- Communication for awareness. To generate credibility for your VoC program broad communication initiatives are needed to create awareness and make your initiative a priority within the company. This should align with the overall “brand” that is built around your VoC program.
- Communication for knowledge and belief. Customer experience professionals are routinely called upon to cite the goals of customer programs, conduct training on the use of customer feedback, and share the customer insights. This is critical to ensure that people buy into these strategies and understand their role in making them work.
- Communication for action. One of the most effective ways to communicate is to deliver results directly to your audience. This is aimed at getting the right information to the right person at the right time.
According to Walker’s Customers 2020 study, the role of the CX professional is changing. (This study is focused on how the customer experience industry will look in the year 2020.) Several emerging leadership roles on the customer experience management team are identified. New roles will evolve, all roles will change, and the expertise, requirements, and responsibilities will be a bit different from what they are today.
For example, the role of customer intelligence advocate will require even more in the future. These professionals will be responsible for supporting the use of customer intelligence within their part of the business which will be increasingly broad – internal operations, such as HR and Finance, Product groups, such as R&D and Product Development, and client-facing roles, such as Sales and Account Management.
What does this mean for customer intelligence advocates?
- They will be key communicators within the organization. They will need to understand, socialize and “sell” customer insights to help make change happen.
- They will work cross functionally, communicating both internally and externally.
- In addition to understanding customer feedback & insights, other critical skills will include: establishing credibility, exerting influence, and of course being great communicators.
Based on a conversation with a group of customer strategists, my take is that the customer intelligence advocate role of the future builds on what is happening today - yet kicks it up several notches. More focus and dedicated attention will be needed, along with additional skills and experience. To be successful, our VoC teams will require executive support & buy-in, along with a culture of being customer centric.
Do you have what it takes?
During Walker’s recent Customer Experience summit in San Diego, we focused on two major releases from Walker experts – Customers 2020 which looks into the future of B-to-B customer experience, and Driving Results which provides a practical guide for using CX to drive action, real change and business results. Along the way, I heard many people talking about CULTURE. Some are just plain lucky – CX professionals that inherit a true customer-oriented culture find it to be one of their most important accelerators. For those who aren’t so fortunate, of course, they want to know how to take steps to get there. Usually, the place to start is leadership and securing genuine awareness and support. But there are grassroots efforts that can change the landscape too. Here is one such story I was fortunate to witness:
The setting… New Voice of Customer program, with inside sales teams being asked to approach “hot alert” follow-ups with customers for the first time in a formal way
What happened?… One particular person came on strong as an early adopter – his name is Corey. Within a matter of days, he single-handedly contacted dozens of customers, and was able to pull from some of his roots in customer service to engage in a very positive and natural way with customers. This activity was a natural fit for Corey and he got the job done. Later, when Corey was asked to share his experiences at a monthly CX leadership team meeting, what started as a good thing turned into something bigger - something that could actually ignite a culture change.
So what happened next?… Corey stood up and shared his story with 25 leaders newly charged with CX responsibilities. With great confidence and pride, he went on to share his viewpoint:
- This was an amazing move for the company – most customers wanted to tell a story, and through this process they had the opportunity to do just that.
- Customers were truly impressed that someone actually reached out to them about their feedback, especially this quickly.
- Despite the complexity of the business, many issues could easily be diffused within the first contact. For some, there was simply a disconnect, and now a chance to be able to educate those customers a little bit more.
- With great enthusiasm he said he was “very proud to be part of a company that does this and honored to be involved in this capacity by being the first touch back with customers.”
For his efforts and probably most of all his renewed and positive attitude, he was given a big round of applause from the team. As CX professionals, we know that closing the loop with customers can have a direct positive impact on both loyalty and future response rates, but sometimes we forget what effect it can have on the staff that participates in the process. This type of attitude and willingness to engage with the customer is what is needed for employees to transform an organization’s culture to truly be customer focused.
Vice President, Consulting Services
Many VoC programs collect unstructured comments from their customers, but it can be overwhelming and difficult to manage. Text analytics is a tool that can help to maximize the value of open-ended feedback. Here are three benefits of using text analytics in VOC:
- Combine expertise in the tool with expertise in the business: this boosts the credibility of the outcomes
- Use the quantified customer verbatim feedback to turn anecdotes into evidence that can drive action
- Take action on the outcomes of text analytics to make meaningful changes to your customers’ experiences
As customer strategists, we love to hear stories about how customer insights have been used to drive meaningful results in our organizations. Unfortunately the road to achieving these results can be long and filled with hazards. A common obstacle to achieving results is not having the right team in place. Driving results happens when there is a strong network of customer advocates across the company who are responsible for stewarding customer initiatives.
