Back in 2001, when I first started selling usability and 360 degree customer experience (CX) testing to companies through Web Mystery Shoppers, I made a huge mistake.
The Logic of Customer Experience & Usability Testing
You see, I thought that the logic of why it was important to test these things would prevail. I mean, obviously if your customers can’t figure out how to navigate your website or use your shopping cart, or if your call center staff have no idea what the returns policy is, of course that is going to lose you business. Testing should be a no-brainer. My first client, the Royal Bank of Canada, agreed, but now that I think back on it, I hadn’t been trying to sell them. I had asked their top e-banking guy if I could take him to lunch and get his reactions to an idea I had for a business. At that point, the business was nothing more than an idea. Luckily for me, he understood the vision and bought into it.
Logic ≠ Sales
But then I had a series of rejections from companies that should have easily understood the value. I realize now that I was approaching it all wrong. Instead of telling them the value and making a business case for the testing, I should have started with a demo. Not of my software, but of theirs. If I had taken them on a walk-through of what it was like for a prospective customer to try to use their websites, far more of them would have bought in. A walk-through approach is a big part of what CX expert, Jeanne Bliss, advocates in her new book, Chief Customer Officer 2.0: How to Build Your Customer-Driven Growth Engine. Although we keep hearing about how customer experience and online marketing need to prove the ROI — and they do — before you get there you need to get emotional buy-in. And seeing how customers struggle is a huge part of getting that buy-in.
Help Your Executives See The Customers’ Struggle
Jeanne’s book is an indispensable guide for people who have been tasked with improving their organization’s customer experience. I highly recommend it. I won’t recap it all here (just read the book!), but there are a few things that really struck me, and that she and I discuss more in today’s interview.
1. The Power of Language
We’ve touched on this before at Frank Reactions (see for example, the John Deere interview) but using language that your audience is familiar with can make a huge difference to getting your ideas accepted. So Jeanne, for example, talks about:
- “Net Customer Assets” – Using that terminology with top executives helps them realize that customers themselves are assets. Like any assets, you want to make sure they are well looked after so they retain or increase their value.
- “Defector pipeline” – Sales executives are quite comfortable with the concept of a sales pipeline, but often tend to focus on customer acquisition and forget about the impact of losing customers. Just like the sales pipeline, there are predictable stages in the “defector pipeline”. Only here the goal is to stop the flow instead of increasing it!
- “Kill a stupid rule movement” – What better phrase could there be to get buy-in from front line staff! Even mid-managers, who are often those most reluctant to embrace change, can all relate to being frustrated by stupid rules.
2. Developing a “one-company” view of the customer
Surprisingly, even something as seemingly obvious as “how many customers do we have?” may not get consistent answers within your organization. Different departments may have different measures. Does someone become a customer when they sign a contract? When they’ve made a downpayment? When they’ve paid it all? When they start actually using a service they’ve signed up for? When do they stop being a customer? When you just haven’t heard from them about any new work for a long time? Or do you have to have tried to get them to buy again and been officially rejected? Jeanne talks about the importance of developing common metrics across the organization. This is one of the first things a new customer experience improvement department should be working on.
3. Think customer journey stages, not silos
Anyone who’s been working in the CX field for a while has heard about mapping the customer journey, but where Jeanne goes a step beyond is by encouraging organizations to rethink even the budgeting process from the viewpoint of the customer journey. Too many organizations still do budgets based on increases (or cuts) by department. Even worse, it is often done based on how much was spent by each department the previous year. That kind of thinking undermines the goal of improving customer experience, which invariably calls for process changes that cut across departments. As she points out, there may be dozens of little customer experience improvement initiatives going on within departments, but without an overall plan that looks at the total customer journey, most are doomed to failure. Instead, determine a small number of important initiatives to focus on throughout the organization each year. You’ve got to set priorities.
Other topics we discuss include
- The dangers of focusing too much on your survey results. Instead, you should “recognize and reward the behavior that will earn the right to the score, not necessarily the score itself”. That is especially true early in your improvement process.
- Why you shouldn’t just give percentages for customer churn rates. Why you must give absolute numbers of customers lost too.
- The danger of becoming just the “fix it” person if you don’t take charge of your customer experience role from the start.
- Why annual planning is the Achilles heel of customer experience.
What Are Your Biggest Headaches as a Customer Experience Improvement Officer?
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