Sales Data Only Matters If It Helps You Take Action

Originally posted on HBR Blog Network - Harvard Business Review:

In sales, as everywhere else in business, there is a buzz about big data and analytics. Vendors hype tools and mobile applications to help sales forces make sense of it all, while touting case studies that generated impressive improvements in sales force effectiveness.

Companies are anxious to capitalize on the opportunity. While some jump in, many are reluctant to move forward. Some will remember or hear stories of failed projects – big investments to give salespeople tablet computers, to develop data warehouses, and implement CRM systems that ended up racking up huge costs, while generating little value for customers and salespeople. We also hear concerns such as “the technology is too new — let’s wait until it matures,” or “we don’t want to invest in something that becomes outdated in a year.”

These are valid concerns, but here is the crux of it all. It’s not the data and technology…

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You Need Great Employee Experiences To Create Great Customer Experiences (Forrester)

TJ Keitt writes a great blog on Customer Experiences. How are your employees engaging with your customers? Please leave a comment below.

You Need Great Employee Experiences To Create Great Customer Experiences

Posted by TJ Keitt on September 25, 2014

It’s easy to get swept up in the power of the digital age, where smart mobile devices and cloud services open the door for new and exciting ways to engage customers. We think a lot about how these technologies will create enticing customer experiences (CX), making these digital touchpoints the face of the brand. I admit, as a technology fan, I’m enamored with this idea. But I’m also someone who thinks a lot about technology and the workforce, so I was equally animated by a conversation I recently had with the head of a CX consultancy. He warned that businesses risk over rotating on technology, viewing their people as receding in importance in delivering satisfactory customer experiences. He went on to say that businesses that make this make do so at their own perilI agree.

More than three quarters of the information workforce — those using a computing device (e.g. PC, smartphone, tablet) at least one hour per day — interact with at least one customer as a routine part of their job. Over half of the workforce regularly interact with customers, partners, and customers. Are CX professionals thinking about the experiences these employees need as they think about customer needs? And — close to my heart as a tech guy — have they thought about what these neat digital tools can do for their employees, as they have about digital’s effect on customers?

Previously, we established that information workers require three broad freedoms: freedom to access and use information; freedom to interact with others as necessary; freedom to move when needed. In our new reportHow To Build A Technology Plan That Sustains Employee Engagement, we examine how employee satisfaction with the technologies that underlie these freedoms relates to positive employee behaviors. What this analysis netted us is the interesting picture you see below:

Our data analysis shows satisfaction with technologies that support data access, interactions and movement correlates with:

  • Independent problem solving. Employees able to identify and address client issueson their own narrow the time to resolution. And this ensures nagging customer issues don’t metastsize into full-blown customer experience breakdowns.
  • Awareness of how employee actions relation to the business’s success. If employees feel that there is a purpose to their work, then they are more inclined to take it seriously. Furthermore, they’re more likely toinvest their energy in fixing issues as they arise.
  • Employee retention. Turnover kills customer experience. Holding on to workers ensures continuity in customer experienceand the opportunity to continue to build on improvements. It also ensures that the company can maintain relationships workers form with their customers, business partners, and colleagues.
  • Employees’ willingness to advocate for the organization. Workers can help draw in new customers through recommendationsto family and friends. They can also identify qualified prospective employees when they recommend the company as an employer to that same social circle.

All of these look like great qualities to have in your workforce, right? Well, they don’t happen if you don’t link employee intention (get data, work with people, change context) with enabling tools (PCs, smartphones, tablets, applications) in a set of journeys that results in each worker meeting their personal goals. This argues for customer experience techniques being brought into the technology management organization. And it means that CX leaders and their technologist counterparts need to work together not only on creating compelling customer experiences, but also productive employee experiences that ensure workers can meet customer expectations.

This is an ongoing conversation, so I’m interested in hearing your thoughts. What do you think?

 

The “No” Repertoire: Essentialism Book Review

In the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown, he talks about how to get more things done and it’s about how to get the right things done. Below is an excerpt about how to say “No” to nonessential things.

The “No” RepertoireEssentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Remember, Essentialists don’t say no just occasionally. It is a part of their regular repertoire. To consistently say no with grace, then, it helps to have a variety of responses to call upon. Below are eight responses you can put in your “no” repertoire.

  1. The awkward pause. Instead of being controlled by the threat of an awkward silence, own it. Use it as a tool. When a request comes to you (obviously this works only in person), just pause for a moment. Count to three before delivering your verdict. Or if you get a bit more bold, simply wait for the other person to fill the void.
  2. The soft “no” (or the “no but”). I recently received an e-mail inviting me to coffee. I replied: “I am consumed with writing my book right now) But I would love to get together once the book is finished. Let me know if we can get together towards the end of the summer.”