Here are a few tips on building strong customer advocacy teams:
- Right People: Make certain that teams have an executive sponsor and are cross-functional in nature. Take the time to recruit the right people who will serve as customer evangelists in the organization. Consider rotating team members on a regular basis to prevent team fatigue.
- Right Purpose: Create a mission statement or charter for your customer strategy team. Too often teams are pulled together with no specific purpose and teams are left wondering what it is they are supposed to accomplish. Mission statements and goals should be measurable & specific, as this will allow the team to determine the success of customer initiatives.
Right Process: Develop a communication plan that identifies what information your team will need and when. If team members are not kept informed they are less likely to stay engaged in the team. Also make certain that there is a process in place to recognize & reward team members for a job well done to encourage long-term engagement in the team.
At the recent Walker B-to-B Customer Experience Summit, we asked over 100 Customer Experience professionals what business strategies will have the greatest impact on their business in the year 2020. Attendees were given cards representing the following strategies (all color coded) and picked the top three for their business.
- Making Better Mergers and Aquisitions (Smarter, more accretive acquisitions)
- Better Targeting of Prospects (Closing more new sales and more efficient sales cycles)
- Improving Customer Retention (More growth from existing customers)
- Building a Strong Channel Network (Identification of the best partners that prefer your products)
- Entering New Markets (More efficient market penetration)
- Innovating Faster (Anticipation of customer wants and needs)
- Providing Superior Service (Proactive approach to anticipate and address issues)
- Improving Quality (Early detection and prevention of problems)
- Becoming Easier to do Business WIth (Streamlined procedures that are more profitable)
We collected the cards and created a wall display. All of the strategies were picked, but the top three winners were:
- Providing Superior Service
- Becoming Easier to do Business With
- Innovating Faster
The year 2020 will be upon us in the blink of an eye and Customer Experience professionals must consider how they contribute and align with the corporate strategy.
Which customer strategy will you support?
Several years ago, I wrote a blog about weird things to say in an interview. Recently I have been helping out by interviewing some candidates for a position at Walker. Several of them have been pretty good but several were not. I recognize I just wrote a blog that the job market for skilled individuals is in great shape, but candidates should still be polished and prepared in an interview.
As I interviewed these people, I discovered I have several pet peeves when I interview candidates:
1. Don't try to dodge questions, given an open and honest answer and nothing else, most of the time we can see through the dance.
2. Anyone here knows it really bugs me when a candidate does not have any questions for us. We are a consulting company and what I believe we are hired to do is to be inquisitive, ask questions and seek out answers. Not having any questions in an interview makes me question one's ability to be insightful with our clients. It also makes me question the preparedness of the interviewer.
3. When asked what you know about Walker, DO NOT say, "Nothing really". At least take 30 seconds and go online and come up with something.
4. Don't write a novel as a resume, keep it to key facts and key accomplishments, a resume is not to share everything you have ever done since high school.
I saw this article recently and thought it might be time for anyone reading this blog to brush up their interviewing skills if they are one of those almost 25% that plan to look for a job in the next six months.
What pet peeves do you have? What have you seen work well?
So with that, good luck and happy job hunting.
Here are six ways to become a customer expert:
- An expert would need to know how to measure customer loyalty in a very practical way. This means gathering all the right customer insights so the information can be put to use.
- They would need to understand what drives loyalty - how it is relevant and where resources should be focused. This would include making sure customer initiatives aligned with the strategies of the business.
- Communication is a part of an expert's training. Everyone has to be aware of the customer initiatives and understand the role they play.
- An expert would also need to know how to prompt action. They must be able to mobilize their employees to put customer information to use in the most productive ways.
- Experts must validate the impact of their work. They will need to understand how to determine if the application of customer insights is showing a positive return on their investment.
- Finally, they need to know how to manage all the people and resources for their customer strategies.
One common challenge customer-focused leadership faces is identifying the real issue. This isn't just a challenge reserved for customer strategists. It is a challenge faced by many leaders. Knowing the real problem that you are trying to address is the first step to developing a customer strategy that will ensure success. Before you get too far down any path, take a step back and challenge the problem you are trying to solve.
Customer-focused initiatives should be all about generating results for your company. Of course, like many things, it is much easier said than done. Achieving results is a bit like going on a journey - there important stops along the way and there can be lots of twists and turns that make the trip more challenging.
For customer experience professionals I envision five primary stops on the road to customer-focused results - culture, strategy, intelligence, action, and change. Within each of these there are many other details - any one of which can be an obstacle that can slow down your journey or send you off course.
Click on the infographic to view a detailed look at nearly 100 elements that are important for customer experience professionals to navigate along the road to results.
