The Secret to Finding True Customer Insight

“I guess we just made a big mistake,” Jonah said.

He looked directly at me for a moment and then downward at his wrinkled hands collecting his thoughts as the sun was setting, casting long shadows across the kitchen table.

His wife reached out and laid her hands protectively on his while Jonah looked me directly in the eye.  They both had something to say. The retired couple were visibly upset but were doing their best to keep their composure.

“We are of modest means,” he started.

As he began his tale I could see tears swelling in his partner’s eyes. Jonah was sitting broomstick straight stoic, his bubbling rage barely constrained behind his dark blue eyes. She sat silent, interjecting on occasion. They both had a message to send. I was to be their messenger. I was there to be their confessor and offer, perhaps, some small degree of absolution.

In this in-home interview, we weren’t talking about a loved one lost. We weren’t talking about a swindled retirement savings or some form of nefarious flim-flam that convinced Jonah and his wife to buy brackish real estate in Florida. We were discussing an automotive purchase, about which they now had very serious misgivings.

“We just believed in them…we feel so betrayed….” she said.

This was very real for them, and in their presence I felt their worry. I experienced their remorse. I felt their pain. I walked away from the interview moved, a bit sad and much wiser. What survey could have captured this?

An undergraduate professor I once had related how he couldn’t conduct surveys because he thought them impersonal and even insulting to participants. He judged them, on the whole, disrespectful and indignant. At the time I dismissed him as being an overly sensitive neo-hippy lacking monetary drive who should just go back to his yurt and carve a new bong out of reclaimed barn wood.

I have recently started to rethink my judgment of the good professor’s position.

Much of the research industry has long viewed the respondent as a commoditized, and largely free, raw ingredient in which to make insight sausages. The ideas being we could just zap enough people in a panel to fill our quotas and off we go. A filled quota is a filled quota after all.

As much as the thought of the mechanization of queuing people to answer your inquiries is appealing, I would encourage you to think about who exactly are taking these long boring surveys.

I have become deeply suspicious of some panels that prod their herds to complete some really poorly constructed “self service” surveys through incentives. Flat-liners, speeders, repeaters, and plain old cheaters are prevalent. There are even software programs that will cheat for you that are available for purchase. A.I. is let lose upon the untended yearning fields of uncompleted questionnaires to do what humans are loathe to do.

As a Professor at the University of Arkansas, I asked my students to describe what taking survey was like using only one word.

“Annoying” “boring” and “pointless” led the list.

In designing surveys, I encourage those same students to ask themselves “would I fill this out”? If not, you should think about a redesign…or different approach completely.

Surveys have their place. I don’t think they are going anywhere soon, but we should become much better at choosing our audiences and creating better and engaging designs.

Good data comes at a price. That price is investing the time to really care about what people have to say and listening in ways that they want to communicate. To not view them as the raw grist for the insight mill to process.

Every day millions of posts are made on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Much of this communication is the expression opinions about people, product, places, and things. Why do people share these things? Because they are provided a forum in which they feel heard. A forum, in which some small way, their voices matter. This empowers people.

So let’s not dump surveys altogether, but become more attuned to the people you are talking to. They are real people with real problems, fears, and dreams. Be with them as a partner and confident, not as some indifferent corporate scientist.

The key to gaining great insight can be found in respectful and careful listening. It is about engaging in deliberate empathy. This is where real insight is uncovered; the ability to see the world from the viewpoint of the people you are interested in understanding.

You will get so much more from this approach even in smaller sample sizes than some sterile panel survey that goes out to god knows who or what. Keep it real. Keep it human.

The fundamentals of consumer research are sound. Companies are still very interested in what their customers have to say. Customers are very interested in sharing their opinions and experiences.

The trick is to listen to your customers in a way they want to be heard. Let them know you care. Be their messenger. Respect them. And if possible, be their advocate.

The Future According to the EFM Giants

Over the last 30 years, CX has also seen radical change, bringing it far from its humble market research origins. To better understand this still nascent offshoot of market research, CuriosityCX, in collaboration with Michigan State University MMR program, interviewed a dozen prominent tech leaders in the CX space from ,Clarabridge, Market Force, Satmetrix, InMoment, Service Management Group, Customerville, Confirmit, Responsetek, MaritzCX, and Qualtrics.

