The Most Important Step in Insights: Framing

“Hey Dave, I want to do some focus groups in Chicago.”

The number of times I’ve heard this statement from my clients eclipses the number of socks I’ve lost in the dryer.  My standard response is: “Ok <insert client name>, so why do you want to do this <insert methodology>?”

Sometimes I suspect the client really digs Chicago-style, deep-dish pizza and wants an excuse to get on a plane and gnosh, so I press further for real reasons to do the research. This is when the hard work begins.  You’ll never achieve a research goal that you can’t articulate.  Research goals start by identifying the underlying business goals.

Consumer research is much like creative development, in that it looks straightforward and is simple to do. People immediately want to roll up their sleeves and create a survey or focus-group guide. They want to design the approach for shopping ethnographies or the layout for product testing. That’s only natural. These are nice, tangible activities and, let’s face it, most people want to tackle nuts and bolts and quickly move on.

I strongly encourage restraint.  The most important step in conducting good research without wasting money is to focus intently on the business problem you are trying to solve.  Once that is specified and agreed upon, everything else fits easily into place.

Getting a client to articulate the business problem – and, if it’s a large organization, getting everyone to agree to it – is one of the most challenging tasks for a modern-day consumer researcher.

Here are legitimate, well-articulated business problems that need solutions:

  • Why are people defecting from my service/product?
  • How do I sell more of my service/product?
  • Which groups like my service/product and which groups don’t?
  • What is the optimum configuration of my product for a given group of potential customers?
  • How does my product/service compare to others?
  • Why don’t they like my service/product?
  • Who is my competition?
  • Are there enough people who like my idea to make it worth doing?

Depending on the industry, there are many ways to solve these problems.  Some involve conducting primary research. Other methods use a wealth of readily-available data; sometimes data that is free.  Most use a fusion of multiple sources of data to create a clear and compelling story.

After we nail the business problem, the next useful exercise is to use the Backward Research Process.  In concept, BRP is very simple.  It goes like this:  Imagine we have collected all the data, cleaned it, and integrated it. It’s deliverable and ready to go.  What are three to five compelling slides or illustrations we would want to show?

By creating a ghost deck – that is, a presentation with no data, or fictitious data – we can clear the fog to reach the next level of abstraction.   Now you have the business question nailed and have visuals for the presentation.  This will drive your entire research methodology and keep away the meddlesome interlopers who want to tinker with aspects of the research process.

For folks on internal research teams, this approach is also very helpful in confirming your internal client’s expectations of results.  The conversation might look like this with your internal clients:

Neophyte Researcher: “Hey Chief, is this what you had in mind?”

Executive: “My god man, you did the research already; you are super-human and deserve a promotion immediately!”

Neophyte Researcher: “Oh no, that’s just a mock ghost deck that I created using the backward research process, so I can determine if I am hitting the mark on expectations.”

Executive: “Well done. That’s exactly what we want to find out.  Have a donut!”

This approach has the added bonus, in the case of survey research, of not having to endure the dreaded survey review.  If you are unfamiliar with this painful sadistic process, it involves a researcher sitting in a room with 12 other stakeholders arguing about whether you should word a question as “prompt initial greeting” or just “initial greeting” for several hours.  Not a good use of anyone’s time.

If you hire good researchers, the client – whether internally or externally – should never have to even look at the survey.  The researcher has already done his or her homework to document both the objective and the outcome in advance.  Once you have that done…it’s all deep dish from there!

The Secret Sauce of Strategic Insight

I’m curious what makes you so curious Django said to the evil slave owner Monsieur Candy in Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece Django.

A challenging question to a challenging question.

Some of the best conversations I have are the layered non-linear challenging variety where we just start to wander down into the abyss of questions and answers on tangentially related topics. A kind of conversational jazz riffing on a central theme but exploring interesting detours along the way.  The result of these conversations are often times inspirational and provide the kernel of an idea that can take us to great places.

As my colleague Ed Stalling pointed out a while back, this inherent curiosity is what makes for good researchers.  I can spot a good researcher within 10 minutes of talking to someone.  Those who are good at research are not only curious about exploring the data once collected, but more importantly bringing that inquisitiveness to the business of what questions to ask the first place. Of course figuring out the right questions to ask are driven by the objectives of the research.  Now it doesn’t sound creative or fun to come up with “objectives” but it sure can be.

For example, I once had a client convinced that the reason for the increase of SUV acquisition in North America was because of the increased pet ownership.  Wacky idea, but a testable hypothesis (it wasn’t).  Think of some of the more interesting stories in Tipping Point and Freakonomics.  They reviewed interesting findings such as the reasons for the reduction of crime or the current usage of birth control through not only careful data analysis, but by asking interesting questions.  It was a clever Portuguese in the early 15th century who said “I bet if we sail far enough West if we may show up in the East!”  Turns out he was right, flat earthers’s beliefs to the contrary notwithstanding.

The Wall Street Journal published an article a while back in which they discussed the “Andy Rooney” approach to business planning.  The basic gist is that in trying to do something truly new and innovative, you find the most prevalent annoying problem that happens to millions of people every day and ask, does it have to be that way?  It’s that first part that true researchers can be invaluable in addressing and, left unfettered to ask interesting questions, can help to unlock billions of dollars of potential.

But it’s not as easy as you think.  You have to get out your own way by throwing away assumptions.  It is way beyond challenging such idioms as “we have always done it that way” to going deep but keep it fun.  You have to listen.  You have to observe.  And you have to ask lots and lots of questions.

When I worked as an market research analyst I used to love to interrogate our buyer behavior data to find out little insight morsels such as what cops like to drive (F-150s), the most popular car color in Arkansas (White, followed closely by Red) or what brand has the highest penetration of lesbian buyers (Mini). Some had implications for marketing and product planning others were just fun factoids to annoy my co-workers and spouse.

I had a conversation with a friend who is responsible for a research group on this exact topic a while ago. He told me about a study conducted by the Corporate Executive Board that looked at a variety of factors that influenced being a successful researcher.  They looked at type of education, amount of education, breadth and depth of experience, and variety of other factors.  None of those attributes where significant predictors of individuals generating consistent strategic insight.  Guess which attribute did?  Intellectual Curiosity.

