We all get paid to solve problems.
This week, my guest on People Move Organizations is giving us some great tips for problem solving at work. We talk about taking the emotion out of problem solving, listening, and giving someone time to vent before jumping in to solve their problems.
Here are some episodes that tie into our conversation:
Episode 7: Influencing Others
Episode 39: Self Control
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What You'll Learn in this Episode:
In this episode, I’m talking with Susan Wolfgang about why it is important to have a customer experience mindset regardless of the position your hold at your company. Customer experience is sometimes misunderstood, and Susan gives us a master class on the subject.
If you have one take away from this episode, it should be ‘does your customer have a seat at the table?’
In the episode, we talk about the important of understanding the full process. You might learn more from Episode 11 where I covered this topic in more detail:
Episode 11: System vs Process
If you want to hear more episodes about Customer Experience, check out our Customer Experience Curriculum.
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Customer Experience is everybody’s job, although sometimes it might be hard to see how you can influence it. It may seem like you can’t make an impact if you aren’t in a leadership position, but that isn’t the case. Today, we are going to talk about some ways you can make an impact on customer experience, regardless of your role or title.
First, lets talk about the customer journey. Step into your customer’s shoes and picture what their journey looks like.
So, you see, the customer experience is a journey, not a single event. Some stops along the way are more important than others. But, all of them form an experience for the customer that places your company into some category in their mind.
They might categorize you as fun to do business with. Or difficult to do business with. They may consider you to be easy to do business with. Maybe their experience is that you are organized & professional. Or flexible and scrappy.
The important point to understand is that – whatever their experience – they form it as they walk their journey and encounter each little step along the way.
This journey that I’ve described is really a system. A system is a group of processes that are typically cross -functional & span several different disciplines. Each individual process may have a need to be improved, but that improvement may or may not improve the overall system. If you think about your particular role in a process, in order to understand how your process fits into the overall system, you need to look upstream and downstream.
Upstream, what are the processes that feed into your process? Those processes, although potentially completely outside of your area of control, are part of the same system you are. If you want to improve the process, that is within your are of control, you will do a better job of it if you consider the processes that feed into your process. When you understand your process within the context of the larger system, you have more options open to you. If you’d like to learn more about systems vs. processes, you can listen to episode 11.
So, when it comes to the customer journey, spend some time thinking about the system that they enter into when they start down the path to solve their problem. At some point along their journey, they are going to participate in a process that you are part of. Become curious about how they perceive the process. A customer survey score doesn’t give you the full picture. Four stars tells you that they were generally happy, but now why. They might be generally happy because the prices was so low that the fact that everything else sucked wasn’t that important to them. By becoming curious about their journey, you can start to identify ways to change your process in order to improve their experience. And, when you do it with the bigger context of the system, it is likely to have a greater impact.
Remember that I mentioned that all of the steps along the journey have different levels of important to the customer? When you get curious, you begin to understand which processes have more weight. In customer journey map terminology, these are called ‘moments of truth.’ Getting a moment of truth right has the biggest impact. Improving the customer experience as moments of truth is where you will get the biggest impact. Is your process a moment of truth for your customer?
If we go back to the idea that individual processes make up a larger system and that the system for customer experience is defined as their journey through their doing business with you then you can see that it becomes important for them to have a single experience. As a customer, they don’t care that they are moving from the marketing department to the sales department to the legal department to the delivery department to the support department. They are doing business with Company X – your company – and the distinction between departments is irrelevant. But, many times, we don’t design the customer journey in that way. Because we are organized into departments, we approach our processes from our departmental silo and often forget to blend it into the larger customer experience system.
So, this week, I challenge you to spend some time thinking about your customer’s journey. Where do your processes fit into that journey? What experience does the customer have with your part of their journey? What are the experiences they have before they get to your process? These are the upstream processes that feed into yours. What experience does the customer have with those processes? Is the experience consistent? What about the processes downstream from you? When you’ve done your job, where will the customer go next? What will that experience be, and how consistent is it with the experience they just had with you? What are some ways you can improve the experience? What are some ways you can ensure their experience is consistent?
