Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Developing a Customer Experience Strategy - The HealthScan Company Case Study

We’ll use this fictitious case study to create our CX strategy.  The development of our plan will build on the various CX tools and concepts presented throughout the preceding posts on this blog.  Our strategy will be designed in the context of the following brief case study about a mid-size manufacturing company.  While the setting of the case is business-to-business, the approach used in designing the strategy can also be applied in a business-to-consumer context.  

HealthScan is a mid-size manufacturer of various medical devices used in surgical procedures by doctors around the world.  The company’s direct (revenue generating) customers include hospitals and large medical practices who purchase the various diagnostic and surgical instruments used to treat patients.  Particularly in the case of hospitals, there are numerous “indirect” customers who have varying degrees of influence over the purchase decision.  These include financial managers and accountants, as well as paramedical staff including nurses and therapists.  From a customer experience standpoint, the needs and viewpoints of all of these stakeholders need to be taken into account during by HealthScan’s sales and service staff.

 With headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, HealthScan has over 300 employees, mostly engineers and technicians, in Switzerland, and maintains regional sales offices in Chicago to serve its North American customers, while its Asia-Pacific base is in Melbourne, Australia.  
Established in 1935, the company is privately owned, with a controlling interest held by the founding family.  Forty percent of the private shares are owned by the employees, who also each receive a vote on selected organizational matters.  While HealthScan has been consistently profitable since inception, the company’s operating margin has declined by two-percent in each of the last three years, and market share for three key product lines has eroded by over five-percent during the same time period.  

While a couple of competitors have introduced new products at lower price points to compete directly with HealthScan’s offerings, senior management does not think this is the primary reason for the fall off in performance.  Anecdotal input from global account managers indicate that customers are increasingly unhappy with both the process involved in purchasing the company’s products as well as with the quality and availability of service for devices needing repair.  HealthScan has always been an extremely product focused on company, and consequently, the formal collection and analysis of customer feedback has never been established.  Indeed, over the last two-years, four major clients have elected not to re-purchase replacement devices from the company, electing to go with competitor products instead…in the absence of a formal customer feedback system, this came as a complete surprise to HealthScan management.

In addition to these customer issues, HealthScan management was also dealing with some staffing concerns.  Over the preceding 18-months, a couple of senior engineering managers had left the firm and convinced a few of their staff to follow them to competitors.  Employee loyalty is a cornerstone of Swiss businesses, so such turnover is unheard of in most established companies.  Given its good reputation, management was surprised when it subsequently experienced a fair amount  of difficulty in attracting new staff for these roles.

Concluding that changes needed to be made in key facets of HealthScan’s operations, the executive team implemented a series of strategic choices.  One of these involved a renewed focus on customers, and to enable this, the company established a new customer experience management role and began recruiting suitable candidates.  With this brief case as background, the next series of posts will focus on the development and execution of a customer experience strategy for HealthScan.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Customer Experience Strategy - Audit: Part 2

Picking up from the previous post, let’s assess how the company fares in the nuts-and-bolts delivery of the customer experience.  The majority of customer touchpoints are delivered through some type of process.  To get a handle on the organization’s process orientation, consider the following audit items…

4) Current Customer Processes 
  • Are customer-facing processes documented?  If so, is the process reflected from an internal point-of-view, or from the customer’s perspective…the latter is typically represented using a journey map. (LINK to post)
  • Continuing with the process documentation, what’s the level of detail?  If journey maps are used, are they fact-based and include customer feedback such as survey scores or comments?  Does the documentation capture the end-to-end “ecosystem” that includes both the customer perspective  and the accompanying internal steps, policies, data, and vendors that collaborate to support the journey?
  • Who “owns” the customer-facing processes?  Are changes to a process dictated by management, or do front-line staff have discretion in making modifications?
  • In terms of ongoing process management, how much of an influence does customer feedback have in dictating ongoing changes (i.e. are process changes driven primarily by internal operational needs, or do changes stem from the identification of trends in ongoing customer feedback)?  
  • Overall, how would you gauge the organization’s commitment to the Continuous Improvement?  Are there, for example, recurring reviews of customer feedback, and is this customer information applied to gauging the effectiveness of the process?  And, for bonus points, are processes developed using a Lean approach…that is, is there a constant focus on executing the experience as efficiently as possible with a minimum of non-value add (the Lean term for this is “waste”) steps for both customer and internal staff?  Future posts will focus more on integrating Lean methods and customer experience.

