What significantly differentiates the top dogs in terms of business results? How can Amazon, Zara, Zappos and Emirates consistently outperform their competitors?
You and I as consumers connect better with those companies who have a focus on delivering Successful Customer Outcomes, however, that doesn’t immediately come about through wishful thinking, re-engineering processes or investing in the latest bright shiny technologies. No, these successful organizations have a different strategy…. And that strategy understands a fundamental truth across every part of the enterprise. Without the employee ‘getting it’ you waste your time banging the drum about improving the Customer Experience and at best you will achieve a Hawthorne effect, where results are fleetingly better then reverting back to sometimes even worse than before.
And so, enter stage left the Employee Experience.
Great, got it! We invest in employee’s emotional well-being and we can then deliver great CX. Wrong again. Emotions are an effect created by the circumstances the employee finds themselves in. Imagine a draconian boss, poor lighting and awful colleagues.
Not too much of a surprise that employees will then have low morale, high absence rates, and short tenures before finding something better. Making them feel better by changing the boss, improving work conditions and encouraging teaminess may produce a short-term fleeting benefit however we are soon back to square one. Why is this?
Amazingly the answer to this catch 22 has been there all along. It is so obvious calling it common sense way understates its importance. The elegant simplicity confuses those who believe we should just improve what we already do, or invest heavily in digital, or run team building motivational workshops.
And this isn’t a secret sauce – three simple steps will get you there…
Understand what success looks like for the customer
Create measures of those Needs and Expectations
Align and Reward employees to deliver those Needs and Expectations – without exception
And as if by magic, morale improves, employees become adept at dealing with any situation (without the need to go ‘upstairs’), customers are delighted and results, measured through costs, service and revenue dramatically improve. Sure, you can go measure the emotional employee impact (we are all happier!) but also remember that is a consequence of doing the right things first. And if you have to measure the employee emotions to tell you things aren’t working you are not understanding your customers well enough.
Google trends tell the story that Design Thinking (DT) tops many executive’s interests in helping deliver progressive services and products in a volatile 2018.
Consultants, Design studios, and so-called business experts have spawned new revenue streams as other management fads, sorry, approaches have declined in popularity.
Just do the math on google with ‘Design Thinking’ harvesting 15.2 million results in 0.4 seconds and the top ten results including training courses, how-to workshops and top team offsites offered by consulting firms. In fact, Epictions reports typically 10 DT articles a day currently being produced, consumed and naturally circulated around our senior executives.
No doubt you will know of new functions becoming a reality with DT central to their remit, but what exactly does this catchy label represent?
Is Design Thinking a real thing?
Is it different? Can DT be useful in navigating our increasingly volatile world? Are there genuine benefits to adopting DT enterprise-wide?
As an engineer and design thinker (note the lower case) for the best part of the last four decades, this concept is not new. The successful creation of new services and products always relies on the marriage of creative thought processes harnessed to pragmatic objectives to deliver bottom-line success. Sorry if that doesn’t sound as sexy as some of the DT consultants would have you believe.
But wait, there is good news… incorporating DT into industrial age approaches can breathe new life and significant business benefit for not just enterprises and employees, but most importantly customers and shareholders.
So what is this Damn Thing?
A critical element to understanding DT is that, unlike most commonly deployed methods, is not a linear 1-2-3, A-B-C endeavour. It is not a prescription and relies on the ability of organisations and their people to understand, learn, prototype and reinvent simultaneously the processes and customer experiences that deliver success. New services/products must articulate needs of customers (even when potentially the customer doesn’t know them) and move the needle in terms of cost, revenue and service simultaneously (the fabled ‘triple crown’).
So, a significant measure of DT success is winning the triple crown. Anything else that doesn’t convert the creative process into a top and bottom line success is just moving the chairs on the deck of the Titanic. It might look better, give us a different view, but it is still doomed and will ultimately fail to deliver.
To be successful you need to create an organization and individual mindset that understands ever-changing customer needs, expectations and
fosters an approach of learning, rather than the silo-based, industrial age metrics common to many.
I am going to delve deeper in an upcoming article so if you would like to get the pro’s and con’s, the potential pitfalls and the how-to to ensure success join me again soon. If you register your interest here I will ping you the ‘how to’ piece as soon as it is ready.