You know, the customer journey, at its highest level is the same at every single company for every single customer. First, they identify that they have a need to fill. Then they figure out their options and evaluate them. Then they make a decision. They you deliver what you promised. Then you provide some type of ongoing service that hopefully results in them making another purchase in the future. Its that simple when you think about it. But, oh is the reality so much more complicated. An, this is where the real work of customer experience begins.
Our objective on People Move Organizations is to make you successful in your career whatever your definition of success looks like. One of the things that will make you stand out from your peers is your ability to improve your customer’s experience with your company. Even if you are in a role where you don’t interact with your customer directly, you should always have customer experience in the back of your mind.
If you’d like to get a basic introduction to the concept of customer experience, check out episode 19.
You may have heard of the problem solving technique of asking Why 5 times. This technique helps you dig deeper into a problem by ensuring that you don’t accept the first answer to a problem. The idea is that if you keep asking why five times, you’ll dig deep enough to really understand the root cause of an issue.
I took that basic concept and adjusted it to address the idea of customer experience. I was looking for a way to help all employees within a company keep customer experience in the back of their mind as they contemplated a change to their process. I originally posted this framework as a blog post on LinkedIn in 2016.
I call the framework the 5 How’s.
There are 5 How Questions that you should always consider if you are going to implement a change to your process. Alternatively, if you have a process that you suspect could be improved, you could use these 5 questions to help you assess if a change is needed.
How is this change going to impact my customer?
Many times, when we think about making a change, we spend time thinking about the impacts to us, or our team, or maybe, even other internal stakeholders. But, have you thought about the impact to your customer? Depending on your role, the impact may be obvious or it may be very indirect and not so obvious. But, either way, you should really spend some time thinking about it. Having a point of view about this, at least ensures you’ve thought about it and eliminates the risk that you just moved ahead without a second thought.
How will this change look from my customer’s standpoint?
Again, you are likely to naturally think about the change from an internal perspective, but be thoughtful about stepping outside your organization and looking at it from the customer’s perspective. Are they likely to see it as an improvement? Will they think it makes you easier to do business with? Will they see it as something you are taking away from them?
Spend some time considering this so that you can determine if you need to take any specific action as part of the change.
How will my customer respond to the change?
If you’ve thought about how the change looks from the customer’s perspective, then you can also take this next step and think about how they might respond. Of course, this can be very tricky because the same exact change can produce different responses from different customers. You may have one customer who is fairly easy-going and just naturally accepts it and another who is high maintenance that throws an all-out temper tantrum. This is where knowing your customer will come in handy because you may be able to assess pretty accurately what the different likely responses will be. But, even if you don’t know you clients well enough to make a specific assessment, you can make some educated guesses.
However, by spending the time to think through the possible responses to the change, you will be able to come up with a plan for how to deal with the different scenarios.
How will my customer find out about the change?
Your answer to the previous questions can help determine how big of a deal this one is. If you’ve determined that, for example, the change is likely to impact your client very little, then how they find out about it is not really that big of a deal. But, if they will see the change as a reduction in service and they are likely to respond very negatively, the way they find out about it becomes a lot more important. So, think about how they will find out about it and make sure it is in alignment with the rest of your assessment.
How will my customer give feedback about the change?
One of the key tenants of good change management is to ensure there is a way for people to provide feedback. A feedback loop is absolutely necessary. A feedback loop doesn’t mean only a way to complain. It also means a way to ask questions or get clarifications. So, make sure you’ve thought about the feedback loop that the customer will have. It may be as simple as providing a contact name or as complex as building out an elaborate website, but what you want to make sure you do is give the right feedback loop for the situation.
Asking How 5 times will ensure you have a solid plan to address the impacts to your customer of a change you are making or are part of.
If you are not in a customer facing role, you should still ask the questions. Better to ask them and determine the answer to all questions is ‘no impact’ than to not ask them at all and find out the hard way that you missed something.
Great Customer Experience is something that a lot of companies aspire to, but not a lot of companies achieve. And, as we know, it is the people within the company that create the experience for their customers, so you have a direct impact on the success of your company.
There is a subtle difference between Customer Service and Customer Experience, but it is an important one. In this episode, we look at the difference and look at a recent experience I had with a company. I called Customer Service to get a piece of equipment returned, but it was the Customer Experience that left an impression with me.
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