All posts by cbuehrens

The difference between Customer Experience and Customer Service

Great customer experiences come from companies where fantastic customer service is paramount. Yet, customer experience and customer service are two totally different disciplines. Do you know what the difference is? Many people, in hearing the term “Customer Experience”, assume it is just a different term for Customer Service. But, it is so much more.

While successful customer experience companies certainly have excellence in customer service at their core, customer service is most likely a fraction of your customer’s total experiences with your company.  (Unless, of course, customer service is the only product you offer, in  which case it would be a majority.) In other words, customer service is one of many offerings that your customers experience, in a long chain of experiences, with your company.

In fact, customer service may be what you provide to help ease the pain of an otherwise poor customer experience! The reality is that, in many cases, your customer may not even experience customer service at all if everything goes right!

Happy R.A.V.I.N.G. Customers!

In my book, Happy R.A.V.I.N.G. Customers!, you’ll learn about to elevate the experiences your customers are having with your company.  “Chapter 7. N =  Note Success” draws a direct line to rewarding employees for doing the right thing – raising the customer service standards and acting on behalf of your customers.

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Five Steps to YES with Journey Maps

If you’re like most of us, before you can start work innovating customer’s experiences, you need the proper buy-in to get initiatives off the ground.

Download the Free E-Book “High-Level Journey Maps & Five Steps to YES” with templates, by Carol Buehrens

Since customer experience is part of business strategy, many innovation projects impact the way your company conducts business. This means you’ll not only need managerial buy-in; you’ll need the executive votes to proceed.

High-Level Journey Maps

The good news is that High-Level Journey Maps can be the tool you need to help communicate and get those approvals!

Creating these “bird’s-eye view” maps allow you to break through the clutter and confusion by conceptualizing each interaction and its relation to the entire journey. All in one snapshot.

Get the right votes

In the EBook “High-Level Journey Maps & Five Steps to YES”, you’ll learn how these simplified maps can help you communicate your Customer Experience intentions in a way that will get you the YES votes you need, and how to involve  others in your company in order to influence the outcome in a positive way.

Free E-Book

Download your free E-Book “High-Level Journey Maps & Five Steps to YES” to help jump-start your Customer Experience Action Plans!

Happy R.A.V.I.N.G. Customers!

In my book, Happy R.A.V.I.N.G. Customers!, “Chapter 3. R =  Reality Check” focuses on how you can use journey mapping to identify all of your customer’s touchpoints.  In “Chapter 5. V = Vote to Change”, you’re provided several strategies and ideas for getting the votes you need to make a change.  In “Chapter 6. I = Innovate in Unexpected Ways”, you’ll learn how to use journey mapping to go beyond your competition and create memorable experiences of differentiation.

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UX & CX – Understanding the Journey

Why is it important for User Experience (UX) professionals to understand the “Customer Experience Journey”?

Because it helps their UX vision!

JM-helps-ux-visionUX involves a person’s behaviors, attitudes, and emotions about using a particular service or product. In CX terms, we call that “experiencing a touchpoint”. It only stands to reason that the UX professional can and will improve their products when they understand where their project fits and what their “user” expects.

UX, while being a different discipline than CX (see examples in chart below), greatly benefits from knowing this critical view: the customer and the customer lifecycle.  CX teams should form a close partnership with UX teams, in order to provide this customer insight and to help innovate touchpoints.


After all, the experience provided by your UX team is part of the continuum that creates the overall customer experience! Most likely, during your customers’ lifecycle (as shown below), your customer will continually interact with the very systems and processes that were designed with the help of your UX team — Web sites, POS systems, mobile apps, documentation, and other interfaces.


Happy R.A.V.I.N.G. Customers!

In my book, Happy R.A.V.I.N.G. Customers!, “Chapter 3. R =  Reality Check” focuses on how you can identify the journeys your customers take with your company, in order to deliver experiences that are important to them.

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What’s the Focus at Your Company?

If the focus isn’t on improving the experience for your customers, it stands to reason that the focus is on something else. When an organization is not putting their own customer’s first, then something is filling that void.

