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Customer Journey Mapping – as relevant and as possible as ever

The headline act of a Customer Journey Mapping programme was always the workshop.

A very visible, tangible demonstration of how an organisation is edging towards its customer-led goals. A group of colleagues coming together to share their views and ideas, learn more about their own business and going on to be active supporters of what you’re doing.

In today’s world though, booking a meeting room and having everyone turn up in person seems so “2019”. Two people in the last week have told me their journey mapping programme is on hold because of necessary restrictions and access to offices.

It’s not easy for anyone right now, I get that. Time, people and focus let alone budgets may not be on your side at the moment. Survival, resizing and restructuring may well be more at the front of your mind.

 

Customer Journey Mapping

 

But, if there’s any way your attention can turn to your customers, if you do nothing else in the name of Customer Experience give journey mapping a go and see where it takes you. Even half an hour with a couple of colleagues on Zoom, a notepad and a healthy dose of imagination is better than nothing.

You’ll leave with a better idea than when you started about your customers’ issues and what to do about them. And that, after all, is the purpose behind journey mapping and customer understanding.

To anyone who’s hesitant about running their first or next session, have faith that it can be done remotely. Believe me. Over the last few weeks I’ve had the pleasure of running several journey mapping workshops with a variety of companies, all online. Yes, we have to adapt but they’re just as productive as when we were all swapping anecdotes and thoughts in a glassy training room.

Our customers’ behaviours, what they’re thinking and how they feel have all been tested in recent months. So even if you did a journey map last year, while parts of it will be unchanged, some elements – the critical nuances for now – might well be different.

Not surprisingly, using a combination of conferencing platforms like Zoom and collaboration tools such as Mural (other, equally good ones are available), means the facilitation of the workshop itself needs modifying. The framework you use and questions you ask will be impacted by the number of people attending and how long each session lasts. Some may be watching Netflix on a tablet tucked behind their laptop. Keeping everyone involved will draw even further on your facilitation skills if you are to keep their attention.

But journey mapping has never been just about a ‘workshop’. While that session may now look and feel different, the process to prepare beforehand and then unlock the value afterwards remains largely unchanged and every bit as important.

That value is measured not just in terms of prioritising actions to fix things but in changing the culture to have a better balance of a customer-led, commercial focus. It shifts mindsets to always think about and discuss what it’s like to be a customer. It drives better cross-functional cooperation. It creates excitement and involvement in what you’re doing. It challenges the wrong behaviours and complacency. It moves people away from chasing the scores and implementing new tech for new-tech’s sake.

And it gives clarity about how to deliver your CX vision so more customers come back more often, they spend more and share the stories you want them to share.

It’s important stuff.

Just because we can’t all be together physically doesn’t mean journey mapping can’t still be effective, strategic and influential.

When customers’ expectations, needs, fears and hopes are changing as they have done in recent months, it’s as important now as it ever was.

Give it a go if it’s at all possible. Your boss as well as your customers will thank you for it.

I’d love to hear how you get on and please get in touch if you’ve any questions.

 

Jerry Angrave is Customer & Passenger Experience Director at Empathyce, a CX consulting and coaching company.

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

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

Customer Journey Mapping, done. What next?

Here’s a familiar scenario in the customer journey mapping process.  Your workshops went well, everyone was engaged and the team is bursting with ideas. You added extra value by creating an environment where people from across all functions shared their behind-the-scenes stories. In doing so they learned a lot more about their own business, which wouldn’t have happened without you. All in all it’s a good result.Customer journey mapping process

With plenty of actions and food for thought there is now momentum. Expectations are high but the ‘journey of the journey’ has only just begun.  So as you unplug your laptop, switch off the light and leave the workshop your attention turns to what happens next.

 

In the first part of this series I explored ways to get buy-in from skeptical stakeholders for customer journey mapping workshops.  Last time I looked at how to make sure the workshop stays on track and is efficient use of time.  And for this last instalment I want to share thoughts on what to do after everyone’s gone back to their day job.

And that’s part of the challenge we now face.  We’ve got people interested and we’ve flushed out some great initiatives. However, the reality is that whatever gold we uncover and however energised we feel, we have to make it part of their day job before the wave of enthusiasm loses its energy.  We don’t want it lost in the noise of inboxes and meetings.

A large utility company I worked with recently told me they’d done some journey mapping a couple of years previously. They’d had it illustrated and they’d dig it out to compare then with now. Only they couldn’t find it. After much searching the mystery was eventually uncovered. In a sea of hot-desks at corporate HQ was a line of table-high storage units.  Beneath the glass top, but also barely visible under stationery boxes, photocopying paper and a guillotine was a cleverly illustrated customer journey. Had it been on show it would have been a powerful way to engage stakeholders. It told a compelling story and could have been a catalyst for badly needed change. But all the effort had, literally, been shelved.

