Category Archives: Customer First Culture

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!

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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

Don’t Fool Yourself – Just “Meeting Expectations” Sucks

Carol Buehrens RavingCX Meeting Expectations Sucks

Exceptional customer experiences are one of the few brand differentiators that are still hard to imitate. To encourage and cultivate raving customers, you want to provide outstanding experiences that set your company apart and leave an indelible impression.

Meeting expectations is tablestakes

I’m not saying don’t meet expectations. But, that just the ante for playing in the game. I’m implying that “good enough” is not good enough anymore. In order to raise the bar and achieve the WOW factor, your experiences that you provide customers must go above and beyond their expectations. This may sound like a broken record, but this bears repeating! Your customers aren’t wowed by “good enough” experiences that just “meet” their expectations. Being “good enough” won’t give you a competitive edge.

To have a growing, thriving business, you need to have customers come back time and time again. Loyal customers. They need to spread the good word about your company.

To foster customers like these, raving customers, you must do more than simply meet their expectations! You need to provide innovation experiences that exceed their expectations and delight their senses.

Customer expectations are evolving – fast

Keep on top of your ever-changing customer’s expectations by talking to them, gaining their feedback, and creating a strong relationship. If the experiences you provide your customers aren’t continually innovative, you may find yourself playing catch-up while falling further behind your competition.

Image provided with permission by Microsoft

Strategic Goals for Exceptional Customer Service

Exceptional Customer Service is at the Heart of Amazing Customer Experiences…

Often, I find myself explaining the difference between customer experience and customer service. (There is a difference. For example, customers might only need customer service due to a poor customer experience.)

But I want to be clear; customer service excellence is foundational to great customer experience. You may have your customer experience strategy neatly in place and improvements to your customer’s journey may be afoot. But, unless you can deliver excellent service, consistently and across all channels, the biggest “proof-point” of your brand value will be a failure.

Exceptional customer service doesn’t happen by accident; this is carefully nurtured with passion. It demands a customer service strategy, alignment with business and customer experience strategy, and a well-designed plan and roadmap.

To assist you in getting started, here are seven strategic goals that can be adapted for your own use. You’ll come up with more and change things around, but I hope that these will give you a good head start. (The free E-Book Workbook goes into much more details!)

  1. Understand your customers better.
  2. Become a more “customer-centric” organization.
  3. Deliver emotionally engaging customer service.
  4. Develop and maintain a customer service model and definitions.
  5. Continually measure and improve.
  6. Grow leadership capabilities.
  7. Drive cultural change.

Free E-Book from my workshop

Download your free E-Book “Seven Strategic Goals for Exceptional Customer Service Workbook” 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 4. A =  Align with Strategy” focuses on how you can create a customer experience strategy and a plan that contains the important ingredients for success. Your customer service strategy and goals work hand-in-hand with your customer experience strategy.

Buy it now on Amazon

Images created by Carol Buehrens

Four Steps to Making the Customer Romance Last

What if you could create journeys for your customers that made them feel special at the beginning, middle and end, throughout their entire journey with your company? Wouldn’t your customers be raving about you?

ravingcx-a-roseIt seems that you would want to relentlessly pursue ideas to help your customers feel “special.”

Interestingly, the average company spends a lot of money doing just this — right before customers actually become consumers. In fact, if you examine the entire customer lifecycle, a disproportionate amount of the budget is spent romancing and luring new prospects into becoming new customers. Most companies make sure that this is a delightful time, one that’s full of glossy brochures, razzle-dazzle and alluring promises.

It’s like a first date with your customers, complete with roses and fine dining. It’s all about making them feel special so that they are “bought-in emotionally”, and they make the buy!

The problem is, once the purchase is made, clients become ordinary customers.

After they sign on the dotted line, there’s an invisible hand-off from marketing to operations and support. Here’s the kicker for your customers – the level of experiences that these functions provide are radically different. One day, everything is flowers and champagne. The next, the hard reality sets in and all the thrills are gone. Sadly, they are now “just another customer“.

Take the extra step to keep the romance alive

In raving customer experience terms, the marketing and sales period is only a tiny fraction, in fact the smallest part, of the overall romance your customer should have with your company! Instead — Imagine giving each touchpoint of your customer’s journey the same attention that’s given to seducing new customers! Here’s a few steps to get you started.

Step 1 – Take a reality check. Map the journeys your customer are currently experiencing. Get these maps in front of everyone, and have them look for gaps in your services and disjointed interactions — the best and the worst of your brand value.

Step 2. Talk to customers. Try to understand how they “feel”. Identify the peaks and the valleys of their emotional experiences. Find the truly enjoyable moments at which happiness runs high, and the low times when frustration, discontent or disengagement takes over. The high points are direct clues as to what your customers like and enjoy. You’ll want to reuse this “magic”. The low points are your opportunities for improvement.

Step 3 – Involve your marketing and creative teams. Get them in a room for a brainstorming session. What are the tricks they use to continually engage and motivate “prospects”? Have them look for ways to use the same techniques and strategies to seduce your customers, even after they’ve signed the dotted line.

Step 4 – Take action. Integrate the ideas into the journey. Take the opportunities you identified and add the WOW factor. Or, look for lifecycle lag moments and jump in to surprise and delight — it’s always better when a “gift” is least expected!

These are just a few ways that you can improve the “marriage relationship” you have with your customers!

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

In my new book, Happy R.A.V.I.N.G. Customers!, “Chapter 6. I =  Innovate in Unexpected Ways” focuses on how you can exceed your customer’s expectations and develop loyal, raving customers.

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Image provided with permission by Microsoft

Do YOU have the Votes to Change?

You put together the very best Customer Experience Strategy ever invented. It’s so cool that it’s the envy of all — the best created in the world.

Yet, for some reason, it isn’t working. No one is following it. It was printed and distributed, and then filed away, never to be seen again.

You may have missed the most critical step – getting the right votes

Just like your business strategy, this is a top-down effort. In fact, your Customer Experience Strategy has its core based in your business strategy! Nothing will kill it faster than neglecting to have the full buy-in from your top Generals. If your CEO and executive management don’t cast a “pro-vote”, your efforts will fail.

Make no mistake about it — this is a true cultural shift. For your company to be a successful “Customer Experience excellence leader”, your employees need to live and breathe your customer experience strategy. Everything they do must be on behalf of their customers.  Your customers won’t feel the love if your employees aren’t giving it. You need devoted, dedicated, unwavering leaders to help your employees make this change.

Without the right “votes”, you won’t get your CX strategy off the ground.

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

In my new book, Happy R.A.V.I.N.G. Customers!, “Chapter 5. V =  Vote to Change” focuses on how you can take care of politics and get your leaders aligned with customer experience.

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