How to measure the focus…

Put on your listening ears when you attend meetings and walk through the hallways in your company. Ask yourself the following:

  • When decisions are made, are they based on fitting the schedule or on the impact to your customer?
  • Is fixing the interface or process to make it easier for your customer, “out-of-scope?”
  • Are projects teams centered more around functional specs than the ability to use those functions?
  • Do project managers put their blinders on to coordinate the project timeline, or are taking a critical eye to understand the full journey your customer is on?
  • Is the fallback plan to add more training documentation versus to fix the underlying difficulties?

If this is your company, then it’s time for a change!

To create a exceptional customer experience, and to have RAVING customers, start with the employee culture at your company. Grow “customer advocates” – those who can represent your customer in meetings and when decisions. are being made. Make it “fashionable” to be on the side of your customer – not a punishment. Base merit bonuses and increases on the success of your customers. Start at the top and make sure the CEO is the stakeholder of the customer’s welfare.

Happy R.A.V.I.N.G. Customers!

In my book, Happy R.A.V.I.N.G. Customers!, “Chapter 3. R =  Reality Check” focuses on how you can identify the maturity of customer experience at your company. “Chapter 5. V =  Vote to Change” takes a look at how you can take care of politics start achieving cultural change. “Chapter 7. N =  Note Success” draws a direct line to rewarding employees for doing the right thing – acting on behalf of your customers.

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Representing Customers through Customer Advocacy Boards

Maximizing the Power of Customer FeedbackMake a C.A.B.

Ever thought about creating a Customer Advocacy Board (CAB) at your company? A CAB is an internal board, made of employees who are passionate about customers. They gather customer insights and collectively have authority to invoke positive change. It’s a great way to initiate your company’s journey to become more customer-focused.

This isn’t a committee – it’s a Board.

It’s a powerful idea. As a Board, it’s enabled to take action. Your board members can act as a major driving force during customer experience improvements across silos in your company. They should have the authority to advocate in any situation and without repercussion.

Because of this, your Customer Advocacy Board can be one of your most politically persuasive tools in your arsenal. Their mission – to collect feedback, wear the hat of your customer, take the customer seat in meetings and when making decisions, and invoke change.

Playing politics

Your Customer Advocacy Board will need significant political weight to be successful. You’ll want to ensure that their efforts are as trouble-free and uncomplicated as possible. Make sure the right executive is the “owner” of this team in order to remove any roadblocks.

Once you gather the right team, kick off the first meeting by having your President or CEO introduce the Board’s importance to your company’s strategy. This team’s duties won’t stop at the monthly meetings. These passionate individuals will be encouraged to identify critical issues (opportunities) when, and as, they come up. To double their effectiveness, make it a hard-fast rule that an Advocate is present to represent your customers in all
project meetings.

Employee involvement

It’s not a win if your entire organization isn’t involved. The CAB can also serve up some employee engagement activities and company-wide programs. They can host customer-focused workshops and training, and bring in outside facilitators and speakers. A creative CAB can come up with all sorts of fun ideas for your employees, to help them understand and connect with your customers.

No gain without pain?

Representing your customer isn’t an easy job. It’s not for the faint of heart. There will be times that members feel discouraged. Often, they’ll have to trade in their “soft, fuzzy customer hat” for a “hard hat”, but that pain will be worth it the gain for your company!

Happy R.A.V.I.N.G. Customers!

Learn more about becoming a customer-focused organization in my book, Happy R.A.V.I.N.G. Customers!

Buy it now on Amazon
RavingCX readers SAVE 10% at– enter discount code: CG83XLJ6


Focus on the Customer (Hey, that’s not my job!)

Carol Buehrens Focus on Customers - Hey that's not my job!

Whose job is it to focus on the customer in your company?

If you didn’t answer your entire employee base, then you may be missing the boat when it comes to customer experience. 2015 Is “The Year of the Employee,” as declared by Bruce Temkin of the leading Customer Experience research firm Temkin Group. The emphasis is that customer-centric cultures are the main ingredient for customer experience success.

You may have already started your work in shifting employee mindset to focus on the customer.  But, this transformation is no “quick fix”. The bigger your company is, the more monumental the task.  Just when you think you got the ball rolling, you’re likely to find you’re merely inching a heavy boulder uphill, barely keeping it from sliding back.

