Category Archives: Internal Branding

Customer Experience Jenga

customer experience strategyDo we manage customer experience strategy like playing Jenga? (Jenga is the game with a stack of blocks where players take turns to remove one and balance it on top.) The game is supposed to start with a robust foundation, and in the quest to rise to new heights, holes are made to re-allocate resources, weakening the structure until it topples over.

In managing customer experience (CX), new heights are attempted by betting the farm on shiny silver bullets such as Continue reading

Putting Customers First: If Not You, Who?

customers firstIn all my years of meeting about customer responsibilities, I have never once been in the same room both with those who actually lead the move to customer centricity and with the people that prevent the move to customer centricity. There are two reasons for this: first, organizations don't think much about how the business delivers customer experience and therefore how the leaders responsible for each function ought to be involved. Second, personal ownership for customer experience is devilishly difficult to define for non-customer facing functions, and not exactly a coveted designation.

Whatever way your company defines position power and influence, it is the first thing you need to figure out — and the answer is not necessarily a regurgitation of the org chart. Certainly, the CEO and his/her team must Continue reading

Customer Experience Undercover Boss for All Employees

customer experience culture Customer experience can be brought to life through an Undercover Boss approach to rolling up your sleeves and walking in others' shoes. Each of us who has seen the Undercover Boss TV show has likely marveled at how eye-opening it was for a company' s top executive to try out various front-line and behind-the-scenes jobs — as a result, the executive typically makes sweeping changes to improve the employee experience. And this concept can also be applied to any employee to explore and improve the plight of external customers' experience, as Adobe has been doing Continue reading

Customer-Centricity Goes Beyond Customer Experience Management

customer-centric customer experienceCustomer experience management is necessary, yet insufficient. Traditionally, organizations have managed customer experience with a mindset of how the company is doing, in order to grow revenue. Consequently, surveys tend to ask more about the company than about the buyer, and customer programs typically emphasize excitement and urgency for new purchases and positive word-of-mouth. While attempting to be customer-centric, this mindset is generally centered more on the company's, rather than the buyer's, well-being.

Alternatively, customer experience optimization seeks to Continue reading

B2B Customer Experience Managment: 6 Success Factors for World-Class Performance

This is an edited transcript from my presentation for CustomerThink’s Customer Experience Thought Leader Forum webinar on B2B Customer Experience Management, conducted February 21, 2013.

The Annual ClearAction Business-to-Business Customer Experience Management Best Practices Study has been conducted for three years now. It was established in 2010 with an emphasis on understanding which functional areas were driving customer experience management and the scope of deployment within each company. In 2011, we continued the core set of questions along with an in-depth exploration of B2B voice of the customer practices, and we explored customer experience management success factors seem to be driving business results. And in 2012, we continued with that core set of questions and emphasized success stories of companies’ progress in their customer experience management, as well as showing three-year trends.

CEM Practices in Top-Performing Businesses
First of all, we wanted to identify which companies had the strongest business results. For example, some companies Continue reading

Customer Centric Leadership

CX LeadershipCustomer-centricity is about priorities. The key is to clearly state your priorities to executives, employees and affiliates. Then reinforce these priorities in daily decision-making criteria and rituals such as annual operating plans, operations reviews, staff meeting agendas, recognition and incentives, performance reviews, etc. Johnson & Johnson has an excellent way of communicating their customer-centric priorities, as follows: 1) doctors, nurses, patients, parents; 2) employees; 3) communities; 4) stockholders. Continue reading

Don’t Confuse CX Technology with Customer Experience Management

a href=””>customer experience technologyYou're a customer, so you're a perfect judge of logic when it comes to the ways companies are trying to get ahead with customers. First of all, let's face it: when you buy something you want it to be easy to get, function flawlessly, and allow you to move forward in your life or business. That encapsulates what customer experience management is all about: companies that can make it easier and nicer to get what you need in life/business are the companies you'll say good things about and come back to. If you agree that this is your outlook on being a customer, then we've got a good foundation for properly defining the role of technology in customer experience management (CEM).

