When the sales experience falls into, rather than bridges, the gap

Depending on your definition of a customer, their experience starts well before they actually buy anything.

It might be what they’ve heard from others or what they’ve seen in the news. But if the brand comes knocking on their door that first impression is also a critical experience. Many get it right because it’s based on a real empathy with those they are trying to engage with.

However, it’s not always the case. Absent a clear customer experience strategy, what we think do as a business often looks very different when looked at from the customers’ perspectives.

 

For example, if any CEO is wondering why their Sales teams are not getting better results, maybe a quick look at how their initial engagement makes yet-to-be customers feel will give some big clues.

The quotes below are all real examples I’ve had in my inbox just this last week. There are others and I’m sure you’ll have your own ‘favourites’.

They are not trying to sell me something I don’t want. In fact, I could be interested. Just not with them. If I was ever asked for feedback about the Sales experience (a rare thing indeed), it might go along these lines:

  • Putting “Our 9am meeting” in the subject heading doesn’t spur me into replying out of panic.  Sorry to burst your bubble Sales folk, but changing it to “Our 10am meeting” in the follow-up really doesn’t make any difference either.
  • Saying “I’ve tried to reach you” is just lying – technology is quite good these days so I know if you’ve tried to get in touch as often as you claim. And when your colleagues use the same line every week, several times a week, it becomes very transparent.
  • Gasping “I can’t believe you’ve not signed up yet” and “I’d hate for you to miss out” is at best patronising and lacks any sincerity.
  • What’s more, should I be interested a reply to the email will go into a generic mailbox, not to the person who is (presumably) trying to create a relationship. It just shouts even louder about how you really don’t care if I get back in touch or not.

Does somebody seriously believe this type of approach is going to create an experience I want to repeat, share and pay a premium for? If these companies had any genuine interest in what I do and how they might help me achieve success, they’d look at their Sales activity as a meaningful experience not a bullying, volume-led, can’t-really-give-a-**** transaction.

I often come across businesses who fear the Sales team always over-promise because of the way they are rewarded. They then disappear off the face of the planet while everyone else tries to rally-round, clearing up the mess to deliver something close to an unrealistic promise.

On the flip-side, maybe the Sales team is frustrated that everyone else can’t keep up. Maybe they’re just doing what they’ve been told is best. But to create a first impression experience that is confrontational, misleading and deceitful creates no trust, no relationship. No commission.

They say the experience on the outside reflects the culture inside and they’re right. In the middle of a busy day, to be on the receiving end of these type of messages says heaps about what it must be like to work there. No clear strategy, just a numbers game where some very talented people will be wilting under the stress.

Intended or not, what they are saying to me is that it’s clear their focus is just on revenue, not on me as a potential customer. They don’t care if I buy or not, there are plenty more fishes in the sea. Friend and colleague Ian Golding wrote about a similar mindset very recently in this blog.

These companies are not some anonymous outfit in a far-off land that’s acquired an email list; often they are large, global businesses who should know what they are doing. These companies will make some money for sure but that short-term approach breeds complacency and stores up problems for down the line.

If they applied a dose of customer experience thinking they could, however, make a whole lot more money. If only they didn’t push their potential customers away before they’ve even got close.

 

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Thank you for reading the blog, I hope you enjoyed it and found it thought-provoking.  

I’m Jerry Angrave and I help people in Customer Experience roles do what they need to do. I’m a CCXP (Certified Customer Experience Professional), a CX consultant and am one of a handful of people globally who are authorised by the CXPA to train CX professionals for its accreditation.

Do get in touch if you’ve any comments on the blog, any questions or are interested in training or consultancy support.

Thank you,

Jerry 

[email protected]   |   www.empathyce.com   |   +44 (0) 7917 718072

Ten hidden benefits of customer journey mapping

The benefits of customer journey mapping are well documented; it’s an incredibly valuable exercise that gives the business a shared understanding of what it’s like to be a customer. And, therefore, a clear picture of what should be celebrated, what should be done differently and why.

Journey mapping is a means to an end. It’s not, as some people see it, about having a pointless happy-clappy day with Post-it notes and Sharpie pens.

Done effectively and on an ongoing basis, what customer journey mapping tells you can be one of the most effective strategic and economic tools a business has in its armoury. But not everyone sees it that way and as CX professionals we often need to help sceptical stakeholders ‘get it’.

So, for what it’s worth and to help anyone trying to convince a non-believer to begin mapping customer journeys, I’ve put together a list of some of the additional pleasant surprises – sorry, “commercial benefits” – journey mapping delivers.

 

1 Catalyst. It’s a great place to start.

Companies often struggle to get momentum behind a fledgling customer experience programme. If you do nothing else in the name of customer experience, map a customer journey and see where it takes you.

The beauty of journey mapping is that it’s easy to do and even just a couple of hours or a day’s workshop can set things on the right path.

It will challenge dangerously complacent beliefs that there is no burning platform. And even if it becomes apparent that today’s customer experience isn’t inherently broken it will provide plenty of ideas for how to keep up with expectations in future.

 

2 Engagement. Hey presto, you’ve created a CX focused, cross-functional team.

At a recent workshop I facilitated, one participant stopped in her tracks when telling her persona’s story to the group. She observed that this was the first time that organisation had brought everyone together who had some involvement across the entire journey. Pennies dropped, dots were joined and new relationships created there and then.

They’ve stayed together as a group ever since and have created mini-task forces for other journeys.

Involvement in these types of workshops creates excitement but also an expectation that things will change. That has to be managed carefully but what you do have now is an army of internal CX champions who will help spread the word.

 

3 Value. The outputs have all sorts of uses, just make sure they’re not filed away.

The biggest risk to journey mapping is that once the journeys are mapped, the persona stories are told and the findings are documented, they get filed away and never see the light of day.

Make it a living beast so it never fades away. Put the journey on a wall or on the intranet so it’s visible to everyone. It’s a great opportunity to get thoughts from other employees who can to wander past and add their thoughts over a cup of coffee. Keep it alive, use it to generate interest and action.

It prompts all sorts of conversations about the issues and opportunities. And it’s also a great visual to show new employees what their customers experience too.

 

4 Simplicity. As they say, simplicity is a very sharp knife.

It doesn’t have to be complex to be value-creating. As with many things in life it’s easy to over-engineer. Journey mapping does need to work hard to be from a customer’s perspective but often the simpler the structure and framework the better.

One client told me they were keen to do some mapping but couldn’t take the team out for a whole day. Instead, they took a bit of time in a team meeting; better than nothing. The format was quick but follows the same approach as a full workshop; sketch out what the customer is trying to do and why, then across the stages, look at what they are thinking, doing and feeling.

Then ask what you measure; do you know how well you do the most important things?

Review what you’ve written down and agree some actions. First journey map, done.

 

5 Themes. Over time, helpfully, common issues rise up to the surface.

Journey maps should never be reviewed in isolation. Whether you run one journey from the perspective of several personas or you look at multiple journeys, it’s very likely you’ll find common threads emerging.

So, while one specific issue raised may not be critical to that journey itself, we should take notice when that same issue appears in other journeys for other customers, employees or third parties.

A quick example from a mapping programme I ran late last year. Although they weren’t cited as major challenges in their individual workshops, it became apparent in every one of a dozen or so sessions that three themes stood out; there was a lack of understanding about what the brand stood for, employees desperately wanted/needed a good CRM system and there was a genuine concern about a lack of consistency in delivering the experience across all touchpoints.

 

6 Education. For me, the biggest benefits in mapping customer journeys is often the conversations happening between colleagues during a journey mapping session.

It’s common to hear things like “Oh, I didn’t know that’s what you did”, “Does anyone know what happens if…?” and “If you can get that information across to me in a different format I’d be able to do my bit for the customer better”.

Because we have people from all steps of the customer journey in the room, those conversations can happen and are invaluable. They might not be the conversations you want in front of customers, which is why I’d always advocate bringing them in to the process once you have your initial draft journey. Which brings me to the next point.

 

7 Connection. As if you needed one, it’s a great excuse to connect with customers.

The good news is that you now have a journey map. The better news is that it needs validation by customers to have any credibility.

So once you’ve had those awkward educational, internal conversations you can invite customers to give their views. Even if they end up not participating, the act of asking their opinion goes a long way.

 

8 Outliers. Small sample sizes should always be treated with a big degree of caution.

However, journey mapping can unearth some behavioural outliers that are worth noting and following up on.

I recently ran an employee experience mapping session where one of the personas was that of someone getting promoted. In the “What are they thinking?” section, a comment was made that they hoped their previous peers would now “fear me”. The sticky note was written and put up on the wall. No-one challenged it despite many internal communications extolling the values of ‘our family’ and ‘camaraderie’.

