3-Funnel Diagnostic; Fixing What You Cannot See

Marketing Funnels - More than oneYou see a model that is so simple that it can’t possibly apply to your unique situation. That’s what most people believe. It is also the reason why most humans (and business leaders in particular) struggle to learn from others. But, people like you do learn; this article is for you.

The 3 Funnels is the Key to Organizational Longevity

No matter the size or type of your organization, you’re subject to the 3 funnels – there is no escape. Effectively navigate the 3 funnels and never run out of cash and you’ll be a going concern forever. The 3 funnels are (left to right in the image above):

  1. The exposure funnel where you turn suspects (A) into prospects (B);
  2. The adoption funnel where you turn prospects (C) into cash generating customers that are using your product or service (D);
  3. The retention funnel where you turn customers (E) into loyal advocates (F) that help you attract more prospects, in turn reducing your marketing expenses related to the exposure funnel.

Leaky Funnels and Blocking Covers

Limited flow through any of these funnels negatively impacts your organization. The funnel shape implies that there is a slowdown; people enter the top and then take a while to get out through the bottom. No matter how perfect your organization you won’t have 100 percent throughput. Some customers never make it through the funnel. It can be as though the funnel is leaky or has a cover that prevents people from entering. You don’t want to be a board member, executive leader, or manager that makes decisions that in effect, limit the flow through the funnels. Don’t be your own competitor.

3 Funnel Diagnostic

If you want to spark some authentic dialogue in your organization then pull together a team and perform a 3 Funnel Diagnostic.

  1. First, build a report against the 3 funnels to show how many people are at each of the stages. Can you do this?
  2. Secondly, discuss all of the activities that your organization is involved with in moving people from initial suspect all the way through advocacy. No doubt you discover organizational performance gaps. Understand the customer journey.
  3. Thirdly, discuss what barriers are preventing people from entering each funnel or making it all the way through. By doing this, you’ll surface where people get stuck and the reasons why. I guarantee you that the reasons will be more attributable to your organization’s own performance gaps as opposed to your competitors doing a far superior job. This is especially evident in industries where customer satisfaction is low industry-wide.

Have a Better Conversation

Let’s face it, in most organizations the discussion around the sales or marketing funnel is overly simplified and dominated by whichever department is more influential at the time. But, that isn’t the most productive way to run a business. When sales and marketing are not working cooperatively together then customers and would-be customers suffer. Not long after that the business suffers.

A better conversation centers around your customer and the steps (touchpoints) they go through from first learning of your product, service, or company to becoming a loyal advocate. Three distinct funnels best represent this metamorphosis from suspect to prospect to customer to advocate. Sure, it is easier to dumb things down and create a single simplified funnel. But, imagine your accounting department or bookkeeper only had a single account as opposed to a full chart of accounts. You’d have an accounting nightmare and subsequently a tax nightmare. That is no way to run a business.

Evolve your conversation around sales and marketing funnels and your business will evolve, too. Proposing such a 3 Funnel Diagnostic will take some courage. But, you have courage, right? Want some assistance? Get in Touch.

about the author

Gregory Olson authored The Experience Design Blueprint, a book about designing better experiences and then making them come true. Chapters in the book that especially pertain to this article include:

  • Chapter 3: Who is in the Sandbox?
  • Chapter 8: The Promise Delivery System
  • Chapter 11: Barriers to Innovation and Overcoming the Wall

Gregory Olson’s latest book is L’ impossi preneurs: A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow, a light-hearted and deadly serious book about a brighter future where we live more meaningful lives, governments invest in people and sustainable progress, and technology serves humans.

thumbnail image of author Gregory OlsonGregory Olson founded strategy and design firm Delightability, LLC. with the belief that if you delight customers then success will follow. He believes that we all have the potential to do better, as individuals, organizations, and communities, but sometimes we need a little help.  Gregory also serves as a volunteer board member for Oikocredit USA, a support association for social impact investor and international financial cooperative, Oikocredit International.

Avoid Event and Launch Fail by Thinking in Three Zones

Conventional thinking says showing up is half (or 80%) of being successful. This is rubbish. If you just show up, you’ll not like the results. Even if you do, others will not. Showing up isn’t good enough for things that matter. Imagine a news anchor “just showing up” or a keynote speaker, actor, executive, job applicant, bride or groom, sales executive, or you. Showing up might be okay for insignificant things like cleaning your garage or drinking coffee in your pajamas while reviewing pre-breakfast social media trends. But, most of us aim for bigger moments in life. And in those moments we’ll want to do more than show up. Here is some secret sauce to make the most of moments that should matter.

Think of Big Moments as Events

No matter what you are working on it can be represented as an event that completes at a point in time. The exception to this is a program. Programs by definition are ongoing as opposed to projects which are finite in duration. Programs can be thought of as a series of connected projects.

