The Analytical Leader: Understanding Customer Experience Requires Thick Data

Overview Thick Data provides insight into people’s emotions, motivations and ways of thinking. For our organizations to have a realistic view of the marketplace and our customers, CX leaders need to provide and advocate the use of Thick Data to supplement operational Big Data insights. This allows companies¬†to challenge the status quo and reveal game-changing

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The Analytical Leader: The Importance of Being Persuadable

Overview One highly recommended skill for effective leaders is persuasion – the ability to move others toward a position they don’t currently hold. Persuading others is a critical skill in all aspects of one’s life, but great leaders must also be persuadable – actively seeking alternative¬†perspectives and evidence. Being an Analytical Leader I recently contributed

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Don’t be merely a CX Monitor

Despite all the hype around the customer experience, CX professionals continue to have a difficult time getting employees (at all levels of the organization) to act on customer intelligence.

Want to know why? Because most are merely CX monitors.

In general, customer experience professionals follow this simple process for taking action.

As this process progresses, the effectiveness of action increases. For example, action won't be very effective by simply sharing customer insights. Effective action only happens when we launch initiatives and implement change management practices.

But, here's the problem. CX professionals' involvement in this process decreases throughout. The relationship between the potential for effective action and CX involvement looks like this.

Want to fix the action problem for your customer experience program? Stop being a CX monitor. Stay engaged in project initiatives through to completion.

For more information on effective CX change management, check out this Walker Webcast.


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!


Every Day Questions

There are certain questions we should constantly ask ourselves. Every day, these questions should be on our minds. I’ll bet we can all come up with a list. Here is a starter list:

  1. Every positive experience you encounter as a customer should be followed by the question, "How can I provide that kind of an experience to my customers?"
  2. And the first question's sibling: for every negative experience, “How can I make sure I never do that to my customers?”Questions to ask yourself every day
  3. Every time you think about how strategic your customers are to you, ask yourself, "How can I be as strategic to my customers as they are to me?"
  4. “What did I do today to create value for my customers and my company?”
  5. Time is precious. Days, weeks, months, quarters, and even years fly by. So, “Did I accomplish what I set out to today?”
  6. “Why?”
  7. It’s easy to think about the things we should do, but “What should I stop doing?”
  8. Sometimes a clean slate would be nice. No baggage, no history, no constraints. “If I were new in this position, what changes would I make?”

Add to the list. I know there are many more, and one question just might cause someone to think and act in a new way.

And How Does that Make You Feel? Measuring Emotions in CX

We all know that the human experience is rife with emotional ups and downs. You've probably experienced more emotions so far today than we could even count: angry while commuting, relieved (or stressed?) when finally entering the office, frustrated when you spilled your coffee on your brand-new white shirt (exasperated that of course you chose today out of all days to wear your new shirt), surprised yet thankful that you actually had your stain-eraser pen for once, etc. We live through our perceptions, with every action being processed through our emotional filter.

How are you feeling today?

So why would we expect any different for a customer's experience? Throughout each interaction with a business, a customer likely feels a certain way, maybe even those same feelings I listed above: anger, relief, stress, frustration, exasperation, surprise, and so on. How can we harness those feelings - emotions - to help us improve the customer experience?

I wrote another blog about emotions last year, in which I was pondering these same points, but unsure of how to measure emotion. Since then, we've had a chance to explore the measurement in more detail, allowing us to develop a few new approaches. Of course, text analytics can search for key terms that indicate emotion, and we've also incorporated quantitative questions in our surveys to ask directly what emotion was felt.

The example I want to share is an interesting opportunity to outline emotions during a customer's experience - journey mapping. Journey maps have already been helping to identify where customers might struggle or succeed the most when interacting with a business. Layer on common emotions felt during each key touch point, or moment of truth, and you have a much more powerful understanding of a customer's perspective. See the example below, inspired from a real journey mapping session.