So, if you are interviewing for a research spot and need someone who is a rock star be sure to look at their experience and their education.  But the guy or the gal who has an obsession with maps, almanacs or trivia are the ones you to whom you might pay the most attention.  Listen for clues in their speech such as “I wonder why…”, “have you ever thought…” or “wouldn’t it be cool if…”

They enjoy walking in the grey, not the black and white.  They may look or dress odd, but there is a bright spark of inquisitiveness in their eyes which is sparked you ask about what interests them, what bothers them, what’s something interesting they could tell you that few others know.  They covet knowledge. They want to know what’s around the next corner. What lurks in the data waiting to be found.  They are not all innate conversationalists, but the good ones all share one thing in common.  They have a clinical obsession with wanting to know one thing: Why. 

Stay curious.

Crush Your Next Customer Experience Presentation with these 10 Tips

A very young petite brunette got up from her seat and walked to the front of the large conference room filled with mostly jaded middle aged men from the automotive industry give a presentation on, of all things, their customer experience results. The crowd simmered down and she smiled briefly at the room as the technician prepared the projection equipment. She ruffled through her notes.

I thought “Oh boy, she’s going to get killed.”

No one likes bad news, and in my experience, no one likes bad news less than millionaire dealership franchise owners. And for many there was going to be very, very bad news today. I almost covered my eyes as she started…it was that painful. And then something amazing happened.

She crushed it.

She got off the mark like a professional sprinter. Articulate and focused, it wasn’t about the slides it was about the message; stop trying to maximize short term profits at the expense of long term loyalty.

The entire crowd, myself included, badly underestimated her. This young women talked to these powerful men about their customer experience with respect, but clear confidence. She pointed out the strengths of their operations. But she also pointed out where improvement was needed. She didn’t mix words.

These dealers had a big experience problem with price negotiation. They were hanging on to the old “four square” approach to pricing and their customers weren’t having it. It contributed to strong feelings of mistrust. Modern customers demand more transparency in pricing or they will just pick up and leave.

She looked them in the eye and provided iron clad evidence of their problem using customer experience and financial data, but did it through relatable storytelling. Using data and anecdote as a one-two punch, she related a personal story of her own mother getting mixed up in a price negotiation at a local dealership. It didn’t end well. It was a lost sale for the dealership.

She wasn’t lecturing. She was approachable. She invited them in to comment as it was just a conversation. She smiled and cleverly countered objections.

“Hey kid, I make a lot of money using that technique” one veteran car guy challenged her.

“Well, maybe you do Bob. I will give you that. But most don’t”

She then produced a slide looking at the relationship between different pricing tactics and the impact on customer experience and average gross profit. Bob stopped talking.

 “Also, let’s think about the long-term consequence … do you think those customers will come back again? Where do you think they will service that vehicle? What will they tell their friends?”

I looked around. There weren’t one set eyes that weren’t on her and what she was saying.

Impressive. And then something else amazing happened.

At the break, I looked around the room. The entire audience was either on the phone or sending emails or both. I serendipitously eavesdropped a bit and could hear these dealers talking to their managers about the results and what should be done. Actually, the volume level of some would not merit a “talking” status, but more of a “yelling” one. Action was happening. Right there and then.

Creating the Killer CX Presentation

We’ve all been there. We’ve all seen a few of the VOC presentations like the young women above and some real train wrecks. But what separates great VOC presentations from the real stinkers?

As CX practitioners our main job is to draw people in, engaged them in the results, and ultimately get them to do something. If they don’t understand what they are looking at that won’t happen. If they don’t care or believe what you are telling them that’s a dead end too.

Only through adroit and impactful storytelling can we really inspire our audience to take action. Here are some the tricks that our young presenter used and you can too in delivering a rock star level VOC.

  1. The Wrapper Counts

Many people buy wine because of the label. It’s true. You chose your romantic partner because you were attracted to their appearance. People like beautiful things. This includes your presentation.

Attention to detail and making things beautiful will open people up to your presentation and make them pay attention. Make it look clean, uncluttered, and inviting. On this issue, it is instructive to listen to Sheryl, our veteran real estate agent, on how to sell a home through compelling presentation…

Make it look homey and comfortable, but like it could be the [prospective] buyers’ home…but WAY better. You want them to believe they would feel comfortable there… get rid of the clutter off of all the surfaces and get rid of the brick-a-brack. Make a beautiful canvas which they can complete to their desire…also use silver…silver sells

While I cannot vouch for silver selling, her other pointers are spot on. Make your VOC presentation for your audience. Make them believe they can live in it. Make it their own and eliminate clutter. If graphic design isn’t your thing, find someone who can help. There are amazingly talented people out there just waiting for a chance to help you.

  1. Define Your Story Arc

Story telling is an iterative process, doubly so for the CX and Insights professional. First, you need to figure out what the data is saying and then you need to figure out your story and how to say it. Don’t go near Powerpoint before you have a well-developed idea and plan on both fronts. Some of the more analytically minded may be tempted to put a question down and just answer it. Don’t do that.

People who know what they are talking about don’t need Powerpoint” – Steve Jobs

Create a story by following the familiar pattern of exposition, rising action, climax, resolution, and conclusion. Provide the ground work in exposition. Make a big uncomfortable problem for your audience. Make them squirm if you can. Make it build. Admire the problem and layer on other aspects of it. At some point, there is an apex and resolution. Then we reflect. Every great story follows some variation of this very simple and ancient formula. Make sure you follow some variant of this general arc to keep your audience engaged.

  1. Provide Context

Part of the story is defining why you are yapping at them in the first place. Sure, you have been heads-down looking at which kind of hair in the drain is the most distasteful to hotel customers, but your audience has no idea what you are going to talk about or why they should care. Set the stage. Provide some background and context about you are going to talk about. Talk about the industry, the competitive set, and trends.

Punch them in the face with something controversial to get their attention. Get them just a little off guard. Talk about anything in the set up that will answer the question: why should I care about your CX presentation today.

Sure, you are going to annoy some insiders with some review material, but people generally like to hear even familiar material. It makes them feel smart. They may even chime in with their own observations and comments which what you want from an engagement standpoint.

  1. Connect the Dots

I hate taco stands that only sell tacos. Ok, that’s a lie. I love taco stands that only sell tacos, but my point is people usually want more than tacos to eat. Your audience also doesn’t want to hear about just your quantitative or qualitative study even if automates turn signals for the elderly and enables orphans to divide by zero. Any attorney worth their $1,100 Italian shoes knows that multiple forms of evidence is much more convincing than a single source.

If needed you can use your VOC study as the center piece, but bring other components in to support and explain what is going on. Use operational, behavioral, market, sales or any other data that helps support your point.

This also has the added benefit of making you smarter and getting other folks in your organization engaged with what you are doing. Notice a dip in the availability of 60lbs parchment paper in Louisville? Get on the horn and find out. Talk to the district manager. Talk to the distributors. Talk directly customers. In short, roll your sleeves up and connect the dots for your audience. You find out some really interesting surprises in your investigation.