Check out the complete article here co-authored by Michigan State University’s Brian Keehner.


Product Design is CX

Product design plays a huge role in creating a great customer experience.  While bad design is easy to spot, we often take for granted really great design in our every day world.  It’s not until someone turns what we take for granted on its head that we can appreciate great design of everyday objects.  That’s exactly what Katerina Kamprani did with her project entitled The Uncomfortable.  Trigger warning to those with OCD…this will drive you insane!

How to Keep Your Brand Human at Scale


“Dude, Dave shaved his beard!” Benji, shouted over his shoulder laughing.

His friends shook their heads smiling in the background.

“It was getting itchy,” I said.

“Duuuuude….you have to give it time,” he said smiling brightly, “the yuse?”

“Yup,” I said.

This wasn’t my co-worker. It wasn’t one of my students. Benji is the barista and all-around go-to guy at our local coffee drive-through 7Brew right here in hoppin’ Bentonville. He knows me, my wife, my kids, and even my dog.

With three locations and a fourth in the works, 7Brew founder Ron Crume had the customer at forefront in both interaction and the design of his locations when arrived here from Grants Pass, Oregon. “Drinks are a byproduct of what we sell, it’s all about the experience,” Crume shared.

Making sure he designed his locations to maximize human the interaction, there is plenty of glass used in construction, and a two-way traffic pattern with people approaching the drive-thru in both directions. Mobile order takers are out and about in all kinds of weather joking and talking with customers.

Beyond the physical and process aspects, are the people. 7Brew is quite particular who they hire. “We are very careful who we hire and want to ensure a good fit with the culture and with the team,” says Crume. Prospective employees are interviewed both by managers and the team to ensure that fit. They are looking for people who are good with people.

The crew at 7Brew are not locked into a narrow approach to customer service where they have to say some contrived tagline, are required to wear a certain amount of “flair”, or ensure they are hitting some kind of behavioral checklist. They are afforded the autonomy, within reason, to make the call for the customer. In short, they can be human. “Our goal is to change the world with one smile and act of kindness at a time,” Crume shared.

The Case for Certainty

However, a willy-nilly no-holds-bar approach to customer service can create chaos. If every barista decided how they wanted to make a mocha or deal with a distraught customer independently companies would quickly lose the ability to scale effectively. They would also lose the ability to deliver consistency, something customers absolutely hate.

As human beings we are evolutionarily hardwired to want to know what is around that next corner or over the hill. This need for knowing has been successfully translated in such psychologically fulfilling but otherwise useless tools such as the Domino’s Pizza Tracker. After all, the Pizza Tracker doesn’t help get your pizza there any faster, it just tells you when it will be there. Not too many people order a pizza and then slip out for a 1-hour jog. You order a pizza because you or your family is hungry.

At Curiosity we have found that consistent delivery even trumps an occasional good experience. There is ample evidence that people would rather have persistently mediocre or bad experiences than one that is good one time and bad the next..

So how do you overcome this chaos in customer service? Even a simple business model requires front-end training to be effective, but training is expensive and takes time. With front-line service workers and call center agents generally less educated and a higher turnover rate amongst this population, comprehensive training is difficult, but left untended creates huge variability in service.

The answer for many is to develop a standards program. Standards programs are where the organization a priori identifies behaviors and processes they want employees to follow and then enforce them through rewards and “incentives”. While we still must train, much of the grey area in service delivery can be simplified.

In using standards to develop a set of defined and simple to understand procedures and behaviors seem like a common solution. “Greet people with x minutes of arriving”, “Answer the phone within y rings”, “Keep on hold time below z minutes” are all laudable axioms and derived metrics to shoot for which are known to positively impact the customer experience.

If done well, those behavior standards are linked to explicitly customer expectation research. For example, we would know the relative impact of hold time going for 5 minutes to 10 minutes and the impact on business outcomes. This is knowable data and helps businesses optimize the cost-benefit equation.

Many businesses were able to rapidly expand their franchise and outlet models through rigid adherence to standards. Standards program were, and are, applied to even high involvement and complex interactions such as automotive sales and service, financial services, insurance, and wealth management.