The great management sage, Peter Drucker, is reported to have said, “…culture eats strategy for breakfast.”  The importance and prominence of an organization’s culture is magnified in a customer experience context.  That’s because, at its essence, customer experience is about ongoing change and a commitment to continuous improvement.  Consequently, CX thrives in companies where management and staff are open to new ways of doing things and maintain an inquisitive mindset.  These five questions can be used to shed a light on the fit between organizational culture and the potential for CX success…

5) Organizational Culture
  • How open is management to receiving staff input and recommendations for improving the customer experience?
  • How often does management engage directly with customers (e.g. face-to-face discussions; taking calls in the customer service center)?  How frequently does management review results from customer surveys, social media comments, or any other form of customer feedback?
  • What was the most recent meaningful change in how the organization engages with customers and/or employees?  Was this change internally motivated, or did it come about because of a competitor move (i.e. did the company “want” to make the change, or was the change “forced” upon it)?
  • What key performance indicators does management regularly track?  Are customer-related metrics such as satisfaction or likelihood to recommend included in this tracking?
  • How much discretion do employees have in dealing with customer issues (i.e. within reason, can staff determine how best to respond to a customer’s concern or complaint)?

The suggestions provided in these most recent two posts should serve as a foundation for conducting an audit of the CX “basics” in your organization.  With the audit as a starting point, future posts will now focus on the development of a customer experience strategy.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Customer Experience Strategy - Audit: Part 1

Over the next extended series of posts, we’ll layout in detail an approach for developing a customer experience strategy.  CX spans the organization and touches on numerous front and back-end functions, so the customer experience strategy must align with the company’s business, brand, and product / service objectives.  We’ll begin our strategy development by conducting an audit of the various facets that will comprise the overall CX plan.  We’ll then turn our attention to the strategy framework itself including a detailed discussion of each of its key components.  

A thorough understating of the current situation is the critical “must-have” initial step in developing a CX strategy, and the best way to do this is by conducting a comprehensive audit.  Recall from some of the earlier posts that our new CX manager undertook a bit of a mini-audit as part of her first few days on the job.  Hopefully, this gave her an initial perspective on the state of the company’s CX activities before undertaking some initial quick-win activities.  It’s now time to turn to a more detailed audit in order to gain a deep understanding on where things stand.  

An audit can be completed in one of two ways: directly by the CX manager and her staff, or by retaining a third-party.  For an audit to be worthwhile, it must be impartial and fact-based…for this reason, completion by a third-party, particularly in the case of large organizations, may be a worthwhile investment (just be mindful that the auditor’s objectivity may be compromised in the hopes of subsequently acquiring new business). On the other hand, in a smaller organization and / or in the case of a newly hired CX manager who likely won’t be biased by a history with the company, it may make sense for the audit to be completed directly by the CX team.

Regardless of the choice of auditor, what follows over the next couple of posts is a basic template for completing a CX audit…the template is not intended to be all-encompassing, but should serve to provide an understanding of those critical items that should be assessed.  
  1. The Corporate Strategy
  • What are the organization’s goals, and what is the linkage with customer experience?  For example, if customer acquisition is an objective, from a CX standpoint, is there a well-defined and executed sales process?  Does the process address the needs (job-to-done) of the prospect?  Similarly, if customer retention and increasing the share-of-wallet, is there a retention process?  Along those lines, is there a voice-of-customer tool in place to capture feedback from those who defect?  
  • In the course of the audit, you’ll want to parse the corporate strategy to identify those (often financial) objectives that logically align with a corresponding customer experience, and then ask…is there a corresponding customer process in place?  If so, how is it performing?  If not, should this be included in the CX strategy, and what resources might be necessary to do so?

2) The Brand Strategy
  • What is the brand promise?  Are all facets of the existing customer experience in alignment with the promise (remember, CX needs to be in sync with the brand, and not the other way around)?
  • What emotions does the brand want to elicit from the customer?  According to Forrester Research, emotions have a disproportionately large role in contributing to a customer’s satisfaction with their experience (1).  In the audit, ask…are we capturing customer emotions as part of our VOC?  If not, consider how this can be included in the CX strategy.
3) Customer Understanding
  • Ongoing feedback from customers is at the heart of customer experience, and therefore, this is a particularly important component of a CX audit.  Customer satisfaction data was briefly touched on in an earlier post…let’s now focus more closely on more fully understanding what you should be looking for to ensure that your CX initiative has the vital customer feedback needed to be successful.  
  • Qualitative Feedback…look for the following:
  • Focus group reports discussing customer experience questions
  • Journey mapping workshops with clients
  • One-on-one interviews with customers
  • Text analytics, primarily from the organization’s social media channels.  Results from text analytics are particularly insightful because customer comments, phrases and words are captured in their authentic setting (i.e. not in a more controlled research environment where customers are prone to self-editing).
  • Open-ended comments from surveys.  Perhaps most noteworthy here is to determine whether the company asks the Net Promoter question, “How likely are you to recommend____ to family and friends?”  Customers are asked to rate their likelihood to recommend using a 0 to 10 scale, but what’s arguably most important here is whether the key open-ended follow up question is asked…”why did you rate your likelihood a ___?”  Responses properly coded by the NPS segments of Promoter (9-10), Passive (7-8) and Detractor (0-6) are a potential CX goldmine for better understanding what pleases and dissatisfies your customers.
  • Quantitative Feedback…some items to include in an audit:
  • Is there a transactional survey in place?
  • Does the company execute a relationship survey, or do existing surveys ask relationship questions?
  • Do these surveys capture trends over time?
  • Other Sources of Customer Understanding…
  • Is the company’s customer base segmented?  There are numerous methods to segment customers, and two that are of particular value for CX are attitudinal and by customer value.  This is because you may want to consider designing different experiences based on how your customers feel (attitudinal) about particular products or services, or offering a different experience to the company’s most valuable customers (value).