  1. Make it Personal and Relevant

The more authentic you are the more people will tune into your channel. Be yourself and relatable in delivering result. Make your presentation relatable to your audience. Masters of storytelling Chip and Dan Heath remind us that successful presentations are simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, and story based. Also, make “what’s in for me” central to the delivery. Making it personal and relevant for the audience will earn your audience’s attention and readiness for action.

I think presentation Jedi Nancy Duarte said it best her book Resonate:

The audience does not need to tune themselves to you—you need to tune your message to them. Skilled presenting requires you to understand their hearts and minds and create a message to resonate with what’s already there.”

Sure you want to let the data speak, but you are the presenter. You want them to remember the message and the best way to do that is to put on a personal level they can understand. Mix parables with parameters and facts with fables. This one-two punch of stone cold facts and personal stories are memorable and impactful

  1. Less is More

We have all heard the Blaise Pascal quote “I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter”. It is true, it is hard to distill down stories to the bare essence. If you are Mr or Ms. Clutterbug you will have an especially hard time with this. But you must get rid of everything unnecessary. You don’t need to show your work; the audience trusts that you did your job. Make your results as succinct and fast paced as possible, but not at the expense of losing your audience.

The same can be said for graphics and words. I am a Stephen Few fan (although I think he may be a tad too stoic for my graphics tastes) and a Hemingway fan. They both have the unique ability to pull away everything and leave only what is necessary, and in so doing, somehow leaving more. Applying this clean-up to your presentation will make for a tighter presentation and a much happier (and informed) audience.

  1. Invite the Audience In

Now-I-am-going-to-drone-on-for- 58-minutes-and-leave-the-last-2-for-questions presentation approach is a sure-fire way to lose your audience and not accomplished your most important task: communication.

Be brave and invite your audience in. If you are in person, ask them questions, even if it is a show of hands. Online, no problem, do a quiz such as those free ones by PollEverywhere. The show is oh-so-much more entertaining when you are not the sole performer. Also, be willing to pivot. Your job is communicate to the audience your message, however, that is done.

Everybody’s got a plan until I hit them” – Mike Tyson

Don’t be afraid to change gears up and abandon your plan if it’s not working. Stay agile and stay engaged with your audience. Remember your mission is to deliver the message and make it stick. Don’t be afraid to improvise a bit.

  1. Be Gracious

You know how much “thank you” costs? Nothing. No one likes someone who is condescending or taking sadistic glee at a particular region and product’s poor showing. Don’t hold back the punches, but be gracious and understand your political context. You can dole out the truth but not be ruthless and personal about it.

You are not the hero who will save the audience; the audience is your hero.” – Nancy Duarte

You are the Bruce Lee of VOC, dispassionately unleashing fists of truth against misconceptions and the unknown. Your opponent is the dark entropy of ignorance, not your audience members. Your audience members are there to learn, and ostensibly, improve the customer experience. You should, in turn, create a pleasant audience experience from them that is captivating, direct, but humble. Make it easy from them to believe you. Be their ally not their adversary.

  1. Remember Your Homebase

The best thing I learned in public relations training was to always return to your home base. What are the one to three points you are trying to communicate and stick with them over and over and over again. You might think this is annoying to people, and it can be, but not as annoying as you might think. You listen to yourself much more than anyone else does.

Don’t limit your home base communication to just your VOC presentation but add it to the upfront invitation and the after-event ‘thank you’ and action planning session. Get your co-workers to help out through communicating the main points either informally or formally throughout the organization. If you cannot tell me the three key points of VOC presentation you have not done enough cleaning and distillation. Get crisp and make sure you are always coming back to home base, over and over again. Oh, and practice.

  1. Provide a Call to Action

“Ok now do what we do?” the manager asked her boss. The presentation is over and now everyone goes back to work. That is a clear VOC presentation fail. You must have a call to action in your CX presentation and ideally make it specific, time-bound, and connected to specific people.

The more personal and public these commitments are the more likely they are to get done. If that doesn’t conform with your organization’s culture then find another way to “commit to a commit” where people are committing to do some specifically in the future in the way of acting on the results.

The shelf life of insights is extremely short in the world of CX. The more time that elapses from your VOC presentation to action, the less likely it is to happen. I recommend reminding audience attendees what the expectations will be from them as a result of the presentation in advance. There is no free admittance to your amazing presentation after all. Organizations invest a bunch in time and people to deliver the VOC results, it is a crime to waste that effort by organizational impotency.

Beyond the Presentation

Dashboards and technology can only get us so far in Customer Experience, it takes a human interpretation and cheerleader to spur action. This is especially true in the early stages of CX initiatives in an organization.

If you are responsible for getting the word out, you have a very important job that transcends the hour or so of the presentation. Before and after it is a constant marketing campaign by you and your team to evangelize CX. Take bits of your presentation and include it emails. Go visit the head of operations or marketing on a regular basis. Action happens when someone is insisting on it. Be that change agent and use compelling story telling to create reason for change.

Be like the young lady who persuaded those millionaire dealers to swallow a 500mg truth pill. She gave a persuasive and compelling argument to a tough audience that resulted in positive change. She continues to provide those compelling arguments to this day. Sometimes to a corporate audience and sometimes to our children, the latter being a one of the toughest audiences you are going to find. I find it’s always good to learn from your spouse. I continue to learn every day.

What is Your CX Leadership Style?

I have had the pleasure of working with many CX professionals over the years, most of whom were (and are) very effective at their job. The CX leaders who are most effective all share one trait in common; they tend to be fervent change agents for the organization. The status quo to them is unacceptable and, as leaders, they are usually tapped to do the job of CX transformation for that reason.

These leaders want to do things differently as it relates to customer practices and policies. Very often CX leaders (CCO, CXO etc) are imported from different areas of the organization such as marketing, operations, call center operations human resources, etc. They bring that perspective to the job, but the effective ones usually speak several functional languages which helps them in boundary spanning to bring the organization together to one common CX cause.

While these leaders come in all forms, over the years I have seen a few clear archetypes emerge. Usually CX leaders are a blend of these archetypes, but I have seen a few purebreds in nature. Each archetype has inherent strengths and weaknesses. Here’s who they are and potential blindspots to be mindful of.

 

 The Technocrat

For this CX leader it is all about technology. CRM, CFM, AI, APIs, Chatbots, you name it. If its technology that fixes a problem it is awesome. In fact, sometimes technology is proffered by the Technocrat to find a problem to solve. As the tool keeper this role is invaluable, however, sometimes this kind of leader underplays the importance of people and culture in CX transformation. They tend to lean in to process and automation as a way of “reducing the friction” for customers.