In this setting the venerable “mystery shop’ is then many times used to assess behavioral and operational compliance. In the one-two punch of traditional CSAT system, direct customer feedback satisfaction is then used to evaluate the evaluative attitudes of customers. In this way we can understand and monitor if we are enforcing the right thing. “Is compliance related to the customer experience?’ and “Is the customer experience related to business outcomes?’ are both questions we can answer with a high degree of certainty.

As you can see in the very typical sample from The Performance Edge, mystery shops get to a very detailed level of behaviors. With a heritage from the world of I/O Psychology and Behavioral Anchored Rating scales (BARs), the intent is not to be overly prescriptive, but to very explicit as to what is the expectation is and what associates need to do to achieve.


This approach can be very effective, but frequently comes at a price. First, if done poorly it comes across very mechanistic to customers as if employees are “going through the motions’. We have all gotten the flat “I am so sorry sir/ma’am, but I can’t help you” response.

Second, research in psychology has shown that this approach can have the effect of decreasing the implicit motivation of doing good work by substituting an external motivation for implicit one. In this way, fun quickly turns to work for even the most spirited employees.

Finally, many front-line employees I talked to hate the experience. “I feel like I am being treated like a child…it’s ridiculous” one waitress at a local steakhouse told me.

Empowering With Purpose

So how do we minimize the chaos but maximize the humanness? Here are five proven approaches to balance humanness and still provide the consistency that the human species desires.

Robots to the Rescue!

Interestingly one solution can be found in technology. Perhaps we let the robots do the mechanistic jobs that require very specific behavioral parameter; answering within so many minutes, have a response time of y minutes, and so forth. Let make the robots the automatons like the good servants they should be. Let humans do what they are good at; being human.

Tear Down Unneeded Hierarchy

Second, you can dump the old school command and control hierarchy and empower your employees. My first job was with Carlisle Tire and Rubber implementing self-direct work teams in the production cells. It’s amazing what people will do when not treated as a child or cog in a machine…when they are respected and afforded the same freedom they enjoy in their work lives as they do in their personal lives. Sure, there has to be a “boss’ but does there have to be so many of them.

Also, empowerment isn’t just but blowing up the organization and letting people do whatever they want. Former submariner Captain David Marquet offers some excellent insights about how to empower employees effectively. In his article “6 Myths About Empowering Employees” he points out that empowering employees is not something you have to do, that they already are empowered, you just must allow them to do their jobs. However, you just don’t do it in a wanton fashion but ensure both the leadership and the employees have the competence to do so.

Obey the Spirit of the Law, Not the Letter

Third, you aren’t throwing process out the window. You are throwing needless and overly prescriptiveness processes out the window. The good folks at 7Brews have a way they take orders, they have a way they make coffee, and they have a way they take payment. It is clear, consistent, and simple. There is very little variability. However, there is room to test. In talking with the crew there, they seem encouraged to think about new ways of doing things and not just go through the motions. Micah Solomon describes how standards are viewed and used at the Four Seasons resort:

“Standards help ensure that every part of your service reflects the best way your company knows to perform it – a prescription that you autonomously performing employees can then feel free to adapt to suit the needed and wishes, expressed or unexpressed, of the customers they’re actually facing at the moment.”

Train and Inspire

Fourth, is an investment in training. Every great service organization I have encountered invests in and continuously train their employees, this includes 7Brew. The customer experience manager for the high end One and Only resort (of which there is ironically several) told me they conduct training quarterly to every month for all their employees. This training doesn’t necessarily need to be sitting down in the classroom but can be meetups for best practice sharing. It is a continued investment in the front line.

Also ensure you have the right reward and recognition in place to inspire folks. This doesn’t have to be money. Figure out what makes your workforce tick and use that to help motivate them.

Start with The Right Raw Material

Finally, and most importantly, it is getting the right talent for the job from the get-go. Some people do not belong in a customer facing role, just as some people do not belong conducting multi-nomial logit modeling. The right tool for the right job applies to human capital as well. This is well captured in Soar with Your Strengths by Don Clifton and Paula Nelson, where they encourage people to reinforce and chase after what they are good at, and stop worrying as much about what you are bad at.

