Tag Archives: communication

What is Your Customer’s Experience? Take 2.5

The Hotel where I have found myself residing since Monday here in Newcastle, Australia in equipt with what I refer to as the “room power off” feature. If you’ve never experienced it before it is a slotted light switch just inside the door. When you enter the room you insert your card key into the slot and this turns the power on to the room. When you leave you take your key with you, obviously, and the room powers off.

A nice energy saving feature to be sure. Except…

When you power off the room you power off the clock radio. When you power off the clock radio you reset the clock. When you power the room on upon your return the clock radio informatively tells you it is 12:00…12:00…12:00. Nice power saving feature but a hassle to have to reset the clock every time I come in the room.

Lame.

This trip is one of several I have currently booked with United Airlines. When I go to the United web site and log in I am presetned with a list of all my current reservations. I can easily click on the VIEW button next to any of them to see the detailed itinerary. And then…it asks me to log in again.

Lame.

We were wending our way down restaurant row in Newcastle the other night looking for a dining adventure. We found ourselvs attracted to a particular place based on the menu posted out near the sidewalk. As we made our way to the counter where we anticipated placing an order we discoevered that the ONLY menu available was the one posted out by the sidewalk. There was no way, inside the store, to know what was available to eat.

Lame.

Great that you a want to save me money on my room by saving power costs but ridiculous that I have to reset the clock everytime I come in the room

Great that you want to protect my information but ridiculous that you make me log in after you have already shown you know who I am.

Great that you entice me with the menu but ridiculous that you set up your establishment like a drive through without a microphone.

I’ve been working on a paper on customer experience of late which, frustratingly, has put me in a position of looking at the world through customer experience tinted glasses. In the next wouple posts I’ll be looking at the concepts of customer effort and customer delight.  But in the mean time…

What other examples do you have of poor customer experience? 

The real  irony behind all this is that WordPress failed me no less than 5 times in trying to post this…post. If I hadn’t had a series of good experiences with WordPress THIS experience would have really set me off. 

What is Your Corporate Story?

Image courtesy of ButterflyPromQueen at DeviantArt.comI’ve been doing a LOT of work lately on the “how-to’s” of creating better customer experiences. Well, I really shouldn’t say “lately” as it has been a part of my work for more than a decade.

What has struck me afresh though is the notion of context. Customers have experiences in a context of some sort and that context typically is derived from expectations which are majorly influenced by story. Your story.

Which got me thinking…

The idea of a “corporate story” applies to ANY group. It applies to the company from which you receive a paycheck. It applies to the group within that company where you do your daily labor. It applies to churches. It applies to teams. It even applies to families!

Far too often though we allow those stories to be created by circumstances.

  • “Oh you guys are that company that acquired so and so.”
  • “Oh yeah, that’s that church that does the big Easter drama.”
  • “Your group is the one that did the cool power point at last years annual meeting.”
  • “You guys live over by the school right? Friends with the Jones?”

Let me suggest a couple of reasons why you ought to be intentional about creating your corporate story:

  • If you let others create your story you allow them to define you.
  • Because the world LOVES story, if you don’t have one, one WILL be created for you.
  • Circumstances will often act as an introduction to your story. It is up to you to be sure there are chapters to follow.
  • Creating your story helps you define your place in your industry, your company or your community and serves as a filter for circumstance.

By way of experiment let me suggest four NFL teams. What is the first thing that comes to mind when you see each name:

  • Denver Broncos
  • New York Giants
  • Oakland Raiders
  • Dallas Cowboys

Now, unless you’re a fan of one of those teams or a storied NFL aficionado  you probably thought something like:

Broncos: John Elway, the team that got Manning, the team that traded Tebow” Circustances
Giants: Won the Super Bowl, Manning’s brother” Circumstances
Raiders: Man I hate those guys, bad boys of the NFL, use to be good, now just thugs” and THAT is a carefully crafted story. A mythos that Al Davis built around his team for years.
Cowboys: America’s team, Romo, Super Bowl, Big BIG screen” Circumstances in there for sure but this is another “storied franchise” we think of them as perennial winners.

