Stop Employees From Asking For Good Ratings

Over the last few weeks, I’ve run into a couple of examples of a common problem with some Experience Management (XM) programs… “gaming.” Here’s what I found…

During dinner with a friend who is an executive at a large bank, our discussion made its way to XM (no surprise). He mentioned that his bank has an employee engagement study and that leaders are compensated based on the results.

Sounds like a good thing, right?

My friend then shared a conversation that his boss had with the leadership team. This senior executive told my friend and the rest of his direct reports that they needed to give him better ratings, because the current scores were negatively impacting his compensation.

Now for the second example. I’m a frequent flier, and regularly receive requests from airlines to provide feedback after a flight.

Sounds like a good thing, right?

During a recent trip on Delta, the flight attendant announced that we’d be receiving a survey and that she hopes they exceeded our expectations and will give them a 5 (see note about Delta below).

Do these two situations sound like a path to better employee experience (EX) or customer experience (CX)? Of course not! Both of these examples represent inappropriate behaviors. Whenever a person is pressured to give a specific score, the integrity of the measurement system is broken. We call this type of behavior “gaming the system.”

Gaming is a common problem. It happens when an organization puts too much emphasis on specific measurements — at the expense of the overall XM program.

The goal of XM is not to achieve some number, but to create a discipline to continuously learn, propagate insights, and rapidly adapt. This enables an organization to consistently deliver experiences that meet the needs of its key audiences. When an organization overly focuses on a number, often by attaching strong incentives to individuals based on the data, the system is bound to create these types of counter-productive “gaming” behaviors.

To help discourage this type of behavior, consider adopting these five rules to stop employees from gaming that I’ve described in a previous post:

  1. Don’t mention or refer to a score
  2. Don’t mention specific survey questions
  3. Don’t mention any consequences
  4. Don’t say or imply that you will see their responses
  5. Don’t intimidate customers (or employees) in any way

The bottom line: Make sure you’re not encouraging gaming behaviors.

Note: I regularly fly with Delta and this is the only time that I’ve run into this type of gaming behavior.

Five Recommendations For De-Emphasizing Benchmarking

Benchmarking, benchmarking, benchmarking… it’s a popular subject.

I’ve been publishing CX benchmarks for more than 10 years, so you might be surprised by my point of view on the topic: benchmarking is often overused and misinterpreted. I’m not saying to give up on the entire activity, but people often spend too much time and energy focusing on industry comparisons that aren’t necessarily an accurate reflection of the genuine customer experience.

Let me start by saying that benchmarking is a perfectly good activity. It makes sense to periodically evaluate your performance relative to competitors, especially as an input to your strategy. And it’s also healthy to look at your performance relative to companies from other industries.

While benchmarking provides value, people often let it distract them from more important activities. So here are five recommendations on how to think about benchmarking:

  1. Focus on improving, not comparing. When it comes to the use of your insights activities, it’s critical that an overwhelming majority of your efforts are aimed at finding opportunities to improve — not scorekeeping. Many executives seem to feel as though a benchmark provides a security blanket of sorts—one that shows their remit within the business is in line (or better than) the competition. Whether it’s from internal metrics or external benchmarks, knowing where you are and where you’ve been is not nearly as valuable as knowing where you should be heading. Companies often use up a lot of their feedback capacity to ask customers (and employees) questions solely for the purpose of fueling a benchmark. My advice: Optimize everything you do on driving improvements, even if it means dropping some benchmarking questions.
  2. Obsess about customers, not competitors. One of the risks of relying too much on benchmarking is that it can mask your performance when there are shifts in the market, such as new competitive options or evolving customer requirements. You may be doing well against current competitors and with existing customers while the market is slipping away from you. Your critical strategic question should be are we delivering the right experiences to the right customers?, not how are we doing versus our competitors?
  3. Compare data within studies, not across them. Every industry benchmark is based on a specific methodology, with it’s own target audience, sampling approach, timing, collection mechanism, questions, and calculations. Each of these items has an impact on the results. As I often say, sampling patterns really, really matter. It’s often ineffective to compare results across different studies unless you control for all of those items, which can be very difficult. So don’t spend too much time trying to reconcile an industry benchmark with internal results.
  4. Set goals around key drivers, not necessarily industry benchmarks. As you think about setting goals for your organization, don’t fall into the trap of relying on benchmarked metrics just because the data exists. You should be setting goals for the items that drive the overall performance of your business, which may or may not look anything like the industry benchmarks. What’s unique about your brand and what creates a loyal customer? We recommend following five steps for creating a CX metrics program, starting with higher-level goals and working your way down to metrics on key drivers.
  5. Rely on internal insights, not external data. While external benchmarks can provide a high-level snapshot of relative performance, they lack the depth and adaptability to dig into critical company-specific topics such as the needs of target customer segments and your performance during key moments of truth. The additional value of internal insights are also dramatically amplified when you combine experience data (X-data) with operational data (O-data). The ability to dig into key questions and find more meaningful insights makes building internal insights capabilities a much more valuable endeavor than digging into external benchmarks.

