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March 29, 2017

The Best Medicine for Customer Success – Prescription

PrescriptionBy michaelpace on February 26, 2013

  1. Take two of these every 4 hours for 5 days
  2. Go home and rest
  3. Drink plenty of fluids
  4. Make some chicken soup
  5. Take ibuprofen to reduce fever
  6. Gargle salt water for a sore throat
  7. Steam to loosen congestion
  8. Etc…

We’ve all been there.  There is something wrong with our bodies, and we visit a doctor.  After their years of training and experience, they know the path back to health.  They prescribe a solution to help you get back into optimum shape.  They provide clear steps on how to get from poor results to feeling great.  I think you are getting where I am going; Customer Success needs to be prescriptive.

Particularly in the SAAS, but also relevant in other areas, customers need guidance to help them on to the road of success.  A typical scenario has a customer researching a product for a need, considering options, developing intent to purchase, and finally purchase.  During this process, they may consult with a “Sales Coach” or “Sales Representative” from your company to help them understand the possible value and help with initial set up.  Then they are handed over to Support.  Essentially, you have given them the medicine, but as with your personal health, there are multiple steps to success.

Here’s my prescription to help you develop a prescriptive path to Customer Success.

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Identify the most common paths to Customer Success or “Happy Paths” (no more than 5) – As the doctor has learned from years of training and experience, you must understand the best practices of customers to achieve success.  While product training and experience will be helpful, I believe, you should be leveraging the best practices of BPM (Business Process Management) to clearly understand your customers needs.Map out how your current processes are actually working.  The two best tools from BPM for this activity are SIPOC and Swimlane tools. These tools will help you understand the people and tools involved in the processes, and will help identify overlaps, holes, and general inefficiencies.  You will probably come out of this exercise with a number of opportunities.

  1. Map out how your current processes are actually working.  The two best tools from BPM for this activity are SIPOC and Swimlane tools. These tools will help you understand the people and tools involved in the processes, and will help identify overlaps, holes, and general inefficiencies.  You will probably come out of this exercise with a number of opportunities.
  2. Determine what is Critical to Quality for your customer.  A very helpful tool process managers use to flesh out who your customer is, what they care about, and how to measure what they care about.
  3. Get deep into your analytics.  Hopefully, in this age of Big Data, you are collecting information about your customer’s habits and trends.  You need to understand what your most successful customers are doing, and how they are doing it.  Examples: How often do they log in?  What activities are they doing?  Are they contacting Support or are they using Forums?  At my previous employer, we saw an incredibly strong correlation of success with the amount of times they contacted Support.  They more the better (odd but true).  Do they use your product or service in a specific way?  Understanding your data will assist in the Success Path creation.

Customer Success starts in the top of the funnel.  How have your built awareness, consideration, and intent to buy?  Ease of use is an incredibly important variable in your customer’s purchase decision.  You need to ensure your marketing, or the expectations your company is setting, is obtainable, and the value you provide can be evident quickly.  The most important part of Customer Success is providing evident value quickly.

x

The critical handoff(s) after purchase.  As I just stated, you must provide evident value quickly.  Hopefully, within your Sales process you are able to demonstrate real value to your customer.  This is one of the huge benefits of providing trial periods.  If you are lucky enough to have a fast sales cycle, you may need to take additional steps to ensure the handoff of post sales to implementation or support is done incredibly well.  In fact, the harder it is for the purchase to be made (financial, complexity, etc..) the more time and money you need to spend in designing handoffs that ensure effectiveness.  I highly recommend adding a Customer Success team to identify struggling customers.  If your customers just purchased, their will to achieve the skill is at its highest.  A Customer Success team is charged with developing exception reporting to understand customer usage gaps, and remedy the situation through a mixture of well placed content and some courtesy calls.  The behavioral analysis you conducted previously should provide what’s needed for understanding your exception reporting.

