Where CX Initiatives Start…and End

It’s the New Year and with it there are many prognostications and predictions in the air. Likewise, there are many resolutions and promises that have been made. Whether it’s losing that extra 10 pounds (or more in my case) or finally getting after that [insert big life changing project here] after all those years, we get after it with a renewed sense of urgency.

As a testament to our new commitment we tell our friends and family about our new covenant. We buy a new weight scale, a new sports watch, or that new tool you really needed to do [insert big-life-changing-project here]. Those symbols further embolden us to travel down that trail of change. To do things differently.

But the wheel ruts of inertia can run very deep and its hard to pull out of old habits and much easier to slip into familiar patterns. Only about 9% of people actually end up keeping their new year’s resolution.


It is much the same when it comes to organizations trying to be more customer centric, the difference being is that it is hundreds or thousands of people who are faced with a new resolution rather than just one.

We have been looking at the problem of ‘customer satisfaction’ all wrong for years. We can study customers until we are blue in the face, it doesn’t matter if we aren’t willing or able to change the experience. That experience originates from within the organization and in order for that to change, the organization must first.

Unfortunately organizations, like individuals, do not like change and will continually drift back to their heritage comfort zone, whether that is great supply chain discpline, engineering, sales, R&D, or whatever made it successful in the first page. Change means uncertainty. Uncertainty is scary. Scary is bad.

You should celebrate and enshrine what has historically made your organization great. It is what made your customers fall in love with your brand in the first place. However, we cannot let that heritage shackle you to a past that is faltering in the present and will cast you into oblivion in the future. The fundamental secret in on getting a payoff on CX centricity lays in an organization’s willingness to do things fundamentally different.

No bones about it; change is painful. Reorganizations, reshuffling of resources, on boarding of new people, and exiting of some of the old. It is a scary, chaotic time, but without this kind of radical change, organizations not willing to invest in it, will sign their own death warrant. You have a choice though; you can choose to change or have it done to you.

How to get started?

First, it starts with the top. Many times it starts with the founder him/herself. Without the unequivocal support of the top, organizational change will fail. It’s that simple. Full stop as my UK friends like to say.

Second, it is a willingness for the organization to accept what they see in the mirror and be ready to make changes. This can rarely be done without an outside perspective. As passenger on airplane once said to me in a more difficult time of my life “you can not see the big picture if you are in it”. It is true. If you are embedded in the culture as a change agent you have two things working against you. First, you do not have the objectivity required to see the big picture and two, you are hopelessly politicized in the organization.  Home grown change agents can and do exist, but they need someone on the outside to help them demonstrate and legitimize the fact that not all babies are cute.

Third, start small and with easier wins. There are no ‘easy wins’ but if you can clearly demonstrate the advantage of taking on an experiential lens and demonstrate a ROI you can going to get more people on board…even those folks in finance.

Fourth, your sponsor (i.e., the aforementioned top dog) will need to make some tough calls and create a coalition of support. This may involve dissolving some long standing relations and engaging in new ones.  It is not enough to appoint a Chief Customer Officer or Chief Experience Officer and think for a minute that will change anything. This is an endemic cultural issue that needs to be tackled from all angles; people, rewards, process, communication, tools, information, and even products.  Those are the tools at your disposal.

Finally, you must tell people where you going, even if it is not completely clear to you. Without a goal, any goal, people will flounder even if they are highly motivated. As the story goes, sometimes any old map will do. You need a finish line, even if that finish will get moved. Never underestimate the power of clear, repeated, communication about where the organization is going and why…and stick with it!

“As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves.” – Gandhi

According to Ken Blanchard up to 70% of organizational change efforts fail today. Yet it can and has been done. Brands left for dead such as Apple, Converse, Old Spice, Lego, Land Rover, and others have picked themselves up and become wildly successful once again, mostly by paying attention to one thing; their customers. And that customer focus starts from within.