Let me ask you this. Who was more recently in a Super Bowl, the Cowboys or the Raiders? Funny, we tend to think of the Cowboys, America’s team (and I am NOT a Cowboy’s fan) as being the one who had to be there more recently right? Nope, the Raiders played in the big game in 2003. The last time the Cowboys were there was 1996.  But their stories tend to make us believe otherwise!!

There is an interesting philosophical exercise that is right in the ballpark of what we’re talking about. The prof asks the student: “Who are you?” The student answers, “Curtis Fletcher”.  The prof replies, “No, that is your name. Who are you?”  The student tries again, “I’m the guy sitting in this seat”. The prof replies, “No, that is your location. Who are you?” Fletch takes another go, “The guy getting frustrated by these questions who’d really rather be outside drinking a beer?” The prof, “Nope. That is your current circumstance. Who are you?”

The exercise typically creates frustration for the students. If you’ve ever seen it done you understand that the frustration comes because the students answer with descriptors and circumstances rather than story.

Later this week I’m going to talk about the elements that make up a good corporate story but for now let me ask you this:

If you were allowed a max of two paragraphs how would you tell YOUR story? The story of your company, your team, your church, your family?

Leadership 101: Pronoun Guidelines

It’s funny how powerful mere words can be in shaping reality. From the Little Engine that Could, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can”, to God’s opening line in the Bible, “Let there be light!”, words shape not only our understanding of the world around us but in just as many cases the world around us as well.

It’s become a bit of a nitpick of mine lately to catch myself on pronoun use and as a result I find myself checking other folks around me as well. Pronoun use can be a HUGE indicator of insecurity or confidence, risk or reward, credit or blame. Don’t get me wrong. I’m definitely NOT the pronoun police whistle blowing and yellow carding my way through meetings. I just listen and make mental notes…copious mental notes.

Allow me then to suggest some simple guidelines for leaders who find themselves choosing which pronoun to use when communicating publicly.

Credit or Blame: Credit should always be “we”. Even if your team did nothing bringing them in on the credit speaks of confidence and, IF they did nothing, puts pressure on them perform next time.In the case where all you did was supervise and the team did all the work turning that “we” into a “they” also speaks volumes.

Blame should always be “I”. One of my greatest leadership memories of all time was being at a CU Miami football game that literally came down CU being a foot short on the last play. A bench clearing NASTY brawl ensued with players and coaches from both sides attacking viciously across 30 yars of mindless melee.

In the post game interview, before the first question was asked, coach Bill McCartney stepped to the mic and addressed the press by saying that he took full responsibility for the actions of his team, players and coaches alike, that it was HIS fault that they behaved that way and that while their would be internal discipline for some specific actions the bulk of the blame should be laid at his feet.

whoa

Risk or Reward: This one is easy to remember: When the risk is high use “I”. You can see you’ve talked it over with the team but that the decision, the risk, the iffy proposition, is your call.

Reward I tend to go straight to “they” if I can…at least in my good moments.

I’ve told my teams for a long time that when we succeed they get the credit, when we fail I take the blame, at least publicly…we WILL have a private conversation.  From experience I can tell you that that one has come back to bite me a time or two. But in the end it still made me a better leader of people.

A few more examples:

  • Innovation: They, or you
  • Difficult change: I, or me
  • Challenging authority: I…do it probably too often.

I adopted a leadership mantra from my good buddy Kurt who always says, “Listen, if I make everyone of my people successful then I’ll be successful by accident.”

The words you choose to use, even down to the smallest pronoun, have profound effect on how successful those people can become. It is also a great barometer of a leaders level of confidence, security, or ego. Who was it that once said, “I took the initiative in creating the Internet.”?  Listen to the leaders you’re around on a daily basis and see where they land in pronoun use. It’s an interesting pastime to be sure.

What other examples can you come up with where pronoun use can effect team performance?

Four Tips for Helping People Understand You Better.

How often have you heard someone say, “I know that’s what I said, but what I meant was…” or some variation thereof?

