An output is something you produce; an Outcome is a result of what you produce. “I have answered the customer query” is an output, “I have solved the customer problem” is an outcome. Here’s another… “We have made 10 cars today” is an output, “I have sold 10 cars today” is an outcome. As Steve Jobs said in 1997, “You have to start with the Customer Experience (and their successful outcome) and work backwards.”
Unfortunately, most organizations focus on outputs and correspondingly can get really good at doing dumb things. Think of the call center and the major typical KPI of Average Handle Time (AHT). That is an output measure. But what is the actual Outcome achieved from the customer contact? If your primary focus is the AHT, that’s what will drive the behaviors of the people as a priority over everything else; no matter how much you talk of customer-centricity, if you pay them for great AHT, that is what they will focus on.
A model that we use to help us connect the dots is the Customer Performance Landscape.
It is a fantastic tool for creating the linkages between everyone and everything to ensure we are all aligned to Successful Customers and grow shareholder value. You can experience this in our ACX Master program.
Part Two. In Part One we reviewed how poor metrics drive bad behaviours. Lets dig deeper with a typical scenario…
And if you think this experience is unusual grab a coffee and google ‘poor customer experiences’.
The leadership team can talk until they are blue in the face about customer centricity but if they insist on metrics designed for running factories everyone suffers. Here’s another typical conversation:
In all three instances the customer did not achieve a Successful Outcome. In fact there is now more effort required by the customer, and also more cost and time to be incurred for the organisation if the customer does follow through. If the customer doesn’t bother that is more potential revenue lost.
So how does this organisation look to the browsing customer? Pretty awful to say the least.
We know why this is so. Organisations like this are focused on measuring Outputs, rather than measures of Successful Customer Outcomes. If it is so obvious why is it so many persist in this Failure-Demand cycle?
Because they are measuring the wrong things. And guess what? Yes, they will have automated those measurements and put them on fancy management dashboards so everyone can feel happy. Except the customer of course. But what does that matter?
In Part Three – a big reveal. A couple of techniques that will help shape Successful Customer Outcomes brought to you from companies like Amazon, Zara, Zappos and Emirates.
Now, please remember if you pay people to do dumb stuff they will get really smart at it.
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Do you want to embrace advanced Customer Centric thinking and become Outside-In?
Simple things can be very very effective and that is certainly the case with this ‘go-to’ template. Based on the Next Practice of some of the worlds leading companies completing this could change the way you think and do business forever.
It is my first interaction with Top Teams and Leaders and I use it as my first conversation with anyone who says they are tasked with helping transform their organisations (and themselves sometimes!)
Business failures are all around us, nothing new there then. If we go back a decade or so we saw the demise of Nokia, we’ve seen companies like Blockbuster crash and burn, and other companies in the High Street whether it’s in Europe or in the US disappear and never to be seen again.
Why is this so? When you look at the investment those companies were making there was no lack of intent to spend in understanding how the customer was changing. In the year that Apple introduced the iPhone Nokia was investing heavily in voice of the customer (VOC) surveys, customer satisfaction and NPS.
But they missed the point. Progressive Outside-In companies (think Amazon, Zara, Zappos, Emirates) are not about retrospective subjective analysis of perceived performance.
Also it isn’t about overlaying processes with a new language when fundamentally the very systems and processes were never designed to deliver customer experiences. Those now creaking processes were designed with a factory mindset centred around production line thinking, throughput and waste. Hence the challenge for many is more fundamental as it’s not about rejigging what you’re doing – it is about a complete rethink to move outside in the way that you do business.
Remarkably even in the third decade of the 21st century there are still those companies that think they can just tweak and change the language inside their organisations.
As if doing better advertising and marketing to customers and talking about ‘new’ services on top of their existing infrastructures and IT systems hacks it. The actual reality is somewhat different.
Senior Executive commentary
Top teams and senior executives need to grasp this challenge. Roland Naidoo, a senior executive at African based entertainments company Multichoice puts the choice starkly:
“Would you measure how fast a 1600cc car performed around an F1 circuit. No? Then why would you try to measure customer experience AND improve it on processes and products there were never designed with experience in mind. Go on enter your 1600 into the next F1. Wonder how it would perform?”
Roland Naidoo, Multichoice Africa
Lipstick on a Pig? Surely not…
Those companies who understand that ‘outside-in’ thinking calls for a complete realignment and new appraisal of what the customer experience consists of.
Rather than, to coin a phrase, putting lipstick on a pig. You have actually got to think about what is it you’re trying to achieve; what does success look like for our customer? And then align across all functions, all systems and ways of working towards successful customer outcomes. Disney refers to this alignment as getting everybody to understand where true north is and not to do anything unless it contributes to that alignment. Imagine all new initiatives being assessed by a similar approach?
