Transforming the Customer Experience

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Episode 020 – Get Customer Feedback & Insights with Focus Groups

Shownotes…

  • Listening to customers is the goal
  • Data drives a lot of CX work
  • Conversations give you the reasons BEHIND the data
  • Focus groups are a great way to have conversations
  • General fishing, proposed changes, specific topic focus
  • Feed off the energy and questions from the group
  • Uncover questions, priorities, issues, not on your radar
  • Participants tend to springboard off each other
  • Be strategic about focus groups
  • Suggested Methodology
    1. Be Clear on Purpose Use of Outcomes
    2. Determine appropriate participants – Invite them about 3-4 weeks prior to the event, logistics should be shared on the invite. I like to limit the group to 12-15. More than that and people will hide behind the numbers, somewhat like the Bystander Effect. They figure others will speak for them OR they may feel intimidated.
    3. Establish facilitator
    4. Craft questions to draw out information based on purpose – OPEN-ENDED
      1. “Tell me about…”
      2. “Share what drives these feelings…”
    5. Identify best location for the event – location, size, atmosphere
    6. Conduct the Focus Group – Again share the purpose, ask the questions and facilitate discussion, thank them for attending and sharing their input, explain how data will be used moving forward.
    7. Have someone taking copious notes – recording can be done with permissions, check with your legal counsel or state for general release statement
    8. Debrief with your co-leaders – what worked, what didn’t, what would you do differently, any urgent or immediate things to follow up on
    9. Summarize results and findings, including those in the debrief
    10. Send Thank You to participants along the lines of…

Thanks so very much for taking part in our Focus Group last week. We truly appreciate you taking the time and giving your honest feedback and insight on how we at “ABC Co” can best work with you and support your goals using our services.

We are currently compiling the information you shared with us to review with our Leadership Team. Your feedback and suggestions will be used to shape how we work with all of our customers moving forward.

As we pointed out, you may have thought of other things you would like us to be aware of since we met. Please respond back to this email with any ideas, questions, or suggestions that occur to you based on our conversation. We truly do use your input when designing our experience and systems.

Thank you!

11. Review report and findings with Leadership

12. Plan of action with timeline, assignments, and accountability.

If possible, let participants know how their input helped in specific areas.

Share with all of your customers you held a focus group, what was learned, and how you intend to use the data or what improvements can or have been made

When people see you take their feedback seriously, they’ll be more likely to share with you in any context.

So now you know more about focus groups and I hope you will take the initiative to hold some. It’s a great way to get inside the mind of your customers to help shape the way you work with them and serve them.

Also, please email me your experiences with focus groups and share what worked and what didn’t, and what you would have done differently had you known what you know now.

Lastly, be sure to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Stitcher to be sure you get every episode as soon as it is released.

Thanks so much for spending this time with me today. I’ll see YOU on the next episode!

Your Customer Experience MUST Include Empathy

Empathy…

We all know what it is and hopefully, many of us display it and receive it on a daily basis. Empathy builds human connections. It fosters an emotional rapport and bond. It makes you feel safe.

Why is it that we seem to think that empathy plays no role in Business? I think that is so very wrong. Business is all about the buying and selling of good and services. Empathy allows us to build a bridge between the buyer and seller to the point that consumers are not simply buying something, they are buying a relationship. Face it. You are simply not the only game in town. Customers can buy your stuff somewhere else. But what they can’t buy somewhere else is the relationship you are willing to provide them as they buy and use your product or service.

Empathy really counts when there are issues. Things go wrong. And yes, many times it is the customer who fouls things up. But by being empathetic and understanding their perspective and frustration, you can forge a stronger relationship by helping them and resolving the situation that will make them forever loyal to you.

Lifeless, automated, and robotic responses kill the Customer Experience.

Empathy drives connection in relationships. Empathy is the art of understanding and acknowledging a customer’s feelings and needs before trying to find a solution that meets them. When we take the time to understand the person and make them feel cared about, they will be more likely to continue to work with your company over time.

Empathy lets you share the feeling of someone’s joy or pain. Sympathy is feeling sorry for someone’s pain or situation.

Empathy does not mean you agree with the person’s perspective or feelings. It means that without fixing it, giving advice or making suggestions, that you demonstrate an understanding of the feelings they are expressing.

As Business Leaders, empathy is important in our company as it allows everyone to feel safe in their mistakes and encourages leaders to look for the real cause driving the poor performance. Being empathetic allows leaders to help struggling staff improve and/or correct the behaviors and actions to help them succeed in their role.

CX is all about relationships and communication. Communication needs to be focused on showing the other person they are valued, cared about, and focused on helping them.

