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Joseph's Blog

So Many Customer Experience Lessons – So Little Time!

customer experience lessons

I once wrote that to be joyful we must capture the natural occurring humor of reality. Extrapolating the idea of seizing natural occurring opportunities, I’m a fan of gleaning customer experience lessons from news headlines.

Here are three quick examples of customer experience lessons just waiting to be plucked from recent news stories:

  • Only one Blockbuster Video store remains
  • Papa John’s Pizza removes likeness of the company’s founder in the aftermath of his use of a racially offensive word
  • Voice search is on the rise

Blockbuster Video

I am fortunate to have a client in the Bend, Oregon area and I’m looking forward to an upcoming visit there during which I plan to take a picture in front of the last Blockbuster Video store in the Continental United States (there are two other stores in Alaska).

A chain of 9,000 stores in 2004 has been reduced to a brand with three brick and mortar locations.

I am really not sure why I want to take a picture in front of the Blockbuster in Bend. Maybe there is some nostalgia to the value Blockbuster once brought to the life of my family.

That value proposition was framed around my family’s ability to stop into our local store (strategically located next to a supermarket). My children would look for their favorite movies and video games.

As parents, we would glance at the upcoming release boards and hope that the movie we wanted to watch was still in stock. Invariably, we would select a mix of movies and games, make an impulse buy of popcorn or candy, and be warned at checkout about the variable return dates of the products we selected and the importance of rewinding our VHS tapes.

For each benefit we enjoyed from Blockbuster, we found in very short order, that the pain incurred was monumental.

Like the time we were told we couldn’t check out any more items until we paid a $220 fine for a video game my son had not returned (the replacement cost of the game was 25% of the fine) or those times we had to rush back to Blockbuster to avoid yet another fine.

It is easy to see how Netflix and other streaming services evolved in ways that eviscerated the once mighty Blockbuster. 

What is often harder to identify are the elements of Blockbuster that live in our own business. For example, where do we cling to sales processes or service delivery that produces unnecessary pain for our customers?

How do we position our businesses to be less vulnerable to technologies that will make our products or services irrelevant?

Papa John’s Pizza

Once upon a time, people believed that what someone said in their personal life or in certain contexts would not travel back to business life. That may have been true decades ago but with mobile communication and digital technology every word we say matters to our future in business.

Our words shape the perspective of existing customers as well as prospects.

Whether uttered on social media (e.g., Roseanne Barr) or in a seemingly private conference call with a marketing firm (e.g., John Schnatter – founder of Papa Johns) every utterance matters. The Papa John’s customer experience lesson requires us to ask where and how might I communicate a thought or feeling in a way that will be hurtful, divisive or destructive to my brand?

How do I avoid falling into the trap of believing that what I say in one context won’t have an impact back to current or future business?

Voice Search

This week while reading PR Daily I ran across an article on the growth of voice search and how to optimize your brand to respond to this trend.

Bruce Gannon’s article synopsizes an infographic crafted last year by the SEO Tribunal (a group that evaluates SEO companies). That infographic, 106 Quick and Fascinating Voice Search Facts and Stats, is an amazing resource on the emergence of people asking voice-activated assistants like Alexa or Siri to search the internet for them.

Here are some of the key things to learn from emerging information on the phenomena:

  • 325 million people are searching through the internet using voice search
  • 20% of Google searches are done through voice search with 95% accuracy of answers
  • Voice search is used most often when a person is driving
  • More than 35% of Millennials use voice search compared to 10% of Baby Boomers
  • Since voice search can understand more than 10-word sentences, SEO may be affected by natural language, not just keywords

What does voice search teach us from a customer experience perspective?

It signals the power of questions and the importance of thinking about the questions people maybe be verbalizing to access services such as ours.

Okay, this blog is long because there is always so many teachable lessons and so little time!

If you would like to spend some time talking about what you are learning, or what you would like to learn, about the customer experience in your business, please contact us, and I will squeeze out some time to chat with you.


Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies. Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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Optimal Customer Journey Road Map [Infographic]

customer journey map

 

 


Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies. Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

++ Want to receive exclusive content on how you can deliver extraordinary, memorable, and profitable experiences? Sign up for The Michelli Experience newsletter.