Whether Benji and the crew at 7Brew in rural Arkansas were born as genuinely gregarious and happy people or learned it from their environment is a debate to be had in academia. In the world of great customer experience, you want these folks on the front line. You want them following processes that make sense but allow for autonomy and room for front-line innovation. Most of all you want to pick the right people for the job, training them, and then let them be them.

Matches, Dots, and Glasses: The Psychology of Problem Solving

The first step in solving any problem is getting a good handle on what the problem really is in the first place.  That’s harder than it sounds.

What gets in the way our ability to do this effectively is being blinded what is…versus what could be.  Our own world view gets in the way.

The way around this?  You must reframe the problem.  Diversity of perspective is a powerful approach to not being blinded by your own perspective.  Check out this great video by Edward O’Neill that illustrates this point.

Deliver Insights Hemingway Style

Blaise Pascal once said “I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had time to make it shorter .”  It is much harder to write something that is succinct than a long and rambling communiqué.

The same can be said for insights.  After all, as CX and insights professionals we are in the business of delivering and acting on information, not a slinger of unexamined data and tabs. I think more importantly though, we need to deliver insights that are persuasive, engaging, and catalysts for action. The most advanced and eloquent analysis is worthless if not communicated well.

Stacks of analytical output and spreadsheets can be impressive, but equally bewildering to the consumer of the information. What people want to hear is what has been learned and what should be done. We are bombarded by data everyday.

Our job is to sift through the deluge of data and turn it into information. However, you still often see to be the 80-page PowerPoint deck.  Thunk!

The logic being, surely we are not doing our job if we don’t display every aspect of an issue and show that we have done our homework by looking at every possible angle. The heft of the deck seems to fit the bill for some.

For most clients that is way off of the mark. Like good UX design, strip away everything that is not contributing or useful.  Executives want to know “what did you find and what should we do?” If you can explain that in five minutes in a persuasive way then you have done your job. That’s not easy though.

The Heath brothers have an excellent tutorial on how to get to the sticky ideas in Made to Stick and Jon Steel nails how to distill it down in Perfect Pitch. The hard work in delivering insights isn’t in data prep or even analysis…its extracting the story. It takes a lot of time and thought to get down to the essence and the implications.

The business of consumer insight isn’t 4th grade math where you have to show your work. We are hired because, ostensibly, because we know the craft. We don’t have to prove it by boring our audience with slide after slide of support. That is behind the curtain. The tables have been examined, the analyses have been run, the charts have been examined. This pre-presentation work has been done.

What now is required is to perfect the story. To distill down to the bare essence and find a parsimonious story that is compelling, entertaining, and persuasive. We are scientists. We are artists too. The effective ones are are also talented journalists and entertainers.

If My Answers Frighten You: How to Write Good Questions

Will people like my new product idea?  What do  customers like or dislike about their current experience? How can I improve on my existing product?  These are all great questions, which are hard to come by through secondary research.

In my previous article, I discussed cheap and inexpensive ways to conduct secondary research (research that someone has already collected for you). Unfortunately, many times you can’t get the exact questions answered that you need, so you have to get the feedback yourself.  In the discipline of consumer behavior this is called primary research.

If My Answers Frighten You…

As any attorney will tell you, getting good answers requires asking good questions.  In my first article on this topic, I talked about the importance asking the right business question. In this article I will discuss the necessity of asking the right survey questions.Jules

Writing survey questions seems like a straightforward endeavor, but there are head-smacking mistakes you can make that can’t be corrected after the data is collected.  By way of illustration I tried to write the World’s Worst Survey question as an example. Let’s take a look.


Dissecting the World’s Worst Survey Question

While somewhat farcical, I have seen questions not far off from this.  So let’s dissect this atrocity one piece at a time.

The first problem is — it’s a loaded question.  Much like a lawyer asking Colonel Mustard, “…so where were you after you killed Professor Plumb with a wrench in the study?” on the witness stand, it would be bounced out of court before the good Colonel could open his mouth.  It’s a loaded question.  The question assumes that the respondent buys suntan oil. In the northern latitudes that is a rare purchase, and for many, not a purchase at all!

