How to Make a Big CX Impact for a Small Investment

“Ok, then we can make a man-deal,” Peter said smiling broadly with his meaty hand outstretched to me.

I had closed a deal with an intimating large Russian man on my home in Southern California. Upon finding an issue with the water heater, I promised to replace it quickly after close without going through all the paperwork again.

“Sure Peter, no problem,” I said and shook his hand.

Every day large transactions are made on the basis of trust. Trust is the basis of any human relationship and it is fragile, especially in the infancy of the relationship.

Peter took a chance and trusted me.

I came through on my “man-deal” and to ensure a smooth finish on this short relationship, I decided to make a small investment.

After tending to the water heater, the last thing I left in the modest house in the middle of a hardwood floor was a single bottle of mid-range priced Champagne.

It was a small token of my gratitude and an expense that helped mitigate any further issues in the transaction. The effect was stunning. Peter seemed more excited by this double-digit investment, then the six-digit investment he made in my house.

It’s the Little Things

Small gestures go a long way in getting relationships off to a good start. Organizations good at customer experience recognize that the “dating” part of the journey is the most precarious and invest accordingly. You don’t want to squander your large investment in sales and marketing in on-boarding a customer just to lose them in the first cycle. Here are some ideas for your organization that are cheap and effective.

Acknowledgement

Cameron Smith, a very successful recruiter who counts as his client the top CPG and retailers in the world, prides himself on personally responding to every single email he receives from a job seeker. This seems trivial, but Cam has about a dozen or more folks working for him, so I have to believe his inbox must overflow daily. Cam is very established and, at this point in his career, has no downside to not responding to some college grad looking for his first gig. Nonetheless, he responds to every email consistently. This little token goes a long way in building empathy and trust and Cam’s enviable social network.  We can learn from guy like Cam. Take a minute and get back to folks whether an applicant, a client, or prospect. It is a simple way to build trust and long term relationships.

 The Letter

How you respond also can have a very big impact. I recently received a hand written thank-you letter for a bit of pro bono work I did. It made my day and I told many of my friends and colleagues about it. This special touch costs less than fifty cents and a few minutes and goes a long way in building relationships. It says, “you are not a number, you are special and I appreciate it.”

If your penmanship is horrid (like mine) there are other ways to add the personal touch beyond a hand written ‘thank you’. Before moving to Arkansas we purchased all of our furniture from a modern boutique store close by. The elderly hipster proprietor had an ancient Smith-Corona typewriter which he used to crank out thank you notes on parchment paper. Amongst the cacophony of inauthentic direct mail and flyers infesting my mailbox, it was great to get something as unique as a type written thank-you note on old school Frank Lloyd Wright inspired letter head. It probably took him just a few minutes a day and the pay off is intangible. It is craft. It is unique.

A Call

Follow-up calls are great. Really good automotive dealerships know this and make it a personal one from the salesperson. The use of “videograms” delivered to your inbox also make a big impact. This too, takes no more than a few minutes to do, and can go a long way in creating a lasting relationship. It is also an opportunity to uncover any problems or questions a customer might have.

Here’s a challenge if you are a big organization; once a year have every one of your employees call and thank three or four customers. This connects your employees with your customers and demonstrates that you are serious as a brand about customer experience. Customer experience is not the job of a person or department. Everyone should be involved.

Early Assistance

Ever buy a new gizmo and eagerly open it only to learn there are 23 steps to complete before you can use it?  That feeling sucks. To get mitigate this feeling and get customers off to a good start, many companies put customers into tiers, not according to their value, but how long they have been a customer. They invert the usual value curve, putting newcomers at the front. Software providers are particularly adroit in this strategy, labeling customers ‘freshman’, ‘sophomore’, and so forth according to how long they have been a customer. The reasoning is this; if we onboard people really well, they won’t leave. They know from journey mapping that switching costs are low early on and if they can get people into a nominal decision-making re-purchase mode the investment pays off handsomely.

Payroll provider ADP is particularly adept at this strategy. They manage to accomplish this personalized service at scale. As a customer, a dedicated representative helps you through the first few payroll cycles. Once things seem to be running smoothly you then have access to shared help desk. I have had to call a few times, and each time I get through and get the help I need quickly.