Communication is an interesting animal. We use words to convey ideas and often struggle to find the right ones. Speaking of course is the worst because it is real time. All the editing typically happens between the head and the mouth.

Now, if you’re a poor conversationalist the tips I am about to provide probably won’t help you much. You’re better off renting The King’s Speech. What I want to work on here is how to be better understood in a more formal speaking setting. That being said, three tips:

1. Have a point.
Your point is NEVER “to provide information”. You always provide information FOR A REASON…and that reason is your point. If I just say, informationally, “You know you should always have a point when you open your mouth to speak”, you would nod and agree and still often be pointless.

My point here is to help you be a better communicator. To be clear here, when I say ‘have a point’ I mean something you can articulate in a single sentence. “The reason I am speaking to these people is…”

That sentence will become the anchor to which I attach all the information you are about to provide. Without it the information becomes overwhelming and floats off into the sunset like a boat one the waves.

2. Stick to the point.
If you’re being asked to speak you have information. You probably have enough information to speak for hours. But how much of that information supports your point?

In business setting I typically find that something like 50-60% of the information in any presentation really belongs in an appendix, stuff that supports the talk but isn’t directly connected to the main point. Leave all THAT stuff out. Save it for the Q&A at the end.

3. Consider you audience.
Whatever it is you’re communicating should have some relevance to why the audience is there. Otherwise your point becomes one of trying to prove how smart, or funny, or important you are.

I was struck by a thought today, and I confess I may have read this somewhere but if not then I want full credit:

“No one cares what you know until they know that you care.”

Granted there are exceptions to this. If the plane is going down and you know where the parachutes are I don’t care if you care about me, I just want to know what you know.

4. Sharpen your message to match.
Case in point: I hate the title of this post. It started as “The Power of Clarity” the morphed into the grammatically poor., “Four Reasons Why You Need to Be More Clear”.

Here’s what I know about my audience at this point. In general a phrase like “The Power of Clarity” is interesting, but it does not generate page views. If I want my audience to benefit from what I think I have to provide I have to start with a hook, something that will prompt YOU to read the post.

“The Power of Clarity” is informational. “Four Tips” conveys the notion that I care about helping you be better. Same information, same point, better connection to the audience.

What do you find to be the biggest challenge in being completely understood?

5 Examples of Loyalty Building Activity

Continuing on the theme of building loyal customers I’d like to look at 5 examples of the type of activities that let your customers understand that they are known, valued, and cared for.

 

1. Knowing who they are.
I worked for a VERY short time in the car selling business…hated it. One of the things that REALLY bugged me was that we’d collect all the pertinent customer data, name, address, phone number, etc…and then, if we’d convinced them to purchase a vehicle, they’d go into the finance office where the first thing they were asked to provide was their name, address, and phone number. LAME, LAME, LAME…but I don’t feel strongly about that. pffft

I recently rented a very expensive camera lens for the fourth time from the same vendor who has also, by the way, done maintenance work on a camera body of mine. I have had to provide that basic info every time as though I had never been in their store. If I had another choice to rent from I would give them a try in a heart beat.

2. Knowing what they’ve done with you.
I’m becoming a fan of Discount Tire. Every time I go in the look me up in “the system” and quickly ask something akin to, “Great Mr. Fletcher which car today? The Altima, the Toyota Van, or the MR2?” Last time that was followed with, “Shouldn’t be the Altima, looks like you got a full set six months ago at our Arapahoe store.” (60 miles and six months away in Denver.)

It’s a simple thing but it says, “We know you’ve done business with us in the past, we know what it was, and we value that.”

3. Knowing what they need.
I started my corporate career in B2B eCommerce with Corporate Express.  This was way back in the day when people were still saying the internet might just be a fad. We had customers ordering paper and copier toner cartridges from us on a very regular basis. The info we had made it possible for us to proactively suggest orders.

“Based on the timing of your order history it looks like you may be due for a couple toner cartridges, can we order up a couple for you?”

This is non-intrusive, provides a reminder when someone may be otherwise swamped and says, “hey, can we provide a hand here based on what we know about you?”

