The New Battleground for Business: The Customer Experience

This post is written by guest blogger, Nick Glimsdahl and is the companion to an interview on the Voice America show, Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations focusing on Conscious Capitalism with Mark Kovacevich focusing on Conscious Capitalism as a business accelerator.

The great entrepreneur, Vanilla Ice, once said, “Stop, collaborate, and listen”. In today’s business environment, that sage advice can elaborate to: stop and evaluate your current state, collaborate with experts, and listen to your customers.

Business leaders who champion customer-centric business models have stopped, collaborated and listened. And, in today’s digital age, being customer-centric requires a business model to effectively take advantage of current technologies to meet customer expectations.

Warren Buffett said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” Hence, a company’s business model should first and foremost orbit around the customer, specifically their customer experience (CX), addressing:

  • The customer needs and wants
  • The current state of the customer experience
  • How the customer’s journey can improve

What is Customer Experience and why does it matter?

The customer experience is the new battleground for brand loyalty and a true differentiating factor for companies. It can be defined as the customer’s perception of an organization – often gained through contact center interactions – and how seamless or frustrating that interaction is. Shep Hyken, a customer service expert, author, and speaker said it this way, “A brand is defined by the customer’s experience. The experience is delivered by the employees.”

Beyond perception, CX is about delivering an expected outcome, and while the customer experience looks different for each company, common themes are:

  • Response time
  • Overall customer satisfaction
  • Ability to obtain sought out information effortlessly

A customer experience-centric model considers more than just key customer-company touchpoints; instead, the model considers the entire Omni-channel journey from the customer’s perspective.

There are three ways to measure and improve your customer’s experience:

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)
    • NPS® measures customer experience and predicts business growth. (i.e. 0-10 scale on how likely customers would recommend a business to a friend).
  • Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)
    • CSAT measures how products and services meet or surpass customer expectations. A CSAT score is the sum of respondents answering between “Satisfied” and “Very Satisfied”.
  • Customer Effort Score (CES)
    • CES, measures customer service satisfaction with one single questions. (i.e. The company made it easy to handle an issue).

Mature CX organizations monitor and understand the voice of the customer through these metrics.

Why should business leaders get behind the CX movement?

Forrester research found 71% of business and technology decision makers say that improving Customer Experience is a high priority in the next 12 months. But why? Henry Ford, Founder of Ford Motors, explained it well: “It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.”

Brand loyalty is not what it was 20-30 years ago. A customer’s experience positively correlates to brand loyalty, and it is much more important because of the ease of switching service providers or ordering a product from Amazon. According to the Temkin Group, 86% of those who received excellent Customer Experience were likely to repurchase from that company, compared to only 13% of those who had a very poor Customer Experience.

The trend of the increasing purchasing ease will continue as will customer-first business models delivering effortless experiences. The remaining question is what businesses will stop and evaluate their current states, collaborate with experts, and listen to their customers?

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the Author

Nick Glimsdahl is the Client Enablement Director for VDS. VDS creates effortless interactions. It helps improve the way enterprising businesses deliver customer experiences. With a 30-year history of delivering results, its success in creating effortless interactions is unmatched. As a client enablement lead, Nick brings his clients the right communications solution: contact centers through (Genesys / Five9), business collaboration (Microsoft Skype) for Business, or enterprise telephony solutions so you can deliver the best customer experience.

 

Building Trust in a Noisy World

This post by Nick Glimsdahl is the companion to an interview with Michelle Harrison, CEO of Kanter Public, the WPP Group public policy consulting and research business, on Voice America where she talks about the first of its kind report that Kantar Public released at Davos focusing on the challenges governments face across the planet and how the current loss of trust impacts their ability to navigate current challenges.

Everyone — including me — is vying for your attention. We live in a noisy world, bombarded by advertisements, news, campaigns, emails, messages, and social media notifications.

So, how can a business build trust and credibility in today’s noisy world?

This deceptively simple, relevant question is up against a distrusting world. In America specifically, the state of trust is dire. The Edelman Trust Barometer’s Executive Summary reports, “It is no exaggeration to state the U.S. has reached a point of crisis that should provoke every leader, in government, business, or civil sector, into urgent action. Inertia is not an option, and neither is silence…no work is more important than re-establishing trust” (p. 7).

Rather than feeling overwhelmed, business leaders should take a strategic approach to build trust and create positive brand awareness to help ensure messages are received. While increasing revenue is vital to a successful business, focusing on revenue without prioritizing content, awareness, and trust is futile. Hence, a company’s first priority should be to make sure customers view its content, marketing, and brand as credible, trustworthy, and customer-centric.

Eight Trust-building actions to weave into a business strategy:

1. Base the customer experience on what is simplest for the customer, not what is simplest for the company

2. Weave technology into the fabric of the business strategy, demonstrating that the business is ‘with the times,’ aware of customer expectations, and able to quickly resolve issues with modern solutions

3. Create effortless, memorable interactions with your customers so they willingly return

4. Seek ways to provide value to others first

5. Ask for and respond to reviews and highlight them on your site

6. Create an online reputation and have a consistent brand

7. Make sure online interactions are secure

8. Have timely coverage of business news

Building a trustworthy brand results in many benefits. In fact, according to Forbes, trust is the most powerful currency in business. Beyond being a currency of its own, trust leads to referrals, stronger collaboration, a stronger business, and the ability to work through challenges internally or with a client.

Building trust requires time — a currency of itself; however, as the most powerful currency, trust requires the utmost attention for a company to reach its highest potential.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the Author

Nick Glimsdahl is the Client Enablement Director for VDS. VDS creates effortless interactions. It helps improve the way enterprising businesses deliver customer experiences. With a 30-year history of delivering results, its success in creating effortless interactions is unmatched. As a client enablement lead, Nick brings his clients the right communications solution: contact centers through (Genesys / Five9), business collaboration (Microsoft Skype) for Business, or enterprise telephony solutions so you can deliver the best customer experience.

How Hiking Supports Strategic Thinking and Reflection

This post is written by guest Damian Taylor as a companion to interview with Ken Wylie, Outdoor Adventures, A School for Leadership and Discovery his interview, on the Voice America Radio Show, “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on July 24, 2018.

As leaders, many of us struggle to find time to refresh our bodies, minds and spirits. I have been a hiker now for decades. Some of my most interesting vacations involved what were for me epic hiking trips such as climbing Kilimanjaro and hiking the Incan Trail. My next target is hiking a portion of the Camino.

As a leader, someone who is generally over committed with tasks and who values taking time to reflect, I find that waking daily and periodic hikes really support my overall success. I have engaged in walking meetings for years and on occasion actually do more hiking that walking meetings. These are with people I want to have indepth interactions with, often of a strategic nature.

This article talks about the benefit of hiking to address anxiety and depression along with building resilience. I want to point out that a significant percentage of our workforce struggles with these issues and we know that being out in the natural world can help address some of the symptoms. Whether you are attending to anxiety or taking time for reflection and strategic thinking, or doing both, hiking is a great option!

Anxiety and depression are incredibly common ailments of 21st Century humans. But while there are a number of different treatments for these illnesses (and you should always discuss your symptoms with your doctor and seek the treatment he or she recommends), too many people overlook one of the best: hiking.

Hiking is often very effective for easing anxiety and depression, and it is a treatment option that is accessible to the vast majority of people. In fact, there are a number of reasons hiking is such an excellent way to feel better, which we’ll outline below.

Exercise Promotes Brain Health

Hiking is a fantastic form of exercise that provides a variety of benefits for your body. It’ll help you lose weight while simultaneously strengthening your muscles. And if you keep at it for long enough, it’ll likely help lower your blood pressure and reduce your chances of suffering from strokes, diabetes or heart disease.

But while these benefits are all clearly valuable, exercise also helps to promote a healthy brain too. If your hikes are strenuous enough to elevate your heart rate and cause you to sweat a bit, they’ll likely help increase the size of your hippocampus – the portion of the brain associated with verbal memory and learning.

Exercise also causes the body to release growth factors – chemicals that help encourage blood vessel development in the brain and support the production of healthy brain cells. And don’t worry, you needn’t hike for very long to start enjoying improved brain health; research shows that even a 20-minute hike can improve the way your brain processes information.

Hiking Is Easy to Do and Affordable

Unlike so many other treatments for anxiety and depression, hiking is available to just about everyone, regardless of your location or tax bracket.

Most Americans probably live within a short drive of at least one hiking trail, even if it is nothing more than a 1-mile loop around the local park. You may have to do a bit of digging to find longer, more challenging or more scenic trails, but you’ll still likely find multiple options within driving distance.

Additionally, hiking rarely costs much – if anything – at all. Some trails require you to pay for parking or for entry to the park, but even these typically offer “frequent use” passes, which will allow you to enjoy the park or trails for very little money. You may also have to purchase a water bottle and pair of hiking boots, but with a bit of effort, you can likely find these things at very affordable prices.

Hiking Helps You to Disconnect from Day-to-Day Life

Chances are, you are constantly barraged by stimuli from the moment you wake up until the moment your head hits the pillow. Your phone, TV and radio constantly buzz with messages, information and entertainment, and you probably don’t have much time to quietly reflect on your thoughts.

But to get away from all of this, all you need to do is strap on your hiking boots and hit the trail. In contrast to our neighborhoods, homes and offices, wilderness areas are generally quiet and peaceful. This helps you to shed some of the stress caused by daily life. Disconnecting from your day-to-day life in this way can be very restorative and help reduce your anxiety and depression.

Obviously, you should still bring your phone along with you for safety’s sake, but maybe you should turn off the ringer for a while – at least until you get back to your car.

Hiking Provides Perspective

Often, anxiety and depression cause people to lose sight of the big picture. Instead of enjoying life, people struggling with depression or anxiety become stuck focusing on the small challenges, failures and disappointments that happen on a daily basis. But hiking in natural settings can help you bust out of this rut and gain a bit of perspective.

If, for example, you find yourself overwhelmed by a big work project coming up, you may find that a hike through your local mountains will help you remember that the project is just a tiny part of your life, and that there is a big beautiful world out there waiting for you to enjoy it.

Hiking Helps You to Build Resilience and Self-Confidence

If you hike for long enough, you’ll surely experience a tough day on the trail. Your feet may blister, you may get lost, or you may find that the trail you chose was a bit too strenuous. But chances are, you’ll find some way to tough out the hike, and overcome these challenges.

This will help build resilience and boost your self-confidence in profound ways. In truth, any challenge you face and overcome will help in both of these respects, but doing so in the natural world often provides the most profound results.

Just be sure that you don’t take this concept too far. It’s always good to challenge yourself and set increasingly difficult goals as you progress, but you must keep safety in mind. Always keep a cell phone on you so you can contact help if you need it and let someone know when you’ll be returning.

You Only Compete Against Yourself: There’s No Pressure to Perform

Many people understand the health benefits that exercise provides, but they aren’t interested in engaging in an implicitly or explicitly competitive pursuit, such as joining the local softball league or gym. This is certainly understandable – especially when you are already feeling depressed or anxious.

But hiking is a fantastic exercise, that lacks the competitive aspects that many of these other types of exercise feature. You are only competing against yourself and – to a lesser extent – Mother Nature. You get to celebrate those times you hike a bit further or complete a loop a bit faster; and yet your tough days, when you don’t perform quite as well, will remain your secret.

Additionally, it doesn’t matter if you go out and hike 1 mile a week or 50 miles a week – the only person you have to impress while you’re hiking is yourself.

Hiking Relieves Stress

Stress is often a contributing factor to anxiety and depression, so anything you can do to help relieve stress should help you feel a bit better. Hiking definitely fits this bill, as it not only provides great exercise (which helps to relieve stress too), but it takes place in gorgeous natural settings.

Scientists have even found that spending time in nature – even simply looking at nature – helps relieve stress and recharge your mind, body and soul. In fact, looking at a natural setting helps reduce pain and accelerate the healing process. And if you hike with a friend or loved one, you’ll often find this helps alleviate your stress even more thoroughly.

As you can see, hiking provides myriad benefits to those battling with anxiety or depression. So, find your closest trail and start trekking. Don’t forget to discuss your anxiety and depression with your doctor (and make sure you are healthy enough to begin hiking if you aren’t normally active), but you’ll likely find that regular hikes are exactly what the doctor ordered.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

The Difference Between Entitlement and Awareness

This post is written by guest Eric Termuende as a companion to his interview, Changing the Way We Think About Work on the Voice America Radio Show, “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on July 3, 2018.

We’ve all heard the stereotypes around the Millennial generation. They’re narcissistic, job-hop, aren’t loyal, and most of all, entitled. They think they deserve more than they work for, and have unrealistic expectations. Right? Isn’t that what we’re lead to believe when we talk about a generation that populates such a large portion of the workplace? It seems like it, but doesn’t necessarily have to.

The Millennial demographic, as big as it is, is brought up in a technological world that didn’t exist for the generation the preceded it. This generation has better access to internet, cell phones, social media, and information that simply wasn’t nearly as accessible as it was 15-20 years ago. Job postings aren’t posted on a cork board and the resumé is only a small portion of what educating a potential employer looks like.

This means that the expectations are bigger because this next generation knows what can, and is being done.

Let’s take fairly recent news that came out of Sweden, for example. In Sweden, there is talk about moving to a 6 hour work day. Now, as someone in Canada who may not like their job, there are two options. The first is to apply for a job in Sweden with the hopes that the application will be accepted and I can work only six hours a day. The second is that I could ask my employer or government why it is that Sweden is the only country that is doing this, and why we can’t look at a similar practice here in our hometown.

Another example would be around office aesthetics. One office may have a beautiful open concept style and another may be stuck in the ‘70’s with cubicles that limit communication and interaction between employees. Because of the hyper-connected world we live in, information about these great places to work is spreading faster than it ever has before. As a result, people are asking ‘why not me too?’.

No, things haven’t changed around what people need to do to progress another step in the organization, or to work in a more efficient manner by changing the structure and aesthetics of the office, but the way we talk about it might. People need to know that the grass will always be greener, the story is always bigger than the one that is being told, and that there are always exceptions. It is too easy for a story to be posted and go viral, only to be the flavor of the hour and forgotten about shortly after, while still having impact on the people in the office and what they are aware could be taking place.

The world of work is ever changing and the ways we work and the environments we work in are changing just as quickly. Telling stories of the newest office space are nice, but rarely do they paint a full picture of what the office culture is, or what it is like to work there. The next generation is right to ask about the opportunity to advance the workplace they are in, but shouldn’t have expectations to do so. There needs to be open communication within the office from the top-down and from the bottom-up to ensure that the environment created is one the provides the tools necessary and the environment that allows people to naturally do the best work they possible can. This awareness and hyper connectivity, paired with curiosity and desire to change, adapt, and grow, shouldn’t be confused with entitlement, which is a completely different topic.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the author

Eric Termuende is on a mission to change the way we talk about work and get fulfillment from it. A bestselling author, speaker, and entrepreneur, Eric is co-founder of NoW Innovations, and Lead Content Strategist for True Calling Canada., Eric has been featured in Forbes, Inc., Thrive Global, the Huffington Post and many others. In 2015, Eric was recognized as a Top 100 Emerging Innovators under 35 globally by American Express. Eric sat as Community Integration Chair for Global Shapers Calgary, a community that functions under the World Economic Forum. He is a former Canadian G20 YEA Delegate, representing Canada in Sydney in 2014. Eric is currently signed by the National Speakers Bureau and travels the world talking about the future of work and multiple generations in the workplace. In 2016, Eric spoke at TEDxBCIT in Vancouver giving his presentation entitled ‘Bigger than Work.’ Eric has worked and spoken with clients across the world. His new book, Rethink Work is now available on Amazon.

Do Not Let Machine Learning Advances Outpace Your Organization

This blog a companion to the Voice America Interview on “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” with  James Brenza and Joe Hammond, founders of XDS on May 18, 2018, Machine Learning and Analytics: Case Study.  The blog is a guest post provided by James Brenza. James is the coauthor of the Innovative Leaders Guide to Implementing Analytics Programs.

The future of many industries and businesses is increasingly about data and how analytic models can increase agility, accelerate decision velocity, and improve outcomes. Whether you are working in retail, manufacturing, distribution, healthcare, financial services or public sector, you are probably already feeling the pressure. As the clouds are forming on the horizon are you, your leadership team, and your organization embracing this change?

The machine learning and artificial intelligence tsunamis are not about to arrive; they have already arrived. The effort to integrate data and develop analytic models has been compressed from weeks to hours. The effort to deploy models has been compressed from hours to minutes. Some of the most advanced firms are revising models intraday. The future of your organization and personal leadership is being measured by your ability to embrace and adopt the agility created by these technologies.

