Apr

24

2014

Managing the “Cliff of Dissatisfaction”

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Many times clients tell us “we heard customers complaining about this problem, so we fixed it and saw no discernable change in customer satisfaction or loyalty. Why is that?” It is a fair question and of course, a frustrating dilemma to have to manage, especially if the fix cost operational dollars that need to be defended. The answer however is straightforward. Across the many touchpoints in a typical customer experience, there are lots of things that contribute to dissatisfaction but are not necessarily things that contribute to satisfaction and loyalty. Not delivering them at a threshold level may create an unhappy customer, but delivering them at a high level of performance may not create loyalty. The concept of the “Cliff of Dissatisfaction” helps an organization understand, how much we need to perform on a certain aspect of the experience that still delivers happy customers while  avoiding creating a dissatisfied customer, but stops us from over-investing in things that customers’ don’t value as much as other things. The “cliff” defines the performance standard that when we fall below, no matter what we do, returning the customer to a happier state is unlikely. So what about your organization? Do you know where the “cliffs of dissatisfaction” are? Do you manage them as carefully as those loyalty drivers that predict revenue growth? Something to consider! Watch the cliff!

May

13

2013

When is an app more than an app? Three ideas for integrating the mobile experience into the customer experience.

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The Apple App Store is about to hit 50 Billion App downloads. That is a lot of apps. We all have our favorites. Personally GateGuru has changed my experience cruising through the country’s airports forever. But building mobile experiences into the customer experience is not as straightforward as it may seem. As one executive said to me recently when asked if he had a mobile strategy: ” Actually, I think I have eleven.” The train has left the station, and organizations have jumped into launching apps that range some simply creating a mobile version of their website to designing powerful tool to enable customers to get the most out of the experience. However, latter scenario is pretty much the exception over the norm. So here is idea number 1 for moving the odds in your favor: Don’t just mobilize your website. More organizations should heed the advice of co-authors Frank Bentley and Edward Barrett who write in Building Mobile Experiences: “Context sensing. Media capture. Social connecting. The mobile experience is defined by these unique and fluidly integrated processes.” Clearly, mobile devices, whether a smartphone (or a pair of smart glasses) represent a fundamentally different opportunity than the guidelines that have governed web design. For example, great mobile apps not only recognize where the users is located, they understand the context of what that location means for the user depending on time of day, location relative to other places or events. Idea number 2: The best app in the world is irrelevant if your customer doesn’t download it. We see this a plague in many organizations. A lot of thought goes into the design of a mobile app, but not a lot has been given to how to get on the customers’ device. New Wi-Fi technologies using customer auto-detection provide a solution to this issue that are worth exploring. Regardless, somewhere in the design of the experience, carefully thinking through how the customer will find it unavoidable to download your app matters. Idea number 3: Remember it is still about impacting customer behavior. The point of your business isn’t to win the race of the most downloads. I am thinking it has more to do with things like increasing spend per visit or same store sales. The mobile experience and the customer experience are not separate things. There is just the customer experience. The question is, does your mobile strategy make it richer, more inviting and more convenient for customers to demonstrate those desired behaviors? Here is a hint, if you have eleven mobile strategies, my thinking is maybe not.

Jun

17

2012

Myth Busting—Growing Customer Satisfaction Requires Spending More on Customer Service

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True or false?

Answer: False. For example, PrairieStone Pharmacy, a chain of micro-pharmacies in Minneapolis, has gone to great lengths to make owners of its customers and its employees at far lower operating costs than their much larger competitors. How? Well, it is the elegant combination of many reinforcing operating activities. First of all, they are always located in a supermarket where their target customer known as “Heather” already shops—reducing marketing costs. Next, PrairieStone has literally turned the typical pharmacy on its side by taking advantage of high ceilings and installing 14-foot drug storage carrousels, thereby reducing the footprint of its shops to 413 square feet, about a third of the typical pharmacy. Third, they install high speed bar coding technology to deliver approximately 30% more prescriptions with fewer, happier employees than in a conventional pharmacy—thus reducing labor costs. The net? Lower operating costs, a better customer experience, and 100% accuracy in prescriptions. Katie Kelly, a Pharmacy Manager for PrairieStone, told us: “I am forming relationships with patients. I know them by their first name. They build a trusting relationship with you. You know what medications they are taking. Having time to talk to patients about their medications is the best thing about working at PrairieStone.”

Growing customer satisfaction does not necessarily mean growing costs. It means leveraging more value for customers over costs, something that the firms in our study seem to do carefully and with a deep knowledge of what customers truly care about.

Jun

15

2012

Gaming and Learning: Flash in the Pan or the Real Deal?