In the next post, we’ll conclude this discussion by looking at a few additional items to include in a CX audit.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Customer Experience Strategy and the Ecosystem

In their Customer Experience Maturity framework, Forrester Research identifies the first stage in establishing CX as Repair (1).  In this initial stage, organizations typically focus on establishing a measurement system, and finding and repairing broken processes.  Up to now, this blog’s posts have presented discussions and suggestions around the various tools used to support this initial CX stage.  Taking the perspective of a new manager tasked with establishing a new customer experience initiative from the ground up at a mid-sized organization, we’ve covered the following…
  • We began by “going to the spot” and talking with staff, customers, and vendors to form an initial impression of where the company’s CX currently stands
  • Following this, we studied existing customer research to expand on some of our initial personal observations
  • After identifying initial gaps in the voice-of-customer feedback and existing key customer transaction processes, we took some steps to establish “quick-wins” and begin to build credibility and buy-in for CX throughout the company.  Indeed, at this early stage, it’s just as important to establish the importance of CX among staff as it is to be begin making addressing specific customer issues.  From experience, perhaps the biggest initial hurdle for a CX manager to overcome is convincing skeptical and jaded staff about the importance of executing a first rate experience in today’s competitive environment.  Some of these initial activities included:
  • Implementing an ongoing and systematic voice-of-customer (VOC) transactional survey and reporting (LINK).
  • Incorporating the VOC feedback with a rigorous problem-solving method that facilitates the identification and resolution of common process related customer sources of dissatisfaction. The importance of establishing a VOC and a problem-solving / root cause identification method cannot be emphasized enough.  These two components form a foundational infrastructure that can be subsequently scaled and serve as the foundation for all subsequent CX activities.
  • Basic journey-mapping was introduced as a tool to help with depicting the end-to-end experience from the customer perspective
  • More recent post presented the Value Proposition Canvas tool to help identify the customer “jobs to be done”.  Delivering on these jobs is essential in building a future-state journey map…successfully executing the functional, social, and emotional customer jobs will make or break the ideal customer experience.
With these basic tools established…voice-of-customer, root cause problem solving, journey mapping, and value proposition development…we can now turn to discussing broader strategy considerations in the context of an organization’s customer experience initiative.
Over the next series of posts, we’ll delve into a framework for developing a customer experience strategy, as well as looking at the customer experience ecosystem through the lenses of Lean Management and the dependencies that come with establishing the various internal components required to deliver value to the customer.  We’ll use the tools introduced thus far, as well as introduce new methods to both craft an effective CX strategy and design the delivery ecosystem.  The objective of this next phase of posts is to introduce tools and approaches that can be used to develop more advanced customer experience design. 

(1) The Path to Customer Experience Maturity, Forrester Research Report, June 27, 2013

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Journey Mapping Part 5 - A Future- State Journey Map and the Value Proposition Canvas

Have a look at the future-state journey map below depicting the intended experience for our persona, a college student living in dorm, and the purchase of our company’s space heater.  Notice how map incorporates the customer jobs-to-be-done and the pains and gains captured in our value proposition research:

  • Clear and simple assembly and use instructions with a video tutorial

  • Ample reference to the fire department certification as a safe product…a very important consideration for a student living in a dorm

  • Easy to see references to social media and third-party reviews of the space-heater.  Independent third-party testimonials are increasingly important resources in proceeding through a purchase journey, and our map includes numerous opportunities for access.
As we’ve seen, using the Value Proposition Canvas as a tool for informing a future-state journey map ensures a systematic and thorough method for capturing essential customer input.