The tone you use is crucial in conveying sincere empathy.

Leave your ego and perspective at the door and truly make the effort to see things from the other person’s viewpoint.

Actively listen. Validate their perspective. Check your attitude for the desired outcome.

Listen to the podcast on Empathy in Business by clicking here.

Phrases that Convey Empathy

I can understand why you are frustrated…

I understand the situation and I’m so sorry you feel this way. This isn’t how we want any of our customers to feel.

I can imagine how upsetting it is to…

I’m so sorry to hear that…

I’m sad you had to contact us about this…

I’m glad you called so we have the chance to help you with this…

Empathy IS teachable. Everyone is born with Empathy and make the effort to develop it further.

Relate to a similar situation or experience that generates the same emotions or feelings – a missed plane, last-minute cancellation of plans, lost keys or wallet, etc.

It all relates back to Theodore Roosevelt’s famous quote – “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.

Episode 011 – Using Empathy to Build HUMAN CX Relationships

Shownotes…

Unless we understand empathy, it’s expression will always seem as “a mask” and not genuine.

Lifeless, automated, and robotic responses kill the Customer Experience.

Empathy drives connection in relationships. Empathy is the art of understanding and acknowledging a customer’s feelings and needs before trying to find a solution that meets them. When we take the time to understand the person and make them feel cared about, they will be more likely to continue to work with your company over time.

Empathy lets you share the feeling of someone’s joy or pain. Sympathy is feeling sorry for someone’s pain or situation.

Empathy does not mean you agree with the person’s perspective or feelings. It means that without fixing it, giving advice or making suggestions, that you demonstrate an understanding of the feelings they are expressing.

As Business Leaders, empathy is important in our company as it allows everyone to feel safe in their mistakes and encourages leaders to look for the real cause driving the poor performance. Being empathetic allows leaders to help struggling staff improve and/or correct the behaviors and actions to help them succeed in their role.

CX is all about relationships and communication. Communication needs to be focused on showing the other person they are valued, cared about, and focused on helping them.

The tone you use is crucial in conveying sincere empathy.

Leave your ego and perspective at the door and truly make the effort to see things from the other person’s viewpoint.

Actively listen. Validate their perspective. Check your attitude for the desired outcome.

Phrases that Convey Empathy

I can understand why you are frustrated…

I understand the situation and I’m so sorry you feel this way. This isn’t how we want any of our customers to feel.

I can imagine how upsetting it is to…

I’m so sorry to hear that…

I’m sad you had to contact us about this…

I’m glad you called so we have the chance to help you with this…

Empathy IS teachable. Everyone is born with Empathy and make the effort to develop it further.

Relate to a similar situation or experience that generates the same emotions or feelings – a missed plane, last-minute cancellation of plans, lost keys or wallet, etc.

It all relates back to Theodore Roosevelt’s famous quote – “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.

An Effective Customer Journey Map is a Crucial Part of Managing the Customer Experience

Customer Journey Mapping

This concept is nothing new… yet so many company leaders have not done it… or – at least- have not done it effectively. Leaders tend to get overwhelmed with the process, and no wonder. Many folks, myself included, used to map out every single touchpoint the customer encounters and then map out all of the operational logistics necessary behind the scenes and while these looked impressive, they would impress you straight into a world of overwhelm and analysis paralysis… and these wonderful maps and hours of efforts would get shelved never to be seen or heard from again.

Let me simplify things for you…..

  • What Journey Mapping ISN’T…
    • Not a process map
    • Not or training manual
    • Not what you hope customers experience
    • Not the time to map out every single touchpoint and the stuff behind the scenes to make the magic happen for the customer
    • Not silo driven
    • Not company focused on driving profits or sales
  • What Journey Mapping IS…
    • A story of what the CUSTOMER experiences
    • A map what happens to them or what they have to do shown in a timeline
    • Outside in approach
    • A chance to see what could be frustrating to the customer
    • A chance to identify Pivotal Moments that feed into the feeling of the overall experience
    • A chance to see what currently IS and see if you can add value to the customer
    • Serves as a Talking Point Map for customer conversations and focus groups.
    • This gets into the emotions you evoke along the way

HOW to craft an effective Journey Map…

Select a neutral facilitator from either within the company or hire an outside resource. The facilitator must remain neutral from the company perspective and be focused on the experiences of current customers.

Select which Journey to map. I suggest starting with the most frequently occurring experience among your customers – OR – the one receiving the most negative feedback.