Next, I have conflated price and value for the money.  They are related but distinct concepts.  You must tease the concepts apart, otherwise neither you nor the respondent will have a clear idea of what you are evaluating.

In addition to mixing price and value together, we have no reference point for price. How much is it?  In addition, offering up a price with no reference point challenges the consumer to make any judgment.  So when looking at price specifically, it should have other price points for customers to evaluate.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t regularly keep track of suntan oil prices.

The larger issue, in general, is that asking pricing questions is tricky business.  No one likes to spend money, so there is always an inherent bias around the importance of price that drives imprecise results.   When possible, it is best to get at the pricing issue through indirect methods such a choice studies.  People are just not honest when it comes to “how much would you pay” and other direct pricing-type questions.  It has low predictive validity.

Next we turn to the scaling.  First, the scale is reversed with the good rating (exceeds my expectations) on the left while the poor rating (below my expectation) is on the right.  While a subject of some debate, most researchers would agree that a low to high order is preferred.  Why?  Almost everything in the Western world is righty-tighty, lefty-loosey.  That is: higher is always on the right, and lower is always on the left.  It makes it easier for the respondent and will ensure more accurate measurements.

Which brings me to the issue of scaling.  Expectations scales are notoriously poor in the measurement of evaluative attitudes. The reason being is that the starting point is a mystery.  For example, say you expected this article to stink, but you feel that it is merely mediocre.  I have exceeded your expectations!  Does that mean it’s good?  No, sadly it does not.

Finally, I can fill a four drawer metal file cabinet with articles about what the right number of points on a scale might be.  Let me save you some time and summarize the outcome of this corpus of research. The answer is: it depends.  The considerations are: the level of involvement the respondent has with the issue in question, the levels of differentiation (also known as just noticeable differences) that can be detected, and the goal of the research in the first place.

If I am conducting a compliance study and want to know the cleanliness of the bathrooms, I might ask “Were the restrooms clean?” with the response scale being “☐ no ☐ yes.”

In the case of taste testing a new Central Coast Pinot Noir with sommeliers, I might ask “How dry would you evaluate this Central Coast Pinot Noir?” and might provide a 10-hedonic-point scale anchored by “Extremely Dry” to “Extremely Sweet” with several other anchor points in between.  Experts who are highly engaged in a product category will see shades of distinction other might not.

Reconstructing the World’s Worst Survey Question

So let’s fix my World’s Worst Survey question.  Let’s see if we can resurrect the intent in a more accurate form..unnamed (1)

As I mentioned, the pricing question is a whole different kettle of fish where we can use a within or between experimental design.  Alternatively, there is a class of analytics called Choice Models or Discrete Choice models, which utilize techniques such a Conjoint Analysis to dampen unwanted bias in the data when it comes to understanding price elasticities.  Also, MaxDiff can be adopted for this use which is easier to deploy and analyze.   However, all that is a topic for another day.

So as you can see, writing a survey can seem simple — but you will want to avoid common mistakes.  There are several good books on the topics, with alluring titles such as Improving Survey Questions by Floyd Fowler and Internal, Mail, and Mixed-Mode Surveys, which is a classic by Don Dillman and Jolene Smyth.  Both are excellent sources. Of course you always contact me.  I will be sure to exceed your expectations.

The 6 Step Quick Start Guide to CX

Have you been handed the reins of the Customer Experience (CX) program at your company and have no idea where to start? Need to radically overhaul your existing program in a hurry? Here is a list of 6  steps to get rolling in your first 100 days.

Step 1: Establish Governance

The first step in any endeavor is to get organized. You may be tempted to just start running around and kicking off a bunch of initiatives, but resist that urge. That approach rarely has a lasting effect other than creating chaos and eroding your credibility.

In getting organized you need to set something called governance. It is a scary name for a simple idea; organizing your organization on how to approach customer experience. Many studies support the notion that without C-level support no CX initiative will succeed. So that is a pre-condition. Grass roots CX initiatives do not work.

With that in mind it is time to get provisional governance together. This is simply a committee of people who all have an interest and a hand in impact customer experience in your organization. It is your job to recruit these folks.