Thus far, this blog has focused on a discussion of some of the key technical and tactical activities that are must-have foundational components of any customer experience initiative.  In the next series of posts, we’ll address some important strategic concepts and tools intended to advance an organization’s customer experience activities…we’ll begin with a discussion of the organization’s ecosystem…the systems, processes, staff, policies, and partners that are critical to delivering the customer experience.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Journey Mapping - Part 4: Capturing Customer Expectations and Designing a Value Proposition Canvas

Picking up from an earlier post, let’s continue developing the Jobs-to-be-Done (JTBD) customer interview that will serve to inform the design of a future-state experience in our space-heater purchase example.  Thus far in our journey mapping discussion, we have developed a current state map depicting our assumption of how we think a particular customer type (Persona) purchases our company’s space heater.  

We subsequently validated the current state map by interviewing representative customers and non-customers.  The validation revolves around the JTBD concept where the interviews focus on what customers are trying to accomplish (i.e. the “jobs”) as they consider, shop for, purchase and use a space heater.  The JTBD interviews can be done either in a group setting, or one-on-one.  A couple of important considerations to emphasize at this point are:
  • Quality of interviews trumps quantity - the typical qualitative interview method usually takes place in a group setting with discussions held in multiple markets.  This approach is neither necessary nor desired in validating your map and conducting the JTBD interviews.  Rather, take the time to recruit 10 to 12 customers and non-customers who are genuinely interested in providing the substantive input that can be used to subsequently design an improved experience.
  • Always try to include non-customers as part of the current-state validation - ideally, these are non-customers of both your company, as well as the product or service itself.  It’s not uncommon for these non-customers to provide viewpoints not typically gleaned from those customers who regularly purchase your firm’s products and services.
Now based on the findings of the JTBD interviews, let’s begin designing a future-state for the purchase experience.  Our starting point will be the Value Proposition Canvas introduced in a previous post.  Recall that the Canvas is a tool to depict…
  • The “jobs” the customer (persona) is attempting to complete in the course of the journey.  Remember that these jobs can be classified as either: Functional, Social or Emotional.  The importance of each will vary depending on the item purchased and / or the persona.  The jobs, for example, that a business person needs to complete in booking a flight will likely focus more on function, than for a vacationer whose needs are likely more social and emotional.
  • The proposed value proposition (i.e. the enhanced experience depicted in the future-state journey) will attempt to satisfy as many of the customer’s jobs as feasible given the company’s resources.  
Referring to our validation interviews, here’s a first stab at what a completed value proposition might look like for the student persona purchasing a space heater for their dorm room.  A couple of important points to make:
  • Keep in mind that this is a very simple depiction…the intent is to use a straightforward example to illustrate how the Canvas is used…”real life” journey maps and value propositions will likely be more complex in scope and design.
  • Customer Experience really is about “everything”…the product, the accompanying service, the channels, the staff, the back-office processes, etc.  So, the Value Proposition Canvas should include those customer-facing items that have a meaningful impact on the overall experience.  In our space-heater case, for example, the Value Proposition Canvas includes selected references to performance attributes of the heater…if client feedback indicates that items such as this are a key expectation (i.e. “job to be done”), then these should be captured in the Canvas, as this will help to inform the design of the overall experience.

In the next post, we’ll wrap-up the journey mapping discussion by using the results of the Value Canvas to design a future state experience.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Customer Experience Trends - Currencies of Change

Interrupting the current series of posts discussing journey mapping to provide another summary of a recent report from trendwatching.com .  In Currencies of Change, the focus is on the role of incentives as part of the customer experience.  According to the report, smartphone apps, in many cases integrated with consumer wearable monitors, will enable companies to enhance the experience by using real-time incentives and rewards to help customers accomplish their objectives.

Some context referenced in the report…
  • 66 percent of consumers feel that their relationship with brands are one-sided, with them as the sole contributors, and brands as the beneficiaries.
  • There is an increasing focus in western society on self-improvement.  This accounts for the popularity of the “Quantified Self” movement, evidenced most notably by robust sales of activity tracking devices.  Paradoxically, however, the report also finds…
  • One-third of consumers who purchased a personal tracking device (e.g. a fitness monitor), stopped using the product within 6-months
  • While 89 percent of consumers surveyed said that taking personal responsibility for health is the best way to stay healthy, 91 percent admit to frequent fast-food snacking.
So, what gives from these seemingly inconsistent findings?  

According to the report, customers are not rejecting tracking devices or self-improvement.  Rather, they’re looking for meaningful incentives to keep them on track in pursuing their goals.  While conventional incentives, such as accumulating points for a future reward, are effective in some cases, many customer experiences require incentives that resonate more positively with customers’ social and emotional needs.  Some examples of successful use of incentives include…
  • Oscar Insurance - the Brazilian company provides its customers with a fitness tracker that monitors daily walking distance.  Customers maintaining a consistent walking discipline are rewarded with lower premiums.
  • Weight Watchers - customers are entitled to reduced fees when achieving weight loss targets.
  • Seda - another innovative Brazilian company…the haircare brand exchanges used shampoo bottles for cell phone credits.
  • McDonalds, Stockholm - citizens of the Swedish capital pay for their burgers by exchanging empty aluminum cans.
 As connectivity between consumer and company increases (look for the advent of smart watches to contribute to this), we’ll likely see this incentive trend continue to establish itself in both the developed countries and in emerging markets around the world.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Journey Mapping - Capturing Customer Expectations and Designing a Future State Customer Journey - Part 3

Let’s continue with the development of a potential future-state journey map.  We’re now going to begin using the various tools introduced throughout several recent posts to develop what we think will be, in this hypothetical, an ideal purchase experience for a specific customer type (Persona).  

