Customer Experience Having the Customer at the Center of Your Business


Customer experience (also known as CX) is the single greatest predictor of whether customers will return or defect to a competitor to do business.

Customer Experience

What is customer experience? 

It is how your customers perceive their interactions with your organisation and how well the interaction:

  • helped them achieve their goals
  • how much effort they had to invest in the interaction
  • how much they enjoyed the interaction

Benefits of customer experience:

  • It is source of both decreased costs and increased revenue, for instance by having leaner and more efficient processes that affect customers (both external and internal) and by increasing recurring revenue
  • It correlates to loyalty

Customer experience and the business ecosystem:

Customer experience is not a program or a way to increase revenues, it is a lot more than that and it clearly reflects in every single functional department. Organisations need to create a customer experience that best aligns with the corporate vision the executive team has put envisage, the company’s target market, value proposition, unique strengths, financial objectives, and core values.

Customer Experience is “journey, not a project. It has a beginning but it doesn’t have an end

The company’s corporate objectives and brand attributes are the foundation of any customer experience strategy.

If you want to embark in this journey, you need to start with a complete picture of your clients, who they are and what they want from you.

6 Steps to Implement a Customer Experience Program:

  1. internalise the fact that you need your customers more than they need you
  2. examine the reason why your company exists in the first place
  3. spend time learning what it feels like to be your customer
  4. talk to your customers
  5. talk to your frontline employees
  6. try mapping a customer experience ecosystem for one of your company’s most important customer journeys

5 Steps to do a Customer Experience Mapping:

  1. pick an important target customer and think of a problematic journey for that customer
  2. write down the series of actions that the customer takes as part of that problematic journey
  3. write down all the people and groups that your customer interacts with at each step
  4. draw a horizontal line across the middle, below the notes you’ve placed on it so far. This is the “line of visibility.” Everything you’re about to put below the line is completely invisible to your customer
  5. put green dots on each part of your ecosystem that is working well from the perspective of the person who was touching it. Tag and define parts of the ecosystem that are making people unhappy with yellow dots, and parts of the ecosystem that are making people very unhappy with red dots

Rolling out the Customer Experience program

Systematically:

  • Measure customer experience
  • Identify the drivers of customer experience quality
  • Correlates customer experience quality with business results
  • Shares findings across the enterprise

You cannot afford to ignore the measurement discipline unless you want your efforts to run out of gas and die.

It drives interest in your programs by demonstrating results, and keeps people on track by connecting them to hard data about the effectiveness of what they’re doing.

Read more: Harley Manning, Kerry Bodine. Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business“. Amazon Publishing.

How Leaders Create Conditions for Change


Leaders can not dictate the culture, but they can nurture it. they can create the right conditions for change, creativity and innovation. Leader can multiply the effect of a team. Liz Wiseman interviewed more than 150 leaders to research her book Multipliers: How the best leaders make everyone smarter.

Leading a team

Leaders who are multipliers can double the output of a team or a company and improve morale in the process, here is how you can become a multiplier:

  1. be a talent magnet, who attracts and retains the best people and help them to reach their highest potential
  2. find a worthy challenge or mission that motivate people to stretch their thinking
  3. encourage debate that allows different views to be expressed and considered
  4. give team members ownership of results

Basic group dynamics

  • great groups believe they are on a mission beyond mere financial success, they believe they will make the world a better place
  • they are more optimistic than realistic
  • they ship
  • belonging to a strong creative group can be one of the most rewarding aspects of working life

Stop Planing and Start Acting


Being creative and innovative is not enough, you still need to act.

Many people get stuck between wanting to act and taking action. Professors Bob Sutton and Jeffrey Pfeffer call this the “knowing-doing gap”: the space between what we know we should do and what we actually do. This cal lead the company to have a paralysis by analysis, this is when talk becomes a substitute for action.

Yoya, Do or do not there is no try

A corporate example of paralysis by analysis is Eastman Kodak company, in mid 1990’s the leadership team had a deep expertise and intellectually understood that the future of photography was digital, Kodak had actually invented the digital camera in 1975 and later they pioneered the world’s first megapixel sensor. So why all this knowledge and technology was not marketed by Kodak, why they didn’t take action?

Kodak had basically owned the consumer and professional photography market for at least 100 years, with in some segments having a market share as high as 90%. Facing strong global competitors in the digital market like Cannon, Sony, Nikon, Kodak knew that it will struggle and the management team had fear of failure.