To help make this point clear, I thought I’d share with you a few gems I heard this month, that I call “anti-customerisms”. They went something like this…

“Why would you want to post pictures of customers on our intranet? It’s only seen on the inside, so I think it’s a waste of time. It’s not like our customers would see themselves.”

“Outside customers aren’t the ones that we have to care about on this project. We’re doing this for our inside stakeholders.”

“Why do you keep bringing up customers and worrying about making them happy? It doesn’t make sense, that’s not my job.”

“Wait, when you say customers, you’re talking about the department who requested this, right?”

“I just do what I’m told. I don’t have to think about our customers. Someone else will do that.”

Some early wins are possible. You might find initial adopters in those who work in direct contact with your customers. For example, the front line employees (such as the support and services departments), know who the customer is and may already be fostering relationships. As service leaders for your company, they’re apt to jump on the bandwagon and help you in your efforts.

Far line employee may offer more resistance. These employees are removed from direct contact with customers. In fact, they may not know (or care) who your customers are. To be fair, their job is to serve those who are on the inside of your company. They support other departments, who in turn support your customers. By that token, they may feel that their only “customer” is the department’s employees with whom they directly work. Following this same reasoning, they may be defensive about the new focus and resent being given yet another boss; another layer of customers that demand their attention and concern.

So, why do we want to be “customer centric?”

Customers have more choices today than ever before; they won’t hesitate to walk away from a relationship with a company that doesn’t offer great experiences. Strong brands that deliver high customer experiences increase customer acquisition and retention, boost profits, gain a greater market share, achieve a competitive advantage, and enhance shareholder value.

Companies like these are driven with customer-focus at their core and customer needs are central to the way they do business. They’ve proven that it starts with the heart of the organization – employees. These great brands have shown that reaching this goal is only achieved when employees focus on and empathize with their customers. Through those efforts, customers learn to trust, love, and advocate for these brands.

Tips to help transform your employee culture:

  1. Make sure that your top line, executives and upper management, are on-board. Don’t skip this critical starting point; it’s essential to success. As Bob Thompson noted recently in What is the “X Factor” in Customer-Centric Success?, leaders matter. Since this is a change in business strategy, your leaders will need to walk the talk.
  2. Create a Customer Advocacy Team to lead the change efforts. This is a cultural transformation across all departments, so the composite of this team should reflect that.
  3. Communicate your customer experience and customer focus goals to all employees. Be clear as to how this change will help your business so that employees understand why they should support this effort.
  4. Train all employees on customer experience and customer services. This investment in human capital is necessary if you want to create an environment in which great customer experience can take place.
  5. Connect the dots for employees. Help each department understand their connection to their customers and how their decisions ultimately impact them.
  6. Emphasize your commitment with all new employees during orientation. They should have no question about the importance of customers to your company’s success.
  7. Keep the customer focus alive. Start meetings by explaining how the project will help your customer. Provide customer-centric messages throughout the workplace to visually remind employees of their commitment to customers. Post customer stories on your intranet and enrich the program with continual communications.
  8. Operationalize customer experience throughout the organization. Embed in business processes, align workflows to the benefit of your customers, and make sure the daily focus is on the success of your customers.
  9. Reward employees for their efforts and highlight successes. Spotlight employees who model the behavior you want – their focus on exceeding customers’ expectations.
  10. Add customer experience goals to merit reviews. Hitting your employees in the pocketbook is a surefire way to exemplify the importance to the success of your business.

As I mentioned earlier, cultural transformation isn’t an instant success story. You can’t slam dunk the effort then go on to something else. It takes persistence and dedication. Maybe the next quote you’ll hear will be a “pro-customerism”:  “Focusing on the customer is my job!”

Image purchased under license from 123RF Stock Photo.

Do You Feel Alone in Advocating for Your Customer?

Carol Buehrens - Reserved forCustomers

Do you ever feel like you’re the only one at your company who empathizes for,  or even thinks about your customer? If your company hasn’t developed a customer-centric employee culture, maybe you are. Below is a case in point…

I met with a project team to discuss a new retail system for their company website. Their current system was simple, easy to use, and they had received good feedback from the customers who used it. However, it was not fully integrated with their processes and they planned to replace it with a new system that would improve their internal workflow.

