Small Miracles

“OH. MY. GOD!  Thank you SO much!”

The young New Yorker was visibly shaken very early in the morning at LaGuardia airport.  He stared at his recently unearthed drivers license retrieved from the trash that the older Latino sanitation worker was holding up.  He starred at it for just a moment as if it was ancient holy relic that was thought lost to antiquity before grabbing it and rushing off to catch his flight.  She silently shrugged and returned to her mundane job of emptying the trash.

While we have ample media traffic of horrific service experiences such as the highly “regrettable” incident on United Airlines Flight 3411, we hear less often about the daily heroic feats by service workers perform every day that make peoples’ life just a little better.  These small miracles happen in seconds everyday by service workers who don’t really have to give a rat’s ass… but they do.  They dig through the trash to find your ID, they patiently help you trouble shoot your billing questions, and take your soup back when you learn that it is not gluten free. These are the people that make commerce happen.  They are the check-out clerks, the call center representatives, waitresses, and receptionists from around the world.

If you have ever had one of these jobs you know how tough it is.  They are the front line that deal with the tired, the sick, the angry, and sometimes the crazy.  Most do this with aplomb with little complaint and a minimum of both training and compensation for their effort.

These miracles workers can make or break your business.  They are the backbone of most enterprises.  And, like any reluctant hero, they can decide whether to perform their craft or not to.  Management will never know since this is not, strictly speaking, a job requirement.

They can always just wear the “minimum flair” and go about their jobs.


So how do we get them to continue to perform their miracles?

It is actually pretty simple.  Hire great people, give them the tools to do their job, treat them well, and inspire them to do great things.  While the recipe is simple, putting it into practice is much more difficult.  The companies that figure it out reap the rewards through customers who come back and employees who don’t leave.

Oh, and there is one other thing we can all do to help: treat these front line people with respect.  We all become frustrated with the foibles of people and organizations. It serves us well to understand that many times these front line employees are at the mercy of the tool sets they have and the company processes and policies that constrain them.  They may not be empowered to solve your problem.

So work with them and be patient.  Don’t scream.  Empathize and see their side.  Escalate if you have to, but most of all treat them as you would want to be treated.


CX Learnings from the LA Marathon

I run. Very. Very. Slowly. This past weekend I ran the LA Marathon with about 25,000 of my best friends from Dodger Stadium to the Pier in Santa Monica. It was grueling but fantastic. I even had the honor of being the second Arkansan finisher (there were only 7 others, two of whom were ex SoCal folks who came with me).

While running this race my mind started to stray toward one of my other passions; customer experience. Somewhere in the fog of mile 20 chugging up La Cienega Boulevard on an annoying hill devoid of spectators, I started thinking about the parallels between distance running and changes organization must undergo to become more customer centric. Here’s my 5 tips for running the CX marathon.

  1. Training

You can improvise a 5k or 10k with little training. You might even be able to phone in a half marathon if you are young and fit enough. Full marathons are not something one can typically ‘wing’. The same can be said for Customer Experience initiatives. You cannot simply turn an organization from a product or sales centric organization into one that suddenly embraces the customer as the end –all-be-all. It just doesn’t work that way. It takes work. In what I call Agile CXTM, it requires organizations to engage in a series of successive small attempts and initiatives that build on one another. This iterative building approach is the key to building a successful and sustainable customer experience focus. You got to train to get results.

  1. Find a Buddy

Training for marathons are long and lonely enterprises. Three to five hour outings on cold and rainy Saturday mornings are not uncommon. Having a running group or buddy is almost a requirement to keep you accountable and maintain your sanity. The same is true for organizations trying to be more customer focused. You need help. It’s ok. Find others out there who are running faster or slower than your organization. You need the support. You need the accountability. Organizations like CXPA or forums like Customerthink can certainly help you meet like-minded others who on their own journeys.

