How to Provide Certainty Even During Times of Uncertainty

Last month, at the XM Institute, we held our second ever XMPN Virtual Meetup. We met with experience management (XM) professionals from around the world, with most reigning from the APJ region and Africa. 

The bulk of the conversation was centered around applying XM during this time of crisis. We anchored this part of the discussion around four experience design-based tips for leaders, one of those tips being “choose certainty over uncertainty.”

The importance of this tip was emphasized by an XM practitioner from New Zealand who pointed out that organizational leaders are struggling to communicate with certainty because of the uncertainties at the national and local governmental levels and the uncertainties among the leaders above them in the organization. In other words, uncertainty has a tendency to spread. 

This got us thinking – while these chains of uncertainty are common, they are certainly not necessary!

Why Choose Certainty over Uncertainty?

As many of us are learning the hard way right now, humans respond much better to certainty than uncertainty, even when the certainty might be bad news. Many airlines have come to embrace this principle, communicating things as simple as flight delays with detailed timelines and updates. Flight delays are almost always bad news, but knowing what, why, and when helps us (as consumers) manage and cope. 

In fact, in times of crisis and uncertainty, human beings actively seek out certainty and stability. And this is the case for many employees and customers around the globe right now. 

How to Break the Chain of Uncertainty

While uncertainty spreads aggressively when left unchecked, here are 3 simple steps that leaders can take to break the chain:

  • Make the uncertain, certain. First, clearly lay out the issue and acknowledge the uncertainty facing everyone. Avoiding the issue can actually make things worse. For example, many remote employees are wondering if and when they might be asked to return to the office. And for many organizations, there is no definitive answer to this. As a leader whose employees are looking to you for guidance, be frank with them that you don’t know and neither does the organization. That fact, at least, serves as some form of certainty.
  • Clearly share what is certain. Next, transition to communicating what is certain, even if the news is not great. Building on the scenario above, while you may not know for sure if and when the team will return to the office, what you do know is that it is not for at least the next three weeks. Share those details and outline the relevant state or local guidance your company is relying on. Also share any known dependencies, such as if and when your team returns to the office, there will be new policies and procedures in place to protect people. 
  • Provide a path for more certainty. Finally, build on what is certain by sharing any known timelines for when updated decisions may be made. For example, you may let employees know that you will be providing updates every Wednesday with the latest information. You could also share the resources that you are using to drive the decisions, which will allow them to stay informed. This step requires some work upfront on your part but is well worth the effort. 

In summary, even when we are surrounded by uncertainty, it is almost always possible (and highly desirable) to provide some level of certainty.

Managing the Working-From-Home Employee Experience

Last week, my colleagues Steve Bennetts, Sally Winston, and I held a webinar (watch it here) focused on how organizations should manage their employees’ work-from-home experience. While we covered several meaty topics, we also tried to keep the discussion light and lively. In fact, we covered this topic while working from our own homes and at certain points during the webinar, you can clearly hear children playing and laughing in the background. This is indeed the world we are living in right now! 

Importantly, each of us represented different global regions, with Steve based in Sydney bringing perspectives from the Asia, Pacific region, Sally based in London with perspectives from the EMEA region and myself, based in the U.S. bringing a North American perspective. 

Here is a summary of our discussion:  