Outside-In is a regular theme during most of my keynotes, not least this last week here in Florida. A question asked from the floor related to the 30-second elevator test “can you explain to the CEO what this stuff is, why it is different, and how it reframes the work we do?”. I guess I was about to fudge and say this needs more than 30 seconds, and then remembered my two-slide explanation!
So, for those guys looking for a simple explanation, these two slides will do the job. I have put a bit of narrative in there also.
120+ in Florida at the keynote, 16 January 2018
The old, industrial-age traditional way of doing business. We make products (and services). We look for the market to sell them in. We segment customers by circumstance and pitch our products to those segments. We add variations to the products to better fit certain niche segments. We build back-end systems and digital capabilities in this increasingly complex world. We are rigid, functionally oriented and abhor change.
The new Outside-In customer-centric way. We identify the customers we would like to do business with. We understand their needs (even when they may not know them themselves) and specific Successful Customer Outcomes (SCO’s). We categorise customers by need. We then create the capability to deliver to these categories the SCO’s (both products, people and digital). Progressively we manage new and existing customer expectations to deliver success without exception. We are agile, innovative and attuned to 21st century needs.
Let me know if this works for you.
For the curious, the original slides came from a deck presented as a keynote in Sydney, Australia 3 years ago.
You can access that here: http://bit.ly/SydneyPEX
The once favorite topic for improving business performance was Lean Six Sigma, however, the last two years have seen the ascendancy of Customer Experience (CX) as a focus for top teams. ‘Google trends’ is a good barometer of emerging interests and this graph demonstrates increasing interest in CX (blue) compared with LSS (red).
Curiously the largest interest in industrial age improvement techniques like Lean and Six Sigma is in non-English speaking countries, whereas Customer Experience is strongly represented in North America, UK, Australia and South Africa.
For those using the search term ‘Customer Experience,’ the associated topic list provides additional insight into searchers interests. The % trend reflects the growth year on year with ‘Omnichannel’ and ‘Digital data’ seeing explosive growth.
By way of additional information, a search with Epictions focused on Articles produces these top three pieces in the last three months on the theme of ‘Customer Experience – Omnichannel’.
1. The Future of Car Sales Is Omnichannel (Bain & Co)
The single biggest piece of advice I give to senior executives setting out on the Customer Experience journey is to STOP. Yes seriously, the vast majority of CX efforts are completely misaligned.
CX Efforts Misaligned
Don’t get me wrong the intentions are good. Unfortunately, it goes something like this:
Top Team are listening and decide they need to get with this customer centricity/Outside-In/working backwards thinking.
Senior Management makes noises that the customer is THE thing the business must focus on.
The Executive engage the marketing and sales guys to get with it and start pushing the message.
Functional leaders hear the noise and bluster. They start using the language, whilst thinking this is just more fluff and nonsense. They make the right noises for now but keep their heads down, because they know this will go the same way as so many other ‘strategic initiatives’.
Fundamentally functional heads carry on working with the out of date reward system that promotes sub-optimal industrial age thinking and practice.
The Executive see the usual inertia, results not coming through, apathy and indifference and decide their business isn’t really an Amazon.
Top Team then reverts to just getting better at what we are doing, then when someone in ‘our industry’ proves it we will follow.
Functional leaders breathe a sigh of relief and invest even more in industrial age systems and training. The illusion of doing something, in this case, is actually worse than doing nothing.
The businesses failure is noted by customers who move to those who do understand and deliver Customer Experience success.
The company becomes another footnote in the history books. Talked about at business schools and picked apart because of the failure to get the new Outside-In customer-centric mindset.
Making Customer Experience Successful everywhere all the time
This isn’t rocket science (unless you are NASA of course). Understanding that the structures and ways of working from the industrial age were NEVER designed to be customer-centric. They were established to make things faster by optimizing production lines.
And oh, don’t think because you are not in manufacturing you are OK. It is likely your complete ways of working will be making everything look like production management systems, with talk of leaning out, waste reduction, standardization, efficiency, productivity. Sound familiar?
Understanding this Customer Experience misalignment is fundamental.
I encourage doing three things before re-joining the CX road-march:
Understand how big the gap is between what you are doing and what Successful Customer Outcomes you need to be delivering.