So what can we do to make sure the path down which we’ve just started doesn’t wind on aimlessly?  Here is my take on just some of things we can do.

Share it

First things first, thank everyone for attending and write up the journey (s) you’ve looked at.  Beyond that, share it personally with other stakeholders who you need to be involved and demonstrate the momentum you now have, inviting them to be part of it.  Get everyone to share the outputs with their own teams and make it part of the governance process to have them reviewed and critiqued.

Sharing it widely increases the collective ownership. It will also then keep evolving into a more accurate picture of the real-world customer experience.

Show it off

Customer journey mapping isn’t, as some organisations seem to think, all about creating a pretty picture.  It’s important but not the end-game, far from it.  What it looks like will depend on what works for your own business and who your audiences are.  Some will be at a high-level and others more detailed but if you can turn the brown paper and sticky notes into something pleasing to the eye that’s great. Make it large and put it somewhere that will stay visible. Ask passers-by in the office to comment on it.

Unless you have easy access to a graphics team, my experience is that, at worst, it’s better to have a well-organised table made in PowerPoint, Keynote or Excel to tell the tale than to lose time trying making it look like a storyboard for the next Peter Jackson film.  The aim is still to help colleagues understand what they need to change and why.

Validate it

When you feel it’s in good shape, try it out on a few customers who match the persona from whose perspective it was done. Ask them if they recognise that as their journey and their issues as they pass through it. Play it back to them so they know you’ve understood and ask them what they don’t want to happen at each stage. Having that extra layer of customer validation gives enormous credibility, something that’s hugely beneficial when dealing with stakeholders, especially the one who love to pick holes in things.

Act on it

It’s the most obvious and important thing to do with a journey map but there’s simply no point in doing the maps if there’s no way of using them.  It must become a regular feature of the CX governance.  Or, as I’ve seen a few times, the creation of a journey map is the very stimulus needed for creating oversight in the first place.  The maps need nurturing and harvesting if they are to continue growing and yielding more insights.

Prioritising what to do next is then the issue. Hopefully you’ll have no shortage of possible actions but the mapping exercise will reveal what to do first. You will have identified what’s most important and how well it’s done and that then gives confidence about what to do in the short, medium and long term for customers, colleagues and stakeholders.

Picking off those things that are easy to implement and have a big impact will also demonstrate the proof of concept for when you are seeking greater investments in time, people and money.

Do more of it

It’s not a one-off exercise. The world keeps changing so the mapping will need repeating to stay relevant. That might be at least annually if not more frequently, especially as your changes get implemented and the experience evolves.  Even if nothing within the front-line business changes, customers’ expectations shift, competitors up the ante and an IT systems upgrade always seems to have an unintended consequence somewhere down the line.

It’s likely you identified several other personas in the workshop so map the same journey for them.  You’ll also have different journeys, some made by yet more personas, to map out too.  And time spent mapping what it’s like for a colleague and/or third-party to deliver the experience is as invaluable as it is necessary to complete the picture.

 

The customer journey mapping process is an essential competency of any business. It’s only part of the CX mix and without it the risks, wasted costs and commercial consequences can be significant.

But with the right engagement and preparation, with robust facilitation and with the resilience to build the momentum you’ve created, your influence will be greater, the connection between CX and the bottom-line will be clearer and the cogs of the business all fit together neatly to deliver the right experiences. A good result indeed.

 


Follow Jerry Angrave on Twitter @jerryangrave


Thank you for reading the blog about journey mapping, I hope you found it useful.  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.

Customer Journey Mapping? Why not?

Customer journey mapping.  It’s probably the easiest starting point for anyone looking to improve the right customer experiences.

Why do customer journey mapping

That said, I still encounter business leaders who see customer journey mapping as a waste of time.  They don’t see it as a means to a very commercial end;  to them it’s about employees pretending to be customers and having fun with post-it notes.  At best, they won’t release any of their people from doing their day-job to go on a ‘jolly’.  At worst, the journeys get mapped to tick a box, after which they simply gather dust.

So, this is the first in a short series of three posts on why journey mapping is important, how to make it effective and what to do with it.

First, let’s deal with the “Why?”. Customer experience professionals need the tenacity and resilience to win everyone over, whether it’s buy-in to the very concept of CX or asking for cross-functional representation in workshops.  It’s not easy when those leaders want instant gratification for any activity.