Before embarking on a future-state map, it’s important to clarify some common misconceptions around this exercise.  Firstly, a future-state map is NOT an enhancement of a current-state version.  If the organization has concluded that the current-state journey is meeting customer expectations and perhaps requires a few simple modifications, that is best left as an enhancement project…not the development of a potentially all-new experience.  Secondly, a journey map…whether it be current or future-state…is NOT the same as a process map.  A process map is an INTERNAL tool depicting the various people, technologies, policies, and steps that together work to deliver an outcome that may or may not be customer facing.  Think, for example, of an e-mail notification advising a customer of a successful bank deposit.  There are likely numerous activities at the bank that need to be coordinated in order to transmit that e-mail…all of those activities are invisible to the customer…she only sees the output in the form of an e-mail.  That e-mail, then, may be part of larger journey the customer completes in doing business with the bank.  Eventually, a customer journey map will need to be included together with a wider organizational ecosystem (i.e. processes) in order to complete the design of the intended experience.  So, a future-state journey map is a depiction of the holistic experience the company is intending for the customer.  It fundamentally differs from the current-map because the objective of the future-state is to deliver a wholly new value proposition.  That value proposition, as we’ll explore in this and the following posts, is based on insights about the stated and implied customer expectations.

We’ll start by framing the context of our future-state journey mapping exercise.  The CX Manager at the ABC Heating Company has been tasked with supporting the sales effort for the firm’s new compact space heater.  The marketing department has identified college students living in dorms as a likely target for the new heater, and they’ve asked CX for help in designing an effective purchase experience.  The exercise started with research into purchase data together with the development of an initial current-state journey map.  Remember, this current state is a hypothesis of how the company thinks a customer completes a purchase transaction.  To create a future-state map, we’ll need to validate our hypotheses with a representative group of customers, and use that opportunity to gather their stated and unstated expectations.  With this as background, we can draw on our first CX tool…the development of a Persona for our journey mapping.

Remember that the development of a Persona will likely require some qualitative research to identify some of the key traits of the target customer.  In this case, we’ll want to interview a cross-section of students living in campus residences to get a sense of such things as…How do they typically purchase such items?  What’s the size of their dorm room?  Do they have a roommate or live alone?  For the purpose of our hypothetical, let’s say that our research indicates that the Persona for this purchase is a male or female first or second year student sharing a 300 square-foot dorm room one roommate.  Being students, they’re very budget conscious, and prefer to shop online.  They also place a lot of trust in online reviews and consult them as part of most every purchase they make.  We also learn that the dorm room is a bit of sanctuary for them from the pressures of school, and as such, want it to be as comfortable as possible.  

In a previous post, we introduced the Jobs-to-be-Done (JTBD) tool as a way to collect and better understand the functional, social, and emotional expectations of customers in the course of experiencing a product or service.  Let’s use a hypothetical JTBD interview with customers as a first step in developing our future-state journey in purchasing the space heater.

Step 1 - Awareness (note, we’ll subsequently use these steps to frame our future-state map)
When did you first realize you needed a space heater?
Last October when the weather turned unexpectedly chilly and the heat in the dorms had not yet been turned on.

Where were you when you realized the need for the heater?
I was in a classmate’s dorm room and noticed his heater was on and the room was comfortably warm.  I was struck by how quiet the heater was, as well as its clean and simple design…I thought that this heater would look good in my dorm room.

Step - 2 -  Emotions / Awareness
Did you ask anyone else about their experience with this product / transaction (in person / social media / online reviews)?  Describe this conversation…online / in person…what was the tone of the person(s) you were speaking with?
Yes, I asked my classmate how he liked the heater.  He’d had it for about a year, and said he couldn't be happier.  He particularly liked how it was quiet enough to not be a distraction while studying.  He also mentioned that prior to this heater, he had another brand for short time and returned it because, not only was it noisy, but it was also being recalled because of wiring problem that led to the units catching fire.  I remember reading about how some of those fires occurred in dorm rooms, so I immediately thought about the importance of safety in buying a space heater.

Step 3 - Building the Consideration Set
Tell me about how you went about looking for a space heater.
About a week after talking to my classmate,  I was taking a break from studying and browsing through some websites on my tablet.  I always make it a point to check my weather app…the forecast was for below normal temps over the next week, so it triggered a thought about the space heater.

