September 2017
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Joseph's Blog

Keeping Your Audience’s Attent…Look There’s a Squirrel

Well, it’s officially over…your attention span that is!

Smartphones Fault?

I’m not sure if you are still reading given recent findings on just how short attention spans have become but here goes…

I knew things had gotten bad back in 2015 when I read an article in The Telegraph titled Humans have shorter attention span than goldfish, thanks to smartphones. According to that article:

Researchers surveyed 2,000 participants in Canada and studied the brain activity of 112 others using electroencephalograms. The results showed the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000, or around the time the mobile revolution began, to eight seconds. Goldfish, meanwhile, are believed to have an attention span of nine seconds.

That was 2015! Two years later have things deteriorated further?

Bye, Bye, 30 Seconds

One sign of our darting attention span is the erosion of the venerable 30-second commercial. In fact, the Fox Sports Network has recently begun airing six – yes you read that right – six-second commercials during NFL and Major League Baseball. According to Ad Age, Fox began testing six-second spots in August during the Teen Choice Awards. They also reduced the overall volume of commercials during the test by 20%. In an article, titled Fox Will Air Six-Second Spots In NFL Games, Jeanine Poggi notes:

In theory, most people in the industry would agree that less commercial clutter is valuable for both consumers and advertisers. Fewer ads increase the chances that the spots will be remembered. But there are plenty of questions surrounding the economics. In order to maintain ad revenue while decreasing ad loads, networks have to raise prices on the inventory. Marketers are far from convinced that they should pay more to be in a program with less commercial clutter.

But pay they will! During that six-second commercial pilot conducted during the Teen Choice Awards, Fox reportedly generated 30% more ad revenue despite decreasing ad density by 20%. According to some reports, Fox collected $75,000 for each of those six-second ads, which is the equivalent of 30-second spots on many reasonably popular programs.

Purposeful Interruption

Therein lies the lesson, albeit a quick one. Every form of communication today should be viewed as an “interruption.” When you are trying to get a message across today less is more and quick beats slow!

People are doing what they enjoy and fending off a daunting barrage of messages – ads, blogs, texts, and posts on Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – you name it! According to an article for, Jules Schroeder notes:

Industry experts estimate that the average person is exposed to around 5,000 ads a day, which speaks volumes of the subconscious overload we experience to buy, buy, buy.

Brevity Wins

So how will you disrupt in six-seconds? What message do you want to share?

Not long ago I did a TEDx talk that was 12 minutes in length. As a keynote presenter accustomed to being invited into the brain space of audience members for typically 60-90 minutes, I found the task invigoratingly challenging. Even from the keynote stage, my colleagues and I have long been trying to shift, twist, surprise, and accommodate audiences filled with drifting attention.

When forced to be particularly brief and powerfully disruptive, I harken back to the writings of Blaise Pascal. In his Provincial letters written between 1656 and 1657, Blaise wrote, I only made this letter longer because I had not the leisure to make it shorter.” Today we need leisure to “make messages shorter,” or many of us won’t have an audience to keep our day job!

I could say more but my time has long elapsed! A very special thanks to those of you who’s attention has outlasted my goldfish!


Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies. Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

{Infographic} When It Matters Most




Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies. Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli


When It Matters Most: Customer Experience With the Fury of a Hurricane

Despite all of the great accomplishments achieved by women and men, we have yet to match the raw force of nature fully. I was reminded of this when I met Hurricane Irma this week shielded from her wrath only by stone, glass, and metal.

Blessed in a Storm

On balance I was lucky (as were the members of my team that are based in Florida), collectively we’ve encountered only repairable annoyances like water damage, power outages, and landscape/tree destruction. Had Irma held the track on which she had been projected 24 hours before landfall, members of my team and I likely would have taken the blow which tragically pummelled people just a few hours drive south of us in Naples and Marco Island.

While the best forecast models are yet to comprehend atmospheric factors which steer the direction of storms precisely. I am convinced that people can understand and change the impact of mother nature through an unrelenting spirit of human service.

