How to Ensure Effective Survey Design During a Pandemic

Like everything else having to do with customer experience (CX), listening to customers has been turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic. Suddenly, brands need to consider how to survey their clientele amid the largest public health crisis in recent years—this means thinking about how the pandemic has affected customer life and how to effectively listen to those individuals despite significant disruption.

Though the challenges this pandemic has conjured are many, brands needn’t panic. In fact, companies can take some solace in the fact that, though the disease is certainly disrupting customer life and communication, that doesn’t mean that brands need to throw their survey playbooks out the window. Instead, they need to consider four factors that can allow organizations to still listen to customers in spite of everything going on.

Factor #1: Geography

Geography has been a crucial part of survey design even before the pandemic. There are the obvious considerations, like language localization, but also climate, cultural norms, economic conditions, and other geographic elements that factor into building surveys.

Now, of course, companies need to add another element to this mix: how the country or region they’re targeting is faring against the coronavirus. For example, are there local quarantine or social distancing laws that might impact a customer’s interactions with a survey? What about supply shortages or especially severe rates of infection?

Brands should take some time to consider factors like these before dispatching surveys to a target audience. Doing so increases the likelihood that customers can and will respond. Additionally, companies that clarify that they understand or at least empathize with what a given audience might be enduring stand a greater chance of building stronger, long-term relationships with those customers.

Factor #2: Survey Type

This point doesn’t beg much explanation, but it’s worth mentioning that brands need to carefully consider the type of surveys they deploy within the context of how their targeted region or group is faring against the pandemic. For example, it doesn’t make much sense for organizations to deploy transactional surveys if customers within a given city have been ordered by a local government to stay home. 

Relational surveys, on the other hand, may still be a useful tool for ascertaining brand-customer relationships. They also give brands a means of staying in touch with customers and encouraging loyalty during and after the pandemic.

Factor #3: Communication Method

The pandemic may force some brands to reconsider how they distribute surveys to customers. Additionally, companies should remember that, should they opt to send more surveys via email, thousands of other organizations are deploying email surveys as well.

Because customers interact with so many brands throughout their daily lives, companies risk inundating them with too many announcements, updates, and survey requests. Thus, it pays for companies to keep their communications concise. Brands should limit the amount of messages they send wherever possible and remind customers that they want to hear those individuals’ voices.

Finally, brands should also sprinkle their surveys with empathy. Companies should ask how customers are doing because, as previously mentioned, lending an ear can help customers feel valued and keep relationships with them strong even when they can’t stop by a storefront.

Factor #4: Your Industry

Taking care of their customers should be a brand’s number one priority, but they also need to be aware of the novel challenges that the coronavirus may throw their way and incorporate that into survey design. For example, many restaurant chains will remain closed for some time, and that simple fact may alter the questions on a survey.

Being aware of the unique limitations the virus may impose upon certain brands can go far beyond better survey design. That business intelligence can enable companies to devise short- and-long term strategies for combating this pandemic, and then communicate those strategies to customers. It pays to keep everyone in the loop.

Keep Listening

These are strange times, but brands that alter their survey design and communication to suit customers’ unique geographies, challenges, and communications will help many of those relationships survive this pandemic. Being mindful of a brand’s own challenges can also go a long way toward effective, versatile survey design, not to mention communicating those surveys to customers. Above all, companies need to keep listening, and continue being aware of their audiences even when those audiences may not be buying.

In these trying times, we know that it’s more important than ever to focus on CX best practices. That’s why we hosted a new webinar with a panel of CX experts, “Managing the Customer Experience in a Time of Crisis.” You can access it for free here!

Proving Customer Experience’s Business Value: Customer Retention

A brand hasn’t won the battle once it’s acquired new customers. Far from it. Once a company has convinced a customer to buy with it, that brand needs to continually meet or exceed customer expectations (while striving to further develop that relationship) if it hopes for repeat business. 

This, of course, is the science of customer retention, and it can be challenging during the best of times—not to mention times of crisis. Fortunately, customer experience (CX) programs can help. Here’s how brands can use customer experience to retain customers and prove the effectiveness at doing so:

Taking Care of Business

CX programs enable brands to listen for what customers want. Companies can use CX listening tools to identify and react to the trends that might entice new customers, but they can also utilize this same suite of functions to listen to what their current customers are saying.

Of course, customer retention isn’t about trend-chasing. It’s also about building long-term relationships, closing the loop, and harnessing the power of service recovery. 70 percent of customers for whom companies satisfactorily address a problem will stay with that brand, so it’s well worth organizations’ time to invest in retaining those individuals.

Retention in Action

The Coffee Club, Australia’s largest homegrown coffee chain, was able to leverage customer experience to both retain customers and improve the artisanal experience it provides across hundreds of locations.

TCC was able to identify several customer pain points using an experience intelligence platform. When customers were dissatisfied with the brand of eco-friendly paper straws the company was using, TCC was able to process that feedback and make corrections quickly.

Armed with richer data, the brand made insight-driven menu updates and identified more than 30 at-risk customers each month, resulting in greater customer retention.

Clean-Burning CX

There’s another piece to the CX-driven customer retention equation: creating more effective internal processes. After companies collect insights from current customers via these tools, it’s important to craft initiatives that can actually make something of all that feedback. 

The benefits here are many—internal processes can become more streamlined, weak points in customer journeys can be fixed, and customers will be left impressed by the brand’s dedication to resolving their problems. The number-one reason customers leave brands is because they feel unappreciated—taking action on their feedback is a great way to show that companies do, in fact, appreciate them.

The True Benefit of Retention

The number of stats out there about how much cheaper retaining customers is than acquiring new ones is staggering. Closing the loop and retaining customers is important, but it’s also much cheaper than focusing solely on attracting new business. 

Companies can take retention even further by both constantly addressing customer issues and working to improve what draws those brands back to begin with. Businesses that use CX tools to close the inner and outer loops (fixing individual customers’ issues while also redesigning a larger, customer-facing process, respectively), will retain far more customers than firms that can’t be bothered to tackle either challenge. CX practitioners can then point to improved retention, NPS, or a host of other factors to prove their customer retention effort’s ROI.

