CX as a Strategy for Resilience

The best path to sustainable business success is to provide an experience that meets or exceeds the expectation of your customers. This is even more important in our current environment as customers seek reliable, dependable return on their investments of time and money. 

We’ve asked internationally recognized Customer Experience (CX) experts who have helped organizations in a variety of sectors and industries from around the world achieve successful customer experience transformations to create actionable guidance for you  – “CX building blocks.”  Each building block will help establish or strengthen your customer experience capacity.  While a complete customer experience transformation requires several years of ongoing commitment, these building blocks are intended to help you make better immediate decisions that balance short-term considerations with long-term resiliency and success.

We hope this content engenders:

  • an increased focus on understanding what your customers want
  • wisdom as to how your organization can align to meet your customer needs, and
  • increased resilience and success for your organization.

The Customer Experience Resiliency Building Blocks

1. Ensuring a focus on the customer amongst your leadership team

Video comments recorded April 11, 2020 by Brad Smith, Founder/President of Vector Business Navigation, Inc 

2. Communicating your intended customer experience

Defining and Communicating Your Intended Customer Experience
Written by Annette Franz, CCXP; CXPA Board Chair; founder and CEO, CX Journey Inc.   

Emotions play a huge role in the overall customer experience. Many would argue that emotions are really the foundation of the experience and drive advocacy and future purchase decisions. I’m fully on board with that. 

So the question then becomes, “What do you want customers to feel as they interact or transact with your brand?” And yet you can’t answer that without asking, “How do customers want to feel as they interact or transact with your brand?” Slight nuances, but it’s outside-in and customer-centric thinking that rules the day. Consider both scenarios, as they are both important.  

Where am I headed? Well, let’s start with a definition of customer experience. It is the perception that customers have of an organization - one that is formed based on interactions across all touchpoints, people, and technology over time. (Some would argue that product and price are not included in the definition, but how could that possibly be? Product and price are absolutely a part of the experience!) But, importantly, the experience is also the emotions, feelings, and perceptions that a customer has about those interactions. 

As you design and deliver the experience, you must keep those emotions, feelings, and perceptions top of mind. How does the customer feel? Does that match what we intended the customer to feel? If not, we better get into alignment. 

That takes us to the point of this article: your customer experience intent statement. I’ve traditionally referred to this as your customer experience vision statement. They are similar, but the vision statement is higher-level, forward-thinking, and linked to your corporate vision, while the intent statement is quite specific to designing individual interactions and transactions.  

For the purpose of this article, I’m writing about the intent statement. It is an inspirational and aspirational – a stretch, yet achievable – statement of the desired emotional and experiential journey your customers will have as they interact with your brand. In a sentence or two (maybe a paragraph), this statement describes the experience you plan to deliver, with a specific focus on the feelings and emotions that the experience will elicit, at every touchpoint, during every interaction with your organization.  

The customer experience intent statement is an internally-focused statement that helps to guide both decisions and actions, i.e., how to best deliver the experience at each interaction in order to elicit the desired emotions, how the customer will feel at each interaction. This statement will inform and drive your customer experience strategy. It’s a foundational element in your customer experience design work.

In order to define a statement of what you want customers to feel and experience at every interaction, you must draw from two sources:

  1. Customers: the statement must be grounded in customer insights and understanding in order to ensure customer needs and expectations are incorporated. Write the statement from the customer’s perspective for a more-impactful message.
  2. Employees: you must include input from a cross-functional team of employees who understand how customers interact and transact with their parts of the business. The additional benefit of involving employees ensures that there will be buy-in and commitment going forward.

It’s wise to ensure your customer experience intent statement aligns with the brand promise, which is all about what the customer can expect, what value she will receive, when interacting with the brand.

Some tips to keep in mind as you develop this statement. It must be:

  • Grounded in customer insights and understanding.
  • About the customer, not about your internal processes or policies.
  • About emotions to be elicited; it also helps make an emotional connection between employees and customers.
  • Specific to your business and, thus, becomes your differentiator.
  • Aligned with your corporate strategy.
  • Simple, clear, compelling, and easy to understand. It cannot be vague or ambiguous. It must clearly articulate the experience you intend to deliver.
  • Applicable to every channel or context in which you serve customers.
  • Motivational and inspirational, but if  it’s not realistic or achievable, it will do neither.
  • The basis for business decisions and (employee) behaviors.
  • Revisited at a regular interval to ensure that it still reflects the experience you want to deliver based on emerging trends, changing customer needs, etc.

Once you’ve developed your customer experience intent statement, it must be blessed by executives and then communicated to the entire company. Follow these guidelines to socialize and to operationalize the customer experience intent statement.

  • It is for internal purposes only, not to be shared with customers, competitors, etc.
  • It must be communicated to employees – across the entire organization, regardless of channel, business unit, etc.
  • Use storytelling to communicate, demonstrate, and connect employees to the customer and to the intended experience.
  • It must be modeled and reinforced by leaders but also by customer champions throughout the organization. Enlist your governance committees to help with this.
  • It must have commitment from those who live it and execute it.
  • All employees must know how they contribute to, and align with, it.
  • If needed, explain and model for employees, just so there is no question.
  • No design decisions can be made without incorporating the intent statement.
  • The statement is manageable and measurable. You can monitor and measure whether the experience lives up to the intent statement.

Your customer experience intent statement is at the foundation of your customer experience strategy. If you’re struggling to deliver a seamless and consistent experience across touchpoints, this statement is your bellwether. If you’re hearing feedback that is counter to this statement, it might be time to revisit and update your listening posts and your journey maps to identify – and to improve – what’s not going well. 

If you haven’t yet created this statement for your organization, take the time to do it. Communicate it. Indoctrinate your employees. Live it and reinforce it. You won’t regret it.