The bottom line: Choose actionable insights over competitive comparisons… everyday!

Is NPS A Dubious Fad?

Okay, it’s that time again. Every few years someone ignites the debate about whether Net Promoter Score® (NPS®) is a great or terrible thing. A recent article in the WSJ (The Dubious Management Fad Sweeping Corporate America) has sparked the discussion this time.

Rather than write something entirely new, I decided to share something I wrote in 2015 that addresses the issue. Before I share that post, I also suggest you take a look at these:

Below is the 2015 post, Is Net Promoter Score A Savior Or A Demon?

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Every couple of years, I get a resurgence of questions about Net Promoter® Score (NPS®). These surges typically coincide with research that shows how NPS is either an excellent predictor or a terrible predictor of company performance. That data often ignites a religious battle between the NPS lovers and NPS haters.

Well, it’s one of those times.

Let me start by saying that I’m an atheist in this NPS battle. We’ve had the opportunity to study and work with hundreds of companies that use NPS. I’ve recommended to some companies that they adopt NPS, to others that they stop using NPS, and to others that they start with a totally different set of metrics (see our VoC/NPS resource page).

Let’s look at what we know for sure about NPS…

The reality is that the metric itself is much less important than how it is used. I’d rather use a sub-optimal metric in a way that drives positive improvements across an organization, than have a perfect metric that doesn’t result in as much impact.

Here are some quick answers to key questions:

  • Is NPS the best indicator of customer loyalty and business performance? In many cases, no.
  • Can other metrics be used to drive positive change? Yes.
  • Does NPS provide an easy to understand metric that can be widely adopted? Yes.
  • Can NPS be used to make an organization more customer centric? In many cases, yes.
  • Will a company improve if it increases promoters and decreases detractors? In many cases, yes.
  • Can NPS be used inappropriately? Yes.
  • Can any metric be used inappropriately? Yes.
  • Would I ever recommend NPS for every touch point? No.
  • Should companies consider their specific business when selecting metrics? Absolutely.
  • What’s more important, the metric or the improvement process? The improvement process.

The bottom line: NPS is neither a savior nor a demon.

P.S. In case you didn’t know, NPS® and Net Promoter® are registered trademarks of Fred Reichheld, Satmetrix, and Bain & Company.

 

Six Categories Of X&O Data Insights

Last week I attended SAP’s SAPPHIRE and CX Live events in Orlando. It was great to see 35,000 or so of my new friends. As you might expect, Experience Management (“XM”) was a dominant theme. Just about every SAP or Qualtrics keynote speech discussed XM, and it was a topic at many of the concurrent sessions. I really enjoyed seeing the XM message come to life in so many different ways.

One of the cornerstones of XM is the combination of operational data (“O-data”) and experience data (“X-data”). While each type of data can provide valuable insights on its own, the combination can unlock new levels of intelligence across an enterprise. These more inclusive datasets will increase in value as organizations expand their use of predictive analytics, as the combined data is inherently more insightful.

To help you think about where you can find valuable opportunities to combine X- and O-data within your organization, we identified the following six categories of use cases:

  • X Why: Find something happening in O-data and look for an explanation in X-data
  • O Drivers: Find something happening in X-data and look for operational situations that are causing the situation
  • X&O Predict: Build projections based on an analysis of X- & O-data
  • X&O Personalize: Adjust how you treat people based on a combination of X- & O-data
  • X&O Alert: Send alerts and other proactive information based on a combination of X- & O-data
  • X Value: Measure the value of improving experiences by examining the impact that those changes have on business results

1905_CategoriesOfXODataInsights_v2

The graphic above provides some customer experience (“CX”) and employee experience (“EX”) examples, but it’s not meant to be an exhaustive list of use cases. Hopefully the table provides you with a good sense of the insights that can be unlocked with the combination of X- and O-data.

Now that you understand some of the ways for gaining insights from X- and O-data, think about how the combination can impact your organization. If you have some ideas or examples of how it’s worked for you, leave them in the comments section of this post.  I’ll try and highlight some of the most interesting items.

The bottom line: Combine your Xs & Os to unlock more insights.

