customer experience consistency

Get Customer Experience Basics Right and You Don’t Need to Invest in Wow Moments

Wow Moments are a Customer Experience hot topic. Customer experience professionals ideate how to build, prioritize, finance, and measure these Wow Moments. Chip and Dan Heath wrote a whole book on the topic: The Power of MomentsNo Wow Moment saves you from negative word of mouth if your brand fails to get the customer experience basics right or to deliver the expected brand experience consistently.

A Bottle of Champagne Cannot Save Your Brand

Last week I spent four nights at the Marriott in Berlin, Germany. My husband and I represent a loyal customer with high lifetime value. He has the Marriott Elite Status. We are in our late 30s – plenty of time left to travel. Our recent hotel customer experience confirms that, when basic CX work is missing, a bottle of champagne cannot save your brand.

The hotel employees had zero communication with each other. The maintenance person who unsuccessfully tried to fix the AC the first night failed to tell the front desk he recommended a room change. The next day, after the front desk said the move could “only happen later,” hotel employees arrived to take our things to our “new room.”

customer experience fails

When I forgot my flip flops in the original room it took 3 business days, 2 front desk phone calls, 2 in-person front desk conversations, and 2 conversations with room service to get them back. The flip-flops arrived the night before my flight back to New York. Somewhere among these bad customer interactions, we received a bottle of champagne and an apology note from the hotel.

Is Poor Customer Experience the Norm?

The sad part is that customer experiences like this are part of our everyday lives. The Mount Sinai Hospital appointments system is literally non-existent. A patient can schedule one appointment for the morning and another for late afternoon, but the nurses cannot optimize the visit and make both appointments in the same half-day. When my girlfriend was re-admitted to the hospital a week after her release, her parents had to answer the EXACT SAME questions they answered the first time. The system did not allow the new nurse to see the original answers.

In a nutshell, the hospital lacks internal communication systems for employees to refer to across touch points. As a result, the poor frontline employees constantly look like fools to frustrated customers.

What is the ROI on Good Customer Experience?

Since the need is dire and the impact is grave, why don’t brands just fix this? There are several reasons.

First, “fixing” this problem means investing a lot of money in technology. And investments need ROI. What is the ROI of improving service? Will you sell more rooms if the flip-flops get back to me faster? How does a customer experience professional prove that claim?

Second, organizations (incorrectly) fail to recognize this extensive work as customer-facing. If you go to any organization (the way they are set today) you will see that the communication systems for employees is considered “back office.” Leaders rarely make the connection that empowering the frontline is the key to improving CX.

Third, this work is not “sexy.” It just isn’t. It is full of Excel spreadsheets and ancient legacy systems that need to be integrated or rebuilt. And the solution must be real-time to empower employees. That brings complexity that drives the price tag even higher.

Wow the Customer with Consistency

Brands should work on wowing the customer by delivering consistent experiences and getting the basics right. They need to do that before they introduce all the great one-off experiences they can deliver to a few guests.

Customers are wowed much more if their digital key can open their room door in Boston AND Berlin. Or if they can rely on digital checkout in both countries. The bottle of champagne only brings value when the customer’s basic needs have been met.

Don’t deliver champagne in lieu of consistent, positive customer experience.

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*All opinions expressed on the DoingCXRight Blog and site pages are the authors’ alone and do not reflect the opinions of or imply the endorsement of employers or other organizations.

#CXTHUS Exchange Insights – winners and losers?

Attending conferences is a significant investment of both time and money. Even if you are speaker at the conference, like I was last week, the time away from your non-stop email flow can bring more stress than pleasure to your days. Once we reach a certain level of responsibilities, learning becomes a luxury. The key for all of us is not to let those other demands on our time stop us: there is no professional growth without learning from the successes and failures of our peers. Events like the CX Exchange Travel & Hospitality Conference make us more aware of what is going on in our industry and adjacent industries. They help us to better shift our own organizations ahead of our time.

So what did I learn from my peers at the conference?

A good expansion strategy may or may not work

TripAdvisor, the travel website that “enables travelers to unleash the full potential of every trip” reached 60% of all people who booked their travel online in the second half of 2017. TripAdvisor had a great strategy in mind – allow users to complete purchase without going to the hotel websites. Unfortunately, that strategy did not work. We are talking about this conference takeaway first, because we often overshare successes and do not talk enough about business failures. We can learn even more from our peers’ unsuccessful programs.

Conference speaker, Matthew Mamet, did not delve into exactly what went wrong at TripAdvisor, other than to explain that the hotels did not make it worthwhile to keep on TripAdvisor. You can imagine how long it took to build and launch this e-commerce experience on the travel site. Did somebody put the wrong assumptions in the financial model or did the contract with the hotels lack the proper incentives for commission? Regardless of the reason, sometimes things don’t work as planned. The best thing to do is move on and pivot as fast as possible. That is exactly what TripAdvisor is doing right now. An estimated 1 in 11 worldwide users visited TripAdvisor last July. I would not worry too much about the company. I am sure they will find another way to monetize such a powerful position.

Uber really gets it. All of it.

When Uber achieved 20% growth per month for 43 consecutive months, the company had to start from scratch with all of their processes and procedures. The innovator did not simply scale what it had (something many brands do). Instead, Uber used new technologies to reinvent itself. Uber uses machine learning to flag voice and text messages that over-index on negative sentiment, so they can pay attention to those messages and respond to them faster (read more about how Uber does this). The rideshare company uses the same technology to intercept customer care cases that are forwarded among many agents and do not fit a particular category (the ping-pong effect). Those cases are re-routed to a specialized team to handle. The AI technology also allows Uber to find a needle in a hay stack – the extreme cases in which something really bad happens to the customer. The algorithm looks for specific words early in the customer support message. When those words are there, the complaint is sent to a special care team.

COTA is the Uber in-house platform for digital agent assist that already has saved the company 9.5% – 10% of costs. Uber also does something very few brands do well. The company has a living document, a playbook. When they do something, they actually document it so other sites can replicate it. Not earth shattering in concept, but none of us does it! An important takeaway for Uber (and many of us) is that the saying about self-service – “build it and they will come” – is not working. Much more needs to be done in order to increase adoption of self-service. Many people underestimate the amount of effort and design required AFTER you launch something. Last, but definitely not least, Uber has already realized that the human agent of the future will have a completely new profile. He/she will have new skills, will come from different backgrounds and geographies, and will be paid much more. Uber’s estimate goes as high as 20% – 40% more pay. How do you fund that? With the savings from the digital agents that will be solving basic customer problems.

MGM Rocks

Before you read any further, watch MGM’s Welcome to the #SHOW ad – and pump up the sound. You will not be bored. I promise.

After the 2008 financial crisis, MGM had to find a new identity for the organization. “Welcome to the Show” is a story about the integration of 27 independent brands and the rebuilding of a company culture on the core belief that entertainment is a fundamental human need. To achieve that, MGM incentivized their executive leadership (through bonus and compensation) to travel around the world and become employee trainers on new service level standards. They made the MGM employees heroes and gave them a stage where to run their own shows. The brand is a year into this transformation so it is hard to prove results. One thing is certain though – MGM still strong and employee engagement scores are up. One lesson from MGM – stay longer at the local level when you think you are done, to ensure sustainability and reinforcement of standards. This is probably the hardest part of any hospitality program, especially with 27 resort destinations and 15 brands.

Hertz will not be in business by 2025

This may sound like an extreme prediction, but it is fairly obvious. One of the items covered at the conference was the need “to operationalize their loyalty program in the field.” What does that say to you? To me it says, our loyalty program is not working. The speaker talked about the realization that Hertz is not in the transportation business, but in the customer service industry. The conversation then became more about Hertz’s “concierge” program making “wow” experiences. I hope they have many loyalty members since it seems all efforts are channeled to those customers only.

The most alarming part was the Q&A during which the speaker said that the rideshare industry is NOT a threat to Hertz’s business. This is a classic case of not seeing the red flags as Allen Adamson writes in his great book Shift Ahead. Unless Hertz learns the importance of recognizing and acting fast on new business trends and shifts ahead soon, it will not exist in ten years.

Lessons from the CX Exchange Travel & Hospitality Conference abound. We are all returning to our offices ready to put into action what we have learned from the successes and failures of our CX colleagues.

The recording of my speaking engagement at the CX Exchange Travel & Hospitality Conference will be available for our readers on our Speaking Page in two weeks. Last, but not least, my favorite quote of the conference: “Do not confuse activity with results.”

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*All opinions expressed on the DoingCXRight Blog and site pages are the authors’ alone and do not reflect the opinions of or imply the endorsement of employers or other organizations.

CX Skills Builder: How to articulate your CX Value and secure your budget

Two weeks ago we urged you to find CX problems and fix them instead of diagnosing and mapping them. That is  Continue reading “CX Skills Builder: How to articulate your CX Value and secure your budget”

TpysRUs bankruptcy why

Do You Know Why The Iconic Brand Toys ‘R’ Us Closed Doors Despite All Our Memories? #RetailBlues

The year is 2016. You are the CEO of Toys ‘R’ Us. Your brand still controls 13.6% of the toy market although the company is highly leveraged, a strategy of your private equity investors. Amazon has its best ever holiday season and digital commerce is becoming the way customers purchase consumer goods more and more. You also have read about the epic miss of Kodak to move to digital photography. Last but not least, you have observed other retailers invest in their websites and build e-commerce customer experiences in an effort to avoid a “Kodak moment.” What do you do?

Nothing new, is the answer, and bankruptcy is the outcome that we are all reading about this week.

Sometimes, the ROI of the CX business case is survival. Literally. If Toys ‘R’ Us had listened to its customers and had build a digital experience on their website, the historic brand of our childhood would have become part of the childhood of our children. It is not easy for a brick and mortar business to reinvent itself into a digital business. It is not impossible. To survive, companies must evolve with their customers or die. The survival of the fittest in full effect on the business landscape, especially in retail.

Every organization has capital funds to invest in big bets (or not). Disruptive technologies today are redefining our way of life and the way that we consume goods and services. Big brands today need to ensure their boards and executive teams are made of bold, visionary leaders who are not afraid to recognize the future when the future is coming their way, and to invest in righting their ship on time. The leaders of Toys ‘R” Us were not aggressive enough until the end. This navigated the brand into oblivion.

Another 2016 scenario for Toys ‘R’ Us could have been to focus its remaining funding into a digital transformation, to build an interactive website and a user friendly app. The stores could have become places for customers to interact with the toys and order them on apps on their own devices, or on iPads in the store.

Toys ‘R’ Us could have built an interactive loyalty program following the growth cycle of the children who received toys from their stores. I have a Toys ‘R’ Us loyalty card and for the last 5 years I have not received a single communication from the brand about its loyalty program. No coupons, benefits or programming of any sort.

I do not know what Toys ‘R’ Us has invested in, in the past 5 years. One thing is evident. The brand did not have an aggressive digital strategy and vision to stay relevant in today’s world. A better management team would have never let this happen…while they were buying their new smart phones with more and more apps and digital products on them every year.

 

 

*All opinions expressed on the DoingCXRight Blog and site pages are the authors’ alone and do not reflect the opinions of or imply the endorsement of employers or other organizations.

CX Design – Make the Customer Know Who You Are

Now that we have helped you become experts in the design of space and function and the design of feelings it is time to take care of the aesthetics and connect customer experience to the brand identity. T5 is an expression of the JetBlue brand. When customers enter the space they feel and know that they are flying JetBlue and not another airline. How can you make customers know without a doubt that they are experiencing your brand?

Know your brand!

At first pass, know your brand is self-explanatory, but you would be surprised by how many professionals believe that only the marketing department needs to know brand identity. In today’s digital and mobile world every member of a company must know the brand. Without a deep understanding of the brand you represent, you are a blind painter. How can you even begin to express values and beliefs you do not know and understand? Know your brand. If you don’t, find a way to learn it! Now.

Convince your CFO that brand equity funding is long term investment

If many people do not know the brands they work for, even fewer fail to understand the fragile nature of brand equity. If you go to your CFO tomorrow and ask for funding to “infuse the brand” in whatever physical or digital experience you are building, you will be asked for the ROI on this undertaking. You will also be told that it feels like this “brand stuff” is a “nice to have,” not a “must have” feature.

If there is one moment when you can self-destruct the business case of Customer Experience it is the moment you agree with this statement. The right answer is “Investment in the brand side of customer experience is a must-have feature because without reinvestment in the brand equity, the customer will not connect the experience you have built with the brand you represent.”

Treat your brand with the same empathy you treat your employees and customers

If your brand is strong, it has personality. If it has personality, you can treat your brand as a person – with empathy and care. JetBlue’s persona is smart, fresh and stylish. As the CX designer, I translate this to edgy and innovative, taking a modern view – chic and modern, regardless of time. What does that mean during the design phase? Obsession over every detail.

Details make the customer experience memorable and unique. Nothing is too small for the CX designer to touch. The kiosks in T5 are slim, white and without the “catcher” boarding passes. Brand-driven decisions and compromises made this happen. Crewmembers would have preferred wider kiosks to lay down their cups of coffee. They also would have preferred another color that does not require as much cleaning. Customers would have preferred the metal, functional and protruding catcher for the boarding passes.  The brand persona did not fit with any of those functional needs, so they are not in the lobby today.

Without attention to details the look and feel of the T5 lobby would not have screamed JetBlue the way it does now. By respecting the brand identity the design came out sleek and customers tweeted praise for the design, comparing it to Apple.

Location, location, location

How the customer experience touchpoints are sequences also can express brand identity. JetBlue is “nice.” Flying with JetBlue is a “nice experience.” JetBlue is “human and comfortable.” So when the decision was made to invest in custom-made repack stations with integrated scales, we took the brand identity into consideration. The table could have been made more cheaply out of metal. It would not have made the experience “nice.”

Instead, customers would have felt either like they were in a factory or, best case scenario, in surgery. The tables also were conveniently build in close proximity to the new real “Bag Drop” to it more comfortable for customers to move between the two touch points.

Customer experience professionals must be the loudest brand ambassadors and brand managers. CX professionals deliver on the promises the brand marketers communicate in their campaigns. Without this link and without that collaboration, customer experience feels disconnected, or worse.

As a customer experience professional, you must own the brand equally to the marketers and serve the brand’s values. Without that, you are delivering a customer experience without a soul and you are missing the opportunity to build a deep, meaningful, memorable connection with the customer – the ultimate goal of every brand.

Image courtesy as featured in Cosmopolitan Magazine

 

 

*All opinions expressed on the DoingCXRight Blog and site pages are the authors’ alone and do not reflect the opinions of or imply the endorsement of employers or other organizations.

CX design brand goals JetBlue Liliana Petrova CX

CX Design – How Do You Want Customers To Feel?

Last week we talked about CX Design in terms of space and function. Today  we continue our CX design journey to talk about the design of feelings. The new look of the JetBlue T5 lobby enabled customer experience interactions in more open air space for both customers and crewmembers.

 

The next part of the design drives the make or break of ROI. It is also the most overlooked.  Meeting the functional needs of customers is only the base of the experience pyramid, but most brands stop there, believing that meeting those basic functional customer needs is enough to deliver great customer experience. In his book Harley Manning revisits the three levels of the CX pyramid  – “meet needs,” “easy,” “enjoyable.”

 

To design great customer experience like we did with the T5 project, we jump right to the top of the pyramid, working on making our customers say “I feel [blank] about this experience.” Who you fill in that blank depends on your brand and culture values.

 

How do you want them to feel?

 

It is important to think through the emotions you are designing, since those emotions will trigger repeat business. As Maya Angelou said “…people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” That memory is both a risk and an opportunity to create a long lasting relationship with your customers. When we were designing the lobbies, the customer experience team wanted our customers to feel efficient, taken care of, empowered and smart enough to do things themselves without help. We knew the goal – create simple, personal and helpful customer experience. All we had to do was think about what that means in terms of emotion.
 
How big is the change you are introducing? Are you adding enough new customer experience elements that compensate for the discomfort of the ones you are removing?
 

Start with the change management.  When we removed the podiums at the lobby, we essentially took away our crewmembers’ comfort zone – their anchor, their place to hold personal items. This change was disruptive to their daily lives. It was important that, as we took away tools, we also needed to give crewmembers new ones to make them feel heard and understood. So we designed the hospitality training – a CX soft training with standards and tips on how to interact with customers and keep the brand promises we have made.

 

With the hospitality training, JetBlue crewmembers had the cultural/brand guidelines of service delivery that perfectly complemented the new space we built. One of the whys informed us that the only thing a “Bag Drop” position should do is check IDs and scan boarding passes and bag tags. Podiums and computers were replaced with Blackberries to do just that and the transaction times at bag drop dopped in half.  Customers spent 30 seconds dropping their bags and continuing on their (CX) journey. The lines disappeared. The negative comments about long lines in our VOC surveys also disappeared. We had a drop of 65% of any mention of “long queues”.

 

 
Does your corporate culture support the internal disruption you are creating?
 
Since we completely disrupted the working place of our crewmembers we needed to think about the soft side of this innovation. At the time, we were the first airline in North America to remove podiums at bag drop. This is where JetBlue’s culture is a true differentiator. The CX design did not stop with the Customer. It included the crewmember. We treated our employees as customers. We spent equal time deliberating how to design (and pay for) the new bag drop positions to minimize the functional changes in the lives our crewmembers. For example, where would they leave their phones, purses, wallets when they worked? We built drawers in the blue arcs above the intake bag belts to meet that need. The thinner design matched better the overall open space approach of the lobbies. Despite that, we built them thicker, making the tradeoff between brand look and function to manage the customer experience of our crewmembers and their acceptance of change.

 

 
The design of exceptional/memorable/unique customer experiences requires empathy. To connect as a brand to your customer, you need to go beyond meeting the functional needs of your customer. Making the experience easy is very hard. No doubt about that. But ease only connects with the rational side of your customers. To generate more ROI through CX, you need to also create a positive emotion that will trigger the irrational decisions to (hopefully) pay for your product or service at a premium next time. Not only because it was seamless, but because they want to relive that feeling again. You will be one of the few brands that is not just offering a product or a service.  You are offering amazing customer experience – you are a well oiled machine for feelings.
 
Image courtesy of JetBlue
*All opinions expressed on the DoingCXRight Blog and site pages are the authors’ alone and do not reflect the opinions of or imply the endorsement of employers or other organizations.

CX Design Makes Form and Function Beautiful – and Cosmopolitan Magazine Notices

At its core, design means value creation. In the world of Customer Experience design means to empathetically imagine a future customer experience that is easy, fast, and seamless. The actual design can be building a new lobby or changing an existing customer-facing process that takes too long, or simplifying an internal procedure that prevents employees from solving customers’ problems quickly. Due to its importance, CX design is also one of the six disciplines that the CCXP exam covers. Any CX professional must feel accountable and responsible for CX design. It is our job to design and to to prove the ROI of that customer-centric design. All of this can feel overwhelming. How can one person solve all of these structural problems in a creative way? Where do you even begin?
 
What do you want the customer to do?
 
You begin with the process. Current, future – gaps. In the JetBlue lobby case, before we even began building T5 we met with the industrial engineers to go over the mechanics of the space. “We want movement. No queues.” Airports and airlines both share that goal. But that is too generic of a statement to allow for a design solution.
 
The questions you need to ask and answer at this first phase of CX design are “Why is there no movement today? Why are people waiting on line?” and then use the 5 whys technique to really understand what you need to address in your design in order to create movement. In our lobbies we had long lines at the “Bag Drop” position. Often, the express “Bag Drop” line was even longer than the “Full Service” line that offered more services, leaving customers and crewmembers frustrated.
 
Photo: JetBlue
The original plan to address the bad customer experience was to introduce self-tagging kiosks in the lobby. If only customers could print their own bag tags, all the lines would be gone. At first look that sounded logical, until I remembered . The Goal teaches to look for the bottleneck of any operation and to chase it all the way down/out of the system. Instead of building the business case only for kiosks, I kept thinking about the end-to-end journey of the customer. Not surprisingly, when we asked our 5 whys we quickly found out the root cause that we needed to solve with the future CX design.
 
Kiosks were not enough. I had to go farther.
 
We never had bag drop positions. Functionally, there was nothing different between the bag drop position and the full service position. Customers would go to the fast lane and clog it with questions or needs that required our crewmembers to act as a full service desk, holding the line for up to 15 minutes per customer. As CX Designer, I solved that by stripping all the full service functionality from the bag drop position. I removed the computers. Then I removed the podiums.  I gave our crewmembers a completely different environment to operate in, disabling them from ever functioning again as full service desks. Featured in Cosmopolitan Magazine, the new design empowered them to deliver personal, helpful and simple experience by removing the physical barrier between them and the customers thus creating an open environment that ignites conversations.
 
Creative thinking, process mindset and empathy are the key ingredients to building CX journeys (experiences) that will differentiate your business and make your customers come back for more. People do exactly what you design them to do. The good news is you are in charge. There is no such thing as overthinking design. Keep imagining all the things that can go wrong and then amend your design accordingly. Enjoy the art of CX design!
 
Featured Image Courtesy of Cosmopolitan Magazine
*All opinions expressed on the DoingCXRight Blog and site pages are the authors’ alone and do not reflect the opinions of or imply the endorsement of employers or other organizations.

Brand Image ROI

Two weeks ago we discussed the power of employee engagement for your brand and the true meaning and ROI of a working corporate culture. Today we will examine the business case of the engaged customer, the powerful brand image and the brand loyalty it generates – loyalty that drives repeat purchases, higher revenues and more engaged customers.
 
An engaged customer requires the investment of the ongoing conversation. The “conversation” dollars go to social media campaigns, closed-loop systems for customer feedback, and a responsive loyalty customer service, among other customer experience levers.
 
Invest in people as much as product
 
Two weeks ago, I received a complaint from a JetBlue customer. In order to keep the conversation going with this customer, I had to relay the information to the teams that were accountable for his experience and get back to him with a comprehensive and empathetic feedback about his experience. CX professionals call this close loop, but close loop is a policy. My taking the effort to connect with people across the organization and CARING to get answers is employee engagement on my part, and that is generated by our corporate culture.
 
This culture is what maintains customer engagement and, which, as a result will create an ancillary purchase in the future. Often, people and service are more important than the product of an organization.  People and service build an organization’s brand image when customers interact with the brand. Customer experience relies more on human interactions with the brand than on the technology that enables those interactions.
 
Empathy and Innovation
 
Magazine Luiza is another great example of impacting ancillary sales and seeing a 35% ROI as a result of deliberate investment in empathy and innovation.  The Brazilian virtual store offers products on credit to the under-served customers in rural areas. Customers can see pictures of their desired products then go home and wait for the delivery in the next 48 hours.
 
To achieve loyalty and repeat business, Magazine Luiza also functions as community centers that offer free internet, literacy, cooking and basic banking classes. This investment contributed to the build out of a strong emotional connection between the brand and its audience, transforming Magazine Luiza into a powerful lifestyle brand to its customers. Even customers apprehensive of taking credit visit a place where a friendly face walks them through the experience of borrowing money while their child learns how to write for free.
 
The brand image of growth and development that come from the education components Magazine Luiza provides is, in a way, transferred to the “product” of buying on credit.  Once customers are empowered to buy on credit initially, they return to buy more things because each of those purchases makes them feel economically empowered.
 
Engaged customers are the blood of every business
 
Without engaged customers, business cannot grow. They provide the steady cashflow and the free cashflow that allow a business to invest in products and customer acquisition. The ROI of engaged customers lies in the growth of the organization and the incremental revenue that ensues. Depending on the growth stage of a particular organization, that ROI also can mean an organization’s survival.
*All opinions expressed on the DoingCXRight Blog and site pages are the authors’ alone and do not reflect the opinions of or imply the endorsement of employers or other organizations.

Culture Is King – The Power Of Employee Engagement

In 2017 we introduced our ROI series recognizing the challenges all customer experience professionals have to obtain funding for CX initiatives and to prove their positive returns. Our second ROI post covered how a well built customer experience can increase revenue and customer growth of your organization. Today we will walk you through the positive impact customer experience has on employee engagement.
 
Great Culture is the Enabler of Great Service
 
Excellent corporate culture creates engaged employees who are proud of their company and make it a personal mission to deliver great experiences. Engaged employees love the brand they work for so much that they will go above and beyond to “convince” their customers to feel the same way. Actions like this transform employees from brand ambassadors to brand builders. When leadership takes the time to build and maintain an engaged workforce the impact is significant, and profitable.
 
Yet, if culture is of such high value to organizations, why do so few succeed in creating this kind of customer experience advantage for their organizations? Because it is hard, and expensive.
 
Let’s say your cultural values have FUN in them. How do people live that value at work? They celebrate holidays with social events, they go on interesting off-sites, they  have fun contests in the operation, etc. Each of these cultural artifacts of the fun value costs money. Most leaders will say they believe in the fun value; very few will approve the expenses for the discreet activities that maintain that value.  When companies grow, all those activities include the added expenses of travel in order to connect employee teams.
 
Culture is Not an HR Function
 
Culture cannot be achieved with all-hands meetings twice a year and a daily corporate communications email. Culture is a business strategy, a guiding principle that informs how product and service decisions are made. If, for instance, CARING is part of your corporate culture, there are several business decisions and practices you need to invest in to express that care (internal funds for supporting fellow employees during hurricanes, sponsor travel so senior leaders can visit front line employees to better understand their day-to-day challenges, willingness to walk away from a product enhancement that will benefit the customer but also make your front life processes more complex and hard to maintain).  Caring costs money. Real money. Caring is even more expensive than FUN.
 
Caring can save an organization. If you have a product that is not the market leader in terms of quality and you marry it with an engaged workforce that delivers exceptional service, you actually have a shot at keeping your position as the market leader. If you don’t, there is not much going on to motivate your customers return.
 
How Do You Quantify the ROI?
 
It is fair to say that all the people who returned to you after an exceptional service experience would not have done so without having received that exceptional service. Quantify the lifetime value of those customers, and that is how you calculate your customer experience ROI.
 
Culture is a Critical Corporate Mindset
 
People are hired for culture in the true sense of that expression. If transparent leadership and instilling employee trust are values for leaders, then the pay scales of the organization should not be locked for only selected people to see. Transparency is a big word that is often repeated, but transparency is rarely backed by actions like this.
 
If transparency is on a corporation’s values list, then that corporation’s leaders must be ready to be vulnerable and to be challenged by their employees. With the right mindset, this is not a difficult value to live. Being authentic and “walking the talk” can inspire more than any other corporate action can. Transparency and vulnerability is a challenging mindset for leaders, but it gets easier to practice over time, and it is worth the investment.
 
Generally speaking, employees want to (prefer to) respect their leaders. We all need hope, we need someone to look up to, something to keep us moving forward. Employees are much more forgiving and patient with their leaders than we think, so apply a brave mindset to lead wholeheartedly. Be seen and be prepared to have an organization follow you no matter where you lead through the culture you create and the actions that support it.
 
Successful brands have strong corporate cultures that drive their employees to consistently deliver memorable experiences. Culture is the most difficult ROI to prove. It is impossible to replicate, so it can be a competitive advantage. It can also be a deterrent to hostile takeovers and mergers. Having the freedom to grow organically while creating value for customers is the greatest return on investment any business can dream of. In that sense, the ROI of culture is the highest we will ever see.
*All opinions expressed on the DoingCXRight Blog and site pages are the authors’ alone and do not reflect the opinions of or imply the endorsement of employers or other organizations.

Is AI Really The Answer?

Earlier this week we shared some of the pitfalls of implementing  self-service and highlighted the importance of strategic and empathetic implementation.  AI (artificial intelligence) is one of the self-service tools in the customer service professional toolbox today. It is also one of the new buzzwords, together with blockchain (for the curious ones  – my favorite explanations of blockchain are this video and this article).

The primary current positioning of AI is in call centers. The value proposition is that with AI, companies will empower customer service employees to make better decisions/recommendations, thus increasing employee engagement. Additionally, through AI, organizations will achieve significant ROI by automating the role of the customer agent (in JetBlue’s case, the crewmember) and scaling customer support without incremental headcount.

So what exactly is AI? Do you really understand what this technology can and cannot do? If you do not, keep reading as all working professionals today should understand at least the basics of AI. If you are like me, you probably get 100 sales emails every week telling you that you are running late and must leverage AI in your call centers. But do you really need AI? What problem do YOU need to solve? And is AI the best way to do that for your company?

Last month I was invited by Execs In the Know to join their AI Advisory Committee with the below mandate:

“The final group output will come in the form of a report. The exact nature of the report will be determined and framed by the group, but may include areas such as:

  • A summary of ways AI is enhancing CX channels
  • Best practices on where and how to start
  • Trends and technology in AI to improve service
  • ROI of current AI customer service initiatives
  • Perspectives and predictions about the future of AI and customer service”

This is no small mandate and it is encouraging that we have a group of professionals who are examining these questions before we all get ahead of ourselves with AI and compromise the ROI we all want so much.

The most common use of AI is ML (machine learning).  Basically, this is data mining and predictive learning on steroids that enables a computer to make decisions and interact with a human. With that basic understanding I already have a few questions to all the companies that are calling, emailing, inmailing etc., to offer me AI enabled solutions. Who, or rather what, is enabling those solutions? Is it my company’s data? Because if it is, I have a lot more work to do internally before I respond to those sales pieces.

Erik Brynjolfsson and  Andrew Mcafee provide a comprehensive explanation of what AI is and what it is not in their publication The Business of Artificial Intelligence. In it they state that AI technology is ready for implementation in the business world and that “[t]he bottleneck now is in management, implementation, and business imagination.” I do have the business imagination, but I also am taking my time to know exactly what capability I am buying with AI. It might be cheaper to streamline processes and fix existing software tools or integrations to enable my employees to deliver excellent customer service, instead of paying for yet another software integration that makes decisions based on my bad data (since I would have prioritized the purchase of the expensive AI solution over cleaning my existing data).

Although it is clear that AI will be a solution that needs demonstrated ROI and employee adoption for success while it is learning, it is also clear that we cannot wait too long to get comfortable with this new technology. As Erik and Andrew say, one thing is pretty sure: “[o]ver the next decade, AI won’t replace managers, but managers who use AI will replace those who don’t”.

That is the exact reason I chose to join the AI Advisory Committee. More to come!

 

 

*All opinions expressed on the DoingCXRight Blog and site pages are the authors’ alone and do not reflect the opinions of or imply the endorsement of employers or other organizations.

When Not To Invest In Self-Service Technology?

Every progressive brand today aspires to have more self-service. Very few implement self-service successfully. Self-service is a new tool to optimize a company’s workforce by removing transactions from the system. All industries are looking at self-service as a strategy of the future.

Hospitals, airlines, and hotels are installing kiosks to self check-in while grocery stores and taxi companies are implementing self-service check out with digital payment products. The list goes on and on. What differentiates a successful use of self-service as a building block of innovation from a failed implementation that adds more effort for the customer that leaves him/her angry and frustrated?

Successful self-service is self-sufficient. It enables customers to meet all their needs by themselves. If users can do only some of the steps of the whole process alone then self-service adds costs to the business, adds complexity and effort to the experience. For example, if a customer can print his/her food voucher when there is a delay, but cannot rebook him/herself (i.e. still needs to call customer service) then all the brand has accomplished is to add steps for the customer to get the same value he/she could have done before with ONLY a phone call.

Another thing to be aware of with self-service is what type of labor is optimized and what labor is part of the self-service solution. The business case of self-service might not work if the solution requires incremental (and expensive) IT resources while removing existing (and cheaper) unskilled resources. As Matthew Dixon says in  :  “[t]he challenge is not in getting today’s customer to try self-service. The challenge lies in getting today’s customer to avoid channel switching from self-service to a live phone call… the self-service battle isn’t about getting customers to go, it’s about getting them to stay.” It is important to launch the solution that solves all the needs of the customer before launching a technology solution to avoid getting the wrong results.

Design for 80% of the customer base, not the high touch 5% – 10%.  The 5% base solution is more expensive and most probably will break the business case.  Be ready for all the people who will question the design that will NOT cover 100% of the customers. Questions about the exceptions will keep coming up: “What is the customer does not have a credit card? What if the customer does not speak English? What if …?” The answer to all of them is: “They will go to the full service option at that touch point. They will not self-serve.” Be strong and keep the focus on the goals of self-service – to alleviate, not eliminate, the calls to the contact center; to allow the employees to offer a better service to those people who do not have a credit card and/or do not speak English. It is counterintuitive, but by not solving for them through self-service, we are building a better service for the exceptions as well.

Be brave! Some people will not like the self-service design. You will hear a lot of push back about de-humanizing the experience for the customers. Anjali Lai from Forrester studied the emotions of brand interactions (see below) and was able to show that there is no significant difference in the perception of the customers when they self-serve (from interacting with a live person).

What is more human? To have a human tell a customer that he/she is not able to solve the problem, because the process is not designed well or that they will be put on a brief call to speak to another person, or having self-service solutions that empower customers to create their own experiences in a personalized and independent way (without telling their names and confirmation numbers 2 or more times).

Self-service is an integral part of the future, but unless self-service is designed and executed in a strategic and empathetic manner it can drive more costs and complaints than savings and satisfaction. The basic value creation mandate is critical in this business strategy: unless self-service creates real value for the customer he/she will not embrace it.

So ask yourself, if you were the customer, would you gain anything from doing a task yourself vs. getting help from the company? As the company, do you gain anything by self-serving? Is it faster, easier or simpler? If you cannot answer yes to any of those questions, do not invest in self-service technology.

 

*All opinions expressed on the DoingCXRight Blog and site pages are the authors’ alone and do not reflect the opinions of or imply the endorsement of employers or other organizations.

cx bold moves customer experience news t-mobile replaces remote workforce

CX Bold Moves: Mobile Provider Eliminates Remote Workforce

When it comes to customer support we all want the same things. We measure the efficiency metrics FCR (first call resolution), average wait time and talk time. We train our contact center agents to be personal and helpful.  Some of us even build incentives around goals for ancillary sales. When it comes to delivering on those KPIs right, customer experience managers have a lot in common. None of us has figured out how to deliver on all metrics. We are happy if we get one of them right!

Making Customers Feel Good when They Call

At JetBlue, our contact center is our heart. Our Contact Center crewmembers live the company’s mission to inspire humanity. If you want to feel what JetBlue is about, dial 1800 JetBlue where the customer experience is driven by empathy and understanding. And that is before we even train our crewmembers on our hospitality standards (that will happen in a few months as planned on the rollout roadmap).

JetBlue further empowers those crewmembers to be BlueHeros – to act as citizens, protect the JetBlue brand, and do the right thing for the customer when things go wrong. This is how we approach contact center management.

Loyalty that’s Worth the Wait

T-Mobile, self-described “Un-Carrier” is taking on a different approach. Two weeks ago at the Forrester conference in San Francisco, Sid Bothra shared the brand’s new strategy of call centers management. Instead of having frontline agents work from home, T-Mobile launched mini-call center “pods” of approximately 50 people each that cover specific geography and have cross-functional agents. Those groups are managed as P&L centers, not only as cost centers.

This is a completely new and risky approach that maximizes FCR at the expense of wait and talk times. Yes, in the new world, customer calls will not be transferred a second (or third) time. With this design, the agent who knows data sits next to the network specialist and the international calls expert. The agent’s efficiency loss, however, will be substantial and impact both wait and call times.

The results Sid Bothra shared were inspiring. As expected, customers now wait 2x longer (from 40 seconds to 1m-1.3m), but NPS went up by 50% and employee retention increased by 75%. In addition, customer share of the wallet also increased because now, callers are more open to buying ancillary products.

Sid Bothra’s plan is a great example of thinking outside of the box and challenging the norm. Very few traditional call center leaders would agree with this new approach.  In the long run, though, giving employees a sense of ownership of the business is the best way to inspire excellent service and care. It sounds like T-Mobile has found one way to do just that. It is one thing to feel like a cost, a burden to a business. It is another thing to feel empowered to earn money for your company and manage profits for your investors.

Recalibrating Goals

There is a third view on call centers that contradicts both JetBlue’s strategy and T-Mobile’s. Matthew Dixon in his book states that “any customer service interaction is four times more likely to drive disloyalty than to drive loyalty.”  Dixon argues that our efforts to make customers happy when they reach out to our contact centers is not the right approach because at the point of the call, we have lost their loyalty.  Dixon recalibrates the goal of customer service to mitigate that negative impact by reducing effort because reducing effort is more tangible to the customer and more sustainable to organizations than our current work to delight our callers.

Regardless of the approach, you decide to take with your call center management, I urge you to be disruptive, even to yourself, and not to look at the traditional models. Technology advancements are adding more tools to our toolboxes and the new workforce is looking for more meaning and impact in any job. T-Mobile has addressed both opportunities in a creative and innovative way that has potential to differentiate them in the future.

That could be you!

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*All opinions expressed on the DoingCXRight Blog and site pages are the authors’ alone and do not reflect the opinions of or imply the endorsement of employers or other organizations.

How to talk to your CFO about customer experience and revenue growth

Last month we introduced the topic of Customer Experience ROI and the complexity of building a good business case for it. The Customer Experience business case is strong, but not easy to prove. Today we will focus on two big wins of a successful customer experience investment – revenue and customer growth of your business. Continue Reading →

Customer Experience ROI. Is It Worth Doing?

The business case for Customer Service is complex. Gone are the days when we bought a piece of hardware that depreciates over 5 or 10 years on the balance sheet. Customer Experience does not even show up on our assets list. At least not with that name.

The ROI of Customer Experience is in the revenue and customer growth of your organization. It is in the engagement of your customer base that leads to ancillary sales. It is in the strength of your brand image and the worth of your brand equity.The challenge business leaders face justifying investments (especially big ones) is because these relationships  are not linear. Today’s CFO need’s to understand the value of marketing more than ever. Customer Experience is equal to brand management and if you underestimate the importance of either, you might not be in business in 5 years.

Customer Experience ROI is the same as your company’s strategy ROI. If you don’t have a defined brand and marketing strategy backed up with a complimentary communications strategy you will not see Customer Experience ROI regardless of your investments. Think about your strategy and argue the case for Customer Experience investments as an execution of a strategy, not as a business case.

 

 

*All opinions expressed on the DoingCXRight Blog and site pages are the authors’ alone and do not reflect the opinions of or imply the endorsement of employers or other organizations.