3. Ensuring employees have the tools and resources they need to deliver excellent CX

The Colleague Experience, Part II – We do what we do, and we do it together! 
Written by  Bob Azman, CCXP, Founder and CXO, Innovative CX Solutions, LLC

When I last wrote about the Colleague Experience, defined as how we interact with one another to achieve an improved customer experience, phrases like self-isolation and quarantine, shelter-in-place and social distancing didn’t exist.  Work from home was a luxury for some, a necessity for others and only experienced by a small percentage of the workforce.  Hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and other common necessities were in abundance on grocery store shelves.  We shook hands, attended sporting events and anticipated the warmer days of Springtime.  Suddenly, within days, everything changed.  A new normal emerged from out of nowhere. 

Despite these adversities, we’ve also begun to celebrate the resilience of human nature among our colleagues, family, and friends.  Our desire to remain engaged and connected with one another precipitated new approaches and methods to do so.   We found ways to work from home.   Instead of making excuses for crying babies or barking dogs, we empathized with our colleagues, laughed at the antics and welcomed the diversion.  We re-connected with dear friends through virtual happy hours via “Zoom”.  We stood in driveways and called to our neighbors 6-feet away.  High School students parked their cars in a circle and connected from the back end of an SUV within safe distancing guidelines.  We’re finding the silver linings in our experiences with our customers, with our colleagues and with our family and friends. 

Now more than ever, we’ve learned that every employee, every colleague has a role in achieving a better CX for your organization.  The traditional concept of job divisiveness… “this is my job and that is yours” has fallen by the wayside.  Everyone’s doing their best to get the job done.  Everyone is dependent on the other to deliver on our customer commitments. 

Ensuring colleagues have the right tools to do their jobs and the mechanisms in place to serve customers is so important right now. Today each of us is being asked to change the wheels on a car we are driving down the highway at 65 miles per hour!  Here are some ideas that we can use to help our colleagues and employees get those tires changed! 

  1. Support the remaining team. Your organizations may have experienced layoffs, furloughs or terminations as a result of the pandemic.  While it’s important to stay connected with those that have been adversely impacted, it’s also important to support our colleagues who remain behind.  Rallying the remaining team around what happens next is crucial to the long-term survival of the organization. 
  2. Conduct daily check-ins with colleagues and staff. Ask, “How are you?” and mean it.  Now, more than ever, we need to really listen to how colleagues are doing.  How are they feeling?  What help do they need? Use a weekly staff meeting or 1:1 to check-in on colleagues personally while doing what needs to be done professionally. 
  3. Re-think your priorities. We’re pretty good at multi-tasking but this is crazy! In the past, we separated our days into work time and personal time. Those separations have dissolved into one seemingly endless 24-hours a day, 7 days a week marathon.  We’re managing conference calls, taking care of children and ensuring our own health and safety.  Now more than ever, organizations need to determine what is most important so collectively we can align to a shortlist of achievable priorities. 
  4. Invest in the tools for a new normal. Ensure employees have the right equipment in their homes.  Avoid stopgap workarounds and make the necessary investments. As difficult as it may be to spend the money, eliminating this barrier can help colleagues continue meeting their objectives and delivering on their commitments. 
  5. Revise internal service level agreements and commitments. Just as we’ve had to understand new customer expectations, so too must we create meaningful metrics to continue delivering on those expectations.  Take time to understand the functional requirements of your adjacent departments and identify and fix pain points.  
  6. Celebrate Wins. When something good happens, celebrate it with not only your department but others that have helped you achieve the win.  Post it on internal sites and recognize individuals who made a difference in the customer experience.  Especially recognize the “behind-the-scenes” employees who don’t often get the spotlight shined on the fine work they do for customers.  Using kudos, props and simple thank yous will go a long way these days! 
  7. Leadership Presence. Leadership presence is needed now more than ever.  Be present to your colleagues and employees.  Reach out to employees 1:1. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.  Share what you know when you know it to alleviate rumors and unfounded fears among employees and colleagues. 
  8. Create a rally metric. It’s so important for an organization to be unified in its focus on achieving one unifying metric. No, I’m not talking about NPS. Instead, create a unifying metric that creates complete organizational focus.    An example may be customer satisfaction or effort score so that everyone understands it and knows what role they play in achieving it.  Then reward employees for achieving it each month! 

There is plenty being written about how to navigate your organization’s customer experience during this time of crisis. Doing any one of these ideas can help improve the feeling that all employees create a better CX.  Whatever you choose will make the “colleague experience” better!  Above all else – despite everything happening around us – find time to laugh at a joke or take a walk or appreciate the blossoms of Spring or enjoy your time together. 

We do what we do, and we do it together! 

4. How to consider CX impact as a criterion for your business decisions

Video comments by Brad Smith, Founder/President of Vector Business Navigation, Inc

5. Ten Tips for Communicating with Customers through COVID-19 (or Any Crisis)

Written by Amy Shioji, CCXP, Head of Customer Experience & Insights, Strategic Education, Inc

Last month, amongst the barrage of COVID-19-related emails I received from various companies (Hello, “unsubscribe”), one stuck out as noteworthy: an email from my mortgage company titled “Important Coronavirus Information about Your Loan”. Curious, I opened it, only to find the information largely flat and irrelevant: “During these unprecedented times, we are here to help. There is no change to accessing your loan information online, and automatic payments have not been disrupted.” An email about payment options for financial hardships would certainly have been informative; an email stating that there was no change to the process – much less to a process that one wouldn’t assume would be impacted by this situation (i.e. no reason to cause a disruption to automatic payments) – felt like nothing short of getting caught up in a company’s obligatory COVID-19 response attempt.

So how do you communicate with customers during crisis situations, and what are the guidelines for meaningful messaging?

1. Focus on relevance. As depicted in the scenario above, it’s important to remember that in stressful times, more information isn’t necessarily better. Consumers are overwhelmed between disruptions to their daily lives and information overload from companies they engage with. So ask yourself: Do customers need to hear from us right now? Have operations or supply chains been affected? Are we offering new processes or protocols to help accommodate customers? If the answer is no, consider communicating your support and empathy to those that do contact you, or by posting your ongoing commitment via your website. Communicating via email for its own sake doesn’t always lead to greater customer assurance or clarity in a time of need.

