We recently interviewed Lisa Bodell, award-winning author and CEO of FutureThink, and picked her brain on customer experience tips and innovative approaches. At FutureThink Lisa works with organizations to kill complexity, create space for innovation, and get to the work that matters. As a futurist and expert on the topic of change, she serves as a global council member of the World Economic Forum, and has helped thousands of senior leaders ignite innovation at Bloomberg, Pfizer, Lockheed Martin, and more.
Lisa is also an inspired global speaker who brings her message to over 30 countries and nearly 100,000 people each year. She has consistently been ranked a top speaker at Google’s client events. She is also the author of two best-selling books: “Why Simple Wins” (2016), and “Kill the Company: End the Status Quo, Start an Innovation Revolution” (2012), which was voted Best Business Book by USA Book News and Booz & Co. Lisa has appeared in Fast Company, The New York Times, and WIRED, is a regular contributor to Women@Forbes, and a featured contributor to Harvard Business Review.
How would you define Customer Experience ?
It is the experience a customer has with your company – both literally and emotionally, which is probably most important. Too often, companies put a laser focus on the data around a customer’s interaction with them (how much time did they spend on our site? How much did they buy? How often do they come back or buy again from us?). While important, that’s all transactional stuff. Good customer experience looks deeper to find the emotional drivers that help build the customer relationship. Simply put, it’s also important to understand how customers FEEL about you and about interacting with you. Are you easy to work with or to buy from? How are they treated? How satisfied are they with your products or interactions with you? Would they say they were treated like a customer, or like a transaction? The customer ‘experience’ is multi-faceted, and we can’t neglect the soft metrics; they’re gold.
Should businesses use customer feedback to improve Customer Experience?
Hell yes! Why wouldn’t you? Feedback is underutilized. Every company should survey its customers in non-intrusive, convenient ways (e.g., if you want feedback, don’t send a lengthy survey or force customers to answer questions with annoying pop-ups). There are so many clever ways to get feedback that can help you improve and even come up with innovative business ideas. I love that groups at Westin speak with customers who essentially fired them – customers who said they would NEVER stay with them again – and turned their frown upside down. See, most companies talk to customers that love them. Great – but who cares? Don’t you also want to know what the problems are? By asking customers that were mad, they got real feedback AND turned haters into fans. Brilliant.
What about employee feedback? Should that be considered when looking to improve Customer Experience?
Of course. Your employees have great ideas – just ask them! Especially those on the front line – they hear things you don’t. What do they hear from people? What are the themes? Employees can help you ‘reduce the friction’ in dealing with your company and make the experience simpler for all involved.
Can you share an innovative approach to improving Customer Experience that businesses should apply?
I have several tips to consider. If you want to get ahead of your competition, you need to approach Customer Experience in ways they don’t:
- Stop talking to people that love you for feedback. Speak with the Unusual Suspects – Speak with people that hate your company or have complained. Also speak with employees. For a unique perspective, talk to kids (how would they rethink your Customer Experience?). Also, speak with businesses in adjacent industries that have similar offerings.
- Ask Killer Questions – most surveys are boring. Why? Make it hilarious. Or Provocative. Unexpected. For instance – ask these kinds of questions:
- Ask customers – What could we do that would completely delight you?
- Ask employees – What’s the most annoying thing for customers that if we changed it, would have a dramatic impact on our business?
- For prospects – What could we do for you that would make you never consider our competition again?
- For people in charge of improving your Customer Experience – if you had to blow up your (web site, app, store, customer onboarding etc.) and start all over, draw the ideal process? If you had to speed up the time it takes to complete a sale with a customer to cut it in half, what would you eliminate?
What can businesses do to improve the employee experience?
Reduce the friction to getting things done. One thing we do is host ‘Kill a Stupid Rule’ sessions with clients. We get groups together, and ask a simple but provocative question – if you could kill any rule that holds you back from being more effective at work, what would it be? We can literally get 100+ suggestions in less than an hour, many of which are obvious quick win things to do immediately. Also, most of the ideas aren’t rules – they are ASSUMPTIONS around how we work and can be changed quickly.
Sometimes processes make life difficult for the customer. The consequence is a poor customer experience. Is complexity to blame for this?
Most complexity we find around us is self-imposed, unnecessary and usually a result of good intentions. We add on to existing approaches or processes, even if they are mediocre or bad, because it’s easier and faster to do that than to really analyze the experience and start all over again fresh. So, we add on to an existing way of doing things to fix something and guess what? Unintended consequences pop-up. Redundancies. Extra steps. You get the idea. Everything having to do with Customer Experience should start with the objective: what are we trying achieve FOR THE CUSTOMER? How can we simplify the process and reduce the friction for the customer? What is it that this experience has to do for them (is it speed? Value? Price? Flexibility?) Design for their convenience, not yours.
Is complexity a by-product of growth? How can businesses stay focused and deliver great customer experiences without over-complicating processes?
Typically, complexity emerges due to growth. It’s hard to stay simple as you scale. I think they need to operate with simplification as their operating system – as in, what’s the simplest way we can deliver this for a customer? How can we eliminate unnecessary things so we can focus on what matters to customers and to our business? Research tells us that companies that operate with simplification have better customer retention, better stock prices in their industry and better employee retention. These companies can charge a price premium of 6% or more and customers are still 70% more likely to recommend them because they are easier to deal with. That’s worth people’s time.
If there was one thing a business could immediately start doing to improve Customer Experience – what should it be?
Stop falling into the complexity trap. It’s not about offering MORE, it’s about offering VALUE. Which often means, LESS. We have a weird mentality that MORE is better than LESS, and that’s simply not true. I don’t want MORE features or products or services – I want the ones that matter. The companies today that have disrupted their industries are focused and operate with simplicity to transform the customer experience – and win. Uber makes it SIMPLE to get a car. AirBnB makes it SIMPLE to find a place to stay. Netflix makes it SIMPLE to watch movies. Dropbox makes it SIMPLE to share files. They are all billion-dollar businesses as a result.