisfied (Top Left)
These stakeholders are your next priority group. They have the influence to make or break your plans, but less/little interest. The key here is to be brief. Ensure you summarize down to the least they need to know to reassure them. Your time is likely to be taken crafting pithy updates or influencing their trusted advisors/teams.

Keep Informed (Bottom Right)
These stakeholders are less important than the two groups above, but are interested. Here the key is to minimize the time you take keeping them informed. Most of your stakeholders should be below the central horizontal axis, so they are in this or the next group. Given such volume, although this group matter, they can be a time drain. How can you automate reports, or brief them through existing meetings?

Minimal Effort (Bottom Left)
These are the least important stakeholders. Step 2 should have placed the largest number of stakeholders identified in Step 1 in this quadrant. Here you want to be reactive, if possible, and protect yourself from any unnecessary effort. Avoid offending anyone, but see if you can just answer their questions through existing means or as they arise.

Stakeholder Map: What Works for You?
I hope that post was useful. It's important to know how to effectively manage stakeholders. But mapping your stakeholders is a great place to start. If you don’t have a map, or the one you have doesn’t work for your current situation, then create a new one.

For now, what works for you? Do you have any other tools you use? How do you map stakeholders and keep the most important ones in view?

Paul Laughlin has over 20 years experience of leading teams to generate profit from analysing  data. Over the last 12 years he’s created, lead and improved customer insight teams across Lloyds, TSB, Halifax and Scottish Widows. He’s delivered incremental profit of over £10m pa and improved customers’ experiences.
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Today I'm pleased to share a guest post by Ford Blakely, founder and CEO of Zingle.

According to Google, 98% of Americans switch between devices in the same day.

Today’s savvy consumers have a variety of options when it comes to engaging with your brand. From desktop and laptop computers to tablets and smartphones and even brick and mortar stores, the customer journey is more complicated than ever.

Let’s get one thing clear, though: having multiple channels is not the same as being omnichannel. The difference here is that a true omnichannel experience is interconnected and seamless throughout the entire customer journey, whereas multichannel simply means you have multiple customer touchpoints but fail to connect data across channels to enhance the experience.

The Importance of an Omnichannel Strategy
Delivering a true omnichannel experience is hard to achieve but definitely has its benefits. A survey by Aspect Software indicated that businesses that adopt omnichannel strategies achieve 91% greater year-over-year customer retention rates compared to businesses that don’t.

Other benefits of an omnichannel experience include:
  • Deliver Better Customer Experiences through leveraging real-time and historical data on customer online shopping behaviors, profile preferences, and purchase history, as 90% of customers expect consistent interactions across channels.
  • Provide More-Effective Marketing through targeted promotions and remarketing strategies based on data-driven customer segmentation across channels, as campaigns integrating four or more digital channels will outperform single or dual-channel campaigns by 300%.
  • Acquire New Customers by increasing exposure to your brand and engaging customers on any channel or device they are using, as 71% of consumers who have had a good social media service experience with a brand are likely to recommend it to others.
  • Gain More Robust Data that covers all channels and allows businesses to make better decisions on product development and marketing efforts, as 77% of strong omnichannel companies store customer data across channels compared to 48% for weak omnichannel companies. 
  • Improve Operational Efficiency through real-time communication and visibility of data across channels, as 71% of shoppers agree that it is important or very important to be able to view inventory information for in-store products.
As you can see, having an omnichannel strategy has benefits for both consumers and businesses alike. Customers get better experiences, while businesses acquire and retain more customers.

The Missing Link in Today’s Omnichannel Customer Service Strategy
Consumers don’t care about channels; they demand a fast and effortless customer service experience no matter which channel they use.

Common customer care channels like phone, email, website, chat, and social media are all great ways to serve customers, but there is one missing: text messaging.

Text messaging is the only channel that doesn’t require a lot of effort or time for customers to engage, and many consumers prefer it; RingCentral reports that 78% of consumers wish they could have a text conversation with a business. But only 48% of businesses are currently equipped to handle any form of messaging.

Customer service continues to evolve and improve as technology advances, and businesses should be looking at all channels available to serve customers while keeping in mind the business cost of service for each channel. For example, customer service call centers cost dollars per call versus text messages, which cost cents per call.
People like to communicate in different ways. Some like emails; some like face-to-face interactions; while others, like millennials, prefer texting over phone calls. Regardless of which channel your customers choose to communicate, ensure that your messaging, tone, and overall experience is consistent and personalized across channels. In addition, proper training of staff on knowledge, etiquette, and timeliness for each channel you support is equally important as the channel itself.

The implementation and execution of your omnichannel strategy can be the difference between rising above - or falling behind - your competitors.

Ford Blakely is the founder and CEO of Zingle. As a frustrated consumer with an entrepreneurial spirit, Ford sought to figure out a quicker way to order his latte in the morning. He did - and in 2009 Zingle was born as the first two-way, business-and-customer communication platform. Currently, thousands of hotels, food retailers, and other businesses use the software platform to increase efficiency, revenue, and customer loyalty by providing a quick and simple way to communicate with customers through text messaging - people's preferred method of communication today.
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