2. Communicate with empathy. Regardless of the communication, a largely universal characteristic of COVID-19 communications is the empathetic tone they strike. Accommodations aside, ask yourself: is there a reason you can’t extend that degree of compassion and humanity in your go-forward communications?

3. Know where and how to accommodate. By now, virtually every company has been impacted by this pandemic in some way, but do you know the full extent to which your customers have been? Whether directly with your products and services or indirectly in terms of financial impacts that may affect their purchasing power or level of engagement, leveraging Voice of the Customer data or understanding your customer journeys and segmentation can help to uncover what immediate and longer-term hardships may surface, leading to the appropriate and accommodative support measures that should be pursued.

4. Keep your promises. If you’ve attempted to introduce new protocols to ease customer anxiety or friction in your current processes, it’s critical that your teams are fully trained on these new measures – both in terms of how to handle these changes operationally, as well as how to speak assuredly and empathetically to your customers. The last thing you want to do is communicate new measures of support, only to leave the customer and the agent confused and frustrated on what needs to be done on either side. 

5. Make it about them, not you. I’ve often written about A Tale of Two Airlines – one of which always writes from a customer point-of-view, while the other often takes a decidedly internal, company-view to its communications and priorities. In the past weeks, Delta has continued to regularly communicate relevant customer changes to its policies – from increased safety and sanitization measures, to adjustments to travel changes, or safeguards to mileage loyalty benefits. The other airline opted to communicate its changing role in the COVID-19 crisis, instead highlighting noble efforts to redeploy its carriers to transport much-needed medical supplies and freight across the globe to countries in crisis. Indeed, I applauded their commitment (though it’s likely that most airlines are doing the same thing), but their last line gave me pause: “Our nation and communities will recover and [we] will return to service you, our customers. When that happens, we want you to fly [us] with even greater pride because of the actions we took on behalf of our customers, our employees, and everyone we serve.” Their efforts are commendable, but it felt a bit self-serving to overtly encourage more brand loyalty as a result.

6. Aim for the soft sell. It’s inevitable that Q2 and yearly projected revenues and forecasts have all but been discarded at this point. And while companies need to focus on sustainability and recovery, it’s critical to revisit your sales strategy to avoid appearing opportunistic, tone-deaf, or oblivious to any hesitancy or financial considerations of your prospective customers.

7. Strive for consistency. When crafting new communications with a softer tone or situational context, look to carry that through to other communications and touch points for a more cohesive messaging approach. Look beyond email to ensure that your website, your advertising, and your social media presence reflects the same consistent tone, talking points, and messaging.

8. Think about existing communications. No doubt your company has communicated several new policies or sent new incremental emails to your customers. Think also about the existing or automated and triggered communications that regularly deploy at certain journey stages or based on certain customer actions. For example, if you’ve made accommodations to relax past due balances due to financial hardships, but you have a triggered email that goes out for accounts with certain balance thresholds or past due dates, you should look to reconcile and update those to eliminate confusion and deliver effectively on promises made during this period (see #4). 

9. Be authentic. At the end of the day, what matters most is authenticity. While compassionate communications can go a long way in building rapport with your customers, they will see through thinly-veiled sales attempts or messaging that doesn’t reflect your overall customer experience and brand promise across all interactions.

10. Consider your employees. Sure, companies exist to have customers. But they also exist because of employees. More than ever, customers align themselves to brands that not only take care of their customers, but take care of their workforce and their communities. While tone and balance are needed so communications aren’t perceived to be solely about you, the company, sharing the support that’s been extended to employees in terms of pay, continuity, and health and safety safeguards (which customers do have a vested interest in), is another angle of care continuity that customers often want to hear about. 

While communicating through a crisis is important, use this moment as an opportunity to extend greater clarity, empathy, and customer-centricity – beyond messaging – to the decisions and ranks of the overall organization. With hope of a fleeting pandemic, may it leave behind a lasting and greater sense of humanity, purpose, and commitment to the individuals and employees we serve.

6. Special considerations for managing customer contact centers during COVID-19

Video comments by Brad Smith, Founder/President of Vector Business Navigation, Inc.

7. Special Considerations for A Temporarily Dispersed Workforce

Written by Dave Kreiner, CXPA Board Member and Senior Manager (retired), Total Customer Experience and Quality at Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Something has happened, some type of business disruption, and now there is a new normal, at least for the time being. As a business leader, what actions should you take? What do your employees want to know? What do you customers want to know? As a first step, you might want to find where you filed away that company values statement, as this is the perfect time to put those printed words into action.

Let’s begin where you’re most comfortable, which is demonstrating leadership. While the exact cause of the disruption may have had nothing to do with your business operations, you will be looked to by your employees, customers and partners to assess the situation on multiple levels including geography, employee, customer, operations, supply chain, etc. You will address specific strategies to mitigate any negative impacts to these same groups and of course you will plan to adapt your company to short term and long-term repercussions. Overly simplified, what are the plans to keep the company running, and what is the impact of those plans on employees and customers.

It’s likely your business disruption plan includes having employees work from a safe place, such as their home. You should consider that most employees who do not regularly work from home are unlikely to have a proper workspace set aside for this activity. It’s quite likely that their new office will include other family members, pets, or other distractions. Think about video conferences beyond people and pet interruptions, and how the unintended background may give visibility to economic or social differences. How do your company values embrace these types of situations? No doubt you’ve already responded by providing the necessary equipment and supplies to support working from home, however have you considered how you will respond to connectivity issues (both one-off and ongoing), and perhaps most importantly, information security while your employees work away from the office at a much larger scale?