Showcasing how journey mapping leads to better experiences, which in turn improve sales, revenue and retention is acutely important.  But that alone sometimes isn’t enough to shake cynics out of the complacency tree.  They’ll say the business is making money, they have satisfied customers and employees know what they’re doing;  why change, why spend time doing what we call “journey mapping”?

One approach to get them to sit up and take notice is looking at the flipside;  ask “Why not?”.  What if we don’t do journey mapping, will we miss out on anything?  What happens if we don’t try and understand what it’s really like today and should be like tomorrow to be a customer?  Well, here are just a few things that will happen…

No meaningful purpose

The mission statement and vision, the guiding principles, should be about customers not the organisation.  Absent a real understanding of customers’ needs, hopes and expectations a business can only operate in a vacuum.  There’s no consensus around what should be done so everyone will carry on doing their own thing, preserving the corrosive effect of silos.

We waste money on the brand

Advertising expenditure in the UK this year is expected to be over £20bn.  Yet such investments will be wasted if the promises made by the brand are not backed up by the reality of the experience.  After all, the brand is what people tell each other it is, based on what they remember – not what the strapline says.  And we all know what impact the presence of broken promises has on a relationship.

customer journey mapping

That’s the customer experience team. They do what they call customer ‘journeys’…

We measure the wrong thing

It’s easy to measure the most obvious things but is that simply a process audit of what the business thinks should happen? Journey mapping will highlight the things customers value the most; we need to know how well do we do what’s most important.  It also avoids employees feeling pressured to chase a number rather than feel empowered to give the right experience.

We waste effort

Money, time and resource are all finite but one of the great things about journey mapping is that it is very helpful at prioritising what to do next.  With a deep empathetic view of customers it becomes a lot easier to challenge personal agendas, inwardly-focused projects or new products that fit in the “technology for technology sake” basket.  It’s easy to work out what things are really important to customers but we’re rubbish at doing, as well as preserving the things we’re good at.

Complacency eats away

The gap between customer expectations and reality is one of the key drivers of a sustainable business.  A company may feel secure because there’s no obvious burning platform.  As consumers, we have exposure to many companies across a variety of sectors and so our expectations of better experiences are rising as quickly as our tolerance of poor ones are falling.

We miss a big trick

An essential component of effective journey mapping is to see it from the employees’ perspectives, otherwise we have no idea how easy or difficult it is for our people to deliver the right experiences.  They know about fragile processes, about broken hand-offs, about a lack of risk-free empowerment and inflexible policies.  Their ability to deliver the experience is a link in the chain that can’t be kinked or broken.

We hand over an advantage to competitors

Chances are, your competitors are mapping their customer journeys too, meaning they will be in a better position to take customers away from you. They are de-risking the sustainability of their business by understanding what their – and your – customers will respond to positivelyyour-brand-1

 

CJM does many things, not least it informs the customer strategy, it gets employees behind a common purpose and it focuses effort in the right place. More than that though, it gives a business confidence and context for what it does, organising the thinking that will start to change things for the better.

It’s an incredibly powerful tool but it must also be disciplined and structured.  Therefore next in the series I’ll look at the ‘rules’ for how we can map journeys effectively and finally we’ll look at what to do next once the journey is mapped.

Thanks for reading the post, I’d love to hear what you think about journey mapping.

Jerry


Jerry Angrave is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP), a CX consultant with an extensive corporate background ‘doing the doing’ and specialises in professional development for those in customer experience roles.  Feel free to contact him with any questions – by email to [email protected] or by phone on +44 (0)7917 718072. More details at the website www.empathyce.com.

 

There’s no need to measure customer effort

Do we need to measure customer effort? The presence of any effort should be enough to set alarm bells ringing.  Knowing a score out of 10 or tracking a percentage may give KPI-focused colleagues a degree of comfort but that can also be an excuse to defer remedial action on the basis that “It’s not as bad as it could be, yet“.
Customer effort

If it feels wrong it probably is

Measurement of the right customer experiences in a way that fuels a rolling programme of improvement is, of course, essential.  To measure customer effort is to monitor one of the symptoms of our customer experiences but it is nonetheless very challenging to get right.  Setting up reliable and timely surveys can be a complex task but by changing the mindset there is another option for organisations looking to head down the customer effort path: simply believe that any effort is too much effort.  And the biggest clues about whether there is too much effort are often much closer than we think.

When we’re ill we don’t need a thermometer reading to tell us we have a temperature.  When it rains we don’t need to know how many millimetres fell to tell us we got soaked.  And we don’t need a metric to tell us that a customer experience is more effort than it should be.  We know when things are wrong, we have the signs and we build the processes; we don’t need to measure it to know it’s there.

