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Strategy

Make Way for Mom: Why Better Employee Experiences for Working Mothers Is the New Competitive Advantage

The Women in the Workplace 2021 report from Lean In and McKinsey & Co. highlighted that all the slow but measurable gains women have made in all levels of management could be wiped out in a single year by the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 has had on women in the workplace. In fact, the report finds that more than one in three women may downshift or leave their careers as a result. This impact is compounded for working mothers, particularly those with young children, who feel scrutinized for taking advantage of options that make balancing work and the demands of home and family easier and are less likely to feel comfortable sharing their personal struggles with others. 

More than one in three women may downshift or leave their careers as a result of the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 has had on women in the workforce.

At Tallwave, we believe experience is everything. Employee and customer experiences are inextricably linked—great employee experience is a key driver of great customer experience. It’s impossible to sustain one without the other. Conversely, when companies create employment experiences that fail women, they’re setting themselves up to fail their customers. With women making up 51% of the overall population and 57.8% of the labor force, losing ground on female representation in the workplace could have devastating effects. The state of our female workforce hangs in the balance, and with it, the health of the companies that depend on their valuable contributions.   Also read: Crafting Employee Experiences That Improve Customer Experiences  Here at Tallwave, 54% of our employees are women, which means more than half the work taken on by our company—and more than half of the value we create for clients—is in the hands of women. As a customer experience design company, it’s important for us to both reflect on the experiences we’re creating for the women among our own ranks and to serve as a thought leader for brands that recognize the unbreakable link between EX and CX. So we did something far too few companies do. We invited a group of working mothers at Tallwave to get together for a discussion facilitated by our VP of Marketing, a working mother of three herself, to share their perspectives on what’s working within employment experience for working mothers, what’s not, and the recommendations they have to help companies better support women. 

Create Space for Employees to Bring Their “Whole Selves” to Work

The idea of needing to give employees an invitation to be who they are at work may seem startling, but what we discovered from our group of Tallwave moms was that the ability to bring your “whole self” to work, including sharing the demands you face at home and the need to harmonize them with the demands of work, is not a given. For Martha Schulzinger, a program manager at Tallwave and mother of two, the ability to be her authentic self at work isn’t something she takes for granted. “Tallwave has proven time and time again that I can be my authentic self and I won’t be shunned for it. I’ve worked in some pretty toxic places where you can’t bring your whole self to work and it’s a constant struggle.”    Her experience in an environment that embraces her entire identity, including the demands of motherhood, has also led to deeper bonds with colleagues and even clients who have seen her in “mom mode.”  “Being able to be your authentic self and knowing the people you work with aren’t going to judge you if you have a kid there with you in the room has been kind of magical. My teammates have seen my kids grow up. Even some of our clients have seen my three-month-old become a two-year-old. They’ve seen him grow as he’s come in and out of the screen, and that’s pretty neat.”   But Martha acknowledges that openly sharing the demands she’s juggling at home wasn’t necessarily something she was immediately willing to do, and she credits colleagues, particularly Senior Consultant and fellow mother of two, Erin Nielsen, with helping her find the courage to be more open about the challenges she faces as a working mom. “Erin has been a role model for me. In the very early days of the pandemic, she had her kids on camera and I was very afraid to do that. But she showed up like a total boss, just owning whatever it was that she needed to talk about. She was present, then the kids would come in, she’d handle them, and come right back to whatever she was doing without skipping a beat. And I was like, ‘Okay, I can do that, too.’ I’m really thankful to her for that.”     For Erin, it was simply a question of what she was and wasn’t willing to sacrifice as the pandemic caused her personal and professional worlds to collide. “When I realized we weren’t going to be home for two weeks and then go back to the office, I took a step back and asked myself, ‘How do I want to act through this?’ I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my kids’ happiness and pretend they weren’t here so I could keep working. I don’t think I made a conscious decision to test my company, but I’m a mom first and I’m never going to not be.” She decided it wasn’t worth pretending her reality was anything other than it was. “I chose to be my authentic self. And if I got pushback or didn’t feel safe, then I’d know I wasn’t in the right place and that it was time to move on. And I found what I was hoping I’d find, which was a supportive group of people, which was really cool to see.”  Recommendation from the Moms: In both Martha’s and Erin’s cases, their decisions to stop trying to hide what was happening at home wasn’t inspired by overt assurances of support and acceptance, even though that’s ultimately what they found in their colleagues. So what’s the takeaway for companies trying to do better for moms? Don’t assume the mothers in your employ feel welcome to bring their whole selves to work if you haven’t made the invitation. If employees aren’t being explicitly encouraged to be open about how their personal lives impact work or at least seeing leadership model the choices they’re making to balance these often competing demands, they may assume they won’t be supported if they do.  