What happened to Kodak is not due to lack of information or leadership expertise; its failure was to not being able to turn insight into action, as a result one of the most important corporations lost its way.

To achieve goals, to overcome obstacles in your way, you have to be focused on getting it done now. As Yoda (from Stars Wars) put it to Luke Skywalker “Do or do not. There is no try”.

8 tips to turn insight into action:

  1. Start with the end goal in mind
  2. Fight procrastination by adopting “do it now!” as your mantra
  3. Don’t plan out everything you need to do to finish a project, just focus on the very next thing you need to do to move it forward
  4. Assign a set amount of time per day to work on a task or project
  5. Un-clutter, be able to access what you need, when you need it, without breaking the flow of your work to find it
  6. Break down large goals into smaller steps to make the journey to completion more doable
  7. Prioritise, certain tasks will always hold more priority than others
  8. Stop chasing perfection, getting things done shouldn’t involve mastering perfection

* Image credit hitwallpaper.com

Change and Negotiation


When people think about negotiation, they immediately think of having to influence someone else but Erica Ariel Fox says you have to manage yourself first.

She introduces the big four concept:

  1. Your Dreamer, or inner CEO. This part of you operates on intuition, and imagines big possibilities for the future
  2. Your Thinker, or inner CFO. This part uses facts and logic to make rational assessments, to evaluate options and manage risk
  3. Your Lover, or inner VP of HR. This part of you runs on emotion, values relationships, and excels at communicating with other people.
  4. Your Warrior, or inner COO. This part of you thrives on action, wanting to close the performance gap and getting things done, tell the hard truth, and take a firm stand for your values.

Without the CEO, you could miss the vision that is essential to an innovative strategy. No CFO, and the budget collapses. Without HR, the right people do not get hired or developed. If the COO’s absent, it’s all talk and no action.

The big four change from within

The Big Four represent your capacity to dream about the future, to analyse and solve problems, to build relationships with people, and to take effective action; they enable your visioning, thinking, feeling, and achieving; they make it possible for you to take four approaches to leading and living: inspirational, analytical, relational, and practical.

Ideally, you have these 4 c-level executives operate within you in balance, they are available to you and you can call on each one when the time is right. Negotiating with yourself means letting your Big Four consider which of them is in the best position to get the result you want.

Read more: Erika Fox. “Winning from Within: A Breakthrough Method for Leading, Living, and Lasting Change” HarperBusiness

Strategy and Customer Understanding


Your customer experience must support your corporate strategy. You need to work and focus on defining the customer experience that best aligns with:

  1. corporate vision,
  2. target market
  3. value proposition, your products & services
  4. unique strengths (competitive advantage)
  5. financial objectives
  6. core values

Be aware that the wrong customer experience would confuse your customers and send them to a competitor.

In addition to the strategy alignment, your customer experience must align with your brand attributes, you need to guide the activities and decision-making of employees at every level of your organisation, so that they can deliver on your company’s brand promises.

Companies need to understand and get a complete picture of what their customers really need, want and aspire.

Practices to understand client needs:

  1. mining unsolicited customer feedback, customers constantly provide unsolicited feedback about their experiences via emails, call, chats, social media, etc.
  2. conducting ethnographic research, this is simply observing your customer’s behaviour in a natural setting
  3. gathering input from employees, each of frontline employees interact with dozen or hundreds of individual customers and routinely witnesses with good and bad customer experiences.
  4. companies can create “Voice of the employees programs

As an example of a low tech approach, you can place whiteboards in prominent locations for employees to share ideas for improving the customer experience and track ideas from submission to implementation.

Thinking you know what customers want is risky. Most companies neglect to build a foundation of customer understanding before they develop products, services and experiences strategies, and then proceed with costly initiatives.

Employees and managers very often fall into the trap of assuming that what they want is what customers want.

To avoid this trap, you can:

  1. use personas to document who your customers are. Unlike market segmentations, which typically remain nameless and faceless, personas come to life with names, photos and vivid narratives that describe real life scenarios.
  2. once you have developed your personas, you create journey maps that visually illustrate a particular persona’s activities over time. You can plot the entire course of a customer’s relationship with a company or zoom in to just one particular part of the journey

But remember, you end goal is not the personas and journey maps themselves, your end goal is deep customer insights.

Once you complete this part, share your customer insight early and often, use all channels available and meet regularly with employees and business functions for all the company to be in the same page.

Read more: Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business by Harley Manning, Kerry Bodine and Josh Bernoff. Forrester Research.

