What’s the Best Measure of Success?

Have you heard of Conscious Capitalism? It's a global movement that inspires business leaders to define success beyond profits. Conscious businesses subscribe to a win-win-win model. They aim to provide positive value in profit, people and the planet.

One of the challenges that customer experience professionals face is demonstrating the impact or success of the customer experience initiative. We often see business leaders jump to the financial return, but is that how success is defined? It's not how most people measure their personal success. Why should companies define success solely in financial terms?

Perhaps we need to consider a broader definition of success - one that encompasses profits but also considers the contribution that the company is making to the lives of its employees, customers and community. It could include things such as, "How many times did we proactively reach out to customers?" or, "How many employees participated in our journey mapping workshop or customer empathy training?"

For other ideas on broadening the definition of impact, check out this blog from friend and colleague Lauri Jones.

Don’t let your emotional intelligence steal your sparkle!

"Most often, success or failure in a job comes down to how we manage ourselves and how well we manage relationships with coworkers...not how much we know." Jennifer Shirkani

During the 2017 Walker B-to-B CX Summit, Jennifer Shirkani talked about the importance of emotional intelligence. I admit, until her presentation I thought emotional intelligence was akin to self-awareness. Boy, was I wrong.

Emotional intelligence is how we respond (or adapt) based on our self-awareness. Jennifer shared this example. Someone with high self-awareness and no emotional intelligence might be inclined to think, "This is who I am. Take it or leave it." While those with self-awareness and emotional intelligence are more likely to think, "This is who I am, but I can make temporary adjustments to adapt to others."

I often hear people blame others for their shortcomings - guilty as charged. But, perhaps it isn't them. It's our own self. Our emotional intelligence could be the thing that is stealing our sparkle.

So, what does this have to do with customer experience? A lot.

It's our job to put the customer at the heart of business. We must have our finger on the pulse of our customer relationships. We have to influence decisions without having authority. We have to engage the organization. When you think about it, our role has very little to do with our self-awareness, and everything to do with them - customers, employees, partners, investors, etc. Yes, we need to know ourselves, but we must be able to adapt if we're going to truly hear what our customers are saying and achieve buy-in and support throughout the organization.

What do you think?

Side note: This blog was inspired by my daughter, Lillian. She occasionally binge watches Greys Anatomy and recently accused Izzie of stealing Meredith's sparkle.

Three ways to think positively about CX

Customer Experience at Walker

It's common for customer experience professionals to find themselves surrounded by the negative: how we aren't meeting customer expectations, how our experience isn't seamless or consistent, the number of detractors, why one part of the organization won't pay attention, etc. The list goes on and on.

In celebration of CX Day, I propose we shift our perspective and consider the positives, such as:

  1. Helping our company develop what Jay Baer refers to as Talk Triggers. Last week, at the Walker B-to-B CX Summit, Jay shared how CX professionals can help B-to-B organizations grow through word of mouth by creating Talk Triggers. Talk Triggers are unique to each organization. They are the positive aspects that customers talk about and share with their friends, colleagues, and even acquaintances. Customer experience professionals are in a prime position to help the organization identify talk triggers and put them to use.
  2. Focusing on the positive side of customer feedback. Last week we also heard Megan Burns talk about availability heuristics, which is the notion that "if something can be recalled, it must be important." She talked about how our personal news feed tends to be filled with negativity, so we naturally are more likely to recall the negative. Her suggestion is to create a positive news feed. For CX professionals, it's about creating a positive customer feed and sharing those stories broadly throughout the organization.
  3. Taking advantage of the opportunity to put the customer at the heart of all business decisions. The role of the customer experience professional is in demand. In Walker's latest release, Customers 2020: A Progress Report, we found that 95% of customer experience professionals expect the demand for customer intelligence to increase by 2020. CX professionals have a significant opportunity to create lasting impact for their organization.That's something to get excited about. 

While today we celebrate CX Day, the reality is that every day is CX Day. It's an opportunity for us to consider the positives: what's going right in our customer relationships and the impact that has on our business.

Happy CX Day!