While the Technocrat is a critical member of any team, too much emphasis on technology will result in a well-equipped organization that doesn’t know how to use the tools they have effectively.

Advice to the Technocrat: All roads don’t lead to technology. You must also consider the human element. If this is not your passion or strong suit, find someone who can help you out to consider other elements in creating sustainable change.

The Rebel

This leader might open a meeting with “I have come here to kick ass and chew bubble gum…and I am all out of bubblegum”. This person likes to get things done. And if you are not going to help, well…the Rebel will just find some other way to do it. They are all about innovation and doing things different. They inspire people who want to change and are despised by the folks how prefer the status quo.

While the Rebel is very effective in initiating new approaches and moving the organization forward he or she may be easily distracted by new and exciting things. The sometimes lack the discipline of staying focused and on task. Also, in connecting the dots before others can, they don’t always bring others along with them. A leader with no one following him or her is just taking a walk.

Advice to the Rebel: You need to bring along the crowd. You are innovative but you must inspire others to follow you…even if they think differently than you. Partner up with a cheerleader who can help bring others along with you. Also find ways to stay focused on the core mission at hand.

bulldozer

The Bulldozer

The bulldozer also gets things done. A true planner, the Bulldozer pushes their agenda through organization at a measured, but unstoppable pace. They are relentless. Oftentimes the Bulldozer has high street cred bolstered by a mandate from CEO or President. If you get in the Bulldozers way, you will be run over.

The Bulldozer style can be very effective. However, the “resistance is futile” credo of the Bulldozer can sometimes be off-putting…and create localized insurrections. There is a time for Bulldozer and there is time for a bit more of finesse.

Advice to the Bulldozer: Occasionally you need to look up from your steering wheel and course correct. You also have to realize that if everyone is quiet it doesn’t mean they agree with you. Show empathy and try and at least entertain flexibility in your planning.

The Tactician

Check lists, timelines, traceability, accountability; the Tactician is the Johnny-on-the-spot of getting things done. With the tenacity of a software salesperson, the Tactician will hunt you down if you fail to make your deliverable date. If you don’t respond to the Tactician’s emails…he will go into Terminator mode and find you. In short, the Tactician gets things done through pure tenacity. The downside is; he or she may get so far down in the weeds on implementation that they may not come back up and recheck their assumptions as the environment changes.

Readjustment can be difficult for the Tactician. Also, they oftentimes need the help of other archetypes (such as the Philosopher and Technocrat) to develop the overall strategy.

Advice to the Tactician: Project plans are great, but you also need to be willing to reforecast when appropriate and re-plan. While communication is not your short-coming per se, explaining why something is important and may be something you overlook. You need to remember that these are people who you are dealing with not just cogs in the machine. The Tactician works well with others who need a bit more structure in their life such as the Rebel and…

guru

The Guru

Another form of CX change agent is the philosopher of the CX world; the CX Guru. Gurus loves talking about theory and case studies. They inspire people with their oratory powers and really get people excited about the vision of where the company is going. Unfortunately, the Guru has one weakness; he or she is a philosopher not a necessarily do-er.

All talk and wishful thinking about organizational change is not a sustainable plan to improve the organization. Change starts when something happens. In order for happen to happen there must be a plan.

Advice to the Guru: Find a Tactician, Rebel, or Bulldozer with whom to work. You need to find someone who will bring your ideas to life. You need someone who will help you execute. “Thought leadership” by itself is useless unless you have a plan to implement. Always keep the real business needs as top of mind and back into how that connects with your ideas around CX.

The Diplomat

Probably the most effective form of change agent is the Diplomat. This is someone who has the mandate of very senior management and projects an executive presence. They don’t yell. They don’t threaten. They smile. They are confident. They make deals. The Diplomat knows everyone has an agenda and an end goal and she is the master deal maker in making things happen. She also knows that sometimes there is no deal to be made…so situations must be escalated.

While you see the slow advance of the Bulldozer and the crazy antics of the Rebel well ahead of time, the Diplomat uses the backroom to get things done. In the rare instance the Diplomat comes to an impasse with someone, many times that person will silently and unceremoniously just disappear from the organization or parked somewhere where they are no longer an obstacle. “Poof” problem solved. Gracious, consistent, and congenial; the Diplomat is deadly effective.

Advice to the Diplomat: The diplomat is a smooth operator, but she may get a wrapped in all dealing and no doing. Team up with those who can help you activate (Tactician, Bulldozer) and help you think (Technocrat, Guru). You can get the deal done, but you will usually need the help of others for the substance.

What Kind of CX Change Agent are You?

Change agents come in all forms and flavors. Many individuals are hybrids of these archetypes, but I am sure some of these may be familiar to you. The truth of effective organizational change is in having a contingency approach to the needs of the organization as it matures. Early on some Rebels are needed. Gurus are needed for inspiration and to motivate the crowd.

Other times Bulldozer techniques are required and the deployment of the tools in the Technocrat’s toy box are very appropriate. The Tactician skill set is always a welcomed addition to a team to get things done especially when coupled with vision of the Guru. And of course, we all need more Diplomats in our organizations.

We can look at these roles across a Relational vs. Functional1 and a Thinking vs. Doing orientation to CX change leadership. As mentioned, people do not fit nicely into each of these rolls, but they certainly have tendencies and preferences in style.

df_cx_change_agent

The CX Change Agent Circumplex

The truth is there is usually not just one style that get things done effectively; it is a team effort. Finding the “purple squirrel” of the ideal change agent is a hopeless cause. An ideal leader in CX change (or really any change) is one that can complement his or her strengths with the skills of others on the team2. Balance your team out. Know who you are and find who can help complement your skill set.

So what kind of CX change agent are you? Who are you missing on your team to create sustainable organizational change? Have you ever seen a purple squirrel?

______________________________

1. Forsyth, Donelson R. (2010). Group Dynamics 5th edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning

2. https://www.amazon.com/Soar-Your-Strengths-Revolutionary-Philosophy/dp/044050564X

CRM + EFM = Experience Management

Organizations tend to treat prospects and customers differently.  Prospects are the province of sales and marketing, while customers have been traditionally managed from the operations side of the business. This division, however, appears to be melting away. Should our technologies follow suit?

The promise of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) was always to create a better customer experience over the lifetime of the customer by engaging them and delivering value. It was to be a tool to establish an ongoing two-way mutually beneficial relationship.

Likewise, the promise of EFM (Enterprise Feedback Management) systems was to gather up the thoughts and feelings of customers and feed it back to the organization. That information was then, ostensibly, used to address both customer concerns and larger systematic problems.

In fairness, our impact has been hit or miss on both sides. There are some excellent relationship management programs in place, particularly among online retailers. However, a good portion of the vision of CRM devolved into spam email campaigns and newsletters.

Likewise, the use of metrics such as NPS really got organizations focused on the customer experience and it was added alongside other important KPIs on corporate scorecards. Still, we can see ample evidence of NPS programs that run amuck and turn into token quid pro quo economies rather than helping the customer experience.

cheat1

So how do we take the good of both, get rid of the bad and combine it? CRM and EFM programs are really not that dissimilar and can be combined together in organizations ready to do so. The prerequisite is strong coordination and connectivity between marketing and retention functions to work properly.

Before we start mashing systems together it is instructive to look at the key use cases among EFM and CRM. EFM has been traditionally focused on retention, whereas CRM has been traditionally focused more on acquisition and share of wallet. If we look at what each trying to do we can see some commonalities; in fact they have very common goals… just different sides of the same coin.

The Three Fundamental Use Cases of Experience Data

1. Monitoring Performance

Fundamentally, NPS studies are set up to provide a metric in order to assess how an organization, outlet, or representative is performing. I used the term NPS here a bit generically as it is not always a “NPS” measure per se but may also be other metrics such as “willingness to renew”, “willingingness to buy more” and so forth. Nonetheless what these metrics are used for is to assess “How am I doing?” These metrics are then used to do principally to things; 1) determine if the outcome of intervention worked and 2) use for goal setting.

If you think about a modification to an existing service or a marketing campaign you need some kind of metrics to assess the success or failure. A/B testing is not and should be the sole domain of marketing effectiveness, such experimental and quasi-experimental designs should be used to assess the defectiveness of experiential redesign for existing customers as well.

In many EFM programs NPS-like scores are used for incentive purposes. Oftentimes goals are established and rewards and punishments are doled out for achievement and non-achievement of those goals. When implemented correctly they can be quite powerful in invoking behavioral change.

While NPS scores are not used on the marketing side of the equation, other behavioral metrics are used such as open rates, click-throughs, and other engagement metrics. Interestingly, most modern marketing efforts are surprisingly devoid of attitudinal feedback from prospects. While rewards are not regularly attached to these metrics, they are still an indicator of success and I am sure are attached to marketers performance plans in some cases.

2. Conducting Individual Interventions

In the world of EFM a “hot alert” is created when there is a customer in distress that needs help. This is typically achieved through a case management tool whereby someone in the organization reaches out to a customer who needs help and helps resolves their problem. In essence, we are trying to resolve latent problems from “silent suffers”.

In the case of marketing we are also trying to solve a problem for an individual. That problem is how do we match their needs with what the organization can provide. This is where it becomes important to keep in mind that we don’t want to cram unwanted offers in front of prospects and see what sticks; we want to match what we know about them to provide a recommendation that the customer would consider to be of value. A visit to Amazon or Netflix is instructive on how to this well. As you can see, we are solving a problem in both cases and the same mechanisms for doing can be utilized.

This particular area is exciting in that you can use what you have in learned in the past about customers to help predict what perils they might face in the future and head them off before they happen. Likewise, if we have a good understanding of preference and a longitudinal view of the customer we can much more intelligently and efficiently match up customer wants with products and service rather via the brute force of even the most targeted email marketing campaign.

3. Conducting Systematic Intervention

While it good to solve individual problems (sometimes called the “inner loop”) it is better to prevent they issues from occurring by identifying the root cause (“the outer loop”). The heritage of EFM originated from market research and OD approaches to organizational problem solving. In this use case customer feedback is used for insight and diagnostics. The organization gathers up information about the experience and then it analyzed so the feedback wheat is separated from the chaff.

Based on that information and analysis we are able to prioritize key areas to work on. Next, we gather a cross functional team together and come up with a solution. That solution is implemented, hopefully quickly, and we would observe the impact on the key metrics.

This same exact process could be (and in some instances is) used on the acquisition side of the equation. Why are some people leaving after filling their online basket but before payment? Why do some people only buy one kind or category of product from a retail location? These are all questions that can identified and answered by behavioral data and direct feedback. It’s the same use case, but solving a slightly different problem.

Why Have Two Systems?

What we need is one system that will work both the acquisition and retention side of the CX coin. At first it sounds a bit onerous and potentially irritating to customers and prospects… all those contacts and long questionnaires! I don’t think it needs to be that way. In fact, I think there is a way to reduce the burden on prospects and customers and actually add much more value to the interaction that what is there today.

Conducting longitudinal dialogs over the course of the experience that are both gathering data and adding value in the form of information and help is one area of opportunity. What was once seemed as an impracticable task is now well within our reach by using advanced AI systems to take the burden and guess work out of the complex contingencies in such a system.

Likewise, the use of “building” systems that compile information on customers across contacts and behaviors can make us smart about customers each time we talk to them. This makes us smarter and more adroit in communicating and assisting customers… not asking needless information or up unwanted help. Real-time communication in the moment across the journey helps create a more omni-channel experience and allows users to strike while the iron is hot…not hours or days later.

Finally, and most importantly, this type of system would reduce cost and deliver a direct and measurable ROI. No longer would EFM systems be relegated to cost avoidance frameworks or struggle with linkage models to prove their mettle. We could actually help organizations make more money through driving retention as well as share of wallet and conquest.

If this seems far-fetched, I think we are much closer today to this solution than we were even a few years back. The technology is mostly there, it is really just a matter on configuring it. In the EFM space we should stop trying to build better mouse traps for the existing one side of the equation and look at how to move to what’s next. On the CRM side, we should stop looking at the customer side as a “cost of business” and invest on those relationship as those customers have a choice about whether to come back or not.

The first company to get to this sweat spot between acquisition and retention will win the day and fundamentally change the industry for both CRM and EFM providers.

The New Formula for Disruption: CX>4Ps

In business school we were all taught about the 4 Ps: Price, Product, Promotion, and Place. I remember teaching graduate level Strategic Marketing and the author of the book had decided to also throw in an “S” (Service) to salute the experiential flag. While the four Ps are certainly important, an over reliance and focus on them may have forced entire industries down a myopic product centered hole.

In the hallowed halls of consumer package goods (CPG) where the magic Ps were first conjured and codified we are finding this particular potion, no matter the alchemy employed, lacks the potency it once possessed.

On all sides ‘Big Food’ is under assault and they and the associated adjacencies are suffering. Disruptors on all sides are sourcing more local, organic, and relatable products and brands. Customers are no longer shopping in the middle of the store as much as they are around the edges, if they are shopping in the store anymore at all.

Why?

Many reasons, but the focus on the Four Ps created an overly atomistic and reductionist approach to product development, design, and marketing. It is a formula to be optimized with customer input as the test subject. Like Rhesus Monkeys in some subterranean laboratory, customers are used as stimulus-response subjects to help hone and refine the product. Does this taste sweeter? Does this taste saltier? What do you think of this package? Blue or Red? Do you like it? Why or why not?

Admittedly this approach created some very addictive chicken nuggets and pork chop coatings, but this 1960s approach where the brand manager played the role of the beneficent product god and customers were his flock of “consumers” misses a very important point.

People do not buy products; they buy experiences.

Customers do not buy cereal, they are looking for how to feed their kids in the morning and keep them happy and healthy. They don’t buy dolls or toy cars they buy the experience of playing with that doll or the creative endeavor of creating a make-believe city out of the living room carpet.

This product myopia is not relegated to CPG by any means. Insurance companies are struggling as to how to sell life insurance policies to millennials who fail to see the point. The hospitality industry is trying to assert its relevance over aggressive boutique experience providers. The automotive industry is about to be turned on its head as product planners continue to plan products while young people are increasingly delaying getting a licenseand would rather not own a car if they didn’t have to. It affects almost every industry.

The evidence was in plain sight for a long time, but accelerant has been thrown on experiential fire by millennials and newer generations of the “sharing economy” who view owning stuff as a needless investment when money could be much wisely put toward hiking the PCT or hang gliding in Belize.

So what do we do?

The first important step is we all need to take a step back. Hold hands and chant “we don’t sell products, we sell experiences.” We need to radically re-think how we “do” product development and marketing from the ground up. It is coming to terms that we are not providing a product with features, we are providing an experience.

So how do we proceed from there? The steps are familiar, the substance of doing them may not be.

Who is Your Customer?

First, we need to define who it is we are talking about as customers. Is it one person or many? Is it retirees or school children? Men or women? Defining your customer is more accurately done psychometrically then demographically as one is typically just a surrogate for the other, but nonetheless some kind of profile is better than none as experiential desires vary greatly by individuals. Getting crisp on “who” is very important before we start talking about the what…however, those conversation invariably possess a recursive quality.

What do they Want?

If you ask people what they want different in their Ketchup they will tell you things like size, taste, color and so forth. These are the tangible product attributes that people get their brains and around and we, as researchers, have trained them to talk about. If you get lucky you might have an eureka! moment and find out they want to get the ketchup out of the bottle easier. However, the conversation is always about ketchup.

Reframe

In order to really get to what people want we need to reframe the problem. What is the underlying experience they want to have? How do we get to it? Is it really about ketchup? Or is it about picnics or baseball games?

Customers have a very hard time expressing this in the abstract. The famous quote of customers wanting a faster horse buggy is spot on; customers can’t project their future product needs; that’s our job.

Getting To Experiences

Over the years researchers have come up with different ways of getting to “underlying needs” such as laddering techniques and other project techniques. I think those can work, but have some pragmatic limitations. When we start laddering up to “self-actualization” or “connectedness” as the underlying need, you oftentimes see the look of sheer terror on the product planner and marketers’ face. How does one design to “connectedness”? No, we need something a bit more concrete.

I have found the best way to evoke what people want from their experience is looking at their customer journey today and contrasting that to what that might ideally look like in the future. We are not confining people to attributes, colors, and prices. This involves a mix of observing behaviors, looking at trends, and actually talking to people.

Take for example the founder story of Uber

“On a snowy Paris evening in 2008, Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp had trouble hailing a cab. So they came up with a simple idea—tap a button, get a ride.

What started as an app to request premium black cars in a few metropolitan areas is now changing the logistical fabric of cities around the world. Whether it’s a ride, a sandwich, or a package, we use technology to give people what they want, when they want it.”

What did Uber do? They took away all of the bad stuff and added in the only the stuff that improved the experience. They didn’t make a better taxi, they re-engineered the experience of getting from point A to point B better.

Experiential Design

So now we understand the journey and it’s time to get to work. Unfortunately, in this new world it is not just the product planning and brand managers at the helm of the Starship Experience, it takes the whole crew. We are creating experiences, and that involves many people including manufacturing, sales, human resources, operations, product planning, marketing, and many facets of the organizations. If you have retail partners, franchisee, or third party installers; this involves them too.

Oh yeah, those pesky “consumers”… we want to talk with them too. In fact, getting the folks together who are using your stuff with those building stuff is a really great way to supercharge the design process. This approached saved Lego’s bacon and others. We have to get everyone to the table with a common understanding of the customer, their journey today, a common vision for the future, and only then can we design.

Also, it’s important to keep it simple and iterative. The iPhone 6 wasn’t created over night; nor was that F-150 or that tasty can of Thai Chili Star-Kist Tuna. Everything thing on this planet evolved from previous iterations that morphed and changed to best survive and thrive in an ever-changing ecosystem. Those ecosystems change, so must the products and services within them. In fact, one tends to influence the other. Experiential design is no different. It is an iterative, learning, and building endeavor.

Less Ps more CX

So are the four Ps irrelevant? Of course not, they are just a subset of other characteristics we need to consider when designing experiences. Tweaks to existing product offerings are still appropriate, but tweaking at the expense of stepping back and looking at the bigger picture is where companies get caught on their heels.

True experiential design involves more than just product configuration and throwing blue crystals into laundry detergent. If you want to survive in this rapidly pulsating environment, long cycle gated product development approaches won’t do. Move quick and iteratively. Check you instruments but not at the expense of stopping the boat. We must be look at what customer really want and then deliver it to them, quickly, and holistically.

CX Wisdom from the Pope

When’s the last time you talked to one of your customers? Not read a report or sat in on a focus group, but shook hands and talked with a customer.

If you can’t recall and you are the owner, CEO, or other senior executive of an organization then you might have a problem. One simple leading indicator of whether a company is customer focused can be seen in the behavior of their top executives reaching out to customers directly. It’s also a leading indicator if that company will flourish or disappear.

I recently purchased some Bluetooth running headphones from a small technology company in Colorado. They turned out to be defective. I was getting frustrated with the almost-nonexistent customer support so I tried to find the name of the owner. That proved to be somewhat challenging as his name was not listed anywhere on the website except in a promotional video. When I finally did hunt him down via a variety of Internet tools and sent him a friendly email pleading for help, I did not receive a reply from him. I did, however, get quick resolution from their customer support after that point. Why did it have to be that way?