Know the Difference between Sympathy and Empathy and the Value of Both

While experiencing the sympathetic support of colleagues and managers was a common theme for all the Tallwave moms in our conversation, so was the desire for the kind of empathetic support that shared experience creates. Overwhelmingly, they felt genuinely supported by their direct managers. But in many cases, their direct managers had never been working mothers themselves. As working moms, they craved support from others who’d shared their experiences and they’ve been grateful to find it in other colleagues outside their direct reporting structures. Looking back on her professional experience prior to having children, Erin acknowledged the limitations of her own understanding. “You just don’t get it when you’re not a parent. I certainly didn’t get it, and I put my foot in my mouth plenty of times before I was a parent.”    Experiential empathy creates deeper understanding, but it can also inspire hope. Many working mothers perceive their career goals, what it takes to achieve them, and how much they can afford to give as incompatible. But having access to other women who have grappled with the demands of working motherhood helps them challenge their own perceptions. This was especially meaningful for Sierra Dommin, Business Analysis Manager at Tallwave. “That statistic about more than one in three women putting their career aspirations on hold really spoke to me. I really want to take the next step in my career and it’s not that I don’t think I have that opportunity at Tallwave. It’s that I don’t feel like I can seize it right now because my kids are so young and I just don’t know how to balance it all. I feel like I’m hanging on by a thread. I feel like I have to just stick it out because adding another stressor to my plate will tip me, and my family will suffer. These two things that are both so important to me seem impossible to reconcile. It makes me feel stuck and it’s really frustrating.” But hearing the experiences of other working moms, particularly those who were further into their motherhood journeys, made her feel more optimistic. “Where I am with my kids and my career, just seeing someone else who’s been through it brings relief. Knowing that others have faced similar challenges and that they’re still here gives me hope.” For working mothers, being fully present for your family and fully engaged in your family feel like binary choices. And no matter which you make, you end up on the losing end. For Martha, the cost of leaning into her career is guilt. “I’m so happy to be at Tallwave and to have challenges in front of me in my career. It’s everything I’ve ever dreamed of. But every night I go to bed with so much guilt because I’m not present with my children. I work from home and they’re right here with me. They want me to play with them and I can’t because I’m working. I go to bed early so I can have a few hours of productive work time before the kids get up, so I’m mentally drained and too exhausted to do anything for myself.”     As Martha is quick to point out, it’s not that her colleagues aren’t supportive. Many simply don’t share her experience. “My coworkers are amazing and I love them. But there’s just no way for them to fully understand. In between meetings, maybe they refresh their cup of coffee but I’m changing blow-out diapers. As much as I want to give more to my work, I’m also giving so much at home that there’s just nothing left.” This strikes a chord with Erin, too. “I adore my coworkers, all of them. And I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how those who don’t have children have come to the table. But you just don’t get it if you’re not in it. Talking to other moms who have confronted the same things we’re facing—putting up boundaries, finding your own happiness, living through the endless juggle of work and family—these little nuggets go such a long way.” Recommendation from the Moms: Access to other women striving to harmonize careers and families is an incredibly powerful tool for working mothers. Awareness of other working mothers—particularly those in leadership positions—improves visibility, empowering working moms to feel more seen, heard, and represented. The ability to discuss the shared experience of working motherhood helps working moms find support, seek advice, and draw inspiration. For working mothers whose direct supervisors don’t share their experience, it’s particularly important to provide other paths of access, like employee resource groups, mentorship programs, organized meet-ups, and discussion forums. 

Recognize that Making Work Better for Women Isn’t Women’s Work  

For women who are accustomed to serving as constant problem solvers on the home front, solutioning, actioning, and accommodating may come naturally. But far too often, companies are content to let working moms solve their workplace problems alone, starting with the transition from maternity leave.  While some of the mothers who participated in our conversation had employers who created comfortable places for new moms to pump, that was generally the extent of the effort their past companies put into helping them successfully navigate workforce re-entry. Reflecting on her returns to work after having her two children, Erin’s experience aligned to those of virtually everyone else on the call. “You come back and you’re stressed out and that never stops because you’re trying to figure out how to be a first-time mother, and then a mother of two or three or more on top of everything else. And it’s always on you to figure it out and you just don’t feel like there’s any support there. You’re expected to perform at the exact same level while you’re trying to find time to pump or nurse. You’re forced to start making choices between meeting work expectations and the expectations you had for how you’d care for your baby. And those forced choices never stop.” As companies look to advance their goals and initiatives, supported in large part by working mothers, they rarely consider the personal impact of the work that working moms must take on. For Chelsey Gloetzner, Product Design Manager at Tallwave, she recognizes that fully embracing the work that excites her may come at a personal cost. “We have a lot of women in leadership, which is fantastic. As we’re pursuing large goals, a lot of moms are doing the work. I recognize my responsibilities in supporting our goals as a manager, and I’m pumped to do it. But I also don’t want to put in an extra two hours every single night to get projects over the line and miss my kids’ childhoods. As companies set goals, they need to recognize how the associated work trickles down to parents.” As Erin is quick to note, the trickle-down responsibilities don’t just come from companies’ revenue and growth goals—culture-building initiatives are often disproportionately driven by women. In fact, the Women in the Workplace 2021 report finds that compared to men at the same level, female managers take more supportive actions with their teams, helping them manage workloads and keeping a pulse on their overall wellbeing. The report also finds that women in senior-level positions are twice as likely as male counterparts to spend substantial time beyond their normal job responsibilities on diversity, equality, and inclusion initiatives. Throughout her career, Erin has seen not just women, but in many cases working mothers, step up to the plate more than their fair share. “Ensuring our teams are coming together, that people feel rewarded, that there’s a balance of face time and fun activities in our work and that company culture is being strengthened, all those types of activities that keep the ship afloat are often led by mothers because we care and naturally step up. But we can’t keep bearing the brunt of treating the office like our family. We have nothing else to give.”

Compared to men at the same level, female managers take more supportive actions with their teams, helping them manage workloads and keeping a pulse on their overall wellbeing. Women in senior-level positions are also twice as likely as male counterparts to spend substantial time beyond their normal job responsibilities on diversity, equality, and inclusion initiatives.

Recommendation from the Moms: With women making up well over half of the workforce, companies must recognize that every business decision they make will inevitably impact women. And for the working mothers among them, the impact may be much more difficult to absorb. It’s important to recognize that barriers to success for working mothers are barriers to success for their companies, and they should be treated that way. That means rather than leaving working mothers to fend for themselves in an inhospitable working environment, companies should be enlisting allyship from across their ranks to create an environment that better supports them. This can include things like:

 