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From Customer Journey Map to an Optimal Customer Journey Road Map

customer journey map

In last week’s blog, I talked about how customer journey mapping has gained widespread acceptance and how to get maximum value out of efforts to depict perceptions of customers across interactions with your brand. I also noted four elements necessary to effectively guide your customer experience design efforts and suggested that the following four considerations build on themselves:

  • Validate the Map
  • Activate the Map
  • Think Map(s) not Map
  • Create a Transformational Map to Go Beyond Incremental Improvements

In that blog, I took on the first two elements from the list above (Validate the Map and Activate the Map) suggesting that if a customer journey map is not validated by the input of customers it is little more than a hypothetical draft of the customer journey.

Additionally, I suggest that maps are only good if people know how to read and use them. Team members must be trained on the elements of a customer journey map and guided on how to recommend solutions inspired by the map so that those suggestions can be considered for implementation.

This week I will take on the last two components from the list above – Think Map(s) not Map and Create a Transformational Map to Go Beyond Incremental Improvements.

Map(s) not Map

Wouldn’t it be great if everyone wore a size seven shoe or if every student learned in exactly the same way? Well, maybe it would be if you were a shoe manufacturer or someone who develops educational materials but, from my perspective, it is the diversity of human needs that makes business both rewarding and daunting.

When it comes to customer journey mapping, one size certainly doesn’t fit all. 

Conversely, you can’t map every individual nuance of every customer and expect to garner actionable insights. The art of this process comes in creating a core journey map with a sufficient yet manageable set of segmented variations.

The Pareto Principle (frequently referred to as the 80/20 rule) is often applied to business. It states that 80% of effects come from 20% of causes. While not perfectly applied to every business situation the Pareto Principle would imply 80% of business revenue comes from 20% of customers. Your business may or may not fit this rule, but it is likely that certain customer segments generate a disproportionate amount of your revenue, while other segments make marginal contributions. 

Effective mapping involves having enough variations to address the need states of key customer segments. 

For example, it would be foolish for a hotel to only map the journey of leisure travelers if it derives sizable revenue from business travelers as well. Moreover, of all the business traveler types (e.g., people on corporate accounts, budget buyers, high volume users, luxury executive travelers, etc.) there may be only one or two sub-segments for which journey mapping variations are warranted.

Transformational Maps

As is often the case, any strength can also manifest as a weakness. A strength of customer journey mapping is how this approach shifts perspective on existing interactions from the company’s vantage point to the perspective of the customer. A weakness of the process is that most recommended improvements represent incremental advancements as opposed to disruptive breakthroughs.

If a decade or so ago Blockbuster Video would have mapped their customer journey, leaders might have addressed ways to reduce late fees but likely would not have seen the need to liquidate real estate assets to fund technologies for an optimal future state where movies would be delivered digitally.

At the risk of tritely quoting the legendary hockey player Wayne Gretzky (when he shared, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”) traditional customer journey mapping processes often focus on where a business has been as opposed to how customers will want to receive services in the future.

To supplement, customer journey mapping, we help our clients through a process we refer to as Future Customer Experience visioning.

This visioning approach looks at where customers are moving and how customers will likely want to experience future journeys with your brand.

However, you pursue customer journey mapping it is important to remember that it is but one tool in a toolbox of competencies needed to achieve customer-centric success. Like all tools and skills, customer journey mapping and future customer experience visioning processes strengthen competencies with practice and time.

Wherever you are on your journey, we’re glad to assist you with next steps. For a complimentary consultation, please contact Patti and she will set-up a time for us to talk.


Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies. Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

++ Want to receive exclusive content on how you can deliver extraordinary, memorable, and profitable experiences? Sign up for The Michelli Experience newsletter.

Customer Journey Mapping [Infographic]

customer journey mapping

 


Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies. Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

++ Want to receive exclusive content on how you can deliver extraordinary, memorable, and profitable experiences? Sign up for The Michelli Experience newsletter.

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Customer Journey Mapping and the Road Beyond

customer journey mapping

Years ago, it was much harder to convince a client to do a customer journey map.