Want to learn about other economic pillars that can support a successful CX program (and business)? Check out our new infographic “The Four Pillars of CX ROI,” or read more from Eric in his article on business value here!

Why Market Research is Vital to Your CX Program in Times of Crisis (and Beyond!)

Let’s start off with a question that people around the world have been asking throughout the past few weeks:

Why is toilet paper such a demand-buy in the current COVID-19 climate?

Customers are heading to grocery stores, chain pharmacies, and even home supply stores looking for just one roll only to find completely empty shelves. In the case of pandemic, such supply shortages are to be expected—but toilet paper? I think it’s safe to say we are all a little shocked.

In order to get to the root of this TP panic, our Strategic Insights Team decided to run a few questions on this topic by our global access panels. Safe to say, the results were incredibly interesting.

  • From the 15,000 global respondents that completed the panel pulses: 70% of the population were concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic. The other 30% were more likely to note that the media had ‘over exaggerated’ the situation.
  • Only 8% of the sample noted that they had purchased more toilet paper this past weekend, in comparison to their regular shopping times. This was mainly to do with the lack of stock offered at the grocery stores.
  • Approximately 35% of the comments discussed the importance of purchasing bulk toilet paper as it was considered to be a “last-minute” purchase (not something they actively purchase on a normal grocery cycle).

So how does this relate back to customer experience (aside from the obvious observation that toilet paper is very important to customers at the moment)? Well, it displays the power and absolute necessity of market research and its ability to anticipate new trends based on customer and non-customer behaviors. 

In this example, the lack of toilet paper in stock could definitely have been anticipated by simply understanding an individual’s monthly journey in a grocery store.

In our research, we found that while canned foods, fruits and vegetables, and similar food products tend to be an ongoing grocery purchase, items like toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and paper towels tend not to be. This “normal” customer approach to their weekly shopping trip causes many stores to invest less in stocking these products on a monthly basis. 

This is a crucial understanding that explains why these particular items flew off shelves in a matter of minutes when the crisis began: lower existing stock in stores plus an irregular amount of demand (due to the understanding that we may not be able to grocery shop as usual for the next few months) equals empty aisles where paper products once were.

How Should You Utilize Market Research Capabilities?

It’s evident from this example that market research is key for companies seeking to understand customer trends and behaviors in a time of crisis. But how should brands utilize this research normally? Here are a few good rules to follow when planning out any type of industry-based research:

Rule #1: Define Desired Outcomes

What are you trying to achieve? How will you utilize this data? What actions will you drive with the outcomes?

With every client that we work with, understanding their financial goals is crucial to success. If driving customer acquisition is important, then you should focus on targeting non-buyers to understand their behavior is crucial to getting a proper battle plan in place.

Example: In a recent market study run for a specialty pharmacy brand, we were able to find more ways to convert non-buyers by extending their cash wrap sections with influential products that could drive revenue. (This approach was tested at certain locations to gauge the level of success as well.) 

Rule #2: Think Outside The Box

Has this research been conducted before? Why was it conducted? What were the outcomes?

Market research is an absolute gold mine when used correctly. However, before beginning any program with our clients, we tend to take a few days to understand what other research was conducted by other companies and organizations to make sure we don’t simply ‘recreate the wheel.’

Example: One of the largest global toy manufacturers currently runs multiple research studies through our global access panel. For each project launch, our Strategic Insights Team spends a good 1-2 weeks brainstorming, researching the industry, and building unique insights that have never been run before.

Rule #3: Set Core Actionable KPIs

What actions will be taken with the outcomes? How can I confirm that this approach was successful overall?

Informative research is exceptionally helpful, but the challenge for all organizations is how to act on this research. How can they set organizational KPIs that can be traced back to some form of financial outcome and help confirm the success of this program?

Example: A recent market study helped our client, a global specialty footwear brand, understand the importance of tackling a more interactive e-commerce experience. Live chat and touch-point KPIs around resolution were set in place to help continuously measure and track success via executive dashboards to help the client gauge the success of new strategies in the upcoming quarter.

After working in the market research field for over 10 years, I’ve found that the most successful programs are those that go above and beyond. My team and I spend days brainstorming a project with a client before actually beginning to design a survey, sample methodology, and plan the project overall.

If you take the time and do the work, you too will be  able to anticipate trends, take action, and grow your organization. Even if it simply means investing into certain seemingly random products, like toilet paper.

In these trying times, we know that it’s more important than ever to focus on CX best practices. That’s why we hosted a new webinar with a panel of CX experts, “Managing the Customer Experience in a Time of Crisis.” You can access it for free here!

4 Keys to Successful Customer Communication in the Coronavirus Era

The coronavirus pandemic has done more than upended how brands communicate with customers—it has completely changed the lives of customers across the globe.

The sudden influx of physical distancing, the (hopefully temporary) shuttering of businesses, and general unease about the virus have all reshaped how customers interact with brands virtually overnight. On top of all of that, it’ll be at least a few months before any sort of normalcy is restored.

Because of all of this rapid change, it is absolutely crucial for brands to re-assess how they communicate with customers and how to conduct business in the age of a global pandemic.

The question isn’t an easy one, but in a recent webinar, our experts shared how companies can communicate with their audiences and build strong relationships with them (even in times like these).

Key #1: Acknowledge That Your Brand is Taking The Coronavirus Seriously

There are several means by which brands can communicate their commitment to squashing the coronavirus to customers. The first, and most obvious, is to release an email (or message via social media—whichever is more your speed) acknowledging the pandemic and what your brand plans to do about it. Whether it’s reassuring customers that a given service will continue or announcing a temporary closure plan, customers will appreciate the update.

There is, however, one caveat to this message notion: every brand is transmitting messages just like these to customers, putting themselves at risk of being just another email. To help avoid this problem, brands should keep their messages as concise as possible. This can help a given company’s message stand out in an all-but-literal sea COVID-19 musings.