What about communications to this now distributed (and disrupted) workforce? Dr. W Timothy Coombs, a crisis communications expert at Texas A&M University points out “Past research during disasters and terror attacks shows that communicating with employees can reduce their anxiety, however, it cannot be just any communication but messages that will resonate with and help them cope with the situation”. Coombs goes on to offer three suggestions:

  1. Keep communication simple and easy to understand
  2. Empathy helps people to cope and relate to the message
  3. Target the message

The key is to create messages that are curated for your specific audience and their current needs. These messages could include:

  • An understanding of how these changes affect their job, team and overall business
  • A projection of when things will return to normal, even if it is a moving target
  • Customer focused messaging, e.g. how are we helping customers to succeed
  • Encouraging employees to make the time for both physical and mental health during stressful times.
  • A reassurance that we will make it through this challenge

Keep employees informed about what you’re doing and how it affects them. Remember one of their communication channels, the office environment, has been taken away from them. A good rule of thumb is to start out with weekly communications for the first 3-4 weeks, and then scale back from there to twice a month with immediate updates when something critical changes. While it may be tempting to keep your communications business-centric, employees will look for opportunities where they can control some of what’s happening around them. Encourage them to watch out for a co-worker in distress (remember those company values?) and find fun ways to share how everyone is dealing with the disruption.

8. Using a customer experience lens to achieve cost savings

Video comments by Lynn Hunsaker, CCXP, Chief Customer Officer of ClearAction Continuum

9. Engaging the hearts and minds of your employees

Written by Kathy van de Laar, CCXP, Managing Director, EarlyBridge

Engaging the hearts and minds of your employees

For C-suite leaders a key challenge is how to translate strategy into practice to deliver business results.  Because it doesn’t start with results, it starts with people, the true challenge is how to engage the hearts and minds of your employees to create an intrinsically motivated organization. 

Research shows that people perform better when they’re motivated. According to Gallup, teams with high employee engagement have better customer engagement, greater productivity, better retention, and 21% higher profitability. I’m a fan of Daniel Pink’s work and his three components of intrinsic motivation:

  • Autonomy– people are trusted and empowered to make choices in their own development and in how they fulfill their roles and contribute to the strategy and goals
  • Mastery– people are enabled to realize their potential and are given the tools and training they need to continue to grow, learn and improve their skills
  • Purpose– people understand the big picture, why it’s important and are encouraged to use their skills to contribute to the greater good of the organization and its customers.

 

How can you use these three components to grow intrinsically motivated employees?

Help employees connect to the big picture

Boil your core message down to 5 key talking points that you and your leadership team can use to communicate consistently. Use the talking points every chance you get to create a cadence of communication, your drumbeat. When you repeat your message often, everyone knows the rhythm and can dance to the beat on their own.

Help employees connect their personal goals to your strategy and business goals.  Let them answer the question, “how do I want to contribute?” to create ownership and commitment.

Set a clear direction and get out of the way

Set clear goals for your organization. Make your direction and intent clear. In the words of the great philosopher The Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland, “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there”. 

Encourage self-organizing. Let people decide for themselves how they will achieve the goals. In agile terminology, let them fill in the “how”.

Promote understanding, collaboration and learning

Take time to understand the value of your people. Show them that you’re interested in what they’re doing and the difference that it makes.  When was the last time you spoke to one of your frontline employees to understand what they are hearing from customers? 

Create projects that require collaboration and contribute on all levels of your business. Give them the opportunity to succeed together.

Encourage employees to invest in themselves so that they can grow, learn and contribute in more and better ways.  Make sure you have the right learning opportunities available and accessible to your employees.

 

In times of crisis, stay engaged

These tenets always hold true but deserve a little extra attention in times of crisis and transition.  Your employees are undoubtedly curious how your organization will adapt to the next normal, while they are dealing with great disruption in their normal routines. Here are three tips to stay engaged and maintain your relationships:

  • Keep your rhythm going – it will provide a sense of security and comfort to know that your core commitments remain stable in the face of a changing world.  
  • Give your team the ultimate collaborative challenge to think about where there are opportunities for your business and what the next normal will be for you collectively. Great companies thrive in times of crisis because their people adapt and innovate.
  • Stay connected, remotely. Create virtual moments that matter. Have a coffee corner via Teams or a conference call to engage and reflect with each other. Call employees directly to ask how they are doing. Remember, relationships are built on emotional connections. Be a leader with a listening ear and set the example for others.

 

Your employees’ success is your success

Help your employees help you be successful. Do your employees know where you are going? Can they dance to the beat on their own? Are you giving your employees the opportunity to show what they can do in their own way? Are you challenging your organization to learn from one another?  Focus on engaging the hearts and minds of your employees by developing an intrinsically motivated organization.

10. Advice for when you can’t deliver on customer expectations

Written by J.C. Paradise, CCXP, PRC, President, Niagara Falls Consulting, LLC

Advice for when you can’t deliver on customer expectations 

“I’m sorry. We cannot meet the availability date that we promised you.” These are words no one wants to say. However, due to business process failures or unforeseen external factors, every business will eventually face being unable to deliver on customer expectations that they had agreed to meet.   

So, what can you do to prepare for these situations?  1) Don’t make promises you cannot keep and 2) be better than your competitors at responding to failures when they occur. For more help, let’s review some specific tips to consider:

 Six Tips to Plan for and Respond to a Failure to Deliver on Customer Expectations

Tip #1: Customer expectations are best managed by not overpromising what you can deliver and increasing the risk of failing to meet customer expectations.  

Tip #2: The best time to “negotiate customer expectations” is when you make the commitment. The second-best time is as soon as you are aware that you can’t deliver on their customer expectations. 

Tip #3: Empower your customer facing associates to quickly address the failure to deliver on customer expectations and “make it up to the customer”. Suggested tools you can implement to help them make decisions and save the customer relationship include:

  1. Create pre-approved alternatives that associates can use to establish new customer expectations
  2. Provide them with up-to-date information on achievable due dates.
  3. Maintain a “forum” where your customer facing associates can share best practices with each other when you cannot deliver on customer expectations.