Likewise, one comment from a senior executive who said they – a company who claimed to give “exceptional client experiences” – would only ask clients for feedback if the client can be billed for the time.

Such anecdotes might be limited to one or two people. They’re easy to brush aside, but if there’s a latent attitude problem – especially if that’s coming from the leaders of the business – it’s better to find out and address it.

 

9 Focus. The whole point of journey mapping is to generate ideas and be confident in what you do next.

That said, the workshops will give you tens if not hundreds of suggestions. It’s a nice problem to have but can also feel overwhelming. Where now?

Part of the solution is right there on the day in the journey mapping workshop; your colleagues. Make the most of the opportunity and ask them to vote on the issues that they think are the most important.

You might have a thousand sticky notes, but voting will give you an instant proxy for where the top issues lie and which warrant further investigation.

One word of caution though. Be prepared that when you validate the journey with your customers, they may highlight different priorities. Far from being frustrating, treat it like gold-dust. Without going through that process you wouldn’t know what’s important to them. You’d have everyone doing lots of stuff, just not necessarily the right stuff.

 

10 Fun. Seriously, have some fun.

One of the best benefits of customer journey mapping is that it’s simply a great way to bring people in your business together. It’s far from being a dry exercise and is, unintentionally, often a great way to foster employee engagement.

They’re on their feet adding value, not being talked at. They’re being asked for their opinions, to role-play personas and to think creatively. They’re asked to think about different scenarios and “What if…?” ideas.

It might stretch a few people who haven’t totally bought in to why they are there. Look at journey mapping workshops as you would a customer experience though. You want them to come away engaged and enthused, telling everyone else about it.

So if they get distracted, go off on wild tangents and have a laugh they’ll share the stories.

Before you know it, you’ll be everyone’s best friend and more and more people will want to get involved in helping you making your business customer-centric.

 

If you set out to convince a sceptical stakeholder to do one activity that increases employee engagement, deepens customer empathy and prioritises finite resources all at the same time, you’d really have to go a long way to beat journey mapping.

I hope that gives some food for thought but I’m sure you’ll have other benefits of customer journey mapping too – let me know!

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Thank you for reading the blog, I hope you found it thought-provoking.  

I’m Jerry Angrave and I help people in Customer Experience roles do what they need to do. I’m a CCXP (Certified Customer Experience Professional) and am one of a handful of people globally who are authorised by the CXPA to train CX professionals for its accreditation. I founded Empathyce after a long career in CX and Marketing roles and am now a consultant and trainer. 

Do get in touch if you’ve any comments on the blog, any questions or are interested in training or consultancy support.

Thank you,

Jerry 

[email protected]   |   www.empathyce.com   |   +44 (0) 7917 718072

Using journey mapping to understand and measure employee engagement

This post first appeared as a guest blog of Rant & Rave on using customer journey mapping methods to create employer brands and a great employee experience

Fewer than half of employees would recommend their employer to a friend according to Glassdoor. Would you? Have you? Allegis found that 69% would not take a job with a company if they had a bad reputation – even if they were unemployed!training journey mapping customer experience

The employee journey has many parallels with the customer journey and tolerance of a poor experience is lower. Businesses need to know that their reputation is now shared more widely than ever before. Expectations of how a company will drive our own personal agenda are high and, should they fall short, the ability find out about a better alternative and change is much easier now than in the past.

So if you’re looking to create an “employer brand”, one where top talent shouts “I want to work for them!”, there is good news and bad news. The good news is that whether it’s intentional or not, if you have employees you already have an employer brand. The bad news is it may not be the one you want.

The first step is to know what that is today, be clear about what you want it to be in future and get creative about closing any gaps.

This must be done in the context of your company’s purpose. Why do you do what you do? (beyond making money), what do you do that no other brand does? What makes you excited about working there?

Thankfully, journey mapping can help define what a ‘great place to work’ looks like.

It’s a valuable tool that gives us an understanding of what it’s like to be a customer and it helps organise the thinking and prioritise activity. It shows how well the brand promise is being kept, or not, and it brings people together from different functions to see the impact of their combined efforts.

I see many organisations map their customers’ journey successfully and reap the benefits of doing so. Far fewer, however, apply the methodology to their people, resulting in a missed opportunity.

The perception of your brand, and of your employee’s engagement with it, will vary depending on what stage they are at. A graduate looking across the sector for reasons to work for you will see things differently to a new hire going through the recruitment process, versus an employee who’s been in their job for 10 years or a high level employee who’s just been promoted into a director’s role.

Understanding the importance of employee engagement is one thing but knowing how to go about it is another. This is why journey mapping is effective, it helps to create empathy and understand around how they might be feeling, the challenges they face, or how they will change depending on the employee and how big the gap is.

 

A familiar methodology

The methodology for mapping an employee’s journey broadly follows the same structure as mapping customers’ experiences:

  1. Define the journey Be very clear about the journey they’re on. You may have a particular experience in mind such as the recruitment process, the first 30 days or going through a restructure. To help you find that starting point, you may want to map all of the events across the entire journey from brand awareness, performance reviews and ‘a typical day’ to promotion, exit and retirement. Then you can choose which one(s) you want to drill down into to become a journey in its own right.
  2. Who are they? Whose perspective do you want to map the experience from? Employee personas will be much the same as for consumers – who are they, what are their goals for that journey and why, what are their pain points?
  3. Map the journey Set out the stages, and for each one look at what they do, think and feel. What do they hope for, wish you would do, or provide? Are they motivated more by flexibility and support than money? How can work fit around their lives better? Capture the internal issues you have as a business that help or get in the way.
  4. Metrics What data or information do you have access to that shows how well you’re doing the important things?
  5. Validate Sense-check the journey and conclusions with other employees and overlay other relevant feedback you’ve captured elsewhere.
  6. Do something Take action. Agree the priority areas that need focus and who’s going to do it then keep people updated on progress.

One simple exercise to help prioritise your next steps is to plot out everything your employees have said, identifying the most important against an axis of ‘how well do you do them?’. Assuming you have collected this data, figure 1 below shows an example.

 

employee experience and journey mapping

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fig1: Plotting out the areas that employees view as important -vs- how well you do them

  • If you have an issue in the top right quadrant, where it’s important to employees and you do it well, make sure you protect it and share the stories.
  • If there’s an issue bottom right, where you do things well but employees don’t much care for it, either explain where the value is and why it must be done that way or consider if you are wasting resources on it.
  • Bottom left, where it’s not important and not done well, ask why you do it at all.
  • The key area is top left – if there are things your people say are significant but you’re not meeting their expectations, that’s a key area to start.

When running journey mapping workshops you should also consider:

  1. Be aware of the possibility of opening a cans of worms, which in a way is what you want but make it clear that none of the comments need be attributable to an individual. Remember that any suspicion that confidentiality is not protected will suffocate the quality of insight.
  2. Make the session fun but keep reminding people of the need to stay in character and role-play the personas. Help them to avoid drifting back to their subjective selves.
  3. Ensure you invite people from similar levels across the business. It may mean doing several workshops but, depending on the culture, having your boss in the workshop is one thing; having their line-manager too (or beyond) can be intimidating. People either say nothing or say what they think others want to hear.

During the mapping activity, your line of questioning should be aimed at identifying what they care about most. These are good discussion topics for team meetings too. For example:

  • How do potential employees find out what it’s like to work for you?
  • What makes you distinctive as an employer and how are you communicating that message?
  • What are your employees saying in terms of what you’re getting right? What do they find most frustrating?
  • What would employees never say? (positive or negative)
  • How many of your employees engage with your social media activity, have ‘liked’ your Facebook page or follow your LinkedIn page?
  • Why don’t more of your employees share their views? (for example Glassdoor)
  • What perceptions do your employees have in terms of how their customers think about them?
  • If employees were given a branded t-shirt or jacket to wear in town at the weekend, would they be proud enough to do so?

Brands want their employees to be true brand advocates; telecoms giant O2 talks in this video about their challenges and how they rewarded employees for being brand ambassadors.

Measuring employee advocacy can actually be straight forward. If one of your employee value propositions is that you are ‘innovative’, ask them exactly that, to what degree do they think you are innovative? Make sure you link your questions directly back to the values.

The NPS approach is also commonly used as a form of measurement: “On a scale of 0-10, how likely are you to recommend this company as a place to work?”. Brands can explore what employees are scoring them and dive into the relationship further; those who are promoters perform one set of behaviours, whereas passives and detractors tend to display a different set of actions.