Brands that maintain physical storefronts (and can responsibly keep them open during this pandemic) can consider more in-person reassurances that they take customer health seriously. 

For example, in several Costco locations around the country, the brand employs workers who not only sanitize tables, but take pains to ensure that their work is very visible to customers. Gestures like these can go a long way toward helping customers feel safe and healthy in an in-person shopping environment, and thus help ensure that they have a quality experience.

Key #2: Emphasize That Customer Feedback Matters Now More Than Ever

In times like these, brands need to reiterate to customers just how important their feedback is. Thus, companies should use messaging to communicate both their dedication to fighting the pandemic and how much they value their customers’ views and opinions on a provided experience.

More specifically, brands should ask customers open-ended questions about their views on the pandemic and, perhaps more pertinently, those customers’ opinions on what an ideal experience looks like in an age of quarantine and temporary shuttering. This strategy yields two results—it gives organizations a glimpse at pandemic-era customer thinking, and it reassures those customers that their opinions still matter.

Key #3: Do Not Try to Sell to Customers Right Now

It may be tempting for some brands to capitalize on the coronavirus, but the simple truth is that now is not the time to try to sell to customers. Rather, brands need to emphasize the importance of customer relationships over profits.

As previously discussed, the pandemic presents an opportunity for companies to demonstrate that they care about their connections to customers, and that endeavor will yield big long-term dividends.

Think about it—the brands that go most out of their way to build lifetime value with customer relationships are the ones that stand out in those individuals’ minds even during “normal” times. This factor is multiplied a hundred fold in times of crisis, as customers are even more impressed with brands who still prioritize customers despite hardships. As has long been established, customers will pay more for brands that they feel care about them.

Key #4: Thank Customers for Their Support

This point overlaps somewhat with our previous bullet, but it’s worth reiterating the importance of building long-term relationships with customers, especially in adverse times. This point also hearkens back to one of the fundamental principles of CX—if the customers who sustain a brand submit feedback, that brand owes it to those individuals to respond.

With that in mind, don’t hesitate to thank customers for their support during trying times. Be generous with letting them know how much their business meant before the pandemic and how much it means during the fact. That sense of connection matters, and customers will remember it when the coronavirus pandemic subsides.

Looking To The Future

The coronavirus has conjured a lot of uncertainty in today’s experience landscape, but that doesn’t mean that brands shouldn’t look to the future. Even if this disease causes upheaval for a few months, companies can still invest in a better tomorrow by strengthening relationships with their customers through concern instead of just commerce. Customers, in turn, will remember the effort that these organizations put forth during a challenging time, and make good on that memory when daily life returns to normal.

Satisfaction Visualized: The Power of Multimedia Customer Feedback

Surveys are at an interesting crossroads in the modern experience landscape. On one hand, brands have traditionally relied on written questions to solicit feedback and suggestions from customers. However, as technology and social media continue to evolve, the idea of a long survey that’s packed with nothing but questions seems a bit antiquated. Some might even call that type of survey a sore thumb amid all the visual media swarming the internet.

Fortunately, brands don’t have to stick with sending out tomes of questions ad nauseum and hoping for a response. Survey design, like everything else having to do with customer experience (CX) has to stay as limber and ever-changing as the customers it aims to attract. There are many design elements to consider here, but multimedia feedback is arguably the most important.

Worth (60) Thousand Words

There’s a strong case for allowing customers to submit visual feedback instead of just written answers, and it’s that people process images about 60,000 times faster than text. Quite an order of magnitude. While brands shouldn’t necessarily do away with written questions altogether, customers’ propensity for pictures means that image and video upload options must be included in surveys.

Additionally, customers don’t just process images faster than text—they tend to attach more meaning to them, too. This means that if they have a chance to enclose the images and videos they care about in feedback, they’re more likely to find the entire experience more rewarding. Brands benefit from this cycle as well, because a piece of authentic visual media is much more powerful than a written response.

Uploading Meaning

There’s something to be said for the emotional power derived from an image, especially within the context of customer experience. Customers don’t “just” record themselves unboxing a product or take a selfie with one—they’re conveying their wider experience using a meaningful medium. This is the root of visual media’s feedback effectiveness.

Brands that allow customers to submit images or videos with their other survey feedback can tap into this emotional power as well. As previously mentioned, people process images much faster than text. Combine this heightened speed with the added meaning conveyed by an image, and the result is a piece of feedback that CX practitioners can process faster and act upon more meaningfully. Since more meaningful feedback is one of the hallmarks of any best-in-class CX program, it’s important to give customers the ability to express themselves through multimedia options.

Going Deeper

Once brands gather more meaningful feedback from multimedia surveys, they have an opportunity to enact truly meaningful change. These changes are also much more likely to reflect what customers are concerned about because images and videos are much more unequivocal than words.

Think about it—a written phrase like “the checkout process was muddled” is open to many interpretations. By contrast, a video of a customer interacting with an automated checkout machine is specific, impactful, and much more likely to let brands learn exactly what the problem is. 

Once brands learn precisely what customers love or what went wrong, they can take steps to enhance that offering or correct the process in question. In short, multimedia feedback enables everyone to win. Customers are more likely to provide feedback because they can communicate in ways they prefer, while companies glean much more specific and relevant feedback.

The Human Connection

Multimedia options enable brands to better experience a customer’s emotional connection to them. Reading written answers is one thing, but hearing stories through voice feedback, watching body language through video feedback, and seeing facial expressions in an image adds context that writing simply cannot convey. This type of feedback also shows the customer’s passion and emotional connection to the issues enabling CX leaders to help internal leaders connect with the customer.  Brands can turn that context into action, which adds another layer of meaning to customers’ images, videos, and recorded messages.

In short, multimedia feedback transforms feedback from mere questionnaires into human connections. It enables brands to better harness emotion, which in turn empowers them to enact far more meaningful change. That potential for meaningful change is the crux of multimedia feedback, which is why it’s key for any brand hoping to reap transformative success to include it.

