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Joseph's Blog

{Infographic} Go Human, Go Methodical but Above All Else GO for VALUE

 

 

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

Go Human, Go Methodical but Above All Else GO for VALUE

Go Human, Go Methodical but Above All Else GO for VALUE

I have been showing clips about it and talking to audiences about it for the last year, and now it’s finally here – Amazon Go.

Forever Changed

After extensive beta testing the first Amazon Go store has opened and, in my humble opinion, the world has changed forever.

As I’ve been foreshadowing this day, I’ve told audiences that there would come a time when my children would tell my future grandchildren:

“Kids you won’t believe this, but before you were born I had to stand in line to buy things…Shocking I know… but those were hard times.”

Amazon Go not only represents a sea change in the check-out experience for convenience stores, retail, and any place you are currently cueing up to pay for goods or services, it also marks a shift in how humans and technology will have to mesh in the future.  Further, Amazon Go is a case study in the patience it takes to test revolutionary experience delivery platforms.

Let’s first focus on what Amazon Go has to teach us about the people/technology interface.

The Technology/Human Interface in Experience Delivery

If for some reason you missed the news this week about Amazon Go and are wondering what it is, – put simply it is a store without cash registers featuring “grab and go” technology.  You open your Amazon Go app and go in to grab what you want. Through the wonder of technology (not unlike advancements used in driverless cars) a virtual cart is created.  You then walk out of the store without checking out, and your purchases are charged to your Amazon account, accompanied by a receipt sent back to your app.

Beyond asking, “how do they do that?” a typical follow-up question might be “what will happen to the cashiers – particularly if this technology starts gaining traction?”

I am glad you asked…. since that is one of the major points of this blog.

From my viewpoint, the answer is that the cashiers will need to adjust in ways that add value beyond what technology can presently do.  For example,  many people are working on the floor of Amazon Go and out of sight of customers.  Some are preparing the food that appears in the store; some are making sure the technology is working correctly, and others are greeting, guiding, answering questions, warmly thanking shoppers, and inviting people back for another visit.

Therein is the future!  Technology will be expediting repetitive and manual tasks with a sophistication that is bewildering, and people will be delivering unique human value beyond anything technology is yet to replicate.

Ultimately, each of us will have to answer career questions like:

  • What can I do that algorithms, machine learning, and robots can’t?
  • How long will I have before tech displaces my current unique human value? Or,
  • Where should I be positioning my value for the future?

Rapidly Test and Re-test Value Creation Platforms

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been talking about Amazon Go for a long time.  In fact engineers at Amazon have been working on the new store concept for well over four years ago.  For at least the last year, the concept has been in beta – meaning that select individuals have been allowed to shop in the beta store.  The Amazon Go beta shopping experience was tracked not only for the functionality of the technology but also for the perceptions of the shoppers.  Large scale and small scale tweaks were made based on real-time data (rapid prototyping) from those beta shopping excursions.

These types of disciplined and scientific customer experience (CX) elevation projects are continually happening in both the online and off-line world.  For example, among a myriad of CX projects currently going on at Starbucks, designers are carefully assessing the future of cashless transactions. Specifically, Starbucks is exploring a single cashless store in its vast network.  That store test is being conducted “just to see” how accepting only credit cards, and digital payments will affect customer behavior and the overall Starbucks Experience.

Back to You  

For me, the way I’m trying to stay ahead of technology is by helping others design and test the best human and technology solutions to drive customer need fulfillment, ease, and delight.

Irrespective of your specific path,  I know with certainty we all will need to find our “value delivery” place alongside technology and also patiently test delivery solutions that we hope will improve the lives of those we serve.

Thanks, Amazon Go and Starbucks for being this week’s real-life learning labs!

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} Empathic Design

 

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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

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Empathic Design – As Close to the Holy Grail as You Can Get

Do you have a “go to” song you sing when you are at a karaoke bar? How about a signature dish you like to prepare the first time a new visitor comes over for dinner?

Customer Experience Design Strategies

For me, my “go to” strategies for product development or experience innovation involve components from my “empathic design” toolkit. For fellow empathic designers, you know that there are a lot of tools available which help business owners and leaders “step into the shoes” of their “user” or “customer.”

For those who don’t work in product or experience design on a daily basis, you probably just want to have an overview on how to “build products and services from the customer perspective.” For a contextualized dive into this topic, I recommend a fairly recent Harvard Business Review Article titled 5 Ways to Design Products Customers Love. In that article, Dorothy Leonard details many empathic design strategies including:

User-designer

Ethnographic research

User simulation

Customer culture immersion, and

Cognitive artifacts

For the purposes of this blog, I’ll highlight each of the design strategies so you can get a feel for which of these tools might be right for you.