Tip #4:  Track all failures to meet customer expectations for analysis and action. And make sure every action item has an owner and a due date!

Tip #5: Maintain communications with the customer throughout the process (status updates). This is especially critical with major and long-term problems impacting your ability to meet customer expectations.  

Tip #6: When completed, confirm that the customers are satisfied and use their feedback to improve your selection of “achievable alternatives and guidelines” based on this feedback.

 

11. Adapting Business Processes to Respond to Customer Needs

Written by Gökhan Kara, CCXP Customer Experience Advisor, Pisano

There are two things that create any customer experience—a customer’s needs and expectations, and the way an organization meets those needs and expectations. If organizations meet customers' needs, customers will be satisfied. If an organization exceeds those needs, customers will be loyal. If the organization fails to meet customer needs and expectations, there will be dissatisfaction and customer loss. Dissatisfied customers are a threat to organizations, so knowing and understanding customer needs--and meeting them—should be a top priority for any company.

 Business processes are usually prepared in company meeting rooms and are driven by process managers, sometimes with inter-departmental support. Most process managers say they know what customers want, but data tells a different story. According to Bain & Company, while 80% of companies believe they deliver “superior experiences,” only 8% of customers agree. Because of this gap between the view companies hold of themselves and the view their customers hold of them, customer journey management was born. As CX professionals, we use customer journey maps to manage CX. It is critical that we update business processes according to customer pain points noted on these maps.

 During a pandemic, customers are more sensitive to physical touch and seek to avoid human contact. Leaders at online retailers and restaurants, for example, know they must implement delivery solutions that respond to this need, which requires an evaluation of business process. Out of brainstorming and communication, contactless delivery is born, with effective organizational communication ensuring that staff have the knowledge and skills to carry out the new process, and marketing ensuring that customers know about their new delivery option.

 CX professionals must continuously listen to their customers so they are attuned to emerging needs and expectations. If processes are not good enough, organizations must be elastic, nimble, and quick to launch new solutions to meet new needs. If you aren’t responsive, another company will be.

 

12. Treating Employees Like Customers

Written by Gökhan Kara, CCXP Customer Experience Advisor, Pisano

“The customer comes first.” This is an expression that most companies use to show they’re customer-centric, though this attitude has begun to change over the past decade. If a human resources manager said that employees come first, this would probably not surprise you. But what if a customer experience manager-whose job it is to create better CX--also said that employees come first? Employees are internal customers, and their experiences are often reflected outside - to the customers. To provide a seamless customer experience, it is necessary to hire, empower and manage the right people.

 The employee loyalty score is one of the most important metrics that human resource departments track. Increasing employee loyalty and reducing turnover provides a decrease in costs and an increase in revenue. Also, employee loyalty affects not only the goals of the human resources department, but the organization at large. A study conducted by Temkin Group shows that the rate of employees who are engaged with their companies is 75% among those organizations that offer a better customer experience than their competitors, while it is only 49% in companies that offer a worse experience than their competitors. What kind of employee experience should be created to provide a better customer experience? There are 5 critical steps.

 

  1. Hire the right people. You can’t walk on the right road with the wrong people. Most customer-centric organizations try to build a great team before focusing on customer pain points and improvement areas. As Peter Drucker said: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” No matter how good your CX strategy is, if your employee-created culture is not optimized for its execution, you’ll fail. For customer-facing positions, EQ, or emotional intelligence, should come before IQ. Two skills are more important than others in customer service teams, empathy and positivity. During the interview process, employers should evaluate the prospective employee’s prowess in these two areas.

 

  1. Make employees feel they are valuable. As CX professionals, we try to make our customers feel valued and build an emotional connection. What about employees? If they don’t feel they are cared for, how will they be able to make customers feel they're valued? Employees are not robots, but people with needs and emotions. One of the mistakes executives make is to focus so much on KPIs that they forget the people who try to reach those goals. You can buy the knowledge, experience and time of employees with wages and benefits, but you must give them a reason to unleash the potential within them and exceed customer expectations. Putting the employee first can increase employee motivation and unleash their highest potential. Employees who do not feel that they are valuable cannot make customers feel that they are also valuable.

 

  1. Empower your employees. Quality management guru Edward Deming once said, “A Bad System Will Beat a Good Person Every Time.” Even if you hired the right people and made them feel valued, if they aren’t empowered to make changes to customer-facing processes, it won't matter. Steve Jobs once said, “It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

 

  1. Listen to the Voice of Employee (VoE). There are a lot of Voice of Customer (VoC) solutions in the market, and for good reason, but we must listen to the voices of our employees as well, for two main reasons. First, employees who are closest to customers offer immense insight into customer needs and behaviors. Sometimes customers can’t verbalize the solution to their pain points--but service representatives can. They know both what customers experience and how we serve them with business processes. Second, VoE is critical for managing and enhancing the employee experience by pointing toward moments of truth in an employees’ journey with the company.

 

  1. Get the wrong people off the bus. The term “getting the right person on the bus” is frequently used in recruitment. According to Wharton professor Adam Grant, even more important is to get the right people off the bus. In his TED Talk, Grant states that the negative effect of selfish people in the corporate culture is usually 2-3 times more than the positive effect of the positive people. To make the company culture customer-focused, the wrong people should be taken off the bus at the first stop.

 

When hiring the right people, employers should consider characteristics such as helpfulness, honesty, selflessness and trust. Candidates who do not have these characteristics largely work for themselves, not for companies and certainly not for customers. Only the right employees can take the bus to its final destination.

 Companies that are aware of the relationship between employee experience and customer experience and take action based on this knowledge will be rewarded with happy customers--and they just may leapfrog their competitors in the process.