The Point in Time

If you are working on planning an event the point in time becomes obvious. It’s the moment that eventually arrives. After all, you’ve put it on the calendar and probably invited people. But, less obvious are things like product launches, website launches, design of new services, communications, strategic planning, assembling a team, creating a movie, going on vacation, or moving to a new location.

The Big Moment

So, we have this point in time where your, we’ll call it “big moment”, completes. Let’s unpack that moment. There is the time leading up to your big moment as well as the time that follows. And of course your big moment covers a span of time as well. For an event that might be an hour or a few days in the case of a trade show event. So, really we have three periods of time, or time zones.

Three Time Zones

As it turns out, anything you’re working on has these three time zones. If you are mindful of the preparation leading up to the big moment then no doubt when your big moment arrives it will be smoother, higher quality, more engaging, and more likely to yield the results you want. And, when that happens the time zone following your big moment will be likely involve sharing, celebration, reflection, and more opportunity.

Ignorance is not Bliss

But, ignore any of the time zones and you are leaving much to chance. Imagine the best trade show ever (or family reunion). Of course you’d love to have pictures to relive the memory of where you connected with your best customer (or cherish the memory of when your favorite Aunt was still alive). Well, to have those pictures to reflect upon, somebody somewhere would have had to think to secure a photographer or provide instructions to many people to take pictures and later share. Without that forethought, the event would unfold in time and the opportunity to take pictures will evaporate along the way. Time marches on whether you are prepared for it, or not.

Make the Most of Your Big Moments

To make the most of your big moments, whether you are working alone or alongside a team, think in three time zones. What needs to happen ahead of the event, during the event, and following the event.

Zone I – Readiness

Most things of any significance cannot be accomplished alone. Things to think about in the readiness zone include:

  • Who needs to be prepared?
  • What information will be needed? How will we get it?
  • What is the sequence of actions leading up to the moment?
  • What can be completed ahead of time?
  • What communications need to be created?
  • What deadlines to we need to be aware of?
  • Who can help accomplish all of this?

Zone 2 – The Moment

Project yourself ahead in time to the big moment and answer the following questions:

  • Who is the intended audience and what will be their context?
  • What experience do we need to create for them? (See CH 1: What is an Experience?)
  • What will ensure the experience unfolds as planned?
  • Should we aim for remarkable, unbroken, or generous? (See CH 6: Aiming for Remarkable, Unbroken, and Generous Design)
  • Who will be on point for different activities?
  • Will we capture the moment in pictures, sound, or some other medium?
  • Who will keep us orchestrated?
  • What could go wrong and how will we mitigate?

Zone 3 – The Follow

After the big moment completes there is the tendency to rush to the next thing. But, here is a case where slowing down now can actually help you to speed up later. Follow-up, debrief, and apply what you just learned so that you can positively impact what’s next. Some of the things to think about here include:

  • What should be the follow-up with our audience(s)?
  • What did we learn and how will we apply it?
  • Who can benefit by our sharing?
  • Did we or can we still gain validation?
  • How could this event be even better next time?
  • Was it worth it? Shall we repeat it?
  • What should we adjust going forward?

Summary

If you want to make your big moments matter then you’ll need to imagine yourself in each of three zones before they actually unfold in time. Thinking about what will need to happen in each zone and having conversations with others who will be involved will make the difference between an memorable event that makes a big impact and a lackluster event where people simply showed up. A couple of other guiding principles to keep in mind are:

  1. A task unclaimed is a task undone;
  2. Inspiration has expiration so best to get started soon;
  3. Show visible progress to keep motivated and moving forward;
  4. Checklists are good insurance against overconfidence

If you are working in a team then introduce the three time zones into your business vernacular. Those big moments that await you will notice the difference along with your audience and the team that played a part in making it all happen.

about the author

Gregory Olson authored The Experience Design Blueprint, a book about designing better experiences and then making them come true. Chapters in the book that especially pertain to this article include:

  • Chapter 2: Make the Customer Come Alive
  • Chapter 6: Aiming for Remarkable, Unbroken, and Generous Design
  • Chapter 8: The Promise Delivery System
  • Chapter 11: Barriers to Innovation and Overcoming the Wall
  • Chapter 13: Taking Flight

Gregory Olson’s latest book is L’ impossi preneurs: A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow, a light-hearted and deadly serious book about a brighter future where we live more meaningful lives, governments invest in people and sustainable progress, and technology serves humans.

thumbnail image of author Gregory OlsonGregory Olson founded strategy and design firm Delightability, LLC. with the belief that if you delight customers then success will follow. He believes that we all have the potential to do better, as individuals, organizations, and communities, but sometimes we need a little help.  Gregory also serves as a volunteer board member for Oikocredit Northwest, a support association for social and impact investor,Oikocredit International.

 

Unbroken Experiences: Exactly What We Need At Times

This post has been adapted from CH 6: Aiming for Remarkable, Unbroken, and Generous Design in The Experience Design Blueprint.

elevator imageNo matter your title or role you are involved in customer experience. As a consumer yourself, sometimes you just want things to work. They don’t always need to be remarkable; they do need to be reliable, predictable, dependable, and above all unbroken.

Examples include the checkout line at the grocery store, driving in traffic, filling a glass of water from the tap, sitting down on a chair, walking up steps, riding your bicycle, riding in an elevator, making a phone call, returning a product, getting warranty service, filing an insurance claim, visiting the dentist, starting your car, etc. Unbroken – that is what is needed.

And, if you do work with or for an organization that serves customers then no doubt your organization has provided services to more customers than any one customer has received services from your organization. Organizations simply deal with more customers than the other way around. This is true whether you manufacture shoes, houses, boats or meals or you sell cars, financial services, run a nonprofit, or a government agency.

With this tremendous upper hand of knowledge you have an opportunity to help your future customers prevent mistakes that you’ve witnessed previous customers make. Leveraging this knowledge and helping customers avoid broken experiences can be simple as the example in Figure 6.5 shows.

image of smoothing the journey example - the experience design blueprint book by Gregory Olson

Figure 6.5 Home Furnishings Store Provides Customers with Twine in Loading Area

This home furnishings store recognizes the customer’s experience doesn’t end at the point of sale terminal. They provide twine to those customers in the loading area who may not have thought to bring any, or to those who made an unplanned purchase too large to fit inside their vehicle. The store doesn’t have to provide twine and they probably wouldn’t be frowned upon for not providing it. After all, it is an oversight on the part of the customer. But, why let a broken experience occur with prediction when a little forethought and action can fully prevent it?

Your forethought is an insurance policy against broken experiences that your future customers may have.

map and signs at blue mountain resort for Experience Design Blueprint - DelightabilityYour forethought is an insurance policy against broken experiences that your future customers may have. Treat the situation the same as if your customer were a child wandering toward traffic in a busy intersection. Of course, you’d intervene and help them out.

This example was about twine and purchasing home furnishings, but it could be about any product or service. Other examples that come to mind include business travel, financial services, renovation, construction projects, vacations, trade shows, creating a campaign, fundraising, launching products, and even change initiatives and major projects. And, remember your customers might be external customers or those internal to the organization – other departments, disciplines, or even channel partners.

Recipe #16: Be Smooth
Think about what you might provide your customers (internal and external) at a time that is convenient and appropriate to smooth their journey. Then smile and take solace in knowing you’ve prevented a broken experience they may never even think about. In Chapter 7, we look more at the “smoother filter” that you can apply to customer journeys.

about the author

Gregory Olson’s latest book is L’ impossi preneurs: A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow, a light-hearted and deadly serious book about a brighter future where we live more meaningful lives, governments invest in people and sustainable progress, and technology serves humans. Greg also authored The Experience Design Blueprint, a book about designing better experiences and then making them come true.

image of Greg-Olson-Managing Director of Delightability and author of Experience Design BLUEPRINTGregory Olson founded strategy and design firm Delightability, LLC. with the belief that if you delight customers then success will follow. He believes that we all have the potential to do better, as individuals, organizations, and communities, but sometimes we need a little help.  Gregory also serves as a volunteer board member for Oikocredit Northwest, a support association for social and impact investor, Oikocredit International.

 

Arbor Day: Your Chance To Be A Generous Designer

Nature is the Original Hacker

Nature is the original hacker; she’s been at it for a long time, much longer than humans. Does nature ever get it wrong? The follow-up question is, wrong from whose perspective, a human perspective? Or, is it like Leonardo da Vinci said of art, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” Perhaps when we think of nature being wrong, whatever we’re observing simply isn’t completed.

Generous Design by Nature

Nature is bountiful and sustainable; it’s also very generous. Trees, for example, are a generous gift from nature. Glorious natural trees are water absorbing, pollution filtering, soil protecting, oxygen giving, and shelter providing. Planting trees is good for the planet as trees absorb carbon dioxide, one of the gases that collect in the atmosphere, trap heat, and warm the planet. Trees are good for people too, with many positive psychological benefits. Being in the presence of swaying trees reduces anxiety, lowers blood pressure and connects us to the natural environment. The soothing rhythmic motion of trees or even grass is not unlike that of mothers who instinctively use gentle swaying motion to comfort their babies. Did you ever notice that you feel better around trees or in a rocking chair?