Be clear on the outcome of mapping. Understand that this will serve as a timeline of the experience your current customers are having when they work with your company. What happens to them, what do they see, who do they see, what information is given, what do they need to do, etc from start to finish? Imagine describing to someone what they need to do in order to get from Point A to Z without bringing in any of the behind the scenes information relevant to company processes.

I typically guide clients through a hybrid of stages, the main theme of touchpoints in stages, then, when necessary, deep dive into specific points to flesh out the details.

Think of a personal relationship timeline – You see someone you are interested in dating, you have the dating phase, then there is the serious dating phase, then the engagement and wedding, the honeymoon phase, real life phase, then deciding after a certain period of time if you will continue to stay in the marriage or go your separate ways if it is not fulfilling to either party.

Use this to symbolize the stages of your customer journey – prospecting, the purchase, onboarding, utilization and service upkeep, return or not.

Within each stage, list a bird’s eye view of the things that the customer needs during that stage and what they experience. Don’t go too deep at this point. Right now it is really a solid skeleton that gives a good outline or black and white picture of what customers experience when working with you.

From here, gather feedback or look at the feedback that has been given by customers. Where in the journey do you need to pay attention? Where in the journey are things happening the way they should? Where in the journey are there problems varying between regions, customers, sales reps, etc?

Now is when you take a deeper dive into the specific touchpoints to map them out. Understand what the customer expects and is looking for, then go back and decide from a leadership and operational perspective what needs to change to deliver that consistently over time.

Once you feel confident with the first map, then begin to map other customer journeys, employee journeys, and vendor journeys.

Over time this map provides a guide on how to build service into your processes and allows you to build in accountability along the way to ensure consistency.

To listen to the podcast covering Customer Journey, click here.

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In Customer Experience – It’s the Customer’s Perspective that Counts, Not Yours

Customer Perspective is really the only thing that matters in Customer Experience (CX) work. I know this seems a bit extreme… please bear with me.

I know that you are doing what you think is best for your business and your customer. I know that most of you are looking to create solid experiences for your customers that will bring them back to you time and time again.

But what if your customers don’t think the same way you do? What if you think the billing process you currently have is fine, but it’s driving your customers nuts? What if they think your invoicing or billing practices are inconvenient or confusing?

What if you’ve invested in a state of the art contact call center, but your customers can’t stand it?

That’s the rub. Many companies feel what they have in place is just fine. And, in all likelihood, it probably does the job. But just consider this… your customers aren’t comparing you to your competitors. They are comparing you to wherever it is that they do business where they feel important, valued, and listened to. They unconsciously compare you to any company that makes things easier on them than you do… Amazon perhaps? So if they make a suggestion to you, or even complain, about your billing practices and you don’t at least seriously consider it, you have a problem on your hands.

Because who drives your business? Yes, you are leadership… but your customers are giving you their money that helps you stay in business. If they leave, you won’t have a business to run. You should consider putting the customer perspective in the driver’s seat, at the head of the table, in the position to help guide your business and operating decisions.

Now I’m not suggesting that you will go out of business simply because your invoicing is confusing, but if you aren’t taking suggestions or feedback in one area of your business seriously, I would venture to guess you likely aren’t taking it seriously in other areas as well. Just be aware that it is a psychological pattern that how you do “something” is highly indicative of how you do “everything”… both in our personal and professional lives.

Customer-driven companies… it’s an OUTside IN approach… meaning you find out what is important to your customers, find out what they prefer, and make things happen as much as possible as you can according to their preferences. If you do this well, I promise you, they will stay loyal to you.

You are basically telling them… “Hey, we value you. Thanks for your business. Let us know what you like and we’ll try to do it.” You’d be hard-pressed to find a customer that wouldn’t feel important to your business with that approach.

Because every single human alive has their own opinion and perspective. And everyone’s perspective and belief is their reality. Our perspective is what drives our beliefs, decisions, and actions.

So in business, the customer’s perspective is their reality. If they believe that your billing practices are confusing, then pay attention to that. Because if you want to keep them as your customer, you need to address it.

When the customer perspective serves as a guiding light to your operations… it’s a beautiful thing.

To listen to the podcast covering this topic… click here.