 

CX to XM: Propelling Humanity & Intelligence

As you have hopefully seen, I’m now running the Qualtrics XM Institute, where we will be producing easy-to-consume, compelling content and training that both inspires business leaders with experience management (XM) possibilities and helps them drive value from their programs. Many people have asked me recently about why we’re now focusing on XM instead of on customer experience (CX).

The quick answer is that we are still focusing a lot on CX. It will continue to be a critical component of our work. The longer explanation for this CX-to-XM transition requires me to first break down how these two domains work together.

I’ve had the opportunity to lead the CX movement for many years now, and I’m very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish together. While CX still has a lot of room for improvement, the discipline now has a robust set of repeatable skills and practices, which are being used by a growing—and increasingly capable—community of CX professionals. We’ve come a long way over the last decade!

When I take a step back and think about how CX has changed the way leading organizations operate, it’s really reshaped their behavior along two key dimensions:

  • They have made human beings the center of focus
  • They continuously generate and act upon insights

We unlocked something powerful in CX. By combining an intensified understanding of how people think, feel, and behave with our dramatically improving capabilities to uncover and act on those insights, we’ve created an entirely new set of best practices. In fact, I believe that this combination of humanity and intelligence will form the basis of how organizations compete in the future. It will be the fundamental component that defines success or failure.

But the power of humanity and intelligence is valuable beyond just our interactions with customers. We need to take what we’ve learned in CX and extend it across the entire enterprise, from suppliers, to employees, to partners, to customers. Every part of our organization should be built on a platform of humanity and intelligence.

That’s what XM is all about—Propelling humanity and intelligence across an enterprise.

Think of CX as the initial use case of XM. Yes, there’s still a lot to do in CX, but there are many other use cases that we should be thinking about as well, such as employee experience (EX), product experience (PX), and brand experience (BX). And all of these different experiences should be built upon the same XM foundation.

Our CX efforts have already been extending to XM. Customer journey mapping has led the way to employee journey mapping, voice of the customer programs have defined the model for voice of employee programs, and the understanding of behavioral economics and the use of experience design is being applied across many new areas.

If you’re a CX professional, I hope you’re just as excited about XM as I am. Not only will it generate even more demand for your skills and capabilities, but it also gives us the opportunity to take all we’ve learned from CX and apply it in a myriad of interesting new ways.

The bottom line: XM expands the humanity & intelligence uncovered by CX.

Debriefing My Qualtrics X4 Experience

X4_ImageLast week I joined more than 10,000 XM enthusiasts at the Qualtrics X4 Summit in Salt Lake City. This was my fourth X4, and the first one since joining Qualtrics. I really enjoyed seeing old friends and meeting many new ones. We have some really awesome clients!

My head is still spinning from the amazing event. Over two days, we were treated to the most incredible line-up of speakers, including President Obama, Oprah, Sir Richard Branson, Ashton Kutcher, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, and Imagine Dragons’ lead singer Dan Reynolds. Add to that an Imagine Dragons concert, skateboard exhibition by Tony Hawk and his friends, and a dance contest to support 5 for the Fight (including tWitch). And yes, there were also a bunch of fantastic industry speakers.

There were so many extraordinary experiential elements around the event, including the environment for my two speeches. One of my talks was in a very large open space where attendees listened through headsets and the other was in an informal setting that was part of a private lounge for senior leaders. (Note: I’ll write another post to share some of that content).

Here are some of my favorite X4 moments:

  • Oprah was just purely amazing and inspiring. She talked a lot about the importance of “intention,” having clarity of your personal purpose (I am totally bought into the power of purpose). Some other lessons from her include, “your legacy is every life you touch,”  “notice what you have, not what you don’t have, and you will recognize the abundance around you,” and you need to acknowledge and validate other people. Her closing question challenged all of us: How do you use your true self in service of the world? And, I’m still chuckling about her discussion with Ryan Smith about Barnaby.
  • President Obama was so chill. He looked calm and loose, which made it very entertaining. He discussed his approach for making difficult decisions: “setup a process to figure the thing out with facts, data, and reason.” He made sure that the people in his administration were there for the right reason; not personal gain, but achieving their common mission. He required everyone to have integrity at their core. One of my favorite moments was when Obama quoted from The Departed. He discussed a scene where Mark Wahlberg’s character is asked who are you? and answers “I’m the guy doing my job. You must be the other guy.” Obama said that his staff would often use the phrase “Don’t be the other guy.” He also left us with an important charge, “focus more on our common hopes, dreams, and values, not on the things that pull us apart, and we can accomplish great things.
  • Adam Silver really surprised me. I’m a big fan of his work with the NBA, and have seen him speak at the MIT Sports Analytics Conference. But I never knew he was such a data guy. He discussed XM, like a pro. He clearly articulated how the combination of SAP and Qualtrics would help the NBA. He even discussed X-and O-data!
  • Sir Richard Branson was truly authentic. He seems like a great person to work for. He discussed how you purposely help more and more people as you get successful, expanding the circles from yourself, to your family, to your community, to the world. He called the American holiday system “a total disgrace” for not allowing workers to have more time off.  Branson believes that “every day is a fantastic learning experience,” and he also believes in promoting from within and delegating. This is what he had to say about brand, “you are only as good as your reputation, and you will need to zealously protect it.” He will only get into a new business if employees will be really proud and customers will sing its praise.
  • Bill McDermott explained why SAP & Qualtrics makes so much sense. He described SAP as a company with ‘a great brand and a good heart.’ Not only is that the type of company I want to work for, but it’s also how I would love to be personally viewed by other people. McDermott labeled XM as “the ultimate category” for enterprise software. He summed up the acquisition with a quote from Jerry Maguire, “Qualtrics completes us.” You can see a lot of what he said in this really good article.
  • Qualtrics employees delivered awesome content. Ryan And Jared Smith did a great job sharing the XM vision and highlighting amazing new capabilities in our XM platform. I was really proud of all of the Qualtrics speakers that I was able to see. The overall storyline at the event was that organizations often fail because they get blindsided; they lack good instrumentation. In order to deliver breakthrough experiences, you need more XM instrumentation.
  • Our new offerings are incredible. We announced a crazy number of game-changing additions to the Qualtrics XM Platform. We’re using AI in many areas across the platform, including to analyze data and create automated alerts about potential problems and opportunities. And our new mobile experience is pretty cool as well. Here are links to some of the other announcements:

I’ll end this post with a shout out to our XM Breakout Artist Winners:

  • CX: American Express
  • EX: Coca-Cola
  • PX: Belkin
  • BX: Sofi
  • XM: L.L.Bean

The bottom line: X4 was amazing; I’m already looking forward to next year.

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.

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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 Inextricable Link Between CX & EX

CXEX_LinkedIn.pngIf you’ve followed our research, then you know that we’ve always viewed employee engagement as a fundamental component of customer experience.  One of our Six Laws of Customer Experience is that “Unengaged employees don’t create engaged customers.” It just makes sense. How can you possibly expect to consistently deliver great customer experience with apathetic or disengaged employees?!?!

Although the connection between customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX) may seem obvious to many people, it’s important that we periodically test the linkage. So we took a look at the data from our survey that drove the report, State of CX Management, 2018.

We started by splitting the 194 respondents from companies that have 1,000 or more employees into three groups based on how they rated the customer experience that their organizations currently delivers compared with their competitors:

  • 51 companies that deliver considerably above average CX (“CX Leaders“)
  • 61 companies that deliver slightly above average CX (“CX Moderates“)
  • 82 companies that deliver average or below average CX (“CX Laggards“)

We compared their responses to Temkin Group’s 20-question CX Competency & Maturity Assessment. As you can see in the chart below:

  • The percentage of CX Leaders who earned “good” or “very good” employee engagement ratings is more than 5-times larger than the percentage of CX Laggards.
  • Most organizations have a long way to go on EX; less than 40% of CX Leaders are good at it–and they’re the best!
  • CX Leaders significantly outperformed CX Laggards across all five employee engagement behaviors in our assessment. Here are the gaps in the percentages of companies that either “always” or “almost always” demonstrate these behaviors:
    • My company celebrates and rewards the employees who exemplify its core values (32 %-point gap)
    • My company actively solicits and acts upon employee feedback (35 %-point gap)
    • Managers are evaluated based on the engagement level of their employees (38 %-point gap)
    • The human resources organization is actively involved in strategic initiatives (36 %-point gap)
    • My company provides employees with industry-leading training (31 %-point gap)

1812_CXandEX_v2

The bottom line: EX is a fundamental enabler of CX.

CX Myth #6: Compensation Drives Good CX Behaviors

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 #6: Compensation Drives Good CX Behaviors

What’s Wrong: Many organizations try to drive behavior change by tying employees’ compensation to customer experience metrics. While some level of compensation tied to CX can be helpful, it is often overdone. When you overly compensate on a single metric, it can often lead to unintended and detrimental consequences. Symptoms of these counterproductive behaviors include pestering customers for scores; focusing on activities that may improve scores, but aren’t good for the business; and actively debating the accuracy of the metrics. Rather than engaging in these activities, we want employees focusing on ways to improve customer experience.

What’s Right: Don’t use compensation to drive behavior change; instead, use it to reward good behaviors. With that in mind, you need to find other mechanisms to drive change, such as appealing to employee’s four intrinsic needs; their sense of meaning, control, progress, and competence. As I’ve previously written, keep in mind these three underlying principles about compensation:

  1. If there is significant compensation tied to any metric (including customer feedback), then people will look for ways to manipulate the measurement.
  2. If people don’t understand a metric, then tying compensation to it will have little impact on their behavior and any downside in compensation may create negative behaviors.
  3. If people don’t understand how they personally can affect a metric, then tying compensation to it will have little impact on their behavior and any downside in compensation may create negative behaviors.

What You Should Do:

  • Treat CX as a team sport. Your customers’ experience is almost never the result of a single person, even if that person is the only one interacting with the customer. So focus on team-level metrics and compensation that encourages key groups of employees to work together towards a shared objective.
  • Use an organization-wide CX metric. Developing a core CX metric for the entire organization that is tied to some compensation (not too large), is a great way to show commitment to improving CX, and it will encourage a regular dialogue about your overall CX performance.
  • Bias rewards towards the upside. Consider starting with a compensation plan that is biased towards upside. In other words, you may want to introduce the plan where there is little negative impact on compensation if the group doesn’t hit a goal, but there is positive impact of they exceed it. This can help eliminate some of the negative perceptions early in a program.
  • Celebrate good CX behaviors. Compensation is not the only reward system in an organization. If you want employees to behave in a certain way, then provide them with positive role models. Find ways to highlight employees who are demonstrating the behaviors that you would like others to emulate. This can include monthly or quarterly awards, shout outs at company meetings, or highlights across your internal communications.
  • Make it unacceptable to game the scores. When an employee asks a customer to “give me a 10 on a survey or I’ll get fired,” can you really count on the accuracy of that customer’s rating? This may be an extreme example of “gaming feedback,” but many versions of this behavior occur all the time. To keep gaming feedback in check, it’s important to be explicit with employees about what the company considers to be unacceptable behaviors.  I’ve identified five rules that you should strictly enforce with employees, which includes not talking with customers about survey questions, scores, or consequences.

The bottom line: Use compensation to reinforce, not force, good CX behaviors.

2019 XM Trends From Qualtrics Thought Leaders

This is the time of year for holiday cheer, family celebrations, and, of course, listings of annual trends!

To help me identify trends for 2019, I reached out to some of the many thought leaders across Qualtrics and asked them to share one or two of the top experience management (XM) trends they are expecting to see in the coming year.

It was a great exercise. We have some amazing people across Qualtrics who regularly help organizations master all aspects of XM: Customer Experience (CX), Employee Experience (EX), Brand Experience (BX), and Product Experience (PX). And the trends they shared highlight the enormous amount of learning and maturing that’s currently happening in the field of XM. For the sake of simplicity, we organized their trends into four broad categories:

  1. Humanizing through Technology
  2. Tailoring Insights for Action
  3. Expanding Predictive Analytics
  4. Authentically Living Brand Values

1) Humanizing through Technology

Companies are starting to recognize that their customers (and their employees!) are real human beings, with their own emotions, wants, needs, beliefs, and motivations. Companies are using technology and data to not only deepen this understanding, but also deliver more emotionally resonant experiences. Here are some trends from our experts:

  • Adaptive, Conversational Listening. “Survey” has a pejorative overlay in the common vernacular in the U.S. today. Customers are over-surveyed with surveys that benefit only the company and not the customer. We’ve come up with a way to change the survey to a conversation, whilst preserving methodological rigor around validity and repeatability. Our method seems simple but is built on a sophisticated process within Qualtrics. First, we identify the conversational aspects of the feedback request before we engage a customer. A conversation is a give and take, a social contract between two people (personas, in abstract) who are exchanging a number of responses that include emotions, meanings, motivations, and memories evoked by current, previous experiences and the cues of the conversation. We identify the main constructs that we are dealing with as part of this feedback strategy: the company, the Feedback Conversation and the Persona who represents the customer, and we adapt the feedback requests based on the customer response.  (Carol Haney, Head of Research & Data Science)
  • Make It Matter To Me. The advancement and application of artificial intelligence is already enabling more meaningful customer experiences. Whether it’s via chatbot, or a truly personalized experience, artificial intelligence has the potential to truly humanize endless reams of data. (Juliana Smith Holterhaus, Ph.D., Senior XM Scientist)
  • Quantify & Discuss Customer Emotions. Thanks to rapidly evolving technologies, in 2019, I expect to see more companies measuring and discussing customer emotions. Emotions play an essential role in how we make decisions and form judgments, and consequently, they significantly impact our experiences with and loyalty to different companies. And yet companies have historically ignored emotions – dismissing them as too squishy and unquantifiable. However, recent advances in technological capabilities – such as cloud storage, processing power, machine learning, AI, natural language processing, etc. – are allowing companies to start identifying and quantifying their customers’ emotions. For example, companies can now use speech or text analytics to automatically surface emotions during customer service conversations, and new analytics can infer customers’ emotions based on their digital body language (e.g. scrolling, clicking, hovering). Additionally, machine learning enables companies to uncover patterns in customers’ behaviors and preferences, allowing them to proactively address problems and personalize customers’ experiences. (Isabelle Zdatny, CCXP, Qualtrics XM Institute)
  • AI To boost Frontline Productivity. We are increasingly seeing more companies incorporate sophisticated technologies such as virtual agents to enable smarter self-service in order to rethink operational processes and deliver immediate gratification. Contrary to beliefs that virtual agents will start to replace agents in frontend operations, we actually expect AI to help drive adoption of virtual assistants to become the primary channel of self service, while saving effort and time for agents and increasing their overall productivity, whereby they can focus on being a source of revenue rather than be a cost-center by selecting and presenting the best possible solution to the customer when engaged in LIVE calls. But, the focus will need to be maintained on relying on mechanisms which can also distinguish when the customer is confused and can understand and distinguish based on that emotion to engage a live agent – so ultimately the experience is frictionless, yet effortless from all involved. (Arpana Luthra, Principal Consultant, CX Practice)
  • Augmented Reality Will Redefine XM. Technologies like augmented and virtual reality will be important in elevating overall experiences and improving decision making. These technologies will make shopping easy, convenient, attractive and certainly differentiated – enabling customers to touch, feel, discover and explore products to create an experiential environment giving them a realistic feeling of the product or service experience much before they make a purchase decision. This will require businesses to re-imagine their people, process, technological and service strategies while ensuring they continue to deliver to their brand promise, but do so more effectively. (Arpana Luthra, Principal Consultant, CX Practice)

My Take: Organizations will increasingly focus on the fundamental component of XM—human beings. It’s important to start with an understanding of how people think, feel, and act. How can organizations apply this knowledge? By applying the Human Conversational Model to all interactions, including the growing number of digital touch points.

2) Tailoring Insights For Action

While most companies are now fairly proficient at data accumulation, collecting data just for the sake of collecting data is not useful in and of itself. Companies must actually use these insights to drive customer- and employee-centric decisions across the entire organization. To do this, they need to be strategic about how they collect information, how they tailor the information to their separate audiences, and how they use that information to identify and act on improvement opportunities. Here are some trends from our experts:

  • Activating Managers’ Engagement Skills. More companies are recognizing that a strong culture and engaged employees are not a result of HR tactics, but on how effectively individual leaders and managers are connecting with employees. I’m seeing more companies putting time into helping managers understand their role in employee engagement and identifying and removing time-consuming administrative tasks that get in the way of managers supporting, coaching, and recognizing employees every day. Companies are also working on improving the feedback managers get so that it enables managers to have more productive conversations with their employees about what’s working and not working on the job. (Aimee Lucas, CCXP, Qualtrics XM Institute)
  • From Survey To Strategy. I’m beginning to see organizations ask how the annual engagement survey can best fit into their overall people strategy. Leaders are taking an interest in linking survey results to business outcomes, aligning surveys along multiple points in the employee journey, taking action that will impact the business both immediately and 3-5 years from now. Surveying is no longer an annual look backward, but a strategic tool in moving forward. These conversations are exciting for both the client and Qualtrics. (Kara Laine, XM Scientist)
  • High Frequency Feedback Isn’t Helping. We have had several customers this year pull back from a monthly employee survey strategy to something Quarterly or even Semi-Annually. Their manager report not having the ability to action it before the next survey goes out and they are overwhelmed by the frequency. We find that instead our successful customers are working to connect with employees at meaningful touch-points, such as during onboarding or on a work anniversary, rather than focusing on frequency. (Austin Nilsson, EX Delivery Services Manager)

My Take: As I wrote in a post earlier this year, the future of VoC is insight & action, not feedback. Companies are increasingly recognizing that they need to drive four different action loops. This requires them to tailor insights to fuel different decision-making processes across an organization. That’s why Qualtrics is so committed to helping our customers deliver role-specific insights.

3) Expanding Predictive Analytics

Customers and employees increasingly expect companies recognize them as individuals, anticipate their needs, and proactively address their concerns. To meet these rising expectations, companies are using powerful analytics engines to combine rich customer and employee feedback with reams of CRM and operational data, surface meaningful patterns within that data, and then generate predictive models that allow for proactive, personalized experiences. Here are some trends from our experts:

  • Hyper-Contextualized, Not Personalized. A positive, consistent experience has long become a table stake. Today’s customers want organizations to respect their time. A good product at a competitive price is no longer the basis for differentiation. Truly customer-centric organizations will increasingly leverage data-driven analytics to spot customers’ buying patterns, behaviors across channels and touch points to design experiences and content, at a time customers want it and deliver them proactively rather than reactively. Customers will increasingly look for a unique, customized experience that is memorable and reminiscent of a personal relationship. There will likely be a rise in teams and knowledge centers focused on identifying the experience along these personalized journeys. Closely tied will be the importance of measuring customer emotions and understanding how they feel in the moment because customers who have a negative experience during a brand interaction are more likely not to forgive that company. We expect analytics to not only empower brands to personalize experiences, but also enable them to identify and prevent issues before they would happen, so they can now shift resources not to problem solve but to get ahead of them. (Arpana Luthra, Principal Consultant, CX Practice)
  • People Analytics. People analytics involves deriving insights from employee data and advanced analytics to make talent management decisions to drive revenue and growth. Over 70% of companies now consider people analytics a high priority, but only 10% believe they have a good understanding of which talent dimensions drive performance in their organizations. People analytics may be leveraged alongside data captured at every employee touchpoint to develop algorithmic selection systems, dynamic workforce planning models, and social networks informing organizational silos and influence between and within teams – to name a few possibilities. (Brandon Riggs, EX Internal Program Lead)

My Take: Historically, insights have been used to describe what has happened in the past. While this retrospective provides value, the ultimate objective is to use insights to prescribe best actions for the future. As predictive analytics becomes more accessible and companies blend together X- and O-Data, we’ll see a surge in predictive recommendations. Qualtrics is putting a lot of energy into making these advance analytics much more accessible to business users.

4) Authentically Living Brand Values

People want to interact with organizations whose policies and practices align with their personal principles, ideals, and attitudes. Companies can build trust and emotionally engage both their customers and employees by authentically championing social causes and demonstrating that they share the same values as their target customer segments. Here are some trends from our experts:

  • Merging Inclusivity And CX. We’ve seen multiple news articles over the past year surrounding how companies can create better online experiences for customers with disabilities. One of my favorite CX-related stories from 2018 was on the work of the Hearing and Speech Agency in Baltimore, MD. The organization is working with D.C. area restaurants to train workers on how to understand and create enjoyable experiences for customers with speech disabilities and disorders. Starbucks also opened its first U.S. sign language store in Washington, DC this past year. (Stephanie Thum, CCXP Chief Advisor, Federal Customer Experience)
  • Maturing Of Customer Journey Mapping. Customer journey maps will sustain their momentum as a popular tool to diagnose and design customer experiences. Successful journey mapping companies avoid the common of mistake of assuming the map itself is the “finish line” but rather bring cross-functional subject matter experts together who use the map’s findings to take action around the key moments of truth that deliver on an organization’s brand promises. In 2019, more companies will use journey maps to highlight the emotional impact of the experience as a way to raise empathy for customers among employees, regardless of their roles. Companies will also shift from using maps solely to capture the current state experience and begin to use them to keep the broader journey in mind while innovating future-state customer interactions. (Aimee Lucas, CCXP, Qualtrics XM Institute)
  • Fusing The Concepts Of Ethics And BX. Customers oftentimes look to online reviews and ratings to make decisions, anticipating or expecting experiences that may be based on those reviews and ratings. But what about when reviewers have been compensated to write positive reviews, incentivized to do so with a discount on a future purchase, or reviews are just plain fake? Similarly, what are the CX ethical implications of score begging, when auto dealerships, for example, beg for 10s on a survey, rather than allow customers to provide an honest review that would then possibly trickle out via marketing to other, future customers? How do we consider and think about these things when creating or honestly evaluating the experience customers are having with brands? (Stephanie Thum, CCXP Chief Advisor, Federal Customer Experience)

My Take: For an organization to optimize its CX, BX, PX, and BX efforts, it must have a deep understanding of its core values. Without this clarity around a true north, it’s nearly impossible to align priorities across an organization. We’ve seen companies live their values by translating customer promises into employee actions —and we expect to see even more of this activity going forward. I recently discussed how Starbucks should have used this approach for training after its recent issues.

The bottom line: 2019 will be an exciting year for XM!

CX Leaders’ Employees Feel Prouder & More Appreciated

If you’ve followed our research, then you’ve likely seen a strong, almost inseparable link between between customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX). We continued to find that connection in our latest consumer benchmark.