E-mail is also a good way to start practicing saying “no but” because it gives you the chance to draft and redraft your “no” to make it as graceful as possible. Plus, many people find that the distance of e-mail reduces the fear of awkwardness.

  1. “Let me check my calendar and get back to you.” One leader I know found her time being hijacked by other people all day. A classic Nonessentialist, she was capable and smart and unable to say no, and as a result she soon became a “go to” person. People would run up to her and say, “Could you help with X project?” Meaning to be a good citizen, she said yes. But soon she felt burdened with all of these different agendas. Things changed for her when she learned to use a new phrase: “Let me check my calendar and get back to you.” It gave her the time to pause and reflect and ultimately reply that she was regretfully unavailable. It enabled her to take back control of her own decisions rather than be rushed into a “yes” when she was asked.
  2. Use e-mail bouncebacks. It is totally natural and expected to get an autoresponse when someone is traveling or out of the office. Really, this is the most socially acceptable “no” there is. People aren’t saying they don’t want to reply to your e-mail, they’re just saying they can’t get back to you for a period of time. So why limit these to vacations and holidays? When I was writing this book I set an e-mail bounceback with the subject line “In Monk Mode.” The e-mail said: “Dear Friends, I am currently working on a new book which has put enormous burdens on my time. Unfortunately, I am unable to respond in the manner I would like. For this, I apologize.-Greg.” And guess what? People seemed to adapt to my temporary absence and nonresponsiveness just fine.
  3. Say, “Yes. What should I deprioritize” Saying no to a senior leader at work is almost unthinkable, even laughable, for many people. However, when saying yes is going to compromise your ability to make the highest level of contribution to your work, it is also your obligation. In this case it is not only reasonable to say no, it is essential. One effective way to do that is to remind your superiors what you would be neglecting if you said yes and force them to grapple with the trade-off.

For example, if your manager comes to you and asks you to do X, you can respond with “Yes, I’m happy to make this the priority. Which of these other projects should I deprioritize to pay attention to this new project?” Or simply say, “I would want to do a great job, and given my other commitments I wouldn’t be able to do a job I was proud of if I took this on.”

I know a leader who received this response from a subordinate. There was no way he wanted to be responsible for disrupting this productive and organized employee, so he took the nonessential work project back and gave it to someone else who was less organized!

  1. Say it with humor. I recently was asked by a friend to join him in training for a marathon. My response was simple: “Nope!” He laughed a little and said, “Ah, you practice what you preach.” Just goes to show how useful it is to have a reputation as an Essentialist!
  2. Use the words “You are welcome to X. I am willing to y” For example, “You are welcome to borrow my car. I am willing to make sure the keys are here for you.” By this you are also saying, “I won’t be able to drive you.” You are saying what you will not do, but you are couching it in terms of what you are willing to do. This is a particularly good way to navigate a request you would like to support somewhat but cannot throw your full weight behind.

I particularly like this construct because it also expresses a respect for the other person’s ability to choose, as well as your own. It reminds both parties of the choices they have.

  1. “I can’t do it, but X might be interested.” It is tempting to think that our help is uniquely invaluable, but often people requesting something don’t really care if we’re the ones who help them-as long as they get the help.

Kay Krill, the CEO of Ann, Inc. (a.k.a. Ann Taylor and LOFT women’s clothing retailers), used to have a terrible time saying no to social invitations. As a result, she would end up at networking events she had no interest in attending. She would find herself going to office parties and regretting it the moment she got there.

Then one day one of her mentors came to her and told her that she had to learn to jettison the people and things of her life that just didn’t matter, and that doing so would allow her to put 100 percent of her energy into the things that had meaning for her. That advice liberated her. Now she is able to pick and choose. With practice, politely declining an invitation has become easy for her. Kay explains: “I say no very easily because I know what is important to me. I only wish that I learned how to do that earlier in my life,’?’

Saying no is its own leadership capability. It is not just a peripheral skill. As with any ability, we start with limited experience. We are novices at “no.” Then we learn a couple of basic techniques. We make mistakes. We learn from them. We develop more skills. We keep practicing. After a while we have a whole repertoire available at our disposal, and in time we have gained mastery of a type of social art form. We can handle almost any request from almost anybody with grace and dignity. Tom Friel, the former CEO of Heidrick & Struggles, once said to me, “We need to learn the slow ‘yes’ and the quick ‘no.”’

 

Track Customer Attitudes to Predict Their Behaviors

Originally posted on HBR Blog Network - Harvard Business Review:

CRM is typically all about customer behavior: you track customers’ behavior in terms of where, when and in what context they interacted with your company. But the increasing ease with which you can track behavior and the ability to build and maintain extensive behavioral databases has encouraged many marketers to de-emphasize the collection and interpretation of “soft” attitudinal information: that is, data around customer satisfaction, attitudes towards brands, products, and sales persons, and purchase intentions.

The argument is that in-depth behavioral data already encapsulates underlying attitudes, and because decision makers are mainly concerned with customer behavior, there is not much need (any more) to worry about underlying attitudes. There’s a similar assumption underlying much of the discussion around how to measure the return on marketing investment, where it seems to be tacitly accepted that attitudinal insights are insufficient at senior decision-making levels, and behavioral insights represent today’s benchmarks.

But downplaying…

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Customers Are Better Strategists Than Managers

Originally posted on HBR Blog Network - Harvard Business Review:

I was once appointed CEO of a company in need of a turnaround. We made trusses and frames for houses, and one morning, after I’d been on the job about three months, I found myself staring out my window, watching the trucks and forklifts below. I thought: What am I doing here? Can I, on the fingers of one hand, list the ingredients of success in this industry?

In the weeks and months that followed, the senior management team and I made a number of major decisions about the company’s future.  As a team, I observed, we were busy doing things and making changes, all of which made sense to us as managers.  But as time progressed, I returned to these questions, over and over: How well do we know what our customers want? How well do we know what our suppliers and employees expect? What would it take to…

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Journey Mapping: What Is It Good For? Absolutely Anything! – Forrester

Are you using Journey Mapping in your lumberyard? Deanna’s blog post gives insight why you should map your customers’ experience.

 

Journey Mapping: What Is It Good For? Absolutely Anything!

Posted by Deanna Laufer

I recently had the pleasure of facilitating three customer journey mapping workshops for clients. For me, the most rewarding part of these workshops is when, all of a sudden, you see the light bulb go on for the participants. It can be the realization that their customer has to jump through an inordinate number of hoops to submit a simple service request or have to wait 5-10 days for repair. Or, when the workshop participants realize they have no idea what their customers are doing or thinking, but maybe they should.

Just as the light bulb moment can be different for each person, the insights they deem most valuable can vary, and include:

  • Ideas for designing future-state experiences. A group of participants from a retailer created a future-state journey map illustrating how customers could sign up for a credit card and rewards program while shopping in store. They identified scenarios for how store associates could approach customers with credit card offers without seeming intrusive, as well as appropriate opportunities to follow up with customers by email or mobile app if they chose not to enroll right away. These types of insights can then inform the design of the new credit card and rewards experience.
  • A sense of empathy for the customer. We ask workshop participants within the same organization to wear name tags because, not only do we not know them, but most of the time they don’t know each other. In one workshop, the organization was siloed, as most are, and each participant owned their own small functional part of the customer journey. But no one had insight into or ownership of the entire process. When brought together to analyze the health of the end-to-end journey, participants walked away with a shared understanding that what they were each doing individually wasn’t working for the customer as a whole.
  • A prioritization of initiatives that impact moments of truth.While plotting steps in the customer journey, groups surmised how they thought customers felt at each point – satisfied, frustrated, WTF (yes that’s an emotion often used). They also identified moments of truth – those points in the journey that were critical or decisive for the customer in some way. Then, after brainstorming ways to improve the customer’s experience, they “starred” those ideas that aligned to moments of truth, and singled them out as those that could have the biggest impact on how customers felt about that journey.

 

After attending all these workshops, I had my own aha moment, cheesy as it sounds, when I realized that part of the reason every participant comes away from the same workshop with a different perspective is because there are so many uses and applications for journey maps.

My colleague, Tony Costa, wrote about just this topic a few months ago in his popular report, Journey Mapping Best Practices, which details six core activities – from designing experiences, to prioritizing and measuring CX initiatives, to informing the broader business agenda – for which CX pros can use journey maps.

 

HT customer journey map

HT customer journey map

 

Read More:

Using Customer Journey Maps to Improve Customer Experience

The Industries Plagued by the Most Uncertainty

Originally posted on HBR Blog Network - Harvard Business Review:

It’s a cliché to say that the world is more uncertain than ever before, but few realize just how much uncertainty has increased over the past 50 years. To illustrate this, consider that patent applications in the U.S. have increased by 6x (from 100k to 600k annually) and, worldwide, start-ups have increased from 10 million to almost 100 million per year.  That means new technologies and new competitors are hitting the market at an unprecedented rate.  Although uncertainty is accelerating, it isn’t affecting all industries the same way. That’s because there are two primary types of uncertainty — demand uncertainty (will customers buy your product?) and technological uncertainty (can we make a desirable solution?) — and how much uncertainty your industry faces depends on the interaction of the two.

Demand uncertainty arises from the unknowns associated with solving any problem, such as hidden customer preferences. The more unknowns there are…

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