I am proud to officially announce my participation as one of the judges at the “North American Customer Centricity Awards” organised by Arcet Global.
Hosted in Dallas, Texas, this event showcases the best in
customer experience and leadership across North America. Sharing ‘next’
practice, case studies and learning from each other’s success across a wide
range of sectors.
It is good to have a guide in life. Many of us share political creeds, religious beliefs and codes of honor to guide our decision making. Wouldn’t it be crazy good to have the same for the doctrine of Customer Experience? When I co-authored the best selling book “CEM Success without Exception” back in 2006 Customer Experience Management was in its infancy.
Now thirteen years later we have the accumulated wisdom of the giants of Customer Experience Management, proof that focus on Successful Customer Outcomes, Outside-In and working backwards are fundamental to becoming a winning organization.
It is with these thoughts in mind and the worthy experience of many that I set pen to paper to craft these tenets as guidelines for all of us seeking to maximise our deployment of Customer Experience Management.
1. Customers are first, front and center for everything.
Understanding that all the work an organization undertakes ultimately stems from a customer interaction is key. Work to engineer every experience to the optimum.
2. Listen to the questions customers ask you.
Resist the subjective ‘voice of customer’ surveys (they are biased and unrepresentative) and focus on understanding and articulating needs – the Needs of the Customer.
3. Stop selling and let people buy.
Customers are now prosumers and most know what they want and how to get it. You will not win them if you force sell; in fact, you will make enemies of them.
4. Map the Complete Experience.
This is both the stuff the customer sees (the customer journey and the brand promise) and the work that takes place across the rest of the organization to support all interactions. Combine those the Employee Experience and the Customer Experience you are nearing the Complete Experience; these are not separate things but should be viewed through the same lens.
The CEMMethod.com can help you in seeing the Complete Experience.
Customers develop trust when you say what’ll you do, and then do what you say. Conversely, do not project yourself as something you are not.
6. Be consistent and truthful across all your channels.
Customers will interact in ways and times that suit them, so ensure you keep a coherent message across all experiences.
7. Act on People liking people.
Do not hide behind automation, whether that is voice systems, web interactions or even text messaging. The most intimate relationships are formed with people, not computers.
Keep in front of the song.
8. Creating memorable experiences requires anticipation and coordination.
Fix problems before they happen, and when problems do arise (they will) pull out the stops to put things right.
9. Design every customer experience for the category of customer.
You should never ever treat all customers in the same way. Personalization and direct communication are proven winners in an era of standardization.
10. Employees are your first customers.
If they ain’t happy your paying customers won’t be either. Treat your people well and let them know they are the most critical part of the brand and the complete customer experience.
”Let’s not beat around the bush… Customer experience is the new battleground. At The Experience Manager, BP Group, and Rockstar.cx we know the art of this new war. We have the tools, the technology and the strategies to remorselessly create victories for our clients as we build a more customer-centric world, one experience and one enterprise at a time”.
Join us for Complete Experience Management with coaching, training, consultancy and Certification at www.bpgroup.org
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.
> Most successful CX companies do these things to lift their game
> Steve Towers shares the winning strategies
> Model your own strategy based on leading CX next practices
This article is a build on terrific feedback from my recent piece ‘5 Critical Failures of 80% of Customer Experience initiatives’. (You can see that here: bit.ly/CX2017)
George Bernard Shaws observation is pertinent “Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time.”
So with that in mind, let’s move beyond the mistakes and uncover the winning strategies and how best can we implement those insightful approaches?
Based on our recent work and research my report from the CX front line should help you rethink your approach in our collective endeavor to get more scientific about the customer experience.
In the earlier article, we identified five major errors and causes of failure. Let’s review how winning CX companies reframe those into successful strategies.
1. Top teams understand CX success and get out of the way of their people to let them get on with it.
To achieve strategic CX success, it is necessary to understand the limitations imposed by industrial age thinking (getting better at doing the wrong stuff faster, functional specialisms, outdated reward systems) and help the organization migrate to Outside-In thinking and practices. At Zappos, for instance, it is more important to meet the customer (see Zappos hits the road.. http://bit.ly/Zappos2017) and gather insights, and provide input to reshaping the organization. The top team is actually out there “We want to shake the customers hands, give them really big high fives and meet their friends — delivering happiness and memorable experiences along the way,” said Kristin Richmer, Senior Brand Marketing Manager, Zappos.
