Is now an appropriate time to Spring-clean our Customer Experience programme?

People in Customer Experience roles are an energetic, passionate bunch. They are also resilient and have bags of perseverance.

Nonetheless, as lockdown restrictions persist I’ve heard from a couple of Customer Experience teams who are feeling a little lost right now. While grateful to still have a job, they were asking what practical things they could be doing to keep a sense of moving forward when many elements of their usual role were not possible.

Of course the wider context is indeed that friends and colleagues have been laid off, furloughed again or have had to find other roles and new careers. It may, understandably, be the least of your or their priorities right now. Our collective health and well-being is what matters.

But, if you are in a Customer Experience role and your thoughts turn to making the best of a bad situation, I hope these suggestions may help a little. They are based on my own experience and on what I hear others are doing. Please add your thoughts to the LinkedIn post on what else you are focusing on.

Employee experience

There are still tough times all round at the moment. If you haven’t lost your own job, chances are you know someone who has. Sparks of positivity can easily get smothered in a blanket of uncertainty. So more than ever before we must still look out for each other. A quick call, an email or text just to check-in and ask “You ok?” goes a long way.

There’s a large amount of resources on wellbeing at the CIPD website and here too from Lane 4.

Keep spirits up by sharing stories, reliving examples of brilliant (or funny) customer experiences that will give everyone a lift and a smile. It’s easy for colleagues to think everything they do is routine, one cog in a big machine, that nothing exciting ever happens. But keep talking about what made / makes your organisation different and special. Be proud to “Show and Tell” about going that extra mile. Draw out the positives from the current situation such as better ways of working, more creativity and camaraderie.

Beyond that, keep engaging as best you can, ask your team and stakeholders what they need from you, how would they improve communications and what tools, focus or information do they need to deliver the right customer experiences?

Customer engagement (even when they’re not able to be a customer)

There have been some great examples of engagement over the last year even when there might not be any customers at the door.

It’s about providing some degree of value and as long as it’s sincere can be fun, informative and educational.  Your Sales or Marketing team may be under severe pressure to wring out every last revenue opportunity; if that’s the case at least get them to be very transparent and honest rather than a badly-disguised sales pitch. We’ll all remember how we feel we were treated by companies in these times. The same goes for how our customers feel about us.

In the UK, we’ll remember how we felt when we heard the National Trust was opening the doors to its parks and grounds for free in the very early days of the first lockdown. It was necessarily short-lived but it was a hugely well-intended gesture. We appreciate airports, supermarkets and retailers giving us a behind-the-scenes look at their business and running competitions to keep us engaged. They told us what they’re doing and how we could help them help us. We doff our hat to people like Joe Wicks who gave us exercise classes every morning for free.

As they say, what goes around come around and so when we are able to, we’ll support those who showed they were on our side.

But we’ll also remember what we thought of those companies whose leadership teams treated their employees with contempt, dragged their heels on giving refunds and tried to make a quick buck ‘because they could’. Any customer engagement they tried was insincere and completely undermined by their actions elsewhere. Will we be as supportive when we have a choice about whether to give them our money again?

Review VoC and Metrics

Now is not the time for process audits disguised as customer surveys. It never has been. There are many positives to be coming out of this situation especially around humanity, kindness and creativity and if it helps rid us of pointless ‘surveys’ that’s no bad thing either.

For most companies it’s not really practical any more to ask “How satisfied are you with our payment process?” or “You’d recommend us, right?”. Those are important but there are more fundamental worries, fears, hopes and expectations going on inside customers’ heads right now.

We need to listen and listen-up well. How can you adapt your listening posts to ask customers what they need from you? How are you reviewing your understanding and reporting to drive meaningful actions? What worked a few years ago when it was set up may not work as well as it could now.

Does everyone, right around the business, know what customers are thinking, saying and doing – and why?

If you’re not doing so already, lower customer volumes might mean there’s an opportunity to close that loop; let customers know you’ve had their feedback and what you’re doing about it.

Now might be the time to slim down your surveys in order to get more, and a better quality of, response. Do you make your customers wade through 15 questions about income, postcode and their favourite film, before asking them what the experience was like and why, just to satisfy a hunger for data?

How about setting up that customer panel you’ve always wanted?

When things settle down will you carry on measuring the same stuff because it’s easy? Or, can you engineer a switch to measuring the things customers value the most and that are aligned to delivering on the strategy? Why measure advocacy rates to three decimal places when the strategic vision is, for example, all about making things more convenient and friendly? Why not plan to measure and report on how convenient and friendly customers found you? Is it a convenient time to shake off the obsession with the numbers and get the leadership team to focus instead on the qualitative drivers?

And it could be timely to revisit the persistent “What’s the ROI of customer experience?” question. Engage the boffins in the Insight or Finance teams to calculate the correlation between better experiences, higher lifetime values and commercial performance indicators.

Personal development

Keeping match fit in terms of thinking and planning is essential right now. We need to hit the ground running when we come out of this and, perhaps, put ourselves in a prime position to secure a new role.

Look at what other companies are doing to stay engaged with their customers and learn from the good and the mistakes. There are plenty of resources, podcasts and discussion forums such as those from CXM Magazine, MyCustomer, Ian Golding, Jeanne Bliss and the CXPA to name but a few. And of course, CX competency coaching and for the CCXP exam is still available remotely if you’re looking for a professional qualification.

As a CX professionals it is essential we have a commercial leaning in our conversations and actions. So snuggle up to your Financial or Commercial team to see what their challenges are, how the business makes its money and what language they use. Share a virtual cup of coffee with a Programme Manager to see how they set their priorities (and so how you might get the customers’ perspectives into decision-making).

Spend time with the analysts to understand how they turn data into insight so you’re better positioned to pre-empt questions you may get from the Board. And take time out with the Marketing heads to see what plans they have for the brand promise this year and how what they do relates to what you do.

Stakeholder management

In a similar vein to the personal development, get in touch with the leaders of your organisation, colleagues in other functions or external partners you’ve always meant to engage with but always had an excuse not to.

Understand their role and challenges. Help them understand the value of having a focus on Customer Experience. Invite them to be part of your workshops and updates and welcome them into gang of internal CX champions.  Get invited to their meetings to put your (the customer) perspective into their planning.

Nurturing those relationships now will pay dividends in the weeks and months to come when initiating the connections may be harder to do.

Journey Mapping

If you’ve not done any journey mapping before it’s an insightful eye-opener and story-finder. It can still be done remotely and personally I use a combination of Zoom and MURAL.

It may lack the immersive nature of onsite workshops and ethnographic studies but the output will be better than doing nothing. It’s a great way for people across the business and partners to come together and learn more about their own organisation. Make sure that once you’ve looked at things from a customer persona’s perspective you validate it with real customers. You’ll have plenty of ideas so also ensure you also a clarity of direction to prioritise what should be done next.

If you’ve already carried out journey mapping, now is maybe the time to move on from the ‘end-to-end’ journeys. Instead, look at those micro-journeys, key moments or other personas you never thought you’d get round to. Even a small group of three or four of you can be productive. For example, an airport might look at what it’s like for a family with a disabled person to arrive at 3am in the pouring rain. Or, what happens when a wheelchair is lost? A housing association might review the experience of someone who needs a leaky roof repaired. Or a SaaS company may map the journey of its own Customer Success managers’ first day on the job.

CX Maturity Assessment

This takes a real step back from the day-to-day business to contemplate your customer centricity. Seek views from colleagues and those you’ve not met yet in the far-flung corners of the business on whether they know what the CX vision is and whether they’re clear about the role they can play. If there’s not a CX vision then prepare one as part of the CX Strategy – no business sets out to do a bad job but is there clarity on exactly how good you want to be and how committed to that you are? What does that look like on a day-to-day basis? What will you always do and never do?

Is the brand promise to “put customers at the heart of everything we do” something employees believe in based on what they see and hear?

It’s also worth reviewing your internal governance, the beating heart of your CX programme. Are the right people involved and does it have a strong mandate? Is it working effectively and cross-functionally in prioritising and assigning actions? Is it good at finding practical ways of sharing stories throughout the organisation and bringing it all to life internally? What leadership behaviours are present or absent in supporting the customer-led goals?

Future planning

We’re clearly still on a bumpy ride and so it may seem a little challenging to plan for a future when we’ve no idea quite what it will look like.

Nonetheless, there are positive signs on the horizon and history teaches us that we will be back up and running at some point. When that time comes, we don’t want to sit there looking at our competitors with envy and wishing we’d thought of that, wishing we’d made better use of our time now.

So, if we can, make time in the diary to think what we can do in future that is right for us and our customers. How can we act and behave, change and innovate in a way that means our competitors will be looking to us with envy instead? How can we be different and/or better at what we already do for our customers? How have our customers needs and expectations changed?

Apply some Design Thinking principles to solve your customers’ problems. Get creative, get innovative and don’t put any barriers in your way. The checks and “How the heck will we do that?” can come later.

The commercial reality is that the companies who stand the best chance of survival are not just the ones who are financially, strategically and operationally well-managed. They empathise with how they fit into their customers’ lives and give customers no reason to go anywhere else.

There is no shortage of evidence to show the positive, commercial impact of better customer experiences. So having an absolute clarity of direction and commitment to strengthen the customer experience will help protect the business in the near future and beyond.

Sadly, last year we lost Tony Hsieh but the Zappos mindset lives on. It is every bit as important now as it has every been:  “We’re in the people business, we just happen to sell shoes”. It’s a mindset that many more organisations would do well to adopt in times to come.

 

It is not an exhaustive list but I hope it helps is some small way. Please add your thoughts about what else are you doing or plan to do between now and when things return to some kind of normality.

But as I said at the start, I’m very aware that many friends and colleagues are losing their jobs or changes at work mean much of this may be academic. My thoughts go out to you. We will get through it. I know that when we have to dig deep it’s surprising how deep we can go. In the coming days and weeks there will be opportunities to regroup, reset and reboot.

The global community of CX professionals is fantastic at sharing and caring and it’s great to know you are out there. In that spirit, if you simply want to have a chat about what you’re going through or if I can be a sounding board for any questions around customer experience do let me know – message me on LinkedIn or email [email protected]

 

Jerry Angrave is Customer Experience Director at Empathyce, a CX consulting and coaching company. Jerry is a CCXP (Certified Customer Experience Professional) and author of The Journey Mapping Playbook published by De Gruyter in October 2020.

[email protected]   +44 (0)7917 718072

Where to start customer journey mapping

Ok, so we like the idea of it. We’re planning a programme of workshops and we’re thinking about how the outputs will plug into everything else the business is doing. But, just where do we start with customer journey mapping? Which experiences should we focus on first?

After all, there are so many to chose from: do we pick the ones we’re most familiar with? The ones that generate the most complaints? Or the ones that will give us the greatest value? We can’t do them all at the same time so we need to prioritise; in other words, decide “who” is doing “what”.

Start your customer journey mapping

Customer Journey Mapping – a powerful tool but only if it’s strategic, efficient and influential

 

The persona/journey combination you choose will depend on a raft of considerations. That will include your business goals and the maturity of your existing CX culture but taking time now to find clarity will pay huge dividends in the future.

Customer journey mapping must be done in a strategic context, not in a vacuum or rushed. It must be effective in its methodology and its output must drive change. If it fails in any of those things, we’ll have a fun and engaging, but ultimately wasted, time in our workshops. And if that happens, not surprisingly, everyone will drift back to their day-job and next time we mention ‘Customer Experience’, eyes will roll sceptically. We’re also not looking at creating a process map here; rather, it’s about what it’s like to be on the receiving end of your processes.

Get it right though and you can share compelling stories that reshape the corporate mindset and behaviours. Your people learn more about their role in the business, you build a narrative around what it’s like to be a customer and you create that all-important internal momentum and excitement. You’ll prioritise your interventions with greater confidence, know where to take out unnecessary costs and know how to focus on creating innovative improvements.

Customer journey mapping is a powerful tool. But, back to basics. To get it right, we need to be clear about whose story will the journeys tell.

Deciding that can be easier said than done. Think, “Who, what, where, when and why?”. Just by taking the number of customer, employee and stakeholder personas, factored by the reasons they each might interact, the ways they interact and the products or services they’re engaging with and, at best, the permutations can run into the hundreds.

The first journeys you choose will depend on your own circumstances. It may already be clear but if not, here are a few considerations to help focus on what works for you:

You know instinctively – the one(s) you’ve been thinking about as you read this; the proverbial ‘burning platform’. Where is the investment in your brand promise being undermined? What is the issue everyone talks about or worse, the one everyone just dismisses as a barrier “because it’s always been that way”. If you could map only one journey, what would it be?

Which customers do you want more of? – use the insights from your data to identify which customers or partners are most valuable to you. Where does your revenue come from? The most profitable? The most likely to be active advocates? Work backwards from there, understand what they value and what the nature of their journey with you is.

High profile or political issues – it may not be a customer’s most significant journey but there’s an internal imperative for getting this one right. While the platform might not be burning as such, you know beneath the surface it’s smouldering and could ignite at any time. Showing the customers’ perspectives will help nudge everyone into action sooner than later, reducing the associated risk and snuffing out any complacency.

Be guided by your purpose, ambitions and CX Strategy – your values, strategic intent and corporate objectives will direct you to where your priorities are. How does today’s journey compare with what it should, ideally, be? Where are the gaps between today and how good you want to be? For example, if you set out to be “Earth’s most customer-friendly business”, you might look for the journeys where customers have the greatest interaction with your people.

Complaints, customer feedback and operational metrics – an obvious consideration, but your data analytics and qualitative feedback will be a good signal of where to focus effort. However, we know most unhappy customers don’t complain so don’t ignore the journeys where there may be less obvious signs of frustration. You might (should) also consider mapping the journey of when a customer complains or goes to the effort of giving you feedback.

Look beyond typical customers – thankfully we’re not all the same but processes tend to assume we are. For example, people with a disability and their families need to interact with the environment you create; I’ve often seen that if we get things right for people with a physical or cognitive disability we get right for everyone else too. And how do you deal with customers who are apoplectic with rage? They might be spitting blood because of the downward spiral created by your processes’ lack of any empathy rather than because they are simply nasty people who deserve to be ignored.

Not just customers – employees, partners, third-parties and stakeholders will all benefit from having their journey mapped. For example, it might be you can map a Customer Success Manager’s experience of getting a new client up and running. Or map what it’s like to go through your recruitment process to joining on day 1. If your employer brand talks about being a ‘meritocracy’ or simply a funky place to work, mapping out the journeys gives you plenty of evidence and stories to showcase your promise. If you outsource part of your branded experience, how easy is it for them to deliver the experience you want?

Be realistic about the scope – your customers’ journeys rarely begin at their first contact with you and most likely will continue well after their last. This is about how you fit into their lives, not the other way around. Keep it focused on understanding their experiences, not auditing your process maps. Often, today’s journey begins at the end of their last journey with you; a passenger turning up for a flight may still be seething about the lack of information from their delay last month or still has anxiety caused by an emergency landing the previous time. Can you show empathy there?

Still not sure? – get your team together and jot down the typical interactions a customer has with you over the life of your relationship with them. Organise them by themes and in chronological order. Some may last months or years; others may take minutes or seconds. But make a list and begin to pick them off one by one. If you do nothing else in the name of customer experience, do some customer journey mapping and see where it takes you.

 

Although we’re at the start of your journey mapping it’s also worth thinking about what happens afterwards; a journey should have a destination after all. So, some final thoughts:

  • Accept that you will need to build a programme of customer and employee/partner journeys to map over time; it’s not an overnight fix
  • What governance framework will you pour your outputs into? How will you keep the momentum going, communicate internally and avoid the maps gathering dust?
  • When and how will you get the journeys validated by customers? Until then, the maps will still remain an internal view of the world.
  • How will you use journey mapping as a stimulus for innovation using Design Thinking or ethnographic techniques?

Journey mapping is well worth the time and effort. It can be fun and creates ready-made cross functional teams of customer supporters. But, it does need careful planning if it is to support your strategic priorities, if it is going to be effective in its questioning and if it is going to influence what actions you take next.

 

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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 organisations create better and more commercially-minded customer experiences. 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 around the wider competencies of CX or are interested in consultancy or training support.

Thank you,

Jerry 

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