4. Creating a sense of belonging.
I’m really surprised that more car dealers don’t do this. When I have had a question about my Nissan Altima or my Toyota MR2 I go online and look for car enthusiast forums. I typically find the answer in a heart beat. If I were one of those companies I would be the one creating the forum.

When I was a product manager at Oracle we found HUGE value in creating and monitoring user groups. We knew what our customers liked and didn’t like and were able to be a part of the conversation and in turn they felt like they had a voice. Create the forum and you get to help guide the conversation.

5. Offering based on knowing.
I received two offers in email today. One from Disney for some children’s films and one from The Fall Frenzy Triathlon reminding me that early bird registration was opening next week AND referencing my age group. Both offers knew me as a past customer but only one knew who I was and added that to the offer. The other, sadly because I am a hug Disney fan, didn’t recognize that my kids, whose data they have, are all much older than that.

What are you doing today to build loyalty amongst your customers, followers, readers?

Two Reminders that Boost Communication

I really hadn’t intended to write on communication today but I was inspired by the conversation generated by Michael Hyatt’s post from yesterday: What Could Becoming a Better Speaker Make Possible for You?

Now, I don’t necessarily want to just cover “public speaking” here, though that certainly is a large part of it, but communication in general whether it is recorded, written, performed, transmitted…whatever. What I want to share with you are two reminders that I find really boost not only your message but your ability to communicate effectively across the board.

Reminder #1: It is NOT about you.
For years I have taught and coached at the SCORRE Conference mentioned in Michael’s blog where we train people to, among other things, be better public speakers. Did you know that there are studies that show the fear of public speaking ranks way above the fear of failure, the dark, and even death?

What we find at the conference is that a lot of folks who fear public speaking to that degree are highly worried about what people will think of them. But hang on, why are they speaking in the first place? To impress people? To make people love them? NO! Hopefully, unless they’re performing, they’re there to GIVE the audience something they NEED.

Imagine you’re on a cruise ship that is starting to tip over and you happen to be the only one in the room who knows the quickest route to the lifeboats. I’m HOPING you’ll turn into an instant public speaker and NOT be worried about what people will think of you when you start instructing them on how to get to safety.

In any form of communication, other than personal chit chat, the communicator is imparting information to the communicate-ee. How often do you intentionally communicate useless information? Never? Good, then your communication is ALWAYS about your audience.

Hear this and remember: It is NOT about you. It IS about your audience.

So you shouldn’t be worried about what they’ll think of you. You should be worried about whether they’ll understand you and the importance of what you have to tell them. Clarity is more important than cuteness.

Reminder #2: You need to know your audience as well as you know your information.
The follows naturally but it is really surprising how many people forget this one.

I get to speak on technical topics quite often. One of the topics I’ve been asked to cover is Business Intelligence…pretty broad topic really. If I go into the room expecting the audience is a technical one I cover the material from a certain perspective. If it is essentially a business audience I take a different approach. The preparation for those two talks is very different.

Imagine though that I’ve prepared the technical talk and I wind up with an audience of folks who just want to know more about the importance of BI in general, who may or may not even know what the term means other than something they’ve heard is important. DOH! I have that talk in the bag too but it is REALLY different that the other two!

Make the effort to know who is going to be on the receiving end of your communication and you’ll really ratchet up your effectiveness.

Knowing your stuff makes you the expert. Knowing the audience turns you into a trusted adviser.

How well do you know the audiences with whom you communicate? What can you do to understand them even more deeply?

The Lost Art of Dialogue

I’m afraid my friends that we’ve gotten lost. Media in general and social media in particular is guiding us down the path of chemical dependance on the 140 character sound byte.

No wait, we don’t even need that anymore, we just click the “like” button…and then ask for a “don’t like” button. And don’t even get me started on texting (which doesn’t show up in spell check by the way). If we’re not careful we’ll soon frgt hw 2 uu vwls prprly.