 

Journey mapping unveils the real culture

Brands need to ensure they’re not just paying lip service, putting up posters around the office that speak to being ‘a ‘great place to work’ is not a solution or way to drive engagement. The impact of what your ‘leaders’ do and say cannot be underestimated, their actions build evidence for employees of what the company culture is really like.

During a journey mapping session I facilitated, a leader of a professional services firm said defiantly that he would not make time to go out and talk to his clients to understand them better unless he could bill the client for that time.

This was also a business with stated values of giving exceptional and distinctive client experiences. You can imagine the deflated feeling in the room this then created. Worse still, the good talent will recognise this and potentially move to a competitor who is delivering the promised experience.

Some time ago, I was consulted on the customer experience of a utility company’s contact centre. Their leadership team was satisfied with the apparent high-levels of engagement reported by their internal survey. However, the reality couldn’t have been more different, their people were totally disengaged because they had to compensate for the persistent problems that management wouldn’t address.

Employees would type out feedback rather than leave it on a post-it note because they feared their handwriting would be recognised. They would rather tell friends they were unemployed than say who they worked for and they only ticked the “I’m highly engaged” box in the survey because they believed it was a prerequisite to getting a bonus.

 

Beneficial journey mapping outputs

Complacency can be real damaging force. Business leaders may say: “We’re doing well, we’re making a profit, customers are satisfied and we have talented people who know what they’re doing. Why change anything?”.

Journey mapping will however help you surface what to change and why, the activity itself isn’t the end-game but far from it. It’s a means to an end where it gives a business the evidence as to why it should do things differently.

These insights will generate engaging stories to showcase your employer brand, take these examples from L’Oreal, Zappos and Cathay Pacific. Other leading brands such as Homeserve actively encourage their employees to leave reviews online, using metrics such as their Glassdoor score as a key performance indicator.

There are real commercial benefits too, TemkinGroup helped quantify those last year in a research study that looked at the difference between genuinely engaged and disengaged employees:

87% of engaged employees will recommend your products and services to someone who might need them, versus 21% of disengaged employees.

82% of engaged employees would do something good for the company even if it was not expected, versus 19% of disengaged employees.

60% of engaged employees will make a recommendation about an improvement, versus 15% of disengaged employees.

 

Journey mapping the employee experience creates clear tangible benefits. A brand that does what it promises, attracts better talent and drives retention, this is something that doesn’t rely on paying top salaries. Employees are then empowered to give the best customer experience possible and proud to tell friends that they work for a great company.

For your employees, customers and the bottom line, this truly is the best news you can hear.

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Thank you for reading the blog, I hope you found it thought-provoking.  

I’m Jerry Angrave and I help people in Customer Experience roles do what they need to do. I’m a CCXP (Certified Customer Experience Professional) and am one of a handful of people globally who are authorised by the CXPA to train CX professionals for its accreditation. I founded Empathyce after a long career in CX and Marketing roles and am now a consultant and trainer. 

Do get in touch if you’ve any comments on the blog, any questions or are interested in training or consultancy support.

Thank you,

Jerry 

[email protected]   |   www.empathyce.com   |   +44 (0) 7917 718072

 

Lessons in how to embed Customer Experience

At the recent CXPA networking event in London hosted by Pen CX, the world of the CX professional was thrown into the spotlight. I wanted to share thoughts from two of the presenters, who reminded us of some of the practical yet vitally important things we need to do to bring about the right change.

First, Ali Lawrie, Head of Customer Experience at Akzo Nobel, owners of the Dulux paint brand among others. Ali talked about the challenges of bringing the customer agenda to the fore in a B2B organisation which, understandably, has had a keen focus on technical product development and the sales supply chain.

A lesson she’d learned early on was to not underestimate the time it takes to win stakeholders round where they have their own priorities. Perseverance and resilience are essential qualities of the CX practitioner.

It’s time well-spent though and an investment that pays dividends. Getting the attention was also helped in no small part by demonstrating the reality of today’s experience using customer verbatims.

To see a metric that says customers are waiting three minutes for a call to be answered may not be a catalyst for instant transformation.  But hearing the direct impact on the customer, who might be an architect about to see a key client or a hospital property manager reaching out for some quick advice, expressed in their words with the emotion that goes with it, is infinitely more powerful.

Furthermore, it can show how a company’s brand and advertising is potentially being wasted because the experience does not deliver the promise of (a variant of) “We put customers first”. It’s a valuable and necessary conversation to have with the Marketing team.

Journey mapping provided many of the insights for Ali and those exercises also created six key stages of the experience, each now represented by an icon. Bringing to life the customer experience is at the heart of an effective CX programme and so the more visible it is the better. Sharing the icons and explaining the stages now references any activity to a specific part of the journey, has helped engage and involve colleagues and makes communications clearer.

Empathyce

Your CX momentum will take off, eventually

Creating a stronger business by using Customer Experience thinking will not happen without complete engagement right across the business. To engage not just those who are customer-facing but also those who are back-office or in management roles is a big stretch for many fledgling CX teams,.

So Ali’s advice is to spread the message and create movement from within through the extended use of CX champions – finding people from all parts of the business who take an interest, want to be part of the movement and see it as a good development opportunity. They will be the eyes and ears of CX inside and across the proverbial silos.

Mike Bellis of Pen CX and formerly of Pfizer, then reflected on how he changed his approach to win people round. “I started by highlighting issues that were affecting customers and trying to get them fixed, but this was seen as creating new problems within the organisation rather than trying to fix those which were perceived to be there already”.

As this approach wasn’t developing very much engagement, Mike quickly changed tack. The new approach was to understand internal stakeholders’ issues first and then show how a focus on Customer Experience could help overcome them. Before long he was everyone’s best friend. The momentum grew as colleagues from around the globe came knocking on his door for his methodologies and thinking.

 

Anyone who works as a CX professional will know how hard these things are to do. It’s therefore reassuring to hear that with persistence they can still make a difference.

As Mike Bellis summarised, “In principle, Customer Experience is simple. It doesn’t mean it’s easy though”.

Thanks to Ali and Mike, also to Neil Sharp of Pen CX for organising and hosting the event.

If you’ve any thoughts on what can be done at a practical level to help a business become more customer-centric, please share them!

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Thank you for reading the blog, I hope you found it thought-provoking.  

I’m Jerry Angrave and I help people in Customer Experience roles do what they need to do. I’m a CCXP (Certified Customer Experience Professional) and am one of a handful of people globally who are authorised by the CXPA to train CX professionals for its accreditation. I founded Empathyce after a long career in CX and Marketing roles and am now a consultant and trainer. I give CX professionals the skills, tools and confidence to be the ones to drive their Customer Experience efforts forward.

Do get in touch if you’ve any comments on the blog, any questions or are interested in training or consultancy support.

Thank you,

Jerry 

[email protected]   |   www.empathyce.com   |   +44 (0) 7917 718072

 

Customer Experience says mind your own business

So we now know that United breaks customers as well as guitars.

customer experience risks, customer experience consultancy, customer experience trainingKnowing how your business treats its paying customers is one thing; understanding the impact it has on them is quite another. If the organisation is focused primarily on operational logistics, load factors and revenue per mile then such practices are going to be carried out regardless.

But, there’s a real disconnect when, as the airline states, it wants to be a leader in the industry and its goal is “to make every flight a positive experience”.  I doubt anyone at United has set out to design a customer journey that involves losing blood and teeth but comments by CEO Oscar Munoz, that it will prove a “watershed moment”, acknowledge the need to be much more aware of the unintended consequences of how they operate.

 

United’s most recent problem was exacerbated because they had too many people wanting to be on that flight. At the other end of the spectrum is a UK-based airline whose problems appear to arise when there are too few passengers. Bruce Temkin recently published a report into the best and worst customer experience companies in the UK. One of the brands towards the bottom of his list is a well-known regional airline. For years the word on the street (and I can vouch for the experience) is that they have a reputation for delaying or cancelling flights. At the gate, the message is that the aircraft has a technical problem but anecdotally passengers say it often coincides with less-than-full flights. Such is the regularity of schedule changes that many now choose an alternative route and carrier if they really, really need to get from city A to city B at the agreed time.

It must be hard for loyal employees to take the criticism and yet the practice continues. Maybe it’s a cost-led strategy rather than customer-led, which is fine if that’s your choice of how to fly. Maybe.

 

A few months ago I was presenting research findings back to a Board. It wasn’t all good news. “That was spectacularly uncomfortable to hear” – the words of a Chief Marketing Officer in response to learning what his customers really thought. Thinking I was about to be shown the door, his comment was followed by “Thank you for telling us, we needed to hear it”.

