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If Your Employees Aren’t Happy, Your Customers Never Will be

Thursday, November 21, 2019


A major airline found their internal customer satisfaction ratings dropping. A VP, not entirely jokingly, said, “Send all the flight attendants to charm school!”

Charm school isn’t the answer. Unless you work for the DMV, employees typically WANT to do what is right for the customer. But often, internal policies and procedures are tying their hands.

What gets in the way of your employees serving and delivering greater customer value?

In the early days of Jeb’s tenure at Oracle, he found that employees desperately wanted to solve customers’ problems. But they didn’t always know which ones to focus on first and didn’t have a meaningful way to do so.

How can you engage employees in reducing customer friction and creating greater customer value?

Customer Performance

For the past few months, we’ve been writing about Customer Performance. We’ve created a comprehensive framework as a way to look at customers as your most essential asset: to systematically create value for them, and in turn, motivate them to be great brand advocates for you. The Customer Performance Framework systematically moves customers toward the realization of their objectives and towards advocacy of your brand. A Customer Performance focus engages employees to engage with customers in delivering greater customer value.

Employee Engagement

Do free lunches, pool tables, or afternoon keggers drive employee engagement? No, these perks are great for recruiting. But they are easily habituated and ultimately have no impact on employee behavior.

Doshi & McGregor  wrote that the most potent employee motivators are  Play Purpose , and  Potential Play  is when  the enjoyment of  the work itself provides the motivation to do the work.  Purpose  is fulfilled when we value the impact   or outcome of the work. And  Potential  is when we value the second-order outcome of the work—we do the work because it will eventually lead to something very important to us.



Sadly, most employers resort to applying  Emotional Pressure  as they use guilt and shame to compel employees to work. Or they use  Economic Pressure  as they set up compensation systems where employees act solely to win an award or avoid a punishment. Or the culture is one of  Inertia , and deviation is punished.

These latter three sources of motivation are entirely disconnected from the work itself. However, according to Doshi & McGregor, “ identity  turns jobs into callings; it unites your team with a  common objective , behavioral code, heritage, and traditions.”

Like Jeb found at Oracle, we need to provide opportunities to connect employees with customers and direct their intrinsic desire to serve customers.

Engaging Employees in your Ease of Doing Business Efforts

It has been our experience that front-line employees tend to know and feel what frustrates their customers and would love nothing more than to fix it. Similarly, back-office employees feel their disconnect from customers acutely and are hugely motivated by learning how their actions impact customers and understanding how they’re making a difference for customers.

Following a merger or acquisition, there is often a massive effort to integrate customers into the new systems, contracts, support, etc. This effort is a phenomenal and often overlooked opportunity to get employees from both companies engaged in a compelling shared goal. You can be very targeted about which employees you engage with, to build enthusiasm and purpose consistent with Doshi & McGregor’s model above.

Ease of Doing Business means creating process efficiencies that allow our employees to spend more time on real value-add activities that matter. How many employees know precisely what constitutes a great experience? Effort, however, is intuitive. Employees often know precisely how to make it easy for customers to do business with us.

Where can we engage employees in our efforts to increase Ease of Doing Business?

Identify the Ease of Doing Business Hotspots

The first and easiest is to help identify the Ease of Doing Business Hotspots along the customer journey. Front-line employees often feel their customer’s pain acutely. And you would be surprised by how valuable the back-office employees (legal, accounts payable, contracts, accounts receivable, etc.) are.

Odds are, if a process is cumbersome for front-line employees, it’s tough for customers as well. Improved employee experience almost always translates into an improved customer experience. But not always the other way around. And that’s because frequently organizations paper-over problems and cause more difficult employee experiences in an attempt to improve the customer experience. So, there’s an argument for starting with the employee experience and asking if that’s been improved.

Prioritizing Ease of Doing Business Hotspots

After identifying the Hotspots that cause customer friction and impair revenue/profits, we want to prioritize them based on how easy and inexpensive it would be to implement fixes versus the positive impact those fixes will have on customers and your employees. Employees can be invaluable in identifying hotspots that are easy to fix, inexpensive, and highly impactful to both customers and employees. You should tackle these first. We want quick wins that help us gain peer and executive support for future projects. Even more importantly, this involvement will increase the level of employee enthusiasm and engagement you will need to go after more substantial projects.

Root Cause Analyses

As we embark on our journey to resolve the most critical Ease of Doing Business Hotspots, we need to engage process owners and front-line employees to help us perform root cause analyses. Employees typically understand the upstream nuances that result in significant issues downstream. Because they often acutely feel customer pain, they can enumerate the underlying issues that, if resolved, will ensure your solutions effectively reduce customer effort and make you easier to do business with.

Change Management Imperatives

The greatest strategies and action plans are useless without engaged employees. Countless Chief Customer Officers have failed because they cannot communicate their vision and convince employees to come with them on their change journey. 

Before embarking on each change management effort, you should consider critical success factors for change management. What are some of the risks or obstacles you expect to encounter? Who will help pave over those risks and help overcome political obstacles? 

Are there resources or capabilities that you don’t have within your group or even your company? 

How will your employees be involved in creating success? How will you include them in the analysis, development, measurement? 

Which employees do you need on your team? How will you convince them to participate in your efforts?


We cannot implement our grand challenges and plans without our employees truly onboard and committed.

According to  Gallup , only 33.1% of employees are actively engaged at work. Often, they lack direction and purpose. We have to create opportunities to engage them in increasing customer performance. We need to provide them formal opportunities to help solve customer problems.

If we’re successful, they’ll engage, and according to Gallup, companies with engaged employees drive 21% higher profitability and 20% higher sales. We’ll sign up for that.

Until next time,

Curtis Bingham & Jeb Dasteel

View Curtis Bingham's profile on LinkedIn


Categories: Customer Retention | Ease of Doing Business | Employee Engagement

Engage Your Customers to Sustain Ease of Doing Business

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Early in this series, we talked about the Customer Performance Framework , which defines a set of capabilities that enable outcomes ensuring “customer performance.” Customer performance is about putting the right attention on your greatest asset: your customers. When you orchestrate key capabilities across your organization with the goal of delivering substantial value for your customers you give those customers all the right incentives to be your greatest advocates. And the return on that asset will be incremental revenue and incremental margin.

There are many different capabilities described in the framework. In combination, those capabilities support the outcomes or objectives, we have talked about: customer acquisition, retention, effort (ease of doing business), engagement, adoption, value, and brand advocacy. 

To date, in this series, we’ve focused singularly on Ease of Doing Business. Customer engagement plays a crucial role in sustaining Ease of Doing Business. We’ve identified a handful of our favorite customer engagement programs that are especially helpful to Ease of Doing Business:

  • Account Management : Simply put, great account management can paper over almost any problem from an Ease of Doing Business point of view. The best account managers intervene on behalf of their customer (ideally without their customer even knowing about it) and advocate, head-off issues, resolve problems as they arise, and proactively develop partnership models that continuously strengthen the relationship and enrich both parties. Strong account management is foundational and must be programmed across all tiers of the customer segmentation strategy. A strong account team or function, supported by strong tools and processes, eases the burden on the customer across almost every dimension of the relationship and across almost every interaction. But account management can’t be the sole Ease of Doing Business facilitator.
  • Coordination of Resources Across Lines of Business : Strong account management will, of course, help this, but beyond the team assigned to work with a particular customer, there needs to be a process for how all front-office and back-office team members work together (versus independently) to service customers, collectively. Basic rules of engagement are key. Standard processes, tools, and metrics are necessary as well. 
  • Orchestration of Customer Care : Especially in complex global B2B situations, even customer care—which is designed to be a solution to a problem—can often be THE problem. You can have multiple geographies and lines of business, and even product lines, simultaneously trying to resolve a problem but in the process making matters worse. Thus, customer care functions need to be highly orchestrated with an eye toward simplifying the interaction for the customer when things inevitably go wrong.
  • Executive Sponsorship : Relationships are the nutrient that nurtures partnerships, enables transactions, and permits growth. In a business setting, we need to be deliberate about how we develop and maintain partnerships at various levels. A robust executive sponsorship program is the backbone of an organization’s ability to manage relationships between its executives and its customers’ executives. The strength of those relationships will form the basis for addressing Ease of Doing Business challenges head-on.
  • Communications Strategy: Having a communications strategy that addresses both the reactive situations and how to proactively connect with your customers will make an enormous impact on Ease of Doing Business for your customers. As this is written, a certain cable company is not communicating with me in any sort of productive manner about my internet service being down (going on 36 hours now). To get updates on when the problem will be fixed, I’m instructed to text ‘update’ to them. I do that and either get nothing in response or an ever-changing estimate or ‘currently, there is no estimated time for when this service will be restored.’ We’ll just say this is the exact opposite of Easy to Do Business With and leave it at that.
  • Advisory Councils: A multi-tiered program of advisory councils, where you have product-feedback councils for your engineers or product designers, industry or market councils for your go-to-market teams, and executive councils for your top management will help with relationship building, provide invaluable feedback, and even secure deals. There are straightforward rules for managing these programs effectively, but it’s mostly about investing in a great learning experience, solid planning (4-6 months lead-time), and getting the exact right people in the room. After that, it’s all about keeping the conversation at a strategic level. Invariably, the feedback will be 70% on Ease of Doing Business. When you fix these customers’ challenges, they will be your greatest advocates.
  • Product Adoption Strategies: Without a deliberate strategy to help your customers push and ease the adoption of your product throughout their organization, whatever objectives they sought when buying your product in the first place will not be achieved. Ease of Doing Business is meaningless without pervasive product adoption.
  • Value Realization: The sooner you are able to help your customers target business benefits, track their progress toward realizing those benefits, and measuring the actual attainment of them, the better off your customer will be—and the better off you’ll be. Modeling your customer interactions around how you help that customer achieve real OUTCOMES is the single most important thing you can do to be a real partner. That, in turn, will yield incremental revenue and most likely margin returns for you. As well, this will create stronger, referenceable customers willing to become powerful brand advocates. This may well be the most elemental approach you can take to address Ease of Doing Business for your customer. 

In summary, you can think about Ease of Doing Business in two ways: first, how to identify and address the key challenges you are facing today; and then what are the programs and capabilities needed to sustain Ease of Doing Business, as portrayed in this graphic:

These capabilities, or programs, service Ease of Doing Business over the long haul. Where to begin is always a great question, which we have addressed a number of different ways over the past couple of months.

If you’d like to continue the dialog or if you’re interested in learning more, check out our Ease of Doing Business Accelerator here .

Until next time,

Curtis & Jeb

View Curtis Bingham's profile on LinkedIn


Categories: Customer Effort | Customer Engagement | Ease of Doing Business

Your CEO Only Cares About Results

Monday, November 04, 2019


We can talk about customer strategy until we’re blue in the face. But at the end of the day, your CEO only cares about RESULTS. 

Executives who are too process-focused on things like journey maps, customer experience, NPS, and Design Thinking are failing to translate their initiatives into business results. They’re not able to point to the revenue they’ve contributed to bringing in. Or profits they’ve helped increase. Or even severe customer problems they’ve resolved that led to customer turnarounds, incremental revenue protection, and margin improvement. In short, these executives are at serious risk of being irrelevant to the CEO.

This article shows you how to translate your Ease of Doing Business strategy into a detailed action plan you can take to your CEO and get funded. And ensure you can demonstrate relevant ROI.

Previously on Ease of Doing Business

As all good TV series must begin, “Previously on…” We’ve written fairly extensively about Ease of Doing Business in our series of articles covering: 

  1. Why it is so important for you to  focus RIGHT NOW on Ease of Doing Business  
  2. How  buyers and sellers think very differently about Ease of Doing Business —and how that difference can sabotage your efforts
  3. The most  common causes of friction  that upset your customers and prevent your revenue/profit growth
  4. The  critical organizational capabilities  you must find or develop to successfully become easier to do business with
  5. How to  build a business case  around Ease of Doing Business to convince the CFO and CEO to invest
  6. Critical success factors  that enable you to become easier to do business with
  7. How to  discover Ease of Doing Business Hotspots , or the most egregious issues that are creating friction for customers, impairing revenue and profits, and preventing growth.

Creating an Overriding Vision for Hotspot Resolution

In our most recent article, we identified and prioritized a number of Ease of Doing Business hotspots that are frustrating customers. We’ve chosen the low-hanging fruit: those that have a high impact on customers and are relatively easy to implement, according to a number of criteria we laid out. 

Now how do you make these urgent hotspots actionable and fix them for customers?

Describe Hotspot Outcomes and Success Measures

While breaking down hotspots into specific initiatives, and to ensure those initiatives stay on point, you need to create a clear description of ideal outcomes and what success means for each of the chosen Ease of Doing Business Hotspots.

Within your cross-functional teams, ask yourselves:

  1. What does a successful end-state look like? 
  2. How will customers experience the future state differently? 
  3. How will employees see it differently? How will our business be better off? 
  4. And how will you measure it?

Spending a few moments describing the ideal future state from the perspective of each stakeholder will ensure everyone working on the project downstream will have a clear picture of what they’re working towards.

For example, an insurance company we have worked with found a huge Ease of Doing Business hotspot. Their customers were complaining about having to spend too much time on the phone to obtain updates, claim status, or other updates. The company set out to decrease customer effort in interactions by driving one million customer hours out of their contact center. This is a perfectly clear future state and a great success metric that everyone in the company can understand. 

Break Down Hotspots into Initiatives

Armed with a clear understanding of what the future looks like for each Ease of Doing Business Hotspot, it is time to break each hotspot down into specific initiatives that can be managed by a cross-functional Tag Team. 

As you examine the hotspots, you need to perform root-cause analyses to ensure you’re not working on mere symptoms. Remember that high-effort experiences often begin WAAY upstream. 

One company was experiencing 33% annual customer churn. Interviews with customers, sales, and customer care showed that the problem wasn’t about poor customer rescue and retention processes in customer care. Instead, the churn problem began in marketing and sales an entire year before the customers churned. 

The sales team was selling very complex network hardware to companies that didn’t have sophisticated IT staff. Product complexity quickly overwhelmed inexperienced IT staff. 

The short-term answer was to help marketing and sales target and qualify companies with more mature IT organizations. The longer-term answer was to create a more intuitive and automated product interface that didn’t require such in-depth training and experience in network traffic analysis.

Similarly, another company was experiencing huge spikes in call center volume. Analysis indicated these spikes always occurred within 5 days of mailing monthly billing statements. The overall hotspot goal was to decrease the spikes and overall call center traffic by 10%. 

The most successful initiative was to change monthly billing statements to include ONLY inserts and language relevant to customer recipients, rather than inserts and disclaimers for ALL states in which the company did business. 

Engage Process Owners and Customers

As you seek the root cause, it is especially helpful to engage process owners, front-line employees who feel the pain that customers do, and especially customers. The more you can engage customers to help diagnose and treat your hotspots, the closer you’ll be to solutions that truly benefit customers.

Be specific in enumerating how you will engage employees AND customers in defining, developing, and proving the initiative.

Define Impact Statements

For each initiative, be specific in describing: 

  1. Impact of the initiative on customers
  2. Impact on employees
  3. Impact on company
  4. Ease of deployment
  5. Measures of success

Set Reasonable Goals and Timeframes

We recommend no more than 5-10 big initiatives to be pursued at a time. Any more than this and you end up stretching your precious resources too thin and you risk taking too long to demonstrate results. 

You should ideally structure your initiative so your teams can complete it within one quarter. This helps you create a sense of urgency and build powerful momentum. On rare occasions, an initiative might span two quarters. 

Build the Project Plan

Once you have the initiative defined and scoped, it is time to create an action plan that will guide the implementation going forward.

The action plan needs to include a list of key actions to be taken, person(s) responsible, and completion deadline. 

Outline the Change Management Imperatives

This is also the time to consider critical success factors for change management:

  1. Who is the executive sponsor? 
  2. What are the risks? 
  3. Who is potentially an obstacle to the successful completion of this initiative? 
  4. What other resources might be necessary? Are there capabilities we don’t have and need to rent, buy, or build?
  5. How will customers be engaged? Employees?

Create the Scorecard

It is very important to create a scorecard for this action plan. How will this action plan contribute to the overall Hotspot outcomes and success criteria? What does success look like? 

How will customers be involved in evaluating success? Will you call them? Survey them? Involve them in the analysis, development, and testing? How will this initiative contribute to your overall Ease of Doing Business score or your customer effort score? 

Finalize the Business Case

Before wrapping up, we need to revisit and finalize the business case and ROI estimates. What are the costs that might be incurred as you execute the action plan? Consider both hard cost investments and soft-costs in terms of people-time for those working on the project.

Validate the Action Plan

Before we can consider the action plans set in stone, you need to validate the plans with executives, process owners, and especially, customers. 

Customers can be particularly valuable not only in ensuring that the changes you plan to make solve actual problems but also in helping gain buy-in from the organization. 


While it does take some time and effort to develop a well-conceived strategic plan, preparing with this level of detail is the most effective way to convince the CEO and CFO to support and fund your customer initiatives. This level of detail is incredibly valuable when cross-functional teams grow beyond your immediate span of control and are empowered to execute without your involvement. And this rigor helps you measure your outcomes so you can prove ROI to your CEO and improved Ease of Doing Business for your customers. 

If you haven’t already, check out the  Ease of Doing Business Accelerator . It is a very intensive 1.5 day workshop that helps you and your team discover hotspots and translate them into action plans in which you can get your CEO to invest. We’d love to have you join us in either a public version or one private to YOUR company. 

Curtis Bingham

Jeb Dasteel (former CCO, Oracle)

View Curtis Bingham's profile on LinkedIn


Categories: Customer Effort | Customer Engagement | Ease of Doing Business