What did you do next?
I Googled “space heater” and saw an ad from the hardware store on Main Street promoting a sale on a model I wasn’t familiar with.  I searched for this model on Google and then went directly to a link from Amazon.  I like Amazon because it typically has lots of reviews for all of their products.  I tend to trust reviews, especially if there’s a lot of them.  In my mind user reviews are credible because people take the time to convey their actual experiences with a product.  The reviews for the heater from the ad were a bit on the negative side…Amazon always displays comparable products, and that’s where I came across an image of the heater that I had seen in my classmate’s room.  So, I clicked on this model and immediately went to the reviews…they were almost all overwhelmingly positive.

Step 4 - The Purchase / Journey
How did you purchase / undertake the transaction process?

After seeing the model on Amazon, I went to the manufacturer’s  website to look for the location of a retailer close to campus.  I noted an address for a hardware store a few blocks from the dorm, entered on my phone, and decided to go there the next day.  When I arrived at the hardware store, I located the heaters in boxes loaded on a pallet in an aisle.  There were several dozen boxes, not very well organized, with some of them damaged a bit.  That left a bad impression as I wondered whether the store’s carelessness might have damaged the heaters.  I remembered the positive online reviews, so notwithstanding the lousy display, decided to go ahead and purchase one.  I picked a box from the top of the stack that wasn’t damaged, and went to the cashier.  Interestingly, while walking through the store, I noticed that other products were more neatly arranged and some included stands with promotional brochures or monitors running videos of the product.  This impressed me because not only were the sales materials informative, but it also showed that the company cared about how their product is displayed.

Tell me more…why is the display so important to you?
I suppose because it gives me a bit of peace-of-mind knowing that the company cares about how the product is presented…it would seem that they would also care about the quality of their product

Step 5 - Post Transaction / Journey
What happened when you got back to the dorm with your heater?
It was a cold day, so I took out of the box right away and glanced at the instructions.  The heater comes with a filter that I had to install…that was easy, and it was the only set up required.  The instructions were brief and easy to understand, but I couldn’t help notice that the font is really small and bit difficult to read.

Did you begin using the heater right away?
Yes, and almost immediately, I noticed an odd smell…at first I thought the heater might be catching fire, but didn’t see any smoke or flames.  I waited about 20 minutes, and the smell still lingered.  I read through the instructions again, but they weren’t of any help.  I was a bit concerned, so I called the 800 customer service number printed on the instructions.  The service rep came on right away, and proceeded to explain that the smell is normal as it’s associated with the break-in of the new filter.  I felt better after that, but was a bit annoyed that I had to call the service number so quickly.

Did you do anything else after that?
The heater is a bit on the pricey side, so I decided to submit the warranty info. right away while it was still on my mind.  I found the warranty card in the box and filled it out.  Again, the printing on the card is a bit small and the spaces provided for writing in my name and address aren’t very large.  I also was a bit annoyed that I now had to remember to find a mail box to send the card.

In the next post, we’ll use the information from this interview to begin designing a future state purchase experience for our space heater.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Customer Service Trends - 2015

Thought I’d take a break from the ongoing series of posts on journey mapping to summarize my notes on a timely report I recently came across from trendwatching.com on customer service trends for 2015.  Five key trends are identified in the wider context of the following (my comments, where applicable, appear in parenthesis):

  • Great service is increasingly about customer feelings and emotions.  This includes such things as being recognized, listened to, and cared for
  • Globally in 2014, 66% of customers switched brands or business due to poor customer service (a 4% increase over 2013).  82% of these switchers said the brand could have done something to stop them (My note - this talks to the importance of service recovery - see my previous post and identifying a customer’s future purchase intentions...the subject of a future post)

The Five Customer Service Trends

1. Newism - Customers’ Desire For a Constant Stream of New Products and Services
This trend focuses on products and services that come with a Plan B…that is, access, when needed, to an alternative or back-up which overcomes the limitations of the original.  Plan B mitigates the risk of purchasing a new or unfamiliar brand, product or service.  Some examples of Plan B include…
  • Owners of BMW’s e-Car get access to a gasoline powered vehicle when needed (e.g. taking a long drive that exceeds the e-Car’s charge limit).  This eases the “range anxiety” that’s often associated with driving an electric car
  • Two brands could partner with each other to offer a complimentary alternative.  eBay, for example, collaborates with partner brick and mortar stores to offer delivery at that location as opposed to at the customer’s home
2. Video Valets - Provide Web-Enabled Face-to-Face Interaction Between Customers and Service Agents
Examples of Trend #2 are…
  • The Amazon Kindle has a Mayday Button allowing the customer to immediately connect  via video with a service rep. (My note - this feature has security and privacy implications for both the customer and the service rep, so it may not be appropriate in all settings.  Perhaps best when there’s already an existing relationship between the customer and the company representative, as in, for example, between a client and their doctor or financial advisor)
  • The insurance provider, Esurrance, uses an app and mobile phone camera to allow a policy holder the opportunity to transmit images of vehicle damage from an accident directly to the company’s claim center.