That conversation stuck in my mind, serving as a warning bell about complacency; if we don’t understand our business from our customers’ perspective how do we know we’re anywhere near where we think we are? We do, absolutely, need to mind our own business.

 

I love facilitating customer journey mapping workshops. Not least, because I always ask for people to share stories about great and awful experiences they’ve had. Sadly, when it comes to bad experiences it’s often the same brands who crop up time after time.

One of those is energy company npower. I’m one of their customers and to be fair, I haven’t had a bad experience with them until now. I do, however, expect anyone in business to get the basics – such as my bills – right. But after my own first tangible experience, amplified by their reputation for customer service, I’m now heading for the switch button.

I’m a dual-fuel customer so I get two annual statements through the post – one electricity and one gas (I had asked for e-statements but that hasn’t been actioned, that’s another story). It’s a weighty envelope so I assume they’ve stuffed it full of newsletters, offers and new terms and conditions. Inside are indeed two annual statements but then each has an exact duplicate. Not only that but there is a third duplicate of each where the only difference on that version is that the amounts are all set to nil.

So if anyone at npower is wondering why their costs are heading in the opposite and wrong direction to their customer satisfaction scores there’s a big clue, right there. How do you do that? In 2017 how do you get it so wrong? I’m assuming they don’t know as I’ve had nothing by way of apology or clarification. But then if they are not so customer-centric in the first place maybe I shouldn’t expect anything.

 

In a meeting with a subscription services provider recently I was asking about how processes worked. For customers who turn up, buy and go again, everyone was all over it with metrics galore. But enter the world of the ‘What-if’ scenario and things rapidly became less clear. “If I’m this sort of customer, can I do this?”. “Do I need to do that first or do you do that for your customers automatically and if so, do they know that?” “What does this bit mean?”. And so on, all met with lots of “Umm…” and “I think…”.

I make no apology for mentioning again an example of one of the most head-the-sand cases I’ve come across. A utility company I did some work for had, according to its leadership team, very high employee engagement. It followed that while they believed their processes could be better the problem wasn’t their people. On investigation, it transpired the people were totally and utterly disengaged. They didn’t care about fixing customers’ problems and did just enough to get by. They were intelligent people but were fighting a lost cause. If they met someone in a pub who asked where they work, they were more likely to say they were unemployed or make something up than admit to working at the brand. They’d told management time and time again what was going wrong but nothing had been done. And the reason why the employee engagement score was so high was because they deliberately ticked the 10/10 box, thinking that if they didn’t say they were fully engaged they wouldn’t get a bonus. The leadership team had no idea of the extent of the true levels of engagement.

 

And that’s the point. When we take an operationally-led view we know where we think we’re at because we’ve built the processes, plugged in our systems and measured what we think is right. But look at the same processes from a customer’s perspective and we have a very different view of our world.

If we don’t know our own business, we can’t be confident about understanding how we are making our customers feel. They determine what a customer will do next and how they’ll talk about us to others. It has a real commercial impact and so we need to understand both the experience and the consequence.

We should, literally, mind our own business before our customers are the ones who bump us off.

———————

Thank you for reading the blog, I hope you found it thought-provoking.  

I’m Jerry Angrave and I help people in Customer Experience roles do what they need to do. I’m a CCXP (Certified Customer Experience Professional) and am one of a handful of people globally who are authorised by the CXPA to train CX professionals for its accreditation. I founded Empathyce after a long career in CX and Marketing roles and am now a consultant and trainer. I give CX professionals the skills, tools and confidence to be the ones to drive their Customer Experience efforts forward.

Do get in touch if you’ve any comments on the blog, any questions or are interested in training or consultancy support.

Thank you,

Jerry 

[email protected]   |   www.empathyce.com   |   +44 (0) 7917 718072

 

The biggest risks to our Customer Experience efforts

Stress-testing customer experiences reveals flaws elsewhere

When people with different agendas build an experience, what could possibly go wrong…?

Ambition, commitment and perseverance. All three are critical to success but a weakness in any one of them is a huge risk to our Customer Experience plans. It will almost certainly ensure we don’t achieve what we set out to. While we focus on doing things in a new way it’s every bit as important to be aware of the warning signs that the old, destructive ways haven’t yet evaporated totally.

 

From what I’ve seen the most effective approaches to customer experience have three things in common. They have people who are passionate about their subject and a deep understanding of what it’s like being a customer. Critically though, they also enjoy a culture where the first two are allowed to thrive.

I’m often asked how organisations can cultivate those three ingredients; what should they do when they set out to become more customer-centric? There’s a long list to work through.  So assuming those things are in place, once the Customer Experience momentum is up and running what could possibly go wrong? Another long list, this time of spanners that are poised to throw themselves into the works – if we let them.

As a CEO recently told me: “If we don’t keep pedalling uphill, gravity takes over, all the effort is wasted and we’re back to square one before we know it”.

In this post I’ve highlighted just three of the biggest risks; different agendas, the day job and an obsession with metrics. They’re inextricably linked and will be of little surprise but they are chosen because, from my observations inside a wide variety of businesses, if the ambition, commitment and perseverance isn’t genuine enough these risks have a habit of becoming very real issues.

 

First up, people working to different agendas.

When employees have divergent priorities, whether they are just following their leader’s instructions or there is simply no common purpose, we get silos. It’s a convenient label that somehow explains, excuses and – worse – gives credibility to value-destroying ways of working.

You know you’ve got silos when you ask 10 people in a meeting room why the business exists or what the customer strategy is and you get 10 or more different answers. At best, there are variations on a theme, often educated guesses and sometimes no answer at all. Nor do they seem bothered, they’ve got their job to do (see below).

A large player in the financial services sector had an internal goal “to be the best”.  It was admirable and aspirational but no-one knew exactly what that meant. The highest savings rates and lowest mortgage rates in the market? Or widest net interest margin? Highest adoption rates of its app of any company in the world?

Despite the cleverly-worded posters on the wall about putting customers first, if there is not some common, meaningful customer purpose and metrics that everyone has a vested interest in there’s no way any cross-functional improvements will happen.

As a result of the fog, everyone carries on doing the things they do have clarity about. They know how their boss is going to decide whether they are meeting or exceeding expectations in the annual review and that’s their priority. No surprise therefore that we then see tensions, politics and stress with all the consequences that leads to.

Meanwhile, all the good customer-centric intent has rolled back down to the bottom of the hill.

 

The day-job default.

While part of the business is embracing Customer Experience with raw passion, the reality is that there is also a day-job to do be done. Sadly, it’ll stay that way until Customer Experience becomes just the way things are done rather than CX being seen as a function or division – and therefore seen an ‘optional extra’.

That might be because many of those who are asked to go and ‘do’ customer experience are having the responsibility added to their existing workload. Or at an organisational level, there’s just too much noise going on for anything new to make itself heard. Some don’t get it, others don’t want to get it and a few get it but resist a move out of their comfort zone.

It’s very easy to run a customer strategy session, a journey mapping workshop or an ethnographic study and then while the notes are being written up and we get it on the next Steering Group agenda, attention turns to the more ‘important and urgent’ things in our inbox.  There might be a seasonal spike in activity that needs all hands on deck.  “Project Invincible” has meeting coming up that needs a cast of thousands to attend or a new campaign is due to launch and that’s taking all available resource. Lots of reasons, but are they plausible or just a convenient excuse?

Because Customer Experience in its purest sense is about a cultural mindset, when there’s lots of firefighting to be done today it’s often seen as something discretionary, something that can wait until tomorrow.  But we know how often tomorrow comes.

 

An obsession with the score not the experience

I’ve always taken the line that if we get the experience right first, the numbers will look after themselves. Of course, whichever measurement method we choose we need to know what drives the numbers or drags them back but at least that means we’re looking at things from a customer’s perspective. Chasing the number is purely a vanity exercise.

A rallying cry to increase a customer score by 10 points might sound admirable, and it is. The issue is the way the business then sets about increasing the score. Without robust governance in place, those running the surveys will be coerced into changing the way the feedback is collected; they’re told to ask only those who’ve gone through the complete purchase cycle rather than include those who dropped out half-way. Customers will be offered incentives for giving higher scores or respondents will be given a false scale to flatter the real score.

Gaming the system is a real issue for many businesses and not all of them are aware that it goes on within their organisation. If you’re interested or concerned and want more food for thought, I wrote about a culture where the numbers are more important than people in this blog.

It’s one reason why we’re seeing more companies adopting the scores from independent review sites such as Trustpilot, Google and TripAdvisor as their key customer metric.customer experience perseverance

 

What to do about them?