Customers will tell us about the causes of complaints, niggles and gripes.  The operations and IT teams will be asked to build manual work-arounds.  Processes to fix recurring issues are created.  I recently worked with a software manufacturer who took real pride in helping customers when things go wrong or happened more slowly than expected.  What they hadn’t grasped was that the reason they had to bend over backwards all the time was because their original proposition was flawed and made it a real chore for their customers to do business with them.

If there is an element of effort then there is already a problem. It doesn’t matter what the scale or metrics say. If things could be easier for customers then there are commercial decisions to be made. Why is not easier? Are we happy to put customers through that and keep our fingers crossed that it is not, or will not become, a competitive disadvantage? A company that doesn’t bother to put the effort in itself will simply transfer that effort to customers with inevitable consequences.

By way of example, I recently flew from London to Warsaw to speak at a customer experience conference. I was impressed with the airport, Heathrow’s relatively new T2. It was quick and easy, clean and friendly. It didn’t need to be any more than that.  I got lucky on the flight too, a new 787 Dreamliner which was half empty. So far so good. It reminded me of Amazon’s perspective that the best experience is no experience. Zero effort.

Measure customer effort

Good news – suitcase is found. Bad news – zips broken, padlock missing and a whole heap of effort awaits

But when I went to pick up my bag from the luggage carousel it wasn’t there. The world has greater problems on its mind but for me at that time, late at night and with no clothes for my presentation in the morning other than what I stood in, it wasn’t what I needed.

I accept (but I shouldn’t) that bags do go missing.  But lost bags are obviously a highly regular occurrence judging by the way the process and form-filling swung into action. The very presence of that process should be mirrored by an experience that is empathetic and minimises the impact on the passenger.

There were no instructions though about what happens next, no empathy to the position I’m in.  Next morning I present my keynote in the same clothes but at least have an opening story at my and the airline’s expense.

Maybe the problem is that there are too many stakeholders, or rather a lack of communication between them.  When I returned to Heathrow the next night it took an hour to drive just to the exit of the main terminal car park. The security guys explained that the cause was roadworks on the access roads, which happen every night at the moment and so too does the ensuing chaos.  If the people who have an impact on the customer experience talked to each other they wouldn’t need to ask me how my parking experience was and they could manage expectations at the very least.

Fast forward a few days and my bag is returned home. My relief was short lived as the lock had been prised apart.  The zips are damaged beyond repair, the padlock is missing and the bag has obviously been opened. I contact the airport but get no apology, just a reply blaming the airline and a link to the airline’s contact details. Except that it’s a list of all airlines who fly out of that airport and the contact details are simply their web addresses.

Thus starts a lengthy process to try and find out who I need to talk to, how I can contact them and what information they need from me. The airline I flew with has an invalid email contact address on its website that bounces back. Not helpful.  There are then so many processes and “ifs” and “buts” that I’m now feeling like it’s too much effort to make a claim.too much effort

They shouldn’t need to measure the customer effort.  There is enough evidence internally without having to ask their customers what they are like to do business with.  They shouldn’t need to because they have designed processes that – sometimes unintentionally – put more effort onto the customer. And that should be an alarm bell ringing loudly enough without the need to know how many decibels it is.

As far as my bag is concerned, I might decide to give in and put it down to a bad experience because it’s neither time nor effort well spent.  Cynics might say that’s what they want, to make the experience so difficult that people don’t bother.  It will keep their costs down after all and keep the wrong processes working perfectly.

However, what I can do with virtually no effort at all is to choose another airport / airline combination next time.  For them, that’s a lot more costly.

 


 

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Passenger experiences and what they say to each other

Airports and the people who use them want different versions of the same thing from the passenger experience.  Whether we’re transiting through one or managing one, the common need is for it to be efficient.  But this research report into what passengers tell each other about good and bad experiences shows that the way customers define efficiency is not always the same as how airports measure it.

  • The ideal passenger experience is in airport that simply does what it’s supposed to and in a pleasant environment
  • The consequences of long queues, inadequate facilities and the wrong staff attitude are what make people use a different airport next time
  • An airport’s obsessive focus on processing efficiency risks doing the wrong things well and needing to spend resource on fixing self-inflicted problems

 

The gap between what airports think and what passengers think is a crucial one.  All the while that metrics are being collated and analysed, if they are the wrong ones, airports will be oblivious to why passengers are exercising their choices and voices.  In Barcelona last year, Andy Lester of Christchurch airport summed it up well when he talked of rebuilding after the 2011 New Zealand earthquake and observed

“If you think like an airport you’ll never understand your customers”.