Emotions were measured by asking customers how they felt about certain key moments. It can be that simple - "How did you feel when you were buying the product?" "From this pick list, choose one word that describes your experience when renewing your contract." These answers constituted the "Current" emotions in the top blue bar.

Separately, employees were asked how they wanted customers to feel during the interactions. Those emotions appear in the bottom blue bar, next to "Ideal." Then, planning sessions ensued to determine how to move customers from "Current" to "Ideal."

You'll notice that two of the emotions, "Trapped" and "Loyal," hearken to Walker's proprietary Loyalty Matrix. Not all emotions are going to manifest in a customer yelling and screaming about poor service, or in someone simply recommending a company to their pals. Feeling attached or feeling the need to escape are powerful emotions that could directly indicate what a customer's behavior will be.

There are a lot of emotions out there, likely more than one simple process or measurement could ever harness. However, keying in on important moments, as done in the journey map above, can help to prioritize at least where we should identify common feelings, and how those feelings could impact CX overall.

Trust is a Must: Five Strategies to Build Trust Using Your CX Program

How trusting are you of people? Now, what if I asked how trusting you are of businesses? I have a hunch your answer may have shifted. As customer experience professionals, we need to understand why trust matters to customers and what can be done to build it.

Enter Dan Ariely, professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University. In The Trust Factory, he outlines five key mechanisms that boost trust and how businesses can apply them. Taking it a step further, I share my take on how we can use his findings to build trust through customer experience (CX) initiatives.

Here are the five elements of trust and how you can put them to work in your CX program:

  1. Established Relationships
    Trusted Partner
    Research shows that people trust more when they think their interactions will extend for a longer period of time. However, flashy promotions and the ability to easily shop around on the web can lead to less loyal customers and less trust in suppliers. Now more than ever, companies must foster long-term relationships to maintain trust.

    How to build relationships using your CX strategy:Identify loyal customers through ongoing voice-of-customer research.
    • Recognize loyal customers and reward them with benefits, acknowledgments (think loyalty badges), programs or products to show you appreciate their loyalty.
  2. Transparency
    It’s no secret that transparency helps build trust. Customers like to know what’s going on in a business, and they feel more comfortable knowing company behaviors are being monitored.

    How to improve transparency using your CX strategy:
    • Encourage all feedback – good and bad – and make it easy for customers to provide it.
    • Share your findings with customers – outline what you are doing or will be doing to address any shortcomings.
  3. Intentionality
    People judge based on the underlying reasons behind a decision. That’s why intentionality plays a critical role in building trust. Customers want assurance that business decisions are intentional and well thought out.

    How to demonstrate intentionality using your CX strategy:
    • Provide the explanation behind your decisions – if you base decisions on your CX research, let your customers know!
    • Use existing or future CX communications to demonstrate that your actions align with customer values.
  4. Revenge
    Somewhat surprisingly, revenge contributes to building trust. When the possibility for revenge – or the ability to provide feedback, reviews, etc. – exists, it reduces the sense that one party (the business) has more control than the other (the customer). Allowing for “revenge” can help increase customer trust.

    How to enable revenge using your CX strategy:
    • Devise a voice-of-customer survey, online tool or feedback forum that easily allows customers to share their thoughts.
    • Promise customers something upfront if you fail to meet obligations. This could be the promise of free product returns if expectations are not met or even a free product or service to make up for it.
  5. Aligned Incentives
    Playing the role of an adviser, rather than just a seller of a product or service, can be powerful in building trust. When companies recommend things clearly not in their best interest (i.e. recommending a less expensive offering), incentives become aligned with the customer. This creates trust in company intentions. 

    How to establish aligned incentives using your CX strategy:
    • Have salespeople, account managers and other customer-facing staff encourage customers to provide their feedback, especially any negative feedback they may have.
    • Offer customers simple ways to compare your products or services with those of competitors – take it a step further by allowing customers to provide feedback on competitors in your voice-of-customer surveys. 