There’s no rocket science here and there will be other issues that can derail our best Customer Experience efforts. Like gravity, we can only escape their pull with a bit of effort. They have patience and we have to assume they’ll wait a long time, hoping  for changes or a weakness to appear.

But if we share the principles of the Customer Strategy and show employees how the brand promises to treat its customers, if we have a governance process that informs and involves people from every corner of the business, if we ensure there is a visible commitment from the top that this is a priority for the business and if we have common customer metrics in everyone’s scorecard the risks have to be much, much lower. We’ll stay ahead of competitors and keep up with rising expectations too.

To say they are all obvious issues is, well, obvious. But if they are so well known, why do they keep getting in the way and what can we do about them? I’d love to know what you think.

 

Thank you for reading the blog on what can derail CX efforts, I hope you found it thought-provoking.  

I’m Jerry Angrave and I help Customer Experience people do what they need to do. I’m a CCXP (Certified Customer Experience Professional) and am one of a handful of people globally who are authorised by the CXPA to train CX professionals for its accreditation. I founded Empathyce after a long career in CX and Marketing roles and am now a consultant and trainer. I give CX professionals the skills, tools and confidence to be the ones to drive their Customer Experience efforts forward.

Do get in touch if you’ve any comments on the blog, any questions or are interested in training or consultancy support.

Thank you,

Jerry 

[email protected]   |   www.empathyce.com   |   +44 (0) 7917 718 072

 

 

 

I’m frightened of Christmas

They’re not the words you want a 12-year old to howl in distress at this time of year. After all, ‘tis the season to be jolly and a magical time for kids. There’s an excited energy, we break up the routine, new sights and sounds are everywhere and there are surprises galore. What’s not to like?

Except that for some – children and adults alike – it’s a list of everything that makes them highly anxious, confused and fearful;  the absence of predictability and the presence of unfamiliar environments. Responding to sensory overload, those words “I’m frightened of Christmas” came from a distraught pupil at the special needs school my son attends this week.

The noises, the lights and the changes in routine had proved too much. Thankfully, their episode didn’t last long. After a short while in a quiet room they were soon back in class, joining in again as if nothing had happened. Such is their world.

But it is a reminder that people see the world, and interact with it, in very different ways.  We can learn a lot from them when we’re designing and improving customer experiences. While many organisations chase the “Wow!” moments,  there is a significant element of the population – nearly one in every four of us suffers a mental health problem – for whom less is more. shopping centre customer experiences

If we designed experiences or provided alternatives for those most affected it stretches the thinking so we get it right for everyone else too.  We all want pretty much the same things – we want things to work as promised, we need them to be easy and if they create the right memories we’ll do it again.

For someone with a disability, having that reliability and consistency is essential.  The consequences of not having them can be significant. It’s not just a nuisance or a niggle if a product or service doesn’t work; it can be outright distressing at best. To take a journey into a retail park or through an airport might take weeks or months of preparation for the person affected and the people around them. For them it’s like walking on ice and it doesn’t take much for everything to fracture and turn into disarray.

It can be simple things that tip the balance – a schedule change, hand-driers in the toilets that are deafening or shouty officials trying to rush everyone through. If we evoke fear and panic in someone, the implications for whether they’ll come back again are clear.

Especially for someone with autism where emotions can be amplified, having their expectations managed – and kept to – is key.  It doesn’t matter if it’s about the day’s timetable or going on a holiday, knowing what’s going to happen gives structure, boundaries and therefore security.

So if there’s a tipping point as the experience gets worse, beyond which customers simply won’t come back, that fulcrum is a lot closer for people with a disability. Experiences that don’t work properly for them feel like their world is in freefall. They feel they have no safety or security and it’s a scary, lonely place. Families and carers with them will do their best to manage the situation but if we assumed everyone would feel the same way, we’d create much more robust and consistent experiences for everyone.

We focus on designing experiences to be emotional ones wherever possible. And that is absolutely the right thing to do for reasons that are well-documented. But it’s critical to evoke the right emotions. Sometimes, the worst thing we can do for people is ‘surprise and delight’ them. What might work best to keep them coming back is simply an environment where things are calm, friendly and steady.

For example, I’ve researched what passengers say to each other about what makes the ‘best’ airports in the world. They are quiet, clean, friendly, quick and easy to navigate. Nothing complicated.  It’s why therapy dogs (and pigs) at airports work so well.  The principles can apply to any company in any sector so it’s why film screenings where the sound is turned down, the lights are up and there’s no advertising to wade through are so popular. And it’s why restaurants who give the option to send information before a booking about how the dining ‘experience’ works, show pictures of the food and provide safe ‘time-out’ spaces are creating personal and commercial benefits all round.

Evoking the right emotions in our experiences meaning we know which ones they are for different groups of customers, understanding why that is and how to make sure they are present every time. If we see things the way people with a physical or invisible disability do, it forces us to expand the thinking about our experiences in a different, more robust and better way. And that is something companies should embrace, not fear.

I hope your Christmas and the festive break is everything you want it to be.


Follow Jerry Angrave on Twitter @jerryangrave


Thank you for reading this blog about people with a disability and customer experiences. I hope you found it useful and thought-provoking.  I’m Jerry Angrave, a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP).  I’m a Jerry AngraveCX consultant with an extensive corporate background and I also specialise in professional development for those in, or moving to, customer experience roles.  Feel free to contact me with any questions – by email to [email protected] or by phone on +44 (0)7917 718072.  More details at the website www.empathyce.com.

Do the good customer experiences obscure the bad ones for management?

As consumers we know that a company is only as good as the last experience we had with them.  But it does seem that some companies assume if they are able to give a good experience once, they are doing it every time, everywhere.  It’s obviously a very dangerous assumption.

inconsistent customer experiences

It’s not easy when things are inconsistent

I’m often asked who we should look to for customer experience inspiration. Who gets it right and what do they do?

We all have our favourite brands and stories to go with them.  There is no shortage of companies to learn from.  They have the right mindset and are doing great things.  But, organisations not only need to be proficient at walking before they can run, they can’t afford to forget how to walk once they can run.

And so before trying to emulate the great and the good, a question that many businesses should ask is “What do we do today that we should stop doing?”.  What is causing customers and employees, including (especially) the ones who don’t complain, frustration, angst or simply to not engage?

Business leaders may say they are profitable, they have many satisfied customers and their people are proud.  Yet the laws of unintended consequences, of cross-functional operations working to different agendas and of short-term profit-taking throw a protective veil over complacency and corrosive experiences.

The issues are laid bare these days for all to see, especially on social media and review sites.

Take, for example, Trustpilot.  I’m increasingly seeing businesses using the rating as a customer metric in addition to Net Promoter Score, customer satisfaction, effort scores and so on.  It’s freely available and constantly updated.  Companies can track their score, benchmark against competitors and compare parallel sectors.  Crucially though, the unsolicited comments contain a rich seam of qualitative insight that tells us exactly why things go well or not.  Why would you not want to tap into that?  Or, at least learn what makes competitors’ customers unhappy to make sure it’s not happening closer to home?

To illustrate the point, I’ve picked out a few examples and I’ll start with, for me, two surprises…

 

John Lewis is one of the UK’s favourite places to shop.  It keeps winning awards for its in-store service.  The employees have a real stake in making sure customers are happy and it shows.  However, go online and the story is very different.

Where their stores and people will be rated 9s and 10s out of 10, the website scores just 1.4.  That’s as rated by more than 2300 recent reviews.  There’s a lot of good stuff that happens at John Lewis but right now, online they are keeping company with SouthernRail (0.9/10) and lag behind even Ryanair (2.2/10).

Broken promises, conflicting information, inflexibility and being difficult to communicate with are just some of the reasons cited.  Whether that’s a consequence of outsourcing or handing over the post-sale experience to suppliers, only John Lewis themselves fully understand.  However, there are many comments that illustrate the commercial consequences, as one unhappy customer said: “Have spent thousands at John Lewis over the years but after this will go elsewhere”.

Employees answer the negative comments with a resigned “Sorry, we really didn’t mean this to happen” tone.  And one customer summed the gap between expectations and reality by saying “Because it’s John Lewis, it feels worse”.trustpilot jlfd

 

Another brand struggling to keep up with the expectations it has spent much time, money and effort creating is firstdirect.  For many years they were always at the top of the list of exemplars.  Personalised and friendly service, easy to get hold of and no need to repeat issues were just some of its credentials that set it apart from other banks.

At a time when the one thing retail banks need is differentiation, they seemed to have it in spades.  Now though, firstdirect scores just 1.9 out of 10 with many unhappy customers venting their frustrations about things being slow, disinterested employees and not keeping promises to call back or follow-up.