“The symbolism – and the substantive significance – of planting a tree has universal power in every culture and every society on Earth, and it is a way for individual men, women and children to participate in creating solutions for the environmental crisis.”

Albert Arnold “Al” Gore, Jr.
45th Vice President of the United States
Author, environmental activist,
2007 Nobel Peace Prize Winner
(born March 31, 1948)

Trees are a generous gift from nature. Humans can be generous designers as well.

Generous Design by Humans

As I describe in, The Experience Design Blueprint, generous design makes people smile. When an organization exceeds expectations without any pressure to do so, people often take notice. It might mean going beyond what is required by law or code, or even the norm set by competitors. Often the thoughtfulness goes unnoticed, but the design still serves to make things a little easier or a little better.

When you experience generous design firsthand you think to yourself, “Wow, somebody thought of that. How nice!” But, more importantly, you feel that somebody cared and as a result they touched your heart and your mind. Generous design goes beyond expectations, like a dual drinking station for humans and canines alike or a stair rail that extends a little more than required, so that it comfortably greets those about to meet the stairs. Unexpected trees alongside the built environment can be generous gifts that restore the human spirit, cause us to slow down, and even provide healing. We see and feel these in urban areas, parks, boulevards, universities, and even healthcare facilities.

tree lined boulevard as generous design - Delightability

Arbor Day

Arbor Day is the day dedicated annually to public tree-planting in the U.S., Australia, and other countries around the world. You needn’t be an arborist or a landscape designer to plant a tree. Even birds (or other animals) inadvertently plant trees as they eat fruit in one area and defecate in another. Animals do this without even thinking. But, you are human, perhaps even superhuman. You can be a thoughtful, generous designer and plant a tree, if not for yourself for those who will enjoy it 100 years from now.

planting a pine tree

Culture of Care

Though Arbor Day provides you an official day to be thoughtful and generous, you needn’t be gated by such holidays. Opportunities for generous design are all around us. The best thing is you don’t have to be a designer by title or role – a bird isn’t, after all. You can participate at any time, in planting a tree or other thoughtful acts that exceed expectations and turn lips upward. The Culture of Care is afoot. If you’ve already joined – thank you! If not, we hope you’ll join our movement.

about the author

Gregory Olson founded strategy and design firm Delightability, LLC. with the belief that if you delight customers then success will follow. He believes that we all have the potential to do better, as individuals, organizations, and entire nations.
image of Greg-Olson-Managing Director of Delightability and author of Experience Design BLUEPRINTGregory Olson’s latest book is L’ impossi preneurs: A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow, a light-hearted and deadly serious book about a brighter future where we live more meaningful lives, governments invest in people and sustainable progress, and technology serves humans.

Greg also authored The Experience Design Blueprint, a book about designing better experiences and then making them come true.

10 Ways Climate Change and Customer Experiences Are Alike

image of concerned baby for blog post about climate change and customer experienceIgnoring Climate Change and Customer Experience can result in diminished human potential and destroyed companies, brands, property, and lives. The good news is that amid deniers of Climate Change or those that don’t think the Customer Experience matters, there are many people who do care and are actively engaging others to care, too.

10 ways in which Climate Change and Customer Experience are alike:

  1. Detection Informs Design. For Climate Change and Customer Experience we can detect changes that can inform smarter design; smarter design of products, services, spaces, and organizations. We can design and deliver better Customer Experiences and we can design more thoughtful organizations, institutions, and policies to create a more sustainable and inclusive future for all. We can even design systems to protect people from the effects of Climate Change. Of course being informed is one thing; we still have to decide to actually do something differently if we expect to have different outcomes. Progress is pesky that way; we have to invest in it. Rarely does it advance on its own.
  1. Pioneers Face Resistance. There are conferences and summits that deal directly with Climate Change and Customer Experience. People attend these conference and summits; gain ideas for improvements, then return to their daily lives to face resistance, opposition, and even misdirection. These pioneers of Customer Experience and of Climate Change push headlong against social, cultural, and political opponents who would rather keep things as they are. Some of these pioneers (entrepreneurs pursuing the seemingly impossible) persevere and we eventually come to know their innovations and perhaps even their names.
  1. Little Things Together Have a Big Impact. Customer Experience and Climate Change involve many different factors that when working together make a big difference. With Customer Experience, all of the interactions across touchpoints over time in customers’ journeys work to ensure that a brand has staying power; those interactions can also spell disaster for a brand that cumulatively leaves a poor brand aftertaste in the minds of prospective and current customers. Similarly, recycling, industrial composting, production practices, and individual purchase and consumption habits, etc., don’t look like much in isolation. But, taken together they make a big impact on social, environmental, and economic systems. Things are more connected than we often realize.
  1. Policy Must Connect With Humans. Climate Change and Customer Experience solutions require holistic solutions that benefit when top-down policy direction is informed by bottom-up data and actions. Returns processing, online purchase behavior, communications, etc., are all better solutions for customers when the top and bottom meet somewhere in the middle, at the customer’s reality. When it comes to climate change, proposed policies and agreements that factor in the real world experiences of displaced (or soon to be) climate refugees, are more humane, meaningful, and long-lasting.
  1. Meaningful Metrics Needed. Customer Experience and Climate Change both suffer at the hands of operators who internalize profits while externalizing costs to customers, society, and sometimes to workers. Landfills are filled with junk products that are designed to be profitable so long as customers accept the notion they are buying disposable, nonrenewable, non-repairable, and many times nonreturnable products. People that may be marginalized in the process are invisible to most consumers. Save for the consumer that looks for Cradle to Cradle certification, Fair Trade certification, Organic, or other inherently sustainable labels, most consumers are in the dark; They serve as unwitting pawns that contribute to harming the earth and its inhabitants while the puppet masters that exploit the seemingly limitless earth’s resources and marginalize people do extremely well for themselves and their allies. Metrics that go beyond profits and include social and environmental factors are increasingly important to global citizens that share a common planet.
  1. Leadership Must Adapt. Both Customer Experience and Climate Change create victims while at the same time producing those who do extremely well under the “old system,” at least until the day they don’t. Imagine building your empire based on vast fossil fuel reserves or a particular product or technology only to find that over time it has become irrelevant as the world moved on. I wouldn’t want to be manufacturing typewriters, selling palm oil that contributes to deforestation, or base my entire country’s economy on fossil fuel production. It’s important to pay attention to and respond to the changing mood of people. Organizations and governments would do well to build more responsive organizations that balance the needs of many stakeholders. Use The Promise Delivery System of Chapter 8 in The Experience Design Blueprint to build a more responsive organization. Any organization can operationalize a promise delivery system using whatever technology and personnel it has at its disposal.
  1. Myriad Factors Are Involved. Customer service is to Customer Experience as habitat protection is to Climate Change. Either one is but one factor in a compilation of interrelated issues – necessary, but insufficient. As described in The Experience Design Blueprint, an experience is a contextual interaction between people, objects, services, and spaces. Customer service is only a small, albeit important, component of the overall Customer Experience. Likewise, there are many factors involved in Climate Change including the water cycle, the natural environment and built environment, agricultural practices, trade policy, economic empowerment, production practices, individual consumption patterns, etc. Not every factor can be controlled by any individual or organization. But, that doesn’t absolve any individual or organization from its own inaction.
  1. Opponents Think It Too Expensive. Opponents may say investing in progress whether it is Customer Experience or Climate Change is too expensive. It’s true that short-term indulgent thinking might satisfy our immediate hunger, but it’s a satisfaction like junk food satisfies. It is filling for the moment, but it lacks nutritional value and substance. And in the long run, it doesn’t work for your waistline or your health. The VW Emission Cheating Scandal may have looked like a good idea in the short run but in the long run, it’s harmful to the environment, owners of vehicles, owners of the company stock, and ultimately to the affected brands. Gimmicks to prop up earnings in the short run are too often heralded while long-term investments in employee training, organizational performance, and customer empowerment are deemed to be unwarranted expenditures.
  1. Lack of Systems Thinking. Customer Experience or Climate Change? That is somebody else’s problem to solve (or the worry of another agency or department). There is a lack of systems thinking, holistic solutions are lacking, and conversations are too small. We confuse causation with correlation. Our biases, ideologies, and patterns of behavior get in the way; so do our means of livelihood. “My tailpipe emission didn’t cause that. Leaving the light on doesn’t matter, my extra trip, extra purchase, my upgrade, my tossing that compostable product in the trash. What difference does it really make?”  Often times, in organizations, we face back office and top office decisions that undermine the remarkable actions of front-line personnel that actually strive to do the right thing for customers and the organization.
  1. What do you think? I’m sure you have ideas on how Climate Change and Customer Experience are alike, face the same challenges, are improving, etc. I’ve closed comments on this post but please do share your ideas with me and others on social media.

Things Are Connected

Things are more connected than they first appear to be. Delivering great Customer Experiences and having sustainable production and consumption patterns that don’t contribute to anthropogenic (human-caused) Climate Change are both issues that require we confront our common reality, engage in new thinking, new conversations, and that collectively we invest in progress. Good global citizens are increasingly paying attention to matters of Customer Experience and Climate Change. Brands (including governments) that embrace great customer experiences and that live up to their changing duties as the climate continues to wreak havoc on people and property, will do better in the future than deniers or bad actors that stick to outdated modes of thinking.

The Future is Better than the Past

To escape the present and explore a brighter future where we all live more meaningful lives, governments invest in people and sustainable progress, and technology serves humans read L’ impossi preneurs: A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow.

about the author

image of one page overview of L impossi preneurs - A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow by Gregory OlsonGregory Olson’s latest book is L’ impossi preneurs: A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow, a light-hearted and deadly serious book about a brighter future where we live more meaningful lives, governments invest in people and sustainable progress, and technology serves humans. This book challenges each of us to think differently, spark our own conversations, and play a role in nudging the world forward to create a better future for all. Find it at Amazon, CreateSpace e-Store,Barnes & Noble, Bokus, or order it from your local bookstore.

image of one page overview - The Experience Design Blueprint by Gregory OlsonGreg also authored The Experience Design Blueprint, a book about designing better experiences and then making them come true. Exercises and mental models in the book will build your confidence and competence in envisioning better possibilities and then making them come true, whether you are working alone or alongside a team. Chapters in the book that especially pertain to this article include:

  • Chapter 6: Remarkable, Unbroken and Generous Design
  • Chapter 8: The Promise Delivery System
  • Chapter 11: Barriers to Innovation and Overcoming the Wall
  • Chapter 12: The Three Psychological Zones
  • Chapter 13: Taking Flight

image of Greg-Olson-Managing Director of Delightability and author of Experience Design BLUEPRINTGregory Olson founded strategy and design firm Delightability, LLC. with the belief that if you delight customers then success will follow. He believes that we all have the potential to do better, as individuals, organizations, and communities, but sometimes we need a little help.  Gregory also serves as a volunteer board member for Oikocredit Northwest, a support association for social and impact investor, Oikocredit International.

Use the 4 Action Levers to Improve Customer Experiences

Product and Service Village

Products and services don’t invent themselves, not yet anyway. And, their intended audiences rarely self-generate a groundswell of demand. Products and services with even a modicum of complexity require an organization to deliver those products and services over their life cycle. The organization should stand ready to provide assistance to customers from the moment they begin “kicking the tires” to the time they become a customer and hopefully a repeat customer and advocate. Inside the organization, it takes a small village to make all of this come together and to keep it operating smoothly.

Why Villages Need a Chief

Human history has taught us that villages want chiefs. What villagers really seek is a way to resolve disputes, a point person to make and enforce rules, and a source of wisdom. The chief is the supreme leader and organizer that hopefully keeps everybody safe, healthy, and prospering, even amid change and conflict. The chief is the one person accountable for everything, good and bad.

Product Manager as Chief
In many organizations, the product or brand manager is made to be the de facto chief of the product or service village. Think of the arrangement to be more of a central hub in a hub and spoke arrangement that keeps the business flowing around that product or brand. In smaller companies or startups the founder is often this chief.

Worry Might be the Chief’s Biggest Product

image of hub and spoke arrangement for Delightability blog postBut, talk to any product manager in those sorts of arrangements (if you are able to) and you’ll discover that they’re running the busy program and don’t have much time for anything, let alone your conversation. They simply have to worry about everything and everywhere. In many innovation cultures they are also expected to be thought leaders as well as the protective visionary that understands all of the nuances and continuous changes in the business landscape and customer ecosystem. It’s daunting and exhausting, rife with employee burnout, outright failure, and lost potential for employees, organization, and customer alike. If you have been a product manager or worked closely with one, you know what I’m talking about. The to-do list always exceeds the to-done list by a factor of 10 or more. And, worse, few seem to understand or care because they too are running some version of the busy program. In Switch vernacular, this isn’t so much of a people problem as it is a situation problem. The good news is that this is a solvable problem.

It’s time to spark a new conversation

If you’d like to change this, you need to spark a new conversation in your organization. Here is some thinking to accompany you. Any improvement you make to a customer’s experience can be force fit into one of four categories as shown in the figure at the top of this article, namely:

  • more relevant communications
  • improved customer thinking
  • organizational readiness
  • better product and service interactions

If you have my book, The Experience Design Blueprint, reference Figure 7.9 in Ch 7: Improving the Journey. So, your organization needs to build competencies in each of these areas. Expecting all of this to fall on the shoulders of one person is wishful thinking, but chances are it isn’t producing very good results.

Benefits of distributed leadership

Formalizing leadership across the 4 competencies will improve the performance of your product manager. It will increase the firms absorptive capacity, improve the organization’s overall performance, empower employees, and enable the organization and brand to better connect with its intended audiences.