We’ve seen recently a flurry of airports celebrating bigger passenger numbers and new routes with new airlines.  Yet their customers react with a sigh because many of those airports are already at or beyond passenger numbers that make going through the airport a tolerable experience.

At the risk of generalising, airports aim to get as many people through the airport as possible, as efficiently as possible.  It needs to be done in a way that means they can spend as much money as possible, come back as often as possible and tell everyone they know to do the same.  If it moves (that is either people or bags) they can barcoded, processed and measured.  How many get from A to B in as little time or at least cost becomes the primary, sometimes, sole focus.  All of which makes good operational sense, given the complexity and challenges of running an airport in a way that airlines will be confident is using.

But what are passengers concerned with and what is their version of what efficiency means?   Kiosks with red, orange and green buttons greet us everywhere to ask how the service was.  While that allows an AQS metric to be reported and tracked, there is no qualitative, actionable insight let alone allowances for mischievous kids or cleaners tapping away as they pass.  However, the travel industry is blessed with no shortage of customers willing and able to give their feedback – and that in turn creates a vast reservoir of insight not only for customers choosing an airport but for the airports to tap into themselves.

From that readily available information I’ve researched to see what customers said to each other about what makes an airport good or bad.  Using feedback on airports left at the Airline Quality / Skytrax review site I organised over 750 descriptions behind why passengers gave an airport a score of 9 or 10 (out of 10) and then 0 or 1.

Passenger experience key findings:

Where there were positive experiences, 98% of the comments can be summarised into one of two areas; either that it worked or that it was in a nice environment.  That might seem obvious, and to a large degree it is.  However, if it is so obvious then why are passengers still telling each other about cases where it’s anything but efficient?

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What is it that customers tell each other when they write about the passenger experience?

The negative experiences were more fragmented in their causes, being about the function of the airport building, how good the processes in it are, staff attitude and information.  What is clear is that a bad experience is significantly more negatively emotive than good experiences are positive. The core expectation is that everything will work as it’s meant to.  If it does, great.  But where it falls short, the consequences are commercially harmful, as typified by this message:

“I intend to avoid any lengthy stay in this airport again even if it means having to pay more to fly direct – it’s worth the price to keep your sanity”

 

In summary:

One:  55% of the reasons for a good score were simply about it being “efficient”

Airport experiences do not all have to have a Wow! factor.  First and foremost, passengers just want everything to work.  It’s a truism that without the basics in place being done well and consistently, a Wow! becomes a Waste of Work.

A noticeable number of passengers used the word “efficient” in their reviews, by which they were referring to things such as (in order of how often these were mentioned)

  • there was almost no experience, in that everything worked as it should
  • when they needed to interact with staff, the response was courteous and helpful
  • getting around the airport was easy because of good signage and easily accessible information
  • they didn’t have to wait long on arrival to collect bags and head on the next leg of their journey
  • getting to and from the airport was easy, with good connections and acceptable parking charges

 

Two:  43% of the reasons for a good score were about a nice airport environment

The most efficient, effective, high-tech and innovative processes will all have their business-case ROI ruined if the environment in which they operate makes people feel like they are being treated with contempt.  Often that happens unintentionally but if the value-exchange is one-sided, there is only so long a customer will put up with it.  Chances are they have spent a lot of time and money on this trip, they are by definition not yet where they want to be and anything that is perceived as not making their journey any easier will count against the airport.  It puts into context why people value a pleasant environment, the most common specific examples of which included:

  • shops were relevant, toilets were sufficient in number and the general facilities laid on were good
  • everywhere was kept clean and tidy
  • the layout was spacious with plenty of comfortable seating
  • the atmosphere throughout was one of calm, bright and quiet
  • good wi-fi connections were cited but this is increasingly sliding down the food-chain to be a basic expectation; its absence being more of an issue than its presence.

What do they say when the experience is a good one?  Here are some examples:

 “It’s clean. It makes you believe they are aware of their customers’ health and wellbeing”

“If you have the option to use this airport, it is a great choice”

“It never lets me down”

 

Three:  48% of the negative reasons were about the facilities

Where customers were giving airports a score of 0 or 1, the biggest gripe was that the airport couldn’t cope with the volume of passengers.  The resulting slow and uncomfortable journey through the airport creates frustration and anxiety.  It’s made worse by the fact that as passengers we not unreasonably expect airports to know exactly who is going to be in the airport each day and to be prepared.  Other consequences of the over-crowding included poor seating, a dirty and gloomy atmosphere and poor choices of food and drink.