An entrepreneur’s perspective

As entrepreneurs, we have embraced this new reality into the fabric of our organization. As a team, we have aligned ourselves on customer centricity and agility. When we refer to customer centricity, we mean understanding their primary challenges and their barriers to adopting productive solutions. We accomplished this by listing all of our constraints and our customers’ constraints. We then systematically design and deploy solutions that step over those barriers.

Our focus on agility certainly applies to technology. All of our development is done in weekly sprints and two month iterations. This allows us to make small course adjustments very frequently to ensure we are being responsive. We can also adjust our strategic plan when better information becomes available. Beyond technology, agility also applies to how we run our organization. All initiatives and campaigns are managed with agile principles. We continuously test outcomes and adjust our course as needed. While a strategic plan is necessary, adaptability is the new key to survival. Through that lens, a major portion of our strategy is to remain agile and responsive.

The impact on analytic products

Our products and services are based on analytics. Many organizations have had analytic initiatives trudging along for years without significant benefits. Other organizations have tried to start for months without any demonstrable progress. Analytic agility has become the key to our success (and probably your future). We designed our solution architecture to embrace agility and continuous change. While we work predominantly with structured data (i.e., organized tables that contain billions of rows), our analytic model capability is completely agile, responsive, and based on machine learning. We have adapted to slices of data that can arrive periodically. Our models must adapt to every revision of these datasets. Rather than fight that reality, we designed our products to embrace it and take full advantage of our ability to respond quickly.

Recent transaction outcomes are treated as just one more data source with every model execution. This allows us to capture the very best outcomes from prior model executions as well as input from business experts. Since our machine learning engine is highly automated, it can build multiple models concurrently, select the very best features, create hybrid models, and allow experts to compare the model outcomes. This has reduced weeks of work to just hours. By continuously incorporating recent outcomes, we have integrated continuous change and learning. The future of automated machine learning is not on the horizon – it’s here and it’s now.

How can a leader respond?

  1. Embrace change as your primary link to surviving the future. We need to look beyond just revising business plans annually or quarterly. We need to evolve plans and develop products that learn and adapt continuously.

360 degree thinker

2.       List your barriers and have your team focus on removing them. If you put your barriers on a list in front of you (instead of letting them swirl in your head), you can attack them more vigorously. For every barrier you list, challenge yourself to list three creative solutions that let you step over that barrier.

unwaverin commitment

3.       If you and your team cannot overcome barriers, enlist external perspectives. The only shame is not enlisting assistance and allowing it to sink your ship in silence.

inntely Collaborative

4.       Create a culture that flourishes on innovation. We recommend creating a team that is dedicated to staying on your forefront, providing them with a collaborative environment, guiding them to the problem (without shackling their solutions), and injecting some impatience for solving problems. Hint: work in one-onth iterations to demonstrate small solutions quickly rather than allowing the problem to fester for multiple months.

professionally humble

5.       Make sure your personal leadership inspires a commitment to change. This needs to include both your external voice, internal voice, and observable actions. Your team will know you are sincere when you are interested and “in the game” with them.

inspire followership

Do those items sound like leadership platitudes? Here is the translation for getting into the continuous change analytics game:

  1. Create a one-line statement that declares how you will use analytics to guide your day-to-day business.
  2. Identify the barriers to that statement and list experiments to overcome them.
  3. Partner with an expert when your team cannot create a breakthrough in one month.
  4. Collocate your business and technical vanguard team. Let them focus on creating a single, demonstrable solution in one month.
  5. Remain visible to the team, set guardrails, support them, but do not micromanage them. They need to own their outcomes and learn through that process.

Embracing this new pace of change created by these technologies is going to be difficult. Ignoring it seals the fate of your organization. While you may not know all of the answers, you can create a culture and organization that will adapt and flourish.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About James Brenza

James is an Information Technology and analytics leader with twenty years of diversified experience and success in delivering analytical, functionally rich, complex solutions. A hands-on leader that carefully balances strategic planning, business communications and technical delivery. Extensive experience with motivating mixed-shore teams to deliver high quality, flexible results.

The top 3 benefits James provides are strategically aligned solutions, cost savings and change leadership.

Specialties: Alignment of business and technology strategy, data analytics, business process improvement (Six Sigma and Lean), data management (data warehousing and business intelligence), program management, contract negotiations, traditional SDLC and Agile solution development.