Want to read more about how you can effectively listen to your customers, employees, and the greater market? Check out this InMoment Point of View, “How to Achieve Meaningful Listening Through Surveys” today!

What Does Customer Experience Look Like in the World of Coronavirus?

We’re getting lots of emails these days from airlines, restaurants, schools, and grocery stores—and they’re not survey invitations! Rather, these messages are about what these organizations are doing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (and how they can attempt to put their customers at ease during this pandemic).

As CX professionals, we help our clients leverage our technology to garner insights they can use to drive business outcomes. However, with this pandemic on the rise, the singular business outcome many companies are seeking (particularly small businesses) is simply survival. The same holds true for countless non-salaried workers. 

Between the NCAA announcing that no fans will be allowed to watch the upcoming March Madness games in person (if the tournaments are not already canceled by the time you read this), and the NBA and NHL suspending their seasons until further notice, it’s important to consider the stadium workers, parking lot attendants, and others who have been temporarily furloughed.  Additionally, with business travel shrinking daily, Uber and Lyft drivers are likely to see their income cut, too. This phenomenon is impacting nearly every sector of the economy.

So, how can companies leverage CX during this challenging time? We have a few ideas.

Tip #1: Keep Listening 

Customers are going to continue to consume products and services, so don’t turn off your listening programs. Pay special attention to unstructured feedback and use those themes to train customer-facing teams in empathy and flexibility. 

If you use text analytics technology, set up alerts on keywords associated with the coronavirus so you can recognize trends quickly and respond accordingly. 

Tip #2: Provide Reassurance 

While some companies are using this opportunity to confirm the steps they have always taken to protect their customers from diseases, other brands are leading with stating their own business travel policies. While these communications are nice to hear, we do not think they resonate with customers as effectively as specific plans for maintaining safe environments.

The best messaging we have seen during this pandemic comes from companies that acknowledge the coronavirus threat and simply tell their customers—candidly, not in vague corporate-speak—what they are doing to mitigate inevitable risks. 

A great example of corona-era customer experience comes from Starbucks in a letter from their CEO and President, Kevin Johnson. Starbucks specifically mentioned that the coffee chain has learned from its Chinese operations, and mentions concrete next steps that the brand may take. This strategy conveys a sense of security because the company has presented a solid plan that can be implemented immediately—versus developing a plan on the fly. TGI Fridays and Lyft are also doing a great job laying out concise, specific safety steps.

Tip #3: Be Flexible

Now is not the time for call centers to “play by the book” and enforce rigid corporate policies. We encourage our clients to empower their teams to over-index on consumers and their specific circumstances, and respond in a situation-appropriate manner.  

In times like these, it’s important for brands to be flexible rather than follow hard-and-fast procedures when it comes to service-level agreements and expectations. 

Tip #4: Put Customers First, Not Profits

Companies shouldn’t focus on Q1 profits or particularly fee-driven bad profits right now. Instead, they should focus on the medium-term, long-term, and lifetime value of their customers. How? By proving to customers that they care.

Brands should treat customers with empathy and recognize the struggles that business travelers, hourly and contingent workers, and spring break vacationers are experiencing right now by waiving change fees, late payment fees, overdrafts, and other charges that would prove a serious nuisance to those individuals.

Doing so will generate tremendous customer goodwill and foster long-term loyalty. Companies that engage their customers with acts of goodwill will recover faster from the inherent economic slowdown brought about by this pandemic. Even better, they will secure their long-term financial health by creating brand advocates in a time of need.

Tip #5: Don’t Forget Your Employees

We cannot underscore the need to keep an employee experience perspective during this time. Employees own another level of stress in situations like this. 

Beyond the real potential economic impact, we all have other issues to deal with. Who will watch our kids when schools close? How can consumer-facing employees keep themselves safe and healthy? 

Companies need to do more than just empathize—they need to execute programs that truly ensure safety, financial security, and confidence for their employees. The last thing we need right now is tone-deaf employers, so leverage your employee listening tools and step up support for your team members.

The Bottom Line

These are truly uncharted waters for us, but one thing is abundantly clear: the companies that provide excellent customer and employee experiences today will come out much stronger than their counterparts when this pandemic is over. 

While we recommend that firms continue to be proactive and leverage voice of customer and voice of employee tools, we also strongly encourage companies to treat both groups of individuals with empathy and understanding in this challenging time.

Looking for more CX tips and advice from our experts? Check out eBooks, case studies, and more on today!

Why Customer Experience Is Now Job No. 1 for CEOs

This article was originally published by Knowledge@Wharton. The original article can be found here.

Job No. 1 for CEOs today is ensuring the company delivers a compelling customer experience. This laser sharp focus on the total experience must span the entire demand and supply chain and incorporate every aspect of how products and services are designed, priced, marketed, sold, delivered and supported. However, delivering compelling experiences requires that leaders avoid common mistakes, notes this opinion piece by Mark Leiter. Leiter is chairman of Leiter & Company, a strategy consulting and investment firm, and a distinguished strategy fellow at The Conference Board. He is author of the book, Crafting Strategy in an Accelerating World.

In 1981, Ford started running an ad campaign that asserted “Quality is Job 1.” Automakers weren’t alone in prioritizing quality back when dead batteries, overheated engines, flat tires, and broken turn signals were all frequent car problems. This was also an era when television reception was fickle, food was quick to spoil, and banks miscounted money. Over the last 40 years, most major quality problems have vanished due to fanatical measurement coupled with advancements in design, business processes, science and technology.

Now customers expect even more. For example, my first car seat only moved forward or back using a manual lever. In contrast, today my car has 18-way power, massaging seats with lumbar support that can be heated or cooled. Unfortunately, my car seat doesn’t know how to sense my actual comfort and automatically reposition itself to make me happier while I’m on the open road. I now ask myself a question that would have been unimaginable in my youth: “Why isn’t my car seat getting smarter each time I drive my car?”