A Small Gift

Making a big purchase can be very stressful. You want to be assured you might the right call.   This is a big opportunity to make a small investment in assuring your customers they did the right thing. I chose a bottle of Champagne. Others chose items more consistent with their brand. A friend of mine related how motorcycle manufacturer Harley Davidson has a particularly good on-boarding package after his purchase. They sent him a scale model of the motorcycle he just bought along with a video, and official documentation about its origin and specifications. He quickly used these materials to create  a small shrine to this new Harley in his garage. On-boarding packages, whether for new clients or employees, mitigates any cognitive dissonance reassuring the person that they made the right choice and reinforces the brand.

Keep it Simple

Like any relationship, early impressions matter. Make sure you are making a positive first impression by making some small investments in recognizing and helping your customers early on. These small acts have a disproportional impact that you will continue to pay off far into the future.

The Secret to Finding True Customer Insight

“I guess we just made a big mistake,” Jonah said.

He looked directly at me for a moment and then downward at his wrinkled hands collecting his thoughts as the sun was setting, casting long shadows across the kitchen table.

His wife reached out and laid her hands protectively on his while Jonah looked me directly in the eye.  They both had something to say. The retired couple were visibly upset but were doing their best to keep their composure.

“We are of modest means,” he started.

As he began his tale I could see tears swelling in his partner’s eyes. Jonah was sitting broomstick straight stoic, his bubbling rage barely constrained behind his dark blue eyes. She sat silent, interjecting on occasion. They both had a message to send. I was to be their messenger. I was there to be their confessor and offer, perhaps, some small degree of absolution.

In this in-home interview, we weren’t talking about a loved one lost. We weren’t talking about a swindled retirement savings or some form of nefarious flim-flam that convinced Jonah and his wife to buy brackish real estate in Florida. We were discussing an automotive purchase, about which they now had very serious misgivings.

“We just believed in them…we feel so betrayed….” she said.

This was very real for them, and in their presence I felt their worry. I experienced their remorse. I felt their pain. I walked away from the interview moved, a bit sad and much wiser. What survey could have captured this?

An undergraduate professor I once had related how he couldn’t conduct surveys because he thought them impersonal and even insulting to participants. He judged them, on the whole, disrespectful and indignant. At the time I dismissed him as being an overly sensitive neo-hippy lacking monetary drive who should just go back to his yurt and carve a new bong out of reclaimed barn wood.

I have recently started to rethink my judgment of the good professor’s position.

Much of the research industry has long viewed the respondent as a commoditized, and largely free, raw ingredient in which to make insight sausages. The ideas being we could just zap enough people in a panel to fill our quotas and off we go. A filled quota is a filled quota after all.

As much as the thought of the mechanization of queuing people to answer your inquiries is appealing, I would encourage you to think about who exactly are taking these long boring surveys.

I have become deeply suspicious of some panels that prod their herds to complete some really poorly constructed “self service” surveys through incentives. Flat-liners, speeders, repeaters, and plain old cheaters are prevalent. There are even software programs that will cheat for you that are available for purchase. A.I. is let lose upon the untended yearning fields of uncompleted questionnaires to do what humans are loathe to do.

As a Professor at the University of Arkansas, I asked my students to describe what taking survey was like using only one word.

“Annoying” “boring” and “pointless” led the list.

In designing surveys, I encourage those same students to ask themselves “would I fill this out”? If not, you should think about a redesign…or different approach completely.

Surveys have their place. I don’t think they are going anywhere soon, but we should become much better at choosing our audiences and creating better and engaging designs.

Good data comes at a price. That price is investing the time to really care about what people have to say and listening in ways that they want to communicate. To not view them as the raw grist for the insight mill to process.

Every day millions of posts are made on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Much of this communication is the expression opinions about people, product, places, and things. Why do people share these things? Because they are provided a forum in which they feel heard. A forum, in which some small way, their voices matter. This empowers people.

So let’s not dump surveys altogether, but become more attuned to the people you are talking to. They are real people with real problems, fears, and dreams. Be with them as a partner and confident, not as some indifferent corporate scientist.

The key to gaining great insight can be found in respectful and careful listening. It is about engaging in deliberate empathy. This is where real insight is uncovered; the ability to see the world from the viewpoint of the people you are interested in understanding.

You will get so much more from this approach even in smaller sample sizes than some sterile panel survey that goes out to god knows who or what. Keep it real. Keep it human.

The fundamentals of consumer research are sound. Companies are still very interested in what their customers have to say. Customers are very interested in sharing their opinions and experiences.

The trick is to listen to your customers in a way they want to be heard. Let them know you care. Be their messenger. Respect them. And if possible, be their advocate.