  1. Discipline

It goes without saying you must have to discipline to stay training and not give up. Discipline includes staying with it and knowing when to change course. It also means forgiving yourself if you have an off week and couldn’t get your miles in. Your organization needs to have the discipline to stay the course for the highs and lows. You will experience setbacks and failures in creating a CX focus. You will screw up. Expect it. Plan for it. Successful organizations push through and keep going.

  1. Celebrate Successes

Whether you are an elite runner or a 15 minute miler, the point is, you are getting it done. Take the time to congratulate yourself. Take time to make sure your organization celebrates and focuses on its successes. Find that sales rep and recognize her. If accounts payable went out of their way to help a customer; give them a shout out. So much of the time we focus on what’s wrong; take some time to focus on what went right too. We know from human development that positive reinforcement is much more powerful force than punishment.

  1. Maniacal Perseverance

Distance runners are a curious bunch. They are unrepentant masochists. After the blisters have started to heal and they can ambulate not looking like a cast member from the Walking Dead, most distance runners start asking themselves “which one will I run next?” as their loved ones look down and shake their heads.

For organizations the CX race never ends. Sure we have some breathers in between races, but the race never ends. Why? Because others are always racing. They want to beat you. Stay still, you get left behind. Get left behind, and your racing days are over.

Anyone Can Do It

Distance running is really very simple. You put the right foot in front of the left, and then left in front of the right, and repeat about 90,000 times. Almost anyone can do it. The same is true with organizations. Any organization can change provided they have the discipline, patience, and commitment to do so…and perhaps some help from some running buddies. If you need a CX buddy to help you train.   Let me know. You got this.

Journey Mapping for Disruptive Innovation

A blank stare.

That’s what I got from my 8 year old daughter after I asked her to roll up the window in our car. Her lack of comprehension made sense from her perspective. She’s never had to manually “roll up” the window per se. It was never part of her reality of automotive window raising.


Phrases like “turn off” the radio and “hang up” the phone are meaningless to those who never experienced doing those things…ever. They are curious anachronisms for a time…not so long ago…but now archaic and without context.

Humans and Tools

There is a curious recursive relationship between tools and humans. We create tools to better our lives in so doing those very tools shape how we view the world. This is not just a figure of speech; recent neuroscience studies show that tool usage physically changes our neural pathways in a process known neuroplasticity.


This has profound implications for how we plan for the future. In a recent presentation at the Emerging Trends in Retailing Conference, speaker and futurist Brian Solis challenged the audience to rethink their assumptions about the future by suspending their understanding of the present.

He pointed out that the modern website is now more than 20 years old and after years of iterative innovation, is ripe for…wait for it…disruptive innovation. It is technology that is widely accepted. Our lives would be almost unthinkable without it…in much the way we viewed the land line telephone 20 years before.

Engage with customers in real-time across every channel, no matter the medium. Use visitor tracking and email analytics to know what your customers are seeing.

It is an interesting point. The very architecture of websites makes us think about digital using that frame work. It brackets off the reality of what is possible, what it can look like, and most problematic; what is not possible. Why is based on a desktop view of the world when the world is clearly mobile? Why does website architecture have to be hierarchical? Why is it limited to only two dimensional? Why can we usually only look at one page at time? Why are we calling them pages!

Framing the problem

The tools we use not only shape how we solve problems, but how we frame and find the problems in the first place. The anecdote of the sick patient going to an internist, a surgeon, and a therapist and getting corresponding recommendations for drugs, surgery and therapy is not based on physician greed, it is based on how those professionals view the world. The law of the hammer is a powerful temptress.


The issue of framing is especially relevant in the area of CX Design.

One of the first steps in CX design involves understanding the customer journey. Customer Journey Mapping is very important in understanding today’s journey. Those firms progressive enough to take this step understand the barriers and enablers along the customer journey from awareness to disposal and are far head of those who have not undertaken this step.

While there are many approaches to journey mapping, most approaches[1] start by understanding the existing journey from the customers’ perspective and then look for opportunities for improvement. We find the areas of pain and opportunity and incrementally change the experience to improve it. This approach is fine for iterative innovation. But what about creating a disruptive customer experience design?

