Category Archives: Customer Experience

How Technology could Cause an Instant Global Awakening

Imagine technology that enabled 2 people’s brains to momentarily sync.

In in instant, both people would immediately not just know every thought and action each other has ever had. They would actually have experienced it (as far as they know).

Now, imagine that same technology scaled large enough to “sync” every single person on the planet, for 60 seconds.

Instant Global Awakening.

For geeks, think of:

  • Telepathy (aka Professor X).
  • Vulcan Mind Meld.

It’s the same thing, but instead of cool but impossible magic powers (Trust me that would be “Plan A,” but my extensive research of trying to grab the remote control using “The Force,” isn’t looking very promising at the moment.

However, we can invent… and as impossible as this idea sounds, it could be done, with immense R&D, a bottomless pit of money, and a lifetime.

Most (or all) of the people starting the project would never live to see the result, but it would give your life purpose. We’d be building heaven, but never get to go…

What about our kids?

…and theirs?

Randomly thought of that… the same effect is happening with the gradual extinction of privacy, and our ability to instantly communicate.

It’d still be faster, but then you run into:

Is it wrong to force everyone to do something once, if it means putting an end to so much pain? Who gets to make that decision?

Think.
Have Ideas.
Be Wrong.

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Business from the Future – Eliminating the Sales Department

I Despise Most Traditional “Sales” Methods…

It’s because I think too much like a customer. Even when when I’m working for the company in question, I purposefully maintain the delusion of merely being a regular customer.

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I pretend to be the customer, so that I am completely fair, honest, and effective at enhancing products and services.

I don’t have the cognitive biases associating with being an employee.

It’s not in my best interest that a product is perfect, so I can clearly point out weaknesses:

  • I haven’t invested a year of my life creating a product I conceived of.
  • I haven’t spent millions of dollars building it.
  • I am not a fanboi.
  • I don’t subconsciously invent excuses.
  • I don’t like going through the experience of some random person making me feel pressured.
  • I certainly don’t care what his personal opinion of which product is better, since I’ve already spent 3 hours online “being Colombo” about all the potential options.
  • My mind is 90% – 97% made up, before I take a single step into the store.
  • Replace Salesmen with Consultants or Advisors

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    Customers certainly don’t want to feel pressured. Hold up, though, that doesn’t mean to eliminate the staff:

    Instead of salesmen (whose primary objective is selling a product), employees will be helpful consultants (whose primary objective is to ensure that the customer has the best experience possible, even if it means losing a sale):

  • To ensure that the customer fully understands the product.
  • To answer any of their questions.
  • To help them make decisions.
  • To ensure that every customer connects with a product that will enhance their lives in some way.
  • Chris Hoeller

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    The Rule of Thirds

    I know that I have high expectations compared to the “average consumer,” but that’s because I don’t tolerate excuses.

    I know that a high level of customer experience can be achieved, every time, if the focus is put in the right places. The area, where focus is most often currently placed — profit — will take care of itself, if the customer experience is taken care of.

    This is one of the reasons why I feel that I am more capable, beyond my years of experience, to run a company is because I my “big picture” focus is where companies need to be placing their effort. Effort should be placed equally in three areas of the business:

    The Rule of Thirds

    • 1/3 on maintaining an excellent product quality.
    • 1/3 on amazing and memorable customer experiences.
    • 1/3 on constant innovation (thinking of ways to improve).

    Rule of Thirds

    If effort is placed equally on these three areas, businesses will result both in fantastic short-term success, but more importantly long-term customer loyalty and retention.

    For those who feel that customer retention plays a relatively minor role in helping a company grow a healthy bottom line, here are a few statistics you might be interested in:

    According to Bain and Co., a 5% increase in customer retention can increase a company’s profitability by 75%. 

    And if those numbers don’t impress you, Gartner Group statistics tell us that 80% of your company’s future revenue will come from just 20% of your existing customers. 

    Still not sold on customer retention? One final statistic provided by Lee Resource Inc. should give you plenty to think about:

    Attracting new customers will cost your company 5 times more than keeping an existing customer.

    – Forbes.com

    Branding is From the Inside Out

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    What you portray as the external image of your business is no longer a planned: “this is how we want to appear to the outside world,” but rather a transparent view into the internal workings of your company.

      Branding is your culture.
      Branding is your employee relations.
      Branding is your procedures and systems.
      Branding is your recruitment and hiring practices.
      Branding is your product.
      Branding is your customer service.

    Branding is the vision, the strategy, and the people who carry it out.

    Branding is your design scheme, colors, and logo.

    Branding is how it all looks, feels, and fits together.

    Branding is WHO YOU ARE.

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    Are you paying attention, now?

    Your customers are: every instance of your existence.