From ‘Full-service, Analog’ to ‘Self-service, Digital’ Experiences

With excellent quality now more or less a given, companies have shifted their energy to improving every aspect of the customer experience. To distinguish themselves in this environment, the best companies are on a quest to put intuitive, self-service, digital experiences at the center of their customer interactions.

The financial sector was an early adopter when it started replacing tellers with ATMs. Customers these days rarely need tellers, bankers, brokers or service agents to handle transactions or inquiries; most everything can be conveniently and accurately handled on some screen. Talking to a financial services employee might soon become a “once in a decade” occasion for an average customer.

It’s not just financial services. We see this front-line transformation happening everywhere. Cashiers are disappearing from grocery stores while pharmacies use apps to manage Rx refills. It has probably been years since you stopped to check out of your hotel.

However, the new world of customer experience also makes new demands on customers. If not managed skillfully, these demands can drive away large segments of your customer base. Long before customers arrive at the self-checkout aisle they have been overwhelmed with mind-boggling choice. Amazon offers more than 600 million products on their website. A typical Walmart has 150,000 products in a supercenter and 70 million more online. Typical smartphones now have several hundred features — and access to more than a million apps.

Without meaningful guidance, a world of abundance can lead to paralysis for customers forced to make their way alone through the thicket. Even worse, our self-service world assumes customers can independently follow instructions and complete tasks — despite huge variations in intellect, education, health and wealth. The future will demand even more customer self-sufficiency in an environment of greater complexity. A glitchy app, devices that turn out to not be so intuitive, or long queues for help can devastate your customer service strategy. Companies must work overtime to ensure no customer gets left behind.

Entangled Brands

Our global ecosystem requires leadership teams to constantly rethink how they can improve their experience in the context of every other experience that might impact their customers. Like it or not, you need to understand how adjacent products and services work with your offerings, or your customer will end up in the dreaded Catch 22 in which the hardware maker blames the software maker — and vice versa.

Consider Jessica, who is flying from NYC to San Francisco for a business trip. She takes an Uber from Brooklyn to JFK airport. Arriving at the Delta Air Lines terminal, Jessica zips through security using her TSA Precheck status and grabs a coffee at Starbucks.

She is thrilled to be upgraded to First Class, but that joy fades once Jessica can’t connect her Apple MacBook to the GoGo inflight WiFi using her T-Mobile account. Meanwhile, her fancy Bose noise-cancelling headphones can’t tune out a screaming baby.

Her plane lands, and she takes a Lyft to the Westin, but gets stuck in traffic. Her frustration escalates when the check-in kiosk doesn’t recognize her reservation. She often stays at Hilton hotels and has no Westin status, so she stands in the “non-elite” line to get her keycard.

While standing on that line, Delta pushes Jessica a survey asking for feedback about today’s trip. “What is her willingness to recommend Delta on a 1 to 10 scale?” Where should she begin her story? Her journey is the byproduct of entangled brands and external forces. This influences her mood, reviews, and rants at any moment — and she is just one of several million travelers that had their own unique expedition that day.

Avoiding Common Mistakes

During the peak of the quality movement, the big problems were obvious (e.g., several million cars with overheated engines each year), while solutions were universally applicable. In contrast, today’s enterprises aspire to align the individual experience to a customer’s exact needs. That’s a big ambition, one that requires continuous improvement in multiple dimensions. Success in this environment means swerving around several common mistakes and pitfalls.

Leaving average customers behind in favor of indulging the most loyal, profitable customers. Which customer is more likely to define your company’s brand image this year? Is it the highly profitable “platinum” customer who has no complaints because they get expedited concierge care — or is it the average customer, who remains on hold for 45 minutes to reach a call center agent who fails to resolve an urgent problem?

In today’s world, your company’s reputation is only as good as the experience delivered to your average customers — because they are your biggest population and hold the social media megaphone. When your average customers are unhappy, they post that news on Facebook, Twitter, and a host of specialty forums. Instead of leaving average customers behind, maybe it is time to reset the bar. The winning formula now is ensuring the average customer is completely satisfied while highly profitable customers are ecstatic. How do we make this happen? Let’s turn to the next topic: business model transformation.

Neglecting fundamental business model transformation to reinvent the customer experience. The famous pivot Netflix made from shipping DVDs to offering thousands of videos via streaming is a classic example of business model transformation dramatically improving the average customer experience. While this transformation involved capitalizing on new technology, the point of departure was rethinking the business model.

This line of inquiry may be more important than ever. Why? In a world with more than 300 million businesses that are seeking new sources of growth, industry lines inevitably keep blurring. At any given moment, a new array of non-traditional competitors is already casting an eye on your customers. The “payments experience” is a prime case extending across the global financial services, technology and telecommunications, and social media sectors (e.g., using Apple Pay or Venmo on your Apple iPhone powered by AT&T and linked to your American Express card to pay for a meal at a McDonald’s restaurant).

Based on my work with CEOs and Chief Strategy Officers, every leadership team is exploring how best to shape the customer experience using insights drawn from massive amounts of data — leveraging analytics, algorithms, machine learning and artificial intelligence systems. All these capabilities will be part of the solution, but successful companies aren’t starting their strategic debates focused on new tools and techniques. Instead, they are challenging their most fundamental strategic assumptions, and are willing to consider business model transformation as often as necessary. Not being bound to what worked in the past is a prerequisite for unlocking new innovations that can make a step change improvement in the average customer experience.

Failing to predict how customers perceived an experience before intervening or requesting feedback. Imagine you are fast asleep at 1:30am in a hotel room. Your hotel “neighbor” blasts loud music that startles you awake. As a frequent traveler who is now half asleep, your first instinct is to wait a few minutes and hope they turn the music off. Eventually, you lose patience and call security. After another 20 minutes and a few loud knocks on their door, the music finally stops, and you go back to sleep.

The next day you receive a survey from the hotel asking you about your experience. You ask yourself, “Why don’t they already realize I had a horrible experience last night, and why isn’t this reflected in their outreach?” You take a few more steps, pause, and also then ask yourself, “Why don’t they have sensors and cameras in every hall to detect loud noises and dispatch security automatically to check out what’s happening, long before I have to complain?” More intelligent tools and technology will eventually address all this missed opportunity, but the winning companies will be those that get to this future faster. Much faster.