 

13. Using a Prioritization Matrix to Drive Sustained Experience Improvement

The Sea and The Shore: How to Use a Prioritization Matrix to Drive Lasting Experience Improvement

 Written by Barbie Fink, CCXP 

“I AM FOREVER walking upon these shores, 

Betwixt the sand and the foam, 

The high tide will erase my foot-prints, 

And the wind will blow away the foam. 

But the sea and the shore will remain 

Forever.”

 Now, more than ever, the opportunity presented to leaders within businesses across verticals is to truly understand customers’ changing needs and goals, to act on that knowledge quickly with innovation if needed, and to create positive, meaningful, and memorable experiences for customers. Relying on employees who are engaging directly with customers, having conversations, hearing the emotion in those customers’ voices, empathizing, and doing their best to resolve an immediate issue remains one of the best sources to promote customer understanding, and to do so quickly.

In this post, I will share a couple of tools I used to quickly capture and synthesize the feedback from front-line employees.

 Top-of-Mind Sharing Session:

 Time needed: 1-1.5 hours for a group of up to 50 front-line employees (smaller groups are fine, as well, and will likely require less time)

 Who to include:

  • Front-line employees
  • Any cross-functional leader who has the interest and time (note: relevant and accountable cross-functional leaders should also receive a readout and synthesis afterward)

 Technology needed:

  • Virtual meeting service (e.g., Zoom, GoToMeeting, Adobe Connect, etc.)
  • Chat functionality within the virtual meeting service OR virtual collaboration software (e.g., Mural, Microsoft Whiteboard, or even Slack would work)

 How to do it:

Instruct attendees, “Thinking of all of the customer interactions you have had in the last two weeks, take the next 5-7 minutes to note in <specific Chat or Collaboration tool> the very most top-of-mind customer issues you have heard about.”

Everyone should be able to see what others are noting. At the end of the 5-7 minutes, you will have a list of issues that were important enough to be top of mind for your employees.

Take a few minutes to ask any clarifying questions about what was noted. Then consolidate the complete list of top-of-mind issues into a single list with the issue and the name of the contributor.

 Take a “gut-check” pulse on the frequency or number of customers experiencing the issue (high, medium, low) and the issue severity (e.g., egregious, painful, inconvenient OR high, medium, low) for each top of mind issue noted in your consolidated list. Sharing a screen of the consolidated list in a table format with columns for frequency and severity or setting up a layout in a collaboration tool where cards can physically be moved or colored is helpful here. The idea is to go through this quickly and have each contributor give a gut-check on frequency and severity.

 The resulting table or collaboration tool layout will give you everything you need for a quick synthesis, a prioritization matrix, and a readout on the key themes identified. With all of this in place, you can develop an action plan that helps address the issues and aligns to your customers’ needs and your company goals.

 

Prioritization Matrix

 One helpful tool I often used to provide a visual representation of the issues that were most important to focus on was a prioritization matrix. The horizontal axis represents the frequency or number of customers impacted. The vertical axis represents issue severity. Based on the issues identified in the top-of-mind sharing session along with the gut-check pulse on frequency and severity, the issues can be plotted in a matrix like the one below. You can certainly validate the frequency with actual data if you have the time and issue tracking in place. However, even just having a visual representation of what you heard in the top-of-mind sharing session can be useful. 

                    

 An example of a prioritization matrix


Interpreting a Prioritization Matrix

 

  • Upper right: High severity, high frequency – Address these issues with high priority.
  • Upper left: High severity, low frequency – Address these issues, particularly if the customers experiencing them are strategic for your business.
  • Lower right: Low severity; high frequency – If these issues can be addressed, it will not only reduce effort for your customers and save irritation but will likely help reduce operating expenses for your business.
  • Lower left: Low severity, low frequency – Addressing these issues is a lower priority.

 Once you have a visual for the top-of-mind issues, you can also consider the level of effort required to address those issues. This is useful as you develop an action plan, think about potential quick wins, and continue to keep your customer needs and their stories front and center while also aligning what you can do with the goals of your business. You can also use the visual of a prioritization matrix to show high-level progress over time by including a resolution status.

 Sharing the prioritization matrix with cross-functional leaders (along with a readout that includes top themes and recommendations), gaining sponsorship for the prioritized issues to address, and getting to work on the key improvement opportunities comes next. One additional very important element of all of this is to close the loop with the front-line employees who brought the customer top-of-mind issues to the forefront. Share the prioritization matrix with them, keep them apprised of the issues that will be addressed and the resolution status of those issues, and always thank them for their insights and for all of the ways they make a difference for customers every day.

 Going back to the words of Kahlil Gibran, “The high tide will erase my foot-prints, 

and the wind will blow away the foam. But the sea and the shore will remain 

Forever,” I encourage all of us to think about the forever sea and shore that we want to sustain for our employees and customers now and into the future.

 

14. Communicating the importance of the customer experience strategy to deliver the organization’s business goals

Following your Customer Experience North Star

 Written by Tabitha Dunn, CCXP, Chief Customer Officer, Head of Customer Experience and Sales Excellence at Ericsson and Board Member of Customer Experience Professionals Association

As the saying goes, if you don’t know where you are going, then any road will get you there. Or to put it into a customer experience (CX) context – many CX roads will get you to many different destinations. Best-in-class, CX-oriented companies have a clear definition of their customers and the intended customer experience to be delivered – their Customer Experience North Star.

Defining and launching your North Star can stir up a lot of great energy and lead to valuable communication efforts - from physical materials such as cards, desk swag, and posters, to digital formats such as online training, engaging websites and customer stories. But what happens after the hype of the launch – how do we make a Customer Experience North Star sustainable and integrated throughout the company?

I’ve broken this down into the tried-and-true segments of people, processes, and tools.

People – Your Customer Experience North Star should influence hiring and ways of working. Take Southwest Airlines for example – “fun” is a keyword in their experience and there is no doubt that it affects who they hire and how those employees interact with both their customers and each other. There are numerous stories of this experience in action that showcase the integration of the North Star with company culture.