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Episode 005 – CX From the Customer Perspective

Shownotes

  • Customer Perspective is really the only thing that matters in any Customer Experience work.
  • I know that you are doing what you think is best for your business and your customer. I know that most of you, simply because you are listening to this podcast, are looking to create solid experiences for your customers that will bring them back to you time and time again.
  • But what if your customers don’t think the same way you do? What if you think the billing process you currently have is fine, but it’s driving your customers nuts? What if they think your invoicing or billing practices are inconvenient or confusing?
  • That’s the rub. Many companies feel what they have in place is just fine. And, in all likelihood, it probably does the job. But just consider this… your customers aren’t comparing you to your competitors. They are comparing you to wherever it is that they do business where they feel important, valued, and listened to. So if they make a suggestion to you, or even complain, about your billing practices and you don’t at least seriously consider it, you have a problem on your hands.
  • Because who drives your business? Yes, you are leadership… but your customers are giving you their money that helps you stay in business. If they leave, you won’t have a business to run.
  • Now I’m not suggesting that you will go out of business simply because your invoicing is confusing, but if you aren’t taking suggestions or feedback in one area of your business seriously, you likely aren’t taking it seriously in other areas as well.
  • Remember back in episode 1 we covered what CX is… I spent some time talking about how it is customer driven… it’s an OUTside IN approach… meaning you find out what is important to your customers, you find out what they prefer, and you make things happen as much as possible as you can according to their preferences, I promise you, they will stay loyal to you.
  • You are basically telling them… hey, we value you… thanks for your business… Let us know what you like and we’ll try to do it.
  • Because every single human alive has their own opinion and perspective. And everyone’s perspective and belief is their reality. Remember I warned you there’d be a lot of psychology lessons along the way here. Our perspective is what drives our beliefs, decisions, and actions.
  • So in business, the customer’s perspective is their reality. If they believe that your billing practices are confusing, then pay attention to that. Because if you want to keep them as your customer, you need to address it.
  • Now, there is a possibility you don’t need to change a single thing. Maybe what you have is a very clear and logical billing system, but it’s confusing to your customers because they don’t understand it.
  • That’s why you need to ask your customers for their perspective along the way.

Episode 002 – The Impact of Your Corporate Culture on the Customer Experience

Shownotes

In this episode, we talk about the CULTURE of your company and how it impacts and drives the CX.

The Culture definition describes the environment created to achieve that mission and vision. 

This will be something that your staff will FEEL… not have to be shown a mission statement. 

Understand that your staff will have to FEEL, EXPERIENCE, and BELIEVE this culture for them to accurately execute the desired experience to your customers.

  • culture definition. The sum of attitudes, customs, and beliefs that distinguishes one group of people from another.

Corporate culture refers to the shared values, attitudes, standards, and beliefs that characterize members of an organization and define its nature. Corporate culture is rooted in an organization’s goals, strategies, structure, and approaches to labor, customers, investors, and the greater community.

Culture is based on shared attitudes, beliefs, customs, and written and unwritten rules that have been developed over time and are considered valid (The Business Dictionary).

Needle (2004), stated that organizational culture represents the collective values, beliefs and principles of organizational members. Culture includes the organization’s vision, values, norms, systems, symbols, language, assumptions, beliefs, and habits

Deal and Kennedy succinctly define organizational culture as “the way things are done around here” (Deal & Kennedy, 2000)

Every company has a culture whether purposely defined or not. The key is to be in the driver’s seat of defining your culture and being deliberate about shaping it before you are trying to reign in an undesirable culture that has taken hold.

Should you find yourself in the latter position… take heart, all is not lost. It is very doable, provided you make the commitment and persevere through the process.

When beginning the discussion of defining the DESIRED culture of your organization, this is the time to consider….

What would you like it look like to work IN your company and WITH your company? How is the engagement between leaders and staff, staff and customers?

What would you like the environment to be like? Relaxed and casual, or professional and formal? Is it an open working environment or one that uses high walled cubicles?

How would you welcome people in – both as staff and clients? Your culture will be apparent the moment you greet your first candidate or client. The friendliness factor, the thoroughness and follow up displayed exemplifies the culture of your company. Are you a company to be taken seriously, or are you one that looks great on paper, but in practice…. falls short?

Is there clarity around the purpose of your company and product or service? There will be a measurable impact on the success of your company when staff truly believes that what they do matters to the success of the company and the overall customer experience.

How much autonomy will you give your staff? Will they be trained and empowered to fulfill their responsibilities within the organization and with clients? Will they be afraid to take risks in making decisions based on the culture you are setting?

Do you desire a more formal and rigid top-down management style or do you want to empower people to act with the entrepreneurial spirit? Questions such as these will feed into the amount of risk your staff is willing to take in making decisions or working to solve issues for your customers and clients.

Take action in defining, redefining, or refining your culture by having purposeful conversations with key leaders around the desired culture of your company. As your discussions progress, the process will benefit by giving staff the opportunity to provide input. Staff will have different perspectives and ideas to be considered when crafting the ultimate outcome.

I stress that Leadership should ultimately have the most input on the desired culture definition. Leaders are guiding the direction of the company and if they are true leaders, they should have the insight and understanding of the best course to travel.