 

Meanwhile, the airline that claimed to be “the world’s favourite” is also no stranger to having a mixed bag of reviews.  On Trustpilot at the moment British Airways’ score is just 2 out of 10.  Reviewers talk of getting “better treatment with Ryanair”, of misinformation and of empty apologies.  At the same time though, happy customers rave about the friendliness of staff, easy booking processes and clean aircraft.  On the aviation-specific review site Skytrax, BA sees a similar spectrum of views from “Cannot fault the airline” to “Terrible service”.

 

Finally, but no surprise this time, is BT.  Every time I run a customer experience workshop I ask people to share a couple of stories of good and bad experiences they’ve had.   There are brands who feature regularly in both camps but BT is by far the most frequently cited company for bad experiences.

On Trustpilot, they score just 0.3 out of 10 from the last 1700 reviews.  Worryingly, if you were leading BT, many comments talk about the highly negative emotional impact – “I’m being driven to despair, I’m distraught and powerless” is just one recent example but reflected by many others too.  The recurring themes here are an inability to find someone to take ownership of a problem, staff attitude and promises that aren’t kept, again and again.

That really isn’t what you want people to be sharing about your brand.  It’s proof the brand is purely what people tell each other it is, regardless of what the strapline says it should be.  And so BT’s internal rhetoric, it would appear, has some way to go.   They talk openly about their approach being to “put customers first”, about wanting to create “the most customer-focused company in the world” and having an ambition by 2020 to “deliver great customer experiences”.  Easy to say, much much harder to do.

 

And in a way, that’s the point. Whether you have made a public declaration to be the best customer experience company or you are simply about making profit, it doesn’t matter to us as customers – the very least we expect from any business is that we can trust them to do what they promise, they’ll make it easy and we won’t have any reservations about doing it again.  Surely, the basics are not too much to ask?

 

As with most review sites views tend to be polarised.  So at the other end of the spectrum, regularly attracting fans and scores of 9s and 10s are the likes of Moo.com, Mr Memory, Outdoorkit and Dial-a-Flight.  These are not corporate giants but by and large they consistently get the basics right , the things those at the bottom of the pile can’t seem to manage.  Common themes cited by customers are that they all have friendly and knowledgable employees, they do what they say they will and they keep customers informed. They make it feel like they’re on the customer’s side, they are perceived as good value and are easy to do business with.  It’s no more complicated than that but the consequences for the bottom line are summed up neatly by one Outdoorkit customer who says “I seem to shop here more and more lately”.

good or bad cx

Are you creating despair or fans? Or both?

I’ve looked at the ends of the scale to make the point. But is there anything to learn from those in the middle? I’d say lots.  In terms of rising expectations, today’s scores of 8 will be tomorrow’s 7 and next week’s 6 so beware of complacency.  Average mid-range scores also show these companies can and do get it right sometimes – they’ve done the hard bit but just lack the consistency.  They have the ability, they just need to make the good things happen regularly rather than sporadically.

Having the aspiration to give great experiences is one thing but the people who lead and manage in organisations must also be sure they have a total self-awareness about what it’s really like to do business for anyone at anytime and anyhow.  By all means protect and improve the good experiences but their presence doesn’t automatically mean an absence of more damaging experiences.

 


I hope the blog gives you some food for thought about your own customer experiences but do get in touch if you have any questions or comments.  Use this site or send an email to me at [email protected] or call me on +44 (0) 7917 718072.  Thank you for taking the time to read the post.  Jerry

Who hangs around longer: complacent employees or valuable customers?

In the world we live in it seems to be very easy to over-complicate things; to make a cottage industry out of lots of stuff.  Inside a large corporate recently I saw a project managed by several highly-paid people whose goal was to document all the organisation’s other projects.

So it’s not surprising that when people talk about customer experience there are some who roll their eyes and want to get back to their day-job.  It’s seen as interfering with running their bit of the business. Or it’s too expensive and “we’ve got more important things to worry about”.  They’re the ones who will say, “It’s ok, we’re making money, we’ve got customers, why do anything differently?”…042

Ian Golding wrote an emotional blog last month about why Ritz Carlton has the reputation and repeat business it does.  Yes, Ritz Carlton is at the premium end of hotel accommodation but the core of the experiences they offer is not expensive; it’s a mind-set and an attitude that’s as easily and as effectively adopted by a hotel chain as a telecoms business, utility or a local café.

The point is that not only does it cost very little, the flip-side is that leaving such basics untendered can cost huge amounts in revenue, profit and customer loyalty. Putting a poster on the wall, a powerpoint slide or a statement on the website proclaiming that “We put customers at the heart of everything we do” is easy.  It’s not easy to do but it’s not impossible either.

At the risk of being accused of being a grumpy old man take, for example, common courtesies.  A “Thank you” here and a “Please” there.  Are they a consistent part of our customer experiences? They often won’t feature in any journey mapping exercise because they are so basic.  Of course that happens all the time, doesn’t it?

I know it’s not the case for two very well-known food retailers.  One sets out its stall to “give excellent customer service with an emotional benefit that feels good and feels right”.  The other has “a renewed focus on the consumer …to achieve success”.  The reality though is somewhat different.

I live in an urban area where I’m lucky to have had these two chains within walking distance for many years.  Despite the high turnover of staff in that time, by and large the people have always been polite.  In both stores though, things have changed and increasingly the people there are rude and contemptuous.  They are not offensive, but there is the impression of complete disinterest.

Where once we would get “That’s £5.10 please” followed by “Thank you” as they hand me my change, I now hand over my goods and get an impatient look back.  Apparently, I’m magically supposed to know exactly how much I owe them without them telling me or moving the lottery cards stand out of the way so I can see the display on the till.  Having had to ask what I owe, the change is unceremoniously dumped into my hand with no comment, let alone it being counted out with a “Thank-you”.

Instead, I find myself saying thank-you to them, then cursing myself as I leave, knowing it should be them thanking me for paying their wages.

If it happened once I could dismiss it as someone having a bad day.  We all do and there are more important things in life to worry about.  However, to happen each time creates a real feeling of being treated with a lack of respect.

Contempt is a corrosive thing in any relationship.  If either side senses it exists, the going of separate ways becomes an inevitability.

As it happens, one of the big-four opened one of its local supermarket stores recently. It wasn’t needed and the arrival of one of the major players met lots of opposition.reputation

However, the local incumbents didn’t deserve the loyalty they thought they were entitled to and as a result I and many others choose the more corporate option.  Local people work in there too and they are every bit as polite and as professional as you want them to be. They say hello, smile and help make things quick and easy. Why would I choose an unpleasant experience over a friendly one?

So when it comes to designing customer experiences there are a couple of lessons here.  One, are we overlooking the things that are really important?  It doesn’t have to be complicated.

The second is that when a sceptical Operations, Sales or Finance Director asks how much it will cost to have better customer experiences there are a hundred such stories that show the cost of keeping customers can be pretty much zero yet the real cost of not having those basics in place is huge.

Unfortunately for the bottom line, complacent employees will out-last customers who would be loyal but who also have a choice. The not-so secret to the right customer experience is attitude – especially at the organisational level.

John Lewis, npower and Ford – in very different places with customer experience

 

Depending on the way you look at it, complacency is either the arch-enemy of customer experience or the reason it exists.  I’ve seen many a sceptical director shrug and say “Why bother? We’re making money so we must be doing it right”.

Yet while the heart of customer experience might be more a way of thinking than functional, the warning signs of where it’s going wrong can be very obvious and very tangible.

Take John Lewis.  Over the years it’s been one of our most celebrated brands, synonymous with straightforward, easy and helpful customer experiences.  And the partnership has seen the benefits in its commercial performance as a result.

So here’s a question:  out of 10, where 0 is rubbish and 10 is brilliant, what would you say JohnLewis.com scores on Trustpilot at the moment?  I know there have been a few issues of late but I’d have said 7s and 8s at worst.  Time to think again.

Based on over 2,000 customer reviews the average score as of this week is …..  1.4 out of 10.

 

john lewis 1.4

 

How and why did that happen?  Only those inside John Lewis know the answers but one suggestion is the outsourcing of its customer experiences.  Handing over your brand to a third party is no excuse, only a reason.  Outsourcing may promise hand-offs that are invisible to customers and a lower per-transaction cost.  However, without the controls to ensure consistency of the intended experiences the number of unnecessary contacts increase, the costs go up and customers’ loyalty goes down.  Years of goodwill being unravelled for all to see.

As with any customer measurement system, there are caveats and foibles.  But I wonder how many organisations would act differently if public metrics such as the Trustpilot score or Tripadvisor rating were more visible internally and part of the voice-of-the-customer mix.

