The #1 Hurdle for Customer Experience Initiatives

Starting a customer experience initiative without examining your corporate environment is like starting a fitness program without examining your goals, nutritional habits, physical health, athletic capabilities, lifestyle and available resources.  Truth is you would benefit from a fitness program without this examination, we all know fitness is just plain good practice, but examining and addressing the critical elements increases your potential for maximized, sustainable results.  The same can be said for customer experience initiatives.  Chances are you will see some improvement with your efforts, but the hurdles resulting from your current corporate environment will limit the efficiency and effectiveness of your efforts.

Don’t underestimate the impact of your corporate environment.  A healthy foundation, clear and consistent communication, meaningful culture, strong sense of community, keen awareness and true values are powerful enablers to optimal customer experience.

Does your corporate environment enable you or disable you? This chart will help you diagnose your corporate environment, recommend steps to address the problems and why this works.

I will be publishing a survey later this week to score your corporate environment and then publish the results in my upcoming Monthly Insight Report. Stay tuned!

Corporate Diagnostic Chart – Can Your Organization Survive Meaningful Changes?

I often get asked why the same great strategic initiative works for some organizations and fails miserably for others. My answer is always the same, your potential for success is directed mapped to the health of your corporate environment.  Yet  unfortunately I do not think I have met a company yet that consciously shapes and determines their corporate environment.  Any meaningful transformation or business decision relies heavily on 7 key elements that determine the state of your corporate environment.  They are foundation, communication, culture, community, transparency, awareness and values.  Whether you are implementing a new social networking tool or starting a Customer Experience Management Practice or simply rolling out a new corporate policy, your corporate environment dictates the level of effort as well as your potential for success.

I have drafted a Corporate Diagnostic Chart as a tool to help you evaluate the health of your corporate environment.  It provides the typical problems with each element as well as what to do to address the problems and why it works.

How does your organization fair?  I would love to hear from you!  All feedback is welcome!

How to be Successful in Our Evolving Customer Centric World

If you have not already checked out Bruce Tempkin’s latest Tempkin Insight Report please do, it is bang on!  Bruce provides four customer experience competencies to help you gauge how close your company is to being a customer centric organization. Temkin’s four competencies are purposeful leadership, employee engagement, compelling brand values and customer connectedness. These four competencies are consistent with my five corporate disciplines required to break down traditional barriers and create the required pathways to be successful in our evolving customer centric world; exceptional corporate practices, partnership depth and vulnerability, customer experience values, purposeful business strategy, and passionate employee engagement. My Celebrating the Age of Transparency blog provides more insight to each of these disciplines.

Temkin’s Insight Report includes a employee experience virtuous cycle that is simple but brilliant.  In summary, not only is customer experience linked to employee experience, it is a direct reflection of it.  Great customer experience is not sustainable without passionate employee engagement.  Start by transforming your employees into empowered and engaged evangelists that act like owners and you will see this transcend into greater customer experience, loyal customers, decreased turnover, proud employees and strong financial results.

There is more on this and Tempkin’s other three competencies in his report, thanks for sharing Bruce!

The Significance of Culture

After reading and commenting on James Watson’s post Global Collaboration: Fact or Fiction? earlier today I was struck by the disruptive impact cultural influences can have on all business strategies.  I describe myself as a passionate change agent for meaningful transformations in business strategy, customer experience management and process and project management.  While understanding and transforming workplace cultures has always come with the territory, it struck me today that it is a much more significant than that, it is the most important aspect of all transformations.  The cultural environment sets the boundaries of success. My point is not intended to down play the relevance of a sound strategy, methodology and best practices, but rather acknowledge that these too are heavily influenced by the cultural environment.

The good news is that while some cultural influences may be outside of an organizations control, many are and can be transformed.  How often do leaders invest in cultural transformations?  Whether you aspire to succeed in global collaboration or simply keeping your customers happy, I propose you start with a cultural assessment and make the necessary transformations that will fertilize positive outcomes.

It’s Time for Social Innovation

I really enjoyed Lloyd Nimetz’s post this morning on  the Standard Social Innovation Review.  “The largest pool of untapped resources in the world today is humans’ good intentions that don’t translate into action.” I could not agree more with this statement and I think his suggested strategies are not only attainable but also simplistically brilliant.

We also need to evolve from our distinction of for-profit versus not-for-profit business models, this distinction breeds Lloyd’s quote above.  Smart for-profit companies will start to recognize the benefits of innovative social strategies and they will be rewarded in both profits and karma.  Not to mention living a more meaningful and purposeful life.

There are a number of social entrepreneurs leading this charge, building a hybrid business model that is has characteristics of both models.  One such example is Better World Books which is a for-profit online bookseller that has donated over $5 million to literacy programs.  Yet shamefully they have been criticized for misrepresenting themselves to attain free books.  Imagine if Amazon donated the same percentage of their profits to literacy programs!  We should not judge socially innovative companies for profiting, that is a win win!

I recently blogged about another great example of social innovation patientlikeme.com.

The time has come for for-profit companies to explore social innovative strategies and for not-for-profit companies to apply their good intentions to sound for-profit business models.  Exciting stuff!

Seek Out Meaningful Change

The reason I am such a huge fan of HBR is that they have completely mastered the art of bringing meaningful, provocative discussions to surface that are insightful and stimulate action.  This month’s spotlight was on Strategies for a Changing World, a topic near and dear to my heart and something I am very passionate about.

I don’t completely buy into Change for Change Sake, I think change needs to be meaningful.  However I do agree that “a company periodically needs to shake itself up, regardless of the competitive landscape”.  The good news is that there is never a time when meaningful change is not within reach.  It is often very hard for companies to tackle the obvious, and by obvious I mean recognizing the need to change.  I’m uncertain if it is ideologies, egos, fear or all of the above that make it so difficult for companies to recognize the need for change even when things are going great.  It takes courage, creativity and a clear plan of action to recognize and execute meaningful change.

On a lighter note, in How to Drive Change the IDEO Way, Andrew Winston writes about how Bruce MacGregor, Managing Partner of IDEO, recently shared an example of change where “airports that etched a little fly into urinals for men to aim at saw an 80% reduction in, well, pee on the floor” .  It is so simple yet so genius and no doubt resulted in enormous cleaning cost efficiencies.  He also shares the alarming statistic that only 10% of people facing a life threatening change make the changes necessary.  MacGregor provides 3 deceptively simple principles for change that I think are bang on; 1) seek joy, not fear, 2) harness existing momentum towards a new goal, and 3) create the crowd.  In summary “focus on what brings real fulfillment and joy, leverage momentum, and gather a crowd to build more profitable, lean, and yes, fun, organizations”.  Great stuff!

Health Care Megatrends

If your business is health care related or if you partner with health care related business you need to check out HBR’s Insight Center focused on Health Care Megatrends.  There are an abundance of valuable insights and articles well worth your time.  Are your strategies aligned to the Megatrends in Global Health Care?  There are many opportunities within these trends.  Although I was disappointed that patient experience was not one of them… it should be top of the list.  Another interesting read is the Ten Innovations That Will Transform Medicine; most interesting to me is where we are going with behavioral economics and payment innovations.  However my take on payment innovations leans more towards motivating other stakeholders outside of traditional payers to contribute in covering costs, if it is mapped to behavioral economics it is a win win for all stakeholders and first and foremost patients.  I’ve barely scratched the surface here on the great reads, I would love to hear your thoughts.

Customer Experience Megatrends – Very Promising

Bruce Tempkin’s 8 Customer Experience Megatrends are insightful and very promising.  A growing number of smart companies are recognizing that this is not only good for their customers, it is where the sustainable returns are as well.  Tempkin’s megatrends align perfectly to my 5 disciplines required to break down traditional barriers to create pathways to be successful in our evolving customer centric world.  The Tempkin Group also recently conducted a Customer Experience Survey that provides more insightful observations.  I was not surprised to see that the industries related to health care, both pharmaceuticals and medical providers, were the lowest in terms of participants, I believe this reflects the lack of appreciation for customer experience as a whole in the health care field.  However, I think this is on the verge of change, some smart companies in health care have recognized the need, and patients are started to demand it.  Regardless of the industry, all companies should take the time to examine Tempkin’s customer experience megatrends and build strategies to develop my 5 disciplines required to exploit them.

Physicians Need to Celebrate the Age of Transparency

Typically I am relentless optimist, it’s instinctive for me to recognize the gift in any challenge in even the worst of circumstances.  However this morning when I read an article Not Available in Canada in MacLean’s Magazine, I struggled hard to see any gift beyond there being a lot of opportunity for improvement.  I have read numerous articles recently exposing research and cures being held back due to industry politics and the end result is inexcusable.  Patients are needlessly suffering and even dying as a result.  Even if you are not a patient this impacts you as the costs to manage symptoms are much higher than the research or the cure.  No wonder the trust for the medical community is so low, transparency and customer (patient) experience are still foreign to this industry and this needs to change.  Our doctors need to become leaders rather than followers and advocate for their patients at all cost and if there is a good reason for preventing access then share it with us.  Huge kudos to those physicians that have shown the courage to advocate for their patients like Dr. Sandy MacDonald.  There are many heroes like her out there but far more are needed to make this transformation.  Physicians need to Celebrate the Age of Transparency.

Setting Appropriate Expectations

One of the primary causes of lack of credibility is missed expectations.  In the absence of setting appropriate expectations even successful outcomes can destroy trust and generate disruptive actions.  This often stems from a desire to sell the intended outcome too intensely, setting expectations much grander than can be accomplished.  Frequently it is not just your own integrity at stake, depending on your level of influence, it can generated distrust in your industry as well.  While reading an article in the NY Times this morning, Data Used to Justify Health Saving Can be Shaky, I was reminded of the numerous times I’ve seen analysis positioned as an absolute rather than merely an indicator to do further detailed investigations and understand the root cause.  As a result, inaccurate assumptions are made, or even worse actions are taken that in turn cause an even more serious problem.   The research Dartmouth did was powerful, but only as an indicator and when the interpretations were exaggerated a much bigger problem resulted not only questioning Dartmouth’s integrity but diminishing the value of the indicators they exposed that require further investigations.

I’ve seen this time and again in similar situations with over selling services only to fall short and generate distrust with customers when in fact they would have been extremely pleased with what was achieved had they not been promised the moon.  All customers value transparency and taking the time and sometimes risk to set clear expectations pays off.

Open Bio Medical Data Sharing

Earlier this week I blogged about the heroic social change that patientslikeme.com has created.  Today I read an article and listened to a short but powerful video Patients Teach Scientists To Share that further exposes the impact of the current barriers of open access to data for patients and the health community at large.  Protecting patient privacy and providing open access to essential medical data are NOT mutually exclusive.  However prohibiting access is killing patients and stunting the development of cures.  Drug manufacturers, scientists, physicians, nurses, pharmacists and patients can unite and make this happen. In my blog Celebrating the Age of Transparency, I speak of the 5 essentials disciplines of customer centric strategies, this is a great example of purposeful business strategy.

Kudos to patientslikeme.com!

A good friend of mine shared a great article with me this morning from the NY Times I don’t mean to dismiss the importance of patient privacy, but I think patientslikeme.com has a fantastic business model. I advocate this double agent approach, they are empowering both the patient and the drug makers. We do after all want the drug manufacturers focused on what patient’s need and to do this effectively they need data like this. Patients, physicians, nurses, pharmacists and drug manufactures all need to check this out.

The Four Agreements in the Workplace

While the intention of Don’s book is for self-discovery and personal development these agreements can be equally transforming for us as professionals requiring us to take an inventory on our professional beliefs, which are based on agreements we have made with the industry we are part of.  We can transform our beliefs and break our old, self-limiting agreements by practicing these Four Agreements in the workplace.

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