Under-valuing great horizontal leaders who rally colleagues to improve the total customer experience. Delivering the end-to-end customer experience requires precision cross-enterprise integration. Yet, too often organizations shine the brightest spotlight on vertical leadership success, which is all about a CXO leading a silo of executives, managers and associates to deliver measurable goals that are escalated each year. In parallel, these same organizations often fail to applaud the naturally gifted horizontal leaders who work across silos and engage peers to renovate the customer experience. This may be harder to measure in practice — although we all recognize the behavior when we see it. The strategic question is whether the organization is devoting enough time to teaching and rewarding horizontal leadership that strives to ensure no key component of the customer experience is dropped during handoffs between divisions and departments.

Failing to connect Boardroom conversations to your customer experience evolution. While many corporations aspire to be “customer-centric,” Boardroom discussions are frequently disconnected from the customer experience. They might include reviewing M&A deals, new government regulations, rising health care costs, succession planning, and other matters without a single mention of the word “customer.” This is a missed opportunity. Ideally, each board meeting should allocate some time to reviewing what steps are being taken to make customer experiences more compelling — because that is a clear path to prosperity and should leverage the board’s expertise. If you’re a board member and you notice that the agenda includes everything except customers, you might suggest a shift. Your fellow board members will appreciate the intervention.

Where are we on this grand voyage to radically improve customer experiences and rewire organizations to avoid common mistakes? If we step back and consider the complexity that leaders must navigate, we might be standing in a spot that is analogous to where we stood as a society with respect to the quality movement in 1985, the mobile phone in 1995, or cloud computing circa 2005. We are still in the early innings of proactively shaping the individual’s entire customer experience journey in tune with their changing needs. That means we can all look forward to decades of innovation. It’s a moment of tremendous opportunity for leaders who are willing to fundamentally reinvent how companies connect with their customers.

Shopping for Experiences, Not Products: A Primer on Retail CX in the Experience Economy

Retail customers’ primary objective used to be providing a great product, but as brand competition fiercens and consumer expectations rise, retailers need to find new, bolder ways to stand out from the crowd. Consumers are no longer satisfied with “just” a product, and are finding different, more fundamental means of identifying (and spending money) with brands.

Andrew Park, Vice President of Customer Experience Strategy in XI Strategy & Enablement at InMoment, sat down with The Retail Focus Podcast to break down where customers’ expectations have been, where they’re going, and what retailers can do to keep up with it all.

The Experience Economy

As previously mentioned, customers used to consider a great product the end-all-be-all of an experience, but as those expectations have grown, so too have brands’ need to rise to that challenge. These days, retail customers prefer to spend money with brands that deliver great experiences, and great experiences go far beyond what’s on a store shelf.

Conventional wisdom holds that an experience consists only of an in-store visit, but our research demonstrates that, from a customer’s perspective, it’s so much more than that. For a customer, an experience doesn’t begin at a storefront—it actually starts long before that with brand research, reading online reviews, and evaluating whether a retailer’s values match up with their own. Experiences don’t end at the store exit, either. Customers fold their post-purchase interactions with a product into their overall brand experience. 

All of this points toward a single truth: customers consider experiences to be journeys, not single stops, and brands that fail to parallel that expectation jeopardize their very competitiveness. For example, an airline may consider a passenger’s flight the extent of that individual’s experience, but this skewed view fails to account for buying a ticket, waiting in the airport, finding a hotel, and all the other elements comprising that passenger’s customer journey. 

It’s All About The Journey

Brands that focus only on in-store experiences, like that hypothetical airline, are missing a huge opportunity. The winning brands in the modern experience landscape are the ones that create seamless, end-to-end journeys that remain consistent from start to finish. That may sound like a lot of work (and it is), but we’ve found that customers will spend more money with a company that provides a great experience. Creating a journey is a worthwhile investment.

Creating a consistent journey means a lot more than, say, being constantly available to customers. It also means that the experiences a brand provides must not be disjointed. It’s extremely disruptive to a customer when, say, a product’s online and in-store price tags differ. Customers have come to expect seamless experiences—it’s key for brands to deliver on that expectation.

Constant Expectations

It’s become common in the last 5-10 years for retailers to be compared not just to each other, but to other experience providers that may fall well outside the retail scope. It probably comes as little surprise to most retailers that customers frequently compare them to Amazon, but what about a restaurant? Restaurants are not retail outlets, but if they provide a great experience, customers will come to expect similar commitment from retailers and vice-versa. The same is true of other venues and businesses.

The final word here is just that: expectation. As we mentioned up top, customers’ expectations are growing ever more complex as countless brands vie for their attention. This means that, no matter whether a brand sells shoes, cars, meals, or airline tickets, it’s no longer enough to focus solely on a product. 

Make no mistake, offering a quality product is obviously still important, but it’s no longer enough to capture and hold customers’ attention. Experience is the differentiator now, and brands that endeavor to deliver a great experience will come out on top in both their verticals and in customers’ eyes.

To hear more about retail customer experience in the experience economy, listen to the full podcast episode today!

5 Steps to Train Your Employees in New CX Initiatives

With over 15 years of experience in the customer experience (CX) space, I have seen multiple companies employ training efforts to get their employees involved in new CX programs and initiatives. I have witnessed this process from the perspective of an Account Manager, Implementations Manager, a member of the Product Team, a Business Operations Manager, and now as the Director of Learning Services.

Throughout my experience, I’ve seen successes, but I’ve also seen teams fail to execute a training approach that actually engages employees. The theme across these failures is that their approach is time consuming, over complicated, and essentially inactionable. The truth is that while everyone knows training is important, it is easy for it to get lost in the list of day-to-day tasks—especially if the approach isn’t accessible. 