Disruptive CX Design

Tesla did not try to incrementally improve the auto buying experience, they blew it up and started from scratch with the wisdom of what people hate about the current experience. I am doubtful that Etsy, AirBnB, and Spotify looked at the existing experience and used that at the basis for incremental improvement. For example, according to their website Uber got started based on a very simple idea:

“On a snowy Paris evening in 2008, Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp had trouble hailing a cab. So they came up with a simple idea—tap a button, get a ride.”

Experience Anchors

So perhaps those frames of “what is today” is getting in the way of “what could be” in architecting great CX solutions. When we are looking to build a truly innovative new experience perhaps we should first start ideating the ideal and work backwards to today. Should we find that blue ocean space?

The first step in this revised process would be to first clearly understand the customer underlying needs and values not their surface attitudes. Second is the truly start with a blank sheet of paper and map it out. Sure, today’s reality may set it, but try not to let it drive your thinking. Keep an open mind.

Finally, when you are ideating the revised journey, diversity of opinion is not a nice to have…it is a must have in order to mitigate those experiential frame blinders. Invite people from all walks of life, from different functions, and different ages and world views…maybe even a few of your customers. Deep experience can be an asset but also can be an anchor to today’s reality. Sometimes a children’s naiveté has great wisdom. Listen to it carefully.

I listen to my childrens’ wisdom everyday. Sometimes it can be embarrassingly on-point. Perhaps we should apply some of child like wonder and clarity of thought to our work in CX.

[1]For examples,,,


Death Sticks and Starbucks

Almost every Saturday morning my family rolls into the Starbucks drive thru on our way to the farmers’ market. It is a chaotic and noisy scene in the car. I am always astonished at the amount of noise 4- and 6-year-old children can make, especially if I forget to bring along something for them to do. I roll up to the drive thru to get my kids their hot cocoa, my wife’s drink (which would rival in length the average Welsh place name), and my simple black coffee.

StarbucksguyOne Saturday I thought I would spice things up by adding nonchalantly to the end of my order “…and an order of death sticks,” just to see what would happen. Now, to those not nerdy or old enough to get this reference, it was an homage to the bar scene in Star Wars: Attack of Clones.

“That’s $8.23. Please pull around,” said the barrista/cashier/drive-thru guy cheerily.

I figured he either didn’t hear me or ignored me as he did not ask to clarify further my death-stick addendum. So we pull around, I get my litany of hot cocoas, pink donut lollipops, and multisyllabic latte-mocha-whatever. As he returned my debit card, he looked me straight in the eyes and said:

“You don’t want to buy death sticks, you want to go home and rethink your life,” and promptly closed his window.

I was stunned. That was very funny . He quoted verbatim what Obi-wan the Jedi master told the purveyor of death sticks from the Star Wars movie. He turned what could have been perceived as an irritating non sequitur into something fun to interact with a customer. It was memorable.

Right then and there he created an emotional experience through the use of humor. While we usually think about creating emotional experiences through delighting customers, humor can be just as powerful. The most famous for this is the antics of Southwest Airline flight attendants. They turn a boring process review into something fun and engaging for passengers. Delta Airlines later picked up this practice in their pre-flight safety demonstration, starring their flight-attendant-turned-temporary-actress Deltalina (their latest ones are quite good).

Automotive has recently taken a more humorous approach in their advertising with the ubiquitous and quirky Kia Soul Hamsters. Retail juggernaut Amazon lets its customer service representatives have a little fun, too. Even normally conservative Toyota has gotten into the act with the Jungle Wakudoki. Most people like to laugh. It sets people at ease in tense situations. It helps us connect more intimately with one another. Smiling and laughing are universally translated the same. It’s a low-cost investment in getting both your employees and customers engaged with the brand.

Have you had any fun service or product experiences lately? I’d love to hear.

Who Will Win the CX Battle Royale?