Ironically, over in the energy sector, npower maybe further along the organisational self-awareness curve.  It’s often in the news for the wrong reasons;  scrapping its dividend payment, being fined £26m by Ofgem for failing to treat customers fairly and being told if things don’t improve they will be barred from selling their services.   And on the back of its results this week came the announcement that there will be a significant human cost with 20% of its workforce to be laid off.

With that news though came a plan, a two-year recovery programme.  So for npower, at least the reasons for its difficulties are known and it is trying to do something about them.  Lower wholesale energy prices, government obligations and a quicker than expected shift to renewables are to blame in part.  However, it is the self-inflicted broken processes and billing infrastructure that are driving many customers away.

I’m a customer of npower and of John Lewis.  For the people who work there and for my own sanity I really want them to come right.  Npower has plans but the signs are that things have a way to go.  For example, I recently received three identical envelopes in the same post.  Inside, three identical annual statements with identical supporting information notes – tripling the cost at a stroke and leaving me playing the spot-the difference, wondering if I’ve missed something subtle but vitally important.

npower statement

 

Do they know that’s happening? If not, why not?  But if they do know, wouldn’t a quick letter or email to explain that I don’t have to worry about missing something help?  It’s about knowing what the experience is like today and how it feels compared with what it should be like and having the appetite to do something about it.  Making things worse, the main call-to-action appears to be to switch suppliers so exactly what the statements mean and what I’m supposed to do next will have to be the subject of a call to their helplines…  I hope the recovery plan will be using lower customer effort as a measurement of success.

In contrast, the organisational self-awareness that Ryanair had prompted it to launch the ‘Always Getting Better’ programme.  The about-turn in being customer focused is bearing fruit in its forward bookings, load factors and customer feedback.   Meantime, motoring giant Ford meantime is also setting about the way it does things.ford wheel logo

Speaking earlier this year, Ford’s President and CEO Mark Fields talked openly about changing the culture to be more empathetic to its customers.  The mindset was no longer one of being a manufacturer or even a technology company but an innovative, user-experience company.   Ford employees are encouraged to challenge the status quo, to question tradition and to not take anything for granted.  They won’t get penalised in their performance reviews for trying something new;  the view is that succeed or fail, you learn.  And on digitalisation and data, Ford aims to identify the right experiences first then seeks the technology to deliver it.  Not, trip over itself to install latest IT systems just because it’s the latest IT system.

 

Very familiar brand names with varying degrees of organisational self-awareness.  It’s what shapes their customer experiences and as a direct consequence they will see very different results.

 


Thank you for reading the blog, I hope you found it interesting and thought-provoking.  I’d love to hear what you think about the subject so please feel free to add your comments below.

I’m Jerry Angrave, founder of Empathyce and an ex-corporate customer experience practitioner.  I’m now a  CX consultant and an official trainer for the CXPA’s professional qualification to be a CCXP. If you’ve any questions about improving customer experiences or CX professional development do please get in touch.  I’m on +44 (0) 7917 718 072 or on email I’m [email protected]

To subscribe for future posts please send an email to [email protected]

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Customer experience culture: Ford’s perspective

A customer-centric culture doesn’t happen simply because it’s on a presentation slide as a strategic pillar.  It’s a topic that risks being swamped by platitudes and theory so I was curious to hear Mark Fields, President and CEO of Ford Motor Company, talk about what the transformation to a customer experience culture looks like in reality.  

The size of the organisation is irrelevant but I wanted to share some of his thoughts from a recent FastCompany interview .  There are a number of characteristics that we can all identify with, learn from or at least be reassured that we’re heading in the right direction.  

 

Firstly, Mr Fields emphasises the need to be very clear about who you are.  In Ford’s case they have been a manufacturing company.  With connectivity and the internet-of-things creating huge possibilities they are now moving through being a technology business to a user-experience and mobility company.

Transformation can be a scary word for many employees.  Ford’s approach therefore is to be clear that it’s not about moving from an old business to a new business, they are moving to a bigger and better business.  And that will need to include winning over everyone in the supply chain and the franchised sales and service teams too.

Wherever they work, colleagues are encouraged to challenge custom, to question tradition and to not take anything for granted.  Having worked for large corporates who frowned upon seeking and sharing learnings from outside the sector, that alone is refreshing to hear.

Ford reassures its people they wont get penalised for trying things, knowing that some will fail and some will succeed.  It might be in product design, customer engagement or stakeholder management.  It might be in new methods of customer feedback or in innovative ways to bring to life what it’s really like to be a customer.  But, so the approach goes, you learn whether you win or lose.

Virgin Atlantic has a similar philosophy.  Google Glass had certain benefits but the airline wanted to see how else it could make the lives of its employees better.  With wearable technology, they knew it would take some time for a critical mass of customers to use it but they found real advantages for their operations team.  As a result Virgin’s dispatchers now use smart watches to improve the turn-around efficiencies of aircraft.

On technology, with all the data, sensors and processing power we now have, Mark Fields is clear.  He wants Ford to be known for being an automotive and mobility company but is very aware of the risk of falling into the trap of technology for technology sake.  His answer is to think about the experiences first then find the best technology to deliver them.  It’s the same principle with customer measurement;  get the experience right first and the metrics will look after themselves.

It means that at Ford, there is a new and relentless focus on empathy.  They are using ethnography to better understand their customer personas, their interactions and how the products and services are used.  It gives greater certainty that the changes being made are the right ones.

road to success no shortcuts

There are no shortcuts on the road to cultural change

Cultural change is never quick.  After all, it’s a state of mind and isn’t something that can be project managed.  The right changes will not happen if the organisation is not open to the very idea of customer-centricity.  So to have the boss eulogising about the focus on customer experiences suggests the chances of longevity are good.

That said, Ford will be very aware that changing a culture takes years.  Back in 1909, customer-centricity had a different meaning.  To improve productivity and make the car affordable to the masses, the company’s founder Henry Ford restricted customers’ colour choice to black.  Those with memories of more recent times may recall Ford’s 1990s advertising campaign in which Brian May’s rousing soundtrack promised “Everything we do is driven by you”.  Albeit a strapline with an inward-looking perspective, it was well-intended.

So while first challenge is to have the right mindset, it doesn’t stop there. The key is then to keep up the momentum, to make sure everyone understands what that frame of reference is, why it’s important and what it means for them on a day-to-day basis.

Ford is not alone in having such a philosophy and Mark Fields isn’t the first CEO to say they are customer-centric.  Time will tell.  To succeed, I believe an organisation must combine a deep understanding of its customers with highly motivated employees.  But most important of all is that the business must also nurture a culture where those insights and enthusiasm are allowed the opportunity to prosper.  At best, it will drive a business forward as it adapts to the changing world.  At worst, it will stop it being from standing still and being overtaken.

 


Thank you for reading the blog, I hope you found it interesting and thought-provoking.  I’d love to hear what you think about the subject so please feel free to add your comments below.

I’m Jerry Angrave, founder of Empathyce and an ex-corporate customer experience practitioner.  I’m now a  CX consultant and an official trainer for the CXPA’s professional qualification to be a CCXP. If you’ve any questions about improving customer experience or CX professional development do please get in touch.  I’m on +44 (0) 7917 718 072 or on email I’m [email protected]

To subscribe for future posts please send an email to [email protected]

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Interview: learning from MOO about the link between culture, customers and the certainty of growth

Whatever your definition of Customer Experience, it’s a means to a commercial end and not a platitudinous end-game in itself.  It’s a way of being better at business and that’s especially important to those holding the purse strings where having confidence about the returns is everything.
But a cost-benefit analysis is only credible if the assumptions upon which it is dependent are given a culture in which they can become reality.  I therefore want to find out if those putting up the money could see culture and customers’ experiences as a better predictor of ROI than a spreadsheet calculation.  To help me on my quest, I met recently to speak with Dan Moross of MOO.


 

Customers of MOO rave about what it’s like to do business with them.  Tech gurus and start-up commentators have them on their “ones-to-watch” lists.   And this nine-year old web-to-print company seems to have little problem attracting top talent and securing investment.customer centric culture

They must be doing something right so I’m keen to know how a company increases its chances of success and what roles customer experience and employee engagement play in that.  I want to know if the positive customer feedback and positive investor sentiment is a happy coincidence or deliberate cause-and-effect.

Being confident about future business growth is about making the right decisions about investment and resource.  How we use these finite commodities is often based on a mechanical cost-benefit calculation, the bit we flick to first in a business case.  However, the likelihood of that ROI being realised is totally dependent on something rarely assessed to the same degree – the culture.

Is that a fluffy nice-to-have or an essential characteristic of a successful business?