It’s for these reasons that an airport celebrating a rise in new passenger numbers might want to acknowledge and address the concerns of existing customers at the same time.

 

Four:  28% of the negative reasons were about processes

For passengers, security, immigration and baggage handling fall into the category of processes that should just work every time. Where they do, it’s fine, but where they fall short, they can have a significant impact on influencing whether a passenger will choose that airport again.

Slow moving queues, duty free goods being confiscated in transit, poorly translated instructions and slow baggage reclaims were among the specific processes that riled customers. Again, it becomes emotive because these are all seen as avoidable inconveniences when we experience other airports who can and do get it right.

 

Five:  13% of the negative reasons were about staff

As a generally compliant travelling public (and I accept there are exceptions, such as when peanuts are served in bags), going through an airport can be a daunting experience even in the best of terminals.  The one thing we hope we can rely on is that when we need to interact with another human being there will be a mutual respect, a helping hand or at least clear instructions so we can indeed be compliant. Airports go out of their way to train staff and yet the evidence is that many are still failing.

Rude, unempathetic, incompetent, unhelpful, deliberately slow and uncaring are just some of the ways staff were described.  Any organisation is dependent on having good relationships but where one side feels they are being treated with contempt, it becomes a very deep scar to heal.

A customer wrote about their disappointing and surprising experience at one of the largest US airports where there were

“Miserable, nasty employees, barking and screaming at customers as if they were dogs”.

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Good news – plenty of seats. Bad news – information boards positioned too far away beyond the moving walkway

 

Six:  11% of the negative reasons were about information

It’s an area airports have focused on and with a good deal of success.  Making passengers more self-sufficient and having employees being better at handling questions has benefits for all sides.  But there are still airports where having the right information at the right time in the right place is still elusive;  more specifically, passengers concerns around information was that either there was none, it was inadequate, it was wrong or it was confusing – all frustrating when we live in a world dominated by technology and information.

 

So what?  Why is it important and what does it tell us?

  1. Poor experiences make people choose other airports next time.  Passengers’ expectations are not only set by what it was like last time, but by how other airports do it and by their interactions with other companies they deal with in their day-to-day lives.  So where things don’t meet the basic expectations, not only does that impact on revenue for the airport there is also a commercial consequence for airline partners.  For example, some passengers said

“I usually fly Delta but will now try to avoid them – to avoid Atlanta”, and

“Because of this airport I will never fly Etihad again”

 

  1. Depending on which piece of research you read, anything between 75% and 95% of customers are influenced by what others say.  Any robust customer strategy will have at its core a clear vision of what the experiences need to be in order that passengers will think, feel, do and share as intended.  Many organisations now build into their customer journey mapping a stage specifically to address the “I’m sharing what it was like” issues.

 

  1. An obsession with metric-driven efficiency and processes that work for the airport’s operations team but not for passengers creates blind-spots as to what will help drive non-aeronautical revenue.  Customers themselves recognised this by saying

“All of time put aside to shop was spent queueing”, and

“They have allowed way too many people to use this place. Cannot be good for business as nobody has time to spend any money in the shops or bars”

 

Declan Collier of London City Airport reinforces the point about the dangers of process focus, task orientation and metric myopia when he talks about being “in the people business” and that the fortunes of LCY will “rise or fall on the ability of its people”.

For example, last year I questioned the fanfare for an app that tells passengers where their lost bags are.  I accept that bags go missing but as a passenger, whether I’ve a smart-phone and free hands or not, I’d prefer to have seen the investment directed to not leaving me feeling awkward and helpless standing by an empty baggage carousel.  However, I was told by a large airport hub that the rationale was that it would mean transiting passengers could run for their connection without having to worry about collecting bags that weren’t there.  I was told that yes, running is part of the expected experience and my concerns about what that is like for my confused mother or my autistic son fell on deaf ears.  I was told I don’t understand airport operations and they’re right, I don’t.  But I do understand what it’s like to be a passenger.

 

  1. The best airport experiences don’t need to be expensive, complex or high-tech.  Think what a difference just having engaged, helpful and friendly staff makes – and that doesn’t take a huge piece of capex to justify, just a degree of collaboration with employees and third parties who have the airport’s brand reputation in their hands.

 

  1. One observation in the course of the research was that the high and low scores often applied to the same airports. That has to be a concern and worthy of investigating;  why can it be done so well at times but not at others?  How come all the effort and pride can create advocates some of the time but at other times is just handing passengers to competitors?