About 4 million years ago in Australia a fierce predator emerged. The Thylacine or “Tasmanian Tiger” was the apex predator in the food chain on the continent preying on kangaroos, wallabies, wombats and other game native to the continent. Meanwhile, a similar predator known as the Gray Wolf inhabited the Northern hemisphere but had a diet of moose, deer, rabbits. Apart from the meat they ate, they were otherwise very similar. They looked similar, had similar behaviors, and served similar functions in their respective ecological systems. The difference? The Thylacine was a marsupial while the Gray Wolf was from a completely different genetic lineage. They evolved from completely different genetic roots to occupy a similar ecological niche; the four legged apex predator. Today there is an abundance of wolves…but the last of the Thylacine disappeared in the 1936.

The concept of or “convergent evolution” or “equafinality” can and does occur in any open system be it biological, technological, or epistemological. Organisms, tools, and ideas can start from very different origins but end up at the same place.

Technological convergent evolution is precisely what is occurring now in the world of Customer Experience. The world of CX is a multi-cornered high stakes Battle Royale with competitors from completely different heritages all heading toward a collision course at the same destination. It’s anyones guess who will get there first and who will rule the roost, but let me introduce you to the contenders. Ladies and gentlemen please place your bets…

Corner 1: Battleships

In the first corner we have the traditional “battleship” research firms. Venerable firms such as TNS, Ipsos, GfK and the like who inadvertently got into the CX world because “insight” was required. While titans in their own right with tons of experience and legitimacy in providing business intelligence to their clients, they are struggling keeping up with the newest pugilists in the space…the EFM disrupter.

Corner 2: EFMs

While the term “EFM” or Enterprise Feedback Management is a bit passé nowadays, these competitors are thriving with their bare knuckle SaaS technology combat technique. Companies such as Medallia, Qualtrics, and others come from a pure technology hertitage. They have “blue-oceaned” the space to a degree, but after the mad passion of clients’ technological one night stand fades, many are left yearning for something more than just technology. What’s missing, in some cases, is meaning, insight, and action. Thus we see a nearly promiscuous rush of partnerships with the “battleships” research companies and technology companies as they try to combine the benefits of slick technology, scale, and substance. But legacy research companies are not the only pals of the EFMs…

Corner 3: Consulting

Big consulting firms such as Deloitte, KPMG, PWC, BCG, Bain, and other illustrious firms have started to attack CX from an organizational change and digital disruption angle. They make big bucks helping organizations chart the future and solutions. However, they are left a bit impotent in terms of implementation and actually “doing” something. Big buck consultants’ go-to-guys for execution tend to be EFMs and the increasing the world of BIG DATA marketing automation and CRM.

Corner 4: CRM and Marketing Automation

Weighing in at 1,200 lbs, this GIANT set of players ready to rock-n-roll in the CX space is the CRM and Marketing Automation companies. These are the aggressive Hulk-Superfly-Andre titans with deep pockets. Companies like Eloqua, Pardot, and Marketo occupy the “conquest” space of marketing automation while, Oracle, and Microsoft have poured millions, if not billions into the CRM space. Why have they not obliterated the fledgling EFM disrupters? I don’t know, but my guess is they have just not got around to it yet.

Corner 5: BI, Data Visualization, and Predictive Analytics

And not to be ignored from the CX battle arena are the business analytics, data visualization, and predictive analytics platforms out there who also have an interest in both the CRM and CX space. Tiny companies like SAP, SAS, and IBM are all engaged in this space where big data and non-relational data bases are the constant talk of the town. Unicorns such as Domo and Tableau have lavish user conferences and high rates of adoption. They too will play important role in either providing the insights through brute analytic force or through the eloquent and simple display of customer insights.

Thylacines vs. Wolves

So in 2017 we are ring side, in some cases in the ring, in this WWE style cage match in which the round one bell is still ringing in our ears. It will be a long fight with knock outs not likely early on. There will be winners and there will be losers. Most often, however, I think there will be partnerships and there will be acquisitions. From whatever heritage they came, be it reptile, marsupial, or mammal, the market will converge. CRM, CX, Marketing Automation, Predictive Analytics and even consulting will be one tall Lincoln hat solution stack that clients can pick and choose from as it suits their needs. The line between marketing and retention will fade and then disappear. It is inevitable. It is also inevitable that there will be Wolves and there will be Thylacines. Don’t be a Thylacine.

