2 Quotes on Customer Experience

Finally managed to read through the Fall 2011 issue of M/I/S/C focussing on Customer Experience.

Just 2 quotes from Will Novosedlik, VP Brand & Design Thinking at Idea Couture.

“The emotional state of the customer after an interaction with your brand is the most important moment in your brand’s life”

“Both employees and customers are viewed as costs that must be managed, not as relationships that must be nurtured”

Too often Customer Experience is considered when things go wrong not as the initial design principle.

Social Media for Business (Cluetrain Manifesto revisited)

Google+ has now opened it’s social media and networking business for enterprises and institutions.

And a recent study by IBM (quoted by freshnetworks) indicated that 68% of CMOs are underprepared for social media marketing.

Maybe it is time to revisit the Cluetrain Manifesto of 1999 and just consider the 2 first points:

  1. Markets are conversations.
  2. Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.

Social media is not just a different channel, but requires a different thinking to engage with customers. The approach to automate and mechanise customer interaction via web-sites in order to save costs, might be exactly the wrong approach in times of conversations.

Companies engaging with customers via real people e.g. on Twitter might have understood it already.

Microsoft Metro

I finally managed to get myself to watch some of the Windows 8 / Metro keynotes from Microsoft’s build conference. Especially  Jensen Harris’ (Director of Program Management Windows User Experience) intro to “8 traits of great Metro style apps“.
And I have to say I’m very impressed. This did not look and feel like Microsoft at all, starting with the clean slides (still a lot of text in some, but significantly better than previous ones).

There are 2 things that stick out especially and make it interesting:

The Design:
Well, for me it just looks beautiful. Great color schemes, great font. But I know that design is not only about the look. Also impressive was the obvious effort they spent in really  designing the UI consistently and very well thought through.  “Fast and Fluid” seems to be a great core paradigm for the whole design and at least  what you can see in the video proves they have managed to take it a long way.

The Strategy:
Their push for the same UI across all platforms from phone to desktop PC makes a lot of sense, because this potentially creates a big market for app developers based on the PC market share. This will then help to move into tablets and phones with a large number of – hopefully unique – apps.

Whether Microsoft will be able to push this through is still to be seen, but if they deliver according to what they have shown, this is definitely a strong competitor for
the phone/tablet/PC OS market.

Product Decision Criteria #1: Make the best product!

At Hypercritical podcast (episode #32) John Siracusa and Dan Benjamin discuss product decisions at Apple.

The #1 product decision criteria at the board room (or any executive level) should be: “Make the best product” (for the customer)

How often are the discussions focussing around gaining market share, fighting the competition, technology trends and how much can be afforded. This will all follow once the focus is on creating the best product.

And how many companies and products in the market today would pass this test?

Windows Phone chief Andy Lees: “Customer want choice” – Not too much!

Interesting interview with Windows Phone chief Andy Lees in the Seattle Times.
“Q: Do you think the iPhone 4S (running on iOS 5) gives you an opening? Do you think they missed an opportunity there?
A: Yes I do. I think, from an end user’s experience on the software, there’s a lot of interesting reviews written comparing us to iOS 5 and the amount that we’ve got done in 11 months — so some people (are) making comparisons of pace.
Perhaps the biggest comparisons people are making is our people-centricity. The more capabilities we add into our phone, the more delightful it becomes to use because you seem to have more at your fingertips without this clutter and confusion of the other platforms.
From a pure hardware perspective, I was surprised they’re not giving the consumer more choice. People want a variety of different things.”


Well the “jam” experiment (actually article called “Choice is Demotivating”) by Sheena Iyengar has proven that customer actually buy more with fewer choices.
This is very much about the fundamental understanding of customers and designing the right experience that Apple is so far ahead of the rest of the players in the mobile environment. More is not always better, actually rarely when it comes to choices.

Disruptive Change in Management

Here is another idea related to the summer issue of M/I/S/C published by Idea Couture. In article by Dr. Julian Birkinshaw, the Deputy Dean of London Business School about “The Future of Management: Is it deja vu all over again?” he claims that besides all the expectations and different management theories and styles there has been no real change in management.

“… the vast majority of management work – by which I mean how we motivate people, make decisions, set objectives and allocate resources – seems almost impervious to change.”

So here are 3 thoughts related to it:

#1: what would be disruptive ?
If the assumption is that there has not been much change – what would be a disruptive innovation in management following Clayton Christensen‘s “Innovator’s Dilemma” approach. This obviously requires to look at management as a technology and as Clayton points out if you, i.e. the disruptive, are not significantly better the incumbant will win.

Following the original assumption above obviously there has not been anything “better” in the past years.

But following further on Clayton Christensen’s analysis how could the disruption look like?The better might play out initially in an underserved small market with less stringent performance requirements. It might offer a very specific advantage, e.g. agility, less overhead to create a competitive advantage as a basis to grow from.