Customer Relationship Management

As a customer you hope you don't have to Continue reading

Chief Customer Officer as Change Agent

JourneyGuideIn any journey, it pays to have an expert guide — and that's particularly true in any company's ongoing journey toward superior customer experience. Some companies have appointed a Chief Customer Officer as their expert guide, to ensure that they take the high road, stay on-course, and accelerate results along the way.

"Showing the path and where we are on that path — kind of like the map at the mall: 'you are here' — gives everyone an idea of how far we've come and how far we yet need to go," explained Milista Anderson, Chief Customer Officer at risk management software firm Sungard's Energy and Commodities division. "I'm part change agent and also part customer advocate. I think there's a need for a healthy balance of both. If there's an issue in day-to-day operations, I'm interested in the process that got us there to begin with. And as a change agent, I'm trying to broker the best interests for customers along with the best efforts from our employees."

Voice of the Customer as a Pivot Point
As a guest on the Customer Experience Optimization online talk show that I host, Milista said she uses survey data as a conversation starter, to get people's attention. "One way we Continue reading

Increasing Customer-Focus in Voice of the Customer for Business Results

customer-focusCustomer-focus in satisfaction/loyalty surveys may be the lynchpin to higher response rates and to linking customer experience management (CEM) to business results as well. "Aren’t surveys already customer-focused?" you may be thinking. Well, whenever you're the recipient of a survey, how often do you feel like the questions are focused on what you care about, versus what the surveying company cares about? And, accordingly, do you feel like the surveying company is really getting the best information from you that they can through their current surveys? For me, the answers to these questions are: not much and no. Let's face it: there's room for improvement in making voice of the customer (VoC) efforts truly customer-focused.

The perennial dilemma for survey designers is finding the balance between asking too much or too little, affecting respondent fatigue and response rate levels. But take a look at your call center logs and other customer-initiated feedback. When customers talk about things they're passionate about, there's essentially no such thing as respondent fatigue or asking too much. The real dilemma at-hand is not so much finding the right survey length, but rather, finding the right customer-focus that opens up customers' passions related to what your products, services, and experiences do for them.

How to Discover Your Customers' Passion Buttons for Your Brand
Contrary to popular belief, doing what everyone else is doing might be the exact wrong thing to do, as described in Continue reading

Focusing on People in B2B Customer Experience Strategy

Business Customer Experience"Businesses are made up of people, and people have emotions." This focus on people has guided the customer experience strategy of industrial freight provider Maersk Line and many other business-to-business companies. Rene Bomholt, former head of customer experience at Maersk Line, shared these stories for the 3rd Annual ClearAction Business-to-Business Customer Experience Management Best Practices Study:

CX Strategy & Deployment
Customer Trust: With 50-some country organizations around the world, everyone on the front line at Maersk Line was working to please customers according to their own interpretation, but not really with a common goal of how to do it. A session was held with top management to determine the kind of emotions they want to invoke, tying into company values and history. They wanted customers to feel trust, cared for and pleased in every interaction. That became the mantra which provided a common aspiration for customer experience success.

Playbook: Showing people what a customer experience means makes them reflect on how they as consumers act on their own experiences. In 3-day sessions held by Maersk Line, managers received a playbook of 24 solutions that each country organization could pick and choose from. The playbook included simple Continue reading

Investment Patterns in B2B Customer Experience Management

Financials and customer experience management (CEM) go hand-in-hand, whether it’s a matter of identifying financial results from CEM efforts, or a matter of financing CEM to begin with. New insights to this conundrum are seen in the 2012 CleaAction Annual Business-to-Business Customer Experience Management Best Practices Study, where more than half of participants said that difficulty correlating CEM to business results is one of their top five obstacles to CEM success. While budget restrictions were cited less often as one of the top two obstacles in 2012 compared to 2011, still more than half of participants named budget restrictions as one of their top five obstacles in 2012. (Note: the obstacles list in the 2011 survey did not include big data or correlation of CEM to business results among the selection set.)