CX Goal Setting

We set organizational goals for one reason; to motivate individuals to act. It is a way forward. If you don’t know what your goal is, you are never going to reach it. In setting goals and performance management systems there are some notable “dos” and “don’ts” that you should consider.

Chose the Outcome You Want

Oftentimes the question of “what is the best metric to use in CX” comes to my inbox. The answer to that question is invariably “It depends on what you are trying to do.” You don’t look at your oil pressure gauge to determine how fast you are driving, why would you use only one measure for your CX program?

Work backwards. What are you trying to influence? Is it retaining customers, gaining news ones, share of wallet expansion, or increasing frequency of purchase?  What customers are you talking about specifically? Once those questions are defined and operationalized then you can start thinking about what metrics to use that can help monitor your progress to your ultimate business goal.

Selecting the Right Metrics

Once you have identified your business outcomes, then you can identify some the probable antecedents and/or surrogates for that outcome.  Typically these metrics come in four flavors in the CX world:

  • Customer behavioral intentions (e.g., NPS, would return, etc)),
  • Customer attitudinal transactional ratings (e.g. ratings, OSAT, CES)
  • Customer attitudinal relational ratings (e.g., ratings, CES, OSAT)
  • Employee behaviors (# of closed hot alerts, # of action plans)

Behavioral intentions are just what they sound like…we ask customers about their planned behavior; whether that is to return, to recommend, or a number of other “woulds”.

Transactional attitudinal measures are point-in-time and can tracked to a specific interactions with the brand. Relational measures are those that ask about the overall relationship with the brand and are more general .

Finally, some metrics are about the antecedent to actions thought to impact the customer and ultimately the business outcome. For example, agents resolving concerns, hot alerts being acted upon, and action plans being created are all instances of self-reported behaviors.

A CX Metric System

I recommend trying to organize these into a relational system of measurement which both informs the organization of what is going on at various touchpoint along the journey and is also interconnected.


Ideally the system is created and validated using statistical modeling so that operational metrics (e.g., wait time on hold, fill rates, etc) are predictive of transactional evaluations and these in turn are predictive of the overall evaluation of the brand.  Relational brand measures are then predictive of your intended business outcomes, moderated by outside variables (market conditions, individual differences, etc). Once this is established you then have a complete system to understand what levers will make the biggest impact in improving your business outcomes.

Don’t freak, you don’t have to do ALL this to set goals from the get go, but systems designed this way tend to have the biggest impact.  We do, however, have balance “predictiveness” with the other three Ps of CX metric design: pragmatism, parsimony, and politics.

Designing to Motivate

Regardless of your metric strategy, how your CX goals are structured are important in creating a system that can create meaningful change.  You want your CX system to be defensible, robust, and motivational. Best practices in performance management design for CX systems are ones where:

  • Metrics are tied to improvement, benchmarks, and/or business outcomes
  • They avoid “one number” approaches and use a blended index approach
  • Has a tiered reward approach and avoids “all or nothing’ pay out strategies
  • Do not use “top box” or other measurement truncations (why throw out good information?)
  • Goals are specific, measurable, agreed upon, reachable, and time bound (SMART)
  • Goals are clearly communicated and understood to those held accountable
  • Regular and timely feedback on how the person is performing against the goal
  • The system is consistently applied to all participants (i.e., no “special instances”)
  • There are stated policies that are consistently enforced around attempts to manipulate the score (i.e., cheat)

So don’t be fooled by that one number promise.  It can and does backfire. Also, don’t let anyone talk you into that there is one “magic index” that will solve your problems. Each organization is different, with different customers, different challenges, and different business goals.  The magic in designing goals is not in finding that perfect number, but creating a system that is maximally motivational and unique to your organization and helps you achieve that ultimate business outcome.

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!