In order to set yourself—and your business—up for success, you need to avoid over-complicating things when it comes to rolling out employee training for your new program, but that’s easier said than done. To get you started, I’ve outlined 5 easy steps to help you craft an effective CX training approach for your business.

Step #1: Designate a Training Leader

As I started above, everyone knows that training is important. However, this understanding isn’t where most companies fall short; the failure is most often in the execution.

That is why it is so important to start your efforts by naming a project manager or leader to be directly responsible for your training efforts. This person can be the program champion, someone from your internal training team, or a representative from HR. 

Regardless of who this person is, it is their job to make sure that every employee participates in the training program. This means that they need to have the tools to track employee participation effectively—and to share results. 

How you track doesn’t need to be fancy, it could be as simple as an Excel or Google Sheet housed in a common area within the company, or it could be as complex as your work’s HR portal. By monitoring who has completed what, you’ll be able to keep the ball rolling for continuous success (and you’ll be all set up to execute step two).  

Step #2: Hold People Accountable

After finding your CX training owner, you need to create a way to hold employees accountable for completing their training. At the end of the day, we are all human and most of us need a carrot or a stick to be inspired to finish a task. 

Many businesses will create a goal or key performance indicator (KPI) directly related to training—this can be something as simple as a quarterly compliance record or something a little more involved. For example, one of our clients found a way to gamify their employee training by creating a board game for team members to play together. This way, the CX training was a fun team building exercise that also got employees actively engaged in the program.

No matter what your accountability method is, it will help employees know they are responsible for completing a set amount of CX training by a certain date. Deadlines are important drivers that everyone can understand, so use them!

Step #3: Make Training Easy to Complete

Now that you’ve designated your training leader and found a way to hold your team accountable, it’s time to make training easy to complete. When faced with a large task, people will be more likely to complete it if:

  1. They know what needs to be done: Make a simple list of all required training and make this list accessible.  
  2. They know when it has to be done: Send regular reminders via email or program notifications into your HR platform   
  3. It is easy to find and complete: Locate training links in a place people often visit during their work day (like Slack, and internal sharing site, or learning management system.)

Remember: the easier you can make training to consume, the more likely your team will be to complete it. 

Step #4: Provide Opportunities for High Performers to Help

Now that you’ve set your learning program up for success, invite others in to join the party. As you curate your program, there will be folks who naturally rise up and quickly become subject matter experts. 

Successful training programs will make an effort to hold up those CX training rockstars as an ideal that the rest of the organization can aspire to. For example, if one region is doing exceptionally well, share their success with others to inspire them to step up to the plate as well. 

Encouraging your people to celebrate high performers and come up with their own creative ways to get their coworkers involved curates a team mentality and helps to foster a customer-centric culture.

Step #5: Celebrate!

Lastly, celebrate those wins! When people have successfully completed the assigned work, reward them. When you reward them, do it publically. Everyone likes to be recognized—plus, there is nothing like a little bit of healthy competition to motivate people. 

Post results in a place all can see—this can look like sending out a congratulatory email to the team that calls out those who have finished CX training, or putting a “congratulations” in via your internal rewards program. Again, it doesn’t have to be fancy—just remember to do it! 

If you follow these easy steps, you’ll be on your way to implementing a successful CX training program. Leadership, accountability, accessibility, team work, and rewards will pave the way to the desired result: a CX program that is both highly successful and fully utilized from top to bottom. 

If you’re looking for more content that will help you drive employee engagement, check out this piece on employee incentives. You’ll learn what’s wrong with traditional approaches and how you can create a system that actually works in “Considering Employee Incentives for CX Success? 5 Ideas for Better Engagement.” 

Is Net Promoter Score Dead?

The Net Promoter Score® (NPS) and the wider ecosystem to which it belongs, the Net Promoter System®, have long been organizations’ preferred means of evaluating everything from employee and customer satisfaction to internal processes. The reasons for NPS’s popularity are many, but its most attractive features are its speed, ease of use, and its ability to distill the state of almost any experience, department or function into a single number.

NPS’s benefits have earned it plenty of acclaim since its 2003 debut, but the metric has faced skepticism in recent years from some CX experts. Some of these practitioners have gone so far as to proclaim that NPS is “dead” and that organizations should leave it behind. What follows is a quick, honest look at these claims and at NPS’s place in today’s experience landscape.

It’s All About the Numbers(?)

One reason some CX practitioners shy away from the Net Promoter Score is because it’s just a number. How, these experts contend, can a simple number tell organizations what changes to make or what initiatives to undertake in order to achieve transformational success, let alone improve their score?

It’s true that the Net Promoter Score is “just” a number, but companies that focus solely on the metric aren’t tapping its full potential to begin with. Instead, organizations need to look to the deeper movement behind that number: the Net Promoter System. The Net Promoter System promotes customer centricity, continuous improvement, and learning from customer feedback. These principles are hardly outdated in today’s experience landscape, especially since they espouse finding meaning beyond the metric.

The Perils of Scoreboard-Watching

Relying more on the Net Promoter System’s values than the Net Promoter Score may sound well and good, but it also raises a natural question: if the System promotes the principles that the modern experience landscape thrives on, what’s the point of using the score at all?

First, let’s take a step back to discuss the relationship between the Net Promoter Score and companies’ expectations of it. Far too many organizations expect change to come about as a result of merely observing their score. Frankly, this expectation is a cultural problem, not the fault of NPS. Change is no less difficult to attain within an organization than in any other arena of life or business, and as with those other arenas, the only thing organizations can do to affect change is to work hard. Once organizations labor to apply the Net Promoter System’s principles, the metric will take care of itself and finally become an accurate indicator of a company’s standing.

Additionally, while endeavoring to understand the relationship between NPS and a brand’s financial incomes, some organizations may find that another metric, such as OSAT or Likelihood to Repurchase, suits them better. That’s great, but the principles behind the Net Promoter System still apply and can be leveraged even in those other contexts.