  • Key to success: Determine a handful of key behavioral attributes that employees who “live the North Star” would exemplify and integrate those characteristics into your hiring policies and into the ways that you celebrate company culture. This reinforces the behaviors and expectations of your workforce.

Process – If you have improvement projects underway in your business with a stated outcome of improving the customer experience, it should be spelled out (1) which customers are targeted, (2) what part of the customer journey is being affected, (3) how the experience will change for customers and employees and (4) what customer-centric metrics will be tracked. If every project in your business has been assessed for its potential impact on your customers, you reinforce a culture of improving customer experience and enable clarity on the outcome of those improvements.

  • Key to success: Build out training for project managers and project sponsors. Project managers should know where to get the information they need for scoping a project’s customer experience impact and experience design. Sponsors should then reinforce the expectation that this material be included in the project and ask for it when it is missing.

Tools – This is one of the critical ways a central CX team can empower many areas of the business to drive effective change and enable alignment to the Customer Experience North Star. The CX team should become a library of best practices, a connection for tracking CX impact and coaching for CX-centric capabilities and the go-to resource for journey mapping, experience design, and customer-centric metrics.

  • Key to success: Ensure your CX team is set up to be the core resource for your North Star improvement efforts. For example, if a project team is setting up its own metrics for success regarding the customer experience, a trained CX sponsor can redirect them to the core set of shared CX metrics. This reduces duplication of efforts and ensures you have a trusted source of data for measuring success across every area of the business.

Whether you are just starting on your journey towards building your Customer Experience North Star or you are working to close the gap, a systemic approach to aligning to your North Star enables more rapid progress towards achieving that outcome and sustaining it for the long term. By aligning your company’s people, processes, and tools to the North Star strategy, you ensure that your customer experience goals are integrated into all aspects of the company, driving positive and measurable change to better serve your customers.

15. Aligning Employee Recognition to your CX Strategy

Written by Aimee Lucas, CCXP, Sr. Principal XM Catalyst, Qualtrics XM Institute

A fundamental truth that shapes how employees behave at work is People do what is measured, incented, and celebrated. So, if your organization is struggling to understand why it isn’t delivering a better customer experience, it might be time to review what metrics get the most attention and how employees get recognized and rewarded.

If you find yourself among the organizations that haven’t fully aligned employee recognition and rewards to your customer experience (CX) goals, it’s time to create an environment that reinforces the behaviors employees need to demonstrate to keep your customer promises every day. To get started, here are some tips drawn from my research in customer and employee experience best practices:
  • Clearly define “good” behaviors. Before you can align your rewards and recognition tactics, it’s important to get a clear picture of the behaviors you need from employees. Do you want call center employees to cut down average handle time or spend the time needed to resolve a customer’s issue during the first call? Is it important for employees across the company to set aside industry jargon and use easy to understand language with customers—whether that’s in marketing collateral like a new customer welcome package, company documentation like a service contract, on the website, or over the phone? Once the company defines its behaviors, then measures, incentives, and celebrations should be synched up to reinforce those behaviors. And don’t just introduce new elements to your recognition program – be sure to check for mixed messages and stop or change existing measures and incentives that emphasize less optimal employee behaviors.
  • Create formal Customer Experience awards. Many companies have existing award and incentive programs around sales or quality accomplishments, so it makes sense for CX awards to be formalized as well. Formal approaches may take the form of including a CX-focused category alongside existing reward and recognition categories or establishing a unique award program. For example, one global technology company structured its first CX award program to recognize outstanding team initiatives that impact the customer experience. Teams submitted entries, and a small number of winners were selected through a process of executive review and internal social media voting. Winners were announced via a live broadcast to internal and external audiences of employees and customers around the world.
  • Involve peers in recognizing their coworkers. There’s no reason why recognition only needs to come from the top-down. In fact, peer support and recognition can be a powerful incentive for behavior change. A number of organizations have launched programs that give employees channels to send messages of thanks and nominate their colleagues for living the company’s values, with nominations rolling up into monthly or quarterly drawings for prizes of various types. One quick-service restaurant chain in the UK used its employee social network to encourage team members to recognize each other with a public Shout Out for exceptional customer service. Employees at one B2B services firm designed their peer-to-peer program around core values, enabling employees to nominate their fellow coworkers in categories including excellent customer service, going the extra mile, and working as a team.
  • Tap into intrinsic motivations with your recognition efforts. When it comes to what drives individual behavior, intrinsic motivators like meaning, progress, choice, and competence make a difference. One way a company can leverage its recognition efforts to fuel those intrinsic motivators is with a program driven from customer-submitted feedback. For example, when a customer lets the company know about an employee who has gone above and beyond or turned an experience around, that employee could receive a personalized letter from the CEO and a certificate recognizing their performance, along with a copy of the customer’s feedback. Personalized, sincere letters or other forms of recognition from senior leaders reinforce the meaning or importance the company (and customers) place on employees’ work.
  • Don’t forget to celebrate teams. Many rewards and recognition programs tend to focus on individual accomplishments, causing companies to overlook an opportunity to recognize teams that collectively demonstrate excellence. Look for opportunities to recognize teams for exceeding customer experience KPIs or for making the most improvement in those KPIs and fund a team celebration. Or take a page from one Texas-based hospital that has its departments present a “traveling trophy” to each other every month to recognize the team that excelled at creating great experiences for employees and patients.

Each and every day, employee behaviors can almost always be explained by the environment they are in, which is shaped to a great extent by the activities that are rewarded and the actions that are celebrated by the company. Take the time to assess how your organization is recognizing the employees and teams who deliver excellent customer experiences—from employee success stories in company newsletters to on-the-spot bonuses to the ideas shared above. Employees doing the right things deserve to be celebrated!

