Go Ahead–Waste My Time!

Greetings.  On a recent call to our bank's customer service department I was excited to have the opportunity to talk with their automated representative.  She began by saying a very business-like "Welcome" and then proceeded to ask me a set of questions designed to get at the heart of my problem.  She had a calm and reassuring voice and sounded very focused as she worked her way through each scripted phrase.  To her credit, she kept trying to make clear her desire to stay on task–continually rebuffing any errant response.  And once I finally got with the program, I dutifully responded with clearer and more concise answers.  Answers intended to help her and the bank zoom in on the problem they had created for me. And I quickly realized that confusing this poor electronic soul would only frustrate both of us, thus delaying my ability to speak with a real human being who might actually solve my problem.  So I hung in there for about five minutes, as this slick piece of software posing as customer service agent tried to train me.  Eventually I pushed enough of the right buttons and offered enough of the correct responses to be transferred to a real person who was less clear than her robotic co-worker but slightly more empowered to resolve my concern.

Then, having weathered the initial hurdle, I received a wonderful surprise.  None of the information I provided had found its way to the agent.  Not the nature of my call.  Not my specific problem or a single digit of my 16-digit account number.  Not my secret answers to their not-so-security questions.  Not even the slightest sense of my hopes and dreams for resolving the issue.  Nada.  Zippo.  Ingenting (which is Swedish for nothing).  So when she began to ask the very same questions in the very same order, I started feeling very sad and more than a bit frustrated.  It seems that in their efforts to reduce costs, my bank and too many other businesses have decided to use systems that waste the customer's time and often abuse us.  Keeping us on hold or talking to robots so they can manage their queue or get us to give up. 

Whose time do you think is more valuable–yours or the customer's?  If your customer isn't absolutely at the center of your service and support equation, then it's time to rethink why you deserve to be in business.   


A World of Ideas and Possibilities

Greetings.  I woke up this morning thinking about the world we share.  Not the crazy, crowded and conflicted planet filled with so many problems and challenges. Though that world certainly warrants our collective attention and genius.  But the remarkable, diverse and amazing planet that on its best days reveals the limitless potential of people, organizations and nature.  And it sparked a powerful idea that is always with me…

Try to imagine that you and your company or organization could have access to all the best thinking and insight in the entire world.  Any idea from anywhere or anyone.  From other businesses, communities, cultures or from other people very different than you.  Even from other species.  If you could, would that make you more successful in meeting the needs of your customers?  The best thinking about products, services or solutions.  The best thinking about systems, tools and techniques.  The best thinking about science or technology.  The best thinking about how to create the most amazing customer experience or about how to build greater teamwork and employee engagement.  It sounds like a crazy idea, and until recently it would have been.  But today we are only a few mouse clicks away from a wealth of knowledge and insight about practically anything that is going on or has gone on in the past.  And we're only a few more clicks away from some of the best thinking about what might occur in the future.  Sure it would be even better to head out to the far corners of the earth, but we don't have to in order to discover their genius. 
This is powerful idea, and yet all too often we cast a very narrow net in trying to create new opportunities or resolve pressing problems.  First we brainstorm, in the hope that someone in the room is clever enough to come up with a new and more powerful alternative.  And maybe it happens.  But is it the best idea we can come up with?  Then, failing that, we look around at the comfortable confines of our "known world" to see who else in our industry has a better way of doing things. After all, what could be better than copying their best practice.  But what if our industry isn't close to being brilliant at what we are trying to accomplish?  And besides, can we win by being the same as our competitors?  And only then, if we are bold enough to stretch our thinking, do we reach out to other industries and familiar places in search of better ideas.  But how far do we actually look?

Globe in Hands

We win in business by being different in ways that matter to those we serve.  But doing this means looking for ideas and inspiration in very different places.  Where will you cast your net today? 


The Ideal Customer Experience

Greetings.  It's the start of a new work week–unless you've been working all weekend–and a great time to think about what it really takes to be a genius. Maybe not in the sense of Albert Einstein, Madame Curie, George Washington Carver, Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi, Akio Morita or Leonardi da Vinci.  After all, these were exceedingly clever people and it might not be fair to go head-to-head with them without an extra bit of stretching, conditioning, coaching and practice. Just like you probably wouldn't want to race against Usain Bolt without eating a high energy breakfast.  But let's be serious, what would these people actually know about your business and what it takes to deliver compelling value?  Very little.

In fact, you and your colleagues are in the absolute best position to make a real difference in the lives of the customers, citizens, members and associates you serve.  But in order to do this you will need to take a fresh look at their world and what really matters to them.  Then you'll need to commit to taking a fresh look at how you and your organization could meet their needs in more remarkable ways. Not by making some tiny piddling little insignificantly incremental change (now that's being super-redundant for effect).  After all, who needs that?  But by doing something big, bold, noticeable and possibly dramatic (also super-redundant for effect) that really matters!  

And one of the best ways to get started is by challenging yourself and the geniuses you work with to think about a straightforward and powerful idea.  What if you could create the "ideal customer experience?"  In other words, what if you could deliver compelling value at each meaningful step in the process of being a customer?  By making things easier.  By providing true peace of mind.  By making customers smarter and more capable.  By being faster when it really mattered, or available at a moment's notice.  By making the customer smile whenever they used your product, service or solution.  By anticipating their needs and helping them to create new opportunities or avoid danger.  

So grab a blank sheet of paper and an open mind, and begin to paint a new and awesome picture of the life of your customer from start to finish.  And if you don't know how to get started, you can always wander around–wearing, of course, your most comfortable shoes (see the post below)–in search of other companies and organizations that have figured it out for those they serve.  There are plenty that I'll write about in the weeks ahead, but if you'd like a couple now try Zappos and Whole Foods

We win in business by providing the most ideal customer experience. What are you waiting for?