Top 5 Obstacles to Customer Experience Management Success in 2012

Customer Experience Management Investment
Uncertainty in the 2012 business climate may have been a factor in reduced investment levels of 35-60% as compared to 2011 and 2010. Interestingly, in 2010, shortly after the major global economic crisis, CEM investment increased for the majority of participating B2B firms. This appeared to be evidence of management's recognition of CEM as an essential building block toward revenue and profit goals. Continue reading

Business Customer Experience Management Stories Highlighted in 3rd Annual B2B CEM Study

Customer Experience Best PracticesStories of business customer experience management practices and successes are featured in the 3rd Annual ClearAction Business-to-Business Customer Experience Management Best Practices Study. Examples span across voice-of-the-customer, employee engagement in CEM, customer-focused culture, customer experience profitability, and more.

Business CEM stories are rare relative to consumer-focused examples, despite the fact that business customer experience can be much more challenging, with high involvement of numerous influencers of the purchase decision, high stakes purchases with lengthy sales cycles, reciprocal buyer/supplier relationships, and complex touch‐points across functional areas, managerial levels, and products, among other factors unique to B2B environments.

An enterprise customer experience manager at telecom provider Orange, Emilie Smith, said: “In B2B there’s an even bigger argument for CEM linkage to revenue and profitability because often the products and services for businesses are a lot more sophisticated and cost a lot more for the company to provide them. For one account, millions may be at stake.” The head of customer experience at freight provider Maersk Line, Rene Bomholt, said: “Businesses are made up of people, and people have emotions. Close relationships with customers matter a lot.”

Inspiring stories about the progress of business customer experience management can be found throughout the 2012 best practices study, featuring companies such as Ciena, Citrix, LexisNexis, Orange, SunTrust, Symantec, tw telecom, and others in business services, building materials, remarketing, and semiconductor industries.

As the sole global B2B CEM survey, this research provides inspiration to Continue reading

Getting Customer-Centricity Right

Every one of us is a customer, so "Customer-Centricity" should be a very simple topic to understand. What do you, as a customer, think it means for those you buy from to be customer-centric? For me, it means they "get me" to the extent that I can easily access and use their offering that helps me do something in my life/business. Just stick with that statement and the gems are there:

  • "Easily" typically means without much cost as burdens in time, worry, effort and financial aspects
  • "Access and use" typically means both finding the solution that helps me get something done and using to get something done (pre-purchase and post-purchase)
  • "Helps me get something done" typically means that whatever I buy is a means to an end. I’m just trying to live my life and run my business.

Note that as a customer it's all about me. Sure, I may like to provide feedback to my suppliers, but typically because I hope it will help me in the future — or at least help a fellow human being not experience the pain that I might have experienced. And this is the foundational fallacy of most CRM/CEM/NPS/C-Sat/etc. endeavors: companies tend to ask questions from their perspective, to map the customer journey from the company's perspective, to incent employees from the company’s perspective, and on and on — NOT from the customer’s perspective.

To be customer-centric, companies need to simply see things the way customers see them, and center their daily decision-making accordingly, with all other aspirations being secondary to — or within the context of — seeing things the way customers see them.

Customer-Centricity ROI
Why would it behoove a company to be customer-centric? Because customers enable the monetary machine. Continue reading

Customer First Drives Business Performance

“Our client-centric banking approach is driving momentum in our core business fundamentals,” said William H. Rogers, Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of SunTrust Banks, Inc. Business results for SunTrust are on a steady growth path, which the company attributes largely to renewed emphasis on Client First as a guiding principle. In my online talk show interview with Jeff VanDeVelde, Senior Vice President of Client Experience and Loyalty at SunTrust, he explained: “As our executives were re-writing our enterprise guiding principles, we determined the need to put more focus on being client 1st as a guiding principle, and especially the need to change way we include client voice in our decision-making process.”

What Does Client First Mean?
“One of the biggest challenges of people who do this work is they think that client experience and client loyalty is something that front-line people do,” said VanDeVelde. “We’ve tried to help people understand Client 1st is really everybody’s job, whether you’re doing item processing or deciding where to put your ATMs, or anything else. It means you’re using client input to inform all your decisions, not just when the client is in front of you. We engage our non-client-facing teammates by having them ask “Is this what the client would want as I design this process, or make this effort?”