I have spoken to many HR professionals who talk about the difficulty of finding talent, even with high unemployment. Well buckle up because it is just going to get worse, which is bad for HR but if you are a highly skilled employee, is good for you. Mike Hicks, Director for the Center for Business and Economic Research, recently spoke at Walker and then was interviewed on Inside Indiana Business. He has been studying job markets during the past several recessions and has concluded we are at an unprecedented time where the jobs of low skilled employees are not coming back, leaving these employees in a difficult position. What it also does is place a premium on employees with key skills as the Indiana economy shifts from a manufacturing economy to a more service based economy. Employees who are educated will be in demand as organizations will not be able to find the critical positions due to lack of employees with necessary talent.
This will also place a premium on employee loyalty and keeping top talent as it is going to be increasingly difficult to replace the loss of top talent. Therefore, companies must get rid of the traditional ways of doing work and come up with new and creative ways to work. I predict a fundamental shift in how work is done in the future, by that I mean no longer the traditional 8-5 in the office Monday-Friday, and I also don't mean the traditional come in, do your work and get your paycheck. Work is going to becoming increasingly flexible and more give and take will happen in the workplace. The reason is, if you aren't progressive in work and the workplace, employees will find a company that is, it will become a recruiting tool and a way to improve employee engagement and loyalty.
I wrote a blog containing a pictograph of employee loyalty, I think it might be time for many HR and business leaders to becoming familiar with this, because this is the challenge they will be wrestling with more and more.
Predictive analytics can be simple or complex, but the objective is consistent, to answer a specific business question in a way that communicates a required action. Predictive analytics can benefit your VoC program in many ways, including:
- Recommendations that are more aligned with your business objectives
- Targeted action derived objectively from an assessment of data
- Guidance on the next steps that takes the "guesswork" out of applying VOC findings
- A process that improves over time with each iteration
- The ability to optimize resources and drive efficiency
- A proven methodology for retention and growth
I recently conducted a radio interview on the 5 R's of employee loyalty and retention with MyLocalJobNetwork.com, this was the second interview with them. The first interview can be heard here. This interview were based on the HBR article I blogged about previously and we discussed the 5 R's of employee loyalty along with some employee loyalty trends in the national workforce right now. To listen, click here.
Validation involves demonstrating how customer initiatives are impactful on other authoritative sources of information that drive companies’ business success. Characteristics of world-class validation include:
- Financial linkage is actively understood and used in account planning and decision-making, such as forecast refinements.
- Integrated metrics (customer/operational/financial/quality/employee) are actively managed as indicators of overall business health.
- Clear employee-related goals are linked with customer/partner-related goals, which are aligned with strategic goals.
- Feedback is customized by area and included in incentive compensation plans.
Indiana, as a state, is fat. According to the CDC:
- 65.9% of adults are overweight, with a Body Mass Index of 25 or greater
- 29.6% of adults are obese, with a Body Mass Index of 30 or greater
With the rampant obesity problem and the continued implementation of the Affordable Care Act, more emphasis is being put on wellness. I see a lot of companies talk about wellness, but last night on the news, I saw a company that not only preached about wellness, but is taking steps to do what they can to improve the wellness of their employees. The company is Brown & Brown, Indiana's largest employee benefits company. It is encouraging to see a company that provides wellness consulting and expertise with its clients, actually practicing what it preaches. They have purchased two treadmill desks where the employees can sign up for half an hour blocks. I spoke with Andrew Lockerbie, SVP at Brown & Brown, and at first they weren't sure how receptive employees will be to utilizing these desks but the slots are full weeks out and the treadmill desks are almost always in use. He is a regular user of it and has been able to shed a few of those unwanted winter pounds just by walking a couple of miles a day. You can view the video here.
At Walker, they pay for a portion of a gym membership, which I love. I would never join a gym but when they began paying for a large portion of it, I was quick to sign up and regularly work out over lunch, of course that led to a major knee injury which I blogged about here. We have also recently begun offering fruit, granola bars, oatmeal and other healthy snacks and will pay for entry fees into marathons, mini-marathons, triathlons, etc.
So my blog is about employee loyalty, what does wellness have to do with employee loyalty? One of the key drivers of employee loyalty is a company that shows genuine care and concern about an employee. Providing opportunities easy methods of being healthier is a way to show you care about the employee. It is also helps differentiate the company from the competition so if any employee is looking for a job, or receiving an offer for a job, it is one of the perks that would need to be factored in when deciding to leave or stay. It is kind of sad that companies have to make it easy for employees to exercise but that is the state we are in and companies that are doing it, will be differentiated from others in the marketplace and it will help attract talent.