In our Q3 2018 study, we asked 5,000+ U.S. employees to pick a word that best describes how their job makes them feel and split those responses based on how they judged the overall CX that their company delivers. As you can see in the figure below:

  • More than 80% of employees that picked “proud” and “appreciated” work in organizations that they believe are CX leaders. “Confident” is next on the list at 74%.
  • When employees picked “embarrassed” and “angry,” they were the least likely to work for CX leaders and the most likely to work in CX laggards.

Employee attitudes versus customer experience (CX)

The bottom line: CX leaders have proud employees, CX laggards have angry ones.

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.

What’s All This About X- And O-Data?

1811_XODataYou might have heard Qualtrics discussing X-data (experience data) and O-data (operational data), and wondered, should we care? The answer is yes, and here’s why.

Let’s start with a basic premise that no individual experience exists in a vacuum. People form their opinions about any experience based on a collection of different factors. The more we can understand those factors, the better we can extrapolate the insights about a single personal experience to form a deeper understanding about other people’s experiences.

Now to my discussion of Xs and Os, starting with customer experience (CX)…

Let’s say that your company has this data:

  • X-Data: NPS responses
  • O-Data: Customer product ownership and support history.

With X-data, you can calculate an NPS for the customers who responded. You can also dig into their feedback, and hopefully understand what’s causing promoters and what’s causing detractors.

That’s extremely valuable, but it only tells you what’s going on with the people who happened to respond to the survey.

By combining O-data with your X-data you can examine (especially through predictive analytics) what types of products and service interactions lead to promoters and detractors, and use this data to calculate the NPS for large portions of your customer base–—even for customers who never responded to a survey.

It could be that ownership of a certain version of a product tied together with a specific type of customer service problem is highly likely to create detractors. You can identify all the customers with that profile and take proactive measures to correct the issues — even though they may never have complained.

Result: More loyal customers and more targeted use of your resources.

This works across all areas, even with employee experience (EX). Let’s assume you have this data:

  • X-Data: Employee satisfaction study
  • O-Data: Employee tenure, promotion history, most recent performance rating

With X-data, you can determine how employees feel about their next steps at the company. You can also dig into their feedback, and hopefully understand what’s causing higher vs. lower levels of career satisfaction.

By combining O-data with your X-data you can examine what influence tenure, promotion history, and performance may have on satisfaction, and use this data to identify segments of employees to invite to participate in a high-potential development program.

Result: More high-performing workforce because you’re investing in the right employees.

Hopefully you can see how the combination of X- and O-data can increase your CX and EX insights. The same dynamic also holds true for brand experience (BX) and product experience (PX). By combining and analyzing the different types of data, you can use feedback from a few people to build an understanding of many, many more. This allows you to better prioritize investments, while making more targeted and impactful changes.

The bottom line: X- and O-data together provides an analytics goldmine.

CX Myth #4: Net Promoter Score Is The Best/Worst Metric

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 #4: Net Promoter Score Is The Best/Worst Metric

What’s Wrong: People often argue that Net Promoter Score (NPS) is the greatest metric, while other people argue that it’s a terrible metric. Both of those points of view are off the mark.

What’s Right: We rarely see a company succeed or fail based on the specific metric that it choses. That doesn’t mean that you can chose a ridiculous metric, but most reasonable metrics provide the same potential for success (and failure). In many cases, NPS is a reasonable choice, as our data shows that it often correlates to customer loyalty. The way you use a metric is often far more important than the metric that you chose.

What You Should Do:

  • Pick a simple metric. It’s important that you choose a metric that employees will understand, so they are motivated to help improve it. The metric can be based on customer attitudes (like NPS), behaviors (like repeat purchases), or even results (like first call resolution). Just pick a simple metric that aligns with your business goals.
  • Follow our five steps. To drive improvements using the metric, follow Temkin Group’s five steps. to a strong CX metrics program: 1) Determine a core CX metric, 2) set achievable goals, 3) identify key drivers, 4) establish key driver metrics, and 5) make the suite of metrics actionable.
  • Focus on all four action loops. People often discuss an action loop with CX metrics, but we’ve identified four customer insight-driven action loopsImmediate responsecorrective actioncontinuous improvement, and strategic change. Any CX metrics program should put in places processes to close all four loops.
  • Don’t compensate too much. When companies establish CX metrics, they often establish compensation based on them. While this can be a valuable approach to raise awareness and alignment, it can also be a problem if the level of compensation is too large (can encourage bad behaviors), it focuses on individual results (CX is a team sport), or the goals are too precise (some metrics are inherently jittery).
  • Have very clear sampling strategy. The approach for sampling often has a very significant impact on results. If you have multiple segments of customers and they each have a different profile (as many do), then your overall scores can change wildly based on the mix of those customers that are included in your calculations.

The bottom line: Obsess about your metrics program, not your metric.