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?  


Comfortable Shoes

Greetings.  I'm regularly asked how to unlock genius and innovation, and I quickly answer that the real key is a pair of comfortable shoes.  Yes, they are as close to a "silver bullet" or "magic pill" as I have ever found.  An absolutely fool proof way to transform all of our companies and organizations into veritable engines of brilliance!  And the reason is very simple.  Innovation is really all about combining our best thinking with the best ideas and insights of others–other people, other industries, other walks of life and even other points in time.  And we'll never find them by sitting on our collective bottoms.  Instead, we need to engage the world head-on with a sense of curiosity and openness to the possibilities that are all around us.  In the practices of leading businesses and organizations, the energy of bustling city streets and lively neighborhoods, the stories told and painted in great museums and local galleries, the traditions of other cultures, the creativity and power of remarkable performances or the wonder of nature in a favorite park.  Anyplace that is remarkable deserves our attention.


So next time you are trying to figure out how to deliver even greater value to your customers, or you find yourself wrestling with another important challenge or opportunity, begin by taking a walk in search of inspiration.  You'll be amazed by what you discover.

Curiosity is a gift you were born with.  Combined with a comfortable pair of shoes, it might just be your real key to business success.

Have a fun and curious weekend…


Betting the Ranch, Again

Greetings.  For awhile, the thought of bailing out General Motors sparked intense debate among a lot of us.  Surely as taxpayers we had better uses for our money than to save a company and an industry that had really screwed up big time.  But I guess somebody had to do it.  And given that the Tooth Fairy didn't have tens of billions of dollars in available cash, we all became the lucky winners.

Now that it's been done, we're all left to hope that it was an act of true genius.  And we should get some indication soon.  Because it appears that our friends at GM are ready to bet the ranch (once again), or at least our portion of it.  But this time on a very powerful idea.  You see, last time they bet the ranch (or farm) on a bunch of products that most people didn't really want.  And that's not the smartest idea on the planet.  But this time they're actually putting the customer at the center of the equation by taking a page from our friend L.L. Bean's playbook (see yesterday's post)!  

Yes, its their recently announced "60-day satisfaction guarantee."  Simply buy a new GM car–if you can get a loan–and drive it for sixty days.  Then "if you don't love it, we'll buy it back."  Now that's starting to sound like a company that stands behind what they offer.  And that's an idea worthy of semi-thunderous applause. But is it enough to bring disinterested and disenchanted customers back into their showrooms?  And, are GM's newest cars worthy of this offer?  We will all have to stay tuned for the answers.  We'll also have to get beyond their new commercial announcing the program which features new Chairman Ed Whitcare in the starring role.  While he seems likable enough for a seasoned corporate executive, we can only wonder why they didn't use our time to feature their new and remarkable cars. After all, they're not challenging us to spend 60 days with Ed.  But that's getting into the world of advertising–which is definitely a subject beyond my expertise. 

Anyway, here's the link so you can watch for yourself:

We win in business by making and delivering on bold promises that really matter.  What's your promise? 


The Power of a Guarantee

Greetings.  If you've read Surrounded by Geniuses, you know that I love guarantees.  Real guarantees.  The ones that actually let the customer decide if they are satisfied with a product, service or solution.  Not those wimpy 90-day warranties on things that cost hundreds and thousand dollars.  Tell me that you really stand behind what you sell and I'll gladly sign up to be your customer–assuming, of course, that I have a real need for what you have to offer.  

That's why I adore Leon Leonwood Bean, and why you and your colleagues should have his picture hanging in your boardroom right next to the giant glossy picture of your customers.  He's the guy who, in 1912, had the audacity to create a shoe with a lifetime guarantee.  Talk about being nuts.  Yet today, the L.L. Bean company continues to stand behind every single product they offer.  Boots, sweaters, bicycles, tents, kayaks, fishing gear.  Even umbrellas.  Unconditionally!  All with the same promise…


Which makes me wonder what could be more powerful in helping to set your company or organization apart from the pack than an "unconditional" guarantee of satisfaction?  In fact, how could we lose if we offered (and delivered on) a guarantee that really mattered?  Which leads me to the following questions:
  • What does your company or organization guarantee to those you serve?  And, 
  • What guarantee could you create that would change the game in your industry?  
Take a few moments to think about these questions with the geniuses you work with.  Or better yet, get off your butts and wander around town in search of real guarantees for products, services and solutions.  Then come back and create your own.  It could be the key to your future success.

Oh No, Another Blog!

Greetings and welcome to my new blog!  It has been a long time in the
making.  But finally, after much
pressure and encouragement from customers, colleagues, friends, neighbors,
family members, pizza delivery professionals, clergy from a wide range of  religions, total strangers and all the
kind people who continue to give me parking tickets, I’m ready to go live with Surrounded
by Geniuses
.  A place for sharing and exchanging ideas on what it really
takes to unlock the brilliance in ourselves, our colleagues and our organizations.  And a place for thinking about what it really means to deliver
compelling value to the customers, citizens, members and associates we choose to serve
each and every day.  But a blog with a different, and hopefully valuable, perspective.

So let’s get started by asking a couple of amusing and important
questions that I’ve been wrestling with for the last few years…

First, how many times have you arrived at work, exchanged greetings with some of your colleagues at the water cooler or over a premium and possibly overpriced caffeinated beverage, attended a meeting or two, responded to a few emails and phone messages and then sat down at your desk overwhelmed by the incredible feeling that you were surrounded by geniuses?  If you're like most people, the answer is "never."  In fact, when asked in a large group, this simple question causes most people to laugh hysterically.

Second, how many times have you left work, climbed into your car, boarded a bus or train, or hopped onto your bicycle, then looked around and been struck with an awesome sense that you were surrounded by a world filled with geniuses and brilliant ideas?  If you're like most people caught up in the pressures and routines of day-to-day life, the answer is also "never."  In fact, as you take the journey home, you're more likely to see a world filled with aggressive drivers, total or at least partial idiots, and painfully mindless advertisements than sources of great inspiration.

Yet as funny as these two questions might sound, they are at the heart of what it takes for companies and organizations of all kinds to innovate, grow and succeed in challenging times.  In a world that constantly rewards new and better ideas, we must all find ways to consistently deliver greater value to those we serve.  But we can only do this by unlocking the genius in ourselves, our coworkers and partners, and the world around us.  

And that's the purpose of this blog.  So I hope that you'll stop by in the days and weeks ahead to be part of a new conversation about the things that really matter.  For now, however, I'm off in search of a few new ideas and a bit of useful inspiration.  I'll look forward to catching up again tomorrow.