Tag Archives: Solutions

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

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Driverless Car of The Future

This rough concept, based on mixing driverless car technology, deeply embedded systems, and a radical design concept (that involves rotating front seats) shows what’s possible for the next generation of automobiles.

It’s pretty straightforward:

Driverless Car Technology

The car is completely driverless, using a mix of radar and GPS technology. This technology is already developed and is in the beta testing phase.

googlecar

Embedded Systems

The car has embedded systems (what some now refer to as “The Internet of Things;” They both mean the same thing). It is when technology is seamlessly integrated into everyday objects, so that what you end up with is basically everything being a part of the same massive, connected system. Things like refrigerators, tabletops, or walls are all a part of the system.

Smart_Kitchen

Everything becomes a device, integrating technology to enhance whatever the object is, and since it is all connected, the individual components can be monitored and controlled remotely. There is essentially no difference between your TV, your computer, your smart phone, your wearable technology, a wall on your house with a screen set into it, and eventually, even your (driverless) car.

The_Internet_of_Things

Google (and just about every major tech company) is working on ways to do this and bring prices down. This technology becoming the “mainstream” solution for average consumers will mark a revolutionary shift in the way we experience life.

If you are a Star Trek geek like me, think of on Star Trek: The Next Generation, where people on the ship would just say “computer,” no matter where they were, and could perform any function of the computer — right from that very spot. The computer, built into the ship, demonstrates embedded systems at partial capacity. That’s possible within a decade, if all the major players do their part.

Eventually, everything in society becomes connected. This creates an entirely new Minority Report society (with the good aspects, not the bad).

future-society-internet-of-things

Radical New Design of Automobiles

Combining driverless technology and the embedded systems, this creates options for automakers that were never conceived of. I’m not saying that this is the way all cars will be like in the future, I am merely suggesting one possibility:

The front seats of the car can rotate to face backwards. Obviously, this option has never been considered before, because now someone needs to be driving the car. However, since that will no longer be needed, it opens up a new option available in future automobiles, actually bringing families closer together.

With the front seats of the car rotated to face backwards, and the driving automatic, a central table or console could be used for various purposes:

For example:

  • A centrally located console could double as a table where the family eats lunch at, together.
  • The car drives itself: a legal wine tasting, anyone?
  • A dual-sided screen mounted there, where the family could watch a movie together.
  • The dual-sided screen could be synced up for displaying the same image on both sides for a movie or TV show that passengers want to watch together, or each side could be used independently.
  • The kids in the backseat are playing a video game, while a parent in the front seat uses their side of the screen to look up something on the Internet, or they work on a project that they would today use a laptop PC for (not if they were driving).

Driverless_car_of_the_future

FYI:  I am NOT an artist and this picture is an extremely rough drawing of the concept car. However, I think it gets the point across about what could be possible in cars soon. With a car like this, it won’t matter if the driver has wearable tech or not, since the car will be doing the driving.

The Future is Coming Soon

These technologies, individually, are in a mere testing and cost reduction phase, so it is not as if anything is that far off from happening. The technology needed for this radical design of a car is available now, it has just never been considered due to the current need for a driver to drive the vehicle. With the driver out of the equation, this concept and a variety of other radical concepts become a realistic possibility.

Technology Removes the Humanity from Society… and Then Brings it Back Better Than Ever

This example proves a major point that I have pushed for a while now that most people have a tough time believing:

For a time, technology will make society less social, individuals glued to their smartphones checking their Social Network updates or playing games. However, once we reach the next phase of technological innovation, we will be able to use technology to not only bring society back together, but enable us to do things together that were never imagined.

Automatic Technology

This is another concept that will evolve as a result of these devices having technology integrated into them. I call it automatic technology: a device’s ability to “know” where  you are and what you are doing, and it intuitively and automatically switches “command” over from one system to another.

Imagine:

  • You wake up, and check the built-in display in the wall for today’s weather.
  • Your refrigerator let’s you know that the milk you purchased on Tuesday is going to expire soon and automatically sends a reminder to the core system.
  • You grab your Google Glasses, which automatically power on upon being touched,  and shuts down the computer system being used on the wall.
  • As you are walking to your car, your brother calls you on your Google Glasses, and allows you to speak to him via earpiece.
  • Once you enter your car, the call automatically shifts to the car’s large screen for a face-to-face chat.
  • The gasses automatically power down to save battery life.
  • When you exit the vehicle, power is automatically restored to the glasses.
  • When you are driving home from work, a reminder pops up on the car’s display, when you pass by the grocery store, that you need to buy more milk.

Technology is a Tool: It Should Work for You, Not the Other Way Around

The examples and possibilities of this are endless. Everything made so that going through every aspect of life is incredibly intuitive, which will make the entire society more productive.

The Future is Closer Than We Think.

future_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…

Gifted Individuals Make a Significant Contribution to Innovation in Organizations

With their creative talents, gifted individuals can make a useful contribution to innovations within organizations. Highly gifted individuals possess many more creative possibilities than the average gifted person.

three-ring_model_of_giftedness

To make use of their innovative ideas and to implement them, however, an effective interaction between gifted individuals and their work environment is essential.

How do gifted individuals contribute to innovation?

GiftedThinking

  • The gifted individual can easily identify the relationships between goals, missions, and assignments.
  • The gifted individual has the ability to focus intensely on the content.
  • Arguments based on content are key.
  • Habits, traditions and social pressure are quickly spotted. If these seem to be in conflict with the content, they are discarded as being irrelevant.
  • Thinking ‘outside of the box’ is second nature to them.
  • Switching between one’s own professional area and other disciplines is no problem at all.
  • The opinion of a formal authority does not weigh any heavier than the opinion of another party.
  • Information from others is checked against one’s own experience or against other information.
  • The gifted individual has a high degree of commitment and passion.
  • Existing protocols, structures and approaches are only followed if they seem to be effective and are well-founded.
  • A customized solution is sought for each individual situation, often when this has not been requested. ‘Standard problems’ are also approached in this way.

Favorable environmental factors required for making use of these contributions are listed below. The favorable characteristics listed correspond strongly with the ‘task culture’ and ‘person culture,’ while the unfavorable characteristics correspond with the ‘role culture’ or ‘power culture’ from “Harrison’s typologies of organizational culture.

Favorable and Unfavorable Organizational Characteristics for the Gifted

Favorable organizational characteristics:

  • Flexibility.
  • Little hierarchy.
  • Few procedures (only if they are useful).
  • The development and needs of employees are of importance.
  • Room for productive conflicts.
  • Power and influence can be acquired through expertise, dedication and success (or, at most, through personality, ability and outstanding performances).

Unfavorable organizational characteristics:

  • Procedures determine the work.
  • Power and influence are predominantly dependent upon your position.
  • The development and needs of the employee are of little importance.
  • Conflicts are often avoided.

How can giftedness be recognized?

The-Gifted-People-How-Explained-Cursed-Smart-Brain-.jpg.opt640x480o0,0s640x480

If an employee arrives at your consulting room, how do you recognize the above-mentioned characteristics of giftedness?

  • Wide interest in all kinds of fields (curious and passionate).
  • Sensitive to, such as, noise at work (highly sensitive).
  • Can speak passionately about a subject that interests him or her, starts speaking more quickly, the eyes light up, makes agitated gestures (passionate).
  • Quick analyses of the work situation: ‘that’s how it works’ (highly intelligent).
  • Focussed primarily on the content of the work (highly intelligent).
  • Wants to work in his/her own way (autonomous).
  • Wants to see a lot of variety in the work (creation-directed).
  • Produces unorthodox solutions that are not generally accepted (sparkling original).

