Tag Archives: CTS

Bringing Brands to Life

This post was originally published in 2014.

By Nancy J. Sirianni

Sirianni_NancyBrands are created by companies, but it’s the end customer who ultimately determines what the brand means to them. So, how do customers come to truly understand a brand and what it stands for?

Service brands are experienced on a personal level, with employees engaging customers during one-to-one social encounters, but many firms fail to include employee-customer interactions in their brand strategies. Because human-delivered services are performances and can vary from employee to employee, firms can find it difficult to create coherent experiences that drive home their brand imagery in a consistent manner from customer to customer.

For several years, I was part of a research team at Arizona State University that explored what brand managers can do to overcome this challenge. Through a series of consumer behavior experiments and a large-scale critical incident study that included dozens of service industries, we tested how customer brand experiences can be made more consistent through the behavior of frontline service employees. That is, we examined how service firms can recruit and train employees to internalize brand imagery in order to authentically bring the brand to life with customers in what we call “branded service encounters.” Continue reading

Delivering an Effortless Customer Experience

In early September, I traveled with friends along the Dalmatian coast, enjoying the sunshine and lingering over cappuccinos late into the night. One evening at dinner, I couldn’t help but remark about the wonderful service at the restaurant. While it was the end of the busy tourist season, our waiter was amazingly attentive. He made it easy for us to order the right amount and variety of fish for the table, tailoring the offering to meet individual preferences. I suggested to my friend that I was surprised that although he knew he’d never see us again, he delivered exceptional service. A native, she told me that the customer was an integral part of the dining experience. For the business, ensuring customer satisfaction was as important as ensuring the quality of the food.

So how can companies everywhere deliver effortless, memorable experiences for its customers? How can they ensure that the service they deliver lives up to its brand promise?

It’s simple. The best companies deliver straightforward, reliable experiences that meet real needs. People want to interact with companies where doing business is personalized, easy and hassle free. Consider Starbucks, where you get a consistent experience and your morning jo customized for you no matter what city you are located in. Or Nordstrom, where you can link directly from Pinterest to their store to order the latest products that catch your eye.

Delivering an effortless experience begins with listening to your customers. It’s important to take the time to look at your business through the lens of your customers. This involves setting up multiple listening posts to capture different viewpoints. Most importantly, you need a robust system to capture and categorize that feedback in a manner in which your organization can easily act on it. At Verizon, we have a social media team that monitors posts across a wide variety of sites. The data they collect is analyzed using Clarabridge, a data analytics platform, that lets practitioners quickly identify trends.

Once you understand what matters to your customers, leveraging tools like Six Sigma makes it easy to effectively eliminate pain points. The goal of your process reengineering effort should be to create a simple and intuitive process for your customer. To coin an old phrase, “eliminate the small print”. If you have to explain the offer, it probably isn’t pain free.

Structured, data centric decision making is not only a powerful way to drive problem solving, it also helps align your stakeholders. Verizon found that it was easier to align its leaders when data formed the basis for the conversation.

Finally, successful businesses need alignment throughout their organizations. If the customer service organization isn’t prepared for the latest product offer, it can’t provide the training necessary for a successful launch. If the sales organization isn’t aware of what the marketing team is putting out into the market, it isn’t going to present a consistent message. So, in short, align your brand message internally before you take it external.

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Join the Center for Services Leadership at Compete Through Services Symposium on October 26th, 2016, to hear Carol Fink, Director of Executive Relations at Verizon, speak on Branding Your Customer Experience.

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carol-finkCarol Fink is Director of Executive Relations at Verizon.  In her current role, she has responsibility for voice of the customer analytics and process improvements across Verizon’s major businesses.  She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and a Master’s degree in Business from the University of South Florida.  She is a certified six sigma black belt, a certified work out planner and a “Playing to Win” strategy facilitator.  She leverages voice of the customer, employee engagement and six sigma principles to improve the customer experience.   Carol is based in Basking Ridge, NJ at Verizon’s corporate headquarters.  She is a member of the CXPA.

 

Branding Your Customer Experience – 2016 Compete Through Service Symposium Theme

We invite you to join us for 2016 Compete Through Service Symposium on October 26-28th, in Scottsdale, AZ!

This year the Symposium will emphasize three themes:

  • Branding Your Customer Experience
  • Digital Transformation of Service
  • Growing the Service Business

Day 1 will focus on insightful and dynamic presentations on Branding Your Customer Experience. Our speakers will share best in class strategies that ensure that the critical touchpoints on the customer experience journey support and align with the organization’s brand promise. We will also explore what Branding Customer Experience means in B2C and B2B context. You will further dive into the topic by participating in our engaging and highly interactive breakout sessions in the afternoon of Day 2:

Breakout A: Authentically Branded Service Experiences

In today’s competitive marketplace, more and more companies are seeking to engage with customers by creating authentic and memorable experiences for them. In this session we will look at the critical role of frontline contact employees in creating memorable service experiences that are consistent with the brand’s positioning. We will share research on employee authenticity and branded service encounters and their impact on customer satisfaction and loyalty intentions. Through an applied exercise, you will examine what authentically branded service might mean for your company and how you can effectively link your employees and your brand image to create positive outcomes for customers.

Breakout B: Environment and Behavior: The Power of a Branded Customer Experience 

Touch-points placed on a timeline can create a great branded service experience, but in order to carry that brand story from touch-point to touch-point, each of those moments has to be dense, using every tool at our disposal to make that happen. This talk will focus on the ways that physical space influences behavior, the ways that architectural elements predict movement, the ways that physical and digital information access can influence decision making and finally in the way those all of those things can contribute to a great branded service experience.  I will share research, insights, and case studies that will give participants tools and understanding that will expand their thinking about great service design.

To learn more about Compete Through Service Symposium and to register, visit CSL website.

We look forward to seeing you at the Symposium!

Aligning Business Model & Culture to Maximize the Analytics Opportunity

In a recent blog post Analytics in Services: Actions versus Talk, we reviewed how companies are applying big data and analytics for both internal and external uses. That review led to a survey and executive panel discussion at the November 2015 Arizona State University Center for Services Leadership (CSL) Annual Compete Through Service Symposium where we further explored adoption rates, challenges, and lessons learned.

Adoption rates

The survey of 42 CSL member-companies and Symposium attendees revealed that roughly 25% have actually deployed initiatives using this technology, 25% have not considered how they will utilize analytics, and approximately 50% are developing a plan or are in pilot. Interestingly, these percentages are consistent whether companies are trying to improve marketing effectiveness and operational efficiency, helping set service levels, or attempting to expand markets and build new sources of services and solutions revenue.

Analytics_adoption_rates

Intent

The survey also asked respondents to describe what they were doing in each of these areas, from which the panel discussed several case studies in some detail. What emerged was an interesting set of objectives that can be captured as:

  • Efficiency – improve operational efficiency and reduce risk.
  • Experience – enhance every aspect of the customer’s experience.
  • Expansion – generate new services-based revenue streams.

As noted in our prior blog, the drive for efficiency has been well documented and the data reinforces that it is the most broadly adopted.

The second area, experience, generated a great deal of discussion and it became clear that this is where much of the energy in the market is focused. Experience encompasses all aspects of the customers’ journey: understanding each as an individual, marketing more effectively, setting and attaining appropriate service levels, providing support proactively, and anticipating future needs. It was evident that for a number of respondents this was the path to revenue growth both in terms of wallet share and market share.

Which leads to the third objective, expansion. A number of technology companies are aggressively pursuing the opportunity to be suppliers of technology, infrastructure, and consulting for analytics. However, a relative few organizations are also leveraging analytics to turn the data they own/access along with their expertise to generate new services revenue streams.

The executive panel was comprised of companies who fell into both of these categories: Siemens, IBM, DuPont Pioneer and Intel.

Challenges

A broad set of inhibitors were cited by the survey respondents and we subsequently discussed during the panel. The challenges fell into three major categories, with some unexpected challenges emerging:

Analytics_Challenges

  • Data

There were two distinct sets of issues identified here. The first regarded the capture, integration, and filtering of data from a rapidly growing array of sources.
The second set of issues centered on data security/privacy/rights/integrity – and the potential financial and brand risks of getting it wrong.

