Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Learn From the Rise and Fall of Uber's Customer Experience

Source: Pexels
For a private company, we sure know a lot about Uber. We know its meteoric rise to become the most valuable "unicorn" in the world. We know its well-publicized issues with corporate culture. We know Uber has a tremendous void in leadership at the moment, with no CEO, COO, CFO, or CMO. And we know the company lost $2.8 billion last year and added another $708 million of losses in the first quarter of this year.

It is no secret that Uber is a troubled company. Of course, the story of this company is far from complete. It still is sitting on piles of cash, has a lot of talent, and retains many customers. But gone are the days when the word "Uber" conjured up overwhelmingly positive sentiment about the service and every other startup positioned itself as "the Uber of..." a different vertical.

Even without knowing the end to this tale, the explosive growth and subsequent trials of Uber provide a way for us to recognize the power and complexity of customer experience (CX). At a time when many leaders think CX means better marketing content, offering more emotive customer care, or diminishing friction within processes, Uber demonstrates that CX is about all that and much more.

Gartner defines customer experience management as “the practice of designing and reacting to customer interactions to meet or exceed customer expectations and, thus, increase customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy." That's our side of the equation as business and marketing leaders--how do we manage our organizations to craft strong, closer, resilient, mutually beneficial relationships with customers.

Gartner further defines customer experience as "the customer’s perceptions and related feelings caused by the one-off and cumulative effect of interactions with a supplier’s employees, systems, channels or products." That is the customer's side of the equation--i.e., the important side. It is what our prospects and customers think, feel, and say about the brand as a result of their every interaction.

With these definitions in mind, we can see how Uber rose from a scrappy, small startup to a mammoth company that swamped an established traditional industry in a matter of a few years. And we can also see how the company's well-known PR issues are now rocking the company, causing people to delete the app, and putting Uber's enormous valuation at risk.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Is Your Customer Experience Program Built to Fail?

Source: Ej Agumbay, Unsplash.com
My peers and I on the Gartner for Marketing Leaders team are planning a new primary research study to learn how marketers are approaching, measuring and executing their customer experience (CX) management programs. One of the challenges we have had to address is how to distinguish those professionals who lead or are involved with CX as a disciplined and strategic practice versus those who merely execute tactics to improve customer experiences. The difference is one that is lost on many business leaders, and it is the reason so many CX programs grapple to deliver demonstrable results.

Put simply, if we ask business executives, "are you involved with efforts to improve customer experience?," who wouldn't answer in the affirmative? Everyone from the call center representative to the product manager to the content marketing leader to the CMO would claim they are enriching customer experiences. But how many of those would be involved in or leading a methodical, strategic practice to understand, define and improve their brands' CX? Customer experience management is not defined by intentions or even a few choice actions but by the commitment to an analytical, deliberate, organized CX approach.

A metaphor may help to explain what I mean. If I volunteer to speak in front of a classroom for an organization like Junior Achievement (a wonderful experience I recommend for every professional, by the way), does that make me a teacher? No, the fact I give an hour a week to help students, while being a positive contribution, is very different from being a teacher. Teaching is a full-time job and a discipline that includes processes like developing curricula, assigning and documenting grades, meeting with parents, and creating a safe and disciplined learning environment. Contributing in the classroom is not the same as being a teacher, and in fact, if you volunteer for JA, one thing you'll learn is how your role in the classroom contrasts with the teacher's.

Likewise, wanting to improve the customer experience and even acting to improve it are not the same as executing a systematic, organized CX program. Changing an app to be more usable or authoring content to answer customer questions is no more proof of organized customer experience management than is speaking to students a determining factor of teaching. CX is not defined by intentions and actions but by processes, scope, focus, data, goals, and metrics. Many CX efforts and programs are not built to succeed because they neglect to recognize that difference.

Is your CX program built to succeed or to fail? That is not a simple question with a simple answer, but I will provide a list of attributes that are commonly associated with CX programs that tend to struggle.  To see this list and read my entire blog post, please visit my Gartner blog. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Get the Most From the Actual Voice of the Customer

Source: Jason Rosewell, Unsplash.com
Voice of the Customer (VoC) programs collect direct, indirect and inferred data about your customers so you can better understand your product, services, and experiences from the customers' perspective. This is what makes VoC data so different (and so valuable) from most, if not all, of the other data your organization collects--this data isn't about your campaigns, your sites, your apps, and your transactions but about the customer's feelings, sentiment, and perceptions.

Analyzed appropriately, VoC data illuminates what customers care about, how they make decisions, how they feel about your products and services, their level of satisfaction and loyalty, what drives dissatisfaction with your brand, and other attributes that describe your brand's relationship with its customers. This information can be distributed widely around the organization to help drive tactical decisions, can inform your personas and journey maps to support strategic initiatives, and can help your firm identify promoters for advocacy programs and detractors for recovery and retention efforts.

But one of the most powerful (and simple) uses of VoC data is simply to let the actual voice of the customer be heard throughout the organization. I'm not talking about aggregate, quantitative data that provides logical support for decisions but instead the individual and qualitative feedback shared by your customers--their actual words and sentiment.

The real voice of the customer may come to your company in a variety of ways, including comments contained in open-ended survey questions, tweets and posts in social media, complaint emails and letters sent to your business and the call recordings or text transcripts of customer care interactions. Collecting and sharing customer verbatims can enhance your customer experience and customer-centricity efforts.  Charts and tables of NPS and sentiment data have their place, but they cannot capture the attention, compassion, and emotions of your leaders and employees in the same way as the gratitude, anger, frustration and desire contained within your customers' feedback.

One of my clients spent a year trying to secure approval from leadership for the budget to correct a particular customer experience issue. None of her data, diagrams, and spreadsheets created enough attention or care to drive action--until she played a two-minute clip of a customer service call. That call, brimming with the customer's rage and frustration and employee's inability to resolve the issue, made the difference. "That two minutes felt like two hours as our leaders heard the failings of our process," she told me, "but that two-minute call did more to gain the approval I needed than a hundred pages of data."

To learn more about the value of the genuine voice of the customer, the business language issues that prevent our companies from being more customer centric and examples of ways to disseminate customer verbatims to employees and leaders, please read the complete post on my Gartner blog.