 

10 ways to get CX initiatives noticed

For Customer Experience (CX) efforts to be successful, employees must be engaged. Here are 10 ideas for engaging employees:

  1. Hire right. One of the best ways to build engagement is to begin by hiring employees who are naturally empathetic to customer concerns. Include customer experience topics in new employee orientation so everyone views CX as a priority from day one.
  2. Build a brand. Can the name you give your CX initiative really make a difference? Absolutely. It is a vital strategy that merits having an internal brand.
  3. Build an army of advocates. Have a cross-functional team in place not only to help do the work but also to act as CX ambassadors, promoting the strategy and ensuring all parts of the organization are informed and engaged.
  4. Conduct training. To drive action and change, it takes effective in-person and/or virtual training to provide the necessary detail so that everyone understands the goals of the program, what activity is taking place, and what they are expected to do.
  5. Right message, right person. Like any promotional initiative, the message must be tailored based on who it is directed to. To ensure that everyone acts on insights from customers, make sure the insights are relevant to each group you serve.
  6. Launch a promotion. Effective CX initiatives typically have a well-orchestrated promotional campaign. The more creative, the better.
  7. Throw a party. Spearheaded by the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA), “CX Day” is on the first Tuesday in October of each year. Companies around the world have been known to have elaborate special events to celebrate their commitment to customers.
  8. Tell a good story. Instead of showing a graph to cite a declining trend or a problem to fix, dig deeper and find a story about a real customer dealing with those same issues. Data is often forgotten, but stories get remembered.
  9. Seek C-level support. Make sure the C level in your company is actively engaged in CX efforts, leveraging customer insights and ensuring change occurs throughout the organization.
  10. Make an impact. The absolute best way to engage your colleagues in CX is to show that you listened to customers, implemented changes based on their insights and improved the performance of the business.

Lessons from Taranto and the Devastating Results from Inaction

Who is Taranto? It’s not who, it’s where. The Bay of Taranto is in the southern part of Italy and was the site of what turns out to be a very significant battle between the Royal Navy of England and the Italian Navy. The Battle of Taranto was a short battle during World War II, lasting just the days of November 11 and 12 in 1940.

The Battle of Taranto, November 1940

At this point in World War II, France had surrendered and the United States had not yet been drawn into the war. Britain alone fought the combined forces of Germany, Italy and Japan. In the Bay of Taranto, the Italian Navy had sheltered a strong fleet of 23 ships including cruisers, battleships and destroyers. Italy believed the shallow waters of the bay provided protection from torpedoes and other forms of attack.

But, on November 11, 1940, the British launched a surprise attack from a newly commissioned aircraft carrier, the HMS Illustrious. This, the first-ever air attack launched exclusively from an aircraft carrier, put half the Italian Navy’s fleet out of commission for the next six months. The Battle of Taranto advanced naval war strategy dramatically during the course of these 2 days. The power and importance of aircraft carriers were established for decades to come.

Two leaders, in particular, took note of the British success.

Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto drew comparisons between the Bay of Taranto and Pearl Harbor, where the America Pacific fleet was moored. In January of 1941, Yamamoto began devising a plan for attacking the terrific naval and air forces the Americans had stationed at Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu. (In an interesting twist, Yamamoto advised his superiors that this was a death sentence for Japan. Their reaction was to assign him to lead the attack on Pearl Harbor.)

In November of 1940, shortly after the British attack on the Italian fleet, Admiral Harold Stark, chief of naval operations for the U.S., had the insight to foresee a similar attack on Pearl Harbor. He also advised his superiors in a letter that said, “If war eventuates with Japan, it is believed easily possible that hostilities would be initiated by a surprise attack upon the Fleet or the Naval Base at Pearl Harbor.” War with Japan eventuated in just that fashion.

The insights were developed independently by two admirals (Seeing What Others Don't, Gary Klein). Both were correct in the insights they delivered to their superiors. In fact, Yamamoto was correct twice. His insight delivered a successful attack on December 7, 1941 and woke a sleeping military to eventual devastating results for Japan. Yamamoto called it correctly on both accounts.

Stark called it too. In fact, reading Stark’s letter of January 1941 to the secretary of the navy is chilling. He told the secretary of the navy exactly what would happen and the naval and air bases at Pearl Harbor were still devastated. No torpedo nets were installed to protect Pearl Harbor. All of the air and sea assets were grouped together in convenient targets. Airplanes, in an apparent attempt to avoid sabotage, were parked in groups on the tarmacs making them easy targets for the Japanese airstrikes. The Japanese ships traveled 4,000 miles without being detected, and when the air strike was seen on the radar, it was ignored, brushed off as American planes returning to base.