Blockchains, Burgers, and Blimps: The Convergence of Transportation, Retailing, and Software

It’s a foggy spring morning as a delivery truck silently pulls away from what was once a ‘mega center” supermarket on its way to deliver groceries and goods. The truck was loaded almost entirely by highly efficient robotic pickers inside the repurposed space. Pulling in and out of the warehouse docks are larger  autonomous trucks resupplying the warehouse using a networked multi-node block-chain approach to the supply chain management.

Pulling away for delivery on that infamous costly last mile you might notice something missing behind the steering wheel; a human being. This truck is an autonomous delivery vehicle. The other thing you notice missing is noise and a tailpipe; since the entire fleet now electric and recharges via the solar array atop the distribution center when not in use.

Other private autonomous vehicles zoom in and out the distribution point as well, making use of unused capacity, they are personal vehicles put to work for their owners and others (for a fee) that previously sat in a parking lot for most of the day.

The robo-delivery truck makes its way from the distribution center and pulls into the center of its delivery radius several miles away and stop at the side of the road. The top of the truck mechanically unfurls and a dozen of drones lift off from the upper deck aircraft-carrier-style from the truck buzzing through the air to deliver everything from hamburgers to shaving cream right to customers’ doorsteps in parallel within hours of the order being placed.

Drones similarly service rural and remote households by descending from the heavens, but their distribution centers are 45,000 feet in the sky from a giant semi-rigid airship

Sounds far fetched? It’s not.

Everything I described above is either with us today or in testing phases. Customer expectations of the breadth of product choice and delivery time are shortening on a monthly basis. While there is no doubt that there are significant barriers to full scale deployments (shotgun practice being one hazard here in Arkansas), it is no longer a question of “if” but the real questions being “when”, “where”, and “how much”. There is no going back once customers get a taste of something better, they will demand it.


Photo: University of Cincinnati/Lisa Ventre

There really is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come. These ideas are now becoming reality today as giant corporations race to find ways to increase ease of buying and decrease time to value after purchase.  So what does this mean for industries and people alike?

First, there is a fundamental convergence occurring among retail, distribution, software, and transportation industries. We already see this starting coalesce today. Evidence can be seen with GM’s partnership with Lyft and its acquisition of Cruise Automation.  Walmart’s is partnering with Uber and Lyft to deliver consummables to homes.  Meanwhile the race for the best map maker  for autonomous vehicles continues, starting with Google’s acquisition of Waze and most recently with Intel’s investments into the technology.

Oh, and let’s not forget Google’s new company Waymo who is on the forefront of deploying autonomous vehicles and Amazon who managed to get their hands on customers’ shopping lists via in home automation.   Then there’s a tiny company called Apple.  With a name like ‘Project Titan‘ it’s probably just a small side project for them.  It’s all coming together in expected, and probably unexpected ways to better serve customer needs.

Well that’s all well and good for customers BUT those customers need to work to pay for all that new fangled convenience.  This technology will displace many jobs of today.  A new study from MIT found that 3,000 ride sharing vehicles could replace the current fleet of 14,000 taxis in New York City.   What other jobs will be eliminated?

Well, as a percentage of the workforce we will need relatively less grocery clerks, checkers, delivery drivers, long haul truckers, warehouse employees, and fewer farming and factory workers. These monotonous and sometimes dangerous jobs will slowly fade away and be replaced by automation in much the same way as manufacturing did in the 1990s.


Bureau of Labor Statistics, report from Erin Lane 7/10/14

On the gain side of job creation, we will need more people to help design, build and refine these systems. We will need engineers, programmers, statisticians, logicians, operations managers, communication, and customer services experts. In other words, we will need people to design, build, and maintain tools rather than operate them.

Nations will need to upgrade their workforce if they hope to compete.  The future workforce is one that will need to be better educated.  The fundamentals of math, reading, and writing will be required, but insufficient for this new world.  We will need a work forces that is also skilled at critical thinking, collboaration, and independent thought.  Jobs requiring only a high school education will continue to be less plentiful and less economically rewarding as those jobs are sucked into the vacuum of cheaper and more efficient automation as they are today.

To prepare for this future we should be reconfiguring and investing in our education system accordingly, lest we be left behind. I am optimistic that we can move forward in preparing for this new world.  Selfishly, I do look forward to ordering my burger from a blimp…perhaps then I can finally get an In-n-Out Burger without having to drive to Texas.