#2: where have all the approaches gone ?
There has been a long list of new approaches and here is the latest promise for change in management: “Radical Management” by Steve Denning. I picked this because in a recent blog he is referring to Apple as a key user of Radical Management.

And then this relates to this comment on DaringFireball on HP’s split of the WebOS business and assigning hardware and software to different units within the organization. There might be still differences and improvements in management after all.

#3 could it be here already ?
I’m currently (re-) reading Jason Fried’s and David Heinemeier Hansson’s book “Rework”. And besides sounding really like “Radical Management” it shows a very different approach to managing besides quarterly results, organisational hierarchies and big budgets.

So maybe here is the disruptive approach for the future of management.

3 Learnings (and interesting question): “What if Steve Jobs was a telco CEO?”

What can telecommunication CEOs learn from Steve Jobs. Interesting question discussed at TM forum, based on an initial discussion on TelecomAsia.

It has some good points in terms that Steve Jobs as the CEO of a telco operator could have made the history turn out differently regarding smartphones and mobile data services.

However, I believe that the focus on content selling is driven more by the current assumption that this is the business saviour for operators rather than being the key success story of Steve Jobs and Apple.

Apple’s business is in selling hardware. Content (music, video, apps) contributes only a small portion of their business. So in order to learn from Steve Jobs you have to take a different angle.

Here are my 3 key lessons for the telco industry:
#1: design insanely great products that stand out– telco products look the same almost around the globe, nothing really stands out
– focus on customer experience not on technology
– sweat out the details
– simplicity

#2: get your hands dirty with optimizing the business backend
Steve Jobs and now-CEO Tim Cook managed to turn Apple into the most profitable device manufacture by rigorous focus on logistics / business processes / supplier management. This is the invisible or at least mostly ignored part of the Apple success story.

#3: focus on the overall the experience
for customers and partner (read application developers).
– help the customer and make them feel treated well (retail stores, genius bars, migration services)
– don’t make them feel you just want to sell more
– no 10 pages of small print in product offerings
– support developers with a complete development environment, not just the APIs

And at the end just again getting back to the de-mystification of the innovation genius of Steve Jobs.

Social CRM – what is it ?

Interesting attempt on the definition of social CRM (and the evolution to get to it) by Oliver Blanchard at the BrandBuilder Blog:

[Social] CRM is a business function supported by a system and technologies whose aims are to improve a company’s ability to derive insights into customer needs and behaviors by adding to their transaction data the lifestyle data they share online.

From my perspective it covers well the aspect of adding the outside social information to the existing inside view of CRM.

However, In the age of Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and all other social media, I think there is also the aspect of adding the social network capabilities to the CRM part, i.e. let your followers and friends do part of your customer relationship, especially the promotion and brand building part of it. Some others would probably also call it Word-of-Mouth-Marketing.

This obviously also depends on what should be considered under CRM and then you can think about externalizing some of the functions. For me key business functions of CRM are Customer Care, Complaint Management, Bonus and Loyalty Programs, Promotional Campaign Management and there is probably an official definition somewhere.

And to add to this ReadWriteEnterprise just summarized the latest from Gartner on Social CRM.

Two stages of simplicity

Simplicity and Zen-like elegance has been attributed as the key success factor of many products currently.

Just coming out of a conversation about GUI design I realized that the push for simplicity has 2 challenges or stages. The first is to simplify, i.e. leave out or at least hide rarely used functionality or components.
This in itself can be demanding especially for product engineers who believe in the importance and consequently immediate visibility of each and every feature of the product.

But the more challenging part is actually to do this in a way so that users immediately “feel” the added value of the product. This requires to reflect customer expectations and standard use cases in a very natural way.

We will see this coming even more not only for physical products, but also for processes and customer interaction.

[Update: And here is some insight from Harvard Business Review into the Apple way of achieving this.]

[Update: And the interesting view of Don Norman on Google’s simplicity]

The El Bulli of telco service

Just reading through the summer (actually the second) issue of M/I/S/C (Movement Intuition Structure Complexity) a publication of Idea Couture.  An article about the experience and end of El Bulli, Ferran Adria’s fancy restaurant of molecular cooking and the future of food got me thinking how this would translate into the telecommunication business

What you have is the idea for an innovative restaurant or rather a sensory experience, where people apply and enter a lottery to get one of the 50 places each night for the 6 month of the year it is open.

So it combines a sensational experience with a high level of exclusivity. And maybe just because I’m writing this on a plane, it sounds very much like the top-level frequent flyer class of most airlines. The important part is also that there is something money can not buy.

Start thinking about it from a telecommunications provider perspective and you find that (1) this is not part of their standard offering and (2) it gives you a new angle about what customers desire about the service (hint: it is not free SMS – fails the money can buy test)

Here a just a few thoughts: better quality of service (like a frequent flyer), and this could be faster connect, quaranteed bandwidth, more bandwidth. Or on a more sophisticated level: a cool app that you can not buy for your smartphone, a free contract for the spouse (maybe also fails the can’t buy test), a special phone – immediately identifiable as member of a special tribe.