What are the lessons we should take away from the insights formed at the Battle of Taranto? Here are just a couple:

  1. Insights can be very valuable. But, if we fail to act appropriately on the insights, those insights are worthless. Stark was brilliant and developed the insight to predict the attack. No action was taken and the value of the insight was destroyed along with 2,400 Americans. We see this constantly in the business world. The most brilliant insights about our customers and the experience we provide for them are worthless if we fail to take action.
  2. Some of the best information we can gather comes from our front-line employees. Yamamoto knew the ramifications of the attack on Pearl Harbor and he warned his superiors. He had seen and studied the might of the U.S. He warned the Imperial powers, even wondering if they had “confidence as to the final outcome and are prepared to make the necessary sacrifices.” All too often, the insights coming from the people who interact with our customers are marginalized in favor of a greater strategy that may or may not be customer friendly.

Developing insights about our customers is valuable and most companies gather some intelligence. The most successful companies use that intelligence to create strategies that address the needs of their customers. And they execute with abandon. Great strategies without execution are worthless. Great insights without action are worthless. In order to serve our customers and create value for our shareholders, we must take action. We must execute.

Five qualitative approaches to customer listening

Five qualitative approaches to customer listening:

  1. Customer advisory boards – Recruiting customers to provide ongoing feedback and participate in group sessions can generate excellent advice and improvements. Careful planning to recruit the right group of customers and structuring the sessions to focus on a few primary issues are important best practices.
  2. Focus groups – Focus groups can be conducted with a variety of small groups to obtain a well-rounded collection of insights. Expertise in managing the discussion is important to ensure all opinions are heard and to prevent anyone from dominating the discussion.
  3. Interviews – This technique is conducted one person at a time, either over the phone or in person. While it is more time consuming, it is a highly personal way to obtain terrific insights from various customers.
  4. Experience sessions – This complements techniques such as journey mapping. These sessions are about charting the ideal experience and leverage creativity and imagination to transform customer experiences.
  5. VOCE – Voice of the Customer through the Employee is all about understanding customers by asking the employees who work with them the most. Employees often are well aware of necessary improvements. 

Three ways to help sales teams

Retention and growth of existing customers are at the forefront of executive agendas, and we continually create new initiatives to help increase our odds of retaining and growing the customer base. Customer experience professionals can play a role in helping the sales team acquire the right customer. Here are a few steps to consider taking:

  1. Profile the leads at an organization level. If the leads are stored in a centralized system, start to profile them into various groups. This may include the size of the company, industry, perceived strategic fit and method by which they were acquired as a lead, to name a few. From there, look at how customers with the same profile have worked as customers once acquired. Which profile is the most profitable? What are their retention and growth rates? Which groups have a high cost to serve?
  2. Understand the needs of each group. Once you have a set of personas or profiles among the company’s sales leads, think about the needs of each group. What is causing them to put your company into their consideration set? That will help the sales teams determine specific strategies to help the leads convert to sales. You may need to do some exploratory work both internally and with customers to assist with this step.
  3. Move to an opportunity-level assessment beyond the higher-level needs. Once you have determined which profiles have the highest potential, think about the specific opportunity. Just because an opportunity with this potential customer has worked in the past may not mean it is a good fit this time. Make sure your company can solve a particular challenge they are asking for.

Seven ways senior leadership can advance CX strategy

Advancing your CX strategy is best accomplished through a partnership – grounded in active leadership on both sides – between CX professional and CEO. The ultimate ownership of customer experience resides with your CEO. Here are several ways CEOs play a role in advancing your CX Strategy:

  1. Use insights strategically. For CEOs, customer intelligence drives decision-making at key foundational levels. Fundamentally, customer-focused CEOs use customer insights broadly in ways that make a real difference for their customers and, by extension, their business.
  2. Set aside short-term financial gain. Usually, CEOs who are focused on customers are willing to set aside short-term financial gain for the longer-term benefit to customers. Knowing that positive, sustainable results won’t happen overnight, these leaders demonstrate patience and resist the urge to change course midstream
  3. Believe in the broader customer story. While CEOs are most likely to interact with a handful of top customers, these leaders know the full, true story is rarely anecdotal. Consequently, with objectivity and an open mind, they engage across the customer base, digging deeper to identify common issues, trends and needs.
  4. Coordinate across silos. CEOs play the ultimate role in creating and sustaining an environment in which collaboration among functional areas is encouraged. This is one of the most effective methods to break down silos.
  5. Encourage empathy for customers. When chief executives are focused on customers, they work to establish a culture that prioritizes the customer experience and puts customer needs first. CEOs cultivate empathy for customers among employees, which in turn motivates associates to be customer centric.
  6. Request information, advice. CEOs value customer insights, and those who are the most customer focused proactively seek it out. These CEOs are regularly requesting information, asking questions or seeking advice about how to improve customer relationships.
  7. Make the call on resources. If CEOs value the customer and can see how customer experience strategies have business impact, they’ll commit the resources necessary to develop and implement a customer experience that is proactive, personalized and seamless.

Barriers to CX strategy

Today’s CEOs say customer experience is the most effective way to differentiate from the competition. Yet far too many companies do not realize the full impact and potential. Here are three common barriers most likely to stall progress and threaten overall CX strategy.

  1. Authority – In many organizations, CX professionals don’t have direct responsibility for resources. They have to rely on their influence to get attention and then hope for success. This lack of authority extends to people, resources and the budgets necessary to drive customer-focused improvement initiatives.
  2. Access – The customer experience spans many organizational functions, levels and geographies, but too often the CX professional has limited access and exposure to the resources and is ultimately limited by the organizational structure. In attempts to work across silos, some departments may cooperate; others won’t, derailing CX improvements that require collaboration. Similarly, access to data is also a challenge.
  3. Action and Accountability – CX professionals can no longer afford to simply provide recommendations to the business. CX professionals must stay front and center until the experience is improved from the customer perspective. Without CX’s continued involvement, the effect of customer experience efforts is unclear and unsubstantiated, impacting the long-term viability of CX programs.

Storytelling – Two Essentials for Customer Experience Professionals

The customer experience (CX) local networking group in Indiana recently discussed the topic of storytelling. It is an important topic for any business professional, but based on the discussion, it's particularly relevant for customer experience professionals.

The discussion prompted two key essentials for customer experience professionals:

  1. It's the CX professional's responsibility to ensure the RIGHT stories are told. After listening to a story about a bad delivery experience, the group of customer experience professionals started discussing with a cynical view of storytelling: "That's just one customer," "People tell stories all the time to share their point of view," "That story isn't reflective of what I hear from customers," etc.

    It became clear that storytelling has become so popular (because it's effective at getting attention, creating an emotional connection, and prompting action) that it's prompting a lot of stories - even those that aren't reflective of the real customer experience. As CX professionals, it's our role to know the real customer stories and to make sure those are told. This includes challenging other stories that are being told throughout the organization. The real customer stories are those that represent a significant or important group of customers. They are the priority for the business.
     
  2. The ending should communicate the key message. Our friends at Gravity Drive shared that the ending can be positive or negative and the role of the ending is to bring resolution to the story. The ending cleans up the story and communicates the main point. The ending is the most important part of the story (and perhaps the hardest to get right). It's important to make sure the ending truly reflects the point of the story.
    The End - every story needs a proper end
    For example, the group dissected a story about an individual customer who didn't receive a product on time, but the company wasn't concerned because a) the customer received the product and b) the product wasn't damaged. Without an effective ending, some people might think the story is about on-time delivery, others might think the story is irrelevant because it is only a single customer, and some might think the company is doing a good job because the product wasn't damaged. For this story, an effective ending could be something like, "this story reflects the gap between the way we feel we deliver our products and the way the customer feels when they receive our products." This puts the story in a broader context - beyond a single customer - and demonstrates an important message for business leaders, which is the difference between the way a company evaluates its performance and the way customers evaluate the company. A simple statement that connects the story to the underlying business issue is imperative to making the story relevant to the business.

Walker will be sharing more storytelling tips at the Walker B-to-B CX Summit in September. In the meantime, what are your storytelling suggestions for customer experience professionals?