Tag Archives: Customer Experience

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.

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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

    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…

    How to Build Innovative, Next-Generation Products Before Anyone Else Does

    Avanade_CustomerJourney_graphic

    Put yourself entirely into the mind of a consumer (except slightly in the future):

    • How they will think.
    • How they will feel.
    • What your business will look like from their POV.
    • How your product will seem from their POV.
    • What they truly desire.
    • What would make their life easier, simpler, or more enjoyable?

    Completely “become the customer” in your mind. Forget about reports, stocks, the shareholders, the technical limitations, and the cost. For a significant amount of time, try and see everything through their eyes, not through the experienced eyes of an experienced businessman.

    Try not to recognize the technical limitations taught to you in engineering school. After all, the customer doesn’t care about those things. They do not exist to a customer.

    BECOME THE CUSTOMER

    consumer

    “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology – not the other way around.”

    – Steve Jobs

    Imagine the product that would make your life easier, better, or more enjoyable in someway. Now take this imaginary device and try your best to explain it to your team. It’s at this point that you may realize certain “impossibilities” of the product you’ve imagined. You may realize at this point that the technology needed to build this product is a decade away, or is still in the experimental phase.

    START BUILDING THAT PRODUCT, REGARDLESS

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    “You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.”

    – Steve Jobs

    Then, you simply build the product that you wanted, with all hands-on-deck to push along the development of any aspect of it that is not yet possible. Double the R&D funds to that department, if necessary. They key is to build the product that you imagined, and to do it faster than originally seemed possible.

    You imagine first, then you make it possible.

    “In the end, for something this complicated, it’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

    – Steve Jobs

    That is how you disruptively innovate an entire culture with a single product. By doing so, you get to the prize (the fully developed product) several years before your nearest competitor. Everything they do will be a rip-off of your invention, or a counter-move to catch up.

    The Future of Business

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    Most business experts agree on the importance of the customer’s insight, especially as technology makes it easier for them to communicate with one another via social networks, texting, and ratings websites.

    The most popular solution:

    Implementation of a CCO

    The CEO empowers a Chief Customer Officer (CCO), responsible for ensuring quality of the entire customer experience (the relationship a customer has with a business at every touch point, from advertising all the way through buying and using the product or service). According to these experts, the CCO should be strongly backed by the CEO. This is because some of what the CCO may have to say is contrary to what other board members want to hear, but it needs to be said. It is the voice of the customer.

    Personally, I believe in a completely different strategy to ensure incredible customer experiences:

    Transformation of the CEO to a CCO

    The CEO serves as the “customer with a big imagination.” He remains ignorant to the “technical aspects” of the business, purposefully, to keep him blind to what’s possible and stay focused on what should be.

    The customer does not care about “what’s possible.” The customer also does not care about cost-cutting, technical limitations, or mistakes in development. It is department head’s responsibility to constantly innovate and improve to turn the “dream” into a reality. This philosophy was made popular by Steve Jobs, named “the reality distortion field.”

    • The COO interprets the wild ideas of the CEO, turning them into possible, executable steps and delegates them to the various departments. In a sense, the COO “runs” the company, inspired by the CEO.
    • The various departments stay in touch with visits from the CEO, who maintains and inspires the overall vision.
    • The various departments may run into difficulties executing certain aspects, at which time the CEO will serve as a “problem solver” to seek creative solutions to their deadlocks.
    • The CEO also motivates the departments with his passion for the vision, his viewpoint as an average customer, and his unwillingness to accept excuses as an answer. There is always a workaround.
    • The concept flows from dream, to pattern, to design, to strategy, to process, creating a more refined product as it reaches each level.
    • The last level is the outlook, at which point the CEO will see, touch, and feel the product that will hit consumers (as a customer). He will be able to see how the finished product matches up to the original vision… In some cases, it will be an improvement. In some cases, it will be inferior and sent back to a certain, earlier stage in development.

    As a “customer,” anything less than a “wow” at this stage, from the CEO, is unacceptable.

    After the product release, results from numbers compare with steps in the development. Steps in the development can be refined for further enhancement of future products released.

    Why Should the CEO be the CCO?

    What shows that customer experience and satisfaction comes first more than by making the top-ranking official responsible for it? I’m not just talking about publicity here, I’m also talking about the message sent to the entire company, internally. Why should a CCO have to be so heavily backed by the CEO to clarify the message of how important customer experience really is?

    With the CEO responsible for customer experience, it shows an undeniable devotion to the overall satisfaction of the customer; and that message is coming from the top. The CEO being ignorant to certain knowledge allows his imagination and his desire to build the ideal product unstinted by technical limitations. This is not dissimilar from how Apple ran during its most creative period.

    Steve Jobs was a visionary who dreamt up products that customers would want and pushed the individual departments to innovate and improve  to create that vision. He had minimal to no technical skills by the time he was the great innovator we think of him as. Too often, CEO’s become too far removed from what customers want and rely too heavily on metrics and costs, when they need to put themselves in the shoes of the customer.

    This strategy requires a different style of CEO than is typically recruited to run multimillion dollar companies, but it is a more effective, long-term strategy to make sure that there is constant innovation and excellent experiences. Since the CEO is ignorant to certain aspects of the details, it also requires that he be surrounded by a strong team that make up for his weaknesses, to allow his strengths to shine. If it is a “Steve Jobs” visionary-type CEO, then it’s prudent to surround himself with very detail-oriented people.

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