Your provisional governance be a good mix of geographies and functional areas. They should be senior enough to have authority, but not so senior that they don’t know the mechanics of their area.

While there is no magic number, 5 is probably too few and 20 is probably too many. 8-10 people is usually the ideal number to maximize span of influence but not allow diffusion of responsibility to flourish. Once you have gotten your team of recruit on-boarded, it now important to figure out what it is you want to do.

Do This:

Do you have some assassins lurking in the shadows at senior levels? These folks should be your highest priority in recruitment to your team. This seems counterintuitive, but the Stockholm effect is a powerful force. Make them part of the solution and they will have ownership in the outcome. Even assassins don’t want failure on their resume.

Don’t Do This:

You may be tempted to just invite other member of your own tribe to your CX party. This is a sure-fire way for the CX program to fail before it even starts. You must reach across the aisle and get a broad representation in the provisional CX.

Step 2: Define Goals

Next it is important to establish what is that the organization wants to do about CX. It defines the rules, the boundaries, and the mandate into the future. The main objective of the folks in your governance committee is to bang out a charter. The charter defines:

  • What are goals of the governance committee
  • What are task that need to be accomplished to achieve those goals
  • What is in and out of scope
  • Who is responsible for doing what
  • What are the resources and timeline for getting it done

It is essentially a plan for getting a plan together. It doesn’t have to be long or formal, just something that adequately communicate and aligns the group to the task at hand The group must approve this charter and the executive committee at your company should also ratify it for it to have any credibility.

Do this:

Make it simple and non-technical. Ensure you don’t overthink it and that you have full agreement amongst the group. No hung juries please! Also, I am a big fan of timelines with names and dates. Enforcing this accountability tends to be helpful in getting things done. Again, no one wants to fail.

Don’t Do This:

This document should be completed in no more than 3-4 one-hour meetings. Better yet hold an off-site and just crank it out in an afternoon. If it is taking longer than that you are doing something wrong. Depending on your organization’s culture you may want to a formal or informal presentation to your executive committee. Their formal approval is, however, important to move forward.

Step 3: Rally the Troops

Committees rarely inspire anyone. Therefore, effective and inspirational communication is absolutely critical in the initial stages and it should consistently implemented throughout the process. This is an on-going internal marketing campaign. The usual tempo of communication is to first communicate what is that the organization is doing and why it is important to the future of the business. This shouldn’t be a “project” or “initiative” it is a change in strategic direction if it is to be successful. That means ….yes…cultural change.

Also, you need a “burning platform” to help motivate (sometimes scare) folks to action. The burning platform focuses on getting people to understand that the risk of not changing is much higher than the risk of staying the course. For example, almost every vertical is under assault from someone trying to “disrupt it”; from automotive to pharmaceutical there is no place to hide. The burning platform case shouldn’t not be overly difficult to develop.

Some key elements of a successful internal CX campaign can be found in the three “E”s:

  • Excitement – make sure you are getting your executives to communicate out the importance and what is going on. Enlist front line employees in helping raise understanding of the emphasis around CX. They will also form part of your governance as “Activators” in the field. Get people stoked to be a part of it. The key here is to generate awareness and excitement.
  • Educate – if you are changing toolsets, processes, or policies I simply and very clear education is essentially. Simply rolling out a tool and hoping for the best is a great recipe for waste. You must train people on new tools, processes, and policies. Seems straight forward, but this is an area that is often over looked.
  • Engage – the last step in the communication strategy is in getting people engaged with the new changes. Training types like to call this “behavioral transfer” from the classroom to the real world. Some approaches can be gating sought after capabilities, implementing recognition programs, and holding people accountable to metrics

Do this:

Ensure the first communications have the unambiguous backing of your senior executives, ideally your CEO or President. They need to be present and walk the walk. Make your communication very simple and very clean. A rallying cry is always helpful. For example, a utility used sport awards to recognize employees who do an especially good job with customers. Clever integration of brand with employee recognition can go a long way.

Don’t Do This

Stay close to the troops and get and walk amongst them. Communication plans that are clinical and overly corporate activate employees’ bullshit detectors. You must be genuine, simple, and consistent. Make it about them, not you.