In those days, many leaders were willing to map interaction points with customers in order to drive efficiency or reduce waste. When customer experience designers like myself would suggest that touchpoint maps need to be upgraded to customer journey maps we often encountered a lot of blank stares.  We would do our best to make a compelling argument that touchpoints must be examined from the perspective of the needs and perceptions of customers.

Over time, customer journey mapping has become a wildly accepted tool, and leaders are far more willing to leverage their power; particularly, when given guidance on how to construct a map that will offer visibility to improvements across people, process, and technology.

While customer journey mapping is popular today, I’ve often seen companies benefit from four strategies to garner more value from mapping efforts. I’ll list these four approaches below and discuss two of them this week and the other two in next week’s blog.

Four Strategies for Customer Journey Mapping

These strategies build on one another:

  • Validate the Map
  • Activate the Map
  • Think Map(s) not Map
  • Create a Transformation Map to Go Beyond Incremental Improvements

Validate the Map

The beauty of customer journey mapping is that the process increases your teams’ awareness of what customers are thinking, feeling, seeing, doing, wanting and needing across their interactions with your company.

Customer journey mapping often starts with leaders and team members learning about a customer persona and then thinking about that persona’s experience across the end-to-end brand journey. For some businesses, the process stops there.

The map is developed based on what leader and team members hypothesize about a customer group’s needs. In many cases, leaders never actually test the hypotheses reflected in their map. They fail to ask customers if the stages, peak moments, and pain points reflected in the map actually comport with what customers think, feel, see, do, want and need.

Typically, I consider maps created without customer input to be drafts that can only be validated by the very customers whose journeys you are seeking to depict.

Activate the Map

I have seen some beautiful customer journey maps in my day. In fact, some are so intricate that you could explore them for hours.

Of course, few people in a company have that kind of time to savor the intricacies of a map. Team members are being paid to produce results for customers, not look at depictions of a customer experience. That is where activation comes in.

Activation often involves:

  1. Training on the components of the map
  2. Assisting team members to view the map as an evolving customer journey
  3. Delineation of tools for using the map to innovate solutions in keeping with the desired customer experience and brand character
  4. Ways to have innovative ideas evaluated and implemented across the enterprise
  5. A consistent celebration of solutions that reduce/remove pain points, streamline the customer experience, and/or enhance positive emotions for customers

Next week I will talk about how a singular or fixed customer journey map fails to appreciate the fluidity of customer preferences as well as how core customer segments differ across their journeys. I will also address the fact that customer journey mapping often explores how customers experience existing interaction points and look for ways to improve on those existing elements.

What the journey mapping process often fails to achieve is the transformative inquiry into what customers would want if you built interactions from scratch. We will dive into all of that in more detail next week.

For now, I have three questions for you:

  • Are you mapping interactions from your business’ perspective or from the vantage point of the customer journey?
  • If you have invested in mapping the customer journey, have you validated your map by seeking feedback from customers?
  • What recent breakthroughs and innovations have come from your mapping efforts?

I have been fortunate to watch clients make improvements in customer interactions that show demonstrable impact on customer loyalty and referrals. I have also seen leaders leverage customer journey maps to remove unnecessary steps, drive seamless interactions, and delight customers.

Unfortunately, I’ve also been hired by leaders who had prior bad experiences designing maps that were little more than beautiful hypotheses of what customer might have felt about a journey that those leaders couldn’t seem to improve.

Hopefully, you will take needed actions to assure your company will fall into the effective customer mapping group!

Look for next week’s blog installment, but in the meantime, if we can help you build an effective customer journey map, please contact Patti and she will set-up a time for us to talk.


Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies. Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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The Role of Humor in Customer Experience

customer experience

 

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Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies. Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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No Joke! The Role of Humor in Customer Experience

Isn’t it remarkable how things we learn at one point in our life come back to us as welcome gifts later?

Early in my career, I wrote a book about helping children develop humor skills (Humor, Play and Laughter – Stress-proofing life with your kids). I became a student on the topic because I wanted my children to learn how to constructively use humor to take themselves and the world around them less seriously. More importantly, I wanted them to develop an ability to manage frustration and diffuse conflict.

Humor and Customer Experience

Recently, while consulting for a customer experience client, I had someone ask me how to coach a front-line service professional not to use humor as a weapon against customers.