User-designer

User-designer approaches involve looking for solutions by regularly using existing products to explore strengths, limitations, pain points, and opportunities. Many first generation products for entrepreneurs come from users who have an idea for a “better mousetrap.” As such a product users make a few modifications, produces a prototype of their solution, attracts the interest of possible future customers, and goes to market with the new and improved product offering. Dorothy cites the founder of the company Osprey as starting his company through a “user-designer” model:

As a teenager, Mike Pfotenhauer loved to hike, but he hated how uncomfortable he felt carrying the backpacks then on the market. So, at age 16, he created his own, sewing all the pieces together himself. He went on to design and deliver customized outdoor equipment to clients who’d heard of him through the grapevine, and eventually he founded Osprey…

Ethnographic Research

Ethnographic research takes its origins from fieldwork in cultural anthropology. Anthropologists have sought to be minimally intrusive as they have observed the nuances of newly discovered cultures.

Ethnographic research in product and service creation takes many forms including “shop alongs” in retail – where a researcher joins a customer for a shopping expedition and inquires about elements of their experience in real time. It can also involve such things as “customer diaries” or “structured customer interviews.” Generally, the methodology has elements of either participant observation or interviewing key stakeholders.

User Simulation

User simulation is a technique that “role plays” a customer journey. For example, my team and I might audit an automobile shopping experience for a client like Mercedes-Benz “as if” we were going to purchase a vehicle. During the simulation, we look for pain points and opportunities for experience enhancement. When we deploy this technique we frequently simulate multiple buyers across all core buyer segments.

User simulation differs from “secret shopping” in that secret shopping typically is a service assessment process where quasi-objective secret shoppers are looking for the presence of key service elements for which team members have been trained to deliver.

Customer Culture Immersion

Customer culture immersion involves embedding yourself in a community of product users to understand what they think and value so that you can begin to shape products and services from their worldview. You can think of this like a reporter who “embeds” with a military unit gaining a different perspective on the military conflict than one who reports from outside the battle lines.

Cognitive Artifacts

Finally and very simplistically “cognitive artifacts” are the mental models people use to organize and process information. You can think about cognitive artifacts as they way people “label” files in their mental filing system. We all organize complex and diverse information in ways that link to personal high-value keywords and that help us makes sense of the world around us. You can imagine that if the designer was asked to develop an information technology system just for you, they would benefit from understanding your internal organizing processes. A wide variety of tools exist to cull for the cognitive artifacts of consumers so we can design around their cognitive organizing principles.

The Forest Not the Trees

Ok enough of this somewhat academic treatise on “empathic design!” Irrespective of the tool you choose from the empathic design toolkit, the underlying principle that should guide your activity is captured in the following quote from graphic designer Joshua Brewer:

“Socrates said ‘Know thyself.’ I say, ‘Know thy users.” And guess what? They don’t think like you do.”

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} How Employee Engagement Impacts Your Company’s Performance and Results

Guest post by Zorian Rotenberg:

As more and more hard evidence surfaces indicating the impact of employee engagement on company performance, it’s clear that organizations actively addressing this concern will outperform their competitors. Many forward-thinking enterprises are employing ongoing performance management tactics like Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) and continuous feedback loops to help teams a sense of purpose in their roles. Yet, as engagement is historically considered a “softer” area of focus in organizations, other business leaders still wonder: how much of an impact does it really have on performance and results?

Let’s take a look.

Defining Employee Engagement

Engagement has become a buzzword in today’s business landscape, and while most executives and managers know what it means, taking a step back to develop a concrete definition enhance our perspective on the matter.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) states that employee engagement is “the connection and commitment employees exhibit toward an organization, leading to higher levels of productive work behaviors.” Gallup, too, has its own definition, stating that engaged employees are those who are actively involved in and committed to their organization. In a Forbes article, contributor Kevin Kruse writes that engaged employees contribute “discretionary efforts.”

In other words, engaged employees care. They’re willing to contribute efforts beyond the bare minimum requirements their roles demand from them. As you can imagine, having these committed employees working for you – instead of those who just show up – is far better for your company’s performance and results.

How Can We Measure the Impact of Employee Engagement?

Based on the very definition of employee engagement, it’s clear that it matters to company performance. Yet, to what extent does it impact your results? Is there even a way to quantify its impact?