  • Resources & Infrastructure

Not surprisingly, skills in data science and analytics were frequently cited. Not only acquiring a skill set that is not traditionally found in many companies, but also nurturing and retaining those critical resources in a highly competitive market.
The infrastructure necessary to support new analytical workloads and the growing volume of data was something that many respondents cited as a ‘hidden’ cost—or at least one which was not always factored in up front.

  • Business Model

The most frequently cited issues were associated with establishing a clear and compelling business model—particularly in regards to establishing new services revenue streams. The age-old challenge of competing priorities was compounded by the lack of effective means for calculating the ROI for the customer and the concerns over financial risk cited above. As one panelist pointed out, we are entering an age where data is the new currency—and yet there is no accepted methodology for measuring ‘return on data’.

Summary – Ideas to Consider

The executive panel shared their insights and made some compelling suggestions for companies considering leveraging big data and analytics to drive top line growth. Ideas that were discussed in the interactive session with the symposium attendees included:

  • Integrating internal & multiple external data sources combined with your expertise for more value
  • Identifying new markets and buyers for the services offerings based on data + analytics + expertise
  • Developing a ‘skunk works’ first-of-a-kind team to launch and experiment—avoiding the culture trap
  • Bringing on new skills and augment with university and industry programs
  • Considering building a partner eco-system to fill gaps in your infrastructure and skills
  • Establishing credible means for measuring the ROI for both the customer and the business

2015 Compete Through Service Symposium: Recap in Pictures

Thank you everyone who attended Compete Through Service Symposium this year!  You made it another great event!

Mark your calendars for the next year’s Symposium, which will take place on October 26-28th, 2016. We look forward to seeing you there!

Leading a Culture of Service

By: Christine McHugh

My experience in customer service started in middle school, working for my grandparents at their retail gift shop.  Subsequently, a stint as a restaurant hostess and then a receptionist at a hair salon led me to managing a chain of espresso carts in Seattle where I enjoyed making coffee and talking with customers.

When I began to look for another job that provided health insurance, Starbucks was suggested given their reputation as an employer and my background in coffee.  I was hired as a barista 26 years ago when we had just 36 stores.

As a new Starbucks partner (employee), I went through extensive training on product quality, preparation and, of course, customer service.  When I was promoted into management, I received additional training on what it meant to be a customer service leader.  We had mantras like “if you’re not helping a customer, help someone who is”.

Fast forward to present day – I‘m now responsible for customer service at one of the most admired companies in the world.  And while we are often noted for great service, we do not consistently make decisions that protect and enhance the connections our baristas make with customers.

I’ve come to realize that creating a culture of service and leading a culture of service requires a constant focus, organizationally and behaviorally. Organizationally, every decision needs to be scrutinized as to whether or not it elevates the customer experience.  This requires a tremendous amount of cross-functional effort and influencing but also prioritization to focus on what matters most.

Behaviorally, employees must have clear expectations about what service looks like, accountability to those expectations, and celebration when those expectations are achieved.  For an organization and/or leader to really instill a culture of service, four practices need to be in place:

  1. Hiring for a service mentality
  2. Training and setting expectations for service
  3. Creating an environment of service
  4. Growing your business by looking at ways to analyze and improve your service

These four things are not rocket science and they are probably on the priority lists of many organizations but instilling them in the culture is the real challenge.

Hiring for Service

Do you only hire people who can connect in a genuine way?  How do you assess that?  Do they look at things from the customer’s perspective? This should be the first filter in assessing talent, not experience, not availability, not references.  If you don’t feel that a prospective employee can connect with customers, has a desire to understand customers or has a true genuine desire to serve others, then don’t hire them.

Training and Setting Expectations

Does your training plan focus specifically on customer service?  This is so critical because initial training signals what’s important and what’s expected.  Ongoing training investments reinforce concepts and develop new skills.  As a leader, you also need to show that you care about customers by demonstrating how to connect with them and telling your customer stories often.  By modeling service, you are showing what’s expected.

Creating the Environment

People want to work in a fun supportive environment, with each other and with customers. How do you recognize and celebrate customer service behaviors?  Do your customers get involved in recognizing and celebrating your employees for great service? Conversely, when service does not meet expectations, is swift coaching and action taken?