How is it that with more access to more information than any three generations have had before now we seem to be less and less inclined toward discussion while at the same time more and more inclined to dismissive dogmatic certainties?  How is it that “our guy’s” statistics are surprisingly accurate while “those guy’s” statistics are always a lying mockery of the truth? Perhaps here we HAVE been most affected by the media. Ever notice how the Storm Troopers can’t seem to hit a thing with their blasters but Han Solo has a 75% hit rate?

In the interest of trying to halt this slide down the slippery slope into mindless sarcastic bashing allow me a few moments to bring to your attention three words:

1. Debate:
Some of the definitions include: To dispute or disagree about, To engage in argument or discussion, Argument or Controversy.

You see a debate is about one side trying to win. You win a debate by proving your point right, or more right, and the other side’s point wrong. A debate typically has a winner and a loser.

2. Diatribe:
Definition: a bitter, sharply abusive denunciation, attack, or criticism

Because a debate is in effect a contest with a winner and a loser they often disintegrate in a series of diatribes aimed at taking out the opponent emotionally as well as intellectually.  Not a bad tactic if you’re looking to win and particularly good if you want the other fellow to lose.

3. Dialogue:
Definition: an exchange of ideas or opinions on a particular issue, especially a political or religious issue, with a view to reaching an amicable agreement or settlement.

Do you see the subtle difference here? In a debate you have one winner and one loser. In a dialogue the intent is to have no losers and all winners. The intent of dialogue is to bring about resolution to conflict that is mutually beneficial.

It’s no surprise we’ve landed here really, having forgotten what we once knew about dialogue. Ours is a capitalistic society. Capitalism thrives on competition. We’re taught to compete from the moment we play our first game of grade school kickball. We’ve become accustomed to, perhaps even programmed into, choosing sides.

But as Americans we’re all on the same side. Shoot, as humans we’re all on the same side. So shouldn’t we be looking to dialogue and resolve rather than debate and win?

Most debates are founded on three premises: declare, prove, debunk. Each side declares what they believe to be true, seeks to prove it, and seeks to debunk their opponent.

IF we are to re-discover the lost art of dialogue I think we need to learn again to begin from a different set of premises:

Agree
Dialogue starts with an agreement as to what it is we’re trying to solve or resolve. (Which I suppose literally could be said to mean “solve again”.) This is more difficult than it seems on the surface.

Take a nice controversial example like abortion. Tons of debate there yes? But it seems to me one side is arguing about rights while the other is arguing about life. Yes, I know the life guys are arguing about rights too, just for different folks.

But, what if the discussion started with trying to agree on what problem it is that abortion solves. Might different alternatives present themselves? Rather than argue we should allow it versus we should not what if the dialogue were about trying to determine if it is the best solution to a defined problem?

Agreement means we’re truly in agreement. We’re actually looking to come up with a mutually beneficial solution to the problem or issue. We’re not just agreeing on the surface for the sake of argument but willing to fight for the agreement rather than for our point to be won.

Assume
Yes, I know we were all taught never to assume. In this case though the assumption is that your counterpart in the dialogue has points, information, statistics, and suggestions that are equally as valid as yours. Assuming this serves to reinforce the agreement.

Also, the better you are at assuming brilliance (a phrase borrowed from an old friend) on the part of the other party the more likely you’ll be to listen to what they have to say, not in order to debunk it, but in order to find where you can reach agreement.

Persist
Dialogue easily slips into debate. When it does go back to the agreement, check your assumptions to see if they are still active as they should be, and persevere.

I used to work for a particularly ornery Brit. One of my favorites bosses of all time truth be told. Chris and I would sometimes get into HUGE shouting matches cross the table to the degree where once or twice people actually poked a head in the door and asked if everything was ok. At which point we laughed and said “Yes, we’re fine. We’re going to lunch in five minutes would you like to join us?”

Ours was a dialogue. A heated one to be sure. But we had agreement as to what we were trying to solve. We had deep mutual respect for one anothers brilliance and perspective, and we persevered. If only we as a country could figure out how to have less debate and more dialogue…who knows where we might once again go.

Where do you find it most difficult to have dialogue rather than debate? Why do you think that is so?