Catching People at their Best

In the days before and after Irma, I’ve been privileged to experience individuals, business leaders, and government employees who have demonstrated immense compassion and care for those they serve. I’ve watched employees of my city government tirelessly filling and loading thousands of sandbags into the cars of residents.

My adult daughter, who was under a mandatory evacuation order, was anxiously looking for a carrier for one of her pets in the event that we would need to go to a community shelter. Since all pet stores had closed, my daughter reached out to a veterinary office near her (not one that cares for her pets currently). The receptionist waited for my daughter to arrive and charged her nothing for the temporary carrier before locking-up the office. Guess who won her future pet care business?

Companies like Verizon, waived data charges to assure people incurred no cost to stay in touch with loved ones. Incalculable numbers of store clerks, gasoline haulers, first responders, and volunteers provided countless hours of service and unforgettable moments of caring and selfless customer experience enhancement.

The Contrast

Obviously, there were other forces at play in human nature. Those elements included pernicious price gouging and interpersonal conflicts in stores or at gas stations – as people desperately sought critical resources in short supply.

What struck me most was the vast contrast between those who understood the needs of those they served and those that did not. For example, Publix, a recognized customer experience leader and large supermarket chain in the southeastern portion of the US, was consistent in their communication with customers. They demonstrated a thoughtful balance between the safety needs of their team members and consumers.

On the other hand, my property insurance company, who shall remain nameless, was clueless. After an hour long wait on hold (with no option to have a call back when my turn in cue arrived), I was met by processes and people that completely missed the mark. A lack of warmth, training, and genuine concern for my well-being will likely produce a friction-filled journey without an emotionally engaging outcome.

The Moral and the Challenge

So the moral of this week’s blog is simple. Nature is powerful, but human caring is a formidable counterforce!

The difference between “average” and “great” in customer experience delivery can be the difference between panic and calm for those you serve.

The competencies you develop in areas like customer listening, empathy, “other focus”, strategic technologies, and humanized processes (forged in periods of tranquility) will amplify their benefits and have a lasting impact when your service matters most!


Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies. Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

{Infographic} It’s Time for Design Thinking



Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies. Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli


Shedding Your Implicit Bias: It’s Time for Design Thinking

Isn’t the world amazing! Despite the recent floods, nuclear tension, and political divide in the United States, I continue to be in wonder of the kindness and compassion demonstrated by absolute strangers to flood victims. I also marvel at the way so many people graciously navigate the underlying tensions of our time and find common ground. But I’ll admit it. I am biased to see the world through an optimistic lens. (Looking back I suspect I learned it from parents who insisted, “If you can’t say something good then say nothing at all.”)

Biases, Biases Everywhere – Explicit and Implicit

We all have biases – mine certainly is not better than yours (if you’re pessimistic there are many situations where I wish I had a smidge more of that).

Biases come in handy. They serve as shortcuts to help us make sense of new situations or information. Psychologists often refer to these biases as “cognitive sets” because they “set” us up to process a rapidly changing world. The issue with biases is the degree to which we understand them. My understanding of my optimism bias is explicit (within my awareness and clearly understood). In business, however, so many of our biases are implicit (not well understood or conscious).

Beyond Psychology to Impact

So enough psychobabble, what is the relevance of “implicit bias” to customer experience excellence? In a nutshell, you can’t know what you don’t know, and best guesses are nothing more than an expression of implicit bias. To make my point and offer a solution that spotlights inherent biases, I turn to two relevant articles – one from the New York Times and the other from the Harvard Business Review.

The New York Times article written by Jessica Nordell recounts a study conducted at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore. According to the article, an attempt to improve a protocol for blood clot prevention (a critical issue since more people die annually from blood clots than AIDS, breast cancer, and car crashes combined) resulted in a curious finding. Researchers uncovered an implicit bias in the way doctors prescribe blood clot regimens. It was determined that without awareness and intent, physicians were more likely to treat blood clots in men more aggressively than blood clots in women. This differential treatment led to worse outcomes for women. According to the article, A Fix for Gender Bias in Health Care? Check:

In health care, gender disparities are especially pernicious. If you are a woman, studies have shown, you are not only less likely to receive blood clot prophylaxis, but you may also receive less intensive treatment for a heart attack. If you are a woman older than 50 who is critically ill, you are at particular risk of failing to receive life-saving interventions. If you have knee pain, you are less likely to be referred for a knee replacement than a man, and if you have heart failure, it may take longer to get EKGs.