  • Organizations must understand the human experience cycle. We started the discussion by anchoring on a basic understanding of the human experience cycle. This is a foundational concept for experience management (XM) that explains the determinants and outcomes of human experiences. We focused heavily on expectations – a core component of the human experience cycle that influences how humans perceive experiences. Among the components of the cycle, we agreed that organizations have the greatest direct impact on the experiences they deliver to their employees and the expectations they set and manage. We also agreed that employee expectations of their employers are very likely to change in the future, based on the dramatic and emotionally-charged experiences they are going through right now. 
  • Now is the time to adjust Employee Experience (EX) Management programs. Next, we dove into the most tactical topic of the webinar, starting with an overview of our research that employees want to be asked for feedback during times of change and are actually more engaged when they are. This is precisely the time when organizations should ask their employees for feedback. However, we also vehemently agreed that conducting a business-as-usual survey is not appropriate and that organizations must be extremely sensitive to employees’ concerns and uncertainties (e.g., safety, job security). We closed this section by concluding that one of the hallmarks of a strong EX Management program is its agility and we pointed to resources that answer other common, tactical questions about EX management programs. 
  • Employee health and well-being must be top-of-mind. To be clear, organizations should always be concerned with employee health and well-being but it is especially important right now. Many employees are working remotely for the first time ever and have lost their social networks (at least physically). This has the potential to dramatically impact employee mental health and physical well-being. Steve Bennetts, who brings a strong background in clinical psychology and workplace safety, explained that “employees are having a normal reaction to abnormal events”. He suggested that organizations and its leaders attempt to “normalize” peoples’ reactions to this unprecedented situation. We closed this section by discussing practical tips for people leaders managing remote teams such as creating new, virtual touch bases (e.g. daily standups, virtual lunches, virtual happy hours) and getting to know employees in this new, virtual world. The latter point is important because employees may behave very differently in this novel environment. 
  • Strong people leadership is even more important right now. While there are tons of articles providing direct tips for remote workers, we acknowledged that far less has been published for people leaders. As our founder and CEO, Ryan Smith, pointed out in his recent article, “right now the work needs leadership, and it has to start with people managers”. We discussed several global examples of organizations that have actually created sub-task forces focused specifically on front-line people leaders and the ways in which they have trickled tips and tricks. Our discussion ventured into performance management and goal setting and how people leaders play a critical role in continuously aligning their newly-remote workers’ goals and expectations.  
  • Employees’ expectations of their employers are likely to change. Our discussion came full circle, back to the human experience cycle and the role of employee expectations. Here are 3 changes to employees’ expectations that we think are likely to persist:
    1. Employees will expect to bring their whole selves to work. Employees will expect that the blending of their personal and professional lives will not be counted against them in the future.
    2. Employees will expect more workplace flexibility. Not every employee will want to work from home but many will expect more flexible policies from their employers in the future.
    3. Employees will expect greater global alignment. While the COVID-19 pandemic is certainly a horrific global event, it is also globally unifying and employees will expect an increased level of global alignment in the future.

All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed our conversation and we all learned something about how different global regions are handling this crisis. Our overarching conclusion from the session was that organizations that are focused on XM during this time, are the ones who will thrive when this crisis ends.

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:

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:

Stop Obsessing About Organizational Alignment

I was recently asked a question that I hear a lot, how do we get alignment across our large, complex organization? This is an important question since the path to Experience Management (XM) often requires large-scale change.

I’m now just saying: Stop focusing so much on it. Instead of trying to gain full alignment before you begin, build it over time in an iterative manner that I’m calling Agile Alignment.

When people think about transformation, they often make a false assumption that alignment is required prior to change. They believe that it’s a prerequisite to get all of the key stakeholders on the same page. It isn’t.

If you have limited bandwidth (which is the case for just about everyone I’ve ever worked with), then you have to make trade-offs on where you spend your time and energy. At a simplistic level, you will be faced with deciding between trying to build alignment with people who are not pre-disposed to supporting your efforts, or focusing on driving some elements on your change agenda. My argument is that, on the margin, the latter can be much more productive than the former.

We often assume that alignment is a precursor to change. But let me introduce a new thought: Successful change is the precursor to true alignment. In other words, you may be able to get people passively on-board with your plans, but they aren’t truly on-board until they see something is working and on the path to success.

The ideal approach for driving transformation, therefore, is an iterative process that I’m calling Agile Alignment. It goes like this:

  1. Identify key stakeholders who are actively aligned
  2. Drive successful change initiatives with those aligned stakeholders
  3. Build alignment with a larger group of stakeholders
  4. Go back to step #2

This way, you keep expanding the scope of your efforts and the breadth of your alignment over time.

The bottom line: True alignment follows success.

 

 

Exciting News From The XM Institute

The time has finally come for me to tell people to stop purchasing Temkin Group research reports. Are we eliminating them? No. Are they irrelevant? No. We’ve just decided to give them away for free on the Qualtrics XM Institute site.

That’s right, you can now get access to almost our entire research library for free. One of the reasons we joined Qualtrics was to be able to help more people and organizations. This move shows you the commitment that Qualtrics is making to help the world understand and deliver on the promise of Experience Management (XM).

One of the things you’ll notice on the XM Institute page is a filter to select reports based on Six XM Competencies. Yes, we’ve created a new model. It’s based on the following six competencies:

  • Lead. Architect, align, and sustain successful XM efforts. Driving XM transformation requires a strong program and active support from senior leadership.
  • Realize. Track and ensure that XM efforts achieve business objectives. For XM efforts to have lasting, positive impact, they must align with the overall priorities of the organization.
  • Activate. Create the appropriate skills, support, and motivation. People generally gravitate towards the status quo. To help overcome that inertia, the organization must ensure that employees have all the appropriate XM-related training and support needed.
  • Enlighten. Provide actionable insights across an organization. At the center of XM is the constant flow of data being transformed into useful information and shared with those most capable of taking the appropriate action.
  • Respond. Prioritize and drive improvements based on insights. An organization must act on what it learns by making constant improvements as insights are uncovered.
  • Disrupt. Identify and create experiences that differentiate the organization. Truly successful XM efforts go beyond simply reacting to problems to proactively developing innovative experiences that give the organization a competitive advantage.

That’s just a quick summary. We will be publishing much, much more on this model in the future. It will be the primary lens for all of our content, which is why and we’ve created categories on this blog for the Six XM Competencies.

Enjoy all of the free content on the Qualtrics XM Institute site!

Complexity Is An Experience Killer

I just spent two days in Miami with a great group of executives who are part of the SAP CX Client Advisory Board. One of their presentations described the company’s technology transformation, and included a stream of activity around “decomplexing.” I loved seeing that!

Complexity ends up oozing its way into all types of experiences. Complex products, prices, or processes lead to ill-prepared employees and confused customers. A complex set of benefits leads to ill-prepared HR representatives and confused employees. A complex brand positioning leads to erratic messages and a confused marketplace.

The problem even goes beyond confusion, as complexity causes people to make mistakes — or even to think they made mistakes when they hadn’t. It generates large numbers of unproductive interactions, as people try and sort through the complexity to figure out what they want to, or need to do.

People often try and mask complexity. And while that may be effective in some situations, it ends up failing almost all the time. Why? Because complexity oozes its way into everything. It’s extremely hard to contain. A complex pricing structure can be masked with a configurator, but customers end up being confused about why they have to buy something, the price associated with the purchase, or the information on their first bill.

Organizations have a natural tendency to create complexity. They add rules and processes on top of of other rules and processes. That’s why decomplexing is a great thing to work on. It requires an explicit focus and an ongoing discipline. Making things simple is often much harder than continuing to make them complex.

Decomplexing is worth the effort.

The bottom line: Simplification is a wonderful enabler of great experiences.

The Evolving Role of CX (& XM) Leaders

Last week I spoke at a local CXPA meeting in Boston. We had a great turnout, thanks to the great work of the planning committee and the wonderful space provided by Education First.

image1

I led a discussion about the future of CX, which I believe was applicable to all experience management (XM) leaders. One of my key messages was that we need to think of our roles differently as we push our organizations to even higher levels of CX/XM maturity. Here’s how the role of CX/XM leaders need to change:

  • Early stages of maturity: WHAT WE DO. In the early stages of maturity, you need to build a strong team, a clear message, and a solid work plan. You need to enlist a few external supporters, but a large majority of the effort is driven by your team.
  • Middle stages of maturity: HOW WE INFLUENCE. Once you have some momentum and clarity around priorities, your team needs to shift focus from being doers to being facilitators. You need to build a much broader coalition of supporters and collaborators, and support them as they make changes within their organizations.
  • Advance stages of maturity: HOW CX/XM THRIVES. Once you’ve hit the larger stages of maturity, you need to make sure that good CX/XM practices are not only being deployed, but they’re being embraced. You should be helping leaders across the organization to embed the new practices within their core operations, and find ways to continuously improve on them. Deploying good CX/XM approaches isn’t good enough, as those activities must be nurtured so they don’t get stale over time.

I hope you are able to lead your organization to the advanced stages of maturity. If you do, you’ll likely need to change your approach many times along the way.

The bottom line: CX/XM leaders’ job description shifts from doing to nurturing.

The Engaging Power Of Employee Feedback

Does your organization listen to its employees? I mean, really listen and act on what they say. Based on what our research has uncovered, it’s likely that the true answer is “no.” Check out some data from our recent research:

  • In our Q3 2018 Consumer Benchmark Study, we found that 40% of full time U.S. employees strongly agrees with the statement, “My company asks for my feedback and acts upon what I say.”
  • In the report, Employee Engagement Competency & Maturity, 2018, we found that only 40% of executives within large organizations  put a high priority on taking action based on results from employee engagement studies.

Does it really matter? Yes! While there is enormous value from using employee feedback to improve your business, the true win might be in how it improves the engagement level of those employees.

To understand this phenomena, we examined the relationship between how employees think their company listens to and acts on their feedback, and the degree to which those employees are willing to do something good for their company even if it’s not expected of them. Eighty-two percent of employee who strongly agree that their company takes action on their feedback are likely to do something good for the company, compared with only 30% of those who do not agree.