Our methods for measuring employee engagement have come a long way, and by actively gauging these levels, we can form better insights as to how it affects organizational performance. To help us understand to which degree engagement impacts performance, let’s look at some of the most compelling recent research:

  • Companies with a 9.3 to 1 ratio of engaged to disengaged employees showed 147% higher earnings per share than other organizations. (Gallup)
  • Companies with the lowest engagement levels have 37% higher levels of absenteeism, which costs the U.S. more than $84 billion annually. (Gallup-Healthways)
  • Organizations within the top quartile of employee engagement outperformed those in the bottom 25% by 22% in profitability. (Gallup)
  • Disengaged employees yield turnover rates 12 times higher than those of highly engaged workers. (Glint)
  • Employees who are highly engaged are 36% more likely to stay with their organization. (Aon Hewitt)
  • In leading organizations, 86% of the workforce is engaged. (Aon Hewitt)
  • Organizations where 60-70% of the workforce is engaged have an average shareholders’ return at 24.2%. (Gallup)

Measuring the full impact of employee engagement is a complex challenge, especially when we consider the unique qualities of each organization and its workforce. Yet, the evidence above clearly indicates that it does indeed have a major impact on business outcomes. While it’s still impossible to know for sure just how significant a role employee engagement plays on each company, we do have the ability to measure – and improve – engagement scores.

Effective Ways to Improve Employee Engagement

By incorporating some effective tactics into their performance management strategies, managers can strengthen the communication they share with employees. This is critically important, considering Gallup reports that as much as 70% of fluctuations in engagement levels can be attributed to employees’ managers.

Here are effective strategies managers can use to keep employees engaged:

Develop Ongoing Feedback Loops

Employees need to feel that their managers are committed to their success in order to stay engaged. A weekly check-in with direct reports is one powerful way to establish an ongoing feedback loop with teams, through which managers can clarify priorities, discuss goal progress, and work through any impending obstacles.

Set Clear, Measurable Goals

Managers should work with their employees to set clear, measurable goals that are aligned with top-level company goals. In doing so, they’ll give employees a way to connect their own contributions with overall company success. Moreover, clear, measurable objectives give managers a way to track progress and provide detailed, constructive feedback, which also boosts engagement.

Measure Engagement Regularly

Lastly, a simple yet effective way to ensure employee engagement is on track is to measure it. Using tools like employee engagement surveys, you can anonymously poll teams to get real-time engagement metrics.

Ultimately, to make a lasting improvement on employee engagement, organizations must approach it as an ongoing activity rather than a one-time event. While implementing new tactics to improve employee engagement may at first seem like “added work,” these tweaks are easy to incorporate into a regular rhythm, and the tremendous payoff – improved company performance and profits – will be well-worth your efforts.

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Zorian is CEO of Atiim Inc. (i.e. A-team), a SaaS company that makes sales and marketing teams more productive. Previously he was VP of Sales & Marketing at InsightSquared and has been a speaker at many industry conferences, including the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (AA-ISP). He has also contributed to WSJ Accelerators Blog, Top Sales World Magazine and the Salesforce.com Blog, among others. He holds an MBA from Harvard Business School.

{Infographic} Make It Easy or Turn Out the Lights

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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

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One if by Voice, Two if by Drone – Make it Easy or Turn out the Lights

So, who’s in your home? Is it Alexa, Siri, or Google? If none of them occupy a nightstand or counter space, it is likely only a matter of time.

Voice Activated Assistants and Voice Internet Access

Of course, I am talking about voice-activated digital assistants and according to Brian Braiker’s Ad Age article titled What Really Works in Voice — And Why Google is Smarter than Amazon, 55% of all US households will have at least one digital assistant by 2022. Oh, and by the way, the trend toward voiced based internet access is likely to be even more striking globally, as it opens up the “next billion” internet users. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Eric Bellman notes:

The internet’s global expansion is entering a new phase, and it looks decidedly unlike the last one. Instead of typing searches and emails, a wave of newcomers—“the next billion,” the tech industry calls them—is avoiding text, using voice activation and communicating with images. They are a swath of the world’s less-educated, online for the first time thanks to low-end smartphones, cheap data plans and intuitive apps that let them.

I was an early adopter of voice-activated assistants (three of them are in my home at present, although I am slow to move from words to pictures) and like most others who use voice as a replacement for the typed word, I have chosen Alexa. In fact, Amazon’s Alexa is definitely leading the way with market penetration in the US.

In the Ad Age article mentioned above, Doug Robinson CEO of the Fresh Digital Group (a company that has built approximately 400 skills which enable voice assistants to perform tasks for various brands and non-profits) notes, “Amazon is clearly winning…the reality is from a distribution standpoint, they have the market share. Who’s smarter? Google.”

I won’t tell Alexa that!

It Comes Down to Ease

Irrespective of which of the big players will win the voice assistant battles, the future of voice-activated internet access and voice assistance cannot be ignored. These tools address a broader consumer trend of wanting to exert less and less effort to get their needs met (granted that the technology is far from perfect and frequently it’s easier to grab a remote control rather than having Alexa tell me she is having difficulty communicating with my Logitech hub).

Brands like Starbucks (the target of two my books The Starbucks Experience and Leading the Starbucks Way) were early adopters of voice assistant based ordering – as well as other platforms like voice-activated text-based ordering – which enable customers to make purchases as easy as possible.

Ease Beyond Ordering

From the standpoint of effortless and efficient delivery, Domino’s was the first company to make a commercial food delivery by drone:

Pizza Hut is betting on self-driving Toyota delivery vans referred to as e-Pallete to expedite and make pizza delivery even more seamless.

In an article for CNN Tech, Akio Toyoda notes,”Today, you have to travel to the stores. In the future with e-Pallete, the store will come to you.”

While e-Pallete is early in concept, a prototype is anticipated for deployment at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. That, however, has not stopped Pizza Hut from tweeting about the effortless future ahead.

I Am No Megabrand

Ok, you probably don’t have the budget of Pizza Hut, Domino’s, Starbucks, Google, or Amazon but you do have the capacity to watch and listen to your customers. Where are their pain or friction points in their journey with your brand? What are the “low hanging” opportunities you have available to reduce customer efforts?

Technology is one way to make a customer’s life easier! However, sometimes customer ease is as simple as making a change in a legacy process or training your people to anticipate customer needs.

When I asked Alexa how she can make the life of my customers better she honestly replied that she didn’t “know that.” I guess it’s up to me and I suspect it’s up to you as well!

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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

 

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{Infographic} Technology: Panacea or Tool?

 

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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

Technology – Panacea or Tool?

Recently I had a conversation with a brilliant IT professional who repeatedly referenced the “limitless possibilities” of technology. His zeal and enthusiasm for all things technology made him well-suited for his specialty but as we talked, it became increasingly clear that he lacked similar respect for the importance of understanding human behavior. In fact, at one point he suggested that “technology will help clean up all the ills of humankind.”

Much to be Done

While I won’t dispute that humankind has many ills, I am not convinced that technology will remedy all of them, and in some case, I fear it might even enhance some.

For me, technology is certainly leaping past unimagined boundaries, but ultimately the relevance of any technological solution is inextricably linked to its ability to address a human need. Fortunately, I am not alone in that thinking. Writing in Ad Age, Nelson Kunkel the Chief Design Officer for Deloitte Consulting notes:

Today…we’ve reached a point where the limits of technology feel almost nonexistent and where design and understanding of human behavior and needs are eclipsing the constraints of what’s possible. The challenge is shifting to how do we best use all this power to meet human needs. I believe this is truly the new frontier, one that can unleash new ambitions and possibilities in every industry, business, and society.

Understanding Human Behavior and Human Needs

Therein, is the core of this blog. How well do you understand human behavior and human needs – particularly as they relate to your core customers? Also how well do you deploy technological advances to meet the needs of your core customer segments?

Of all the great interactional moments in the illustrious career of the late Steve Jobs, my favorite involves his insights on the need for customer-centric technological design. Steve was addressing a group of engineers – some of whom had been working on OpenDoc, a software component framework, which Steve Jobs ultimately shelved in light of what he felt was a more customer-centric solution.

When confronted in a public forum by an disgruntled OpenDoc engineer, Steve noted, “I am sure there are some things OpenDoc does – even more that I am not familiar with – that nothing else out there does and I am sure that you can make some demos, maybe a small commercial app that demonstrates those things….One of the things I’ve always found is that you’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backward to the technology. You can’t start with the technology and try to figure out where you are going to sell it!

Starting with the Customer Experience

So what customer experience do you want to create? Desired experiences can vary greatly across brands. For example, in books like The New Gold Standard, Leading the Starbucks Way, and Driven to Delight, I’ve documented how leaders at Starbucks seek to deliver an affordable luxury experience that emotionally connects and inspires; whereas, a Ritz-Carlton experience is rich with nurturance and sensory enhancement. In each case, technology plays its role but only in the context of each brand’s experiential aspirations.

Where to Spend on Tech

As you think about your future technology investments, I strongly encourage you to heed Steve Job’s guidance “to start with the customer experience and work backward to the technology” or in the words of Nelson Kunkel realize that:

All the algorithms, computational intelligence, emerging interfaces and realities, and shiny devices are only as valuable as our ability to use them deliberately and appropriately to enhance relationships, create more natural solutions, and advance the human condition.

What technologies do you see helping you enhance customer relationships, create natural solutions/customer value, or advance your ability to help your customers get their needs met

What technologies do you see helping you enhance customer relationships, create natural solutions/customer value, or advance your ability to help your customers get their needs met through you?

It is those technologies which (in the words of the IT professional that prompted this blog) will help us clean up – at least some of – the ills of humankind.

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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} Supercharge your business by letting go