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Monitor behavioral and emotional responses.  A low amount of companies are collecting behavioral information about their customer’s actions.  A much larger portion is monitoring emotional ties to your company (Customer Satisfaction and/or NPS).  Guess what? You need to be measuring both simultaneously.  Let me give an example:  I am a customer of a cable company that provides my phone, internet, and cable.  Behaviorally, I am a great customer; I buy all of their services and upgrades.  Emotionally, I can’t stand them.  My NPS for them would definitely be in the detractor category.  Conversely, I am a customer of an internet based music collection company.  I have them on my mobile devices and desktop, but I forget to use it 99% of the time.  I love the service and function, but I forget all about it.  You need to be able to monitor both to prescribe the right action.

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Action. Action.  Action.  Sometimes we end up in analysis paralysis, and forget to do something with all this data.  Regardless, if you are collecting only NPS or behavioral scoring, or both, you need to do something with the info.  If you are scoring low on CSAT or NPS, you do not have a strong relationship with your customer or they do not trust you.  If you are scoring low behaviorally, you may need to increase awareness or education.  Regardless, you will need to determine strategies to move the needle on your customer.  Make sure your post sale marketing is directed to their particular issue.  Make sure your customer service agents can see their scoring and have effective means at their disposal to correct the situation.

x

Customer Success is complex, and has been overlooked for many years.  If you leverage process management tools, recognize your Sales team is deeply involved and it doesn’t start at Support, ensure solid handoffs, monitor behavioral and emotional responses, and take action, you have the prescription for Customer Success.

CH-CH-CH-CH-CHANGES or Leadership’s Most Underrated Skill

By michaelpace on April 23, 2012

David Bowie - Changes It’s great to see a portion of the focus on social media technologies shift from shiny objects and how to market better to increasing the adoption of the tools and uses within the organization.  The era of the Social Business or, as I prefer to call it, the Social Organization is just beginning to take hold in progressive companies, and should start to “Cross the Chasm” within the next few years.  Yes, it is going to take at least a few years; some laggard companies still do not let some of their associates access the internet via their workstation.  For those companies starting down the Social Organization path, or considering it, introducing tools and new corporate communication policies is not going to be enough to be successful in achieving high adoption.  Companies will need to change from the inside out, shift their culture, and learn new, better ways of working and interacting.

But how do you change successfully?
Are your organization’s leaders skilled in the arts and sciences of change management?
Do you have a change management plan or methodology?

Over the years, few training courses have stuck with me like training I received while with Capital One on Change Management.  For more on the specific training that was provided, please visit PROSCI’s Change Management Learning Center, in the meantime, I’ll provide my key takeaways.  The basis for much of the training centered around the acronym ADKAR.

 

Awareness:
Most successful changes start with the impacted stakeholders being made aware of the changes.  This is just an introduction to the changes that will be coming.  This information may have a positive, neutral or negative impact on your associates morale, job satisfaction, workload, role, and/or position within the organization.  Prior to making your associates aware of the change, I recommend completing a Change Management Assessment.  See below for an example:

Change Management Assessment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steps to complete a Change Management Assessment:
1.    Identify changes or workstream
2.    Provide a brief description
3.    Identify a SINGLE Owner
4.    Judge the impact to the stakeholders
5.    Is it a positive, negative or neutral change?
6.    Is training required?
7.    Is a communication plan or strategy required?
8.    Are there organizational changes associated with this change?
9.    How aware is the organization that this change is coming?
10.    Identify all stakeholders associated with the change

Desire:
Often the building of Desire coincides with the communication associated with Awareness.  This is your “Why”.  Having a strong understanding of the possible outcomes, consequences and ripple effects is critical to be able to build the Desire for change.  While creating your plan to build Desire, a great idea is to bring in 2-4 influential associates to understand what their concerns are, questions they have, and their thoughts on what the general populous reactions will be to the changes.

Knowledge:
This is where your training or continuous learning plans come into play.  In general, most people recognize this phase of change management best.  This is where you develop and execute training, or providing the Knowledge, for your associates.

Ability:
If Knowledge was the training or learning, Ability is the opportunity to put what has been made aware and trained into practice.  You will also want to make sure you are quality monitoring in this phase, and be available to provide coaching and support.

Reinforcement:
Sometimes the most forgotten area of change management, Reinforcement is your opportunity to implement incentives (and consequences if necessary) to help your associates keep/adopt the change.  The most important part of this phase is credibility.  Are you walking your talk?  Is this a fly-by-night , flavor of the month initiative?  Identify multiple ways so your changes can be internalized by your teams.

The more impactful the change, the greater the need is for change management.  If you are discussing culture change, there are few changes more impactful.  By investing early on in the change timeline on a change management methodology will help ensure you execute even more excellently.  This model can also be used for external customers, and I would even suggest just trying it for your next customer impacting initiative.

Have you used change management methodologies before? If so, how did it differ?
If you fear process, does this sound like too much process?
Are you considering a change on the magnitude of a culture shift?
I would love to hear your thoughts.

Are you Walking your Talk?

By michaelpace on December 15, 2011 Leadership credibility

As a member of the Board of Directors for the North East Contact Center Forum, I have the opportunity to speak with a number of Customer Service Managers, Directors and VP’s across multiple industries and geographies. The most common theme among these leaders is the intricate balancing act of providing extraordinary experiences while reducing expenses (and sometimes juggling regulatory risk and/or time constraints).

I have battled with the same dilemmas myself. Over time, I have learned to ask myself and my colleagues a few questions:

  • What do you coach your service representatives on?
  • What are the common conversations in your team and all-hands meetings?
  • What is it that your CEO/COO/VP of Customer Service is evangelizing?

More often than not, the answers sound like: call quality, customer experience, superior service, etc.

Some time later, I follow up with another set of questions:

  • What are the key metrics that you look at daily?
  • How do you incent your service representatives?
  • What are the metrics that your boss (whether he or she be the CEO or someone else) are hammering you about?

These answers usually sound like: service level, AHT (average handle time), 50-75% of incentives involve productivity numbers, expenses, cost per account/loan/customer, etc.

Things that make you hmmm.

                                    What you talk                                                                                What you walk

Constraints - QualityConstraints - cost

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The terms [triple/quad constraints] and charts are typically used in project management, but apply to our quandary.  One constraint cannot be changed without altering another. Triple or Quad constraints are funny; everything cannot be the most important or the highest priority. Trying to make everything the highest priority will only drive you and your service representatives crazy. It leads to mediocre quality, often subpar cost metrics, low morale, and CEO’s/COO’s/VP’s of Customer Service breathing down your neck.

With all of that in mind, how do you move (walk) forward?

1.       The first step for any recovery program is to admit you have a problem.

  • Be objective.
  • Ask your floor representatives what they think you say and what you really focus on.
  • Listen to calls, review chats, and emails (are your associates rushing, taking too long?

2.     Force rank your current priorities (create the order that you believe you are presently working under)Everything cannot be equal

  • Everything cannot be equal

i.      Quality (call quality, defect management, complaints, customer incident surveys)

ii.      Cost (AHT, service levels, cost per X, expenses, utilization, occupancy)

iii.      Time (are new product releases critical? Service availability?)

iv.      Risk (regulatory/legal, credit, reputational)

  • Make sure you have accurate differentials – use an entire 1-5 scale

3.     Have an honest, direct conversation with senior management about what is the most important priority, what is the second most important priority, and so on.

Now that you have your direction, you need to determine what you are going to change. (Hint: don’t limit yourself to the base of the box, work the edges. Read Seth Godin’s Linchpin for more on that subject.)

  • People – Do you have the right people in the right places to succeed? Do you need to reorganize? How would you incent people to deliver your priority? What do you need to communicate to your associates?
  • Process – What processes would you change? What metrics would you highlight? What dashboard items need to change?
  • Systems – How can you leverage your technical solutions to maximize your priorities?

Are you able to walk your talk? Or do you need to change your talk?

 

This post was originally published in May, but sadly it did not make the site conversion in June.

My Own Personal Intersection

By michaelpace on November 30, 2011

I started this blog because I believe there is true opportunity at the intersection of Customer Service, Social, Business Process Management and People Leadership.  I also believe I can help.  We work and live in the most fluid environment since the Industrial Revolution.  The more we can have thoughtful discussions and fun about our surroundings, the more we will all learn.  The intersection is important because nothing exists in a vacuum anymore, and we should be leveraging the best practices of many areas to develop better solutions to our problems, opportunities and quandaries.  Today, I start the approach to my own career intersection.

In January, I will be leaving Constant Contact to explore what my next personal/career intersection has to offer.  Right now it is a bit of a blind intersection; however I am ready for the challenge.  I know the direction that I want to go, but there is no GPS for this route.  I desire to lead my own customer service organization to attain amazing heights in service, efficiency and people leadership.  Our service world is on the cusp of some incredible paradigm shifts, and I am incredibly lucky to be in position to lead those front lines.

I cannot begin to explain how grateful I am to have worked for Constant Contact.  This organization has enabled and sponsored me to uncover how to deliver exceptional broad customer service, social media support and community management.  More importantly, they had the faith in me to put in place a remarkable team that provides this amazing service with scale efficiency.  My role as Director of Customer Support and Community Management has opened my eyes and heart to the incredible power of the social world (both digital and in person).  They gave me the confidence to speak in front of hundreds of Marketing, Tech, and Customer Service leaders at conferences across the country, helping me to overcome some punishing public speaking fears.  Thank you Constant Contact.

Over the course of the next few months, I would love to understand how I can help you and more businesses tackle this new space, and deliver a holistic awe-inspiring customer experience.  Even as I write this post, I feel the rollercoaster ups (excitement of the unknown) and downs (fear of the unknown) that are to come.  But like any journey to a worthy destination, it all starts with the first step.  Thank you again Constant Contact, and thank you Mr./Ms. Reader for letting me express my thanks and discussing my new intersection.

Are we connected yet? If not, let’s get LinkedIn and talk.

Mike

Is your Social Media strategy RACI?

By michaelpace on May 10, 2011

EllenI just did a Google search on the phrase “Who owns social media within organizations,” and was returned 3,160,000 results. Now I doubt there are more than 3 million different ways or opinions for a company to organize around social media, but it is obviously a hot topic. I also believe how companies organize and operationalize social business and tools will be the most important topic in social media over the next 2 to 3 years. While I have a number of opinions about social media “ownership”, this post is about how to create operating agreements across your company, regardless of what model you have chosen, to ensure a well managed process.

Popular examples of social media organizational models via Jeremiah Owyang of the Altimeter Group.

Getting RACI!

In any well managed process, people need to understand who is doing what, and RACI is a fantastic tool to get everyone on the same page. RACI is a Business Process Management tool that clarifies everyone’s role in a process (in this case, execution of a social media strategy). RACI is an acronym for:

RACI Chart

Creation of a RACI matrix has a number of benefits for any process:

  • Encourages teamwork by setting boundaries of responsibility
  • Pushes you to think of who else in the organization needs to be consulted about this function/decision/action
  • Reduces risk of actions “falling through the cracks”
  • Saves time by reducing overlap and need for mass consensus
  • Allows associates to exercise their own responsible freedom/empowerment & increase personal satisfaction

How to build a RACI matrix/chart:

  1. Start with a template
  2. Define your main areas of function, decision and/or action (what activities, decisions, major tasks will be completed in the process)
  3. Determine who are all the possible players or participants
  4. Label the matrix boxes with the appropriate R, A, C or I

Tips:

  • Only 1 person should be (A)ccountable per activity
  • Decision authority must accompany (A)ccountable
  • Minimize Your (C)onsults & (I)nforms
  • Place (R)esponsible for those who are physically performing the action

 

Performer Role Chart

Every organization’s RACI chart is going to be different based on strategy, personal competencies, organizational set up, technology knowledge and a number of other factors. Don’t over think it. Again, its about building operating agreements. Once you have the agreements, the execution of the RACI decisions is relatively easy. I would suggest reviewing and updating every 6 months with key stakeholders.

The first wave of social media was about the tools and the marketing, the next phases will be about it’s process and how you operationalize within your organization. Go buy a process manager a cup of coffee, you are going to need him or her to be successful for many years to come.