16. Keeping a Pulse on the Customer Perspective

Written by Nancy Porte, CCXP, Vice President, Global Customer Experience, Verint

Understanding customer expectations and how you are measuring up to those expectations is the foundation for customer experience management and, ultimately, for strategic decisions made by customer-centric organizations.  Consistent monitoring of the voice of the customer (VOC) provides actionable insights that propel business strategy.

But not every customer communicates in the same way. It’s essential CX practice today to offer customers a range of channels through which they can interact with you. But adding new channels is only half the battle. It’s the CX team’s responsibility to coordinate them, too.   

CX organizations are uniquely positioned and skilled to ensure that organizations are offering customers great omni-channel experiences.  Voice of the Customer (VoC) data from surveys, digital feedback, and speech and text analytics technology can help you spot the source of CX problems. Are customer complaints specific to your entire organization? Is there something consistent across a single team? Or is it just a single agent? Essentially, VoC provides the “why” behind the “what.” Used wisely in a connected listening approach, VoC data collected from one channel can be the foundation for improvements in another one.

In addition to identifying improvement opportunities, VoC data from various channels can be used to identify segments of customers and how their satisfaction scores compare with one another. By integrating that knowledge with operational data for each group it is possible to identify the “secret sauce”—what made their experience better? Were resolution times lower? Were service representatives handling issues differently? Or were their issues less complex to begin with? If they had a complex request, how many channels were involved in solving it, and why? Was it a matter of customer choice or customer expediency to switch from one channel to another to accomplish their goal?

Providing these insights across the organization is vital during routine times, but particularly during a crisis such as the Covid-19 pandemic.  By simply providing customer insights for various teams to discuss, CX professionals help uncover new ways to serve customers better that might not even have been on the agenda for the meeting or that may seem unrelated. And during times of crisis, when events can be changing quickly, cross-channel insights allow an organization to be more agile and responsive.

Don’t forget to ensure that messaging is consistent and branding standards are enforced across channels. The last thing you want to do is confuse or frustrate customers by offering a special discount on one channel but not on others, or create a graphic or message that looks or sounds as if it comes from a different company.

Data comes from your website, your mobile apps, your call center, your stores. Traditionally, different teams manage that feedback and act on it separately within their own channel or department. What’s missing is a view of the big picture. For most companies, the CX team is perfectly positioned to provide it.

17. Preparing to Re-Open Your Business After Crisis

Nancy Ortenburg, CCXP, is the Director of Customer Service Excellence at Oxford Properties Group, a global commercial real estate company. Nancy brings a CX lens to the key question of managing tenant and customer experience during COVID-19.

Earning Trust

This pandemic is like nothing we've seen globally in our lifetime, and it is incumbent upon us to work together so that when the crisis has passed, we're all able to rise up and carry on. To instill confidence that a property is safe upon reopening, you must first build a foundation of trust. Be clear about what you know and where there are gaps in everyone's understanding. Being calm and giving everyone the most up-to-date information you have—when you have it--will create trust and strengthen customer experience with your company and your brand.

The interesting thing about the rise of customer experience management is that it has similarities with other models. At Oxford, we use the ADKAR model (Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement) to regularly guide our conversations about how to plan for changes and disruptions such as COVID-19. It’s especially useful as an internal check on whether we have involved everyone at the right level, and as a check that we're progressing as planned. By reminding ourselves of these principles, it makes it easy to cut through the daily noise and be able to answer the important questions:

  • Are we engaging both our internal customers--our employees as well as our tenants?
  • Are we considering the whole lifecycle of what will happen to the customer experience?
  • Have we checked in with our customers to make sure that the messages we are sending are being received as intended?
  • How are we communicating the decision-making process to staff?

I like to keep a list like this on my desk when the situation seems frustrating or difficult. It helps to understand and diagnose where we might put more effort to make the situation come together.

Adapting to New Anxieties

Did anyone think that toilet paper would be the number one concern of people when the pandemic began? The world has a different kind of anxiety than it had only a short time ago, and it will be interesting for all of us to see which concerns surface as we return to normal patterns. When planning to re-open, employees may not want to share space with one another over the course of a day, so you may want to consider spacing your staff differently on the premises.

You should post signage so there’s clear information about what the expectations are when people are accessing the building. Will you be doing temperature checks? If someone does register a temperature, what are you doing with that? Are you taking out seating so you can reinforce social distancing? Are hand sanitizers placed throughout the building and refilled regularly? How do you manage crowd control in communal areas such as elevator cabs? If there are multiple floors to your building, it may take people longer than usual to reach their destination. How and when are these new expectations communicated?

By applying customer experience journey mapping and design principles to our new reality, we can ensure that customers and employees feel safe and cared for and that our businesses can re-open safely and efficiently.  You can do this simply by writing down all of the steps that your customers/occupants are going to go through on their first visit back.  Some questions to ask yourself using the ADKAR method:

  1. Have you sent them a communication from you on what to expect before they come back? (Awareness)
  2. Do they have any fears? Have you created a communication channel for them to have their questions answered?  (Desire)
  3. Do they know what to do and what not to do? (Knowledge)
  4. Are there any barriers to their successful return to work? For example, will they be barred entry if they do not have a mask?  Will masks be made available for those that forgot?  (Ability)
  5. How will you staff your spaces to provide education to folks who might not have received the previous information? (Reinforcement)

As with all Customer Experience programs, the most important mandate is to listen to your customers and incorporate their feedback in your return to work planning.

18. What is Customer Journey Mapping?

Jeannie Walters, CCXP is the CEO and Chief Customer Investigator of Experience Investigators by 360Connext.

19. Developing CX Competencies and Skills in Your Employees

Jeannie Walters, CCXP is the CEO and Chief Customer Investigator of Experience Investigators by 360Connext.

20. The Value of a Customer Journey-Centered Approach

Aimee Lucas, CCXP, is Sr. Principal Analyst at Qualtrics' XM Institute.

21. A Customer Experience Manifesto in the Time of COVID-19

Created by Gökhan Kara, CCXP Customer Experience Advisor, Pisano

CX Manifesto

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