3. Enhanced Physical Delivery…More Than Just Functional
In 2014, US e-commerce sales totalled $1.5 trillion…much of these sales took the form of physical products shipped to a customer.  How can value be added to a delivery?
  • The retailer, Jean Online, takes customer delivery to a new level…upon presenting the package to a customer, the courier waits until the customer has finished trying on the jeans.  If the customer is not fully satisfied with quality or fit, the courier takes the jeans back…no questions asked.

4. Using Customer Information in Their Immediate Context
Thirty-six percent of global consumers are willing to share their current location with retailers via the GPS on their mobile phones.  As a result, customers will increasingly expect use of real-time data to shape and enhance the services they require (My Note - some airlines and their travel partners have taken the lead on this by providing apps that provide real-time information on flight status, directions to the baggage carrousel, and remote hotel and rental car check-in).

5. Politeness
In a relationship of equals, demands can go both ways. And that’s why rising numbers of consumers are willing to let brands demand something of them – a little contribution, effort, even pain – in the name of some broader good. 
The implications for customer service? In 2015, smart brands will realize that it’s often other consumers who have the greatest impact on customer experience – good or bad. So they’ll encourage – or even force – every consumer to do their bit when it comes to creating a positive atmosphere and ensuring processes run smoothly.  Examples of how companies are “incentivizing” politeness as part of the customer experience…
  • 54% of New York consumers say it is rude and inappropriate to text, tweet, email or talk on a cellphone during a restaurant meal.  Consequently, some restaurants reward polite patrons with discounts or complimentary dessert and coffee.
  • In the Philippines, McDonalds and Coca-Cola team-up to encourage diners not to use their cell phones while in the common seating area of the restaurant.

There you have it…some key customer experience trends to watch, and build on, during 2015.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Journey Mapping - Capturing Customer Expectations and Designing a Future State Customer Journey - Part 2

Before proceeding to a hypothetical illustration focusing on the development of a future state journey map using the Value Proposition tool, it’s useful to first have an approach for eliciting expectations from customers…that is, their jobs-to-be-done (JTBD).  Recall that JTBD represents those things the customer wants to accomplish in the course of a particular transaction or journey.  These include not only practical or functional accomplishments (e.g. to buy product X), but also the emotional and social expectations that often accompany most transactions.  

The JTBD method is typically used in a narrow sense to help guide the development of tangible products.  However, a key premise of CX is that the experience surrounding the shopping, purchase, and use of  a tangible item plays a critical role in the customer’s likelihood to repurchase and / or recommend.  Consequently, we’ll expand the Value Proposition tool to include those jobs that pertain to both the specific product or service, as well as the accompanying components that comprise the overall journey.  

What follows is a list of potential questions that can be used in customer interviews to assist the identification of the jobs associated with the journey.  In planning these interviews, it’s critically important that the customers selected represent the characteristics of the Persona that we want to better understand in the context of the journey.  So, for example, if our journey focuses on how die-hard fans go about buying tickets and attending their favorite team’s football game, then our interviewees must consist of this type of customer (and not include, for example, casual fans who have only a passing interest in football or the team).  As you’ll see, the following JTBD interview questions are general in nature, and may need to be modified somewhat to reflect a particular journey.  In essence though, the questions (1) should be applicable across a variety of industries, products and transactions.

Step 1 - Needs Awareness…
  • When did you first realize you needed to complete this particular job / transaction?
  • Where were you at the time?
  • What were you trying to do when this happened?

Step 2 - Emotions Awareness…An important but often not recognized component of a journey
  • Did you ask anyone else about their experience with this product / transaction?
    • In person?
    • Through social media / online review forums?
  • Describe this conversation…online / in person…what was the tone of the person(s) you were speaking with?
  • Before you purchased or completed the transaction, did you imagine what the experience would be like?  Describe the experience and your intended outcome.
  • Did you have any anxiety about the experience?  Did you hear something about the experience that made you nervous…what was it, and why did it make you nervous?

Step 3 - Building the Consideration Set
  • Tell me about how you went about looking for the product / service that would solve your problem
  • What kind of other solutions did you try?

Step 4 - The Purchase / Journey
  • When did you purchase / undertake the transaction process?
  • Where were you when you started / finished?
  • What time of day was it?
  • Was anyone else with you?
  • How did you purchase or complete the transaction?
  • Did you buy anything else, or conduct another related or unrelated transaction at the same time?
  • Did you consider any other alternatives…product / service / provider?

