October 8, 2019

Don’t touch the coffee! The value of paying attention to people’s micro-experience when dealing with change.

Change is a trying time for everyone. Leadership can facilitate it by understanding the micro and macro employee experience.

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July 17, 2019

We Are People: What it Means to Have a People-First Approach

By Shayna Stewart / July 17, 2019

A people-first approach is neither easy to create or quick to implement. But it is the secret sauce at the core of the biggest and best brands in the world today.

Customer experience is a strategy that all digital insiders know has to be a focus if they want to have a lasting impact in their industry. However, the execution of customer experience isn’t as easy as just coming up with a plan to leverage emerging technology and building digital products. It’s as much about igniting cultural change within a company as it is about planning for the evolution of the experience.

At YML, we’ve designed a dynamic and thorough people-first strategy built to cultivate cultural change.

That people-first approach is what is missing from the majority of CX initiatives — and it shows. 

  • Executives who have made a push for a CX strategy have not seen a tangible business improvement.  20% of companies scored 9-10 for seeing a Return on Investment, with 14% of companies scoring 0-2 (Confirmit, 2018). 
  • The public doesn’t believe they have reaped much benefit from CX initiatives. 
    • 54% of U.S. consumers say customer experience at most companies needs improvement (PWC, 2018).  
  • Culture and legacy technology systems have been major reasons for people not seeing the consumer benefit of CX initiatives.
    • 54% of organizations cite culture as the primary challenge to becoming more agile, followed by the inflexibility of legacy technologies (Confirmit, 2018).
  • The companies who are reaping the rewards of CX initiatives, whom are mainly located in Silicon Valley, are the ones who have unequivocally added benefit to people’s lives.  
    • The S&P Index is largely a Technology Index as of 2018, including companies such as Alphabet/Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon (Seeking Alpha, 2018).

What differentiates the Silicon Valley behemoths and startups is the people-first approach. 

Source: Conformit, 2018

A people-first approach comes with a shift in mindset that is drastically different from the historical business executive mindset. You suddenly are talking about the broad spectrum of all people, internally and externally,  instead of just customers, and ultimately revenue. You are talking about emotions as opposed to products. Instead of technology solutions, you are building conversational tools. Lastly, whereas a business-centric mindset is one that optimizes based on minimizing risk and maximizing revenues, a people-first mindset is one that optimizes for transparency and intrinsic value.

In the short term, when first making this cultural shift, these optimization goals can constrain each other. In the long run, a people-first approach will maximize revenue, reduce risk, build loyalty with your team, and, quite frankly, keep your business relevant. 

But this is a very difficult story to tell when in a boardroom meeting. Often times a savvy executive can make the initial case for investing in CX, but isn’t able to clarify the full scope of that CX investment, which includes a gradual and tangible, cultural change to people-first. What ends up happening is that the first part of the project may go well and the customer may come first, but then the returns on revenue and reduced risk are not immediately recognized and therefore the mindset shifts back to business as usual.  

The trick is to trust the strategy. Trust consistency of message and approach. 

Here are some examples of companies optimizing for people-first.

  • Netflix created an easy to cancel monthly subscription experience along with reminders to cancel after the trial period so that customers never felt like they were overcharged or cheated in someway. However, this people-first change, optimizing towards transparency, had an estimated loss of $50M in subscription revenue. At the time, that was still a small percentage of overall revenue and in making the change towards transparency it built long term trust. As a result of improved brand perception, they continue to increase their monthly subscription base, hitting their highest level of subscribers in Q1 2019. 
  • In 2016 McDonald’s invested in elevating the interior environment of their stores to feel more premium, along with adding in self-ordering digital kiosks and table service. Investing in improved interiors is a table stakes strategy. Let’s face it — they needed to make this people-first investment just to stay relevant. It is table stakes because the outcome will get you to a net-neutral spot; it’s not going to increase customer base, it’s just going to make sure you don’t lose customers at a faster rate than if you did not implement that update. A clean, premium eating environment is the expectation. But the digital kiosk paired with the improved interior is what took the strategy to a level that would actually increase sales.
Image result for mcdonalds self service

  • The digital kiosk solved a customer pain point of waiting in lines in a way that was hard for competitors to copy right away.  Their strategy was to ensure their experience met standards and then improved the standards of the industry. This investment didn’t start to see a return until 2018 for stores within the test. McDonald’s has many other competitive pressures, such as new restaurants with the perception of better quality food and convenience offered through delivery overriding in-store speediness. But refreshed strategy may not be enough to overcome these new customer expectations. Changing expectations raises the importance of adopting a people-centric approach that will allow you to rethink the entirety of the business and how it can pivot from an existing model to a new one.

In both of these instances with Netflix and McDonalds, the immediate impact on the business metrics (revenue, profit) went down. In the long run, these CX strategies resulted in heightened retention over time. Brand perception and revenue drastically improved. They illustrated how creating a people-first culture will help mitigate the initial shock of investment and reduce risk over the long run because the investments made are directly informed by people’s emotions. 

Image result for netflix
According to Forrester, a one point gain in CX index results in a $5M-$185 million return on the business (depending on industry). Netflix has been ahead of the curve when it comes to CX and a people-first approach.

At YML we have created a step by step hierarchy to help you understand what actually goes into creating a people-first cultural mindset. Breaking it down into steps can help your teams understand where they are in maturity. The plan is also a tool to understand what steps were missed in the past. The key to this model is that it implies a high level of collaboration from stakeholders from historically siloed teams at every step.   

Levels to Creating a People-First Culture: 

  1. Feel What People Feel 
    • Extensive marketing research that looks beyond your customers, your competitors’ customers and the points of interaction with you and your competitors
    • Employees from each team pretending to be your own customer
    • Employees from each team pretending to be a service rep that interacts with the customer
  2. Empathize to Solve Problems
    • Build your strategy around the crucial moments of emotions in step 1
    • Identify what part of the strategy is table stakes vs. what will move customer expectations
    • Projects that only have table stakes will fail because that only postpones the inevitable of customers churning, it will not promote long term engagement
    • Ideas that will move customer expectations should be prioritized despite being harder to develop (See how to prioritize innovation with Innovation Index
  3. Igniting Cultural Change
    • All team members should be aware of the new people-first research and strategy 
    • The people-first strategy should be outlined in terms of how every person and team can help implement this new strategy and what is expected of them
    • New rules of engagement defined, highlighted by a culture of not being afraid to fail, must be adopted.  This about making a transition from fear of change to perceiving of smart risk-taking as admired 
  4. Talk the Way People Talk
    • Your backend systems and content need to reflect the nomenclature of the way people talk, as opposed to the way an industry insider speaks.
    • The backend systems must be able to support people’s desired navigation 
    • This sometimes can be a significant change to legacy data architecture. 
  5. Build The Experience
    • Design, develop and deploy
  6. Continuous Optimizing of The Experience
    • Must have the ability to move quickly and make quick decisions.
    • Much of this is about empowering mid-level employees with the ability to have more decision making power.  
  7. Creating New Customer Expectations 
    • Continuous pulse on changing expectations and creating new solutions to meet those new expectations
    • Creating new technology
    • Taking a new technology to solve an unsolved problem 

Each step is crucial, and completion of a step without completing the one before it will invalidate all steps. In addition, the investment in each level is additive and represents a cost that is continuously incurred. This means the investment does not go away once a team has leveled up. The result for each step will be unique to every brand and even the approach to all steps is not a one-size fits all. Even if you meet the requirements in each step there are still some cultural habits that will undermine this entire investment. 

Habits to Avoid in Order to Preserve a People-First Mindset

  • Don’t forget to create advocates across all teams. Be sure to allow lines of communication for input and collaboration from all teams. This is a high-collaboration sport. 
  • Don’t say the investment will end with a specific project. Your teams should be continuously optimizing the project and there is no end to the investment. Remember, the CX leaders are actively investing billions every year in creating new expectations (i.e., Steps #1-#7 never go away).  
  • Don’t a business case around just Step #5. Steps #1-#4 are crucial to making sure the investment incurred in Step #5 is not wasted. 
  • Leveraging emerging technology without contextualizing why and how people would use it creates costly mistakes. That can only come once you have hit step #7 and shouldn’t come sooner. 
  • Not investing in robust people-first research. This seems simple enough, but most companies think they have the right research based on satisfaction scores from customers. This is too narrowly focused for a people-first approach.  
  • Not properly communicating the people-first research and initiatives built from it to all teams in the entire company. Teams need to understand what this shift means for them and how they can support it. 
  • Not allowing for employees to feel comfortable about outcomes that weren’t positive. Not everyone will get it right the first time, but they should learn from why it didn’t work. That insight will get teams to the next big thing.  
  • Not expecting team structure shifts in order to become more agile. 
  • Not expecting major changes to database warehousing teams. Usually CX initiatives are considering just what it takes to build a website or app, but fail to consider that the systems that they may read from are not set up to comply with the new people-first strategy.  

A people-first mindset should permeate the underlying thinking of all teams. It should be an iterative process that produces long term business results.

It should unite and empower all employees to stand up for what’s right for the customer.

Employee thinking should be able to shift seamlessly between their executive persona and people persona. And most importantly, it should allow employees to feel like people feel because, at the end of the day, all of us are just people.

April 23, 2019

YML X — A Memo to Our Team and Partners

Nobody starts a company at the bottom of a recession. Well, nobody smart that is.

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March 27, 2019

Why I’m diving into the Valley to make things that work, matter, and drive results.

I’m proud to be joining the amazing story that is YML. There are numerous reasons why I'm excited about my new role in the Valley. Here's 3 of them.

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March 20, 2019

Is it time to break up the technopoly?

An analysis of the Democrats’ argument to break up tech.

By Stephen Clements

Have you ever heard of Wrapp, Giftly, Giftivo, Giftdish, Gifthit, GiftSimple, GiftDrop, DropGifts, YouGift, Ziftit, Let's Gift It…?

Probably not, which isn’t surprising.

They are just a handful of startups that were trounced when Facebook reintroduced gifting on the platform in 2017. I imagine this happens a lot—a tech giant launches a new feature and a slew of energetic and dynamic startups go up in smoke.

Talk about a tenuous existence.

No doubt it makes investing in a technology company very risky, and starting one even riskier. Sure, this has been going on since the dawn of business—the big eats the small—it’s a dog eat dog world, and Facebook has the biggest teeth.

So it was with some interest that I tuned into Elizabeth Warren’s talk at SXSW, during which she ripped into big tech and threatened to disrupt the disruptors by breaking them into smaller parts.

No doubt the cynic in me thinks this is just populist posturing from the 2020 hopeful.

Senator Warren picked SXSW to take her stand against big tech, because—as we all know—it’s hotbed of entrepreneurialism. It’s a who’s who of tech, and for 1 week the halls, bars, and BBQ joints of Austin are walked by any startup founder or tech-investor looking to rub shoulders with the world’s technorati, to get inspired, network, and maybe (just maybe) get funding.

And so the message was wildly cheered by her audience as she built her case to break up the G-MAFIA (Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, IBM, and Amazon).

Her logic is that by limiting the power of these tech giants, it will give smaller companies room to breathe, help them innovate more freely, and boost the economy.

Sounds lovely.

And it’s not just a ray of hope for the startup community, it could also be a gift for big brands that aren’t so technologically endowed.

For example, I have lost count of the many meetings I have had with clients from all kinds of verticals—banking, insurance, automotive, etc.—all fretting the question “what happens when Amazon starts selling insurance/banking/cars/…?

For me, this is the exciting part.

As the big tech elites control the future of AI, and they are busy shoring up their digital advantage, the oxygen of innovation is being squeezed out of startups and big businesses alike. It will be an effed up world when you get your insurance, banking, healthcare and gym membership, all from the same provider.

What Senator Warren is proposing might scare the big tech giants—obviously.

They haven’t felt much in the way of regulation for so long, and so now, as legislation starts to catch up with their mercurial rise, the pigeons are maybe coming home to roost.

It’s an agreeable message for an audience of technological progressives at SXSW, but on the flip side, Democrats rely on big tech as their piggy bank for political donations, so we’ll see if they are really willing to do anything should they win the 2020 election.

It’s a debate worth having, for sure, but the cynic in me doesn’t expect much will actually come from it.

March 7, 2019

International Women’s Day 2019: Empower Her

YML's 2019 Women's Day T-shirt designed by Sadhvi Konchada

YML's 2019 Women's Day T-shirt designed by Sadhvi Konchada

 

Last year at this time, YML created some fun Women’s Day T-shirts for the team.  Being really passionate about the topic, I decided to take the initiative to design this year's tees. Being born and raised in India and now working in such a multi-cultural workplace in the United States, diversity is a topic I hold close to my heart. I knew that was the theme I wanted to explore. As I was in the process of designing it, I shared a draft with our Chief Creative Officer, Stephen Clements, who posed a question which really made me think. He said, “Diversity is a topic so big, so vague, and so well explored by other people. Ideas begin with insights. Otherwise they aren’t really ideas. Insights challenge people. They surprise them. They make them think about an old problem in a new way. What’s your insight?” I paused. I thought. I dug deeper, until I found my insight that empowered me to write this poem —

“There are a world of problems that women have to deal with. Differences between them shouldn’t be one of it.”

 


 

 

Empower Her 

It’s 2019.
The war with patriarchy has lasted centuries,
Across continents.
And the world still fails us.

She and I might have our differences.
The color of my skin,
The language of her words,
The music that makes our bodies sway,
Our childhood memories so unlike.
And yet,
Our struggle so alike.
The world has failed us both.

Every time,
Someone speaks over her,
Every time,
She says “Sorry” before speaking her mind,
Every time,
She’s paid less than she deserves,
The world has failed her.
And me.

Every time,
Her heart beats fast as she walks alone at night,
Every time,
She changes her path to avoid passing a group of men,
The world has failed her.
And me.

Every time,
She’s told what to wear,
What to eat,
What to do,
How to be.
The world has failed her.
And me.

This is just the tip of the iceberg,
Of how the world has failed us.

You.
Yes, you.
Reading this.
Every time,
You see our struggle and do nothing,
You have failed us both, too.

This is not your fight.
This is not my fight.
This is our fight.
To make the world better.

So listen,
I promise,
To stand with her.
To stand up for her.
To fight for her.
To empower her.
And can I ask,
If I’m in need,
You do the same for me?

 


 

Written by:

Sadhvi Konchada is a UI/UX designer at Y Media Labs. She enjoys telling stories, most times with color, and sometimes with words.

LinkedIn  -  Instagram

October 18, 2018

The Secret Sauce: Prioritizing Innovation in Roadmaps

by Shayna Stewart

In the digital industry we all aim towards the aspirational, yet colloquial goal of innovation. Yet more and more, true innovation is harder to come by. We believe this is due to the way roadmaps are prioritized. The frameworks that product leaders use for prioritization tend to overemphasize the manipulation of features that are already in place. The metrics, Level of Effort (LOE), Scale, and Customer Value, used in the framework do not favor injecting any new concepts.

It favors optimizing existing concepts.

Recently when working with a client to prioritize ideas within their roadmap, we created what is called the Innovation Index. In this case, our client and team brainstormed on all of the possible ideas for a second phase of a recent app that was built.

The problem we ran into ranking all of the ideas was a lack of data to support one feature over another as the first iteration of the app was yet to be launched. Therefore no data had been captured and we were too early in the process of vetting more ideas to gather consumer feedback. From our need to evaluate ideas objectively in lieu of usable data, the Innovation Index was born.

To create this index, we first did some research toward an objective definition of innovation. We landed on two important pillars:

From there, we took the list of ideas generated by our client and our team and researched if any of these ideas already existed. If the idea didn’t exist, we gave the idea a score of 5. If it did exist we ranked the idea with a score of 1-4, heuristically representing market saturation. Therefore, 5 was a completely distinct idea and 1 was an idea that has a high market saturation.

Secondly, we ranked the ideas on if the proposal was a more efficient way of solving the problem. If the idea was ranked as a 5 in the market saturation scale (meaning a completely distinct idea), it automatically got a score of 5 for being more efficient. Otherwise, we evaluated the ideas if they were more efficient approach to solving a problem that has already been solved by someone else.  

That’s it, the Innovation Index is made up of two scales: Market Saturation & Efficiency. These concepts mapped back to the pillars of innovation, which helped focus our next steps on differentiation as opposed to directly competing with existing products. In the end this exercise prioritized our product planning to helping an underserved audience of about 18.6M people.

After using the Innovation Index in a roadmap with no data, I started to think about how it would apply  to a roadmap with data already in place. I discovered that without including the Innovation Index, the metrics used to prioritize a roadmap (LOE, Scale, and Consumer Value) were actually working against innovative ideas. Here we dive into just how this plays out:

 

Level of Effort

LOE asks how easy is it to bring an idea to market. The reasons for an ‘easy’ LOE estimate is slightly different for each team, but both result in prioritization of ideas that already exist.

If the idea is deemed easy by the technology team, that means they either have already done this before or that there is significant documentation already published. It also is indicative that all data elements are readily accessible. Typically, data elements that are readily accessible are already in use -- i.e. the idea is an optimization of an existing feature.

If the easy LOE estimate comes from the design team, it means that a proposed feature will  likely have a small impact to the ecosystem. Designers spend less time when they do not have to think through the way that users move through the experience. When they do not have to think through the experience, that means they are manipulating or adding something to an existing page. This type of one-dimensional change is typically not symptomatic of building a new, innovative idea. Therefore an LOE of Easy and even Medium are deleterious to innovation.

Scale

Scale measures the potential number of users reached by the idea. If it’s high, then it gets prioritized over a niche solution. However, when you think about some of the most innovative brands today like Amazon, PayPal, Etsy, and Tesla, they all started by servicing niche markets. Often when innovative technologies and ideas are first created, the full breadth of implicated use cases are still unknown. In the case of PayPal, they worked from the insight that it was very challenging for auction houses (a small but extremely active part of Ebay’s user base) to collect mobile payments. PayPal was born from this insight. Ten years later, it’s rare that you find a retailer that does not support purchases through PayPal.

Augmented reality is another recent technology that hasn’t benefited from publicly scaled use cases yet, but we see companies like Google making significant investments. There’s value in testing early and learning fast, if you encounter an idea that may be  small scale but is potentially innovative. I would recommend prioritizing it and position it to leadership as a learning opportunity for the team.

Customer Value

This metric is our  most vague as it has the potential to be defined differently across multiple Indexes or use cases. We can’t completely rule out that this metric in some cases can be aligned to innovation, but in most cases I see that it is not.

Typically it is discovered through user validation or market research. CV often goes against innovation for two reasons:

The first - you may not be talking to the right group of people. In a recent study, we identified a target persona which clearly did not want certain innovative ideas because they weren’t geared towards that particular persona. This is also a factor when you have extremely small sample sizes. The users you are talking to just may not see the value of the idea. Second, I see studies that outwardly ask users what they want, what could be improved upon. This is important to do in order to find major usability issues, but it’s not the metric that will get you to focusing on innovation. It’s best to use a metric that prioritizes building a prototype of innovative idea that solves a problem that the users didn’t know they had. Then, subsequently present the prototype to potential users (pending you feel confident in your sample) to get feedback on usability. This methodology is better than asking users what they want as a means to prioritizing what you build.

Steve Jobs epitomized this very thought and opined - 

September 4, 2018

Getting to know Tuomas Haapala, Director of Strategic Partnerships

We've been lucky to have several new leadership positions join us this summer, and wanted to take the opportunity for our clients and partners to get to know them better. Up this week, Tuomas Haapala, our new Director of Strategic Partnerships.

 

Who are you, and what do you do?

TOO - OH - MAS. But sometimes I get Tom or Thomas and I just go with it.Previously I was at a Finnish design agency, Idean, where I was the Director of Strategy & Growth specializing in customer experience, user experience, user interface, and service design. We approach new business development strategically with a philosophy of finding the best partners whose values align with our own.

Here at YML, I'll be focused on developing new client opportunities while also growing a team.

 

Where are you from?

My wife and I are from Finland, and we’ve been in the Bay Area for about two and a half years - living in the Marina in San Francisco.

 

Tell us a little about your background.

I was actually a professional football (soccer) player in Europe for different clubs - including some time at Manchester City - the current Premier League champions. I was captain on many of those clubs, and it gave me a great passion for working with people and bringing a collaborative spirit to everything I do.

 

Why did you choose to come to Y Media Labs?

YML is really going places. I was really impressed and excited by our growth, and the caliber of work and caliber of clients we partner with. Here at YML we have a unique ability to marry design and technology in ways that make a lasting impact on people’s lives. This is one of the biggest challenges and opportunities that the tech industry can address for this next phase of human culture on the planet.

On top of that, this is a truly great group of people and I’m excited to come to work every day and interact with the best and brightest in the valley.

 

What about this industry are you most passionate about?

The job we're doing - the clients we have - is going to change the world. How people experience technology is so important, and it will affect everything from personal relationships, the economy, and our future as a society enabled by automation. Being at the forefront of innovation and design, and what this means to our clients, is something that is amazing. We get to create something new.

What’s really cool about YML is we’re plugged into the very core of our clients businesses, and we have a front row seat to how they are approaching these kinds of experience transformations.

 

What are some other companies you admire?

I really love what Nike has done with their brand. It’s not necessarily about their products - but what they stand for, and what their values represent to customers. It’s all very holistic and doesn’t depend on any single channel. I think there’s a lot we can learn from them to create products and services that land this kind of emotional impact.

 

What are you favorite spots to eat in San Francisco?

That’s really tough because there are so many here, but we really love Sessions at the Presidio, and Bus Stop in Cow Hollow - the oldest sports bar in the city.

 

How do you spend your spare time?

Any outdoor activity is great - but in reality these days it’s spending a lot of time with our seven-month old baby.

May 2, 2018

Customer Journey Maps: The Key To Competitive Differentiation

Ask an avid Starbucks-goer why they love Starbucks and the answer is sure to go beyond the coffee. They may talk about the ritual of grabbing a coffee in the morning and knowing they can rely on that consistent, familiar experience at any starbucks around the world. Or they may rejoice over the ease of ordering and managing the loyalty perks with the Starbucks mobile app. Or the excitement of waiting for seasonal drinks and custom designed cups around the holidays every year.  

What brands like Starbucks and other customer-centric giants like Virgin America and Amazon have mastered is the ability to differentiate themselves through the value of a memorable customer experience.

In order to get the customer experience strategy right, brands need to commit to not only understanding their customers, but being empathetic to their experiences and journey as well. Only through empathetic interactions and customer understanding can brands anticipate customers expectations and provide a customer journey map that adds value at the right time and in the right place.

In this article, I will walk you through the necessary steps to build an informative and actionable Customer Journey Map that will be an invaluable tool for your brand to understand customer needs and improve your business model.

So, what is a Customer Journey Map and why should I create one?

Customer Journey Mapping is the process of identifying and describing all the experiences customers have today as they interact with your brand.  It takes into account what happens to customers during their experiences, their responses to them, and how those experiences make them feel in every step. By building a customer journey map, an organization can identify and manage the customer experience at every point of the journey,  address the processes and tools that are creating friction and then create new and effortless intelligent customer experiences.

Combine that with customer data and you have a compelling picture that can help uncover any gaps between what customer expect and what they actually experience, allowing organizations to optimize a customer experience strategy that closes that gap and increases customer satisfaction.