Proving it, quantifying it and justifying it are all harder to do especially when the audience to be won over is a sceptical investor such as a venture capitalist or finance director.  Meaningless platitudes, buzzwords and excuses of legacy systems don’t cut it.  Certainty and predictability do, so I want to understand how reliant that commercial confidence is on having engaged employees who deliver the right customer experiences.

 

 

I meet Dan at MOO HQ – a whitewashed, converted warehouse in the bustling backstreets of London’s Shoreditch.  It’s a light, airy and spacious workplace, made more so by relocating the heavy printing machinery to accommodate the growing number of people in its team, or crews as they are called here.  It’s friendly, energetic and has the confidence of a company that’s perfectly at home in using design and technology to bring together the best of the digital and physical worlds.

Dan Moross, Director of Customer Services at MOO

Dan Moross, Director of Customer Services at MOO

At a quick glance, MOO’s proposition is simple.  They’ll print your business cards and business stationery and they want you to go away feeling good about it.  But look a little further and there is something very exciting going on here and it’s all rooted in the culture.

Dan is MOO’s Director of Customer Services but as job titles go he’s much more comfortable with the website’s more straight-talking version: “He’s in charge of making sure everyone is happy with their order”.  It’s his passion, he tells me, never happier than when making one of his customers happier.

We pass two huge TV screens that track real-time performance.  Nothing new there.  But it’s not call volume, average handling time, or agent availability on show, that type of data is collected and shared elsewhere.  The purpose is to help build the connection between customers and employees.  One screen relays in real-time what customers are saying about MOO on social media.  The other celebrates every customer purchase with a picture of the order, which country they are in and whether it’s their first, second or twentieth order.  It’s the digital version of ringing a bell every time there’s a sale.

 

 

Dan has been with MOO since the very start and as I learn later, didn’t consciously set out to manufacture a culture.  They simply did what felt right and it’s paid dividends as the past has put MOO in a strong position for the future. They have just been awarded a multi-million pound rolling credit facility by Barclays’ new Fast Tech Growth Fund.  MOO is in the Future Fifty, a showcase of the UK’s brightest digital businesses.  It recently appointed a chairman whose CV includes top jobs at LoveFilm and Mothercare.

And customers like them a lot, evangelical even.  They serve people in over 200 countries and have offices popping up around the world.  Their Net Promoter Score, based on the totality of the experience is something many organisations will seek but rarely achieve.  On Trustpilot they have a score of 9.4 out of 10, with 86% giving the full five stars.

Not surprisingly then, the company is justifiably proud of what it’s done and confident about the future too. “For our customers, quality and premium is standard.  We want people to be thrilled with what they get from us.  We’re the Apple of printing. If anyone’s going to disrupt the market we’ll make sure it’s us”.

Those are not convenient sound-bite aspirations, the mindset is one of a business that’s already there.  They may not be the cheapest but they know very well that people will indeed pay a premium for the right experience.  They also know they can’t be complacent and that however good the experience is today, it will need to evolve to ensure the business evolves.

 

 

So inevitably, MOO will fly the start-up nest and move into what Dan describes as the next and hardest phase; continuing the rapid growth that investors demand while protecting what got them there in the first place – outstanding customer service.  Certainty of growth is what makes them attractive to investors and talented people.  The risk is simple:  lose the growth and everyone loses interest.

MOO knows that the brand is only as good as customers tell each other it is.  It’s the reason why MOO’s growth in future will be focused on helping its customers through design and technology.  Crucially though, there’s an acknowledgment that creativity and digitalisation alone are not enough.

Dan talks about how important MOO’s people are.   “They work hard, take the job seriously but also have some fun along the way.  We encourage people to be part of MOO’s culture, part of the customer experience.  People who work here are part of a community. They’re ambitious. They do a good job, look out for each other, tackle things together and love what they do.”

“We’ll hire those who are good at their job but we also want people who are already passionate about design, technology and human beings.  And we want to feel we could go to the pub with them”.

Cultural fit is not the sole preserve of customer services either.  People joining for non-customer facing roles such as Legal, HR, Marketing and Finance are expected to be every bit as part of the community, immersed in and helping to preserve the brand, as anyone else.  Those who start at MOO will spend time in most other parts of the organisation to create a better understanding of each others’ role, contribution and challenges.

 

 

Having the right culture that leads to the right commercial outcomes doesn’t happen by accident and I’m intrigued how that happens.  Dan smiles proudly.  “We didn’t set out with a piece of paper and write a policy. It’s just been organic. Nothing is prescribed. No-one likes to be told what to do.  It’s implied, not scripted.  It’s about outcomes and we give our people the tools that allow that to happen.  We trust our people.  We don’t want them to lose their personality, their creativity and their engagement.  If they do, they won’t give great customer service.”Customer centric culture

The slightly maverick anti-corporate tone belies the fact that the business is as tightly run as any serious commercial operation.  There are effective controls in place everywhere, vast reams of data are analysed to drive efficiencies and a robust performance management process ensures that and risks are addressed before they become issues.

Trusting people to be creative leads us on to talk about MOO’s customer promise:  “We move heaven and earth to make sure you’re happy with your order”.  It’s something that would make most finance directors and lawyers nervous.  But it’s that very approach which fuels the growth FDs are looking for – customers buying again, buying more premium products and telling others to do the same.

The result is an upward spiral, one key benefit of which is a gross margin that creates headroom for doing things differently and better than their competitors.  Reprinting a pack of business cards at no additional cost to the customer because of a typo, even where it was the customer who made the mistake, is done without flinching or escalating.

 

 

It’s that kind of empathy with what’s emotionally important to their customers that influences people to buy from one company over another. Competitors could replicate the promise but if they don’t replicate the culture, it will get treated it as an incremental cost and won’t last beyond the pilot stage.  Culture, it’s clear already, is a real competitive differentiator.

Making its customers feel important is not an empty promise.  Many companies try to put themselves in their customers’ proverbial shoes to get to know them better.  MOO though, already has a genuine affinity with its customers.  Dan explains, “We might have the best part of 400 employees but we were a small business once, like most of our customers now. We identify with them”.  MOO now has large global corporates as clients but back in the day they could easily have been one of their own customers.  “We think like them”, Dan asserts.

For a company whose future is so reliant on technology, it means they must also be dependent on another quality that many businesses struggle with: change.  They have kept their tech development in-house and despite being a confident start-up, MOO has internal challenges common to most organisations. Securing project resource where demand outstrips supply, prioritising IT activity where there is a finite budget and questioning whether they are too nice to customers.

So I’m interested in whether having such engaged people makes it easier to lobby for, and deliver, the right changes. “Yes it does, but the stage after start-up is the most difficult.  It’s one thing to be nimble and fun but rapid growth means it’s even more important to instil the original ethos and keep the start-up mentality in a workforce that’s very new to the company.  It’s also about having the right processes for the right people.  The culture, our future, is our people”.

 

 

Dan’s final thought on what keeps him and the crews pursuing the next level of success is typically understated. “Work should be enjoyable. The day it stops being exciting is the day we all stop”.

I ask if there’s any scepticism internally about the link between good customer service and commercial success. “That’s not even debatable.  Our business relies on people coming back because the products are good.  They know we’ll help them get what they need, when they need it. If we degrade the customer service simply to prise open margins a bit, we won’t be able to do what we do.  We won’t be any different, people will be less likely to come back and it will cost rather than make money as a result.  If we do that the predictability of our business dies”.

Do investors see it that way too and believe that engaged customers and employees are essential for predictable growth?  Dan’s reply is emphatic.

“Investors value it massively.  They’re also very proud to have something so highly regarded in their portfolio.”   And if you think about it, customers are investors of a sort too and they’re making it very clear that they like being on the receiving end of the right culture.

So is culture a better predictor of ROI than a number on a cost-benefit spreadsheet?  There’s a place for both but the numbers mean little if there’s not the values to turn them into reality.  For me then, possibly predictably, it’s a certainty.

 

The author Jerry Angrave wishes to express sincere thanks for Dan Moross of moo.com for being so generous with his time and for sharing his thoughts. 


 

 

Thank you for reading the blog, I hope you found it interesting and thought-provoking.  I’d love to hear what you think so please feel free to add your comments below.

I’m Jerry Angrave, an ex-corporate customer experience practitioner and since 2012 I’ve been a consultant helping others understand how best to improve their customer experiences.  If you’ve any questions about nurturing customer centric cultures or any other CX issue do please get in touch for a chat.  I’m on +44 (0) 7917 718 072 or on email I’m [email protected]

Thank you Jerry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jerry Angrave

CCXP LogoCustomer Experience awards judge