Now that we know the five key mechanisms of trust, you might still be asking, “Why does this matter?” Well, research indicates that greater customer trust leads to greater customer loyalty. And we all know greater loyalty can have a big impact on your business. What can you be doing today to boost trust through your CX program?

Reducing Friction to Deliver a Personalized Experience

A few months ago I was asked to contribute my point-of-view on a keynote address, and eventual Viewpoint for Leaders document, by EMC's Kevin Roche titled "Unlocking Customer Intimacy Through Big Data." My post is live on EMC's InFocus site, and you should definitely check it out! 

I was excited to provide my thoughts because Kevin Roche's perspective and approach fit perfectly into my philosophy on using data and analytics to make a difference. I will summarize what he said, but you should also go look at it for yourself here.

Here is the heart of Kevin Roche's message:

"I believe one of the greatest opportunities we have today is the ability to better understand customer needs, personalize the experience, and unlock customer intimacy. Although customer intimacy may look different from industry to industry or company to company, I believe all companies have the opportunity to use big data to enhance the customer experience and outcomes. At EMC, we have had great success doing this with a three-pronged approach:

  1. Invest in enabling technology that provides real-time, predictive analytics, including a company-wide data lake.
  2. Shift responsibility of data from IT to the line of businesses and design agile processes & governance to fully leverage insights.
  3. Focus on cultural psychology to empower internal teams to trust and act on big data to drive improved customer outcomes.

As I have thought through my POV on this message since I wrote it, I keep coming back to one key idea: Most organizations fail to effectively use data and analytics to personalize the customer experience because there is too much friction between the technology/data/analysis and customer-facing people tasked with delivering the experience.

This is the role of the agile processes & governance discussed above (#2). It is the oil, the lubricant that allows the machinery for unlocking customer intimacy through data to work effectively and efficiently. So read through Kevin's thoughts and my view on it, and then go create a well-lubricated system to turn your data into an personalized experience for your customers!


Playing with Emotions

If you're keeping up with the latest trends in customer experience measurement, then I'm sure you've heard that identifying and tracking your customers' emotions is important - vital, even. Recent CX research shows that emotion can influence a customer's behavior more than "effectiveness or ease," according to "How To Measure Emotion In Customer Experience" by Maxie Schmidt-Subramanian with Forrester.

Unfortunately, as the report further explains, measuring emotion is very difficult, particularly when relying only on traditional measurement methods, such as quantitative survey questions. Even planning on which emotions to measure is a chore! There are some straightforward feelings, probably those we learned to express very early on in our childhoods - happy, sad, mad - but then there are those underlying and complicated emotions that might not always be as easily explained - fulfilled, uncertain, eager. If we struggle to identify and discuss emotions even as intelligent and perceptive humans, how do we expect any sort of automation or measurement to capture that same understanding?

Well, unfortunately again, I'm still trying to figure that out, along with a big portion of CX professionals I'd assume. Naturally, I'm very interested in learning more about how we can use text analytics to identify some of the biggest, most impactful emotional experiences customers have (for the record, Forrester also suggests using open-ended, unstructured data to help with this process). We've already started playing around with an emotions model that covers some of the main touch points a customer can experience.

Speaking of touch points ... I also think emotions pair quite nicely with journey mapping. After all, that's what journey mapping is, pretty much - identifying how a customer moves throughout a business and how they feel about each step in the process. Perhaps aligning our emotions measurements to the journey would be a great way to narrow down what to focus on. For example, do they feel anxiety or excitement when searching for a vendor? Are they frustrated or comforted when speaking to support, or when installing a product? Do their interactions with the company leave them smiling or shouting?

As I dig into this a little further, I think I'll be more discerning about which emotions to measure, and how they align with the whole customer journey. What about you? How do you plan to tackle this exciting challenge? Are you anxious and uncertain, or optimistic and fearless?