Are you working in a Rubik cube?
Another aspect which comes into play is this idea that traditional measurement* is predominantly subjective and retrospective. Progressive outside in companies are not reactive – they get scientific about the customer experience.
Measuring each interaction as it happens and if necessary course-correcting in real-time. They develop the ability to see around corners to understand what’s coming next. They don’t have to wait for analysis 2 weeks after an event to decide that some remedial action is required.
This knowledge in the instance of what is happening requires us to create this idea of ‘action in the moment’ for all our employees. Zappos**, for instance, give their employees the tools and the capability to be able to make decisions in the moment (without the need to escalate to supervisors).
Industrial Age thinking will kill you
And there is another challenge companies face if they are still organised around functional specialist silos. If you’ve recruited low paid people and given them a script to follow, manage them to average handle times and throughputs you’re going to fail.
Once more the outside-in companies have an edge here as they understand that to give your most precious resource (the customer) to the employees then you need the right people in the right place able to do the right things at that moment of truth.
So what is your organization doing? is it trying to put lipstick on the pig? is it just trying to overlay the existing process is an infrastructure with this new customer-centric way of talking and doing?
It is very simple. You need to get down to brass tacks of rethinking what customer experience is all about its implication for the organisation going forward. Those organisations that are taking this outside-in approach find the world becomes simpler, faster and much more directly oriented towards delivering successful customer outcomes and winning for the bottom line.
Here are seven classic examples from a recent blog of someone selling Call Centre Services. No, I really am to polite to call them out. I thought I had travelled back in time 50 years, but I am appalled there are people still doing this?!
Why are these so Wrong? Answers on a post card but Part Two Next week will provide more insight.
And then in Part Three we will explore the alternatives…
Call Centre Measures that cripple Your Customer Experiences (the seven deadly sins)
Service Level – “The service level is the percentage of calls responded in a particular time limit. It assesses the skills of agents to deliver the service as per the Service Level Agreement (SLA) given to the clients.”…. It is a significant way to judge the performance of a call center.
Average Call Handle Time – “This KPI measures time an agent needs on a call.”
Average Queue Time – “To assure that the wait time of callers rests in the fair scope and the patience of customers should not be tested”
Call Abandonment – “It is a usual experience in the call center that clients disconnect the calls before even connecting to an agent.”
First Call Resolution – “The client is frequently in a rush. Thus, he requires that the concern of the caller must be fixed in the first call”
Occupancy Rate – “It is completely about the ability to complete the work within minimum time.”
Agent Turnover Rate – “It measures the rate of agents who switch the job. It not only causes customer service conflicts and delays as well as it also creates many issues.”
A person once said this to me… “If you pay people for doing dumb stuff they will get really smart at it”
A Very Wise Women
In Part Two we will review why Call Centre thinking is so BAD and should be BANNED.
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The following from C. S. Lewis was written in 1948 after the dawn of the atomic age. Just substitute COVID-19 for the Atomic bomb and you will get the shivers.
In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”
In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.
This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.
We can learn a lot from Jeff Bezos. 60 seconds may be enough when you understand how he creates success.
I am still perplexed that so many folks seek to justify the failure of once-great companies like Nokia, Motorola, Blockbuster and Circuit City as being complex.
It wasn’t complicated and still isn’t to understand the reasons why they crashed and burned. It is in fact pretty simple. If you lose the connection between yourselves and customer success you will fail fast. All the best leadership, innovation and culture crumbles if you are not delivering #successfulcustomeroutcomes. However, don’t take my word for it – let’s hear it from the maestro himself
Learn more about embedding ‘next practice’ into your work and organisation by joining us at one of our upcoming courses at www.bpgroup.org
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.
Jeff Bezos encourages us to become Customer Obsessed (see video snippet) however Netflix’s journey to CX Obsession is less well known.
Here is an extract from a great article (link below):
From Gibson Biddle, former VP at Netflix and CPO at Chegg In 2005, as I joined Netflix as VP of Product, I asked Reed Hastings, the CEO, what he hoped his legacy would be. His answer: “Consumer science.” He explained, “Leaders like Steve Jobs have a sense of style and what customers seek, but I don’t. We need consumer science to get there.”
Reed’s aspiration was that the Netflix team would discover what delights customers through the scientific process. Forming hypotheses through existing data, qualitative, and surveys, and then A/B testing these ideas to see what works. His vision was that product leaders at Netflix would develop remarkable consumer insight, fueled by results and learning from thousands of experiments.
During my time at Netflix, and later at my next startup, Chegg, I learned to move from customer focus to customer obsession. In doing so embraced Reed’s notion of consumer science. Here’s how I think about the transition:
The full article here is great testimony to moving away from the soft and fluffy version of Customer Experience. Let’s get more scientific about Customer Experience.
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.