Key Things to Consider…

Setting the culture begins at the top. Regardless of the size of your company, the leaders set the tone and example in the congruency of their attitudes, actions, words, and considerations when working with customers, selecting products, and engaging with staff. Staff will follow the example set by leadership, both good and bad.

Hire people based on competencies AND culture fit. I can’t stress this one enough. My experience shows that 90% of all customer experience and culture work is accomplished simply by hiring the right people that will support and sustain your desired culture. Should you have staff that work against it, or at the very least – don’t support it, this work can be extremely frustrating and ultimately futile. Even just a few people with the wrong attitudes can throw the entire program off course.

Example…You have two people you are considering for the same position. One is competent, yet lacks the years of experience the other does. Yet, the first one actively engaged during the interview when you discussed the culture of your company. You formed the impression they would be very helpful in sustaining the culture you are working hard to execute for staff and clients. The candidate with years of experience didn’t openly say they didn’t like the described culture, but they asked a few times if they could bring in ways of doing things that had worked for them in their past job and if they could work as they needed to on their own as long as the desired outcome was achieved.

Guess which one will be successful in your company? The first candidate. Provided they have the necessary credentials and training, you can train skills and competencies specific to your company. You just can’t train attitudes easily at all. The wrong attitude can dramatically derail your culture work.

Open communication promotes success. Companies with free and open communication are far more successful in establishing an engaging and successful culture. When staff feels free to ask questions and discuss core issues with leadership, they’ll be much more engaged and the culture is strengthened, thus the company “team” is united in working in the best interest of the customer and the company reaps the reward of their continued loyalty.

Consequences of not focusing on Culture?

You can be successful in spite of yourselves, but that is not the norm. Not taking the time to actively shape the culture is indicative of a “non-directional” culture prone to reactionary decisions, inconsistencies in customer experiences, and intermittent “lucky” successes.

Possible Indications of Needing Culture Work…

  • Employee turnover
  • Customer churn
  • Lackluster performance and attitude by employees
  • Disengaged staff
  • Minimum expectations delivered by staff
  • Low attendance at company events
  • Employee -vs- Leadership mindset
  • Declining customer loyalty and satisfaction ratings

Prioritizing the definition and execution of your ideal Culture will certainly pay off in many ways…

  • Morale will increase
  • Staff will willingly engage outside of their own responsibilities and do more than the minimum expectations
  • Everyone will understand and embrace the purpose of the company and actively work to support and promote it
  • Staff will feel empowered and engaged resulting in more thoughtful decisions to benefit both the company and the customers
  • Customers will benefit by doing business with a company where they feel they are part of an organization actively working to help them succeed in their responsibilities and goals
  • The Customer Experience will increase customer loyalty and generate referrals
  • Increased referrals and loyalty promote higher sales, resulting in higher profits, resulting in the successful longevity of the company.

A strong cohesive culture is a beautiful thing…

Organize and operate on your brand – cultivate your cultural priorities – design your organization to cultivate the way your company works together?

How can you reinforce the culture of your company? what does each of those values look like overall in each dept?

Creating culture changing employee experiences. – Look at entire journey – first as potential recruit… through to when they retire. How can you change it so staff experiences the culture you are going after.

Your action step – 

Have the discussion about what your ideal culture looks like. What does it look like? What does it feel like to be in your organization? What does it feel like to be an employee? Is it a relaxed, formal, or business casual atmosphere? Does leadership isolate themselves in closed-door offices, or are they typically working WITH staff out in the open? Is it open communication as in open door or are there distinct channels of communication? Does it feel super structured or loose? Is it fun and engaging?

Is it dictatorial? Is it a democracy? Is it quiet? Is it open spaces or high cubicles giving each staff member privacy?

There is NO right answer. Your culture needs to be true to your leadership team considering the reason why you are in business and the preferred style of your desired customers. Your culture will attract and DEtract for you to a large extent.

Your culture should also be one that fosters the success of your team in alignment with your goals of who you are, what you stand for, and how you enhance the world of your customer.

Something to consider as you are having this conversation is does your culture naturally foster the ideal customer experience you wish to deliver? They are interdependent.

You won’t be able to have a rigid, super structured and siloed, quiet and reserved environment if the experience you want your customers to have includes relaxed conversations, friendly interactions and impressions of your staff, open communication with help and instructions are given freely and immediately.

Sit down as a leadership team and have the discussion. Ask yourselves the following questions…

  1. What seven words or phrases describe the culture you want to have in our company?
  2. How do we as a company want to be known to our customers and staff?

Have everyone list those on their own and distribute.

Discuss, include and eliminate the words and phrases as a cohesive group. Debate, explain, justify, whatever it takes, but everyone must agree on the culture. There can be a degree of prioritizing if desired.

Limit the list of descriptions to 15 if possible. THESE ARE NOT CORE VALUES. This is describing the environment and what it looks like and feels like to be there. Go back to the mindset of describing Disney if that helps. 

You are now forming the structure of the IDEAL culture. You may not be there right now… but because you’ve had the discussion and agreed on it… every decision made from this point on should be considered from this perspective AS IF IT ALREADY IS. That will help your trajectory immensely.

Next – Have the discussion to determine the components necessary to support that culture. these are your core values. 

If you want to have a fun culture, you’ll need to have a degree of casualness built in.

Why Core Values Need to Be in Your Customer Experience Focus

 

Core Values are the fundamental beliefs of a person or organization.

My podcast related to core values can be heard here…

Core Values serve as the guiding light for how everyone in your company interacts, communicates and works with each other, external customers, and the community. The core values are the solid foundational building blocks on which your culture is built. They are your company’s principles, beliefs, or philosophy of values.

Core Values provide the framework to help guide many business decisions. When weighing options – refer to the Core Values and the answer should become clear.

Core Values should be unique to your company. Just as your culture should only be able to describe your company alone, the Core Values follow the same idea. Consider examples of Core Values of the big names in business or your niche, but don’t copy them. Don’t try to be them. Try to be as impactful and distinct as they are… in your own way. Otherwise, customers won’t be able to state what is memorable about you and the way you work with them.

Avoid Truth, Integrity, Honesty, and Ethics as stated Core Values. Yes, I went there. My explanation… only because I feel these are inherent in any honestly run business. These will also likely be included in virtually every other company’s core values as well. Get to the Core Values that really mean something in a truly non-generic way. Your company Core Values shouldn’t be able to describe any company other than your own. So don’t include the ones that come standard with every other “Core Values Workshop” mindset. Let’s assume those as a given. If they can’t be assumed, then you’ve got bigger issues than defining other Core Values.

Use phrases or sentences as Core Values to convey the meaning. A word to summarize the intent is great – but extend it with a sentence to demonstrate the meaning within your organization in a specific way. Example – Fun: We work hard, and we play hard. Fun should be included during the work day as well as our outside team activities.

Core Values MUST be exemplified at the leadership level. As with culture, leadership must model Core Values in their actions, behaviors, thoughts, and communications for them to be believed understood and embraced by staff. Should this not be the case, you’ll be lumped into the same category as the notorious, now defunct, Enron. As little as 18 months before their demise, Enron had crafted a Core Values list that was clearly only worth its weight on paper. Had they truly personified those core values, they might still be around today.

Core Values need to be evident in practice – not just written on a document because they sound good. After a visitor spends a day within your company, they should be able to look at your Core Values statement and they are evident by how the company and staff operate as a whole and were apparent and displayed in their own personal experience.

Core Values help in recruiting and hiring decisions. While I’m a huge advocate of diverse thinking and perspectives, the Core Values of staff personalities and characteristics should hold true to the company Core Values. These Core Values, along with your defined ideal culture, should be openly shared and discussed during the interview process. Pay particular attention to how they engage in this part of the interview. Share examples of how Core Values are internally and with external customers. Prompt discussions with candidates on how they might envision the Values being exemplified in the prospective – or past – roles. Their stories will display an accurate understanding of the Core Values and their creativity in displaying them to customers.

Core Values should serve as foundation and guidance, not limitations, for the folks you believe in and invest in to best represent your company and work with your customers. Similar to using the core values to guide business decisions, staff will use them in making daily decisions in their responsibilities. When deciding upon a course of action, if there is a Core Value to support one method vs another, the answer becomes clear. The Values, as a whole, should not be limiting in nature, but provide clarity and direction.

Core Values guide performance reviews. How well your staff lives by and exemplifies the core values of your company should be coached and rewarded. Let’s say you have “Taking Creative Risks” as one of your Core Values. If you have someone who does their job very well, gets along well with others, and customers rave about them personally… yet they take few – if any – risks, they should be coached in this area. First – be certain they really understand what taking creative risks means within your company. Share a few examples of creative risks that you yourself have taken or – concealing the identity – the risks that coworkers have taken. Since risks are never guaranteed as a positive outcome, be sure to share some that did and did not turn out as planned, but keep the way the risk was created and ventured for the benefit of the company or the customer as the main focus.

Core Values are ingrained by frequent and regular discussion and relevant stories. I’m a huge fan of daily and/or weekly team huddles. Have staff share stories about how a Core Value contributed a decision or action for a coworker or customer. Stories are how people relate, internalize, and learn information and concepts. Hearing examples from those around them, staff will start to build on those or take key components and create their own way of modeling those Values.

Embed the Core Values throughout the Customer Journey and Experience. When mapping out your Customer Experience, be sure the Core Values are consistent and evident in every phase and impact point. Pick key moments of influence in the customer journey and consider how the Values can be seen and felt by the customer in each. Have the Core Values in your marketing material, on your website, in the lunch room, conference rooms, walls, feature an “Employee of the Month” who models the Core Values in a newsletter, etc. Talk about them, discuss them, challenge them, find ways to integrate them into conversations.

By intentionally identifying, setting, and modeling Core Values, the more they will become the DNA of your company, distinguish you from your competitors, and make you memorable in the minds of your customers.

It’s a beautiful thing…

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Culture’s Impact on Customer Experience

Culture's Impact on Customer ExperienceDefinition of Culture – The sum of attitudes, customs, and beliefs that distinguishes one group of people from another. 

Corporate culture refers to the shared values, attitudes, standards, and beliefs that characterize members of an organization and define its nature. Corporate culture is rooted in an organization’s goals, strategies, structure, and approaches to labor, customers, investors, and the greater community.

Culture is based on shared attitudes, beliefs, customs, and written and unwritten rules that have been developed over time and are considered valid. (The Business Dictionary).

Needle (2004), stated that organizational culture represents the collective values, beliefs, and principles of organizational members. Culture includes the organization’s vision, values, norms, systems, symbols, language, assumptions, beliefs, and habits

Deal and Kennedy succinctly define organizational culture as “the way things are done around here” (Deal & Kennedy, 2000)

Every company has a culture whether you’ve defined it or not. The key is to be in the driver’s seat of defining your culture and being deliberate about shaping it before you are trying to reign in an undesirable culture that has taken hold.

If you find yourself in the latter position… take heart, all is not lost. It is very doable, provided you make the commitment and persevere through the process.  

When you begin the discussion of defining the DESIRED culture of your organization, this is the time to consider….

What does it look like to work IN your company and WITH your company? How is the engagement between leaders and staff, staff and customers?

What is the environment like? Relaxed and casual, or professional and formal? Is it an open working environment or one that uses high walled cubicles?

How do you welcome people in – both as staff and clients? Your culture will be apparent the moment you greet your first candidate or client. The friendliness factor, the thoroughness and follow up displayed exemplifies the culture of your company. Are you a company to be taken seriously, or are you one that looks great on paper, but in practice…. falls short?

Is there clarity around the purpose of your company and product or service? There will be a measurable impact on the success of your company when staff truly believes that what they do matters to the success of the company and the overall customer experience.

How much autonomy will you give your staff? Will they be trained and empowered to fulfill their responsibilities within the organization and with clients?

Do you want a more formal and rigid top-down management style or do you want to empower people to act with the entrepreneurial spirit? Questions such as these will feed into the amount of risk your staff is willing to take in making decisions or working to solve issues for your customers and clients.

Take action in defining – or redefining – your culture by having purposeful conversations with key leaders around the desired culture of your company. As your discussions progress, the process will benefit by giving staff the opportunity to provide input. Staff will have different perspectives and ideas to be considered when crafting the ultimate outcome.

I stress that Leadership should have the most input on the desired culture definition. Leaders are guiding the direction of the company and if they are true leaders, they should have the insight and understanding on the best course to travel.

Make sure your culture is Unique! Even though you may have several competitors in the same space or industry, your culture as a company within that space needs to feel unique. Books are written about Zappos, Ritz Carlton, Nordstrom, Disney, Apple for a reason. They are successful companies with strong cultures. But don’t try to copy them or be like them. I tell my clients to try to be as impactful as them. All of those companies have competition in their space… yet they are unique.

I have my clients show me a marketing brochure. If I can remove my client’s company name and insert the competitions, yet all of the information is still accurate… then there is a problem. It all blends in. What makes you stand out? What makes you different? Your culture will help shape these answers. If you can’t think of anything… start figuring out what customers want that they can’t easily find as far as working style. That will help shape your culture and vice-versa.

Key components in setting a successful organizational culture…

Setting the culture begins at the top. Regardless of the size of your company, the leaders set the tone and example in the congruency of their attitudes, actions, words, and considerations when working with customers, selecting products, and engaging with staff.

Hire people based on competencies AND culture fit. I can’t stress this one enough. My experience shows that 90% of all customer experience and culture work is accomplished simply by hiring the right people that will support and sustain your desired culture. Should you have staff that work against it, or at the very least – don’t support it, this work can be extremely frustrating and ultimately futile. Even just a few people with the wrong attitudes can throw the entire program off course.

You have two people you are considering for the same position. One is competent, yet lacks the years of experience the other does. Yet, the first one actively engaged in the interview when you discussed the culture of your company. You gleaned the impression that they would be very helpful in sustaining the culture you are working hard to execute for staff and clients. The candidate with years of experience didn’t openly say they didn’t like the described culture, but they asked a few times if they could bring in ways of doing things that had worked for them in their past job, if they could work as they needed to on their own as long as the desired outcome was achieved.

Guess which one will be successful in your company? The first candidate. Provided they have the necessary credentials and training, you can train skills and competencies specific to your company. You just can’t train attitudes easily at all. The wrong attitude can derail your culture work.

Open communication promotes success. Companies with free and open communication are far more successful in establishing an engaging culture. When staff feels free to ask questions and discuss core issues with leadership, they’ll be much more engaged and the culture is strengthened, thus the company “team” is united in working in the best interest of the customer and the company reaps the reward of their continued loyalty.

Consequences of not focusing on Culture?

You can be successful in spite of yourselves, but that is not the norm. Not taking the time to actively shape the culture is indicative of a “non-directional” culture prone to reactionary decisions, inconsistencies in customer experiences, and intermittent lucky successes.

Possible Indications of Needing Culture Work

  • Employee turnover
  • Customer churn
  • Lackluster performance by employees
  • Disengaged staff
  • Minimum expectations delivered by staff
  • Low attendance at company events
  • Employee -vs- Leadership mindset
  • Declining customer loyalty and satisfaction

Prioritizing the definition and execution of your ideal Culture will pays off in many ways…

  • Morale will increase
  • Staff will willingly engage outside of their own responsibilities do more than the minimum
  • Everyone will understand and embrace the purpose of the company and actively work to support and promote it
  • Staff will feel empowered and engaged resulting in more thoughtful decisions to benefit both the company and the customers
  • Customers will benefit by doing business with a company where they feel they are part of an organization actively working to help them succeed in their responsibilities and goals
  • That Customer Experience will increase customer loyalty and generate referrals
  • Increased referrals and loyalty promote higher sales, resulting in higher profits, resulting in the successful longevity of the company.

It’s a beautiful thing…

Poor Customer Experiences Cost You Money

How many customers did you lose today? It may be a hard question to answer.

The answer may lie in the question – How many poor experiences did your customers encounter today while working with your company?

89% of consumers began purchasing from a competitor following a poor experience (RightNow Technologies).

Based on the size of your company and number of staff working with customers – front line, contracts, sales, billing, service techs, etc – if 100 customers that interacted with your company TODAY felt they had a poor experience, then it would be safe to say that 89 of them will do business with your competition as soon as tomorrow.

That’s a staggering statistic. But entirely believable. We’ve all done it. As consumers, we’ve gone elsewhere when we felt we were treated rudely or inappropriately. But it doesn’t even take that much for customers to leave. All you need to do is treat your customers like a number, or make them feel “processed,” or not follow through on a promise or commitment and you can consider them a Lost Customer.

Example – I was listening to The Minimalists Podcast #126 the other day and the main topic was Quality.  During the discussion, one of the hosts told the story of purchasing a couch after considering a few different companies based on the quality of the product, customer service, and price. He didn’t buy the cheapest and didn’t buy the most expensive, but he stated he “didn’t go cheap.”

They were making a point about what to consider when spending money on items quality items. They incorporated the quality of the company and experience under that topic heading. The host purchased the couch 12 weeks ago. He said the customer service at the time of purchase was right on target and they were told they’d have the couch in 12 weeks. He has now had to contact the company several times because he still has not received it. He finally got a response and was told that it would be about another 2 weeks. The hosts made the point that the expectation of 12 weeks was set by the company, yet they failed to follow through on that commitment. He would have forgiven them that (because life happens) but he was most irked that the customer service after the sale was nonexistent and that he was now doing their job of trying to get a delivery date.

He said that he would no longer recommend the company – and he isn’t even referencing the product. He is basing this solely on the fact that the experience was poor. This host would certainly be considered a Lost Customer.

According to the Harvard Business Review, 48% of people who had negative experiences told 10 or more people about it. Unfortunately for BoConcept, the company he purchased the couch from, he also has a website… and a podcast… so he is sharing that experience in the context of Quality, or lack thereof.

I wonder how much money their lack of service after the sale has cost them.

Please share your thoughts below…

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