NPS Lives

Organizations that shift their focus from the metric to the meaning that the Net Promoter System provides can execute NPS with modern, data-ingesting experience intelligence tools. After all, the Net Promoter System helped bring about the wider customer experience world to begin with (it’s no coincidence that CX began proliferating shortly after NPS’s introduction).

Organizations can use the Net Promoter System and data-ingesting platforms toward the same end: capturing the voice of the customer at its most relevant moments, analyzing sentiments, and delivering those insights to stakeholders that can turn them into action. Because of this, NPS is far from dead—the values and internal business practices it promulgates are relevant to any organization that seeks meaningful, transformational success.

Want to read more about the state of NPS in 2020? Read the full article for free today!

Prioritising Customer Experience in The New Year

That “new year, new you” mantra is difficult enough to achieve on a personal level, let alone an organisational one. As companies return from the holidays, many of them will begin assessing which milestones they want to pass in the new decade. This is especially true (and challenging) for CX practitioners as the business intelligence landscape will no doubt continue to rapidly change.

Figuring these organisation-wide New Years resolutions out is never a small task, but it’s not insurmountable, either. Practitioners who want to tackle the new decade with gusto and prioritise projects in 2020 can do so by following a few simple steps.

Step 1: Review and Evolve Your CX Charter

A CX charter is a set of statements about a company’s aspirations and its customer journey. If you’re looking to shake things up in 2020, checking this living document is a great first step for seeing where your organisation has been and where it could go from here.

Don’t have a CX charter? Crafting one is another great way to sort out CX prioritisation in the new year. A CX charter is there to clarify your own priorities, and is not intended for public use. As previously mentioned, the most effective CX charters contain a set of aspirational, implicit statements meant to guide a company’s experience vision, as well as a description of a brand’s high-level customer journey. Whether you’re looking to revamp a current charter or make a new one, this document is a great place for practitioners to start.

Step 2: Audit Your Customer Journey

The next step that practitioners should take when reviewing CX prioritisation in the new year is taking another glance at their customer journey. Customer journeys typically consist of both high- and low-level descriptions. The former consists of sales funnel-esque steps like “buy” while the latter includes more detailed steps, such as “I forgot to pay.”

While mapping customer journeys is useful for understanding how they interact with a brand, there’s another layer to this process: touchpoints. Auditing customer journeys allows practitioners to assess customer journey touchpoints, decide which ones are most important, and which ones might need a bit of polish; this all factors directly into creating CX initiatives.

Step 3: Creating Initiatives

Once practitioners have identified problems to solve and intelligence gaps to close, what’s the best way to get started? It’s never a bad idea to begin with an abstract, high-level problem statement. That may sound like the stuff of unproductive meetings, but practitioners can follow this statement up by breaking it down into smaller, more specific problems to solve.

This process, when executed in an agile way, enables practitioners and their teams to both establish an overarching vision of their organisation’s priorities and derive actual projects and initiatives from that vision. This parallel dynamic also enables CX practitioners to stay connected to their brand’s mission and justify CX’s importance to seeing that mission through.  

Step 4: Fit Those Initiatives Into Your Roadmap

While on the subject of seeing a CX mission through (and justifying ROI in the boardroom), putting your initiatives on a roadmap is a great way to track projects, evaluate changes, and demonstrate to the C-Suite that CX prioritisation can yield tangible results and performance markers.

If all of these tools prove anything, it’s that a little structure can go a long way. Establishing a charter, identifying customer journeys, creating initiatives, and charting those projects on a roadmap can inexorably tie CX to a brand journey, and thus stand a far greater chance of being a boon to that journey. CX practitioners who rely on these prioritisation tools will have an easier time establishing CX’s worth and reaping transformative success for their organisations.

Want to learn more about these steps? Read the full PDF here or visit our Resource Center for more info on CX how-to’s, hot topics, and more!

Can You Hear Me Now? How to Listen for, Identify, and Fix Organizational Problems

Sometimes, the problems holding your organization back are easy to spot. Much of the time, though, organizational issues are well-hidden,  well-integrated, or simply entrenched into the operating rhythm, which makes fixing them a bit more complicated.

Though trying to isolate and fix deep-rooted problems is not an easy or simple task, organizations can meet this challenge with perseverance and the power of customer experience data tools. What follows is a quick overview of those tools and the best practices to bear in mind while using them.

Step #1: Canvas the Company

The first step organizations should take to identify problems is to round up all of their data. That’s right—customer survey feedback, employee feedback, company metadata, and even external market and social data—scoop it all up and gather it in one place for analysis.

Though it probably doesn’t need spelling out, organizations can’t find problems if they examine some data sources and not others. Issues that may seem like they’re stemming from one department may actually be rooted in another. For this reason, it pays to have all data gathered in one place. Additionally, gathering from ALL data sources keeps all involved groups honest to the process and eliminates any bias that could creep into the improvement process. 

Step #2: Identify Far-Reaching Problems

Once organizations have their data ready to go, they can begin scouring it for problems. The most efficient way to go about this process is to leverage an employee feedback tool to look for the biggest and most common problems, i.e. issues that are affecting multiple departments and processes. 

Leveraging these listening tools has many benefits. First, organizations can identify issues that are affecting the most departments—and thus, the most customers.  Secondly, the process of gathering and capturing multi-source data becomes repeatable. And thirdly, these tools can be used to help search for and isolate the small issues that comprise big problems.

Step #3: Implement Fixes

The reason why organizations should break big problems up into small ones is because it makes issues easier to address. Finding fixes for 10 small problems is still easier than trying to convene a one-size-fits-all solution that transcends departments and processes. Rendering problems down to more bite-size chunks also uncovers the root causes of problems—and makes those causes simpler to manage in both the short- and long-term. 

Organizations that take the time to identify large-scale problems, cut them down to size, and take action to implement issue-by-issue fixes have a far greater chance of attaining meaningful, transformative success than those that don’t. Driving incremental improvement is also great from a culture perspective because it displays a focus on continuous improvement. 

Looking for more guidance on how you can effect real change in 2020? Read “How CX Intelligence Can Drive Meaningful Product Innovation”  today!

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