Step 4: Conduct Rapid Journey Mapping

Usually the next thing on the list to get done is to gain a better understanding of your customers and prospects. Journey mapping is a helpful tool to do so, but not the big arduous process that some might propose. Initially you need to move quickly.

Rapid journey mapping will help center your organization, but do so without absorbing months of work while the organization waits for results. I recommend starting simple in journey mapping sticking to a qualitative approach first and validating later with a quantitative approach. The steps are straight forward

  • Establish who the customer is: is it one group or several? Do they take pretty much the same journey or completely different ones? If there are distinct groups start with the core customers of your business first.
  • Get your provisional governance team together to sketch out what they think the customer journey looks like. You may want to extend attendance to others to maximize engagement and inclusion.
  • Talk with some customers. You can do this yourself or get outside help. This will be eye opening for the entire team as the external view is usually a bit different from the internal view.

This process sounds a bit like research to understand the customer journey, but that is only one outcome. The larger, and more important outcome is to start knitting siloed departments together. This is increasingly import as e-commerce and retailing intersect and oftentimes create a haphazard and miserable experience for your customers. Journey mapping and governance is the foundational work in getting functional or product centric organizations to work as customer centric organizations.

Do This:

Stay simple and with the core of your business for the journey mapping exercise. The finished map doesn’t need to be a master piece, it is a communication tool for the team to action on initially. You can pretty it up later. The main outcome is to establish a shared and aligned understanding of the customer journey amongst stakeholders.

Don’t Do This:

Avoid rabbit holes or “spurs” in the customer journey. You don’t need to visit every 1% incident activity or things that affect few customers. Don’t get overly obsessed with details or create process maps. This is about the customer experience from their standpoint.

Step 5: Act!

The famous WWII general George Patton once said, “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week”. I fully agree.

Quantitatively validating your journey map is important, but your early rapid map usually reveals some glaring issues early on that you can jump on. It provides a rough idea of problem and opportunity areas so now it’s time to triage. The criteria you should use in deciding what to do are:

  • What is the risk/cost of not doing something on each issue?
  • How difficult will it be to address?
  • What is the likely impact of addressing the issue?

For each issue give a rating across these three criteria of High, Medium, or Low. Then sort it the list. Stuff that having a large negative impact today, that are easiest to fix, and will have the biggest future impact float to the top. Hard stuff with minimum impact float to the bottom. This will give you a rough roadmap from which to start implementing changes.

The items on your list can then be handle by action teams who have the appropriate representation. For example, for billing problems you probably want to have e-commerce, accounting, finance, and operations involved in solving the problem. The action teams are temporary. After they address the problem they can disband, unless there is a need to iterate and optimize.

Do This:

Small, quick and incremental interventions can help move things along and mitigate risk. These are critical elements at the core of the Agile CXTM which is to thread as many idea beads down the innovation string as possible and get them to test market. Implement them and observe the outcome. Roll out the good ones more broadly, toss out the bad ones, and modify and retest the ones that have hope.

Don’t Do This

Don’t over analyze the problem and get stuck in a debate cycle. Also, don’t take too big of a bite which gets stalled in the organization. For example, overhauling the CRM or ERP system as a first project is probably not a good idea. Perhaps there is something as simple as a hard to understand bill and complicated form that can be corrected. Stay small, fast, and nimble.

Step 6: Adjust and Keep the Momentum

You’re not going to get it right the first time, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Prepare your executive committee for some wrong turns and missteps. It’s going to happen. Long term sustainable change is a marathon not a sprint, so you will need distance runners at your side.

Celebrate the victories and make them public. Admit the missteps and adjust. Your CX program is a living breathing undertaking not a program to rammed down from on high. A practitioner-professor of mine once told me that organizations are sailed not driven. I think there is much wisdom in this.

You need to lead by coaxing and cajoling not mandating and punishing. People will make up their mind if they want to follow or not. You just need to provide the incentives to do so and make it easy for them. Invite them in and make them a part of it. I wish the best of luck to you in sailing your organization and if you need some help in navigation or tying (or untying) a few knots let me know.