helping you master customer insight leadership

Leadership coaching for you?

Coaching at workHave you experienced the benefits of coaching? Years ago UK business leaders appeared to just see this as an American business fad (for a culture who have also embraced the benefits of therapists and given us great TV like “In Treatment”). However, over the last decade more & more UK businesses have embraced executive coaching and the academic evidence for efficacy has grown substantially. Even in 2005, 88% of UK organisations reported using coaching and by 2009, 93% of US organisations.

The next revolution in coaching for businesses is the expansion of coaching to a wider leadership population. Once the preserve of CEOs or main board members, progressive businesses are now seeing the benefits of expanding to all directors, talent pipeline candidates or in some cases team coaching for the wider organisation. My personal interest is in the benefits of coaching for the rising star that is today’s Customer Insight Leaders. As I have blogged before, there is a growing trend to create Customer Insight Director or Chief Knowledge Officer roles, often for individuals who have never held C-Suite level responsibilities before. Such leaders are ideal candidates for coaching, not because of any deficits, but rather to ensure that they perform as well as possible and achieve the challenging goals for this new strategic focus.

So, what does coaching entail? Very briefly, the term covers a multitude of approaches and has many possible definitions. But most experts now agree that executive coaching can be defined as: “A relationship based intervention. Its focus is on the enhancement of personal performance at work through behavioural, cognitive and motivational interventions used by the coach, which provide change in the client.

That more academic definition hints at the fact of multiple models or techniques which can be used, where helpful, to facilitate sessions. The qualification that I’m completing on Executive Coaching includes learning coaching models including: Goal-Orientated; Cognitive Behavioural; Positive Psychology and Neuro Linguistic Programming. My own experience of coaching executives has taught me that different models can be appropriate at different times, with different clients, in different organisational contexts. The most important skill is still genuine active listening, but frameworks to help guide sessions and clear goals to be achieved do both help.

I’m encouraged by the positive messages being given by a number of organisations with regard to the importance of coaching (including ones as diverse as Network Rail and Mencap in this month’s “Coaching at Work” magazine). However, I have not yet seen this commitment applied to the Customer Insight leadership population. I hope that change will come and I am focussing part of my business on helping to meet that need.

Have you seen the benefits of coaching or mentoring in your leadership role? I’d love to hear more about your experience of this emerging profession.

Poll: Which Analytics Software?

© Robert F. Balazik | Dreamstime Stock Photos

“We use R” is a comment I used to only hear from recent graduates or some analysts working in the public sector. Both these sectors appeared to more readily accept open source software. But this does appear to be changing, over recent years I have heard a few commercial organisations share their interest in saving licence fees and moving to R for their analysts. Are you one of them? Do you have a favourite analysis software package, without which your team would not be as productive? If so, please share below.

Given the traffic this site now appears to get from customer insight leaders across the world, I thought I’d test the waters with you. Below is a quick one question survey to help us find out and share the analytics software used in your organisation today. It will be interesting to see how much has changed from the days when large company = SAS usage (if that has changed).

I have sought below to list all the “predictive analytics” software that I know is in use today, but do feel free to add others if you use them. I have chosen this category to distinguish from the mass of business intelligence or web analytics tools without equivalent statistical capabilities.

 

Do let me know if this topic is of interest and I can research more fully or share my own experience.

Why you need your analysts to be storytellers and how to develop them

storytellers

I wonder how many of you value being a storyteller, as one of the most valuable skills in your analysts or data scientists. Do you?

Even writing that it seems a strange thing to say, almost an oxymoron for such quantitative roles. Surely you can’t expect these specialists to also master the humanities?

However, as I look back over the pieces of analysis which have driven most change in the businesses I’ve served, it is those which told the most compelling story that made the biggest difference.

This of course is not really surprising at all. Our researchers and all those with any social science background will tell us that storytelling is deeply embedded in human societies.  Over millennia we see examples of the most important truths for one generation to pass onto another being encoded in stories. (more…)

Is research game for gamification?

iphoneIt has been interesting, that after several years of excitement around the topic of “gamification”, this year more commentators have suggested that it’s “game over”. I certainly agree that this concept has moved through the Gartner hype-cycle, into the wonderfully named “trough of disillusionment”.

However, that is the springboard for entering into the stages of pragmatic realism. My experience is that it is often once technologies or ideas reach this stage that those interested in just delivering results can begin to realise benefits (without the distraction of  hype/fashion).

Even though I can see the points made in this Forbes article, I think that the evidence cited concerns a failure to revolutionise business more broadly. What has not yet been exhausted, in my view, is the potential for gamification to help with market research.

One growing issue springs to mind as needing help. I’m thinking of the challenge faced by any client-side researcher seeking representative sample for a large quant study. The issue is falling participation rates unless research is fun, interesting and rewarding. Coupled with the risk that some ways of overcoming this by agencies risk a higher skew toward “professional” research participants.

Gaining sufficient representative sample, that matches a companies own customer base demographic or segments, can also be important for experimentation. This is timely for Financial Services companies who are seeking to experiment with behavioural economics and need sufficient participation in tests to see choices made in response to “nudges”. So, here too, is a need to freshen up research with methods of delivery that better engage the consumer.

No doubt the hype will not be realised. But I hope that as the dust settles, customer insight leaders will not give up on the idea of gamification as a research execution media. Some pioneers like Upfront Analytics and others are seeing positive results. Let’s hope others get a chance to “play” with this.

Poll: Your level of maturity with BE

Behavioural EconomicsSince my own experience, of piloting customer treatments based on Behavioural Economics (BE) hypotheses, I have been fascinated with the subject. Having spoken at a number of Chartered Insurance Institute events and written for their Journal on the subject, I know many insurers share this interest.

This is not surprising, given the pubic pronouncements by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). They are clearly expecting Insurers to engage, not just with how customers should behave rationally, but with how they actually make decisions. Financial Services companies are expected to help customers avoid detriment, given these well known biases.

Given all of that, I though it might be interesting to see what level of maturity (with using Behavioural Economics) there is amongst our readership.

Please answer the question below if you have responsibility for customer insight and work within a UK based Financial Services company.

 

I will of course share what I’ve learnt from these results and conversations with others in a later post.

Customer Effort Score remember the NPS wars

Customer Effort ScoreMany commentators have recently debated the relative merits of Customer Effort Score (CES) verses Net Promoter Score (NPS). As a leader who remembers the controversy that surrounded NPS when it first came to dominance, the parallels are concerning. I still recall the effort wasted trying to win the battle to point out the flaws in NPS and lack of academic evidence, whilst in fact I was looking a gift horse in the mouth (I’ll explain that later). I would caution anyone currently worrying about whether or not CES is the “best metric” to remember the lessons that should have been learnt from “NPS wars”.

For those not so close to the topic of customer experience metrics, although there any many different metrics that could be used to measure the experience your customers’ receive, three dominate the industry. They are Customer Satisfaction (CSat), NPS and now CES. These are not equivalent metrics, as they measure slightly different things, but are all reporting on ratings given by customers to a single question. Satisfaction captures emotional feeling about interaction with the organisation (usually on a 5 point scale). NPS captures an attitude following that interaction, i.e. likelihood to recommend, against 0-10 scale with detractors (0-6) subtracted from promoters (9-10) to give a net score. CES returns to attitude about the interaction, but rather than asking about satisfaction it seeks to capture how much effort the customer had to put in to achieve what they wanted/needed (again on a 5 point scale).

The reality, from my experience (excuse the pun), is that none of these metrics is perfect and each has dangers of misrepresentation or simplification. I agree with Prof. Moira Clark of Henley Centre of Customer Management. When we discussed this, we agreed that ideally all three would be captured by an organisation. This is because satisfaction, likelihood-to-recommend & effort-required are different ‘lenses’ through which to study what you are getting right or wrong for your customers. However, that utopia may not be possible for all organisation, depending on volume of transactions and you capability to randomly vary metrics captured and order of asking.

But my main learning point from the ‘NPS wars’ experience over a couple of years, is the metric is not the most important thing here. As the old saying goes, “it’s what you do with it that counts”. After NPS won the war and began to be a required balanced scorecard metric for most CEOs, I learnt that this was not a defeat but rather a ‘gift horse’, as I referred to earlier. Because NPS had succeeded in capturing the imagination of CEOs, there was funding available to capture learning from this metric more robustly than was previously done for CSat. So, over a year or so, I came to really value the NPS programme we implemented. This was mainly because of its granularity (by product & touchpoint) and the “driver questions” that we captured immediately afterwards. Together these provided a richer understanding of what was good or bad in the interaction, enabled prompt response to individual customers & targeted action to implement systemic improvements.

Now we appear to be at a similar point with CES and I want to caution about being drawn into another ‘metric wars’. There are certainly things that can be improved about the way the proposed question is framed (I have found it more useful to reword and capture “how easy was it to…” or “how much effort did you need to put into…”). However, as I hope we all learned with NPS, I would encourage organisations to focus instead on how you implement any CES programme (or enhance your existing NPS programme) to maximise learning & action-ability. That is where the real value lies.

Another tip: Using learning from your existing research, including qualitative, can help frame additional questions to capture following CES. You can then use analytics to identify correlations. Having such robust regular quantitative data capture is much more valuable than being ‘right’ about your lead metric.

What’s your experience with CSat, NPS or CES? Do you share my concerns?

Redesigning Customer Experiences from the Outside In

Outside InThis book has a dull cover and lacks any colour graphics within its pages. So, if you spot it, you might not be enthused. However, persistence is rewarded, as there is much customer experience and customer insight leaders can learn from this book.

Written by a couple of leaders at Forrester Research, it provides the reader with an overview of everything to consider in order to improve customer experiences. As anyone who has worked in this area will know, that’s a tall order.

Peppers & Rodgers “Managing Customer Relationships” is usefully comprehensive but at 481 pages not a quick read. So, to provide this overview in only 224 pages is an achievement for Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine.

As I worked my way through this book, two things became the major benefits. The first is a set of frameworks to act as guides or checklists for action needed in different areas. First up is their definition of a Customer Experience Ecosystem Map, a useful term for ensuring you consider not just processes but also people, perspectives, culture, etc. Another is the structure of identifying six essential customer experience disciplines each with their own required practices (strategy, customer understanding, design, measurement, governance and culture). This risks “motherhood and apple pie”, but provides some sensible customer insight advice especially on measurement.

The other major benefit of this book is a large number of  case studies contained within it, as examples of frameworks being put into practice. Given my background and clients within the Insurance industry, it was good to see 5 of these alongside the many other sectors covered. Their analysis of the threats to Allstate in the US and opportunities for Progressive is interesting and backed up by Customer Experience Index scores to date. Aviva’s focus on mapping customer journeys in China is also interesting, with the chance in emerging markets to start with customer experience strategy at an earlier stage.

Given I will be speaking at a conference in London next month, on the role of Customer Insight leaders in more senior positions than ever before, their chapter on ‘The Rise of the Chief Customer Officer’ is also interesting. Their research in US echoes my own experience in the UK, that CCOs (or CKOs – as I am more interested in customer insight leaders) are disproportionately common within Financial Services firms. Their findings about a bias toward COOs for B2B businesses also makes commercial sense.

I hope that review was useful, I share such a book because I believe the only point of generating customer insights is to act on them. This can sometimes be to deliver shorter term commercial returns, but longer term the real prize is for customer insight to be guiding the transformative work outlined in this book. Delivering and then sustaining significantly improved customer experiences,

This book is a relatively easy read, although at times resembling someone who talks too quickly at you. The volume of human interest stories included helps, as does the use of short chapters. Bite sized chunks for reading each day, is one way to look at them. I hope you find it useful.

Please do share your experience if you’ve read this work or alternatives.