We decided to dig deeper into the data and look at how this relationship differs across employee roles. As you can see in the chart below:

  • Executives (87%) are the most likely to do something good for the company if their feedback is acted upon.
  • Financial services sales or relationship management employees (19%) are the least likely to do something good for the company if their feedback is not acted upon.
  • The “do-good gap” is largest for B2B sales or relationship workers, where there’s a 65-point difference in employees’ likelihood to do something good for the company based on how the company deals with their feedback.

1902_EmployeeFeedbackValue3

The bottom line: Employee feedback is an under-appreciated gift.

CX Myth #5: Wow Customers During Every Interaction

CX Myths: Debunking Misleading Beliefs About Customer Experience

Many common beliefs about customer experience are misguided, based on oversimplifications or a lack of consideration for real-world constraints. In this series of posts, we debunk these myths.


CX Myth #5: Wow Customers During Every Interaction

What’s Wrong: While it may be appealing to think about creating an amazing experience every time you touch a customer, it’s just not appropriate or practical. All interactions should aim to meet your target customers’ success, effort, and emotional expectations, but in many cases they aren’t looking to be wowed. And if we put the same energy into all interactions, then we are underinvesting in the situations that matter the most to our customers.

What’s Right: Customer experience is not about wowing customers, it’s about delivering on your brand promises. Otherwise, companies that wanted to be great at customer experience would face an endless escalation of costs as they continue to layer on wow-inducing elements across their customers’ lifecycle. You need to understand how you want to be differentiated in your customers’ eyes (brand promises), and make investments in customer experience that bring those differences to life.

What You Should Do:

  • Elevate your brand promises. If you don’t know what makes you special, then you will never be able to effectively prioritize your resources. Start by making clear brand promises, then embrace those promises by helping all employees understand what those promises mean and what role they personally play in making the promises come to life. Finally, keep the promises by holding each other accountable to them on an ongoing basis and measuring yourself against them.
  • Master key moments. A handful of moments disproportionately impact your customers’ perceptions of your organization, and therefore disproportionately impact their loyalty. First identify these moments, and then invest in making those moments emotionally resonant experiences that reinforce your brand promises.
  • Focus on customer expectations. Delivering a great experience does not mean being better than your competitors. Their brand promises may be different than yours, or they may not be setting the right bar for key moments. Instead, measure yourself against your customers’ expectations. Are you exceeding your brand promises in the eyes of your key customers? If the answer is “an easy yes,” then you may want to consider even more aggressive brand promises.

The bottom line: Don’t try and wow customers, live up to your brand promises.

Employees Want To Make A Positive Impact

What motivates employees? This may seem like a difficult question to answer, but it’s not hard at all. There’s one overwhelming answer: Making a positive difference.

In our latest consumer benchmark study, we asked more than 5,000 full-time U.S. employees to select which of eight job characteristics they felt was the most important. Here’s what we found:

  • Making a positive impact: 42%
  • Earning a lot of money: 14%
  • Advancing your career: 13%
  • Building stronger skills: 12%
  • Using your judgment: 8%
  • Being seen as a top performer: 6%
  • Making friends at work: 3%
  • Impressing your family and friends: 2%

Making a positive impact is also the most important job characteristic across all age groups. As you can see below, it becomes increasingly more important as employees get older. For the youngest employees, being seen as a top performer comes in a close second place, but nothing is even close with older employees.

1811_JobImportanceByAge_v1

We also asked employees about the elements of their job that they enjoy. The chart below shows that once again, making a positive impact comes out on top across age groups and increases with age. For younger employees, building stronger skills is a very close second. As employees get older, using your judgement becomes an increasingly enjoyable element of their job.

1811_JobEnjoymentByAge_v1

The bottom line: Help employees feel like they’re making a positive impact.

eBook: Humanizing Customer Experience

Temkin Group eBook: Humanizing Customer Experience (CX)Temkin Group has labeled 2018 “The Year of Humanity.” To support this theme, over the past year we have conducted research and developed content – such as this eBook – specifically aimed at helping fellow CX professionals improve the world around us. In this eBook, Humanizing Customer Experience, you will learn about:

  • The Six Key Traits Of Human Beings that are important to understand how people think, feel, and act.
  • How individuals can improve humanity by embracing diversity, extending compassion, and expressing appreciation.
  • Three strategies for CX professionals to improve humanity: act with purpose, create positive memories, and cultivate deep empathy.

Temkin Group eBook: Humanizing Customer Experience (CX)

 

CX Myth #3: You Can’t Manage What You Don’t Measure

CX Myths: Debunking Misleading Beliefs About Customer Experience

Many common beliefs about customer experience are misguided, based on oversimplifications or a lack of consideration for real-world constraints. In this series of posts, we debunk these myths.


CX Myth #3: You Can’t Manage What You Don’t Measure

What’s Wrong: When people talk about CX, they often repeat a popular saying “you can’t manage what you don’t measure.” That’s just not true. Most of the things we manage in life don’t have a formal measurement. Every day we wake up in the morning, get dressed, and get to work – all without any specific measurements. The same is true at work, and with CX. If we see an employee make a client upset, we don’t need a score on a customer survey to know that it’s a problem.

What’s Right: The correct saying should be “you can’t manage what you don’t understand.” Unfortunately, leaders sometimes just slap measurements on CX, which leads to the suboptimal approach of blindly managing by the numbers. When you talk with customers and employees about different aspects of customer experience, you can often discover insights that either never show up in your measurements, or appear long after you should have known about them. Ideally, you use CX measurements to enhance your understanding, not to replace it.

What You Should Do:

  • Increase leadership CX IQ. If you want leaders to be less metrics-centric and more successful at driving an organization towards becoming more customer-centric, then those leaders need to have a clear and consistent view of how a customer-centric organization operates. A good place to start is by having leaders review Temkin Group’s CX Competency & Maturity Model. After that, you can create measurements that map to the leaders’ understanding of CX.
  • Prune action-less metrics. Since leaders are often enamored with metrics, they tend to track an increasingly larger number of them over time. The growth remains unfettered, as very few organizations have a good approach for stopping measurements once they’ve been created. Every year or so, companies should have a metrics cleansing period, during which time there’s a pro-active focus on removing metrics that have not recently provided demonstrable value.
  • Prioritize qualitative research. The push to metrics often causes organizations to put most of their market research budget on quantitative studies that result in trackable measurements. But deep insights into customers often comes from qualitative studies that examine why customers think and behave the way that they do. Look for places to explicitly fund more qualitative studies by cutting back on the least impactful quantitative studies.
  • Measure collective results. CX success requires efforts across an entire organization. So watch out for measurements that isolate the activities of individual people or teams. The narrower the measurements you use, the more likely you are to de-incentivize collaborative behaviors. Focus on metrics that capture real-world team-based activities.
  • Look for leading indicators. Most metrics represent backwards-looking scorecards, describing how an organization performed in the past. While a retrospective view can be helpful, it’s more valuable to understand what activities will impact your organization’s future CX trajectory. Use predictive analytics to identify what activities with different customer segments will most improve your CX metrics in the future.

The bottom line: CX insights don’t always require CX metrics.

CX Myth #2: You Need A 360-Degree View of Customers

CX Myths: Debunking Misleading Beliefs About Customer Experience

Many common beliefs about customer experience are misguided, based on oversimplifications or a lack of consideration for real-world constraints. In this series of posts, we debunk these myths.


CX Myth #2: You Need A 360-Degree View of Customers

What’s Wrong: If companies had an unlimited set of resources to plow into their customer insights efforts and an equally unlimited number of people prepared to take action on those insights, then shooting for a 360-degree view of your customers would be viable. But this is not the case for most organizations. So striving to understand everything about every customer (360-degree view) pushes organizations to over-invest in data and squeezes out the critical focus on taking action on the insights.

What’s Right: Organizations need to focus their insights efforts in areas where they are prepared to take action. Rather than aiming for a 360-degree view of all customers, organizations would be better served with a more targeted approach, focusing their insights investments on understanding key customer groups during specific parts of their journeys.

What You Should Do:

  • Separate the notions of Detect and Diagnose, which are two parts of the Six D’s of a Voice of the Customer Program. You can track the high-level feedback from a large number of customers (“Detect”) and then use those insights to identify areas where you should dig deeper to drive action (“Diagnose”).
  • Identify the actions that your organization is prepared or willing to take based on customer insights. This includes items across all four action loops: immediate response, corrective action, continuous improvement, and strategic change.
  • Define the target customers that you need to understand in order to support actions. This should include the type of customers and the specific stages of their journey that you’re most interested in understanding.
  • Make it as easy as possible for people across your organization to use the insights. Tailor the information to the specific ways that people in your organization make decisions. Minimize the requirement for non-analyst users to interpret and manipulate the data to uncover actionable insights.
  • Whenever you’re presenting customer insights, try not spend more than 20% of the time discussing data. Use the majority of the time talking about what the data means,  implications, opportunities for improvement, and next steps.
  • Help stakeholders across your organization understand new and more impactful ways that they can use customer insights to drive action. They may not immediately understand how to best use insights, so you may need to help them evolve through seven stages to a data-centric mindset.

The bottom line: Focus on developing the most actionable insights.