The task then is not overlaying the new insights onto an industrial age siloed world. It is actually to reshape the organization, its people, the reward systems, processes and systems to better deliver successful customer outcomes. Tony Hsieh reinforces this feed forward approach “we actually want to talk with customers more as 70% of our business are repeat buys. Hiding our contact details and making it difficult to talk is not our way” http://bit.ly/TonyHseih
2. Customer needs are understood and developed to create the organizational alignment towards successful customer outcomes.
Leading CX Companies have developed an a-b-c strategy when boiled down includes
(a) stop asking customers what they want (b) get your head around current customer expectations, and (c) articulate customer needs even when the customer doesn’t know what they are.
This effort is not a ‘one and done’, it is about continual learning and then development of services and products that anticipate customer needs, rather than following the outdated mantra of those organizations seeking more and more (often meaningless) feedback.
And Disney provides a demonstration of this a-b-c approach. Consider this:
Disney World Orlando, is about 43 square miles, about twice the size of Manhattan. 30 million guests per year enjoy 4 theme parks: the Magic Kingdom, the Hollywood Studios, Epcot and the Animal Kingdom.
You can navigate to these parks by car, bus, monorail, boats and a ferry depending on your hotel – and that in itself includes over 20 themed for your delight. Coupled with Disneys new wearable “Magic Bands” (see http://bit.ly/MagicBand) you receive a smooth personalized experience where ever you are.
This collection of entertainment is a dynamic living system focused on successful customer outcomes. With digital real-time feedback, Disney offers an integrated experience built around a co-ordinated set of business and customer outcomes, from the time you think of a trip, to the time you are back home with the kids.
3. Being customer-centric isn’t about projects – it is a state of mind.
A great mistake of many is approaching customer experience as an initiative, something with a clearly defined start and end point. Appreciating CX is a state of mind for the whole company is a major differentiator and allows successful organizations to continually tweak and evolve, rather than live in a permanent state of project stop-start crisis. The guiding principle is, at the heart of CX, change is desirable, welcomed and systematic. It impacts everyone and everything all the time.
4. Successful CX transcends measures and implements a rigorous feedback/feed forward framework.
A recent analysis in the banking industry suggested that more than 85% of the total key performance indicators measured outputs – things that get produced from activities.
Successful CX companies however, have a very different profile and focus, their attention is on measuring outcomes – the result of what is produced. To these companies this is not a semantic distinction, it underpins the total CX strategy. As a result, the measurement systems are simplified, and the focus on results rather than activity moves the dial towards customer centricity so much more quickly. Programs such as Disneys True North set a direction with supporting metrics, and rather than measure everything that moves they focus on the results and outcomes that need to be delivered to achieve successful customer outcomes. In this context, more than 75% of measures are ‘Outcomes’ with less than 25% outputs.
Test this for yourself in the call center. What are your top ten measurements, are they output oriented or outcome based? The former would be things like average handle time, abandon rates, downtime and so on. The latter would be the delivery of customer need, queries completely resolved (not the piece mean partial interim ‘first call resolution’ type things measured with a functional bias).
In summary, CX leaders have fewer measures and the majority are now Outcome-based.
5. CX is both the strategy and the operational objective to overcome needless complexity.
A recent Forrester survey says 81% of CX professionals are mapping experiences from the customers perspective but only 21% are mapping the ecosystem (processes, people, technology). In this context there are two opportunities that successful CX companies exploit:
i. CX can only be successful if you build a complete CX ecosystem map (we call that a CXecomap) which includes cause and effect and connects the people who deliver the customer experience with those people and systems who provide the means for it.
ii. CX Current state crisis. Successful CX companies can clearly articulate the what and how the organization should be doing to deliver great experiences. They do not become mired in the exercise of mapping all the current external and internal processes and systems (which can take years to complete and provides little in the way of direction for what should exist.)
These companies understand the reality that the current structure and systems were never created with excellent CX in mind but were in fact designed around an industrial age, production system based model. Accordingly, next practice is to utilize design principles that envision what should be, and then progressively mature and migrate the organization to that vision.
To conclude CX success doesn’t come from wishful thinking. It is a deliberate and sustained effort to understand and articulate the ever changing customer. To build a new trust with them that goes beyond the platitudes of the past. In the near term it is about becoming more scientific about the customer experience. In the longer term it is a guarantee of business success.
We have codified these CX next practice approaches into the CEMMethod (now version10). You can access that as a resource with others below.
The earlier article can be viewed here: ‘5 Critical Failures of 80% of Customer Experience initiatives’. http://bit.ly/CX2017
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