Personal Touch of Innovation


There are plenty of organisations that have fully embrace innovation as the essence of their business model. An example is 3M defines innovation as “New ideas plus action or implementation which results in an improvement, a gain or a profit“. It is not enough to have a good idea only when you act, implement and execute you really innovate.

People is the most important factor of innovation not only the idea or the execution, innovation not only happen, people make it happen. Innovation Network definition of innovation is a lot more complete: “People creating value trough the implementation of new ideas“.

Tom Kelley from IDEO defines 10 personas to give the personal touch of innovation:

1. The Anthropologist learns by observing other people, how they behave and interact physically and emotional with products, services and other people. They do not judge, they observe, they empathise.

2. The Experimenter prototypes new ideas by experimenting, learning, improving based on a process of trial and error. They are best in to take words to sketch, to model and new offering.

3. The Cross-Polinator brings experiences from other environments like organisations, industries, cultures, countries then translate those into innovative solutions. Organisations can hire lots of people with diverse background, cultures and geographies.

4. The Hurdler knows that the path of innovation is not only one step but a journey that takes time and resources, there will be obstacles that need to be need overcome, this persona understands the importance of perseverance and is willing the bend the rules. This person does more with less.

5. The Collaborator helps to bring cross functional teams together and get things done, he often leads from the middle. You can collaborate working not only within the organisation but with clients and customers

6.The Director brings people together, sparks their creative talent, guide them with a great destination postcard and motivate them. There is an old adage in Hollywood “Directing is 90% casting”, great directors build a team of people who need little direction and can lead by example.

7. The Experience Architect designs experiences that go beyond the functionality and act also the emotional part to connect deeper with people. When companies can copy products and services, the price is not the truly differentiator but the experience created around.

8. The Set Designer creates the environment where innovation is created, where teams can do their best. This environment is the physical space that influence behaviour and space.

9. The Caregiver anticipate customer needs and are ready to go to look after them. They always go beyond the mere basic service.

10. The Storyteller builds credibility, triggers emotional connections, good stories help make order out of chaos.

Read more: Tom, Kelley. “The Ten Faces of Innovation: Strategies for Heightening Creativity” Doubleday

Business and Poker


Tony Hsieh is one of the most important business leaders of our time, in his book Delivering Happiness he explain how Zappos is built on branding, culture and pipeline as the only competitive advantage that Zappos will have in the long run.

In the chapter 3 of the book, Tony clearly defines the lessons he learnt from playing poker and that can be applied to business:

Evaluating Market Opportunities

  • Table selection is the most important decision you can make
  • It’s okay to switch tables if you discover is too hard to win at you table
  • If there are too many competitors (some irrational or inexperienced), even if you are the best it’s a lot harder to win

Marketing and branding:

  • Act weak when strong, act strong when weak. Know when to bluff
  • Your “hand is important”
  • Help shape the stories that people are telling about you

Financial management

  • Always be prepared for the worst possible scenario
  • The guys who wins the most hands is not the guy who makes the most money in the long run
  • The guy who never losses a hand is not the guy who makes the most money in the long run
  • Go for positive expected value, not for what’s least risky
  • Make sure your bankroll is large enough for the game you are playing and the risks are you taking
  • Play only with what you can afford to lose
  • Remember that is a long-term game. you will win or lose individual hand or sessions, but is what happens in the long-term that matters

Strategy

  • Don’t play games that you do not understand, even if you see lots of people making money from them
  • Figure out the game when the stakes aren’t high
  • Don’t cheat. Cheaters never win in the long run
  • Stick to your principles
  • You need to adjust your style of play throughout the night as the dynamics of the game change. Be flexible.
  • Be patient and think in the long-term
  • The players with more stamina and focus usually win
  • Differentiate yourself. Do the opposite of what the rest of the table is doing.
  • Hope is not a good plan
  • Don’t let yourself go “on tilt”. It’s much more cost-effective to take a break, walk around or leave the game for the night

Continual learning

  • Educate yourself. Read books and learn from others that have done it before
  • Learn by doing. Theory is nice, but nothing replaces actual experience
  • Learn by surrounding yourself with talented players
  • Just because you win a hand doesn’t mean you are good and you do not have more learning to do. You might have just gotten lucky.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for advise

Culture

  • You have to love the game. To become very good you need to live it and sleep it.
  • Don’t be cocky. Don’t be flashy. there is always someone better than you
  • Be nice and make friends. It’s a small community
  • Learn what you have learnt with others
  • Look for opportunities just beyond the game you sat down to play. You never know who you are going to meet, including friends for life or new business contacts
  • Have fun. The game is a lot more enjoyable when you are trying to do more than just make money