That request came days after the television comedienne, Rosanne Barr, had her recent show canceled after posting a racially charged tweet which she later defended by saying “I’m not a racist, just an idiot who made a bad joke.

If those signs from the universe weren’t enough to spark this blog, I subsequently watched a customer experience professional at another business masterfully use humor to de-escalate a customer complaint.

The topic for this week, thus, became irrepressible.

How and when should we use humor to engage customers?

My answer is essentially the same as the one I offered to fellow parents when it came to helping children master the complexities of humor and social interaction. Please understand I am not comparing service professionals to children. I am simply saying that all of us must continue to learn humor skills.

Tips for the Journey

Here are a few distinctions and tips, that I hope you will find helpful as it relates to the use of humor in customer care:

  • Unlike the phrase “a sense of humor.” I don’t view humor to be a sense (it is not akin to taste, touch, smell, or sight).  Humor is a way of viewing a situation and a toolkit for shifting perspective.
  • Like any tool, humor can be used constructively or destructively. It can create or destroy.
  • From a constructive perspective humor can:
    1. Minimize distorted perceptions of danger
    2. Help manage anger, thereby reducing conflict
    3. Provide breathing room for constructive decision-making
    4. Assist in communicating difficult feelings
    5. Enhance feelings of well-being
    6. Augment creativity
    7. Strengthen social relationships
    8. Abate the physical impact of stress
    9. Create an engage work environment
  • Humor skills can be learned. Comedians study the art of humor and use techniques which I outlined in Humor, Play, and Laughter (such as the set-up, exaggeration, and good news/bad news).
  • Stress activates the immune system. Humor requires us to activate our “amuse system” by asking “how might I find amusement in this situation?”.  Put differently, Mark Twain once noted: “Humor is tragedy plus time.”   For me, the opportunity comes in finding the naturally occurring humor of reality and enjoying it now.
  • Context and limits are required to be effective in the use of humor. Here are a few guidelines to consider:
    1. Use self-accepting humor (not self-effacing humor or “jokes” directed AT others).
    2. Situation and timing matter (when in doubt “keep the amusement” inside your head).

Humor, Customer Experience, and EQ

I have come to believe that the effective use of humor is a sign of emotional intelligence.  It reflects the ability to connect with others, add levity, and redirect interactions in a positive way. Ineffective humor, by contrast, has the potential to exclude and injure others.

Customer interactions can be highly stressful, and humor can be a way to cope with negative thoughts internally. Moreover, it can be a nuanced competency to partner with the customers and move them in the direction of a more productive interaction.

If your goal is to deliver extraordinary experiences, you should welcome and develop the humor skills of your team members so they can get your customer to laugh with them, as opposed to having either your customers or your team members be laughed at.


Sharing and Giveaway

We welcome your stories of effective humor use (either by your team or in situations where you were the customer).  Please send those stories to kelly@josephmichelli.com and we’ll pass them along and send a copy of Humor, Play, and Laughter randomly to some of those contributors.


Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies. Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

++ Want to receive exclusive content on how you can deliver extraordinary, memorable, and profitable experiences? Sign up for The Michelli Experience newsletter.

Abundantly Moving Beyond Business Fear {Infographic}

 


Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies. Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

++ Want to receive exclusive content on how you can deliver extraordinary, memorable, and profitable experiences? Sign up for The Michelli Experience newsletter.

Abundantly Moving Beyond Business Fear

Business Fear: Afraid of Being a Loving Business?

Long ago I embraced an idea that has had a profound positive effect on my business and, in turn, has helped me be more effective in the way I guide customer experience and leadership efforts on behalf my clients. It is a simple distinction found in a variety of faith traditions including Buddhism, Christianity, and even secular spirituality (e.g., A Course in Miracles).

The idea is that there are two diametrically opposed forces continually at play in our personal and business lives. Those forces are love and fear.

What’s Love Got to Do With Business

Before you question what love has to do with business and more specifically what it has to do with customer centricity and customer experience. Let me defer to a definition of love provided by an esteemed business academician, Peter Senge (author of the landmark book The Fifth Discipline – The  Art and Practice of the Learning Organization and a professor of business at MIT). From Senge’s perspective, love is demonstrated “concern for the growth and development” of those you serve. In essence, customer love equals an abiding commitment (shown through action) to helping customers meet their wants, needs, and desires. I abbreviate this further to:

Customer Love Means Helping Customers Achieve Success

The beauty of this definition is that it applies equally to companies that serve other businesses (B2B) as well as those that serve consumers (B2C).

