Friday Mar 22, 2013

Annual Planning Checklist: 10 Actions of Beloved and Financially Prosperous Companies

Note: In case you missed yesterday's Webcast featuring Jeanne Bliss in our Oracle WebCenter Social Business Thought Leaders Series, Jeanne has provided us a wonderful summary to use for your Annual Planning process. You can also watch the full webcast On-Demand.

Annual Planning Checklist: 10 Actions of Beloved and Financially Prosperous

Guest post by Jeanne Bliss, President, CustomerBliss

With annual planning just around the corner, here are 10 actions that business leaders and their organizations should invest in to exponentially increase customer loyalty and drive profitable business growth in the upcoming fiscal year. Execute on them to move toward "beloved" status in the eyes of your customers. Good news is; many don’t cost a thing but your commitment and leadership alignment on messaging and execution.

1. Believe in the integrity of your customers. The majority of business policies and rules are created to protect business from the minority of customers. Be bold, like Connecticut Griffin Hospital, which began sharing hospital records with patients and saw claims against the hospital drop by more than 43 percent. Take a leap of faith and believe that trust is reciprocated by customers when they feel that you trust them. Find one rule or policy to relax and watch what happens.

2. Invest in employee trust. Show your employees that you believe in them. Beloved company Wegmans invests in its employees by training them in the skills that remove rules, regulations, policies, and procedures that pen employees in. This enables Wegmans to throw away the rule book and live by this one edict: "No customer goes away unhappy." As a result, its margins are higher and profitability more steady because the grocer's turnover is only 7 percent of employees versus the average in its industry of 19 percent employee turnover.

3. Practice democratic decision making. Make sure your company's best ideas have a way to see the light of day. Give good ideas a chance to prosper no matter where they come from in terms of your organizational chart. Innovation and marketplace differentiation come when employees are respected as part of achieving a mission greater than their set of tasks, and when their voice counts. W.L. Gore has become a $2.7 billion dollar company, was named by Fast Company as "pound for pound, the most innovative company in America," and earned a place on Fortune magazine's best companies to work for list since its inception because of how the company unleashes its employees' spirit and ideas.

4. Grow and invest in customers as a primary asset of your business. Talk about customers lost and gained in real numbers, not percentages, to illustrate the vast number of lives your business impacts. Understand what drives customers out your door, as well as their long-term potential. Zane's Cycles in Connecticut has experienced more than 20 percent growth every year for 29 years, with 45 percent margins because the retailer never loses sight of the fact that its customers' average lifetime value is $12,500. And employees manage relationships bearing that in mind. Valuing customers makes it easy to make decisions about how to treat them.

5. Know your power source for bonding with customers. Regularly connect with customers, not only through surveys and other feedback mechanisms, but also as they experience your products and services. Take a page from Trader Joe's, which uses employee taste buds at its testing kitchens to determine what items should make it to the grocer's shelves, but uses customer "tasting stations" inside its stores combined with sales to determine what items stay. This closeness contributes to Trader Joe's ability to generate $1,300 in sales per square foot--twice the supermarket industry average.

6. Have clarity about how you uniquely serve customers' lives. Unite your operation to ensure that decisions connect to deliver an experience customers want to repeat and tell others about. This ties cross-silo decision making together and releases the organization from excess bureaucracy. IKEA, for example, designs the price tag first because employees at all levels know that the store serves customers who have less money than sweat equity, so are willing put together their items themselves at home. Across IKEA, the understanding that the price drives design, innovation, and what the retailer will and will not do drives its growth...sales that increased even in 2009 by 7.7 percent.

7. Deliberately walk in your customers' shoes. You need to know your customers' life to serve their life. Yet as people rise through the ranks or even join organizations, orientation is often more about process and policy than learning about the customer at the heart of the business. Be deliberate in establishing a process for new hires, such as insurer USAA, which require new "recruits" to wear the flak jacket and helmet that many of their enlisted customers wear and to read their letters. All this is done so that when calls come in employees first connect with the customer, and then conduct the process of the business. Ninety eight percent of its customers stay with them year after year.

8. Make employee selection one of your most important decisions. Select your employees as you would customers: for lifelong value. At Chick-fil-A, operators and employees are selected based on their values, ability to build grow and sustain partnerships in all areas of their lives, and then their technical skills. As a result, Chick-fil-A has operator turnover of just 5 percent, and the fast-food chain just achieved 43 years of consecutive sales growth. Hire people who you want to become a part of the story of your business, and then watch how your social media story improves.

9. Proactively solve mistakes when they occur. When mistakes happen (and they will) get out in front of customers and admit the flaw; then make peace with your customers. Repair the emotional connection, reduce the concern, and solve the problem. Southwest Airlines reviews every flight every day to know when delays interrupted their customers' lives, whether it was the airline's fault or not. The company contacts customers to explain what happened and, when warranted, sends out LUV bucks for a future flight. Being proactive earned Southwest a net revenue increase from those bucks of $1.9 million in 2010. What can you be proactive on?

10. Accept the order and the accountability. In a world where customers are use social channels as a megaphone to broadcast the experience you're delivering, invest in reliability. Don't make the customer wonder where the order is, how long until it gets there, or what happens when it backorders. If a customer can't tell another customer what they get from you, how they get it, or how it feels when they receive it, they you don't have a story to tell (at least one you want heard). Investing in reliability earns you the right to grow.

Companies that have grown in this economic downturn did so because their customers became an army of advocates who grew their business for them. They earned the right to their customers' raves, and the growth that ensued, because they deliberately made decisions that moved their operations in the direction of their customers and employees. And many times because of how we budget, that commitment must be baked into annually planning. Don’t lose another year of opportunity by letting annual planning pass by without considering these important commitments.


 Watch Jeanne Bliss On-Demand along with our other Social Business Thought Leaders.

Thursday Mar 21, 2013

Today's WebCast - Oracle Social Business Thought Leaders

Join us today (03/21/2013 10am PST / 1pm EST) for an interesting presentation by Jeanne Bliss on

"The Five Critical Decisions Made by Beloved and Prosperous Companies"

Oracle Social Business Thought Leaders Webcast Series


Tuesday Mar 19, 2013

Want to make sure your Customer Experience Work Stays on Track? Manage these Seven Inhibitors of Customer Experience Work Success

Guest Post: Jeanne Bliss, President, CustomerBliss

1. Starting with a mantra, not an action plan.

a. Often companies decide that they want to get some early traction by telling everyone to “focus on customer experience” What happens next is that people realize this is a big corporate priority and begin taking actions, making plans and creating new scoreboards and taking action.

b. This proliferates the silo based approach to actions that is contrary to the discipline of experience development and management. A lot of action occurs, executives get a “false positive” that action is occurring and traction is happening, but it eventually stalls out because the actions don’t aggregate up to improve complete end to end customer experiences.

2. Not first defining the customer experience and gaining alignment on the path of actions.

a. This is similar to first point, but I am stressing it separately because defining the experience consistently and gaining alignment has major downstream implications if it is not done correctly and if the time is not done to get alignment.

b. The organization needs to agree on the stages of the experience and the definitions of success.

c. The importance of this is because we want to give leaders a new language set for which to ask and drive the business, and we want to establish the key cross-functional metrics for the development of key KPIs for priority touchpoints. This is critical also to database management, as the stages of the experience interrelate to one another.

d. Without creating this framework first, the risk is to experience the same failure as what happened when (most) corporations around the world rolled out CRM.

e. They automated current processes without rethinking the business.

f. The business of customer experience is about redefining the operation of the business to be driven from the customers’ point of view on how they experience the company .

g. This new attitude and approach to talking about and managing the business is key to achieving the cultural transformation. It’s only when we drive the experience from this vantage point, and hard-wire this approach into language, leadership and operations that it will become sustainable.

3. Not breaking the work into actionable pieces and not understanding what “success” is.

a. Initially the work on the customer experience journey should be considered successful when “enabling infrastructure” actions occur, such as

i. Aligning the databases to be able to manage customer data to know the value of the customer asset

ii. Engaging leaders in personally becoming connected to customers’ lives by calling customers, visiting employees

iii. Teaching the organization the competency of working together across the silos to solve and improve one (or two) customer experiences end to end

iv. Changing the communication from leaders to drive customer experience accountability

b. What often happens is that instead of building in (and celebrating) these new competencies so critical to the long termed sustainability – is that people want to attach a score.

i. “we will be successful when our satisfaction rates are x” or “we will be successful when our net promoter score is y”

4. Attaching early metrics to outcome metrics rather than operational metrics people can impact

a. It’s very enticing to jump to the outcome metrics such as survey scores.

b. The challenge with this is that the outcome of a survey score is impacted by numerous factors, not all of which can be impacted by areas of the organization who are given the outcome metrics as their performance score.

c. It’s more powerful to, for example, identify the operational kpis that people can impact

d. If the outcome metrics are added to early, before the underlying processes and culture change and coaching and development are put into place – people WILL want to achieve great scores – but they will rely on involving the customer in helping them to achieve a better score (follow up – any reason you can’t give me a ten?, etc.)

e. They will also focus on actions so minute that it might move the needle a little on the score, but the overall approach to sustaining that skill or even building that skill is compromised. It’s very hard to sustain this type of “go get a good score” approach.

5. Not having executives engaged in the effort.

a. Often executives will say that they want to focus on the customer experience – but they hand off the work to a department or area to work on.

b. This work is not like a typical project. Setting up a great project plan and executing on tactics and actions will get the infrastructure built (such as VOC systems) but it won’t drive the change in culture and the development of cross-silo competencies.

c. Leaders must commit to being personally involved – beyond a perfunctory monthly “check in” meeting. They need to engage in the process of the work. Without executive involvement driving the new prioritization, driving out the actions that are in the way and giving people permission to work together – it is hard to sustain this work.

6. Not having clear communication to the organization that walks people constantly through the roadmap, and actions, and behaviors to model

a. It’s not enough to do the work behind the scenes. The organization needs to be constantly kept up to speed on what is happening and what it means to them.

b. As new decisions are made that focus on customer experiences – people must be kept apprised of these decisions – and given permission to model this type of decision making.

c. Leaders must emerge as constant communicators of why we are taking the actions we are.

d. The organization must be kept up to speed on actions and successes.

e. Without this constant communication and “permission setting” and “decision guidance” the organization will view the cx work as another in a long string of exercises or programs that will go the way of the others – away.

7. Taking actions based on what they think, not based on understanding what customers need.

a. Many companies, especially those long entrenched in their business, believe they know what customers need.

b. Even when they do research, they make the research about “validating” their plans rather than beginning open minded and asking the customer about their lives and what they need.

c. This approach will compromise the outcome of the new experiences that are built – and in some cases will completely backfire.

d. The recent Walmart case is a great one to bring up. Walmart did “research” and got from it that customers said that they wanted less cluttered stores. So they set upon a plan (led by a past Target executive) to declutter the aisles, etc. Then they asked customers if this what they wanted. It backfired. They have lost millions on this. Look up this example --- it’s a good one!

e. Customer experience differentiation comes when the experiences are based by truly understanding customers’ needs – rather than beginning with current processes and asking customers what they like or don’t like. Many companies fall into this trap – from experience building to customer satisfaction scores that indicate that “they are doing ok”. Customers are forced to react the box of the experience you are currently giving – they aren’t given the change to really talk about what they need.

Jeanne Bliss Blog:       www.ccocoach.com subscribe to my blog

Books:   Chief Customer Officer & I Love You More Than My Dog

Twitter: @jeannebliss

 


Register Today!


Monday Mar 18, 2013

Customer Loyalty: The Hidden Humanity

How many of us have had the experience with an organization either in person, on the phone or online that just leaves us seething with feelings that we’ll never do business with that company again? I’d bet that most of us have had that experience. But is the experience due to an interaction with one single employee, a department of employees, or everyone we ever dealt with at an organization or enterprise?

We all seem to forget some days that developing customer loyalty or destroying it often begins with a single human interaction. These interactions don’t necessarily happen in a vacuum – there is a driving force that sets policies, controls customer interactions and ultimately creates happy or unhappy employees – which in turn creates the experience you and I have with every transaction we make on a daily basis. Engaged employees are happier employees according to some of the most recent studies.  Some companies build a huge base of totally loyal brand-ambassadors that spread good cheer and positive vibes about their beloved companies. How do they do it? Why do they do it? Can a company maintain great customer experience across the board and still remain profitable?

Register Today!

This week we’ll be taking a deeper look at “Customer Loyalty” to explore the current trends and success stories. Our featured guest blogger and thought leader this week will be Jeanne Bliss. As President of CustomerBliss , an international consulting business, Jeanne coaches executive leadership teams and customer leadership executives on how to put customer profitability at the center of their business, by getting past lip service; to operationally relevant, operationally executable plans and processes. Later this week, Jeanne will be featured in our Oracle Social Business Thought Leaders Webcast Series. Register today and join us on Thursday 3/21 or register and watch On-Demand after the 21st at your leisure.