    Your employees are: oh, did you think that branding was just for the “outside world?”

      Employee morale and engagement hinges on your credibility. If as a company you act like a hypocrite, then that is the bar you’ve set for your employees (or internal customers).

    The world is too connected and moves too quickly to “do what you do” and then “prepare how you seem.”

    Now, you have to “do as you seem.

    Every action.
    Every day.
    From the inside out.

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    As We Move to a Truly “Connected World…”

    What do you believe will be the most effective way for a user to identify themselves, as they move from one system to another?

    • An actual device — something like a watch?
    • Fingerprint ID?
    • Facial recognition?
    • Implanted RFID tag?
    • Something completely different?

    All of the methods have plusses and minuses when it comes to enabling a user to be able to get access to their stuff, as themselves, from any system outside of the one in your home or car (or even to identify you in your home or car, versus another member of the family, or an imposter!).

    Moving forward into a truly “connected world,” privacy is one of those things that will always be an issue, but will never truly be solved. Something that we always have to take seriously, by attempting to prevent unethical invasions of privacy, but will never end.

    In order for a “connected world” to be truly intuitive and user-friendly, some privacy must be sacrificed to enable customized experiences to be created for the customer.

    It All Starts With the Customer…

    I started a huge focus on “Customer Experience” about 3 years ago, when I started looking for a new career path. I foresaw “Customer Experience” becoming the main focus of modern business (and also my way of getting into the tech industry).

    I didn’t have tech industry experience, but I did have a decade of leadership experience in customer-centric environments, mostly in restaurants. In restaurants, the customer experience happens quickly, which mirrors how almost every business operates now that we live in a “connected world.”

    • A customer reads an advertisement
    • Calls on the phone
    • Visits the host stand
    • Gets walked to the table
    • Gets taken care of by the waiter
    • Drinks are made by the bar
    • Food is made by the kitchen
    • Cleanliness is maintained by the bussers

    Every single one of those separate interactions serve as “touch points” where a customer interacts with the business. So, these departments must not be managed individually, but looked at as equally important aspects of a customer’s journey.

    If you drop the ball in any of the areas, the customer experience is bad, resulting in an eventual decline of sales. In the “connected world” that we now live in, every single business now has to take this “customer experience” methodology into account:

    • An advertisement that a user clicks on
    • The look, feel, and user-friendliness of the website.
    • All social media engagement.
    • Signing up for a service or buying a product.
    • The quality of the product or service.
    • Any support that a user needs or questions they may have.
    • Any problem that may arise and how it’s dealt with.

    All of them are “touch points,” just like in a restaurant. Every single interaction that a customer has with any area of a business contributes to their overall experience. If any of these areas fail to impress the customer, sales will eventually go down.

    Online Business’s Customer Experience:

    Online Customer Experience

    Everything now runs like a restaurant, with multiple areas of specialty converging simultaneously on the customer. Businesses can no longer be managed separately in compartments. Leaders in a business must be cross-functional, look at the big picture, and take into account how each department affects one another and what impact they have on customer experience.

    Everything is a Touchpoint:

    All the Possible Touch Points of Customer Experience
    Department heads can’t just be grouped together once in a while during a staff meeting, either; There needs to be leaders who always look at the individual departments as pieces of a whole.

    This means that leaders in a “connected world” should not be extremely specialized in one function, but instead be adaptive generalists who can just as easily talk with developers, designers, engineers, customer support staff, business strategists, marketing specialists, salesmen, or executives.

    Generic Customer Experience

    More than that, they must be able to communicate the “big picture” to each department in a way that it can identify with. Leaders must inspire the big, shared vision of excellent customer experiences to every employee.

    “What we need to do is learn to work in the system, by which I mean that everybody, every team, every platform, every division, every component is there not for competitive profit or recognition, but for contribution to the system as a whole on a win-win basis.”

    – W. Edwards Deming

    The Connected World

    As society continues to evolve, due to connectivity, businesses must also evolve. This may mean changing the organizational structure or looking for leaders with a different set of skills than what has worked in the past.

    Connectivity can be good or bad. While people are waiting a long time or receiving bad service, they are equipped with smartphones and can post/ tweet/ text/ etc. their experiences in real-time to hundreds of their connections. Twice as many people talk about bad experiences than good ones, too. However, having a good experience is rewarded with repeat business and referrals.

    One thing that is becoming more apparent to those in the tech industry (as well as other industries, such as medical) is the focus on providing exceptional customer experiences. Looking at each and every touchpoint a customer has with a business as one aspect of the customer’s journey. This means breaking down the walls that separate departments and seeing the big picture.

    Medical Customer Experience:

    Medical Visit Customer Experience

    Where was “Customer Experience” a primary focus long before it became a buzzword?

    Restaurants.

    When managing a high volume restaurant, the lead manager must work together with every department, in real time, to ensure a positive experience for the customer (despite the fact that each department operates fundamentally different). A great restaurant manager must be in constant communication with all departments, despite their differences, to achieve the shared goal of excellent customer experience.

    The tech (and every) industry needs those same type of leaders: Someone who floats effortlessly from designers, developers, engineers, marketers, business strategists, and salesman. Someone who can speak the language of each department and inspire the same shared vision: excellent customer experience.

    Generic Customer Experiences - Exceptional vs Good

    If even one of the departments fail to share the vision, that customer may be lost forever to the competition. In the “connected world” that we live in today, it probably also means the loss of several other customers and tarnishing of the brand name.

    Customer Experience - Companies Can No Longer Hide in a Connected World

    Why Can’t a Tech Giant like Google Have Amazing Customer Experience?

    Is a company like Google too large to make huge impacts on their customer service? I don’t think so…

    Now, to be fair, when I complained that the iPhone App for Google+was no longer working, I did get a comment from +Vic Gundotra, who “plus-mentioned” someone else (I’m assuming the person responsible for the Google+ App for iPhone).

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    The iPhone App has yet to be fixed, but I give Google major points that the person in charge of Google+ actually read my post and passed on the information to someone who may actually be able to do something about it…

    I sent +Vic Gundotra  a private message about this, thanking him and offering up a suggestion, but I don’t know if he read it or not (he never responded, but he is a busy man), but it’s not private information. It is a deeply held belief of mine, so I don’t mind sharing my advice on this post…

    Companies Make Mistakes

    Shit happens. From my many years managing in the restaurant industry, I learned that no matter how “tight of a ship” you run, occasionally the ball is going to get dropped. At my restaurant, it might be a spilled drink tray or an undercooked piece of meat. For Google+, it may be the iPhone App breaking or various other bugs that occur from time to time.

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    The two are actually a lot more similar than a lot of people realize (running a restaurant or running a billion dollar tech company). Both occur in real-time, right in front of the customer. There is no “down time” during the operating hours of a restaurant, just as there is no “down time” during the running of a social network. They can’t just magically fix all the mistakes while things are shut down and reopen the next day fresh.

    They have to stay running on all other fronts, in addition to fixing whatever went wrong. A restaurant has to continue serving all of its other patrons, and a social network has to keep functioning for all of its other users, while the problem gets fixed in the background (at the same time).

    Initiating a Moment of Truth

    This is what I used to call it when something bad happened at the restaurant. It is not a ‘problem’… it is a ‘challenge’ that gives the business an opportunity to show what they are really made of. As I said, initially, companies make mistakes (even the best companies). How the mistake is handled is what separates the weak companies from the strong companies.

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    The “problem” that occurred is an opportunity for the business to:

    1. Apologize for the mistake.
    2. Let the guest/user know that a solution is being worked on.
    3. Fix the problem (get the right food out or work out the kinks in the Google+ iPhone App).
    4. Make it up to customer/user (with restaurants, I would comp a guest’s meal, but with a social network they may need to think outside-the-box on this step).

    I was the only one that I know of that complained, but I’m sure the bug in the iPhone App affected all Google+‘s iPhone users. To make up for the iPhone App being unusable for multiple weeks, perhaps on the next App update, they could include an extra feature that is iPhone-exclusive.

    So, a way +Google+ could “initiate a moment of truth” would be:

    • issuing an official statement that explains the error
    • that they fixed it.
    • they are including an extra special feature in the next update to make up for it.

    Another way Google+ could initiate a moment of truth would be:

    • issuing an official statement.
    • that they fixed it.
    • maybe offer a couple free songs from Google Music (a way to apologize, and secretly convert iTunes users over to using Google Music).

    The fact that +Vic Gundotra  took notice of my post at all was huge for such a large company like Google… and I can infer from his plus-mentioning of someone else that it’s being taken seriously. However, Google could take it to the next level of customer experience by doing something like the examples I’ve listed above.

    I know that it is such a large-scale user base that the individual can get lost in the shuffle, but I don’t think the solutions I’ve suggested above are unreasonable for Google to do, and it would set them apart from the other technology companies by actually taking the user’s discomfort seriously, showing that they empathize with them, and making an effort to do something to make up for it.

    That’s what would push them into an exceptional customer experience level, like what you would expect at one of the Disney Parks. The “word of mouth” alone from doing something so positive would spread like wildfire on the net: “Even Tech Giant Google Cares About Their Users, Whether They Use Their Branded Smartphones or Someone Else’s.”

    customer_experience

    You couldn’t beat that. Just a suggestion…