My job was to provide the project team with the results of customer testing of this new system. Sadly, I had to deliver some tough news. During the tests, the new system failed on several points. These points ranged from inconsistent and confusing labeling, redundant steps, an unreliable search routine, to an unusually high occurrence of errors that could halt the checkout process. From customer’s viewpoint, this was a tough system to use!

I thought my report would come as a complete surprise. However, the shock was mine when the business stakeholders (the team who benefited from the automation of the new system), said they already knew about these issues! They had decided to continue with the rollout in spite of the poor experience the system provided. They insisted that it was a “wonderful system”. They felt, in fact, that the concerns I identified were “out-of-scope” for the roll-out.

The customer is out-of scope?

From their viewpoint, the new system was “good enough” to roll out and customers would “be happy” using it simply because the internal stakeholders would have a better process. We were at an impasse – and I stood alone in representing the customer. I had entered this meeting wearing my soft, fuzzy customer hat, advocating for beloved customers. I soon found that I had to exchange this hat for a helmet, because I was hitting my head against a brick wall!

A few items for thought –

  • Customers don’t know about your internal processes.
  • Customers don’t care about your internal processes.
  • Customer shouldn’t have to know or care about your internal processes.
  • Customers do care that it’s easy to do business with you.

If you think this situation is rare, think again. When an organization’s culture is NOT putting their customers first, NOT focusing on their customers, NOT trying to make their customers successful, then this same scenario happens over and over again. This may be happening in project meetings throughout your own company.

When the culture of an organization isn’t centered on their customers, decisions are not made on their behalf. Poor decisions in customer experience cut into your bottom line, in more ways than one. It all starts with the heart of your company – your people.

From the book, Happy R.A.V.I.N.G. Customers! Six Powerful Steps to Grow Your Business with Exceptional Customer Experience, by Carol Buehrens.

Images created by Carol Buehrens

Customer Experience – Not Just Web Design

The Omni Customer experiences all channels and interactions provided by your company

With so much hoopla made over the digital customer these days, we might forget that Customer Experience is not so one-sided. The term is defined as “the cumulative impact of the total interactions customers have with your company, people, services and products.” This means we have Omni-customers.

‘Total interactions’ means ‘everything customers come in contact with’

It’s hard to believe, but customer experience really does cover all interactions. Not just online interfaces – the whole enchilada, stock and barrel, everything. From every social media offering, face-to-face, phone conversations, emails, snail mail, white papers, contracts, collateral, marketing campaigns, phone tree call-flows and recorded messages, how employees answer phones, the out of the box experience, product usage, product maintenance, product return, online and offline services, the line goes on. This is merely a fraction of the total interactions.

And, of course, your company websites, blogs, job listings, online product guides, shopping cart, etc. etc. etc.

Some things you control, others may be out of your control. But to your beloved customers, these interactions – all of them – represent your brand. They don’t distinguish between an online or offline brand, and neither should you.

Experience these interactions yourself.

Put the hat of your Omni-customer on and walk in their shoes. Establish a little journey to go on. Maybe you start at the website and try to find something. Test the phone number given. Use your phone tree to go through the options. Are they helpful? Do they lead you to the correct destination? Test a few extensions using an outside line. Do employees answer with cheerful voices, providing their name and department? Are they ready to help? Collect all of the printed and digital artifacts, such as mailers, emails, and other pieces of customer communications. Print them out and tape them up side by side to visually compare.

Continue doing this for everything so that you get the full breathe of the journey. Does it provide the brand values your company stands for?

Here’s the takeaway-

Don’t take it for granted that all interactions align to your brand and provide the great experience you hope and dream for. Be honest and identify all opportunities to improve. Ask your customers for their opinions and what matters to them. Prioritize, then start chipping away to make the world better for your customers!

Images created by Carol Buehrens

Your First VoC Program is Easier to Start Than You Think

Carol Buehrens Voice of Customers - Happy RAVING Customers!

Successful customer experience companies listen to their customers. They listen continuously. They make certain to “bring the voice” of the customer inside, so that it becomes a part of their organization. By hearing this feedback, employees learn and understand their customers’ needs, wants and changing expectations. Take a cue from these successful companies – listen to your customers!

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve attended project meetings and heard someone defend a poor decision by simply stating, “This is what the (internal stakeholder) wants,” I would be quite rich by now. Clearly, this isn’t listening to your customer! To develop raving customers, you need to (and need to want to) hear what they are saying and LISTEN.

The most successful customer experience companies have made listening to customers an art form. They’ve set up their own “listening posts” as part of their “Voice of the Customer” (VoC) efforts, and so can you!

No excuses – start small

Start with small VOC programs and grow in areas that are the most successful for your own company. Listening from the “inside” is often the first starting point.  Sometimes you don’t have to go far to find out you have everything you need to start your efforts at your fingertips!

Check with your front-line employees. They often know exactly what your customers are saying; they hear it every day. The problem is that, quite often, there’s not an easy way for these employees to act as advocates for your customers.

Give these front-line employees a voice. Don’t miss out on this golden opportunity to collect this information! It’s easily attainable and available immediately. This will allow you to start your program and grow on your small successes.

Image provided with permission by Microsoft

Seven Important Steps to Customer Journeys

Do you know what your customers are doing?

Download the Free E-Book “Customer Experience Journey Mapping Workshop Toolkit” by Carol Buehrens

You want to improve your customer’s experiences? Great! Now, where should you begin? Well, before you get started, you may want to take a step back and assess what your customers are already experiencing today.

Do you know every encounter your customers are having with your company, including what they read, hear, and see, through interfaces and correspondences?

Your customers interact with your organization via a variety of different channels, including websites, event sites, microsites, landing pages, emails, applications, intranets, extranets, portals, blogs, marketing campaigns, online references, print materials, press releases, (take a deep breathe now because the list goes on), automated replies, customer support messages, videos, webinars, social media, storefronts, face-to-face, automated voice response systems, mobile apps, and more. Whew!

Taking a good old “reality check” as your first step will help you establish what’s happening today and where you need to go tomorrow. This foundational groundwork  will bring to light the good, the bad, and the ugly – great moments, interactions that need help, and outright gaps in your services.

Some ideas to help you get started in understanding these experiences:

  1. Collect a high-level internal view. Gather information from your internal teams, touchpoint owners and service stakeholders. Find out what they think the customer experience journey is comprised of.
  2. Put together an initial high-level map. Communicate this map to the involved teams, in order to reach a consensus and to establish the beginning of your project.
  3. Drill down to the details of each touchpoint.  Ask front-line employees and (if you can) customers! Look for service gaps, inconsistencies, frustrations,  and other red flags. The Customer Experience Journey Mapping Workshop Toolkit ” templates are perfect for this.
  4. Host a journey workshop. Get everyone in the same room and show your touchpoint findings. Learn more — you’ll be amazed at what might surface. Break down the silos!
  5. Put the final “Current state” together. Use Customer Experience Journey Mapping Workshop Toolkit templates to detail each touchpoint and string them together to form the journey. Tape it on the wall for all to see and discuss. Remember, your customer’s experience isn’t about a single touchpoint – it’s about the journey.happy-raving-customers-journey-string
  6. Now, innovate! Let everyone know that there are no boundaries — how would they improve customer’s experiences if they could wave a magic wand? How would they delight and surprise?
  7. Create a “new” journey. Using the same techniques as before, what might the journey look like in the future? You may need to bring in a touch of reality, but once you have this new vision, you can begin to figure how how to get there. Now – take action!

Free E-Book

Download your free E-Book “Customer Experience Journey Mapping Workshop Toolkit” to help jumpstart your Customer Experience Action Plans!

Happy R.A.V.I.N.G. Customers!

In my new book, Happy R.A.V.I.N.G. Customers!, “Chapter 3. R =  Reality Check” focuses on how you can use journey mapping to identify all of your customer’s touchpoints.  In “Chapter 6. I = Innovate in Unexpected Ways” you’ll learn how to use journey mapping to go beyond your competition and create memorable experiences of differentiation.

Buy it now on Amazon

Images created by Carol Buehrens