The Future According to the EFM Giants

Over the last 30 years, CX has also seen radical change, bringing it far from its humble market research origins. To better understand this still nascent offshoot of market research, CuriosityCX, in collaboration with Michigan State University MMR program, interviewed a dozen prominent tech leaders in the CX space from ,Clarabridge, Market Force, Satmetrix, InMoment, Service Management Group, Customerville, Confirmit, Responsetek, MaritzCX, and Qualtrics.

Check out the complete article here co-authored by Michigan State University’s Brian Keehner.

 

Product Design is CX

Product design plays a huge role in creating a great customer experience.  While bad design is easy to spot, we often take for granted really great design in our every day world.  It’s not until someone turns what we take for granted on its head that we can appreciate great design of everyday objects.  That’s exactly what Katerina Kamprani did with her project entitled The Uncomfortable.  Trigger warning to those with OCD…this will drive you insane!

Grounded CX and the Tale of a Yoga Fail

As I stepped to the top of my yoga mat, the teacher instructed to ground into your feet and firmly place your palms on the mat. Take a standing split then rise slowly into a handstand. (Anyone who has practiced yoga understands the amount of strength required to execute a balanced handstand. If you aren’t familiar, just know it’s really freaking difficult).

Caught in the excitement of accepting this challenge, I clumsily dropped my hands to the ground, skipped the standing split and hurriedly leapt into what likely looked like a contorted pretzel of limbs flailing about, ending in a loud grunt and thud on the hardwood floor. For a quick visual, imagine something like this (sound on):

What started as an exciting vision of a graceful hand-standing yogi ended as a tweaked back and punished ego. I later realized that I likely had the strength required to raise into a handstand, but in order to execute properly, needed to focus on grounding into my mat, staying with my breath, and finding balance before jumping into the final pose.

Later, while immersed in my usual CuriosityCX advisory work, I began to draw the obvious connection between my failed handstand and CX programs that all too often skip grounding in the basics in pursuit of more complexity and excitement. Like my lack of focus in the basic exercise of grounding into the yoga mat, many CX teams lose sight of the basics of a program, leaving a shoddy foundation which eventually leads to a crash. Sound familiar? Then namaste with me and keep reading.  

Through my long CX journey, what is consistently missing in CX programs that are faltering is a practical guide to get people back to “why are we doing this?” – a nod to the basics and focus on grounding. Synthesizing a decade of experience working with diverse brands from startups to the Fortune 100, I share 3 grounding principles that must be executed before even one strand of CX DNA can be built:

  1. Get organized and align

Round up as many people (ideally those with authority) from different parts of your organization as possible – everyone (should) know they have a hand in CX impact, so cast a wide net and aim for diversity.

  • Don’t send a mass email asking for volunteers. Offer taking individuals for coffee or lunch to explain the high-level need and why you’d like them to have a seat at the table
  • The C-suite simply must sit on the committee to ensure CX success. In a perfect world, the President/CEO sits on this committee from day one. When this is unrealistic, go as high as you can in the organization and never stop pushing the envelope until executives are at the table

You’ll be tempted to recruit your close internal network and friends – this can be fatal for a CX team as it often leads to a herd mentality and lack of action. Instead, focus on recruiting people you don’t know, or even known “haters” of CX. It’s your job to help them understand the importance of delivering experiences to drive improvement, so keep them in your camp and include them in the process.

  • Define roles and goals – who is responsible for doing what and when? What are the resources for getting these things done on time? What is the committee’s 30/60/90 day plan? What about 12 months? 18 months?
  • Keep this high-level and strategic. Don’t get caught up in the weeds. The weeds will change depending on partner landscape (e.g. technology platform, consulting firm, market research, etc)
  • Align (at all levels) on the vision for the CX committee and goals therein

Once you’ve established your CX committee (what we CX strategists often call “governance structure”), you can begin to level-set on the actual experience your brand is trying to deliver. A surprising amount of companies (even among the largest in the world), have little to no consensus around their ideal customer experience. Consistency around the experience is a foundational element that is often overlooked.

2. Define the experience you are trying to deliver

This doesn’t have to be a fancy or lengthy process – some of the most engaging experience ideation sessions started and ended with sticky notes (and strong coffee). Don’t use lack of budget as an excuse. You CAN accomplish this on a pauper’s budget (Don’t let big market research firms dupe you into thinking otherwise). Some suggestions to get you started:

  • Spend a full day physically walking “in the customer’s shoes” (however that is defined in your business…you don’t have to have physical stores to have a journey)
  • Host a retreat (ideally in a quiet place…nature helps) to get the creative juices flowing and have a free-form ideation session
  • Follow up with an in-office strategy session once the ideas/free-form discussion has been synthesized into a tangible “map” of sorts that illustrates the ideal customer experience

Rapid journey mapping is an excellent and quick way to be successful in this exercise, but even some napkin drawings are better than nothing (and sticky notes are your friend). The goal is to ensure alignment relative to how the customer interacts with you, which will ultimately help you understand what to measure and frankly how to even begin (or refresh) your research. A few critical key things to map:

  • Moments of truth/ points in the experience that are most pivotal and memorable for customers?
  • Pain points of the experience?
  • During which parts of the experience are your competitors’ experiences recognized?
  • Opportunities to weave brand strategy, ideology, mindset into experiences throughout the entire journey, and beyond

The CX landscape shifts constantly and thus defining experiences is an iterative process. Engage in Agile CX™ and consistent experience design sessions periodically. Establish a cadence that makes sense for your unique business needs, and always keep a pulse on your customer by measuring the experience and taking action on customer feedback (don’t ask unless you intend to act).

Once you have a committee and well-articulated and agreed ideal experience, you will be tempted to build out a research plan, start writing questionnaires and rally teams to execute. I encourage you to push pause and stay focused on the basics before driving toward program evolution. The third and equally important grounding principle of CX is communicating the cause internally in a meaningful and engaging way.

3. Communicate and inspire internal teams

Effective, efficient and consistent communication is absolutely critical for CX success. A few ideas to support the effort:

  • Brand the program with laser focus on ensuring alignment with the overall core ideology of the organization
  • Ensure your marketing team is completely in tune with your vision, purposefully integrating CX language and images into as many pieces of internal content as possible
  • Integrate real customer stories into the internal communication by showing internal partners “in their own words” snippets – these can be open-ended comments, compilations from social media, videos, etc. Sky’s the limit. Get creative to drive engagement internally.
  • Let’s be honest – nobody gets excited about a 100-slide deck. The human attention span continues to wane, so don’t shove something akin to a graduate-level dissertation on colleagues’ desks. Use video to increase adoption. Not many people are inspired by emails, but a quick 1-min video explaining the branded CX program over lunch sounds more interesting.

Regardless of your place along the CX journey, re-rooting in these grounding principles can help your teams build a program with lasting impact. Just like a yoga handstand is only as successful as its basic grounded footwork, only when you are deeply rooted in these three CX principles should you begin to execute research, drive insight, and tell meaningful stories that impact your business for the better.

So ask yourself, are you grounded in CX, or has your program strayed from the righteous path? Have you lost connection and balance? It’s time to get to work focusing on the basics, centering your team, and driving a more foundationally sound CX practice. Let’s collaborate: kate@curiositycx.com

How to Keep Your Brand Human at Scale

“Heeeeey!!!”

“Dude, Dave shaved his beard!” Benji, shouted over his shoulder laughing.

His friends shook their heads smiling in the background.

“It was getting itchy,” I said.

“Duuuuude….you have to give it time,” he said smiling brightly, “the yuse?”

“Yup,” I said.

This wasn’t my co-worker. It wasn’t one of my students. Benji is the barista and all-around go-to guy at our local coffee drive-through 7Brew right here in hoppin’ Bentonville. He knows me, my wife, my kids, and even my dog.

With three locations and a fourth in the works, 7Brew founder Ron Crume had the customer at forefront in both interaction and the design of his locations when arrived here from Grants Pass, Oregon. “Drinks are a byproduct of what we sell, it’s all about the experience,” Crume shared.

Making sure he designed his locations to maximize human the interaction, there is plenty of glass used in construction, and a two-way traffic pattern with people approaching the drive-thru in both directions. Mobile order takers are out and about in all kinds of weather joking and talking with customers.

Beyond the physical and process aspects, are the people. 7Brew is quite particular who they hire. “We are very careful who we hire and want to ensure a good fit with the culture and with the team,” says Crume. Prospective employees are interviewed both by managers and the team to ensure that fit. They are looking for people who are good with people.

The crew at 7Brew are not locked into a narrow approach to customer service where they have to say some contrived tagline, are required to wear a certain amount of “flair”, or ensure they are hitting some kind of behavioral checklist. They are afforded the autonomy, within reason, to make the call for the customer. In short, they can be human. “Our goal is to change the world with one smile and act of kindness at a time,” Crume shared.

The Case for Certainty

However, a willy-nilly no-holds-bar approach to customer service can create chaos. If every barista decided how they wanted to make a mocha or deal with a distraught customer independently companies would quickly lose the ability to scale effectively. They would also lose the ability to deliver consistency, something customers absolutely hate.

As human beings we are evolutionarily hardwired to want to know what is around that next corner or over the hill. This need for knowing has been successfully translated in such psychologically fulfilling but otherwise useless tools such as the Domino’s Pizza Tracker. After all, the Pizza Tracker doesn’t help get your pizza there any faster, it just tells you when it will be there. Not too many people order a pizza and then slip out for a 1-hour jog. You order a pizza because you or your family is hungry.

At Curiosity we have found that consistent delivery even trumps an occasional good experience. There is ample evidence that people would rather have persistently mediocre or bad experiences than one that is good one time and bad the next..

So how do you overcome this chaos in customer service? Even a simple business model requires front-end training to be effective, but training is expensive and takes time. With front-line service workers and call center agents generally less educated and a higher turnover rate amongst this population, comprehensive training is difficult, but left untended creates huge variability in service.

The answer for many is to develop a standards program. Standards programs are where the organization a priori identifies behaviors and processes they want employees to follow and then enforce them through rewards and “incentives”. While we still must train, much of the grey area in service delivery can be simplified.

In using standards to develop a set of defined and simple to understand procedures and behaviors seem like a common solution. “Greet people with x minutes of arriving”, “Answer the phone within y rings”, “Keep on hold time below z minutes” are all laudable axioms and derived metrics to shoot for which are known to positively impact the customer experience.

If done well, those behavior standards are linked to explicitly customer expectation research. For example, we would know the relative impact of hold time going for 5 minutes to 10 minutes and the impact on business outcomes. This is knowable data and helps businesses optimize the cost-benefit equation.

Many businesses were able to rapidly expand their franchise and outlet models through rigid adherence to standards. Standards program were, and are, applied to even high involvement and complex interactions such as automotive sales and service, financial services, insurance, and wealth management.

In this setting the venerable “mystery shop’ is then many times used to assess behavioral and operational compliance. In the one-two punch of traditional CSAT system, direct customer feedback satisfaction is then used to evaluate the evaluative attitudes of customers. In this way we can understand and monitor if we are enforcing the right thing. “Is compliance related to the customer experience?’ and “Is the customer experience related to business outcomes?’ are both questions we can answer with a high degree of certainty.

As you can see in the very typical sample from The Performance Edge, mystery shops get to a very detailed level of behaviors. With a heritage from the world of I/O Psychology and Behavioral Anchored Rating scales (BARs), the intent is not to be overly prescriptive, but to very explicit as to what is the expectation is and what associates need to do to achieve.

df_restaurant_eval

This approach can be very effective, but frequently comes at a price. First, if done poorly it comes across very mechanistic to customers as if employees are “going through the motions’. We have all gotten the flat “I am so sorry sir/ma’am, but I can’t help you” response.

Second, research in psychology has shown that this approach can have the effect of decreasing the implicit motivation of doing good work by substituting an external motivation for implicit one. In this way, fun quickly turns to work for even the most spirited employees.

Finally, many front-line employees I talked to hate the experience. “I feel like I am being treated like a child…it’s ridiculous” one waitress at a local steakhouse told me.

Empowering With Purpose

So how do we minimize the chaos but maximize the humanness? Here are five proven approaches to balance humanness and still provide the consistency that the human species desires.

Robots to the Rescue!

Interestingly one solution can be found in technology. Perhaps we let the robots do the mechanistic jobs that require very specific behavioral parameter; answering within so many minutes, have a response time of y minutes, and so forth. Let make the robots the automatons like the good servants they should be. Let humans do what they are good at; being human.

Tear Down Unneeded Hierarchy

Second, you can dump the old school command and control hierarchy and empower your employees. My first job was with Carlisle Tire and Rubber implementing self-direct work teams in the production cells. It’s amazing what people will do when not treated as a child or cog in a machine…when they are respected and afforded the same freedom they enjoy in their work lives as they do in their personal lives. Sure, there has to be a “boss’ but does there have to be so many of them.

Also, empowerment isn’t just but blowing up the organization and letting people do whatever they want. Former submariner Captain David Marquet offers some excellent insights about how to empower employees effectively. In his article “6 Myths About Empowering Employees” he points out that empowering employees is not something you have to do, that they already are empowered, you just must allow them to do their jobs. However, you just don’t do it in a wanton fashion but ensure both the leadership and the employees have the competence to do so.

Obey the Spirit of the Law, Not the Letter

Third, you aren’t throwing process out the window. You are throwing needless and overly prescriptiveness processes out the window. The good folks at 7Brews have a way they take orders, they have a way they make coffee, and they have a way they take payment. It is clear, consistent, and simple. There is very little variability. However, there is room to test. In talking with the crew there, they seem encouraged to think about new ways of doing things and not just go through the motions. Micah Solomon describes how standards are viewed and used at the Four Seasons resort:

“Standards help ensure that every part of your service reflects the best way your company knows to perform it – a prescription that you autonomously performing employees can then feel free to adapt to suit the needed and wishes, expressed or unexpressed, of the customers they’re actually facing at the moment.”

Train and Inspire

Fourth, is an investment in training. Every great service organization I have encountered invests in and continuously train their employees, this includes 7Brew. The customer experience manager for the high end One and Only resort (of which there is ironically several) told me they conduct training quarterly to every month for all their employees. This training doesn’t necessarily need to be sitting down in the classroom but can be meetups for best practice sharing. It is a continued investment in the front line.

Also ensure you have the right reward and recognition in place to inspire folks. This doesn’t have to be money. Figure out what makes your workforce tick and use that to help motivate them.

Start with The Right Raw Material

Finally, and most importantly, it is getting the right talent for the job from the get-go. Some people do not belong in a customer facing role, just as some people do not belong conducting multi-nomial logit modeling. The right tool for the right job applies to human capital as well. This is well captured in Soar with Your Strengths by Don Clifton and Paula Nelson, where they encourage people to reinforce and chase after what they are good at, and stop worrying as much about what you are bad at.

Whether Benji and the crew at 7Brew in rural Arkansas were born as genuinely gregarious and happy people or learned it from their environment is a debate to be had in academia. In the world of great customer experience, you want these folks on the front line. You want them following processes that make sense but allow for autonomy and room for front-line innovation. Most of all you want to pick the right people for the job, training them, and then let them be them.

Matches, Dots, and Glasses: The Psychology of Problem Solving

The first step in solving any problem is getting a good handle on what the problem really is in the first place.  That’s harder than it sounds.

What gets in the way our ability to do this effectively is being blinded what is…versus what could be.  Our own world view gets in the way.

The way around this?  You must reframe the problem.  Diversity of perspective is a powerful approach to not being blinded by your own perspective.  Check out this great video by Edward O’Neill that illustrates this point.

Deliver Insights Hemingway Style

Blaise Pascal once said “I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had time to make it shorter .”  It is much harder to write something that is succinct than a long and rambling communiqué.

The same can be said for insights.  After all, as CX and insights professionals we are in the business of delivering and acting on information, not a slinger of unexamined data and tabs. I think more importantly though, we need to deliver insights that are persuasive, engaging, and catalysts for action. The most advanced and eloquent analysis is worthless if not communicated well.

Stacks of analytical output and spreadsheets can be impressive, but equally bewildering to the consumer of the information. What people want to hear is what has been learned and what should be done. We are bombarded by data everyday.

Our job is to sift through the deluge of data and turn it into information. However, you still often see to be the 80-page PowerPoint deck.  Thunk!

The logic being, surely we are not doing our job if we don’t display every aspect of an issue and show that we have done our homework by looking at every possible angle. The heft of the deck seems to fit the bill for some.

For most clients that is way off of the mark. Like good UX design, strip away everything that is not contributing or useful.  Executives want to know “what did you find and what should we do?” If you can explain that in five minutes in a persuasive way then you have done your job. That’s not easy though.

The Heath brothers have an excellent tutorial on how to get to the sticky ideas in Made to Stick and Jon Steel nails how to distill it down in Perfect Pitch. The hard work in delivering insights isn’t in data prep or even analysis…its extracting the story. It takes a lot of time and thought to get down to the essence and the implications.

The business of consumer insight isn’t 4th grade math where you have to show your work. We are hired because, ostensibly, because we know the craft. We don’t have to prove it by boring our audience with slide after slide of support. That is behind the curtain. The tables have been examined, the analyses have been run, the charts have been examined. This pre-presentation work has been done.

What now is required is to perfect the story. To distill down to the bare essence and find a parsimonious story that is compelling, entertaining, and persuasive. We are scientists. We are artists too. The effective ones are are also talented journalists and entertainers.