  • Confronting gender bias head on. From addressing big-picture issues—like equal pay and advancement—to challenging common daily implicit biases by resisting an overreliance on women to fulfill administrative and culture-building duties, and addressing overt sexism in the moment, a better workplace for working mothers starts with a better workplace for women in general.     
  • Investing in allyship development programs to drive awareness of and support for women in general and working mothers especially.
  • Training managers in active listening and leadership techniques to better equip them to not just listen but to seek to understand what working mothers need to help them succeed in their careers. 
  • Considering the disproportionate burden of emotional labor that women face in company decision making. With women carrying greater responsibility for household chores and caretaking than men, scheduling meetings over lunch, allowing meetings to run late, or requiring sustained >40 hour work weeks will have a bigger impact on working mothers than their counterparts. 
  • Institutionalize support as much as possible and model utilization at the leadership level. Offering things like flexible work schedules, child care, parental leave, job sharing options, and parental leave reintegration support can go a long way toward creating a more hospitable environment for working mothers. Seeing those supports used by company leaders sends an even stronger message.
  • Actively advocate for moms transitioning back to work after maternity leave. The difference between passive support for new mothers to “take the time they need” and actively supporting them through formal programs and resources can be transformational for new mothers returning to work. Companies that know, attend to, and proactively advocate for the rights of working mothers under the Family & Medical Leave Act and Fair Labor Standards Act by helping them become more knowledgeable about their rights and having defined programs and/or policies in place for things like altered work schedules and appropriate pumping/nursing accommodations will be at a significant advantage in keeping working mothers engaged and retaining them over time. 

Final Thoughts

No company succeeds by leaving women behind. While that’s rarely the intent, it’s the inevitable result of not taking deliberate action. At Tallwave, creating an inclusive culture for all employees, including working mothers, has been an ongoing focus. Like most companies, we know we still have work to do. But the fact that this group of Tallwave moms felt safe sharing their experiences, perspectives, and recommendations openly wasn’t the result of simply inviting them to. This kind of open exchange is possible because we make deliberate choices to create an environment where employees feel safe speaking up. Maintaining this kind of culture takes conscious, continuous effort, but it’s an investment we know is well worth making.

 

Companies that create supportive, empowering employment experiences for working mothers not only unlock greater potential from their workforces than those that don’t, but they also unleash an incredibly diverse and powerful set of skills. After all, few experiences are as effective at developing the kind of patience, creativity, resourcefulness, problem solving, critical thinking, negotiation, diplomacy, tenacity, optimism, and commitment that motherhood requires. And few customers are as unreasonably demanding as children. By creating the conditions that help working mothers succeed in the workplace, companies just might discover that the key to unlocking their own potential has been there all along.

 

Special Thanks

Tallwave would like to thank the incredible working mothers below who shared their perspectives for this piece and all the women of Tallwave whose efforts are instrumental in our success and the success of our clients.

 

Caroline Meehean

Chelsey Gloetzner

Erin Nielsen

Jen Bonfilio

Jes Pumo

Martha Schulzinger

Sierra Dommin

 

Categories
Strategy

8 Signs Your CX May be Headed for Heartbreak

For consumers, strong CX is the universal love language. Nothing shows your customers you care like the ability to truly understand and attend to their needs. But as with any relationship, brands and their customers inevitably experience ups and downs. When there’s more of the latter than the former, customers will do what any of us would do in an unfulfilling relationship: they break it off. The good news is, there are almost always signs that can signal you and your customers may be headed for a breakup. The key is to recognize them so you can take action before your brand ends up in the lonely hearts club.

 

We recently attended a virtual conference with CX leaders from a wide range of market verticals and industries. Through every keynote, roundtable, and one-on-one discussion we had, we saw a consistent trend in how the indicators used to evaluate the strengths and opportunities within the customer experience are shifting. Traditional CX metrics like customer satisfaction and net promoter scores have long been used to provide a holistic read on customer engagement levels and how they change over time. But increasingly, CX leaders are recognizing that these traditional metrics are really lagging indicators – they highlight that a problem has already occurred, but offer limited utility when it comes to taking action.

 

How can CX leaders identify early when friction is occurring and take action before it translates to a hit to their holistic engagement metrics downstream? It’s all about narrowing focus to specific make-or-break moments within the customer experience and leveraging the operational metrics tied to those moments as leading indicators of the overall strength of the customer experience. Here are 8 signals of distress to look for at key CX make-or-break moments:

Moment of Consideration

Within the customer journey, the moment of recognition is the first time your product, brand or service registers and creates an impression with a potential customer. This often happens when a potential customer bumps into your brand out in the wild, whether they’re served an ad, read about you through earned media, learn about you from an influencer, or even hear about you through word of mouth. Whatever their path to exposure, the moment of consideration comes when that exposure connects to a consumer’s need and inspires them to consider the solutions you have to offer. What happens (or doesn’t happen) immediately following that moment can signal trouble:

  • Site Bounce Rate: Your bounce rate is the percentage of visitors to your website who leave without navigating beyond the page they land on. If you’ve been successful enough in that moment of recognition to inspire a prospective customer to take the action of visiting your website but the experience when they get there isn’t compelling enough to drive further consideration, it’s time to evaluate the strength of your CX in these early moments of the customer journey.
  • Winding Paths: There are many potential navigation paths through any given website. But paths that follow a logical sequence for consideration are fewer. If your path to conversion data shows that prospective customers seem to take the “scenic route” and miss key consideration content on your website, that can signal that prospective customers aren’t finding what they need.

Moment of Commitment

If you’ve made a positive impression on a prospective customer and inspired them to take action to actively consider your product or service as a solution to their need, the next make-or-break moment in the customer journey is the moment of commitment. This is the moment a consumer demonstrates real intent. But there are signs that can indicate barriers in customers’ paths:

  • Failure to Advance in Conversion Flows: For any digital experience, there are high-value actions you want consumers to take. Taking those actions often requires customers to complete multiple steps. If you’re seeing significantly high drop-off at one of these steps compared to the others, that can signal that the customer is encountering friction at that point in the process.
  • Cart Abandonment Rates: The act of putting a product into a cart is a big signal of purchase intent, but there are a number of reasons a customer might not complete the purchase process. If you’re seeing significant and persistently high cart abandonment rates, it likely signals friction in your purchase process.
  • Inconsistent Conversion Rates Across Platforms: Depending on the nature of the commitment you’re asking customers to make, you may see higher frequency of conversion on desktop vs. mobile or vice versa. However, when the rate of conversion varies drastically across platforms, it’s often a signal that customers are encountering friction on one platform that they aren’t on the other.

