Tag Archives: Business

Haters Hate, Creators Create

Haters, haters, haters: they will always keep on hating,
So, give exactly zero fucks to what they say, and keep creating.
Dream so big and weird, that everyone will think you’re “nuts,”
Then, laugh until it makes you cry, while counting up your bucks.

Enjoy what you have earned… After all, you do deserve it,
But don’t forget the little guy who’s thinking he’s not worth it.
For some reason, he didn’t walk the “recommended” path,
Plus, Life’s a ‘number’s game;’ he just got left out in the math.

A day, not long ago, that lonely lunatic was you!
Remember how it felt thinking there’s nothing you could do?
You’ve finally made it to the promised land, why ever leave?
The goal was never wealth, but getting hopeless to believe.

  • Not Chris Hoeller

How to Design the Workplace to Increase Effectiveness and Retain Top Talent

Experience Designing the Workplace

A hot topic in modern business, Customer Experience has an equally important cousin: Employee Experience.

What is Employee Experience?

Employee experience is using a blend of psychology, personality types, observable behavior, interests, mental and physical ability, styles of learning, game theory, and gamification to create a custom tailored workplace.

Everything that can be customized to increase a person or group’s effectiveness will be customized.

Quantified Self:

Collecting a person’s blend of individual personality type, observable behavior, interests, preferred style of learning, mental abilities, physical abilities, and experiences is essentially used to create their Quantified Self. This is a new concept called Humanistic Intelligence.

All of these factors are collected by certain tests, mixed with monitoring a person’s activities through the technology they use, along with wearable monitoring devices (to capture things that cannot easily be observed, such as mental or physical stress.

The Layout of the Workplace:

 

Inspired by Pixar, the entire floor plan of the office is specifically designed to promote accidental, spontaneous collaboration and maximize creativity. However, this takes it one step further, because instead of using rules-of-thumb about human psychology to create the environment, the quantified selves of the actual employees customize what can be customized.

The Software and Equipment Used to Perform the Job:

All the software programs are customized, so that employees intuitively know and clearly understand what is expected of them. By completely “knowing” a person, everything that this person interacts with can be customized to enhance their effectiveness and quality of life.

What About Privacy?

This will be a controversial topic, as this can be seen as an invasion of privacy. In my opinion, it should remain a controversial topic, so that it is constantly being evaluated. This way, we can make sure that the ethics of how such data can be collected and for what purpose is under continual review.

Yes, there is the potential abuse of such data collection. However, that doesn’t mean that it should not be used. There is a chance that I’ll be killed in a car crash on the way to work. That doesn’t mean I should not use a car. However, it does mean that the safety of using automobiles should always be discussed, debated, and improved.

Ultimate Goal:

 

Essentially, the end goal is making people better at doing their job, while at the same time making it easier and more enjoyable. If done correctly, Employee Experience should be a win-win scenario for the business and the individual.

Making what the employees are supposed to do, what they want to do. Creating an environment custom-tailored to enhance both the effectiveness and enjoyment of the employee.

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.

20140509-075304.jpg

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

    20140509-075638.jpg
    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

    20140509-081105.jpg

    Advanced Leadership – The Disappearing Act

    As a manager first starting out, I learned an effective, easy method to increase staff productivity: “Managing by Walking Around.” While this is a great method to keep in your leadership utility belt, to evolve from manager to leader, it is necessary to mix in different tactics. First, I will explain “Managing by Walking Around,” and then I will describe its equally important counterpart: “Leading by Disappearing.”

    leadership

    Managing by Walking Around

    Most successful managers are either taught this method, or figure it out from common sense and observation, early on. It is extremely simple, effective, and easy to see immediate results by doing this.

    The principle is simple:

    • You are the boss.
    • Employees want the boss to think that they are doing a good job.
    • By you merely being present in front of employees, they will work harder.

    Simple enough, right? In the rare instance when a person does not want the boss to think that they are doing a good job, you should probably reconsider that individual’s employment status. It’s one issue if an employee does not do well, it’s an entirely different issue if an employee just does not care at all. This is all assuming that this is a decent place to work, has a successful culture, and that you are not a complete asshole…

    So, simply being visible to employees will improve productivity. However, the real benefit from this method is when you actually engage with the staff:

    • Ask them questions.
    • If you see any mistakes, this is a perfect opportunity to immediately correct.
    • If you see any positives, this is a perfect opportunity to praise an employee (remember: praise publicly, correct privately).
    • Use this time as a chance to reiterate the overall vision or important factors that affect the business.
    • Do role-play scenarios that challenge them by seeing how they would react to a variety of obstacles.
    • Teach, teach, teach! “This is what to do when x happens. This is why we do it like that.”

    By being present, you’ll make your staff more effective, but only for the duration of your presence. You cannot always be everywhere, which is why you engage with the staff during your “visits.” You encourage them, correct any errors, start having them buy-in to the vision, and prepare them for situations when you will not be available.

    It is necessary to engage with the staff in this way, in order for your staff to start wanting to do things the right way. Managers improve productivity by staying involved. Leaders improve productivity and develop staff by convincing them that the “right” way is best (regardless of if you are there or not).

    See the difference? A manager gets short-term results by successfully getting the team to be more effective, because the staff wants to do a good job. A leader gets long-term results by successfully getting the team to be more effective, because the staff wants to do the right thing. A leader’s role is to prepare the team for independence. A leader will create more leaders among the staff, by setting expectations, encouraging positive behavior, and most importantly making employees believe in what they are doing.

    Invisible_Man

    Leading by Disappearing

    Now that you are engaging, role-playing the unexpected, and instilling the vision to the staff on a regular basis, you are ready for some “advanced” methods. The “Disappearing Act” is one of my all time favorites. I have found it to be extremely effective in developing new leaders, as well as getting a reality check to just how effective your team really is.

    As I said, please do not attempt this until you are already doing those things above. Otherwise, you are only setting up your team for failure.

    It’s a bit more than just disappearing:

    • Be spontaneous.
    • Go out the front door… come back in the back door 15 minutes later.
    • Have a minimal schedule and don’t even follow it.
    • Call and say that you’ll be there in 45 minutes. Walk in the door 5 minutes later.
    • Show up 5 hours late for work.

    “That sounds like a terrible boss!” No. Remember that as a leader, you have a different role to play in the big scheme of things. Your “lack of reliability” is irrelevant, because it is not your job to make the staff better when you are there. It is your job to make the staff better all the time, regardless of who is in the building.

    By combining these two methods, you will slowly start to develop leaders out of the staff. You will see who takes responsibility and “keeps it going” in your absence. That’s what I would have done, when I was just starting out. That is the sign of a natural leader.

    You know that they aren’t just acting perfect when you are around and slacking off the rest of the time. If you do not believe that there are employees exactly like that, you are blinded to reality. What better way to test their credibility than by seeing how they act when you are not there.

    FYI: nothing destroys employee morale more than when one of these two-faced, suckups get wrongfully promoted. Plus, do you really want to promote someone like that?

    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

    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).

    google_plus_iphone_app

    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.

    fail

    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.

    blog-image-better-customer-service2

    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…