Abundance or Shortage

Loving businesses operate from the perspective of abundance. Leaders in these companies assume fundamental good in others and promote the idea that “value creation begets reciprocal if not greater value.” Contrast this to fear-based businesses which assume that people typically can’t be trusted and that “inputs and outputs must be vigilantly monitored to assure profits are not lost.”

Like all distinctions, extremes on the continuum are typically ill-advised. Being loving toward customers who overtly and repeatedly abuse your efforts is unwise. Fortunately, in my experience, those types of customers are relatively few in comparison to those who appreciate efforts to help them meet and exceed their needs.

Over the years, I’ve watched the transformative power of loving on customers as opposed to fearing them.

In my book Leading the Starbucks Way, I gave an example of what happens when you love customers through actions taken to assure their success. You are likely aware Starbucks has come to guarantee happiness every time a drink is prepared. That guarantee is referred to as the barista (coffee preparer in Starbucks parlance) promise. The barista promise goes like this:

“We want you to be completely satisfied. If for any reason you are not satisfied with your purchase, you may return it for a replacement or refund of the purchase price.”

If you are a fear-based business, you wouldn’t dare offer such a promise because invariably it will be abused by customers and result in unnecessary losses. If you are love-driven, you care about customer success. In this case, you want to make sure the beverage delivered to the customer is exactly what they hoped for when they decided to steer their car toward your business.

In my book, I share a story of how the barista promise was “abused.” Then again was it?

John Hargrave, founder of the humor site zug.com and author of Sir John Hargrave’s Mischief Maker’s Manual, decided to put the Starbucks promise to the test. John writes, “But would Starbucks really replace anything? To find out, I decided to buy the most perishable item on the menu, keep it in my garage for several weeks, then attempt to exchange it.”

While I will spare you the details concerning the condition of the cup at the point when John elected to return it, suffice it to say that John had to place the residual components of the cup in a plastic container. John adds, “I entered the Starbucks, feeling faint from the smell, and handed the Tupperware container to the barista. ‘Could I get a replacement?’ I asked, ‘I think this one has turned.’”

According to John, after the barista got past his confusion as to what he had been handed, the barista said, “‘All right, man. No problem.’ He tossed the drink in the trash, then added, ‘But . . . aaaahhhhhhhh!!’ He moaned, his eyes watering, as the Starbucks filled with the stink of the drink. Another barista quickly ran over to bag the trash, then carried it outside, retching…But I have to say: they didn’t even ask to see the receipt. They made me up a new Steamy Creamy, and served it with a smile.

I suspect the way you view the outcome of the John Hargrave story depends largely on your love/abundance vs. fear/shortage perspective. On the one hand, the story proves exactly why someone should distrust customers. On the other hand, it demonstrates the amazing publicity one gets when businesses do the right thing even in unexpected situations. Getting back to not adhering to extremism, I assume that if John Hargrave made a habit of returning drinks to Starbucks in similar conditions, a less loving response would ultimately need to be taken.

It’s Your Choice

Whether it is generous return policies crafted at companies I’ve worked with and written about like Zappos (The Zappos Experience) or extra mile service at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company (the source for my book The New Gold Standard), I believe in abundance and customer love! For me, it’s better to assume the best in customers and manage for the exceptions than to run a business that operates inversely – how about for you?

If you would like to take some time to talk about developing opportunities like the barista promise to demonstrate your concern for the growth and development of your customers, please contact jessica@josephmichelli.com and she will set-up a time for us to chat.

_________________________________________________________________

Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies. Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

++ Want to receive exclusive content on how you can deliver extraordinary, memorable, and profitable experiences? Sign up for The Michelli Experience newsletter.

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Howard Schultz: A Leader, A Teacher, and An Inspiration {Infographic}

 

_________________________________________________________________

Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies. Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

++ Want to receive exclusive content on how you can deliver extraordinary, memorable, and profitable experiences? Sign up for The Michelli Experience newsletter.