Customer-Focus in Place of Product-Focus
Migrating from product-focus to customer-focus is a massive cultural change. “Part of our Continue reading

4 Tips for Dealing with Difficult Customers

Are some customers just difficult people? Is there such a thing as a difficult person, anyway? Not really. The accurate viewpoint is it’s a difficult situation or a difficult interaction — not a difficult person per se.

Why do difficult situations or interactions occur? Quite simply, people get impatient because of a situation not meeting their expectations. The root causes of resistance to just about any issue are:
a) Concern that their needs will not be understood or met
b) Concern about loss of control or self-esteem

Knowing this can help you de-personalize uncomfortable situations and let go of your natural fight or flight reactions. Let go of your initial emotion to handle the situation from a neutral position.

A customer service rep who attended one of my recent classes said she’s feeling much happier in her job by conscientiously following the 4 steps to managing resistance:
1) Identify the issues causing the resistance
2) Understand the underlying factors of the issues Continue reading

Customer Experience Management Means Doing the Whole Job

Whether you’ve got external or internal customers, they expect you to ‘do the whole job’! Show that you care about your customer … after all, if your customer decides he or she no longer needs you, you may be out of a job. To do the whole job in customer experience management, go beyond lip-service, anticipate customer expectations, carry the ball, and double-check the customer’s perspective.

Customer Care Beyond Lip-Service
It’s easy enough to talk about commitment to customers, but what does it really mean? Whether you make an offer to a customer, or the customer makes a request to you, your sincerity is obvious to the degree that you do the whole job. That means standing behind your word, demonstrating your word of honor. In previous Continue reading

Everybody Has a Customer

Is there any job that doesn’t have a customer? If you work directly with paying customers, you obviously impact customer experience.

If you don’t work directly with paying customers:
(1) Eventually, the job you do ripples to those employees who do work directly with customers — don’t drop the baton!
(2) Inside your company, the job you do has internal customers — figure out how to make their experience excellent!

What everyone in a company does can be reduced to one of two functions: to serve the customer or serve someone who does. (Dr. W. Edwards Deming) Think of the purpose of your job — why is it worthwhile for the company to fund your position? To answer this, big-picture thinking is needed. Ultimately, what you do in your job must be important in some way to the needs of paying customers. Your answer is the beginning of customer-centric thinking.

Customer-centric employees always keep in mind their purpose from the perspective of paying customers. First and foremost, what do Continue reading

10 Tips for Customer Experience Innovation

Every person in an organization is needed for customer experience innovation. That’s because customer expectations and competitive offerings are always on the rise. Your processes, policies, skills, and motivations have a lot to do with keeping customers coming back — and even more to do with customers deciding not to come back.

Think of your own situation as a customer — whenever you’ve decided not to go back to a certain product or service or place, it was usually because you were turned off by a process, policy, skill, or motivation, right?

For example, at Procter & Gamble — the company that Continue reading

Improve Customer Experience: Help Me Help You

You’ve heard of garbage-in, garbage out, right? It’s amazing how often work teams put up with substandard inputs “thrown over the fence” from groups they rely on for information or materials to do their work. Faulty inputs lead to imperfect outputs and inconsistent customer experience.

Everything that external customers receive is the result of business processes. Interestingly, many customer experience management efforts are focused only on the front-line employees and customer touch-points. However, every business process is typically deployed by several departments or a sub-process of a bigger process that delivers value to external customers.

In other words, a business process involves a value chain of internal suppliers and internal customers. Help your internal suppliers help you deliver better customer experiences — analyze your business processes and proactively communicate with your internal suppliers.

Timeliness and quality of handoffs throughout this internal value chain snowball exponentially toward revenue-generating customers — for better or worse. The key is to work backwards from Continue reading

Voice of Customer for All Employees

Present voice of the customer to all employees, and you will be more likely to reap financial benefits and manage customer experience holistically, according to the 2011 Business-to-Business Customer Experience Management Benchmarking Study.

Voice of Customer

Although only a third of companies are presenting customer feedback to all employees, those who do reported at least 20 percentage points advantage in the performance of holistic customer experience management, as shown by the gaps in blue and red bar graphs below. Examples of business results attributed to customer experience management efforts include: