The Benefits of Promoting Curiosity in Children

From NPR’s KQED

Jamie Jirout was not the sort of student who simply took a textbook at its word. In her first semester of college, she asked her psychology professor if she could assist in the professor’s research. Jirout’s interest wasn’t fueled by the fact that she found the coursework convincing — quite the opposite.

“I’d read something in the textbook and then I’d think, that doesn’t really make sense with what I’ve seen, how do they know that?” she recalls. She wanted to reconcile that gap and so, threw herself into research.

Her quest for answers has propelled her career to the present day. Jirout is now an assistant professor of education at the University of Virginia, where one of her primary research interests is studying curiosity in the classroom.

That research is sorely needed. Despite the centrality of curiosity to all scientific endeavors, there’s a relative dearth of studies on the subject itself. Fortunately, scientists such as Jirout and others are actively unraveling this concept and, in the process, making a convincing case that we can and should teach young minds to embrace their inquisitive nature.

More here

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

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.