But, that isn’t the only power of the levers. They also serve as a system of checks and balances. After all, you can’t have more relevant communications or better product and service interactions if you don’t have improved customer thinking. And, if your organization isn’t ready or up to the task, then better product and service interactions or more relevant communications will never actually materialize.

The 4 Action Levers give you a way to do mental bookkeeping for making improvements in the areas of more relevant communications, improved customer thinking, organizational readiness, and better product and service interactions.

Compare this to the act of cleaning a four room house by moving all of the mess into one of the rooms. You’ve only shifted the problem temporarily. If you visit the affected room, you’ll notice the problem straight away. If you know classical physics then you also know Newton’s third law states that for every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction. That is an axiom that applies here. If you invest in activities behind one of the action levers then realize the other levers will be affected, too.

image of lever to gain mechanical advantage - Delightability blog postWhy the Metaphor of Lever
Lever is an intentionally chosen word because with a lever, you amplify a small input force to produce a larger output force. It is a simple machine to gain mechanical advantage. With customer experiences, we can invest small actions into better understanding customers and gain a greater output of Improved Customer Thinking.

Use the 4 Action Levers to identify projects and programs that aim to improve the organization’s ability to deliver more remarkable products and services, build more authentic relationships, and communicate more effectively with intended audiences.

  • Improved Customer Thinking –  Who are the audiences you are concerned with today and in the near future? What do you want them to think, feel, do and remember? Remember audiences can be internal or external to the organization. See related post Customer Schmustomer: Audience Schmaudience. See Project Ideas.
  • More Relevant Communications – What are the communications requirements across initiatives, time, and channels to authentically connect with your intended audiences? Remember that communications also includes internal communications. See Project Ideas.
  • Better Product & Service Interactions –  What are the intended experiences you want your audiences to have over time when dealing with your organization? See Project Ideas.
  • Organizational Readiness – Customer experiences and journeys don’t happen in a vacuum. Organizations must be ready to interact with customers and also be mindful of the behind the scenes operational requirements. What will be needed to get and keep others ready inside and beyond the organization? See Project Ideas.

image of zen stacked rocks for balance and good luck and leading the way - Delightability blog postConcentrate improvements in any one area and you have the potential to make incremental improvements.  But, synchronize improvements in each area and you have the potential to engage employees, create remarkable customer experiences, and smooth your operation. Do this correctly and you’ll still have time to leave early on Fridays, or work less each day as companies in Sweden have recently elected to do.

Recipe #28: Find the Critical to Executions

Reflect on your current and past execution gaps that prevented your organization from being ready to deliver remarkable experiences. As you go forward intentionally designing customer journeys, note what will be required in order to close the execution gaps. These comprise your list of CTEs: critical to execution. As you explore new projects and programs make CTEs part of your organization’s customer experience vernacular.

about the author

Gregory Olson is a consultant, speaker, and author. He authored The Experience Design Blueprint, a book about designing better experiences and then making them come true.  The models in the Experience Design BLUEPRINT are equally relevant to organizations of all types and sizes including start-up entrepreneurs, nonprofits, for-profits, and government.

His latest book is L’ impossi preneurs: A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow, a light-hearted and deadly serious book about a brighter future where we live more meaningful lives, governments invest in people and sustainable progress, and technology serves humans.

image of Greg-Olson-Managing Director of Delightability and author of Experience Design BLUEPRINTGregory Olson founded strategy and design firm Delightability, LLC. with the belief that if you delight customers then success will follow. He believes that we all have the potential to do better, as individuals, organizations, and communities, but sometimes we need a little help.  Gregory also serves as a volunteer board member for Oikocredit Northwest, a support association for social investor and financial institution, Oikocredit International.

Customer Schmustomer: Audience Schmaudience

Image of Landscape Design that Impacts Unknown Audiences - Gregory Olson - The Experience Design Blueprint

Customer Schmustomer: Audience Schmaudience
Chances are your organization has multiple stakeholders. And, chances are many of those stakeholders are sadly neglected. The reasons may vary and at first blush you might react with, “It’s because its too costly or too complex to manage all of those relationships.” But, that usually isn’t the reason for the neglect.

image for audiences are sometimes missing for journey map blog post - delightabilityIn reality, most stakeholders receive nary a thought from your organization. You simply have not acknowledged their existence, any more than you’ve inventoried the birds that fly overhead. OK, some smartypants somewhere is saying, “Whoa, wait a minute, our business IS tracking birds.” Yeah, yeah, OK, I hear you.

It isn’t that you’ve intentionally decided to neglect your audience, you didn’t. It’s that you haven’t given them much thought at all. Why would you? After all, you’ve been able to survive this long without paying any attention.

The problem you face, is when others begin to pay more attention to those you’ve neglected. That is often the birth of new organizations whose aim is to supplant yours. And, when that happens, the defection might be tough to prevent or overturn.