Your Summary of 2017 CX Predictions

With 2017 at our doorstep it is easily to get overwhelmed with the numerous prognostications about the future of Customer Experience. ‘Listicles‘ abound across social media from the usual suspects.

To save you some time I reviewed many of these articles and summarized them into a handy CX BINGO card.  Go ahead and hit print, grab a pair of scissors, and you’re ready to go for your next CX capabilities presentation. Supplier side? No problem, use it as a check list of the relevant hot points to highlight in your next pitch!


Curious to see if you think I missed any good ones.  Have fun!

The Influence of Emotional Experiences

I purchased a “previously owned” Land Rover LR3 and I have had nothing but problems ever since I bought it.  Nothing major—the “tyre pressure sensor” goes off sporadically even though I am compulsive about ensuring the right pressure in all “tyres”. I had to rover-284x300switch out spark plugs, the suspension compressor is need of replacement, and back-up sensor decided to stop working, resulting in a beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep every time I fire up the gas-guzzling V-8. I know, I read the reviews and did my research; Rover has not had the most stellar qualityaccording to sources, both objective and anecdotal. But, I have to tell you…I love that bucket of bolts. Why? Let me explain.

That Rover holds emotional importance to me. First, it marked a turning point in my family. We had a Toyota Sienna Minivan, but as my children grew older, the need for the minivan diminished and my need for something cool increased. I wanted something different than the everyman vehicle and Rovers captured my imagination. Since I purchased my Rover we have made many memories together. That Rover safely transported two friends and my dog, Harley, across country…well almost…Harley didn’t make it and passed away in the back on the way. That same Rover safely ferried my wife and two kids around on unplowed snow-covered hilly Ozark roads in January while I was away. That Rover rocketed and fishtailed its way down dirt roads with my two girls cheering in the back, “go faster, go faster” as mud flew all around us. We drove across country fields that served as an interim parking lot after a minor league baseball game with moonlight shining down through the twin moon roofs. We rocked out in that Rover with its premium sound system belching Eminem and Jay Z to my kids’ delight. I love my Rover, even though I feel like jamming an ice pick into that “tyre” sensor light. I have an emotional connection to it.

I’m sure I’m not alone. Everyday people make seemingly irrational purchase decisions based on emotional impulse or attachment. This type of behavior puzzles rational engineers and irritates choice modelers. It confounds econometricians who base models on profit-maximizing behavior. Human decision making is messy business. People don’t always make rational decisions. Even if they had perfect information to make decisions, they still get short-circuited by emotions. In fact, marketers and good salespeople depend on people not making rational decisions by influencing emotions. There’s a reason that Harley Davidson can charge $3,000 to $6,000 more than a comparable Yamaha or Honda.

This is the power of experience. Surprised that I didn’t say brand? Well, I would submit that brand is nothing but an attitude that is the culmination of experiences—real, anticipated, or imagined. Brand is an implicit promise of an experience. People buy Harley not because they make great bikes. They buy Harley because it’s cool. They buy Harley because it represents the potential of cruising across the desert with their buddies. It allows grown ups to pretend to be outlaws instead of dentists for a weekend. They buy Harley because there is a community of people who love the bikes and hang out together. They talk about Harley, they talk about biker culture, and they share a common identity. They share a common experience—an emotional experience.

Our job as CX professionals is not only to measure the emotional aspects of the customer experience but also help create holistic emotional experiences for the brand. So often in our product development and marketing efforts we get caught up in features and specifications. In product development we concentrate on faster, more powerful, bigger, and so forth. In retail we focus on in-stock, staffing, end caps, shelf configuration, packaging, and other concrete factors. All of these substantive levers are only relevant in that they drive an emotional experience. Those memorable moments—good or bad—that has a disproportionate effect on future decision making.

Unfortunately, we are woefully deficient in measuring the emotional component of the experience. This in turn hobbles many companies from focusing on what’s important. Sure, clean restrooms are important, but no one is going to show up to your restaurant again just because of it. That’s just an excuse not to come back. We need to give them reasons to come back and reward those responsible. The friendly waiter who went above and beyond or the cook who did something special for grandma on her birthday—that’s what will bring them back, tell their friends, and write rave reviews on TripAdvisor. That’s what we should be focusing on, in addition to the must-have hygiene factors. In fact, people will overlook some problems if they are truly in love with the experience you have created. Look what I put up with owning my Rover.


So I will take jabs from my friends about my Rover. I am in love. They are just jealous. Car companies, too, could learn something about rekindling the passion with customers. Not just making faster and more efficient vehicles, but making vehicles and experiences that make people passionate…and maybe a little bit irrational.

Post script: I wrote this in July of 2014.  Since then I purchased a much more sensible 4Runner SR5.  I still covet the Rover though…albeit not the bills and fear that I may not be able to get where I am going!

The Future of Cities

This great short film outlines what the future of cities might be…allowing more people to occupy a smaller space, but without the congestion.  The truth of this prognostication is unveiling before our eyes in Asia. The implications for mobility and the automotive industry are enormous.

The Results are in…Automotive Preferences are Changing…

The US automotive landscape is changing as customer preferences change in a continuous feedback loop with new technologies.  Increasingly people are seeking experiences to fulfill their mobility needs versus the traditional drive to buy and own a vehicle.

Is the romance with cars over with Americans?  See more here…

Findings from our new  1st Annual Mobility Study were released today in collaboration with James Carter of Vision Mobility.  Take a look!

The First Step in CX

In the Beginning God created the heavens and the earth. … And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness

I have always been fascinated by origin stories. An old friend of mine once bought me a book detailing creation stories across many different religions and many different cultures. Whether in the cold Nordic tundra, the steppes of central Asia, or the vast primitive plains of the Serengeti, the human story of creation is essentially the same.  It goes like this: in the beginning there was chaos and that chaos was put in order by some benevolent/indifferent being/s and that order was a good thing that allowed life to move forward.

There is something to be learned here in the organizing of any effort, and in particular, the organization of the initial steps of a Customer Experience initiative. A recent MaritzCX study concluded that approximately 44% of organizations today have no formalized CX program. Sure, many of these companies are small businesses, but a good many of them are not.

In particular, B2B industries that are being transformed by customer direct competitors are waking up to the need to not only be good designers, manufacturers, logicians, and distributors, but also be focused on the needs of both their intermediate and ultimate customers. These are very large Global 100 and 500 companies who need to turn their immense ships rather quickly to a customer centric orientation or they will find themselves obsolete at the hands of agile, disruptive, and customer focused nascent competitors.

Many of these organizations are now coming to this realization on their own and the first and most vexing question is; “Where do we start?

The first step in any endeavor is to get your best guess of the right people together and try to form some kind of order from the chaos.

This order creation is known as Governance. Lest you suddenly become nauseous due to the unsavory affiliations of the term, fret not…in this context is it useful, productive and a necessary pre-requisite to get things in motion. It need not be overly slow, bureaucratic, or pedantic. When done right, it is relatively quick, focused, and galvanizes alignment with a bias toward action.

The first step on the CX journey must begin with at least provisional governance. This a non-permanent cross functional, cross-geographical, and cross hierarchical level team that should try and tackle the following goals in some prescribed and relatively short period of time (30-100 days):

  • Established CX goals and objectives
  • Ensure an aligned and clear understanding of CX initiatives
  • Define who should be involved (spoiler alert: most of the org)
  • Make sure those initiatives are coordinated and harmonized
  • Develop and deploy a methodology to prioritize and implement those initiatives
  • Create and implement an ongoing approach to communicate within and outside of the organization about those initiatives

Once provisional governance structure is created some the key questions they should answer for founding a more permanent enduring structure include the following to get started.