On the other hand we find those organizations who successfully stay connected with their customers. I’m sure these organizations have good VOC programs, but their leadership also gets out and talks with their customers.  In short, their leadership LEADS.

Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, would regularly pop into stores across his vast network to check in on the store and talk with customers. His visits weren’t with an entourage that buffered him from his constituency, just him and his old Ford pickup. He just wanted to stay connected to his customers and make sure they were happy with the prices, services, and products his stores were providing.  He did the same with his employees.

Not long ago Pope Francis, fed up with being cloistered in the Vatican, took to sneaking out at night, avoiding his security detail, to help the poor. He also dumped the bulletproof Popemobile, feeling it distanced him from his flock. Delta CEO Richard Anderson is known for getting out and meeting customers, gave up his seat to a passenger so she could get home on time.

You can see this intimacy in thousands of small restaurants, shops, and hotels across the nation who have proud and passionate owners and a genuine interest in their customers’ well being. For the ultimate in “connecting” with customers go to any rock concert where the performers get out and talk with thousands of fans at a time and aren’t afraid to get off the stage to interact.  Wow.

The customer experience doesn’t stop after people open the box, buy the service, or walk out of the store. It continues long after that initial transaction as customers continue to interact with your brand well into their ownership journey. Great leaders of truly customer-centric organizations get that. It’s about getting out there and finding out what is really going on, not counting money behind a desk and letting the “front line” be the sole touch point for the customer.

So today give that customer a call or stop them in your store and say “thanks.” It’s not hard.  Ask them what they like and don’t like and most of all listen. Oh, and thank you for reading…let me know what feedback you have for me as well.

Insights: A Small Investment for Big Returns

It’s no secret that the majority of new product introductions fail.  According to the Harvard Business Review less than 25% of consumer packaged goods and retail products fail to earn $7.5m in their first year.  The annals of business literature are littered with failed products from New Coke, Crystal Pepsi, Frito Lay’s Wow Chips, Microsoft Zune, McDonald’s Arch Deluxe, the Pontiac Aztec, and more recently the Samsung Galaxy Gear.  Why did they fail?  Well, it usually comes down to the fundamental problem of not understanding the customer.  This ailment comes in three flavors: not conducting any market research, doing it wrong, or ignoring the results and voice of the customer.

wow_chips
Due to the presence of Olestra, some consumers experienced intestinal discomfort

No Consumer Research

In this failed product scenario there is no consumer feedback collected whatsoever.  This happens often in small business start-ups.   Entrepreneurs tend to love their own babies, even when they may be ugly.  Many times these founders are so passionate they convince their friends and family that their idea is fantastic.  The very passion of entrepreneurs  have can be blinding, which makes the need for consumer insight even more important.   “Research is too expensive” is the statement I hear, to which I retort, “what is the cost of failure?”

Henry Ford and Steve Jobs are both lauded, rightfully so, in the business press as inspirational and visionary thinkers. They both shared a disdain for market research.  While their product legacy lives on to today in Ford and Apple they were both instrumental in bringing to market two huge product failures: the Edsel and the NeXT computer respectively.  Both of these products had some very advanced features and in many ways were well ahead of their time. Unfortunately, in both instances there was a fundamental misunderstanding of the market and customer expectations.

Firebox
Good intent may result in disastrous consequences

Truly great visionaries may get by for a while without any customer feedback, but without any kind of check on the market they run a very high risk of making some very big mistakes. Launching a new product or service without any consumer feedback is like trying to land an aircraft on a runway at night with no instrumentation. You might make it, but it could be catastrophic.  Why risk it?  It doesn’t have to be complicated.

Bad Customer Research

In other cases, the research conducted is just bad. Coca Cola conducted a massive amount of product testing only to find out that people actually preferred the taste of Pepsi. The logical thing to do?  Make it taste better.  That’s actually what they did with the launch of New Coke.  What they didn’t do is realize the love affair the world had with the brand.  To customers, Coca Cola was a national treasure and they did not want their national treasure altered.  The result was pulling of New Coke of the shelf and the accidental re-ignition of the love affair the world had with Coke.

This is an all too familiar instance of not framing the question properly.  It wasn’t all about the product attributes; it was about the brand and emotional connection people had with it. If Coca Cola conducted their research more broadly they would have found that out.  I have seen many instances where consumer research is too narrowly focused on features without understanding the higher order emotional and psychological desires of people.

Of course there’s about a bazillion technical ways to conduct research poorly; bad sampling, bad design, inaccurate data collection techniques, faulty and misleading analyses, but that’s a topic for another article. The basic point here is; if you going to do research make sure you do it with an open mind and get someone not as intimate with your idea to help think about the right questions to ask.

Ignored

It always amazes me the amount of money that big companies spend on consumer research only to ignore it. As one of my more sardonic colleagues is fond of saying…

“Research, when it confirms what we thought it’s a waste of money, when it doesn’t it must be wrong.”

Ignoring customer feedback is the sign of a company out of touch and a tell tale sign of bad things to come.  Arguably one of the ugliest vehicles ever made was the Pontiac Aztec.  Former GM Executive Bob Lutz summarized it best in Road and Track

http://www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings/vehicle/v/pontiac/aztek-4-door-suv/2001
2001 Pontiac Aztec

Early on, the Aztek obviously failed the market research. But in those days, GM went ahead with quite a few vehicles that failed product clinics. The Aztek didn’t just fail—it scored dead last. Rock bottom. Respondents said, “Can they possibly be serious with this thing? I wouldn’t take it as a gift.” And the GM machine was in such denial that it rejected the research and just said, “What do those a**holes know?”

Hubris and a feeling of product invincibility brought down many a goliath organization.  In Jim Collins’ book “How The Mighty Fall” he outlines the stages where great companies fall.  At the apex of a declining organization is Stage 3 entitled “Denial of Risk and Peril”.  One the key markers for this stage is a tendency for the organization to explain away or discount negative data.  Become aware of that is starting to happen at your organization.

Another mistake is ignoring current ongoing customer feedback about products and services.  In a world where word mouth travels to millions in milliseconds, getting on top of this through listening posts and responding is absolutely critical.   Unfortunately, many companies are not monitoring channels effectively.  Many companies have active feedback coming into their call centers or through sales representatives but it is not consolidated and sent back to those who can do something about it. More alarmingly are those companies that actively “hide” from customers once they sell their product.  You can tell these companies as they offer only a text box email to contact them usually with no phone number or address listed on their website.  A company that hides from their customers is doomed to fail.