Read more, not only from business but happiness: Tony Hsieh. “Dilivering Happiness a path to profits, passion and purpose” Business Plus

Change Management Resources, Processes and Values


Reading about innovation and disruptive change, I found an important point:

Authors Christensen and Overdorf give an overview of how companies fail to meet disruptive change as they don’t make an assessment of the organisation’s capabilities and limitations. They give a framework that helps in such assessment and concluded that “three factors affect what an organisation can and cannot do: its resources, its processes and its values”.

(1)   Resources are the things that managers most instinctively identify when assessing whether their organisations can successfully implement changes. What are your key resources?, both tangible (people, equipment, technologies, cash) and intangible (product designs, information, brands, current relationships with suppliers, distributors and customers).

(2)   Processes include not just manufacturing processes, but those by which product development, procurement, market research, budgeting, planning, employee development and compensation, and resource allocation are accomplished. How do the people who we employ interact, coordinate, communicate and make decisions?

(3)   Values of an organisation are the criteria by which decisions about priorities are made. An organisation’s values are the standards by which employees make prioritisation decisions by which they judge whether an order is attractive or unattractive; whether a customer is more important or less important; whether an idea for a new product is attractive or marginal; and so on.

Read more: Christensen, Clayton M., and Michael Overdorf. “Meeting the Challenge of Disruptive Change.” Harvard Business Review

3 Business Areas to Start Digital Transformation


Organisations are embarking on Digital Transformation initiatives covering three key areas: customer experience, operations and business models.

ey areas of digital value proposition

Customer Experience:

Digital technologies allow organisations to understand and collaborate with customers across all channels and touch points, whether physical or digital. The dialogue between customers and organisations has become more and more interactive and focused. This also present challenges as customer relationships are more closer and personal so customer expectation are higher.

Operations:

The benefits go beyond improving efficiency and quality of production processes. For example, automation allow organisations to focus their teams on more strategic tasks. Transactional systems (e.g. CRM, ERP, Analytics, Business Intelligence, etc) give executives deeper insight into products, regions, and customers, allowing .them to make data decisions

Integration of data and processes is essential. Organisations often operate in silos, each with its own systems, data and business processes. Without a shared perspective on customers, products, and people, transformation or process optimisation cannot occur.

Business model:

Digital technologies give companies the tools to make the shift from multi-national to truly global operations. Digital technology can lead to new growth.

Further reading: Didier Bonnet, Patrich Ferraris, George Westerman, Andrew Mc Afee. Talking ‘bout a revolution findings on how companies are succeeding with digital transformations. MIT Center for Digital Business and Capgemini Consulting, 2012.

5 Essential Practices for Digital Transformation


Far too many enterprises are investing in digital tools and technologies without trying to drive changes in the operating model, working practices (people), and culture.

Companies focus too much on the technical and customer facing aspects of digital transformation, forgetting that true value can only be leveraged by aligning people and processes.

Professor Raffi Amit at Wharton, pointed out: “It is not technology that is the obstacle to digital transformation, it is people”.

With constant technological innovation and competitive activity, crafting a digital transformation is not just an event but a continuous journey.

5 Essential Practices to Create and Execute Digital Transformation

Navigating digital transformation

1) As with most successful business transformations, senior team commitment and sponsorship is essential.

2) Set a clear vision and then translate it into a set of measures and targets to drive the desired results from their digital transformation.

3) Organisations need to undertake a benchmarking exercise to identify best digital practices both within and outside their own sectors. Priorities need to be set based on the areas  that are likely to have the most impact: (1) productivity, (2) customer value, (3) revenues, (4) time to market, (5) cost position, (6) innovation, etc.

4) Communication is essential to get the entire organisation engaged around the transformation as well as to manage the traditional resistance to change.

5) The right digital skills might not be available across the organisation, so it is important to have a well articulated digital training plan to start injecting the right skills in the right places at the right time. It is important to develop a mix of digital competences across all functions, such as marketing, HR, sales, and IT. Equally, investing in people development and connecting the workforce to improve sharing and exchange will be key to leveraging the people side of the transformation.

Further reading: Didier Bonnet, Patrick Ferraris. Transform to the Power of Digital: Digital Transformation as a Driver of Corporate PerformanceCapgemini Consulting, 2011.