Relevance to Customer Experience Design

Implicit biases mean life or death in healthcare and they likely also have a meaningful impact on your customers. So, how do you find and fix them?

As a customer experience designer, I’ve been blessed to work with many Fortune 500 companies who are rich with talented “design thinkers.” The field of design thinking has developed advanced toolkits to uncover implicit biases, listen intently to stakeholders, assess needs and strategize likely best solutions, quickly test and refine options, and focus on customer value.

Writing in the Harvard Business Review article, Health Care Providers Can Use Design Thinking to Improve Patient Experiences, Sharon Kim, Christopher Myers, and Lisa Allen note:

One of the most promising approaches for understanding patients’ experiences has been design thinking, a creative, human-centered problem-solving approach that leverages empathy, collective idea generation, rapid prototyping, and continuous testing to tackle complex challenges. Unlike traditional approaches to problem-solving, design thinkers take significant efforts to understand patients and their experiences before coming up with solutions. This thorough understanding of patients …is what guides the rest of the process. And because design thinking involves continuously testing and refining ideas, feedback is sought early and often, especially from patients.

Tools for Design Thinking

If you are not familiar with design thinking, much of the groundbreaking work has come from the website and software design arena. Here customers are thought of as “users” of the technology as such this specialty is often referred to as UX (user experience) as opposed to the commonly used term CX (customer experience).

To get oriented to design thinking, Rikke Dam and Teo Siang of the Interaction Design Foundation have written a helpful article titled 5 Stages in the Design Thinking Process. The Interaction Design Foundation also offers a complimentary and detailed overview of design thinking in the form of a downloadable e-book (available at the “what is UX design” link on the Interaction Design Foundation landing page).

My Optimism and the Real Value of Design Thinking

While positivity is an explicit bias of mine, I’ve been a practitioner of design thinking for quite some time and credit it with immeasurable customer value. As such, I optimistically believe a deep dive into design thinking, can and will help you shed your implicit biases, and guide a data-driven, collaborative inquiry into solutions that will help you win more customers, maximize their loyalty, and turn even more of those customers into raving fans!


Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies. Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

{Guest Post} Customer Service May Be Killing Trust in Your Brand

A guest post by Barbara Brooks Kimmel:

Who hasn’t spent, wasted time on the phone attempting to resolve a problem with a company whose brand is meant to enhance, not detract from your life? My guess is you have. Comcast, Verizon, utility providers and particularly health insurance companies are among the first worst offenders.

The call begins with the recorded statement that “options have recently changed and the command to listen carefully.” Then the customer begins the process of selecting English, pressing various numbers, answering several questions, and then being placed on hold due to “heavy call volume” while simultaneously being told, “the call is important to us.” Often, before the offshore rep picks up that call, the customer is disconnected, and the process must begin again. And it’s not unusual to learn that the first person to receive the customer’s call is not the “right” person or even in the right department to render assistance, and all that information must be repeated with (hopefully) the correct rep. The latest innovation insult is hearing that the call is being recorded for security purposes. How exactly does this benefit the customer? And finally, who hasn’t tried, simply out of sheer desperation, to repeatedly press that “0” button hoping for a miracle in the form of a live voice?

There was a time when the term “customer service” had authentic and valuable meaning. It was a time when companies put customers before profits and calls were answered by a human being who also spoke the same language, and who hadn’t been handed a robotic script to read from and answer questions. In fact, it wasn’t all that long ago.

But at some point companies decided that they could save redirect money up the chain of command by hiring minimum wage, offshore reps and then, in the name of “training” hand them a list of responses that were written by the legal department, and from which the rep cannot deviate. After all, “it’s their policy.” These corporate actions, not only convey the message that employees cannot be trusted to solve problems, but also that the brand has little to no regard for its customers or their lost time. And usually, during these “conversations” the customer hears the term “I apologize” so frequently that these two words have also become no more than meaningless drivel, as they don’t solve the customer’s problem, or lessen their frustration.

