Experience Management In A Crisis: Shift From Trending To Sensing

The world we live in has changed, at least for the moment. People are practicing physical distancing for COVID-19 while organizations are responding to a radically different economic reality. It’s critical that leaders make significant adjustments to this new environment. Can Experience Management (XM) help? Absolutely. But the emphasis needs to abruptly shift from the current rhythm of trending to an obsession with sensing.

Adjusting Your Leadership For A Downturn

Having worked during several recessions and actively advised companies through the last recessions I’ve seen what it takes for an organization to succeed in this environment. Here’s my high-level advice for leaders:

Be aggressively defensive in the short-term, while being increasingly aggressive for the long-term.

How do you manage this seemingly contradictory statement? By following these five pieces of advice for leading through a recession

  • Protect your values. You will be forced to make very uncomfortable decisions. Make sure that you don’t allow them to undermine your organization’s core values and its brand promises.
  • Be bold. The faster you can deal with the near term and become forward-leaning, the more time you’ll have to outpace your competitors on the backend of the recession.
  • Be clear. I’ve defined four steps for communicating during a crisis: 1) Don’t be shy with bad news, 2) choose certainty over uncertainty, 3) always share exact next steps, and 4) stay empathetic.
  • Prune against priorities. Take the opportunity to rethink your future direction and stop non-core efforts. It’s often much better to cut entire secondary efforts, than to enact across-the-board cuts.
  • Incubate for the future. Identify two or three big bets that you will want to deliver to the market in 18 to 24 months and go after them, even if you need to cut other efforts to find the funding.

Rapidly Adapting With Experience Management

Experience Management (XM) can play an important role in navigating this dynamic environment. XM is all about staying connected with people (customers, employees, partners, and suppliers) by continuously learning, propagating insights, and rapidly adapting.

2003_LearnInsightsAdapt

In this environment, “rapidly adapting” is a capability that we all need to flex a bit more. That’s why I’ve suggested making these changes to your XM programs:

  • Show humanity. If you’re asking for feedback, make sure that you demonstrate empathy for the current environment, so you don’t seem out of touch with the situation.
  • Take a hiatus on metrics. Rather than pushing customers and employees to answer questions to feed your historical metrics and then trying to explain the variances, cut them out for at least the next quarter and focus on more important activities.
  • Ask less, listen more. Think about analyzing existing communications (especially in your contact centers), and asking fewer, more open-ended questions like how are you doing? and how can we help? Also, this is a perfect time to add a voice of the employee component to your efforts.
  • Build up your immediate response skill. In this environment, you need to be more prepared than ever to make changes quickly based on what you learn.
  • Accelerate your feedback cycles. Think about adding more always-on feedback mechanisms to your digital properties as well as using more targeted pulse surveys with your customers, employees, and partners.

10 Questions For Identifying Emerging Signals

While many things are changing, the high-level goals for your XM program remain the same. XM should still be helping you:

  • Tailor efforts to the most important customers
  • Stay aligned with customers’ changing needs
  • Prioritize the critical projects, products, and services
  • Engage and learn from employees, partners, and suppliers

These XM program goals, however, are typically fine-tuned for tracking how organizations operate in a steady-state mode. But this is not a steady-state environment. So you need to shift from a rhythm of trending to an obsession with sensing.

This change in mode requires a pro-active hunt for important changes that are underway. Rather than spending time on tracking existing metrics and doing longitudinal analysis, XM programs need to intensely focus on what’s happening right now. In many cases, your historical data will actually distort your analysis of the current environment.

To make the pivot towards sensing, you need to actively look for emerging signals. Here are the types of questions to focus on as you re-orient your XM program, none of which require any strong comparison with the past:

  1. How are our customers using our products and services differently, and is there an opportunity to adopt and scale those changes?
  2. What emerging needs do our customers have that aren’t being met, and how can we create new offerings in those areas?
  3. What product and service features are most important right now, and how can we adjust our development plans accordingly?
  4. How are people responding to our brand, and what messages do we need to dial up or dial down?
  5. What topics are our customers and employees most concerned about, and how can we tailor our communications to deal with those areas?
  6. What new obstacles are customers, employees, suppliers, and partners running into, and how can we shift resources to solve those problems? 
  7. What opportunities are our suppliers and partners seeing, and how can we collaborate to address those opportunities?
  8. Why are promoters turning into detractors in this environment, and how can we make changes to keep those issues from snowballing?
  9. Why are customers becoming our advocates in this environment, and how can we replicate those activities?
  10. What practices are currently keeping employees engaged right now, and how can we spread those across the organization?

The bottom line: In this environment, assume that you’re starting a new trend line.

XM Fireside Chat: Healthcare Experience With Bruce Temkin And Susan Haufe

Welcome to my XM Fireside Chat series, where we hare some of our thinking through an informal discussion format. I hope you enjoy it!

In this segment of XM Fireside Chat, I talk with Susan Haufe, Chief Industry Advisor for Healthcare at Qualtrics, about healthcare experience, with a focus on the current challenging environment.

The current pandemic is challenging the very structure of our healthcare system. Healthcare providers are being overwhelmed by the volume of patients and the lack of supplies and tests. All of this plays out through a network of human beings who are facing a multitude of stressful factors, including patients suffering from coronavirus, doctors and nurses lacking supplies, and administrators looking to manage and expand their bursting facilities. In this environment it’s more important than ever to stay connected with those people, which is what XM is all about.

Here are some related posts that you may find valuable:

It’s A Perfect Time To Show Our Humanity

In a recent post I wrote for the Qualtrics blog (Adjusting your CX program to deal with COVID-19), I laid out these five principles for making changes to your Experience Management (XM) programs in this challenging environment:

  1. Show humanity
  2. Take a hiatus on metrics
  3. Ask less, listen more
  4. Build up your immediate response skill
  5. Accelerate your feedback cycles

While all of these are important for your XM programs, one is particularly critical right now for everyone around the world… Show Humanity.

With all of the discord and tension throughout the world, it seems like a good time for all of us to refocus on what’s most important, our collective humanity.

That’s an excerpt from a post from December 2017, when we labelled 2018, The Year of Humanity. It may even be more relevant right now. As we all fight the pandemic and deal with the economic slowdown in our own ways, it’s really important that we also look out for one another.

As we did a couple of years ago, I’m looking to reignite a focus on the following mindsets that we defined for humanity:

  • Embrace diversity. Applaud our differences and find ways to treat people as individuals.
  • Extend compassion. Tune into the condition of the people around us and care about their well-being
  • Express appreciation. Proactively look for and acknowledge the positive aspects of the world around us.

Check out this video we created in 2018, Humanity: You Have A Choice!

Here are some of my previous posts about humanity:

The bottom line: Let’s show our collective humanity!

XM Fireside Chat: XM Leadership With Bruce Temkin And Benjamin Granger

Our XM Institute team was looking forward to seeing everyone who was coming to Salt Lake City last week for Qualtrics X4 Summit. Unfortunately, that great event was postponed. So we decided to pull together an XM Fireside Chat series to share some of our thinking through an informal discussion format. I hope you enjoy it!

In this segment of XM Fireside Chat, I chat with the newest member of the XM Institute team, Benjamin Granger, Ph.D. This is a great chance for you to get to know Ben, and we also spend some time talking about XM Maturity.

Organizations don’t master XM overnight, it takes several years of evolution and change.  The XM Institute has found that this path often takes a consistent form. We’ve  identified five distinct stages that organizations go through as they build XM capabilities and increase their XM maturity (see graphic below).

If you’re wondering how to gauge your organization’s CX maturity level, complete our online CX assessment.

2003_5StagesOfXMMaturity

XM Fireside Chat: XM Leadership With Bruce Temkin And Aimee Lucas

Our XM Institute team was looking forward to seeing everyone who was coming to Salt Lake City last week for Qualtrics X4 Summit. Unfortunately, that great event was postponed. So we decided to pull together an XM Fireside Chat series to share some of our thinking through an informal discussion format. I hope you enjoy it!

In this segment of XM Fireside Chat, I chat with Aimee Lucas about XM Leadership.

Leadership is a critical component for driving successful XM programs, which is why “LEAD” is one of our Six XM Competencies. You can see a lot of different content about LEAD on this blog. Also, check out these free reports from the Qualtrics XM Institute:

XM Fireside Chat: ROI Of CX With Bruce Temkin And Moira Dorsey

Our XM Institute team was looking forward to seeing everyone who was coming to Salt Lake City this week for Qualtrics X4 Summit. Unfortunately, that great event was postponed. So we decided to pull together an XM Fireside Chat series to share some of our thinking through an informal discussion format. I hope you enjoy it!

In this segment of XM Fireside Chat, I chat with Moira Dorsey about the ROI of CX.

Ensuring that your CX program (or any type of XM program) delivers value is critical, which is  why “REALIZE” is one of our Six XM Competencies. If you’re interested in ROI of CX, then check out these recent research reports mentioned in the XM Fireside Chat that you can download for free from the XM Institute:

Tap Into XM To Navigate A Recession

Given the spread of Coronavirus and recent losses in the stock market, we’re facing the threat of a prolonged economic downturn. So it’s no surprise that I’ve been asked to share my opinion about how experience management (XM) would be affected by a recession.

If the downturn occurs, it would become the third recession of my professional career. During the last recession, I advised many companies on their strategies and even used this blog to provide advice to leaders on how to weather the storm.

The Great Recession started in late 2007, at which time I was a VP at Forrester Research focusing on customer experience (CX). While the overall environment was challenging, my area of the business was booming. That’s right, the CX business was booming. It turned out that companies increasingly recognized the importance of CX as a tool for actively prioritized customer retention.