Audit the current key performance indicators.
Are they mostly about outputs?
Usually, the balance will be 80% output metrics (like calls answered, Average Handle Times, Abandoned Rates, Projects completed on time to budget etc.).
Meanwhile, the really important measures that tell you a Successful Customer Outcome is being achieved will only be a small proportion.
What you measure is what you get and no amount of Customer Experience drum banging will work unless those measures of Outcomes become the most important.
Create an awareness of what real CX success is all about.
This isn’t just the stories. It is about the actual things on the ground that need to change. The WHY and the HOW go hand in hand. Often times upskilling a group of key players at all levels to make them Ambassadors for the Customer achieves way more than massive corporate investment in branding and image.
In conclusion, Customer Experience cannot be treated just like another corporate initiative. To achieve success requires a significant shift in mindsets, and when that is achieved the realignment of the Enterprise to Outside-In can really begin.
Google tells us that Customer Experience is a significant and trending topic, the graph below ably demonstrates that point. (See google trends)
However, given all the noise what are THE most popular articles on the theme?
Here we present the seven most popular of the last couple of years.
Read and share
7th: Putting customer experience at the heart of next-generation operating models
This one for is McK’s second in the top seven this time…
“Digital is reshaping customer experience in almost every sector. Digital first attackers are entering markets with radically new offers, disrupting the ways that companies and customers interact and setting a high bar for simplicity, personalization, and interactivity.”
Teaching MBA courses in international business, global competitive strategies, international market research, and capstone courses in strategic planning and market research gives Louis the opportunity to research mega trends. Add to his portfolio writing for Forbes establishes his credentials in the space of customer transformation. In this article, he reflects on the coming ‘Internet of Things’ everywhere, and the impact on business and customers.
“87% of retailers will deploy mobile point-of-sale (MPOS) devices by 2021, enabling them to scan and accept credit or debit payments anywhere in the store…”
5th: The expanding role of design in creating an end-to-end customer experience
The second of McK’s into the top seven this time. Lines between products, services, and user environments are blurring. The ability to craft an integrated customer experience will open enormous opportunities to build new businesses.
“As digitization drives more and faster disruptions—and as customers increasingly desire the immediacy, personalization, and convenience of dealing with digital-marketing leaders—the business landscape is undergoing an upheaval.”
4th: The Employee Experience Is the Future Of Work
Working at Future Workplace, (an HR Advisory and Research firm) Jeanne casts her glow over the changes to the employee role within business today. She is also the co-author of The Future Workplace Experience: 10 Rules For Mastering Disruption in Recruiting and Engaging Employees:
“Today, almost every company is undergoing a digital transformation. Cloud and mobile computing, artificial intelligence, and increasing automation have created the potential to transform nearly every aspect of a business.”
3rd: United Airlines Changes Its Policy On Displacing Customers
Correspondent, San Francisco, National Desk NPR. With an eclectic style ranging across diverse topics such as medical marijuana, gay marriage, drive-by shootings, the U.S. Ninth Circuit, the California State Supreme Court and any other legal, political, or social development he understands CX first hand. Here we see a well-accounted discussion of, yes again, United Airline’s trials and tribulations.
“United Airlines crew members will no longer be able to bump a passenger who is already seated in one of the airline’s planes…”
2nd: How to Gamify your Customer Experience and Win…
Proudly proclaiming himself as a disrupter and innovator Mike’s perspective on Customer Experience is refreshing and unique in a world of sameness. He writes with an entertaining AND well thought out logic.
“I honestly can’t think of a more difficult industry to get into than candles. You have thousands of manufacturers who are all selling the same thing… A piece of wax with a string in the middle and the only way to differentiate yourself is by changing your label, along with the size, color, and smell of that wax.”
1st: Delivering exceptional customer experiences – an art and science
Luke works on the Retail partner side of Microsoft and benefits from first-hand experience of the changes in and around Customer Experience.
“Interacting effectively with customers has traditionally been a form of art, especially in face-to-face settings. But now that customers are increasingly shopping on social media, mobile apps, and websites, a bit of science can help win their loyalty. How can retailers combine customer service expertize with advanced technology to create exceptional customer experiences?”