Is it any wonder why consumers have so little regard for the companies with whom they do must do business? Does a company have any right to blame customers for speaking poorly of them on social media and online reviews when they have shown deliberate disregard for their most important stakeholder? Is it any wonder why trust in business continues to decline or why more than 70% of employees are disengaged at work? It should come as no surprise that if the company has chosen to treat its customers so poorly, chances are employees aren’t faring any better.

Who decided this was a “better way” to do business? How did this happen and is there a solution? Maybe.

I propose a simple experiment:

  • Place the CEO and every manager on phone duty for one day to answer every call on the second ring.
  • Send the entire legal department on vacation during this same time period.
  • Replace the roboscript with these 7 words: Let me see what I can do.

Elevating organizational trust is not only a tangible business strategy but also a hard measurable asset that increases profitability and long-term survival. But most importantly, and what remains lacking in the majority of companies is that elevating trust requires “buy in” from leadership and a daily commitment to “The Golden Rule.”


Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the CEO and Cofounder of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World whose mission is to help organizations build trust. She also runs the world’s largest global Trust Alliance and is the editor of the award- winning TRUST INC. book series. In 2017 she was named a Fellow of the Governance & Accountability Institute, and in 2012 she was recognized as one of “25 Women who are Changing the World” by Good Business International. She holds a BA in International Affairs from Lafayette College and an MBA from Baruch at the City University of NY.

{Infographic} Leading with the Good: A Must have for Customer Experience Success


Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies. Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

Leading with the GOOD: A must have for customer experience success

I am convinced that if you want to offer consistently outstanding customer experiences, you will need to align your organization around a fundamental belief. Namely, that “people are intrinsically good.”

Philosophical and Practical

Okay, this blog may seem a bit esoteric and in the purview of philosophers, not business leaders. We all know that philosophers, have debated the nature of humankind from time immemorial. For example, Thomas Hobbes opined that man is “nasty, brutish, and short” while Erich Fromm suggested we possess a “social, loving nature.” I believe that a business case should be made that owners and business leaders who possess a negative view of people produce companies burdened with processes designed to protect corporate assets from their own team members and from their customers.

A Real World Example

A number of years ago, I was asked to consult for a foreign government that had relied heavily on wealth from their land (e.g., natural resources like oil) to drive their GDP. Looking toward the future, those leaders brought me in to explore how they might become “more tourist friendly” and how they might encourage business owners to “drive a hospitality mindset.”

In addition to sharing my observations about major infrastructure needs (like reducing lawlessness and improving physical safety for tourists), I focused on the negative view of people demonstrated through the actions of many business owners. For example, while in a bookstore I was struck by the proliferation of signs essentially exhorting visitors to “NOT TOUCH THE BOOKS.” Imagine the reaction of tourists from the United States. We’ve become accustomed to bookstores like Barnes and Noble; stores which encourage us to peruse books to our heart’s delight while sitting in comfortable chairs sipping Starbucks.

Pollyanna or Positive Intent?

Lest you discount the importance of this message by concluding that my view is “pollyannish” or incongruent with widespread evidence that people have a “dark side” (physical violence, terrorism, racism, greed, theft, deceit, exploitation, etc.), I accept all of those realities. I just refuse to let the evening news and/or the 24-hour news cycle change my view that I should assume “positive intent” when interacting with team members or customers. That certainly doesn’t mean that businesses shouldn’t manage people who demonstrate “negative intent” or that leaders shouldn’t protect their business from situations where the dark side of humanity manifests. But to be a “human-centric” organization (e.g., employee powered/customer focused), you have to assume the people you seek to serve actually warrant that service!

During a recent consulting visit near the Finger Lakes in New York, I had two diametrically opposed customer experiences in the span of an hour – demonstrating two varied views of the nature of customers. One interaction clearly sent the message, “You are a customer you must be trying to rip us off.” The other involved the actions of an empowered employee who left me with the feeling, “Enjoy your visit, we will square up later.” I was the same person in each interaction, and I assure you neither business sustained a loss based on my actions. One business, however, did lose something – my future business.