Moments of Doubt

Moments of doubt happen when a customer has a less-than-ideal experience. For any brand, it’s not a question of if this moment will come—it’s a question of when and what to do about it. For brands that think ahead and craft a strong CX to support these moments, these are golden opportunities to earn brand loyalty. These indicators can signal how well your brand holds up in moments of doubt:

  • Ineffective Call Deflection: Providing customers with effective digital means to resolve problems, either before or during a call for customer support, can be a win/win. It’s a more cost-effective way for brands to solve customer issues and it’s often faster and more convenient for customers. That is, unless the self-service options create a whole new set of problems. If customers deflected to digital self-serve channels are returning to the phone to get their issues resolved, this can signal friction in your self-service UX.
  • Inconsistencies in Inbound Support Requests: When you receive an inbound support request, something has already gone wrong in the eyes of the customer. When something goes wrong in the process of getting help, it doubles the frustration. If you’re seeing sudden spikes or drops in inbound support requests, that can signal an issue within your support systems, which could lead to failing customers not once, but twice.
  • Issue Resolution Time: When it comes to the time it takes to resolve customer issues, extremes are the enemy. Call times that are extremely short can signal that customers may be getting shortchanged by agents that are too eager to get off the phone. Conversely, call times that are too long can indicate that agents are running into trouble and aren’t able to resolve issues efficiently. Issue resolution time on either end of the spectrum can signal unresolved issues and unhappy customers.

BONUS

A classic signal of a struggling CX at any moment is good old fashioned customer feedback. If the experience you’re delivering isn’t living up to your customers’ expectations, they’ll talk about it to you, to their friends, and potentially to the world via social media and other public digital forums. 

Bottom Line

Once you’ve seen the signs from your customers that there’s trouble in paradise, what you do about it could mean the difference between making up and breaking up. A strong CX strategy could be just the therapy you need to keep your brand and your customer together. We’ve got the CX Enhancement Solutions you need to write your happily ever after.

Categories
Strategy

Strategies For Pandemic-Winning Businesses to Maintain Momentum After COVID-19

2020 will go down in history as a year that vastly changed customer behaviors, expectations, and needs for good. And while that was bad for some industries and businesses, others whose products and services were ripe for digital-only and socially distanced environments saw major increases in customer acquisition, engagement, bookings, and overall sentiment.

 

For example:

 

  • Companies like RVshare & Cruise America saw an 846% increase in bookings, as homebound individuals and families sought out adventure and reconnected to nature.
  • Vacation and short-term rentals including AirBnb, VRBO, and AvantStay saw their numbers reportedly triple, and struggled to keep up with the demand.
  • Subscription services experienced immediate growth just weeks into the pandemic, seeing monthly customer acquisitions increase as much as 85%.
  • Grocery stores saw “double digit profits” compared to 2019.
  • The pandemic reshaped the fitness landscape as health and fitness equipment revenue more than doubled from March 2020 to October 2020.

But, as the world returns to some sort of normalcy and consumers begin to venture outside their homes, pandemic-winning businesses are forced to answer the question: What strategies will help sustain recent customer acquisitions and growth? As consumers get tired of doing things they were forced to do during the pandemic, and a resurgence of options become available, pandemic-winning businesses will have to rethink the customer journey and uplevel experiences to avoid their recent success from tapering off.

Business who opt to maintain rather than innovate and improve customer experiences, risk being left behind.

6 Ways Pandemic-Winning Businesses Can Carve a Path Forward

1. Identify Industry Changes & Trends That Will Continue Past the Pandemic

Understand what changed within your industry due to COVID-19, but more importantly, focus on identifying what the staying power of new and emerging trends really are. This will help ensure your business’s time, money, and energy is focused on creating change where it matters most, rather than reactively and wastefully catering to temporary trends that won’t drive long term ROI.

 

For example, according to an analysis conducted by the budgeting app TrueBill for The Washington Post, subscription boxes and services aren’t going anywhere. “Power subscribers” – consumers with 10 or more recurring payments that add up to an average of $145 spent per month – is growing exponentially. In fact, the subscription economy is predicted to grow by $1.5 trillion by 2025, says financial services firm UBS.

 

By understanding the staying power that subscription services have, you may be able to find ways to incorporate unique and convenient subscription-based experiences. Creativity is key. Take for example Tripadvisor. In an attempt to bounce back from hits the travel industry took during COVID-19, they’ve launched a $99 annual program that offers exclusive deals and dedicated service lines to subscribers as a way. Six Washington, D.C. restaurants found a way to play in the subscription economy by joining forces and creating a “supper club” that delivers gourmet meals prepared by different chefs each week to subscribers’ homes.

 

If there’s a will, there’s a way. And there’s a lot of money you may be leaving on the table if you don’t take time to identify trends that are here to stay.

2. Reevaluate Consumer Groups & Update Your Ideal Customer Profile

Consumer groups have inevitably changed, due to COVID-19. Whether it’s just the needs and wants of your existing customers that have evolved, or you find that a completely new customer mix now engages with your products or services, it’s crucial to understand exactly who you’re serving, and how you can create better experiences for them in the future. By gathering and mining audience data, you can uncover new behaviors and update your core personas and customer profiles to inform future customer experience design.

 

For example, the experience and relationship restaurant owners need and want from their produce suppliers changed due to the pandemic. As part of a larger customer journey initiative to better understand everyday business needs and experiences of existing customers, we created and executed a customer survey focused on 1-2 restaurant locations segments for a food distribution company. The intent of the survey was to understand unique attitudes and behaviors that could provide more opportunity to focus on increasing share and loyalty, and to further understand segmentation differences within customer groups. By gathering insights directly from our clients’ customers related to technology and tools, COVID-19 impacts and competition, and perceptions associated with our clients’ existing services, we were able to update attitudinal segmentation within their customer mix and uncover future opportunities for improved experiences.

3. Consider New Customer Behaviors & Usage

With limited options during the pandemic, many customers found new ways to use products and services than originally intended. For example, many rental homes that were typically reserved pre-pandemic for short-term vacations turned into long-term homes away from home. Cars that were previously used to get from point A to point B became safe-havens and temporary escapes for overworked parents. Video communication softwares such as Zoom, Google Hangouts and Skype evolved from connecting business colleagues to hosting virtual game nights, happy hours, and family celebrations.

 

As you mine audience data to uncover new and update existing consumer groups and personas, it’s also important to pay attention to how behaviors or usage shifted during the pandemic. Did customers engage with your products or services in new ways? Were they seeking new results or using your business to complete unprecedented tasks?

 

Use this information to expand the customer experiences you provide by designing, imagining, or inventing new uses for your product or service that provide added value.

 

Also read: 6 Factors Influencing Customer Behaviors in 2021 (With Original Research)

4. Pinpoint ‘Aha!’ Moments Within Your Customer Experience

The “Aha!” moment is when your customers truly “get it.” They understand the value that your product or service provides and realize why they need it – or simply want it – in their lives.

 

Evaluate and pinpoint where “Aha!” moments take place within your current experience by mapping the customer experience using both qualitative and quantitative research methods . Then, using the map, identify ways to either optimize, improve, or manufacture completely new “Aha!” moments to ensure continual value creation and engagement.

 

It’s important that customers perceive value at every stage throughout the customer journey to ensure repeat behavior. Don’t miss opportunities to drive an emotional bond and connection and establish a healthy customer-brand relationship by closing the loop too soon. The experience doesn’t end at the purchase point – the experience you provide creatively continue to drive value far beyond that.

 

Also read: 9 Quantitative Research Methods With Real Client Examples

5. Create New, Innovative, and Added Value For Customers

This is where we bring things full circle, and if you opt to maintain rather than innovate and drive your customer experience further, you’ll get left behind.

 

Through evaluating consumer groups and updating customer profiles, you may find that your business acquired new customers during the pandemic that wouldn’t have considered your product or services in a different time. As they start to return to pre-pandemic norms and habits, how can your businesses ensure you can convert newly acquired customers into repeat customers long-term? Well, using your customer experience map and analyses, look for ways to add value.

 

For example, new customers may not know how to use your product or service fully. If that’s not intuitive, you need to add value in the form of content (think opt-in texts, email nurture strategies, website quizzes and tools) or A.I. assistance to help customers use or leverage your product or services in new ways. By doing this, you can help educate consumers and push them closer to realizing value without selling them anything new.

 

Also, find ways to build community. Now more than ever, people are craving connection and want to support brands whose values align with their own and they can see themselves in. Consider connecting with and reaching new and existing customers by leveraging platforms such as Instagram, and TikTok to start conversations, allow people to attend offline events digitally, provide a look into your business “behind the scenes,” and more. The more authentic and human you can make your community and digital presence, the strong connection and support you’ll forge.

 

Also read: Developing Nurture Strategies That Decrease Time to Value 

6. Help Customers Navigate & Transition Into a Post-Pandemic Landscape

Lastly, be helpful. This is just another version of value, but in this case, it’s selfless. It’s not about acquiring, upselling, or converting. It’s simply about doing what’s right and holding empathy for your customers by extending value beyond the reason people are (or were) forced to use your products or services during the pandemic.

 

Play a part in helping them navigate the bounce back to pre-pandemic life in a way that feels aligned with your brand but puts the wellbeing of consumers at the core.

 

Need help envisioning and implementing strategies to maintain success in a post-COVID world? We can help. Contact us today.

Categories
Strategy

How to Holistically Map Your Customer Experience

But what is a customer experience map?

 

It’s a visual timeline that illustrates and examines a customer’s entire experiences with a brand, identifying every behavior, interaction, and touchpoint across a variety of channels. Unlike a customer journey map – which only outlines touch points involved from exposure to sale (and sometimes post-sale) – customer experience (CX) maps dive deeper, evaluating omnichannel experiences and internal processes and workflows to illuminate who and what customers interact with, pain points that arise, and moments of truth that are ripe for innovation and improvement.

Overview of the Customer Experience:

  • Start with the customer perspective. Utilize a mix of qualitative and quantitative data (methods below) to map key touch points
  • Map the internal stakeholder journey, including people, processes, systems, via a service blueprint
  • Combine the maps to begin comparing and contrasting the data and employee expectations versus consumer feedback
  • Identify gaps and opportunities, assess impact of innovation and prioritize for the future

While collecting customer feedback through both qualitative and quantitative (also known as moderated and observational) techniques is key (think web analytics, customer surveys, customer marketing data, customer recordings and interviews, industry research, etc.), it’s also equally important to map your internal stakeholder’s (aka, employee’s) journey, detailing moments they believe to be most important in an end user’s experience (this is often referred to as service blueprinting).

 

Once both maps are completed, they can be compared and contrasted to uncover discrepancies in the customer and internal experience. Pinpointing moments of friction illuminates root causes of customer experience breakdowns that create incredible drag on company retention and growth. Only by taking this holistic approach can you truly start to cultivate next-level strategies for improved customer experiences.

How to Create a Customer Experience Map

As you venture into making your own customer experience map, here are some things to watch out for:

 

  1. Don’t get stuck in the surface. Make sure that you’re driving to the core and really trying to identify the root cause of experience friction points or issues.
  2. Ensure you take an interdisciplinary approach. It’s important not to be siloed in this thinking.
  3. Don’t just take qualitative notes. When interacting with customers, take a multi-faceted approach. You want to ultimately be able to map your qualitative data with quantitative data. Incomplete data can lead to poor decision-making.
  4. Don’t get too bogged down in the details. Come up for air and focus on the biggest areas of opportunities for improvement. It’s all about prioritization. Lots of companies try to solve or map everything, when in reality – sure, you need to challenge your data and ensure you have a complete view – but you also have to prioritize as you go. It’s a delicate balance to strike.

To get started, you must first acknowledge that every touch point is interconnected and feeds into a customer’s perspective and sentiment towards your brand as a whole. The exercise must be authentic. Your goal is to understand your brand’s latent needs and to uncover opportunities that exist due to changing market dynamics, customer expectations and technology breakthroughs.

 

Then, you must allocate one person or team to see the exercise through to completion. Typically speaking, customer experience mapping should be co-created with an external party. Research done solely in-house can be blanketed by unconscious bias, thus muddling results and growth opportunities. Plus, it’s important stakeholders surveyed throughout feel comfortable expressing their true and honest opinions in a confidential and removed setting.

 

Once that’s done, it’s time to get to work.

Step 1: Define your goals, scope, and personas

Your team must first align on goals. Conduct a half-day session with the key internal stakeholders across a number of teams to define business and user goals and pinpoint what you want to learn, what you’re hoping to uncover, where you want to drive focus, and how you plan to quantify and validate insights uncovered.

 

Then, define the personas you want to explore with during the experience mapping exercise. Many businesses have numerous consumer groups. While you can (and eventually should) map the experience and expectations of all of them, you’ll want to identify who they are first. Key details like age, marital status, occupation, daily activities, needs, wants, hobbies, internet behaviors, social media interactions, etc. are all a great starting place. Remember the 80/20 rule and prioritize which groups you’re going to start with. These are your primary personas.

 

Now that you have them identified, you’ll want to start the mapping exercise by capturing existing hypotheses about your customers and their experience. Be sure to capture their needs and emotions felt throughout all of their experiences with your brand. Some key questions to remember here:

 

  • What is driving their buying behavior? Why are they interacting with your business?
  • Where do they interact with your brand (before and after purchase)?
  • How many steps do they go through to purchase?
  • How do they feel as they decide to purchase? Is there a touchpoint after they purchase?
  • How do they interact with your brand after they’re a customer? etc.

Next, decide which part of your experience you want to map. In an ideal world, you’d map the entire experience over the tenure of a customer’s relationship with your brand, but that’s likely not doable in your first few sessions. To get started, break experience mapping into segments. Do you want to map the onboarding or registration process? The purchasing journey? Gauge the interactions your brand has with customers once they’ve already bought in? .

 

Also read: Understanding the Buyer’s Journey to Drive Targeted Campaigns

If you’re stuck – simply try to pinpoint where you think there is the most pain, friction, or confusion in your customer journey. Whether it’s the first, tenth or fiftieth exchange, one bad experience can greatly increase risk of customer churn. A customer who is dissatisfied with an experience will tell between 9-15 people about it* (and that number increases quickly if they take their negative review to social platforms!).

Step two: Evaluate from within

Holistically mapping out your current end-to-end customer experience requires that you evaluate every touchpoint from the surface to the core. That means, you must first evaluate your own people, processes, and systems that impact and touch the customer experience in any way (many organizations refer to this as service blueprinting).

By doing this, you can uncover deep rooted issues or discrepancies between what internal stakeholders and external customers deem important. This is a critical step in effecting meaningful change to your customer experience. But be mindful to avoid these common pitfalls as you execute:

 

  • Getting bogged down in the internal perspective: Make sure all focus efforts are on pain point identification as it relates to the customer or your ability to deliver to the customer. This isn’t an exercise solely dedicated to internal frustrations – if you’re wanting to improve the employee experience, that’s a true service blueprinting exercise. For holistic customer experience mapping, you want to make sure your focus is on pain points that have a line of sight to your end users.
  • Settling for the surface answers: Push to go beyond and really discover the root cause or root opportunities present in your current experience.
  • Missing the opportunity to loop in interdisciplinary perspectives: Often, the connection between business units – especially ones that have overlapping activities related to the customer experience – is where you’ll uncover the greatest opportunities for improvement. Every company has handoffs. It’s important to consider them all.
  • Hinder real discussions from happening between stakeholders: Bringing people together can be massively beneficial. This is an opportunity to create alignment. By bringing teams together to work towards one common goal and share their individual team’s hurdles, your teams will naturally discover micro-solves that can be executed immediately, and contribute to the macro-solution.

Now, to get a revitalized understanding of your business’ performance and efficiency, conduct workshops with internal stakeholders – this can include customer service and sales reps, researchers, customer experience specialists, marketing leads, product owners, designs and more. These service blueprinting workshops should include a few important exercises:

 

  1. Hypothesize and map out internal interpretation of the customer’s journey. Be sure to identify each phase and define customer interaction points.
  2. Map out the people, process and systems that are in play at each of those key interaction points.
  3. Capture what internal stakeholders say about those key interactions (qualitative). Simple things like definitions of words, or what they want customers to feel after that interaction can all be important in understanding the internal impact on your CX.
  4. Articulate underlying assumptions and beliefs around language commonly used to describe KPIs and company-wide goals. This will help identify and deconstruct misunderstandings between teams and enable a fresh start where everyone is on the same page and working from a consistent understanding.

At the end of the workshop, you should be able to identify each phase in the customer’s experience, who and what they interact with within your organization, and how you meet their needs along the way.

 

Keep in mind, for some companies, a workshop is all that is needed to gather internal perspective. On the other hand, sometimes workshops are just the starting place and then require deeper dives with specific departments, business units, or individual role types to further precipitate areas where exploration is needed. So, once your workshop is completed, identify whether or not you need to go deeper, and, if so, what types of roles, departments or business units you need to go deeper with.

 

Continue to conduct stakeholder interviews until you feel confident that you’ve really mapped out the impact those areas have on the internal customer journey or end customer experience.

 

Need an example? Let’s talk about articulating underlying assumptions. Healthcare organizations often use the word “encounters” as a measurement for improving patient engagement. However, when we’ve asked organizational team members to define the term, no one in the room has the same definition or knows how to explain it. If everyone perceives and defines a goal and/or measurement like “encounters” differently (or in many cases, can’t define it at all), it’s impossible to know how or when to measure and define success. The solution? Get it on paper (or a whiteboard or shared digital document)! When you put something down in writing and rally around a common definition, you can identify optimal procedures to measure it. This will ultimately contribute to agreeance and alignment necessary for not only standing up successful marketing programs, but proving ROI.

If everyone perceives and defines a goal and/or measurement differently (or in many cases, can’t define it at all), it’s impossible to know how or when to measure and define success.

Step 3: Hone in on the end users

Now it’s time to look beyond the internal perspective and focus the lens on your customers. This requires the most time and could take anywhere from a couple weeks to a couple years to complete, depending on your scope.

 

Before you get start, there are a few tips to consider that will help you avoid common pitfalls at this stage:

 

  • Ensure you get to the real root cause of pain or opportunity and don’t get caught in optimizing for the surface level. As with other phases, this requires that you push beyond the surface of what users tell you qualitatively. A great way to do this, no matter what process you use, is to ask “Why?” three to five times. Once a user shares an observation that seems important, ask why. Then ask why again, and again. Many companies gather initial observations and never get to the true root cause, therefore they’re stuck treating only symptoms of problems.
  • Don’t rest on qualitative data. Instead, pair it with quantitative data. Find ways to objectively measure what is happening to your user’s experience at key milestones throughout the journey. We often do this by merging qualitative data with surveys or other analytical data (think customer CRMs, google analytics, website data, or MPS data).
  • Avoid intuition as your primary method of gathering user experience. Qualitative techniques we often employ include interviews, focus groups and ride alongs.
  • Give yourself time to really hone in on the user experience. Many companies never gather this information, at all; instead, they architect their journey based on internal perspective and move forward. It’s always important and useful to get real, quality feedback from end users.
  • Don’t forget that your customer base is diverse. Get feedback from multiple personas as you go.

Also read: Qualitative vs. Quantitative Data in CX Design: Everything You Need to Know

 

During this phase, you and your team should use qualitative and quantitative techniques (learn more about that here) to obtain real customer feedback by guiding them through each phase of the outlined journey to validate their needs, wants, and experiences. 0 By sitting down with real customers, you’re able to explore their goals and needs respective to your product, services, and/or digital presence. In the end, you’ll be able to expose valuable insights that can drive future focus. Often, this phase identifies opportunities for re-engagement. While your goals may be more specific, it is still important to see the full picture before drawing any conclusions about your overall customer experience. At this stage, compiling as much information as possible is key.

 

Need an example? Sometimes this phase can give rise to specific problems, including the root cause of customer conversions. One of our clients – a leading nation-wide insurer group of automobiles, homes and small businesses – was seeing a dip in quote yields and overall conversion rates. After doing a deep data dive – using both qualitative and quantitative techniques – we discovered the majority of drop offs were occurring moments before clicking the, “I’m ready to complete my quote” button. Why would users go through the trouble of filling out 99% of the form, only to abandon the process right before getting the information they originally sought? The answer was buried in the messaging.

By speaking to customers, we discovered the last question in their quote-request form – one that asked the user if they’d like to enter information to receive additional insurance quotes – was causing feelings of exhaustion and frustration for potential customers. Instead of marking “No,” and continuing on, they simply bounced away from the site – and, likely, with no intention to return. This not only illuminated the main pain point, but allowed us to execute focused competitive analyses to get inspiration from competitors, develop potential solutions, test them, and then launch the solution/s to the market.

Step 4: Review, analyze, and map it out

It’s time to start putting the puzzle pieces together.

 

With an integrated team spanning a variety of disciplines (including research, business innovation, experience design, and consulting), review the customers’ experience data from every angle. Doing this will provide a more holistic view necessary for creating a more robust and useful map.

 

Conduct another workshop to synthesize and compare data from internal and external perspectives on your customer experience.

 

Starting with the qualitative data, use tools like an an affinity map to clearly identify where your customers’ needs are being met – and where they’re not. This should expose service gaps and highlight opportunities.

 

Next, test the customer feedback against the internal perspectives map previously created. More often than not, it will reveal discrepancies between what internal teams believe is important, versus what customers really assign value to. This visual approach, while also displaying challenges within the current experience, will make achieving cross-functional alignment around future plans easier.

 

Also read: Crafting Employee Experiences to Improve Customer Experiences

 

Keep in mind that the ultimate goal is continual evolution. Take the time to test and, as you do, update your journey map.

Lastly, to pinpoint exact moments of friction and/or leverage in your customer experience, pair the quantitative data – which analyzes customer sentiment and perspective at every stage and interaction – with your new qualitative understanding of the user experience. By overlaying these data points – like a customer’s likelihood to renew – you’ll be able to pinpoint specific moments that drive loyalty or churn and their financial impacts.

 

At this point, now all that’s left is to prioritize the areas of opportunity and roadmap short- and long-term focuses to improve business workflow. Keep in mind that the ultimate goal is continual evolution. Take the time to conduct ongoing testing and, as you do, update your experience map.

 

Need an example? A major broadband communications company who had been in the business of delivering entertainment and connection companies and companions long before the internet existed was struggling with gradual increases of customer dissatisfaction and churn. Month over month, the company’s acquisition and retention numbers decreased. Thei business and market share was at risk. By pairing quantitative sentiment with our qualitative understanding and visually mapping both, we were able to pinpoint the main points of friction that we needed to solve for: Severe client and market variability, inconsistent structure and resources a reactive servicing model, disparate systems and processes, a need for continued product training, and shifting client expectations. To summarize, the experience being delivered was afflicted with challenges and creating volatility throughout the journey, ultimately contributing to churn.

By outlining the specific issues, we were able to build a path forward to develop a proactive and consultative CX that focused on the most essential needs, including:

 

  • Elevating the customer care solution to create a repeatable experience that promotes consistency while preserving autonomy
  • Simplifying the employee experience to reduce friction by streamlining backend systems and processes
  • Modernizing client interactions with omnichannel and digital-forward experience
  • Invest in delivering an experience that is predictably proactive and drives consultative value
  • Clearly demonstrating the ongoing value of partnering with a customer care solution

Pinpointing the needs and developing solutions enabled us to become part of the client’s strategy, not just a one-off tractic. Next, we built a roadmap that encompassed recommended initiatives, identified workstreams, defined what success would look like and outlined how the work would enable continual program evolution.