Step 5 - Post Transaction / Journey
  • Did you accomplish your objective?
  • Did the product / service solve your problem?
  • How easy was it to complete the transaction?
    • What did you like about it?  What did you dislike?
      • Have you discussed the journey / product with anyone…
      • In person?
      • Posted online…where?
      • What did you say…did you recommend?
      • What thoughts do you have on improving the process?  What would you like to see different?

Over the next couple of posts, we’ll use these tools to develop a hypothetical use case for a future state journey map.

(1) Selected JTBD questions sourced from www.jasonevanish.com

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Journey Mapping - Capturing Customer Expectations and Designing a Future State Customer Journey - Part 1

At this point, we’ve developed a journey map that depicts all of the touchpoints a customer experiences in the course of completing a defined end-to-end transaction.  These touchpoints may include such things as a visit to the company’s website, a call to customer service, a discussion with a sales representative at a retail location, or a review from a third-party website.  To further inform the journey map, we validated the touchpoints with a group of customers representing the persona…that is, the customer type most likely to complete the journey depicted in our map.  In our validation session, we also gleaned the key emotions customers experienced while completing the transaction.  The final portion of our exercise with customers is to identify and capture their expectations in completing the particular transaction, and what they were specifically intending to accomplish.  This is critically important because it will inform our process redesign, or future-state journey map.

The Value Proposition Canvas developed by Alex Osterwalder is a useful framework for identifying and understanding customer expectations.  Using the Jobs-to-be-Done concept developed by Clayton Christiensen and Anthony Ulwick (my Amazon review of Ulwick’s book), our objective is to elicit the functional, social, and emotional items that customers want to achieve when completing a particular transaction or journey.  From what we’ve learned, we can then design a “future state” journey that addresses the shortcomings in our current process, better aligns with customer expectations, and results in an improved experience.  A comprehensive discussion of the Value Proposition Canvas and the Jobs-to-be-Done framework is beyond the scope of this blog, and so in subsequent posts, I’ll focus on the essence of these concepts by using a hypothetical case to illustrate the approach in the context of a journey mapping exercise.

What follows is an overview of the Value Proposition Canvas using extensive references to Alex Osterwalder’s book, Value Proposition Design. As depicted in the diagram below, the Canvas consists of two components…the Customer Profile (i.e. the Persona we identified) and the Value Map  (i.e. in our case, the enhanced touchpoints in our future state customer transaction, or journey map).  Let’s define each component of the canvas, beginning with the Customer Profile:

Customer Jobs
Jobs describe the things your customers are trying to get done (in our case, in the course of completing their journey or transaction).  A customer job could be the tasks they are trying to perform, the problems they are trying to solve, or the needs they are trying to satisfy.  These jobs fall into three categories: Functional, that is, specific tasks to complete or problems to solve (this is the most common job associated with a journey); Social, or jobs that in some way are related to how customers want to be perceived by others; Emotional, that is, jobs where customers seek to experience a specific emotional state such as feeling good, or peace of mind (this is also a common job associated with a journey).

Customer Pains
Pains describe anything that annoys your customer before, during, or after trying to get a job (or journey/transaction) completed.  There are three types of Pains: Undesired Outcomes and Problems…in a journey context, this can be, for example, receiving an incorrect order such as a product or a meal in a restaurant; Obstacles, for example, when a customer can’t speak with a company’s service staff because of prolonged hold times while on the phone; Risks, that is, the potential for things to go wrong as a result of having completed a particular transaction.

Customer Gains
Gains describe the outcomes and benefits customers want after having completed a transaction with the organization.  Some gains are required, expected, or desired by customers, and some would surprise them.  Gains associated with completing a journey include functional utility, social gains, positive emotions, and cost savings.

Now, let’s define the components of the box on the left, the Value Map.

Pain Relievers
In this box, we’ll develop a list of “countermeasures” that we think will eliminate or reduce as many of the Pains as possible that customers experience in the course of a particular journey.  In the context of developing an improved future-state journey, the objective is to address those Pains that matter most to customers.  For example, typical Pain Relievers in the course of a journey may include clear navigation of a website resulting in less time spent completing an online purchase.

Gain Creators
Items in this box include those things that you think will provide the customer with potential value added outcomes as a result of having completed a journey.  An excellent example of a Gain Creator is the personalized book recommendations Amazon generates for its customers.  These recommendations, based on a customer’s purchase history, are a win-win for the customer and the company…the customer is made aware of potential new titles of interest, and Amazon realizes potential new sales.

In the next couple of posts, we’ll walk through a hypothetical future-state journey mapping exercise using the Value Proposition canvas as guide to developing an improved customer experience.