In complex customer relationships, a company can see a huge impact by implementing a follow-up system that triggers alerts that notify account managers of customer issues and opportunities. This is all done by setting up a system that includes the following:
- Good lists - insights are gathered from the right customers
- Good design - to incorporate triggers to identify issues, opportunities
- Good training - account managers understand their role
- Good buy-in - everybody sees the benefit for them and for the company
- Good tools - an online documentation system ensures follow up
- Good measurement - the ROI is measured to validate the payoff
A lot of companies segment their customer bases into various tiers based on revenue, and possibly a few other metrics. The top-tier customers usually get some sort of preferential treatment whether that is additional support or even access to premier services. This can cause companies, however, to miss out on huge opportunities with customers that have a lot of potential.
Low revenue customers can often be overlooked because companies are not factoring potential into what defines a top customer. Lower revenue customers with a lot of potential can be accelerated into better performance by just getting some “love”. Similarly, top revenue customers who have a high cost to serve may not be where a company wants to put their resources.
Make sure you consider more than just revenue in selecting where to allocate your customer resources. You may be overlooking some great potential!
A few weeks ago I had a truly extraordinary customer experience. The Chris Tomlin Burning Lights Tour came to town. The concert was fabulous and we had a wonderful time! But, that wasn’t the extraordinary part. My story is actually about the process of getting tickets.
Wanting to surprise my husband, I went online to the Ticketmaster website in search of tickets.
- They make everything easy to do yourself online. But that wasn’t the extraordinary part.
- Having a question, I called customer service and spoke with a representative who was able to help me and ensure everything was taken care of. But that wasn’t the extraordinary part.
- The tickets were sent electronically, just as promised. But that wasn’t the extraordinary part.
- Then I received something in the mail from ticketmaster. Here it is...the extraordinary part.
The customer service representative had sent a handwritten note thanking me for my patronage and saying to have fun at the concert. Wow! That note was above and beyond anything I expected. Because of that experience I have an extremely favorable impression of Ticketmaster and I want to tell everyone I know about it. That doesn’t just happen.
So, how does an extraordinary experience happen? One place to start for your customer strategy is with creating a journey map of the customer experience. By investing time in understanding the path a customer takes, the people and functions they interact with along the way, and enablers and obstacles, a journey map will provide a complete picture of the customer experience. Insights from your customer feedback program will help you in this process. The next step is to identify the opportunities and changes needed to provide an extraordinary customer experience.
What are you waiting for? According to Kerry Bodine at Forrester Research, one prediction for 2013 is that emotional insights will take center stage. “The idea that happy customers are more likely to remain loyal, try new products and services, and spread good news about their experiences, has started to catch on.”
Customer experience professionals are often called upon to share customer insights and recommendations. Consider these four must-haves for your next presentation:
- Compelling & Relatable: Your audience is looking to learn something new; something they don't already know. Highlighting an unexpected insight will grab (and keep) the attention of your audience.
- Concise & Relevant: The recommendations must be well thought out. Focus on the elements that tie to your customer retention & growth strategies and the activities that are important to the audience. Be on-point and specific with your recommendations.
- Balanced: Try to avoid using customer survey research terms and use terms your executives uses. This will help make the information relevant for the audience.
- Actionable: Frame your recommendations with the Call to Action(s) clearly stated, prioritized and obtainable.
Julie is a strategic account manager. She manages a number of complex business accounts and each one of them involves multiple relationships that all are important to maintain. She is focused on the performance of her accounts and her activity is aimed at driving growth within each of those accounts. It’s personal too – her income is directly connected to the performance of her customers. She is busy, aggressive, and determined.
YOU are in charge of customer experience initiatives. It's your job to provide Julie and other strategic account managers with customer intelligence to help them retain and grow their accounts. While Julie cares about her customers, she doesn't really care much about the reports and information you provide. Here are five reasons why Julie isn't very customer-focused and why it's your fault:
- It's a hassle. Instead of viewing your information as helpful, Julie sees it as more work.
- It's too hard to access. It's a pain to log into another system, so customer intelligence is often overlooked.
- It's too complex. You provide great information, but it's too much. She doesn't have time to wade through it all.
- It's not relevant. Too much of the information doesn't really relate directly to her work with her accounts.
- It's not actionable. You haven't provided any training, so there is no clear instruction on how to put it to use.
Simple, fast, and relevant – those are the keys to driving results through strategic account managers like Julie. She already has more tools to access, more reports to file, and more company emails to read than she desires. Giving her one more thing to do, will not help. To get Julie on-board the customer intelligence you provide must help her retain and grow her accounts, which of course will help her be more successful.