The Bottom Line

By consistently completing the customer experience mapping exercise (don’t set it and forget it!), you can empower your team to problem solve from a data-driven perspective and establish plans for future CX initiatives and investments.

 

At the end of the day, customer experience mapping is about connecting with your customer, and deeply understanding and empathizing with their needs and wants. If your company can prioritize solving customer’s problems as the world evolves, you’ll set yourself up for unstoppable momentum.

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Strategy

Qualitative vs. Quantitative Data In CX Design: Everything You Need to Know

This is a common issue for many organizations, big and small, but it’s not an impossible one to solve!

 

If you’re experiencing a similar situation, you need to invest in gathering persona data that will not only tell you who your customers are and what they care about, but why they care and how they expect brands to make them feel.

 

To get started, let’s define each set of data, how it’s gathered and what it’s used for.

 

What is qualitative data?

Qualitative data – or primary data – is commonly gathered by businesses and plays an important role in understanding target audience sentiment and informing customer journey design. By conducting unstructured or semi-structured first-person user interviews, discussions, on-site observations, in-house moderated user testing, web analytics, and focus groups, qualitative data-collecting techniques allow companies to interact directly with their key customers, see how they’re using their products or services and receive feedback in real-time. It helps define the customer journey and establish an initial foundation and understanding of all internal and external customer experiences.

 

There’s just one problem: Sometimes people don’t know what they want, don’t have the words to truly express how they feel, or simply, aren’t honest.

 

That’s when quantitative data comes in.

Quantitative data enhances primary research and design efforts by quantifying key problem areas.

What is quantitative data?

Quantitative data – which can be gathered through a variety of structured surveys, questionnaires, and polls – is essential secondary research. When transformed into statistics, it enhances primary research (qualitative data) and design efforts by quantifying key problem areas. It also allows marketers, developers, business leaders and customer experience drivers to peer into customer details, attitudes, and behaviors from a data-driven standpoint, and test hypotheses established from qualitative data.

Qualitative Data vs. Quantitative Data: When Should You Use Each & How?

Let’s start with the when. To craft the best customer experiences, companies should collect and analyze both data sources on an ongoing basis. Because – and this is a big one – audiences and their expectations are always changing. By executing primary and secondary research to gather qualitative and quantitative data, companies make themselves better equipped to not only identify, but truly understand their customer base – how they interact, experience, and feel about a website, application or overall brand.

 

And don’t forget to gather employee input, as well! Employees are often the first to know what’s working and what’s not. Most organizations shy away from gathering input from employees, but in our experience, leveraging this powerful knowledge base sooner rather than later helps identify root challenges and opportunities to improve faster and more effectively.

 

Also read: Crafting Employee Experiences That Improve Customer Experiences

 

Now, the how. After both qualitative and quantitative data has been collected, follow these steps:

Map your qualitative data

Example of mapping internal & external qualitative data

Using the qualitative data gathered, map internal perspectives around critical touch points and test it against customer feedback that was collected. This should reveal discrepancies between what internal teams believe is important, versus what customers assign value to. By taking this qualitative approach, teams can visually display opportunities and challenges within the current experience. Providing a picture that illuminates the differences between internal and external stakeholder perception makes achieving cross-functional alignment on future plans easier. There’s not a whole lot to argue about when the writing’s on the wall.

Pinpoint exact moments of friction and/or leverage in your customer journey

Utilize quantitative methods via surveys and other previously mentioned techniques to analyze customer sentiment – opinions and responses – as well as perspective at every stage of the journey. Keep in mind, each interaction a consumer can have with your brand, both passive and active, is a touchpoint and part of your overall brand journey. Therefore, every interaction must be diligently and continuously monitored, evaluated and iterated because one singular touchpoint can cultivate customer affinity or aversion.

Pair quantitative customer sentiment with a qualitative understanding of the user journey

Pairing qualitative and qualitative data

Quantifying the customer journey creates a data-driven understanding of the critical inflection points that drive loyalty and churn. This naturally illuminates root causes of friction (or conversion!) and enable teams to be data-driven in problem solving and planning for future CX initiatives and investments.

How To Use Qualitative & Quantitative Data To Decide on Next Steps

At Tallwave, we create an ‘Impact Matrix’ – this tool highlights opportunities for improvement and compares the impact they’ll each have against the level of effort and investment they’ll require. This helps create alignment and buy-in for low-risk, high impact initiatives that are critical to shaping and improving the customer experience.

 

Find a similar exercise or tool to visually demonstrate all the opportunities that lie ahead and inform the build of a new strategic roadmap that can take your teams and company into the future.

 

Perhaps most importantly, don’t let perfection get in the way of progress! Making big system changes to your end-to-end user experience may take time, but avoid trying to solve it all at once. Identifying the biggest opportunities and making incremental improvements over time, while learning along the way, will make a huge difference.

 

Last but not least, don’t stop. This isn’t a “set it and forget it” game. Customer behavior – be it with an existing website, application or with a brand across numerous touchpoints – must be closely monitored to ensure both user and business goals are consistently met. If they’re not, all teams – Content Strategy, Product Development, People & Culture, Performance Marketing – must align to identify solutions for evolution and continue growth.

 

Also read: Why Customer Experience Can’t Be All Data-Driven

Don’t let perfection get in the way of progress! Identifying the biggest opportunities and making incremental improvements over time, while learning along the way, will make a huge difference.

Bottom Line

Let data be your guide. Qualitative input is key, especially early on, but also leverage quantitative data as much as possible to make decisions. The combination of qualitative and quantitative helps you identify where there is friction, but also gives you the context you need to develop solutions that hit the mark. And if you don’t have the right data infrastructure set up today, that’s a good place to start.

If you need help collecting, comparing and mapping your qualitative and quantitative data to improve your customer journey and overall experience, contact our team today!

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