I think XM will see that same type of surge if we fall into a recession. This isn’t a forecast about spending on XM technology or services, but instead it’s a prediction that leading organizations will become increasingly committed to XM as a strategic discipline.

To understand how XM will be affected in a recession, it’s important to look at how organizations respond to downturns. In general, companies take one of two approaches to navigating these difficult periods:

  • Manage their way through it. In this approach, executive teams react to market conditions by making widespread cuts in an attempt to maintain short-term profitability targets. After the recession lifts, these firms will often need to rebuild their employee and customer relationships.
  • Lead their way out of it. In this approach, executives intensify their company’s focus on the long-term purpose of the firm and make targeted cuts in areas that are not core to that purpose. After the recession lifts, these firms are set for a quick shift into growth mode.

Five Recommendations For Leading Through A Recession

One of the best perspectives for thinking about a recession is conveyed through this quote by John F. Kennedy:

The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity.

This insight is at the heart of my high-level advice to leaders during a downturn…

Be aggressively defensive in the short-term, while being increasingly aggressive for the long-term.

How do you manage this seemingly stark contradiction? By following these five recommendations:

  1. Protect your values. You will be forced to make very uncomfortable decisions. Make sure that you don’t allow them to undermine your organization’s core values and its brand promises. To quote Martin Luther King, Jr., “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Continually ask yourself: how will this decision affect the core of who we are?
  2. Be bold. During a recession, you have three choices for how to make decisions: 1) hold on to the past, 2) respond when required, or 3) get in front of the wave. The first two option keep you locked into the past, while the third option allows you to start looking ahead. And that’s critical. The faster you can be forward-leaning, the more time you’ll have to outpace your competitors on the backend of the recession.
  3. Be clear. One of the realities of a recession is that just about everyone is anxious, especially your employees who are going to wonder what changes are coming. As I discussed in my recent post about coronavirus, follow four steps: 1) Don’t be shy with bad news, 2) choose certainty over uncertainty, 3) always share exact next steps, and 4) stay empathetic. Also, human beings are hopeful. We flourish when we envision a positive future. So paint a picture of how your organization will be better in the future. This will also be helpful with customers and partners.
  4. Prune against priorities. During a recession, companies have less opportunity for sloppiness so they need to more effectively align their offerings and efforts to the specific need of target customers. Take the opportunity to rethink your future direction and stop non-core efforts. It’s often much better to cut entire secondary efforts, then to enact across-the-board cuts.
  5. Incubate for the future. While you may not be cutting back on new products and features during a recession, don’t cut back on your innovation. Identify two or three big best that you will want to deliver to the market in 18 to 24 months and go after them, even if you need to cut other efforts to find the funding. Set your sites on coming out of the recession with a vigor.

XM Will Fuel Recession Winners

So how will the use of XM change if there’s a recession? Many of the organizations that successfully navigate the downturn will do so by actively adopting XM. During downturns, organizations are forced to intensely focus on what’s most important. For the Great Recession, that meant using CX as a tool for customer retention.

Over the last decade, organizations have recognized that employees are as critical to their success as their customers. So I expect to see leading organizations respond to a downturn by attempting to better understand what their customers and employees are thinking and feeling, put that information into the hands of the people that can do something about it, and make fast adjustments. That’s XM.

Here’s how we describe the capabilities that XM enables:

  • Continuously Learn. XM helps organizations more effectively sense and interpret what’s going on all around them, collecting and analyzing signals from the actions and feedback of employees, partners, vendors, customers, and even competitors.
  • Propagate Insights. XM helps organizations put actionable intelligence in the hands of people across their ecosystem who can use it, creating seamless access to the right information in the right form at the right time.
  • Rapidly Adapt. XM helps organizations act on the insights they’ve uncovered at an increasingly faster pace, finding ways to create new experiences and renovate existing ones.

These XM capabilities can be the foundation for success during a downturn as they will help organizations:

  • Tailor efforts to the most important customers
  • Stay aligned with customers’ changing needs
  • Prioritize the critical projects and programs
  • Engage and learn from employees

In addition, XM will be a critical ingredient for organizations to accelerate after a recession. The ability to stay connected to market signals will be woven into the operating fabric of new offerings that organizations incubate for the post-downturn era. Think about it, if you were building an organization from scratch, wouldn’t you want it to be able to continuously learn, propagate. insights, and rapidly adapt?

To better understand the capabilities that XM provides, here’s a chart from the report, Operationalizing XM.

2003_LearnInsightsAdapt

Previous Recession Posts

In case you’re interested in more information on managing in a recession, here are some older posts that I’ve written on the topic:

The bottom line: Use XM to weather a recession and to thrive in its aftermath.

XM Fireside Chat: Experience Design With Bruce Temkin And Isabelle Zdatny

Our XM Institute team was looking forward to seeing everyone who was coming to Salt Lake City this week for Qualtrics X4 Summit. Unfortunately, that great event was postponed. So we decided to pull together an XM Fireside Chat series to share some of our thinking through an informal discussion format. I hope you enjoy it!

In this first segment of XM Fireside Chat, I chat with Isabelle Zdatny about Experience Design.

Experience design isn’t just a “nice to” activity, it’s a fundamental capability that every organization needs to embrace. And it’s the core skill within what we call the “DISRUPT” competency, which is one of the Six XM Competencies. If you’re interested in Experience Design, here and some useful research reports that are available for free from the Qualtrics XM Institute:

Leaders: Four Experience Design Tips To Deal With Coronavirus

As the Coronavirus situation evolves, organizations are being forced to consider a number of changes that affect every one of their stakeholders—suppliers to employees to customers. It’s critical that leaders not only focus on making the right decisions, but that they also focus on how they implement those decisions. Experience design plays a key role in this area.

This global health crisis requires leaders to make a different set of decisions than they are used to making. This situation is particularly difficult because:

  • Leaders have no control and little visibility over a fluid environment.
  • There are broad social and political implications to the decisions.
  • Stakeholders are concerned about both health and professional issues.

As you think about the myriad of operational, risk management, and business continuity decisions you are making, keep in mind that the way you implement those decisions can be as important as the decisions themselves. And while this emotionally charged environment may be unique, the needs of human beings remain the same.

With all of that context, I’ve identified four experience design-based tips for leaders to keep in mind throughout this crisis period:

  1. Don’t be shy with bad news. You are likely to make some decisions that will negatively impact some people. While it may be uncomfortable to share this information, you need to overcome that discomfort and let people know the information right away. It will not make the news any better, but it will give people more time to deal with it. In the long run, people may not appreciate what you’ve done, but it’s much better than having them hold you accountable for the impact of any delays.
  2. Choose certainty over uncertainty. We often think that people are just looking for leaders to make decisions that benefit them as individuals. But people are more complex than that. As an environment becomes more complicated, people often thrive for order and certainty. In many cases they are best served by hearing negative news rather than being left in a state of uncertainty. One of the great ways to mitigate some uncertainty is to provide regular and clear status updates — even if the situation hasn’t changed. You should also bias your process towards making definitive decisions as proactively as possible.
  3. Always share exact next steps. No matter what decisions you make, be very clear about the activities and timing of what follows. This does not mean that you must have everything worked out before you share information, but you can at least let people know exactly when they can expect to hear from you next with more information. The clarity of setting and meeting these expectations will likely have a significant impact on how people remember your decision.
  4. Stay empathetic. You’re going to be under a lot of stress, so it’s easy to lose sight of how your decisions may affect other people. Make sure to take a moment after you make decisions and think about the people who will be impacted and consider ways to mitigate some of their loss and discomfort. And remember, even if you believe that you are making the right decision, people have the right to feel badly about it.

One of the key lessons in my life came from when I worked at GE and CEO Jack Welch would regularly tell us, “Deal with the world as it is, not as you’d like it to be.” I think those words of wisdom are particularly important right now.

The bottom line: Use experience design to help navigate difficult situations.

My Manifesto: Experience Matters

In September 2007 I published my initial manifesto: Great Customer Experience Is Free. I still fully believe in the elements of that post. After 12 years, however, it’s time for an update. So I’m introducing a new manifesto: Experience Matters.

It seems appropriate for my new manifesto to take on the name of this blog, which I started in June 2007. Over the course of writing 1,684 posts, publishing many, many research reports, and working with hundreds of companies, I’ve sharpened my thinking about the critical role that experience plays in how organizations succeed and human beings thrive. I’ve captured these learnings in the four core beliefs of my Experience Matters Manifesto:

  1. Nothing is more important than people. Everything we achieve in life—personal, professional, and social—is based on people. Our success represents how we affect people, is achieved by working with people, and gets amplified by celebrating with people. And when we fall short of our goals, we’re comforted by people.
  2. Experience is the human I/O system. Human beings have three core subsystems: mind, body, and experience. We process experiences in the world, which then affect us physiologically and psychologically. And we affect other people through the experiences we create. Experiences represent the input and output (I/O) system that connects people with each other and with the rest of the world.
  3. Experiences are in the eyes of the beholder. People can react quite differently to the same experience. Think about a concert, some people can have a wild time dancing to the music while other people are complaining that the music is too loud. We can only understand experiences if we understand how people are processing them.
  4. Organizations are experience factories. Organizations have different missions and structures, but at the end of the day they all do the same thing: create experiences. Their impact on the world is based on the experiences they create for stakeholders such as suppliers, employees, partners, and customers, fans, patients, caregivers, members, donors, etc. Every project, program, product, or service ends up creating one or more experiences for one or more people.

My Experience Matters Manifesto represents the lens through which I look at the world. Here are some implications about what it means specifically for leaders of organizations, as they need to:

  • Care more about people. When we overly focus on profits, products, or processes, you lose site of the purpose of those activities… the experience they create for other people.
  • Better understand people. It’s impossible to deliver the right experiences until you actively examine how people think, feel, and behave.
  • Think more about individuals. Since people react differently to experiences you need to focus your efforts on the smallest possible segments, building your understanding by examining the smallest, most cohesive segments.
  • Master experience management. If experiences are the output for every organization, then you need to build the discipline for delivering the right experience at the right time for the right audience.

The bottom line: Experience Matters!

The Two Ultimate Questions For XM Metrics

Experience Management (XM) programs often rely on one or more key metrics that track items such as likely to recommend, satisfaction, effort, or engagement. As I’ve written in the past, the success or failure of these metrics often has little to do with the actual metric. Instead, the key to success is the program that is wrapped around those numbers (see our 5 steps for an effective CX metrics program). 

Many organizations, however, treat the metric as the core focus of their efforts; overly-obsessing on the data. They regularly spend (actually waste) hours and hours of valuable leadership bandwidth discussing and debating numbers, acting as if a discussion about the metric will magically improve the business.

Let’s think about this situation in a completely different realm… golf. Consider two new golfers. One spends his time debating how to keep score and whether or not his scorecard is accurate, while the other one looks at where she’s losing the most strokes and focuses her time on making improvements in those areas. Which of these golfers do you think will get better faster?

Senior Leaders: Ask These Two Questions

While there are many reasons why organizations fall into this metric-obsessive behavior, senior leaders have the ability to stop it and create a much more productive environment. How? By asking questions that drive the right behaviors.

Here’s my advice for senior executives… Whenever your staff shows you any XM metrics (this includes CX, EX, PX, or BX measurements), ask these two questions:

  1. What have you learned?
  2. What improvements are you making?

That’s right, don’t ask about the data. These two questions will push the organization to focus on the right things and avoid unproductive discussions about numbers.

If people aren’t learning anything from the metrics then you need to encourage them to look deeper (if it continues, then you might need new metrics). If people aren’t making improvements, then you need to ask them “why not?” The only exception to this process is for organizations that are happy maintaining the status quo.

Don’t ask those two questions once or twice; ask them all of the time. This simple change in leadership behavior will have a dramatic effect on how the rest of the organization behaves. As you repeat these questions (over and over again) and stop obsessing about the actual numbers, I’ll bet that your metrics will actually improve even faster.

The bottom line: Leaders can improve XM metrics by simply asking two questions.

The Four P’s of XM Insights

In a recent XM Institute report, we discussed how to Operationalize Experience Management (XM).  Why does XM matter? Because it creates a discipline that helps organizations continuously learn (how people are thinking and feeling), propagate insights (to the right people in the right form at the right time), and rapidly adapt (to an increasing flow of actionable insights).

As we look into the future, just about every organization is facing more demanding customers, more demanding employees, and shorter product lifecycles. In this environment, they need to make smarter, faster decisions… They need XM.

Organizations that master XM will adapt faster than their peers. That statement alone should be compelling enough to focus on building XM capabilities. What happens to your organization if your competitors are systematically adapting faster than you?!?

To understand where XM will come into play, I’ve identified four categories of insights that XM leaders will better understand and more quickly respond to than their peers. Let’s just call them the Four Ps of XM Insights:

2002_4Ps_v1

  • Problems: Have an issue with a product, a brand message that’s going awry, a manager ruining morale, or a process that’s turning customers into detractors? XM leaders will spot those problems and make appropriate adjustments, before their competitors have any indication that there may be an issue.
  • Preferences: What features do key customers prefer, which brand messages resonate with target audiences, and what benefits will have the most impact on employee retention? XM leaders will know the answers to these types of questions and make adjustments before their peers even formulate the questions.
  • Possibilities: What unspoken needs do your customers have, what innovations are in the minds of employees, how can you reinvent your brand, and what should your next generation of products and services look like? XM leaders will have a continuous pulse on these types of insights, while their competitors just brainstorm about them during planning off-sites.
  • Priorities: Which actions will drive the most loyal customers, the most engaged employees, the most vibrant brands, and the most irreplaceable products? XM leaders will understand these connections and focus their resources on the most impactful areas, while their competitors debate options with random groups of employees who happen to be invited to meetings.

The bottom line: XM leaders will adapt faster to problems, preferences, possibilities, and priorities.

New Research Digs Into Industries And Consumer Feedback Patterns

The XM Institute is kicking off the year with a research bang.

In a previous post, I mentioned two reports from late last year that show the business value of CX, The ROI of CX and What Consumers Do After a Bad Experience. Since then, we’ve actually published a number of new research reports with an emphasis on industry-specific data. These reports are based on a survey of 10,000 U.S. consumers and examine almost 300 companies over 20 industries.

Enjoy these free reports:

200120_XMIResearch

Industry CX Snapshots

2001_CXRetailIndustryGraphics_v1This series of reports dig into CX data for a number of industries:  AirlineAutoBankingHealth InsuranceHotelInsurance, and Retail.

Each Industry Snapshot looks at how the highlighted industry’s XMI Customer Rating compares to the Ratings of the other 19 industries and examines the connection between a customer’s experience and the likelihood that they will recommend, rebuy from, and trust a company within that industry. These Industry Snapshots also explore the potential cost of delivering poor experiences, the most broken journeys within each industry, and how experience perceptions differ across age groups

How Consumers Give Feedback

Download the free report, Data Snapshot: How Consumers Give Feedback

2001_HowConsumersGiveFeedback_Graphics1Did you ever wonder what channels consumers use to give feedback, and how that differs between good and bad experiences and across age groups? Then this is a great report for you.

We found that people are more likely to talk about bad experiences than good experiences. When consumers do tell someone about an experience, only one-fifth of consumers provide that feedback directly to the company. We also looked at how consumer behavior differs across age groups.

Six Types Of Experience Data (X-Data)

One of the key building blocks of Experience Management (XM) is X-data, which helps establish an understanding of how people think, feel, and behave. In almost all circumstances, organizations lack the X-data they truly need. So how should organizations go about instrumenting their operations to collect the right data?

To identify the required X-data, it’s important to first understand how data flows from people’s experiences. That’s why you should start with the Human Experience Cycle (HxC). As you can see below, experiences lead to perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors.

1903_HumanExperienceCycle2

Using the HxC model, we examined the components of many XM programs and have identified six distinct types of X-data:

  1. Experience Expectations. How people think and feel about a future interaction with an organization, which can be collected on a regular cycle or periodically (e.g., whether a customer expects a product to be hard to use or believes they can accomplish a service interaction online).
  2. Interaction Perceptions. Feedback on a specific interaction, which can be tracked continuously or periodically (e.g., feedback after an online purchase or after an employee training course).
  3. Journey Perceptions. Feedback on collection of activities around a goal, which can be tracked continuously or periodically (e.g., feedback after an airline customer finishes a trip or after an employee completes her on-boarding).
  4. Relationship Attitudes. How people feel about an organization, including plans for future interactions, which can be tracked on a regular cycle or periodically (e.g., NPS or brand tracking study).
  5. Ad-Hoc Diagnostics. How people think or feel about a problem or opportunity, which is collected as needed based on other findings (e.g., pulse employee survey about a leadership issue or qualitative study into why a brand message didn’t work).
  6. Choice Preferences. How people would rank different alternatives, which is collected periodically (e.g., product feature selection or employee benefits optimization).

XM programs need to collect these six types of X-data for all human beings in their ecosystem (e.g., suppliers, employees, customers, prospects, stakeholders, etc.). This effort embodies what we call the “Experience Monitoring” skill within the XM Competency of “Enlighten.”

We’ll use this taxonomy in future posts and research to help organizations assemble the right XM programs. For now, think about where you might collect and how you might use these different types of X-data.

The bottom line: Every organization needs these six types of X-data.

Thankful For A Decade Of Great Experiences

Happy New Year!

Wow, it’s 2020… the start to a new decade. I’m really looking forward to what’s ahead. My previous post discusses how 2020 will be the Year Of Insightful Actions, but I also wanted to zoom out and share a broader perspective.

Appreciating The Past 10 Years

Before focusing on the 2020s, I’d like to pause and express my gratitude for the 2010s. It was a great decade! I’m very thankful for all of the wonderful friends, family, colleagues, and clients that I’ve been privileged to spend time with during the previous 10 years.

It’s been a fantastic decade from a personal standpoint. My kids graduated college and have started their paths towards highly productive careers. My Boston sports teams won many championships, and I was able to attend three Super Bowls. I adopted a healthier lifestyle, with better eating habits and more exercise. I expanded my worldview, traveling to many new countries.

I would never have had such an amazing decade if it weren’t for YOU. If you’re reading this post, then thank you! You’re one of the people who has motivated my work. I’ve always felt that my team’s primary audience are the many people who follow what we write, whether or not we’ve ever had the opportunity to meet or work with you.

And most of all, I’m thankful that I’ve been able to go on my personal and professional journey with my best friend, my wife Karen.

A Decade of Professional Changes

It’s also been a fantastic decade from a professional standpoint, full of interesting shifts and turns. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Forrester Research. I began the 2010’s as a VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, introducing the world to the practice of customer experience. It was a great opportunity, as I built a wide range of new skills over my 12-year stint. In particular, I learned to be a strong researcher, writer, and storyteller, which enabled me to be the most-read analyst for my final 13 quarters at Forrester. This experience also provided me with the platform to establish a large community of people who followed my work.
    • Special thanks to the the many people across Forrester who helped me hone my skills, especially Bill Bluestein (R.I.P.), Bobby Cameron, Chris Charron, George Colony, Waverly Deutsch, Stan Dolberg, Bill Doyle, Harley Manning, John McCarthy, Chris Mines, Mary Modahl, and Ted Schadler.
  • Temkin Group. In April 2010, Karen and I founded Temkin Group. I still remember a meeting with my friends Ingrid Lindberg and Steve LaValle who convinced me not to name the company “CX Institute” (which is where we were heading), but instead to name it “Temkin Group.” It was a great decision. Over the next eight years, we built a fantastic team and worked with an amazing array of clients—all from our basement. Our little company built a large global brand, as our research and content was used by practitioners around the world. We never had to make any sales calls, as we were very lucky to build our business based on our reputation and word of mouth.
    • Special thanks to the Temkin Group employees who joined us on this journey. It started with Andrea Fineman who was brave enough to be the first to join us in the basement, followed by Aimee Lucas, Isabelle Zdatny, Denise Bahil, Julia Jaffe, Jen Rodstrom, Laura Wells, and Maggie Mead. Also, thanks to Mike Flint and the team at Metropolis Creative who built our websites.
  • CXPA. During the Summer of 2010, Karen and I started developing a plan to build a community of CX professionals, along with Andy Freed from Virtual (an association management company). We recruited Jeanne Bliss to co-found what became the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA). And in April 2011 we launched the CXPA. We hired the amazing Lesley Lykins in early 2012 as the CXPA’s Director of Member Engagement, and she became the heart and soul of the community. I had the immense pleasure to chair the CXPA and to shepherd its growth into a thriving 4,000+ member non-profit association. Over those five years we established the CX profession and created many industry-defining things such as CX Day and the first professional CX certification, CCXP.
    • Special thanks to Karen, Andy, Jeanne, Lesley, and the entire staff at Virtual (especially Janice Carroll, Shannon Taylor, and Megan Cannon who managed the relationship). I also want to thank the initial CXPA board members who trusted our vision and helped bring it to life: Brian Andrews, Parrish Arturi, Lior Arussy, James Bampos, Jeanne Bliss, Erica Bullard, Ginger Conlon, Chris Davey, Kim Edmunds, Karyn Furstman, Ian Golding, Dorsey McGlone, Jason Mittelstaedt, and Karl Sharicz.
  • Qualtrics. In October 2018, Qualtrics acquired Temkin Group. While we were happy to keep going as-is with Temkin Group, Karen and I saw that Qualtrics was becoming the dominant market leader and we felt that its XM message aligned directly with our point of view. Joining forces provided us with the opportunity to amplify our impact on the market. So our entire Temkin Group team joined Qualtrics to create the XM Institute. Over the last year we’ve had the opportunity to work with a great team across Qualtrics and deliver new thought leadership around the world (including in-person sessions in Toronto, London, Dubai, Dublin, Madrid, Brussels, Stockholm, Helsinki, Singapore, Sydney, Melbourne, Kuala Lumpur, Paris, Berlin, and Munich).
    • Special thanks to the Qualtrics team that helped complete the acquisition at a very fast pace, especially Austin Bankhead, Cate Isert, Iris Ng, Zig Serafin, Jeff Shaw, Ryan Smith, Tucker Stockman, and John Torrey. And I’m also thankful for the entire XM Institute team, Moira Dorsey, Ben Granger, Aimee Lucas, Maggie Mead, David Segall, Karen Temkin, Laura Wells, and Isabelle Zdatny.
  • SAP. Three weeks after Qualtrics acquired Temkin Group, SAP acquired Qualtrics. Talk about a crazy month. Luckily, I’ve known SAP since my days at Forrester, and Temkin Group had worked with many large enterprise software companies. So we know that world. While it’s been somewhat dizzying to try and respond to requests from across our 100,000 new teammates, SAP provides the XM Institute with an even larger platform to bring XM to the world. Thanks SAP.

I feel great about all of my professional accomplishments over the past decade except for one gap… a book. I started to write one in 2011, but had to put it aside as the CXPA ended up taking up just about all of my time. While I’ve been too busy to get back to it, I’m committed to writing a book at some point during this current decade.

Comparing Three Exciting Decades

I’m even more excited today about the future then I was a decade ago. Over the past 10-years we’ve established the foundation upon which organizations will transform into the future. Here’s how I see the connection between this new decade and the previous two:

  • 2000s: The Decade of Process And Technology. While the phrase “people, process, and technology” has been around for decades, the 2000s were all about enterprise technology and process management (no real focus on people). It was a very internally-focused period. Laws such as Sarbanes–Oxley put pressure on organizations to establish enterprise wide control and visibility. This propelled the importance of CIOs, as they led programs to centralize and rearchitect the core infrastructure within most large organizations. The dominant form of transformation, business process re-engineering, was also very internally and cost focused. At the same time, the Internet started to penetrate technology and process boundaries, with companies enabling customers to start self-serving for simple purchases and a handful of basic service interactions.
  • 2010s: The Decade of Customers And Digital. With customers starting to directly touch enterprise technologies/processes and fueled by momentum from the end of the “Great Recession,” organizations not only acknowledged the value of customers in the 2010s, but they also started to focus much more attention on understanding and catering to their needs (thanks in part to the mainstreaming of academic domains such as neuroscience and behavioral economics). We defined and established customer experience management as both a critical capability and as a thriving profession. Disruptive online businesses such as Amazon, Uber, and Airbnb forced organizations to rethink how they interact with customers. At the same time, the rapid growth of mobile along with Cloud/SaaS models made every interaction—internal and external—fair game for digitizing. This customer/digital movement led to the rise of experience design, mobile-enabled processes, and the shift in customer research from a one-off activity to a more continuous process. At the end of the decade, the CX movement started spreading to other areas, most noticeably employees (which started the rise of XM).
  • 2020s: The Decade of Humanity And Intelligence. During the upcoming decade, we’ll build upon what we’ve learned from customer experience and apply it to every part of an organization. Driven by the momentum from the 2010s along with an emerging view among leading executives that the purpose of a corporation is to serve humanity, we’ll focus more on the needs and feelings of all human beings in our ecosystems (e.g., suppliers, employees, customers, influencers, etc.). Organizations will deploy more advanced and automated analytics on top of their growing digital/mobile infrastructures. This will make it much, much easier to discover and distribute tailored insights from increasingly larger and more diverse datasets. In this environment, organizations will infuse Experience Management—the capability to continuously learn, propagate insights, and rapidly adapt—throughout their entire operating rhythm. Using the distributed insights, enterprises will provide more individualized interactions and actively decentralize more decision-making.

I’m excited about where all of this is heading, and believe that the XM Institute is well positioned to keep helping organizations navigate through the change.

A Look Back At 2010 CX Recommendations

I thought it would be fun to close out this post by sharing content from a 10-year-old post that I wrote to prepare people for the start of the previous decade. It’s pretty cool that the recommendations are still relevant today. So here were my 7 keys to customer experience in 2010:

  • 1) Drop the executive commitment facade. It’s very easy for executives to say “customer experience is important.” But it’s much more difficult for them to dedicate the time and energy required to make it a real priority. So in 2010, executives should either get actively involved in customer experience transformation or drop it from their agendas.
    • Start here: Develop a customer experience dashboard and manage the results with the same energy that you manage financial results.
  • 2) Acknowledge that you don’t know your customers. When market research teams require long lead times and expensive projects to answer questions about customers, too many organizations go without this insight. But the path to customer experience success requires significantly deeper customer insight. So in 2010, companies need to develop voice of the customer programs that provide ongoing and continuous access to customer insights.
    • Start here: Create a voice of the customer program with a cross-functional team that focuses on four “LIRM” components: listening to customers, interpreting the feedback, reacting to the insights, and monitoring results from actions over time.
  • 3) Keep from getting too distracted by social media. Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites may seem sexy, but they aren’t the only channels for customer feedback. Other channels like comments on surveys and calls into the call center can often provide even richer insight. So in 2010, companies need to learn from social media feedback, but not overreact to it.
    • Start here: Treat social media as one of many listening posts in a comprehensive voice of the customer program that examines both structured and unstructured feedback.
  • 4) Stop squeezing the life out of customer service. My research shows that consumers care more about good customer service than they do low prices. It also turns out that many customer service interactions are critical “moments of truth” that drive customer loyalty. But companies often treat customer service an unwanted stepchild; focusing almost exclusively on aggressive cost-cutting. So in 2010, companies need to start viewing customer service as a strategic asset.
    • Start here: Measure customer service organizations based on how effectively they help customers instead of efficiency metrics like average handle times.
  • 5) Restore the purpose in your brand. True brands are more than just color palettes, logos, and marketing slogans, they’re the fabric that aligns all employees with customers in the pursuit of a common cause. They represent a firm’s raison d’être. Unfortunately, many companies have lost this sense of purpose in their brands. So in 2010, companies need to redefine their brand and embed it in the hearts and minds of all employees.
    • Start here: Translate your brand into promises you will make (and keep) with customers across every key touch point.
  • 6) Don’t expect employees to get on board. Employees are often the most critical element of any customer experience effort. But firms can’t just hope that everyone will participate in these change initiatives. So in 2010, companies need to actively focus on engaging employees at every level across the organization in their customer experience efforts.
    • Start here: Communicate (a lot) about “why” customer experience is important and allow employees to participate in defining “how” to make improvements.
  • 7) Translate customer experience into business terms. My research uncovered a strong correlation between customer experience and loyalty. An average $10 billion company can generate $284 million of additional revenues from customer experience improvements. But most companies don’t fully understand the link between customer experience and business results. So in 2010, companies need to identify how customer experience impacts their financial results.
    • Start here: Engage the CFO to develop a model which shows the impact that customer experience has on customer loyalty.

The bottom line: The 2010s were fantastic, but the 2020s will be even better!