The Good News

The good news is you don’t have to be “that company”.  Consumer research is not the end all, be all.  Creativity and innovation is not usually distilled from sitting behind a one-way mirror watching a focus group while eating M&Ms. In fact, I think that method of customers has experienced a rightful death and should be buried.

However, not listening and observing your customers as an input into your product development, implementation, and delivery efforts is a guarantee for failure.  So, does gathering this feedback need to be time consuming and expensive?  Nope.  There are many techniques and services that are no cost or low cost that can help you avoid some fatal market place blunders.  In future articles I will be reviewing some of those techniques, services, and data sources that can help you along the way to become a successful and customer centric business.

How to Get Your Front Line Focused on CX

Probably the biggest under-acknowledged challenge in launching a new CX initiative is engaging front line employees. Real time data collection is pointless if only an exclusive group of technocrats in HQ can see the results. We can’t start to think about action if the front line does not have, understand, or feel the information is meaningful to them. But how do we get the word out?

Dashboards

Dashboarding has become very popular of communicating complex data simply. Companies such as TableauDomomTAB, and Dapresy have some very impressive dashboarding tools. These can be assembled quickly and inexpensively. Here is a nice interactive example in Tableau Public of a fairly comprehensive dashboard designed by Gustavo Alberto for the fictitious Krusty Burger chain, albeit in Español.

Most CFM providers have a configurable dashboarding component as well. The fact that most of these tools are also mobile enabled helps field engagement with the information as well.

However, even dashboarding can be asking a bit much for the busy frontline worker. The average working joe or jane who is out in the parking lot, behind the register, or in the call center really might not have the time, interest, or know-how to consult their NPS dashboard to see how well they are doing. How can they find out?

Making CX Public

We know that engaging the front line can make or break the success of a CX initiative. They are the intersection between the brand and the customer in most instances. How do we make them aware of what is going on?

The answer may be simple. Why not go public with CX results? Let’s put our report card on a very public refrigerator for the world to see.

This accomplishes a number of goals. First, it puts CX attitudinal and behavioral metrics right under the nose of the very people who can make a difference. Most motivation theories such as Expectancy Theory and Job Characteristic Model hold that feedback is very important in improving performance. It also makes a good deal of sense. How do I know if I am improving if you don’t tell me on a regular basis?

Second, for customers it provides a degree of transparency about the performance of that location and gives them assurances that this is a good place to shop. The fact that a store isn’t perfect is not seen as a negative any more than your credit score or your score on the vintage Donkey Kong machine in your local pizza parlor. A “Not Perfect” provides motivation for those in the store and creates a sense of trust with the customer that the books are not, in fact, cooked.

In Store Public Displays

Many companies have taken this to heart. This example shows Weis Grocery store displaying their CX efforts in a low-tech but effective manner.

df_feedback_weis

Here we see some challenges in the Produce and Seafood departments but some recent victories in Bakery, Deli, and Pharmacy. This information is posted right in the front of the store for all to see. To associates it is a constant reminder of what still needs to get done and to customers it says we are serious about customer experience and are always striving to improve.

The other nice feature of this simple approach is it involves everyone. Ostensibly the GM and/or department heads are physically updating their scores and changes on a regular basis. As a result, I would imagine the employees in the department discuss regularly and are attuned to those scores. Finally, customers see it every time they shop. In short, it engages all stakeholders where it matters; on the front line.

This second example comes from the London Midlands Railway in the central Britain. This is posted right at the station, not hidden away in some corner of the station, but right next to the ticket counter.

df_feedback_midlands

You can see here they display operational data (e.g., on-time performance), along with the trend. Right next to that information you can see how they handle the human side of the business with information about information provided and “staff attitude”. A very nice summary of all results can be found online here as well.

Online Public Displays

Publicly displayed information about Customer Experience need not be relegated to physical locations. While digital reviews are fairly ubiquitous not everyone has the fortitude to let all reviews get posted unfettered. In some cases, corporate sponsored CX metrics systems either cherry pick reviews or filter out the bad ones. This practice, however, has consequences. The biggest of which that consumers will stop believing them if they appear to be tampered with.

Here is a nice example from Best Buy that lets the CX cards fall where they may. You can see that the reviews are verified (they have to be purchasers). If you were to scroll down you would see many that are not so stellar.

df_feedback_bestbuy

This level of transparency not only helps customers make a good choice, it allows for self-policing of CX so long as it does not degenerate in a quid pro quo economy where there are favors (i.e., incentives) traded for good reviews. That is a topic for a whole different post.

Many others, particularly in hospitality, have adopted a similar approach, thus creating a natural selection system for CX. While some ratings site have been criticized by having reviews suppressed and others have been accused of not being vigilant enough in preventing fake reviews, other companies like SureCritic Reputation.com, and others act as intermediary of reviews that seek out to post the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Driving Engagement and Trust

We live in a time of information transparency. It is expected by customers and integral to consumer decision making. A recent report by Deloitte found that almost 80 percent of consumers have interacted with brands before they even set foot in-store.

While CX information is important for consumer decision making, it also has a large role in driving both employee and customer engagement. Those dashboards and reports sitting back in HQ do little to get buy-in from the field. The private curation of data is seen as Big Brother paternalistically trying to keep tabs on regions and outlets that clearly cannot be trusted.

You can start to turn the cultural ship a bit by democratizing the data. Push CX and operational data down to the lowest level and get the front line’s buy in. If it’s under everyone’s nose every day and they feel like they have some part in influencing it, it will help drive behavior.

Second, I personally prefer the low-tech version in lieu of, or in addition to, technology based solutions. The grocery example is easy to set up, requires about $29.99 of investment and requires local management and front-line employees to engage in the process versus being passive recipients of data.

Third, make CX simple and embed it into the culture. I know many hotels and retailers start the day by reviewing customer feedback. This a great practice that gets everyone focused on the customer rather than the score. It includes everyone in the solution; and most importantly those who can make the biggest difference.

Finally, the practice of cherry picking, tampering, incentivizing, or modifying customer feedback before it gets to the public domain is a very bad one. People aren’t stupid and will catch on to these shenanigans. It will reduce perceptions of trust and they will, over time, dismiss the information as bogus, transforming an entire feedback mechanism into an enormous waste of everyone’s time and money.

Making it Visible

Getting unvarnished customer experience feedback out in the public, in a simple to understand, and non-punitive fashion will help engagement with employees and also engender trust in customers that you are dedicated to making sure they have a rock star experience. When people have access to the data, believe in it, and understand its impact they will be much more apt to do something about it. And action is the whole reason for any CX initiative