Analyzing and Improving

You probably have a lot of data available to measure the customer experience such as surveys, sales reports and research. This is valuable information but should not be taken on its own.  Analyzing and improving service also requires talking with customers and observing interactions between employees and customers.   Being solely reliant on data and metrics is a limiting perspective of the customer’s experience.

Leading a culture of service means alignment across the organization that customers and their experiences are the imperative.  Having the supporting systems, tools and expectations reinforce that alignment helps everyone understand what matters most –customers.

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Headshot_ChristineMcHughChristine McHugh is currently vice president, Customer Service and Operations Services.  Christine oversees the company customer service strategy including the programs and philosophies for our retail stores.  Her team is also responsible for operational planning and implementation of all other company programs and initiatives that are deployed to our to our retail stores in the U.S. and Canada.  Prior to her current role, she was on an 18-month assignment reporting to a member of the senior leadership team to develop and deploy the Starbucks 2014 Global Leadership Conference for 2,000 district managers from around the world.  Previously, she was the vice president, Global Business Optimization, where she was responsible for the company labor investment strategy, work and process improvement using Lean principles and functional store design and engineering.  Christine joined Starbucks in 1989 as a barista and has held a variety of roles during her tenure in the organization including operations, licensed business development, foodservice sales, office coffee, human resources and learning and development.   

Christine is a graduate of Antioch University where she majored in Leadership and Organizational Studies. 

Join the Center for Services Leadership at Compete Through Services Symposium on November 5th, 2015, to hear Christine McHugh, Starbucks speak on Customers at our Core – Leading a Culture of Service.

Capitalize on Annual Planning to Manage Customers as Assets

By: Jeanne BlissAnnual planning customer centered goals

Over the last ten years I’ve become convinced that annual planning is the Achilles’ heel of customer experience. It is at the root of what inhibits the most efficient investment on priority investments in customer driven growth. That is because annual planning usually starts with the silos, not the customer asset, and not the customer journey.

  • Without a one-company review of the customer asset and experience, your company continues to focus only on business outcomes. You stand still regarding customer asset growth without knowing exactly why.
  • Without common accountability targets, actions will continue to be planned tactically, based on the individual annual plans of the silos.

As a result, the customer experience becomes the defaulted outcome of every silo’s budget and projects they plan to spend that money.

Rarely is there a decision making lens in place to identify and drive investment in the most important customer experiences. Companies need an ongoing roadmap to define where they want to make progress in customer profitability, customer loyalty, and customer experience delivery.

Your annual planning customer-centered goals should include:
  • Know volume and value of lost customers and volume and value of new customers required to drive incremental growth.
  • Identify priority customer experiences driving customers out the door.
  • Move customers from one level of engagement to the next.

Join the Center for Services Leadership at Compete Through Services Symposium on November 5th, 2015, to hear me speak on how to Grow Your Business By Improving Customer’s Lives. You will also receive a complimentary copy of my new book CHIEF CUSTOMER OFFICER 2.0: HOW TO BUILD YOUR CUSTOMER-DRIVEN GROWTH ENGINE. See you there!

Republished with author’s permission from original post.

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twitterlinkedinJeanne Bliss is the Founder and President of CustomerBliss, and the Co-Founder of The Customer Experience Professionals Association. She is one of the foremost experts on customer-centric leadership and the role of the Chief Customer Officer. A consultant and thought leader, Jeanne Bliss guides C-Suite and Chief Customer Officer clients around the world toward earning the right to business growth and prosperity, by improving customers’ lives. Jeanne Bliss pioneered the role of the Chief Customer Officer, holding the first ever CCO role at Lands’ End, Microsoft, Coldwell Banker and Allstate Corporations. Reporting to each company’s CEO, she moved the customer to the strategic agenda, redirecting priorities to create transformational changes to each brands’ customer experience. She has driven achievement of 95 percent loyalty rates, improving customer experiences across 50,000-person organizations. Jeanne is a highly sought after speaker, keynoting high profile conferences and corporate events. She has spoken for speaking clients such as Intuit, Pella Windows, Staples, Activision, MetLife, Zappos, and AARP, and has appeared in major media outlets such as Fast Company, Forbes, MSNBC, The Associated Press and The Conference Board.