  1. ObjectivesWhat are the key objectives and tasks the CX governance committee is attempting to address for the organization? What is in scope and what is out of scope?
  2. Outcomes and Success Metrics – What should the outcome be of the provisional governance committee? How will we know if we are successful? What metrics will be used to ensure success?
  3. Participant Representation –functional, geographical, and hierarchical levels should be considered I n the initial governance committee? Ideally, the committee is 6-14 in size to optimize diversity but also ensure speed.
  4. Roles and CadenceWhat role will different members play on the committee? How often will they meet? How will they keep organized? What tools will be used?
  5. StructureWhat supporting organizational structures will be needed to ensure success? For example, an executive committee, brand ambassadors, action teams. How will they be recruited? How will they be held accountable?
  6. Communication Approach – How will the steering committee communicate progress? How often and by what means and to whom?
  7. Initial Miles StonesWhat is the 100-day plan for action? What are the short tem goals that are needed to be accomplished? What are the inhibitors need to be overcome and how
  8. Potential Investment – What investments in time, resources, and materials are required initially to achieve those milestones?   How shall those resources be requisitioned? What permissions are required and by whom?

Answers to these questions are the basis of your Customer Experience Charter, which yes is a document, but the rolling parchment variation is optional. The CX charter is a useful tool to help the organization become aligned on what it is they are trying to do and how to determine if what they are doing is having the intended impact. Like any good charter, it is as much as what is in scope as what is not in scope. Finally, it is a useful tool to help communicate up and down the organization to help garner buy in and coordinate actions moving forward.

Once the charter is approved by senior management (usually the CEO and/or President) then a more permanent variant of governance can be instituted. This permanent governance is still composed of a cross section of the company, but is typically not the full time job of anyone. It is, however, a commitment and lasting institution of the organization to cross functionally get CX related initiatives done.

Without governance your CX will spin in unorganized chaos. Without form. Without purpose. Your CX program will have an existential crisis and fail…or minimally you will be faced with ongoing exorbitant therapy bills.

I hope these tips on how to get started will help you out. Would love to hear how others have organized or if there are other unanswered questions that need to be answered in kicking off a CX initiative.

The Death of Car Ownership (Part 2)


That’s the average number of vehicles in each US garage today.


That’s the number of vehicles that is projected to be in each American household garage with the advent of autonomous vehicles, according to  a study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. What’s driving this trend?

Changing consumer preference

In my last article we saw that while the number of people 16-18 who are getting their license are decreasing, but folks in the United States still love to drive. However, the love of driving and the love of owning are very different, especially for the youth of America..

According to our 1st Annual Mobility Study we found that more than 1 in 3 (35% ) of the American public agreed with the statement “If I didn’t have to own a car, I wouldn’t”. That equates to roughly 75m US drivers that would forego owning a car if they could.

Perhaps not surprisingly, those most keenly interested in literally kicking their car to the curb are those who live in cities. We can see about 43% of those living in small cities and 46% of those living in large cities would like to ditch their car.


What should be of interest for those in the business of building and selling vehicles is that young people are the least interested in owning them. In fact, the majority (52%) of young males (18-34) who traditionally have been most enthusiastic about vehicles would really rather not own one at all.


Does this spell the death of “car culture” in the United States? I think not. Like many trends, the underlying mechanics remain. People still love cars…but their relationship with them is changing….sometimes in surprising ways.

Interested in learning more? Please join my colleague James Carter and I on November 22nd at 2pm EST to learn about these trends and more. Register here to attend for this free event.

The Death of Car Ownership?

From the time I was about 5 years old I dreamed of getting to the magic number of 16. That is the number when one can get a drivers’ license and the associated freedom and independence that comes with it. I would not have to rely on my parents, siblings, or friends to get me to the mall, the game, or worst of all in my late teens…the date.

Increasingly though, young people don’t seem to care as much about driving. They are putting off leaving the house, going to college, getting married (if they get married), having children, owning a home, and getting a drivers’ license. In 1983, almost half (46%) of those of legal driving age (16) had a drivers’ license in the United States. By 2014 that proportion shrunk down to only 1 in 4, according to a recent study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.


Why are these kids not interested in driving and what does that mean for the automotive industry? Is the American romance with cars over or are there other dynamics afoot?  Many say yes, others say not so fast…the problem is that is really isn’t a simple question. Perhaps the relationship between Americans and cars has changed not dissolved. Answering it requires a more nuanced approach in understanding the psychology of consumers today; particularly young consumers.