Here are some examples of how you can visualize your Customer Journey Map.

customer journey map - Rail Europe

Source: http://uxmastery.com/ux-marks-the-spot-mapping-the-user-experience/

In addition to uncovering value for customers, breaking down the business model across stages of a particular customer journey has business benefits, too.

Brands that have a clear understanding of their customer experience strategy and tactical options from the customer journey map view, enjoy operational cost savings by eliminating unnecessary trustpoints, boosting conversion rates and increase customer loyalty and advocacy by creating effortless journeys, improving brand equity by enhancing value and improving customer awareness, and increasing employee satisfaction and engagement by improving their experience.

Next we’ll walk through a step by step guide on creating a strong customer journey map.

How to build an informative and actionable Customer Journey Map

customer journey map - the steps

1. Define the business goal.

Start by clarifying the business goal that your journey mapping initiative will support.

For instance, if you are a Home Improvement retailer, the business objective might be to retain your market position against a competitor like Amazon. 

2. Identify your most valuable customer.

Start with the needs and priorities of the most valued or most “growable” customer and think of a problematic journey for that customer.

If you don’t have personas defined, you should include the development of personas as part of the journey mapping initiative and overall customer experience management strategy.

Personas are rich narratives describing needs (both known needs that the customer can identify, and the latent needs that they can not), motivations, attitudes, goals, behaviors, preferences, and pain points. 

Personas development should always be backed by data and research. Both qualitative and quantitative research assist uncovering customers’ experiences and their emotional states throughout their journey. Collect internal insights by taking inventory of the customer knowledge the company has. Leverage front-line employees as they will typically have already amassed a lot of insight into the voice of customer,  (VOC). They will be able to help provide information about some of the trustpoints and which ones they feel have the most significant pain points associated with them.
By drilling into the voice of the employees (VOE), it is possible to see which trustpoints are the biggest drivers of satisfaction and loyalty.

Understand your personas expectations as they can help inform what value means to them and ensure your value proposition is framed correctly. It will also assist in your customer experience management by ensuring they have the best possible interaction with your brand.

Let’s continue with our example of the Home Improvement retailer.

One of their personas is “Melissa”. Melissa is a single mother of two living on  a single family income. She loves to entertain and showcase her home to friends and family, so maintaining and improving her space is important to her.

While Melissa loves the idea of remodeling and updating her space, she hates thinking about what it’s going to take to get there: finding a contractor she can trust, managing the communication with all the parties involved, keeping the project on-track, etc.

3. Define The Job To Be Done (JTBD).

The Job To Be Done is specific to customer types and occasions, and it is typically written as an actionable statement.  

Melissa’s JTBD is “Remodel my kitchen”.

It is also essential to understand the key drivers behind the JTBD part of the customer journey

In Melissa’s case, she’s looking to get her kitchen remodeled in preparation for a big anniversary celebration at her home.

4. Establish stages from the customer’s perspective.

It is paramount that your team understand the end-to-end journey before you begin getting into the details. You should build an intelligent customer experience with stages that represent your customer’s Job To Be Done, not your organization’s internal process steps. The stages of this customer journey map should represent a key purpose your customer is trying to achieve in their overall journey.

By clearly understanding your customer’s goals in each stage of their journey,  your team will be able to evaluate the customer experience management strategy the organization is currently delivering and how close or how far you are from meeting your customer’s goals.

Take a look at some possible stages for Melissa’s customer journey map below:

1. Inspiration: - How do I want my kitchen to look like?
2. Planning: - How much is this project going to cost and where will I be buying everything from?
4. Committing: - I'm ready to start.
5. Execution - What now?
6. Enjoyment - The party will be a success and my kitchen is going to be the topic of the night.

5. Identify the “Trustpoints”.

A Trustpoint is any point of interaction along the customer journey map between the brand and the customer, where a brand can make or break the customer’s trust. Achieving clear insights into the different Trustpoints across the customer experience strategy and the relative importance for each Trustpoint will bring visibility into customer's moments of truth.

In some cases, there may be too many Trustpoints to realistically map out while maintaining a 10,000 feet view of the customer journey. The key to an intelligent customer experience is always to keep a holistic view from the customer’s perspective.  

For our example, Melissa goes from the web to get inspired to the store to see materials, talks to an associate to get additional ideas, and goes back home and continues on her ipad with customers reviews on products. All valid trustpoints under the "Getting Inspired" stage.

6. Capture customers emotions.

To fully understand and manage the customer’s experience throughout their journey with your brand, you must capture the customer’s emotions. You can leverage the empathy map tool which it’s used to garner deep insights about how your customer think, feel, hear, and what they do.

customer journey map - customer experience

Source: https://boagworld.com/usability/adapting-empathy-maps-for-ux-design/

While Melissa may experience great excitement in the initial inspiration stages of her remodel, she can quickly become overwhelmed during planning, with too many design and product possibilities to potentially frustration is she is not able to buy the products she wants once she makes a decision.

Understanding your personas’ emotions at each stage of the journey allows your company to anticipate potential points of friction and proactively take steps to remove them and optimize your customer experience strategy.

7. Evaluate your customer's experience.

Now, you translate all the analysis into a simple visual representation including the assessment of their experience. The experience evaluation identifies the points in the customer journey map that are creating friction and those that are delighting your customers.

The customer experience improvements could be evaluated based on:

  • Emotions.
  • Customer’s level of effort.
  • Customer’s time spent.
  • Importance of a trustpoint.
  • Satisfaction with a trustpoint.

Moments of truth are those make or break moments in the course of customer experience management when you have the chance to earn their true loyalty by removing friction. Identifying moments of truth allows you to focus on the customer’s experience (actual and desired) rather than the transactional relationship and highlights which of those trustpoints are the most important to optimize for your customer.

By walking through Melissa’s customer journey map, our retailer has uncovered a few potential points of friction.

From here, they can evaluate their current customer experience strategy and optimize as needed:

  • Option Fatigue: Were they able to personalize her experience and guide her with the right options to remove option fatigue?
  • Execution Resources: Did they have a network of vetted contractors for her to choose from to carry out her remodel?
  • Item Availability: Is there a communication system in place to let her know if a product was in back order and provide additional options for her big party?

8. Identify the Backstage elements.

Customer experience and digital transformation requires organizations to go a few levels deeper from the customer journey map, this is known as Service Blueprint.  

Service Blueprint is a perfect approach to omnichannel customer experience. By mapping the frontstage and backstage on one customer journey map, you can create visibility to the internal resources, technology, processes and regulations that are responsible for delivering an intelligent customer experience. They pinpoint dependencies between employee-facing and customer-facing processes in the same visualization and are pivotal in identifying pain points, simplifying interactions,  reducing costs for the organization, and improving the experience for its customers.

There are some key elements to be considered in Service Blueprinting:

  1. The line of interaction which shows the direct interactions between the customer and the organization.
  2. The line of visibility which separates all service activities that are visible (frontstage) to the customer from those that are not visible (Backstage).
  3. The line of internal interaction which separates contact employees from those who do not directly support interactions with customers.

Service Blueprinting forces organizations to represent what occurs internally throughout the totality of the customer journey map, giving organizations insight to redundancies and dependencies that departments alone could not see.

How can our retailer create a customer experience management strategy that had a single view of the customer to ensure we remove any effort and frustration from Melissa's journey? What are the systems behind supporting Melissa's journey? Which departments will have to work together to ensure a smooth journey?

If a product is on backorder, distribution center will create an update on the backend that will trigger a notification for the associate who has been working with Melissa on her Kitchen remodel. The associate will see how imperative is to meet the deadline and looks for similar products that can keep Melissa's project on track. The associate connects with Melissa and while Melissa is not happy about changing plans, appreciates that the associate has other good options for her to choose from. 

9. Prioritize areas for customer experience strategy improvements.

By now, the Moments of Truth have already provided a lens through which you can prioritize investment for the most critical trustpoints in the customer journey map. One way to help you prioritize is to create a top ten list of improvements projects.

To prioritize your customer experience management, you can use a simple Prioritization Matrix with importance to the customer, importance to the business,  and the technical feasibility. You can also consider using conjoint analysis, asset classes, or regression analysis.

Keep in mind the multidimensional nature of a customer journey and assign a weight to the impact of each step to the organization success.

Also, remember that customer experience improvement should:

  • Prioritize reliability over “wow” moments.
  • Reduce pain point across the trustpoints.
  • Fix inconsistent experiences.
  • Ensure issues are prevented from reappearing.

Once the opportunities for optimizing your customer experience strategy have been prioritized, list out the key opportunities on the map itself. Now, the customer journey map is a tool you can use for action planning where you can identify key opportunities for improvement, assess their impact, their ROI, and ultimately set investment priorities for your organization.

Making Sure Your Strategy Works

Always remember that customer journey maps can only provide value if:

  • The exercise is developed with an outside-in perspective (the customer is at the center of the stage).
  • The information is widely shared to get internal alignment across multiple teams in the organization. The customer journey maps highlight how and where the various components of your organization impact your customers, shaping their perceptions of your organization, your products, and your services. Tracking customer trustpoints through every department with a direct link to your customers brings the importance of an aligned customer-centric mindset to your customer experience strategy.
  • Once broken moments of truth have been identified, action is taken on the insight. The organization will need to prioritize and design new experience to increase customer loyalty, focus on reducing the effort customers make, head off the need for follow up calls, and address the emotional side of interactions.
  • Long-term owners are assigned to sustain the learning over time.

Conclusion

Like a road map, a Customer Journey Map bridges the gap between customer experience  strategy and the supporting tactics that will bring that new experience to live. A Customer Journey Map cuts through the clutter and provides a comprehensive view of your current customer interactions across departments, services/products, segments, and marketing efforts.

By breaking down the business model across stages of a particular customer journey, it is possible to model where cost can be reduced, and revenues can be generated in relation with where the value is created for the most valuable customer. Once you have the understanding of where you need to improve, you will be able to deliver innovative solutions with an optimized customer experience strategy that responds to your customers’ needs.

A branded customer experience that delivers consistently across all customers channels in a way that adds value to the core customer proposition will intentionally differentiate you from the competition.

May 2, 2018

The Mountain and the Cave

Perils of being too agile

Way back in the early 2000s, when I had just started my career in the software industry, the Agile Manifesto was making big waves. It promised a radically different, very efficient and very easy way to deal with software. It was based on a very simple set of ideas.

Since then the term “Agile” (note the capitalized “A”) has been reduced to a bunch of certifications, pointless ceremonies, charts and reports. The original problems that the manifesto tried to wrangle with are still by and large the same. Instead many teams seem to have taken this up as a religion and are going through the motions and somehow don’t stop to look and see how truly agile they are with respect to accommodating change.

Agile is not a recipe

One can’t just slap Scrum or XP on to their development process and expect everything to work fine. In my view, the worst kind of offenders are the ones that misinterpret Agile as an encouragement to achieve complete anarchy. I have numerous teams saying “Oh, we follow Agile so we don’t believe in wasting time defining requirements/ documenting/ designing/ building test frameworks.” In the noise of following ceremonies blindly these teams usually miss out on the most critical part of the Manifesto:

Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.

Envisioning the product and the real value it brings to the customer is paramount. It is far more important than tools or processes or making the right noises. If your team is working on something without thinking much about the product vision, you are not being agile, you are just courting disaster.

Let us use this analogy of mountain climbing. It is not exactly a walk in the park to scale, say Mt. Everest. Even if you are not the first one to scale the mountain, it is a big challenge. Even if you have yourself scaled the mountain, it still offers unique challenges every time. But at least you know where you are going — you know how tall is the mountain, what are the typical weather conditions, what is the best time to climb, where to camp, how many meters can you climb in a day and so on. And you will know when you have reached the top. You can stick your flag at summit and take a few selfies to post on Instagram.

Now let us imagine you are spelunking in some unknown cave. You have no idea what are you dealing with. This is completely uncharted. Although you have all the spelunking gear with you, you will definitely fall short of something. There could be poisonous gases at the next bend, you may get caught in a flash flood from some underground river, there may be goblins or orcs — just about anything could happen. Moreover, you may never be sure if you have really reached the end or when you cross the point of no return.

In both the cases, you really have to aware of your surroundings and make quick decisions (be agile). In both cases, you need need to be an expert in navigation and survival skills. In both cases, you need to be prepared with the right gear. However, in case of the cave, you are at a significant disadvantage.

Unfortunately, most teams approach product development like they are spelunking. They don’t invest enough time in envisioning how the product would look like and what the customer needs are. They are just happy following the processes and ticking the boxes and do not worry enough on whether they are building and delivering an incremental product.

To use another (rather well-used) analogy, say a team is building a car for the customer. The general approach is to deliver a tyre, couple of seats, a part of an engine, another tyre, a steering wheel, etc. in each Sprint. Although these are essential components, what the team misses to see is that they are notbuilding an incremental product.

The customer need is not really the car, the more basic need is to get from point A to point B. The customer may change her opinion and ask for a bullet train instead of a car, but the need remains the same. Most teams miss out on understanding this basic ask. And although they deliver individual pieces, they don’t understand that the customer still doesn’t get to try and see if her basic need is being met. Teams should focus on building the equivalent of a kiddy tricycle, a bicycle, a motor bike, a compact hatchback, a sedan and finally a muscle car as increments. The customer gets to validate the incremental product and the team gets early feedback.

It is rather strange to see so many teams focusing entirely on things like Velocity, bug counts, stand-ups and other ceremonies without really stopping to question where what they are doing is really agile. There are often teams that genuinely believe that as long their Sprints are running well, all is good. This myopic view is not enough to build a great product.

It is even more disturbing when I hear teams blame the customer saying: “Oh they don’t know what they want, they keep changing the requirement”. Erm, yes it is possible, but that’s the whole point of being agile. Customers may not know for sure what they want, especially if they don’t speak the language of software. It is our job as software professionals to glean that information from them. And this becomes a lot easier when we focus on what the customer needs, instead of stopping at what they think they want. We can’t blame customers because they could not articulate their requirement, it is up to us to understand and define the requirement based on the customer’s need.

It is time we refocus on the product.

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