We are what we track

Personally, I keep a “joy journal”, a daily list of things that bring me joy! While some of it is populated by simple moments that don’t involve people – often the entries are about individuals who assume my positive intent. I encourage the use of a joy journal to fight off the cynicism that can hamper the creation of a world class customer-centric company. More importantly, I encourage you to assume the best in others and manage the exceptions!


Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies. Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

{Infographic} Big Data to the Rescue of the Passenger Experience?

Infographic Big Data




Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies. Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

United Airlines: Big Data to the Rescue of the Passenger Experience?

It’s hard to believe it has been seven months since United Airlines faced the first of three monumental customer experience debacles. Here’s a walk down that pothole-riddled memory lane:

  • January 22nd all domestic flights were grounded for 2.5 hours due to a problem with a computer system that provides technical information to pilots.
  • February 8th was the delay of approximately 500 flights due to a computer glitch.
  • April 11th was the forcible ejection of Dr. David Dao after he boarded a plane in Chicago en route to Louisville, Kentucky.

A Shared Challenge

In fairness, other airlines have faced similar flight delays due to computer-related “glitches” during the same time frame. United, however, has become emblematic of an industry viewed as operationally challenged, uncaring, and not customer-centric.

Given the time I spend on planes traveling to speak and consult, I have a fairly positive view of the airline industry. My perspective likely varies greatly from someone who travels only during peak holiday periods or who watches the same customer-experience disaster video repeatedly. My view is also colored by the work I’ve done with very dedicated customer experience professionals within the airline industry.

Overbooking and United’s Technology Initiatives

Recently in a Wall Street Journal article, Linda Jojo, United executive vice president of technology and chief digital officer provided insights on some of the strategies United is deploying to improve the customer experience (particularly as it relates to that pernicious issue of overbookings.) Like many CX improvement efforts across industries, United is exerting sizable effort leveraging big data. As Linda notes:

The vast majority of [overbooking situations] are due to some kind of operational disruption that causes us potentially to fly a slightly different plane than the one we had planned. … That could happen fairly close to the time of departure.

The biggest thing we do from technology is help run the airline better [in those situations]. How do we help with anticipating issues so that if we do see a thunderstorm, we can help with proactively rescheduling and talking to customers about the fact that weather could disrupt their travel? If we can get to people early so they can change their travel plans, that’s one of the biggest things we do.

Data Mining and Analytics

In the WSJ article, Linda highlights several data points United is mining in hopes of anticipating, quickly adjusting, and more rapidly communicating with consumers. This data includes precisely watching overbooked flights and the check-in/airport arrival behavior of customer segments. Linda notes:

We know that people flying between two business locations on a Monday morning are probably going to show up. We know people who are flying to a resort location are probably going to show up. But there’s a certain percentage of people who don’t set their alarm right, or hit traffic and don’t make that early-morning flight. We also know the last flight of the day, everybody’s there to get back to their city. So what we’re doing is helping further refine the analytics to understand which flights have a higher probability of no-shows.

United Airlines reportedly is focused on ten high priority customer experience initiatives many of which involve big-data or technology interventions (biometrics, mobile app improvements, etc.). The success of these initiatives will likely be proven through traveler perceptions, the absence of viral United customer trauma videos, and improved brand reputation.

Data Plus People

United, like most other brands pursuing a transformative and differentiated customer experience, will have to marry their technology initiatives with improvements in human care delivery. Take the case of Dr. Dao’s removal from the Louisville flight as an example. Better data analytics might have averted the crisis, but a more humane response could have also prevented the bloody scene from dominating the news cycle.

A study by the Institute of Customer Service (ICS) showed that staff attitude is among the most “annoying or frustrating” components of experience delivery and accounts for 62% of customer complaints.

In my humble opinion, big data will greatly improve customer experiences but it can’t and won’t solve for the other important contributor to the equation – the actions of people!


Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies. Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli