Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Celebrating the High Fives

Everyone has “high five” moments that make you think about where you have been, where you are and where you are going. September 2017 caused me to do just that as five “high five” moments have come together, all at once. Writing about them will help me deal with them as they are significant. 

Five Decades Leveraging IT to Help Organizations:
It started on September 27th, 1967 when I graduated from Electronic Computer Programming Institute (ECPI) at the age of 18 after spending a year learning how to wire EAMs, program IBM 1400 series computers and building COBOL skills. Green around the gills and draft eligible put me in a corner, so I took a part time job while attend school full time pursuing a Business Data Processing Degree from Milwaukee Area technical College (MATC).  The part time job became more than full time along with 15+ credits each semester. Thus started my long and storied IT career that funded two degrees.

Five Blue Ribbon Companies:

Wehr Steel: Supported conversions from IBM 1440 AUTOCODER to Honeywell 3000 COBOL

Northwestern Mutual Life:  Supported conversions from 7080 to PL/1 for Tax Deferred Annuity and Variable Annuity applications. Pioneered online systems for payment and Bond/Security Systems. Pioneered Computer Aided Software Engineering (CASE), Data Administration and AI guided persona based workbenches.

American Express: Director that supported the world’s largest model driven and code generated system leveraging rule based approaches for international variations in a merchant management system. Directed Data Administration, Model Management and Case Tool Management.

Gartner: VP and Distinguished Analyst that supported Application Development, Meta Data Management, Legacy Leverage, Business Process Management and Business Rules Systems. Support 17000 career inquiries, two time winner of sales support awards and a thought leadership award.

Independent Research: CEO supporting Business Process Management, Robotic Process Automation, Digital Business Platforms and Customer Journey Mapping.

Five New Markets Defined:

Business Process Analysis / Enterprise Architecture
Intelligent Business Process Management
Business Rule Management
Digital Business Platforms
Customer Journey Mapping

Five Hundred Thousand Hits on My Personal Blog:

Covering topics like digital, process management, business rules, digital business platforms, customer centric cultures, digital competencies / skills, artificial intelligence, legacy leverage and case studies.

Five Art Skills Generating Revenue:

Starting in late 2008, my art career has led to having my art in 30 private collections. Was fortunate enough to participate and flourish in 15+ exhibitions / contests. Highlights include one piece shown in Muse De Louvre, several pieces shown in Times Square, several pieces Art Basel Miami and one piece on Ashley Red’s music CD.

Oil Paintings
Water Color
Fractals / Digital
3D Fractals

Net; Net:

The biggest life accomplishment are my kids who have turned out to be diligent and loving humans. The biggest “high five”!!!  I did tell you about my eight grandchildren, the oldest turning 21 this month  I’m not sure if deserve all of this, but I am certainly eternally thankful J

Monday, September 25, 2017

Types of Customer Centric Cultures

Believe it or not when someone mentions "customer centric culture", there are probably multiple definitions of what a customer centric culture really is in todays world. New digital technology combinations gives us a shot at creating better customer focused solutions, but isn't the end game defining a customer centric culture? There are three major types of customer centric cultures I have seen, but there are shades of grey uncertainty that make it important for executives to define what they really want when they target customer centric cusltures. The three kinds of cultures are community based, chameleon based and commodity based that all affect how satisfied customers, employees and partners are in the long run.

Community Based Customer Culture:

The community based culture makes you feel special about beibg a part of the organization. This can be described as feeling that you are a part of a family at one end of the spectrum or feeling part of something really special at the other end of the spectrum. This is the kind of culture that is inclusive ans makes you feel appreciated and even wanted or respected. I find that these kind of customer cultures used to be prevalent, but are few and far between these days. In fact many companies abuse your time and patience to optimize their costs and profitability and create and "us versus them" mentality instead of a community.  If your customers belong by treating them special over the long term, they will stick with you.

Chameleon Based Customer Culture:

The Chameleon based culture changes it's expreience with you as it learns who you are and what your immediate, mid term and long term goals are going forward. This kind of culture appears to you as something you need and can change and renew paths and goals as new information or contexts are detected. It is a responsive culture that is aimed at dynamic need fullfillment. It offers a foregiving and encouraging experience that adapts to changing conditions in real time. If your customers belong to you, help the fullfill their needs in ways that fit them.

Commodity Based Customer Culture: 

Definable, standard and repeatable are the watch words of this culture. It's all about leverage standard and practiced responses for the best effeciency. This culture is usuallly tipped to help the organization; not the customer. The customer tends to feel like a commondity and has to deal with well worn paths to an outcome. This lind of cutlture aims to make money. If your customers belong to you, you should be effecient for all parties sake. However taken to an extreme will drive folks away.

Net; Net: 

Like it or not our executives have to define the kind of target customer centric culture they want their organization to represent. Most likely a great and balanced customer culture will have some of each basis built into them over time. The mistake would be to keep going towards a customer centric culture and not make it clear what you are targeting. You won't be rowing in the same direction at a sustainable pace. Digital transformations should help create and mainting a balanced and positive customer culture while targeting effeciency and gaining loyalty.

Additional Reading:

Proud of Your CX
Future Proof CX
Journey Listening
Existing Process Problems
Customer Journeys and Organizational Silos
Journey Mapping for All
Journey Mapping Case Study

Monday, September 18, 2017

Do You Need Technology to Assist Journey Mapping?

There are organizations that believe that the investment in customer journey mapping includes buying technology to assist in creating and maintaining the best customer journeys for a variety of customer needs and goals. There are also organizations that do not believe technology is necessary to deliver top notch journey maps. This writing will explore both approaches. Of course there are organizations that don't believe in journey maps and think that standard systems are good enough, but most of us wouldn't want to work for that kind of organization.

The Case for No Technology Assists:

Technology is not needed to deliver great journeys for customers. employees and partners. A good war room, post it notes and a sequestered group of experts with some survey data should be good enough to deliver a really great journey. While this is old school, it still works, so why complicate things with technology. In fact buying a jump start template and service provider with knowledge in particular knowledge world should be a good enough starting point.

The Case for Technology Assists: 

Technology is an absolute necessity for creating and maintaining the best journeys over a long period of time in a dynamic world.

Technology for Capturing Maps -  Journeys can be captured manually or generated from actual experiences for various logs. For organizations that are looking to plan out their journeys ahead of time with the intent of adjusting later, they will likely capture journeys in a manual fashion assisted by friendly software, through visualization tools or voice annotation capabilities.

Technology for Collaborating on Maps-  Journeys have to be shared across the whole organization for review, commenting, and creating consensus. Ideally, this secure software can be leveraged in the cloud for multiple geographical organizations.

Technology for Gathering and Integrating Various Data Sources - Journeys imply a goodly number of data sources that need to be brought together in order to evaluate and design better approaches to servicing customers, engaging employees, and enabling partners. The information sources include, but are not limited to, touchpoints, processes, systems, personas, surveys, scores, audit trails, and mining sources. 

Technology for Analyzing Data Sources -  Engaging journey visualization and analysis are the keys to designing and improving the user experience in an ongoing basis. Visualization gives perspectives that are typically horizontal and relational in respect to reach conclusions and point to alternative actions to improve the user experience. 

Technology for Visualizing Information Results - Examples of typical visualization approaches include actor step action maps, heat maps, statistical representations/scores, persona views, life cycle maps, and a day in the lifetime lines - all with drill down capabilities. Deeper analysis can promise potential changes in net promoter scores, a greater return on investment, and workload impacts. The better tools allow for the integration of additional outside analytical capabilities.

Net; Net: 

If you are considering a small scope journey or a highly standardized journey, maybe you can skip technology assists. It has been my experience that wider scoped journeys with a variety of views will definitely need technology assists. If real time adaptations are highly desired, technology assists are a necessity.

Additional Reading:

Proud of Your CX
Future Proof CX
Journey Listening
Existing Process Problems
Customer Journeys and Organizational Silos
Journey Mapping for All
Journey Mapping Case Study

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Are You Proud of Your Customer Experience?

Most top executives are not! According to a Harvard Business Review Analytic Services study with in-depth interviews, completed recently, with 680 top performing executives, there is a lot to be desired. Only 15 percent of the executives thought their customer experience was very effective. I'm sure the effective ones were basing their opinion on internal organization created surveys. This is disturbing in an era where the catch phrase is "A Customer for Life". The reality of the situation does not stack up to the desires. The study found there were three key success factors for the customer experience transformation necessary to keep customers. They were a customer centric culture, management/leadership buy in and getting real visibility into the actual customer experience.

Customer Centric Culture:

While 90 percent of the executives thought that a customer centric culture was important, only 45 percent thought they were effective. If you talk with the employees, I think you mind find the 45 percent number inflated. The accountants and the lawyers are chipping away at cost and governance creating a stiff head wind to traverse to the destination of an effective customer experience. It starts with the organizational charter and gets magnified by the CEO and executive team. Words are often there, but they get diluted by the time it reaches the actual customer experience. Often the customer service representatives are the shock absorbers between poor customer journeys supported by tired process and systems and the actual customer. They are the heros here.

Management/Leadership Buy In:

A goodly number of executives, 88 percent, thought leadership buy in was key, but only 49 percent thought they were effective. It's because nobody really measures it and gets rewards based on real customer satisfaction. Net Promoter Scores (NPS) are not the real measures in a stand alone way. There are other measures to track and reward. Of, course all executives want customer satisfaction, but is becomes lip service under fire. If it was important, it would be a bonus/reward factor for everyone.

Visibility and Real Understanding:

This is where the survey hit the skids. While 87 percent said that visibility was important, only 35 percent they were effective at visibility. Three-quarters of the companies were not able to act on the majority of data they collect because of disjoint systems and artificial stove pipes. Only 13 percent had a single source of customer intelligence though 30 percent were pursuing it. Only 23 percent of the managers were free to act on the data they collected. I would also guess few performed customer journey analysis in this mix.

Net; Net:

Customer experience is a crucial step in the digital transformation that can't be skipped or band-aided for long. If executives were serious the customer journey mapping and mining technology vendors would be over loaded with new business. It is not the case yet.  It's time to leverage some profits to help us walk the talk with better customer experiences. In all the companies I do business with, not one is even close to a good experience, much less a great and engaging one. In the mean time we all make due as customers.

Additional Reading:

Future Proof CX
Journey Listening
Existing Process Problems
Customer Journeys and Organizational Silos
Journey Mapping for All
Journey Mapping Case Study

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Future Proof Your Customer Experience

Nearly all organizations want a "Customer for Life" unless a particular customer is just plain toxic and difficult to work with over time. If you want the best customers, you have to treat your customers the best in your industry sector minimum.. In order to maximize the lifetime value of a customer, you have to be proactive to attract repeat business. This means you need to explore the ways to improve and future proof your customer experiences. While better leverage of websites, mobile / social channels, CRM systems and self service tasks will always be additive, but these efforts will not future proof your customer experience like the efforts below.

Improving Customer Journeys with Mapping:

There is a big disconnect between what customers want and what organizations provide at key touch points in a customer's journey. Customers want to have organizations know them, what they want and adjust to their special needs. What customers get instead is the challenge of navigating organizational silos, dealing with standard transaction focused systems and the privilege of  repeating the history to a customer service representative that has no freedom to handle exceptions. Worst of all customers have to answer rigid surveys that really do not allow for intimate feedback. Journey mapping is a great way to explore alternative approaches that can be implemented in a phased way.

Anticipating and Personalizing with Analytics:

Leveraging analytics that look at past journeys / cases and learn from them is a great first step, however that is not predictive, but reactive. While it is better than doing nothing, steps should be taken to predict what customers will want and how they will behave. Also exceptions can be anticipated categorized and predicted in terms of arrival rates and potential responses. Better customer partitioning combined with predictive analytics will allow for more precise personalization. Being able to predict and personalize in real time combined with more flexible processes and applications, will win customers hearts.

Leveraging New Senses with Intelligence: 

Utilizing voice and vision will be key in the coming years. Chatbots are helpful, but intelligent / AI driven digital assistants that leverage location and smart devices will help customers be more effective in helping themselves. Voice recognition, natural language and AI will be used powerfully together to improve the lives of customers in the most customer centric organizations. Image recognition, immersive reality and AI will also be used proactively minded organizations.

Net; Net: 

While not all organizations will jump on the most advanced approaches mentioned above, all organizations will have to move from customer service as usual. Sitting still is no longer a viable long term option. A credible mobile presence is table stakes, but to get into the game customer journey mapping combined with new intelligent approaches will get organizations in the game of long lasting customer loyalty.