Are Your Customers Your Biggest Fans?

Hundreds of companies have customers who admire them, but only an elite few have true advocates who are passionate, vocal, and loyal fans. Hear from customer experience expert and author, Jeanne Bliss, as she reveals the five common decisions these beloved companies make that enable them to thrive in good times and bad. Join us on this webcast to learn: What kind of decisions earn your company beloved status; How beloved companies drop the corporate veneer with customers; Why uncommon decision making can make a positive impact.

Your Decisions Reveal Who You Are, and What You Value

by Jeanne Bliss (from original blog post February 24, 2013)

When you make a decision, it results in an action. And the accumulation of those decisions and actions become how people describe you and think of you. It becomes your “story.”

  • What is the story that the collective decisions of your organization are telling your customers, employees, and the marketplace?
  • What is important to you?
  • Are your decisions reflecting what you intended and what your company stands for?

Getting customers to love you begins with how you consider the people impacted by your decisions.

You tell customers every day how much you honor them by the way you direct decisions in one direction or another. And that’s what they play back to the masses. That’s what shows up on the Internet.

For more information see my blog post on Driving Culture Change in Chief Customer Officer 2.0. It provides profiled decisions made by beloved companies of every size and across many industries who earned the right to their customers’ stories. They are called beloved companies because of the emotional attachment customers have to them.

Here are a few recent profiles:
What Defines Your Experience?
Are You Remembered for Being There?
Do You Accept Accountability When Things Go Wrong?
Is Your Trusting Cup Half Full or Half Empty?

Beloved companies are acutely aware that their experience impacts how customers feel and respond. They take the time to make purposeful decisions about the contacts with customers. Beloved companies actively decide to connect who they are as individuals with the decisions they make in how to run their business.

Common to beloved companies is the concentration, angst, and passion that they put into decision-making. Suspending their fear that the dollars and cents won’t come swiftly enough, beloved companies decide to run their businesses with what each of us learned as kids – the Golden Rule.

The decisions we make in our business lives measure the depth of our humanity – our ability to apply that simple Golden Rule.

  • How we choose to correct something that goes wrong.
  • How steadfast we are in delivering the goods and ensuring quality.
  • How we give employees what they need to enable them do the right thing for customers.

All these decisions expose what a company values. And the actions that tumble from these decisions expose the kind of people we are.

Think about how you experience companies throughout your life as both customer and employee.

  • Why do you feel so connected to some and distanced from others?
  • How does your feeling about a company relate to your natural desire to follow the Golden Rule?
  • When a company makes genuine attempts to do the right thing, does this draw you to them?

------------------------------

About Jeanne Bliss

Jeanne Bliss began her career at Lands’ End where she reported to founder Gary Comer, ensuring that in the formative years of the organization, the company stayed focused on its core principles of customer and employee focus. She was the first leader of the Lands’ End Customer Experience. In addition to Lands’ End, she has served Allstate, Microsoft, Coldwell Banker Corporation and Mazda Corporations as its executive leading customer focus and customer experience. Jeanne has helped achieve 95% retention rates across 50,000 person organizations, harnessing businesses to work across their silos to deliver a united and deliberate experience customers (and employees) want to repeat.

Jeanne now runs CustomerBliss, an international consulting business where she coaches executive leadership teams and customer leadership executives on how to put customer profitability at the center of their business, by getting past lip service; to operationally relevant, operationally executable plans and processes. Her clients include Johnson & Johnson, TD Ameritrade, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospitals, Bombardier Aircraft and many others. Her two best-selling books are Chief Customer Officer: Getting Past Lip Service to Passionate Action and I Love You More than My Dog: Five Decisions that Drive Extreme Customer Loyalty in Good Times and Bad.

Jeanne Bliss Blog:       www.ccocoach.com subscribe to my blog

Books:   Chief Customer Officer & I Love You More Than My Dog

Twitter: @jeannebliss


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Oracle WebCenter is the center of engagement for business—powering exceptional experiences for customers, partners, and employees. It connects people, process, and information with the most complete portfolio of portal, Web experience management, content, imaging and collaboration technologies.

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