So that’s what set out to do.  My colleague and I (James Carter of Vision Mobility) fielded the 1st Annual Future Mobility Study in September 2016 and asked 1,000 people 18 and above in the United States about a variety of topics in a scientific poll.  Here’s some of what we learned.

People Still Like to Drive

You gear heads sitting at HQ at Toyota, Hyundai, Nissan, GM, Ford, Chrysler, BMW, VW, Mercedes, and others can breath a sigh of relief.   The US consumer still likes to drive. It appears it is part of the DNA of being American to take off over that hill on the road less traveled.   Approximately 77% of men in our study stated they enjoy driving. Women lag slightly behind at 73%. While younger folks reported being slightly less enthusiastic about driving, there was only a slight dip in enthusiasm.



While people still enjoy driving, why they like it differs by demography and geography.  Young people aren’t really feeling as caged up as they did when I was young, since they are more connected.  So while driving is fun, other aspects of the car experience are not to them.  We will find out later that liking to drive and liking to own are very different things.  Stay tuned for more as we peel back this onion some more.

Experiencing the Present


The voice echoed around the large banquet room that was being set up for focus groups later that evening. He boomed like the drill sergeant from Full Metal Jacket.


I was embarrassed to be the auditory perpetrator.  Joe, the moderator, stuck his head around the blue curtain partition and looked at me.

“It’s bad luck to whistle,” he said proportionally quiet as he was loud earlier and smiled impishly.

Being 24 years old and knowing everything, I was experiencing a mix of irritation and embarrassment. After all, I was the client. Who the hell was this guy? Before I could muster any righteous indignation he asked….

“What time is it?”

“Ummm…let’s see… it’s 11am in Los Angeles….” I stammered looking at my watch doing the mental calculations for Atlanta.

“No! No! No! Dave, a piece of advice; be where you’re at. Change your watch.”

Joe winked and disappeared to mock-yell at other people before a word could leave my mouth. It turns out that was a great piece of advice I should have followed much earlier my life.

So often we are focused on our phones, our jobs, the traffic, the deadline, the plane trip, and other day-to-day distractions rather than the now. We are too focused analyzing the past or trying to plan the future to make room for the present.

For hyper-ambitious people, it’s hard for them to get their head around a present state mentality. For the highly motivated it’s always the “what’s next” and “what’s not good enough today” focus which is important.

I remember working in a highly competitive environment peppered with young recent A-list business school graduates. We conducted an employee survey and found that employees were not satisfied. The VP at the time said she wasn’t surprised. After all, the type of people who were attracted to this kind of job were inherently unsatisfied with the status quo…it’s what made them great. It made sense.

So how do we live in the present and not become unmotivated sloths?  How do we still retain that edge?  It’s a state of affairs that Dan Harris also struggles with in his excellent book 10% Happier.

I think you can be ambitious and also be present, but it’s not easy. I haven’t quite completely figured it out, but the hard part is defintely not turning off the ambitious restlessness, it is going back to mooring yourself to the now. It’s like a swift current that keeps pulling you away, but you must conscious grab on and say “hey, what’s up in my world RIGHT NOW”.

Try really listening to your friends, significant other, and children without distraction. Focus on their words and what they are trying to say.  Sometimes the meaning lurks under the surface and between the lines. It’s easy to miss, but can be right in front of you.

The same presentness can work with your co-workers; if you really try to find out what they are trying to say, then you will be more productive in your relationship in the long run.  Don’t answer emails during conference calls. A friend of mind recommended switching to video conferencing, which helps.

I write often about customer experience. The essence of experience exists in the present. It is the excitement of getting in that new car and turning the key for the first time or the anticipation of opening that new video game. It is about the smile of the receptionist at the hotel or the taste of that street taco. Experience is about being here and making memories.

If I actually listened to what Joe said versus how I felt about it twenty years ago, I might have benefited sooner from his advice.

I still don’t whistle before focus groups though.