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We were speakers and exhibitors at the American Society for Training & Development International Conference this year and it was a great week. The buzz was all about the gamification of learning. It seems like Four Square and Yammer have more to do with learning these days than they do selling discounted burritos and corporate portals. So is it just a fad? Is this just another set of technology tools that e-learning designers are adding to the technology buffet for the sake of dazzling the learner?   Not a chance. Embedding social tools and gaming strategy into blended learning designs provides the opportunity to not just improve learner retention but, more importantly, to improve the quality of learning application for both individuals and teams. Social tools and gaming provide the path to the “last mile” from learning to performance improvement. They help us simply and efficiently design in collaboration and recognition into the learners’ experience in such a way that the impact from introducing new tools and concepts can be realized in days rather than months.   This is the real deal. If you are not considering how to incorporate these tools into your blended learning solutions, then you are not in the game. (Pun totally intended.)

Jun

5

2012

Why Mobile Matters to Retail Experience Design

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Let’s get past the obvious on this. A recent Nielsen study reported that half of all mobile consumers indicated that they “frequently use their smart phones while shopping.” A year from now that number will easily surpass 70%. Amazon’s mobile app alone has fundamentally changed the challenge for every retailer in the country that has moved from delivering a shopping to a merely display experience. So the obvious argument for why mobile is a central platform for any retail experience design is the impact it can have on four critical measures for every retailer: traffic, conversion, units per sale, and %IMU (Initial Mark Up). How? From location-based messaging to shortening payment transactions, mobile can drive some or all of these performance measures. Less obvious is the way mobile can fundamentally build more trust and long-term loyalty with customers because the overall customer experience becomes so valuable to them. Charlotte Beers, the former Chairman of Ogilvy & Mather, once said “The truth is, what makes a brand powerful is the emotional involvement of customers.” A more strategic, intentional application of mobile with Ms. Beer’s wise council as your beacon can deliver exactly that: the emotional involvement of customers.

 

Because THAT is the point.

Mar

12

2012

10 Years Since Managing the Customer Experience

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Back in 2002 Shaun Smith and I wrote in Managing the Customer Experience about the importance of “triad power”: that is, the integration of Marketing, Operations, and HR working together to deliver the customer experience. Ten years later I am stunned by how little progress many organizations have made at connecting these dots. It is no wonder companies like American Airlines have filed for bankruptcy protection given how deep I suspect the crevasses are between these three functions. American’s website tells the customer that “We continue our focus on providing exceptional service and amenities in order to provide an enjoyable, comfortable, and convenient experience on our airline.” Really? Have any of their Marketing team that write this copy ever flown on their own airline? Yesterday I landed in Boston and got off a “red eye” Virgin flight from San Francisco, hoping to get to the Admiral’s Club to have a quick shower before getting on my next flight to Toronto on Porter Airlines. The terminal security supervisor advised that I needed American to give me a gate pass to get into the necessary gate area. When I asked the American Airlines ticket counter representative for the pass she looked at me as if I had asked for a copy of the Magna Carta. She had no idea what I was talking about and was quite sure that would be impossible. I had to zip over to Porter in Terminal E to get a boarding pass and when I finally reached the Admiral’s Club back in Terminal B, the experience didn’t get much better. I made my flight with about 5 seconds to spare. Was this a one-time bad experience that you could forgive because no company is perfect? I don’t think so. I have flown American quite regularly for some time. I am even a Platinum Sapphire Advantage Member. To me, they are the extreme example of Operations, HR, and Marketing living in separate worlds, with separate goals, separate measures, and separate understandings of what the customer experience is really like.

 

And if I am wrong, then how do you explain it?

Mar

12

2012

The Brutal Truth About Employee Engagement

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When my colleagues and I wrote The Ownership Quotient in 2008, the one thing we were most impressed with from the companies in our study wasn’t just the rankings many of them achieved in FORTUNE’s Best Places to Work List—it was the degree to which leaders in these companies understood that employee engagement wasn’t a noun, but a verb. It wasn’t a score, it was a leadership accountability. It wasn’t a buzzword, it was the final word—on whether they were truly competitive or not. Leaders at companies like Wegmans, SAS, and Rackspace believe deeply that the job design, HR policies, work environment, and HR systems that they put in place for employees create the capacity for the organization to serve customers better than their competitors and, as a result, they will win more business.

To be honest, other leaders that we work with in other firms see employee engagement as a survey result to manage to. The goal is to increase the score from last year. The problem with this sort of focus is that it is a bit like a diet: If all that matters is to get 10 or 20 pounds off, you can take some pretty unhealthy paths to achieve that. You can take those nasty diet pills that fool your stomach into thinking it is full or you can enlist any number of techniques that avoid the two things that actually work: healthy eating and exercise. And you can be sure the message gets through the management ranks quickly: “We have to get this score up or else!” I will let the reader speculate what sort of aberrant behavior that sort of message can elicit from managers.

Companies that make FORTUNE’s Best Places to Work List certainly appreciate the recognition. But our experience in working with several of them would suggest that getting a high employee engagement score wasn’t their goal. Doing the hard work needed to establish a work environment that attracts and retains the top talent in their industry is what they have focused on and continuously improved on over time.

The scoreboard confirms that Roger Federer has won more Grand Slam Tennis titles than anyone. But I guarantee you he would say he won them by watching the ball, not the scoreboard.

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