Focus points for the problem analysis

  • Gifted individuals suffer relatively often from stress and burnout. Factors that can be of influence here are the nature of the work (sufficient challenge), the degree of autonomy and the defining of borders. Gifted employees are especially passionate and have the tendency to insufficiently specify their own limits.
  • Bullying, or other forms of aggression: because a gifted individual does not fit the requirements of the ‘average’ employee. As a result, fear/anxiety disorders may arise.
  • Depressive feelings often start at an early age. Gifted individuals can therefore more easily feel lonely and isolated.
  • Fear of failure as a result of setting the bar high and the tendency to perfectionism.
  • The gifted individual can come across as having ADHD. The combination of giftedness and ADHD is not uncommon.
  • Gifted individuals have a high sensitivity for odors and sounds.
  • They more quickly experience certain circumstances as being a hindrance.

The Future of Business

20140108-184018.jpg

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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7 Ways to Spot Tomorrow’s Trends Today

BRAINS

In the more than 45 years since the World Future Society was founded, futurists have developed a range of techniques to study the future. Here are a few techniques futurists use to spot new opportunities and potential problems. These methods give individuals and organizations an edge to help them succeed in a fast-changing world:

Scan the Media to Identify Trends

Futurists often conduct ongoing and systematic surveys of news media and research institutes. These surveys help spot significant trends and technology breakthroughs.

Analyze and Extrapolate Trends

After the trends are identified, the next step is to plot the trends to show their direction and development into the future. Trend analysis and extrapolation can show the nature, causes, speed, and potential impacts of trends.

Develop Scenarios

Futurists often describe the future development of a trend, a strategy, or a wild-card event in story form. These scenarios can paint a vivid picture that can help you visualize possible future developments and show how you can prepare effectively for future risks and opportunities. Scenarios help you to blend what you know about the future with imagination about the uncertain. Scenarios help you move from dreaming to planning and then to accomplishment.

Ask Groups of Experts

Futurists also conduct “Delphi Polls” which are carefully structured surveys of experts. Polling a wide range of experts in a given field can yield accurate forecasts and suggestions for action.

Use Computer Modeling

Futurists often use computer models to simulate the behavior of a complex system under a variety of conditions. For example, a model of the U.S. economy might show the effects of a 10 percent increase or decrease in taxes.

Explore Possibilities with Simulations

Futurists create simulations of real-world situations by means of humans playing different roles. For example, in war games, generals test out tactics they may later use on the battlefield, or corporate executives can explore the possible results of competitive strategies.

Create the Vision

Futurists help organizations and individuals systematically develop visions of a desirable future. Visioning creates the big picture of possibilities and prepares the way for goal setting and planning.

Google Glass and Wearable Tech

Alternatives to Glass

These products are significantly cheaper, but lack the functionality of Google Glass. However, I’m certain that shortly after Google publicly launches Glass, there will be serious competitors.

Just think:

image

  • Who made the first smartphone? Are they still relevant today?
  • Apple almost went out of business and became all but obsolete, until their “restart.” Now, they make the most successful phone on the planet. I’m a Google fan to the core, but there’s no denying the technological, not to mention societal impact that the iPhone had.

Google is on the Right Path

I am critical of them because they are the best, and I want to see them continue to do be the best. What they are doing right is taking a risk on developing a device that has a major issue of not knowing whether the customers will actually want it.

That’s called innovation at its finest:

  • Great companies make products that are currently in high consumer demand.
  • Legendary companies make products that will eventually be in high demand, and they get a head start on it. These are the companies that change the world.

The issues about customers wanting to wear them will be fixed by:

  • Improvements to the style of the glasses.
  • Time passing as millennials will become the predominant buying force (Millennials like to have a unique style and show that their hip. Remember geeks are the new jocks).
  • Prices of the Glasses will gradually go down, as they develop more efficient & cost effective ways to manufacture them.
  • Most importantly of all the factors, is the “bandwagon effect.” It’s happened every time an innovative device comes out and Google Glass will perhaps be the biggest one in history, due to advertising, TV, social media, and the fact that they make a huge visual impact.

At first, this works against the product, because nobody wants to be the odd man out. As Google Glass becomes relatively commonplace, those same people that didn’t want to stand out still won’t want to.

So, they finally give it a try:

“Oh, this is actually pretty neat.”

Yes, we know…