Saturday, March 29, 2014

Your Initial CX Assessment...Part 4 - Staff Interviews

Okay, it’s now time to push back from your desk and start some “management by walking around.”  If you were fortunate to have access to all or some portion of the qualitative and quantitative research discussed  in previous posts, you should have at least a reasonable sense of how the customer experience stacks up at your company.  However, there’s a maxim I go by whenever reviewing research results, “trust but verify.”  As previously mentioned, even the most rigorously designed and executed research is not “perfect” in that it can never truly understand the intangible and elusive customer feelings, motivations, and perceptions that are part of their considering, shopping for, purchasing, and using your product or service.  The best you can hope to do is obtain a fairly strong approximation of how your customers experience the various ways they experience your organization.  So, in this post, I’d like to discuss a group of additional sources that will compliment your formal research...in person discussions with select internal and external staff that deal directly with your customers.  And yes, when we get to the posts that will focus on designing and using CX research, we’ll discuss how best to have a personal chat with your customers.

Internal Office Staff
As you begin your “primary research,” I’m going to suggest a couple of reasons why you start by identifying those internal staff that don’t necessarily deal directly with customers, but nevertheless have roles that may fulfill a customer inquiry, or that support a front-line person who does interact with customers.  First this staff may be able to fill in some of the context you’ve gleaned from looking at the secondary research you completed previously.  While this particular staff may not be receiving direct feedback from customers, they will likely know what’s running smoothly and what’s not working in terms of the internal processes, policies and tactics that support the delivery of products and services to customers.  Second, in a future post, we’re going to discuss one of the most valuable tools for the CX manager - a customer journey map.  In developing your journey maps, you’ll need input from those who provide the product or service directly or indirectly to the end customer.  As you go through your interviews, make a note of those who you think might be valuable members of your journey mapping team.
Here’s some questions to guide you as you walk around your office...
  • What does this person do, and what’s the connection to the customer?  How well do they explain what they do?  This is an important criteria to qualify for your journey mapping team.
  • If they had to redesign their job to improve their particular output, how would they do it?  What would this accomplish...save time? improve quality? save money?
  • What do they think of the company’s customers?  No, not personally, but rather, do they see things that aren’t working...certain customers, for example, tend to return items more than others, or tend to contact the call center with specific inquiries.
  • What do they think of the internal processes that support specific customer touchpoints?  Are these processes efficient, or do they hinder the job?  Do they think the processes are money well spent, or could they be done in a way that might incur less cost or time? 
Vendors
Suppliers to the company have a couple of particular vantage points that could be beneficial in your CX assessment.  You’ll need to identify those vendors who, in some way, support interaction(s) the company has with its customers.  An obvious example of this is the company’s customer research supplier.  The majority of companies will retain a third-party to execute their customer satisfaction survey.  So, a key question to ask this supplier is how seriously do they think the company is about managing their customer experience.  To answer this, the supplier should be able to share such things as... 
  • How often do they meet with the company to review survey results?
  • How often does the company request changes to the questionnaire and/or reporting?
  • How often do company staff log-in to the online survey reporting, or request ad hoc analytics from the vendor?
The company’s suppliers may also provide you with another potentially useful insight...how does your company’s customer experience compare with that of their other clients?  Again, your company’s research supplier no doubt provides comparable services to other clients, including your organization’s competitors.  This question is certainly fair game, and a good vendor should be able to provide you with a candid response and still maintain the confidentiality of their clients.  

By all means, expand the scope of your supplier investigation beyond your research vendor.  If yours is a manufacturing company, for example, it likely sources components from an extended supply chain.  Have a chat with these vendors and ask about such things as what are your company’s expectations for the quality of the products they order?; do they think your company is a leader in serving the marketplace with products liked by customers? 

Front-Line Staff
Whether it’s a receptionist, a salesperson on a showroom floor, a flight attendant, or a call center agent, these staff, and others like them in direct customer facing roles literally hear the “voice of the customer.”  They’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly, in customer experiences, and can likely talk at length about what’s working and what’s not.  Before we get into a few suggested questions for this group, a couple of caveats to keep in mind. First, it’s critically important that you speak with as many front-line staff as is reasonably possible for you.  You’ll likely find that many staff will either have some ax to grind with the company, or conversely, see their employer as a place that can do no wrong.  Both of these views will adversely color what should be your balanced judgement, so talk to as many people as you can so you can hopefully smooth out these extremes.  The second caveat flows from the first, and that is to make sure you talk to veterans and rookies alike.  They’ll each have their own unique perspectives that should provide rich context for your assessment.  Now for some suggested questions...
  • How long have you been with the company?  And what’s your tenure in this customer-facing role?
  • What are customers telling them about the company’s products and services?  You’ll want to confirm that this is not their spin on what customers are saying, but rather, is an almost precise replay of customers’ comments (i.e. “the unvarnished truth”).
  • What do think is going well?  You’ll want to probe on this, so ask them to be as specific as possible (i.e. does this apply to all customers?  Is it going well in specific locations but not others?). 
  • What compliments are they receiving from customers?
  • In their opinion, where is the company not meeting customers’ expectations?  Again, try to collect as much detail as possible.
  • Of those you’ve interviewed, who do you think displays a strong level of credibility?  Who do you think explains things well to you?  Make a list of these staff as I strongly recommend you include them in future journey mapping and planning meetings.

In the next couple of posts, we’re going to continue our CX assessment by spending some time making some sense of all the information you’ve collected thus far.

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