 

Final thoughts on the airport passenger experience

These days, people do not expect a poor passenger experience.  The bar is climbing higher and in simple terms that just means doing the right things well.  Earlier this year, writer Alastair Campbell travelled through Terminal 2 and sent this tweet to his 285,000 followers:

LHR tweet

Unsurprisngly, Heathrow’s social media team proudly retweeted it to a similar number of their followers.  Within 15 minutes, this positive message was shared with well over half a million people.  And all because the experience was simply – and “amazingly” – smooth and quick.  Nothing more complicated than that.

It’s not just about giving customers the right experiences every time.  To make an airport efficient for passengers as well as managers it also needs to avoid giving the wrong experiences, ever. The commercial consequences are riding on it.

Passengers know that as well as anyone.  So if there’s one message, then it is that the airport and its brand is only as good as people tell each other it is.

 

I hope you find this report useful and interesting but email [email protected] or call me on +44 (0) 7917 718 072 if you’ve any questions or comments – I’d love to hear your views.

Thank you,

Jerry Angrave

 


The job of the customer experience manager

The need to improve customer experiences has been around since cavemen traded rocks for fish.  And as our understanding of complex customer experience issues has grown, so too have the opportunities for those moving into leadership and management roles.

Having credibility to influence change is at the heart of the job.  But in reality, it can sometimes feel like ours is a lonely customer voice at a crowded and loud business table.  Therefore to be a successful customer experience practitioner isn’t just about being good at what gets done;  it’s every bit about how it’s done too.

 

The good news is that business leaders are more empathetic.  They know the impact on customer experiences of how they think and act.  It’s important because it means they are making things better – and stopping things getting worse – for their customers and balance sheets.  Job done?  Not quite.

customer experience manager

The job of the customer experience manager

The bad news is that despite the evidence it works not everyone, sees it that way.  As a customer experience professional, we therefore need to be increasingly influential with those making the decisions.

Beneath the shiny veneer of perfect customer experience platitudes is a real world that’s arguing with itself;  relentless short-termism in one corner and profitable longevity in the other.  Sometimes, indeed often, the two protagonists are in neighbouring departments.

One CEO recently told me, in front of his team, that getting customer experience right “couldn’t be more important”.  And yet a few days later when it came to making strategic decisions, it was all about taking (not necessarily the right) costs out.  The customer’s voice was not being sought, let alone listened to.  And as a result they will continue to do the wrong things well and see managing exceptions as the norm.

It’s a stark reminder that despite the proof that improving customer experiences creates better commercial outcomes, many business people remain wedded to traditional scorecard metrics, processes and tasks.   They don’t get it, they may not want to get it or their boss won’t listen even if they do get it.

Maybe that’s our fault as customer experience professionals because our own approach has not been empathetic enough.  We believe in it passionately because it works, we just need to convince the sceptics.  It’s only part of the role, but a huge part nonetheless.  And so, from my time as both practitioner and consultant, here are ten themes that I know makes our role more effective.

  1. Hunt out your stakeholders – sounds obvious, but map the web of people (not departments) who intentionally or unintentionally make the customer experience what it is.  Whatever their level, whether they’re front-line / back-office / central support or external third parties, they should all be on your list of people you want onside.  Prioritise them, pick them off one-by-one, stay close to them and then get them collaborating with each other.
  2. Build your army – chances are you can’t bring about the right changes on your own.  You need pockets of supporters, advocates in all corners of the business who will help open doors to those stakeholders and tell you what the real challenges are.  They might spring up from the most unlikely of places but people who express an interest in what you do and why you do it are invaluable.  They’re our equivalent of finding a rare Gauguin painting at the back of the garage.  Take them under your wing and they will become the veins through which the oxygen of customer experience will flow into the business.
  3. Listen to understand – make time to understand what stakeholders see as their role in the organisation, what their objectives and challenges are and why they have the issues they do.  Observe carefully;  their most important and personal motivation is often revealed in an off-guard comment or in general conversation about the state of the nation.
  4. Make it matter to them – help them look good. Use what you hear to show specifically how better customer experiences can make their job more effective.  Show how having the right experiences can help them get a better result in their own personal and team objectives.  Give them early warning nudges over a coffee rather than surprise them in the Board Room.  Let them take the credit for being more customer-centric (your boss will know it’s you who made the difference).
  5. Map their journey – if we want to see how we fit into a customer’s world and create the right responses, we map their journeys.  Why not do the same with internal customers too?  It makes conversations much more empathetic and less adversarial.  And it’s not just about their role per se – if you are inviting them to a workshop, how can you position it and present it in a way that guarantees they turn up and contribute?
  6. Invite them in – take any opportunity to show or reinforce the customer strategy.  Have your compelling and targeted “How Customer Experience makes our business better” material handy at all times, especially in your head.  Show them customer journey mapping visuals, build a physical mock-up of a customer’s world.  Host a regular customer experience forum where you get senior people from all your stakeholder areas to share their perspectives.  Create “Customer experience for non-customer experience people sessions” to help spread the word.
  7. Make them empathetic – use real warts-and-all feedback to show them what it’s like to be on the receiving end of what they do.  Remind them that they are a consumer in their own lives.  Get them to think like a customer.  Ask them how the experiences they deliver compare with other organisations in other markets they deal with.  After all, those are the ones pushing the bar of our customers’ expectations ever higher.

    Find ways to help them help themselves

  8. Talk their language – keep it commercial.  Relate using the vocabulary of what matters to them.  Link customer experience to revenue, costs, efficiency, loyalty and margins.  And despite the fanfare around the subject, don’t start the engagement of a sceptical, process-focused but key stakeholder with “Can I talk to you about customer emotions?”.  Eyes will roll and you’ll lose them before you begin.  You know how emotions fit in the bigger picture so that can come later.  Much better to say something like “I’d appreciate your thoughts on how what we do now drives what our customers do next time”.
  9. Lead by example – be proactive and be responsive. Get a reputation for having the clearest, most unambiguous emails and reports. Little things go a long way – always turn up for meetings on time, keep promises, return calls and show an interest.  I’m indebted to David Hicks of Mulberry Consulting for a great example – my answerphone message promises to call back asap but “certainly within 3 hours”.
  10. Keep the momentum going – stay on the look-out for quick wins and use them as proof of concept.  Provide updates, share successes and relay stories of what others in other markets are doing.  Be the one to create an engaging company-wide forum focused purely on customers.  And invite yourself to talk with colleagues around the business at their team meetings.

 

There will be more ways so it will be great to hear what you think.  How do you influence and manage your customer experience stakeholders?

One last thought.  To see people, attitudes and companies change for the better as a result of what you have done can be the most rewarding job in the world.  In fact, it then no longer becomes a job.  So stay true to what you believe.  Expect progress to be slow but up the ante by planning to be quick.  Whatever happens though – and I thank Churchill for his words of wisdom – Never give up. Never give up. Never ever give up.

 

Jerry Angrave

Certified Customer Experience Professional – a practitioner and consultant on the strategic and tactical ways to help organisations improve their customer experiences

 

 

 

 

 

Customer experience and lawyers

United Airlines threw a new perspective into the debate about where responsibility for customer experience sits when it handed accountability to its General Counsel.

 

In an unusual move, United has brought customer experience and lawyers together by putting its General Counsel in charge (reported by Gary Leff).   The airline has a habit of being in the media for its unharmonious relationships with guitar playing customers, monks and even its own employees.   To pull the airline off the bottom of the customer satisfaction tables and into a position where customers rave rather than rant certainly needs drastic action.  Customer experience and lawyers under the same wing – a piece of corporate brilliance and a shrewd commercial move or a temporary holding position for an internal hot potato that nobody wants to catch?Customer experience and lawyers

True, the role of GCs and their teams is changing as the stakes have become higher. The economic turmoil of recent years coupled with increased regulatory demands has turned up the volume of the legal voice in the Board Room.  Their plate is already overflowing with the need to advise and keep the business ethical so should that also include managing customers’ experiences?  Like every other part of the company, Legal needs to have input and be kept informed.  At a practical level though, legal teams may not be closest to customers on a day-to-day basis and therefore best qualified to determine the nuances of what it should be like to be a customer.

I’ve seen companies who have the same director in charge of IT and Marketing.  Operations directors often pick up the customer experience reporting lines, as do those leading the Marketing  agendas.  Where silos exist and presumably more oversight is seen as a motivator for greater collaboration, many businesses also make one functional director accountable for the customer experience in another unrelated function.  The legal, risk and compliance teams already have a big say in how things are run, for sound commercial reasons.  At the other extreme though, having such a specialism in charge of customer experience creates a perception that it’s necessary because the experiences are so awful that the legal team are going to be integral to it anyway.

Whose role is it?  In this case, only United can answer that.  It’s a question we shouldn’t have to ask though.  Customer experience – doing the right combination of things for customers and the balance sheet – is what a business is about.  It’s a way of thinking and collaborating, it’s not an agenda item on one person’s monthly report back to the Board.  But if no one else will pick it up, maybe an empathetic and disciplined legal team are as good as any to run with it.