So, what’s a good first step? Inventory your stakeholder groups. An easy way to do this is to think of your promise delivery system – the invisible system by which your organization makes and keeps its promises. To whom do you make explicit and implicit promises? And, who is involved in delivering on those promises? Also, who in the extended enterprise helps you? Those are good starters to identify stakeholders beyond the obvious of customers and employees.

image for child as audience for journey map blog post - delightabilityHere are some audience types to spur your thinking, no matter the type or organization you may be involved with: member, customer, donor, investor, visitor, prisoner, voter, citizen, tenant, resident, student, guest, traveler, passenger, performer, elected officials, inspector, owner, parishioner, supplier, vendor, consultant, partner, board member, adviser, council member, leader, refugee, patron, staff, volunteer, client, shareholder, agency, patient, child, doctor, administrator, buyer, licensee, immigrant, refugee, soldier, driver, guide, occupant, person experiencing homelessness, employee, taxpayer.

image for wolves as audience for journey map blog post - delightabilityRemember not all audiences are vocal and present. Consider audiences that may not be vocal or present for interviews including people with disabilities, pets and domesticated animals, animals in nature, environmental resources, etc.

Audiences are varied and complex. When we provide average experiences for everybody, treating all the same, we miss opportunities to connect with people, make them feel special, respected, wanted, and meaningful. Instead, they can become agitated, irritated, disgruntled and disengaged, perhaps dismissing your organization all together. If you are not intentionally designing experiences for your various audience then they are accidentally evolved at best. Organizations can be at different stages of maturity when it comes to recognizing and serving their various stakeholders. No matter where you are at and no matter your resources, you can employ the same tactics as organizations with the most attentive service cultures.

Here are other tactics once you’ve inventoried the stakeholder groups:

  1. Inventory your stakeholder groups
  2. Prioritize audiences by assigning audience “owners”
  3. Develop personas to make the audience come alive inside the organization
  4. Explicitly create a promise delivery system for each stakeholder group
  5. Explore and create customer journey maps for each stakeholder group using the developed personas (and if possible) voice of the customer data
  6. Create an opportunity map with ideas you can implement to improve outcomes for audiences and for the organization
  7. Establish operating mechanisms that keep the promise delivery system working smoothly and the audience conversation alive, even as the external environment changes

about the author

Gregory Olson is the author of The Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations, a book about designing better experiences and then making them come true.

His latest book  is L’ impossi preneurs: A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow , a light-hearted and deadly serious book about a brighter future where we all live more meaningful lives, governments invest in people and sustainable progress, and technology serves humans.

Chapters in The Experience Design Blueprint that especially pertain to audiences include:

  • Chapter 2: Making the Customer Come Alive
  • Chapter 3: Who is in the Sandbox?
  • Chapter 6: Aiming for Remarkable, Unbroken, and Generous Design
  • Chapter 8: Promise Delivery System
  • Chapter 9: The Neighborhood
  • Chapter 14: The World of Work has Changed

image of Greg-Olson-Managing Director of Delightability and author of Experience Design BLUEPRINTGregory Olson founded strategy and design firm Delightability, LLC. with the belief that if you delight customers then success will follow. He believes that we all have the potential to do better, as individuals, organizations, and communities, but sometimes we need a little help.  Gregory also serves as a volunteer board member for Oikocredit Northwest, a support association for social investor and financial institution, Oikocredit International.

A Tiny Comparison of Two Giants: Amazon and Microsoft

A Tiny Comparison of Two Giants
While I’m working on my next book, I sometimes refer to my last one. Not because they are related, they are not. But, because as a self-published author and consultant, I need to let people know I exist. So, here is the funny juxtaposition I see. Two giants were birthed in my proverbial back yard, namely Microsoft and Amazon. And, while each of these companies boasts legacy, scale, and reach that most other companies will never know, the two titans are very different. I want to share a tiny comparison from my point of view as a customer of both.

Amazon is mindful of my experience
It’s true. Amazon IS mindful of my experience. It began a long time ago with one-click before most dot-coms imploded in the first internet bubble and long before iPhone or Android devices ever reached the market. But, Amazon didn’t let their foot off the accelerator. They’ve continued to expand products and services, seemingly with the customer top of mind. They even purchased Zappos, a notoriously customer-centric company. And, then they did the right thing. They left Zappos alone, letting them run as a wholly owned subsidiary. But, it’s not just the big bets I’m talking about that has Amazon mindful of customer experiences.  It’s the little things, too.

screen shot of amazon sync to furthest location for blog post - delightability

Little things have a cumulative effect in winning hearts and minds
Case in point. When I read my book (or any book) on my Kindle Fire HD or Kindle Application on PC or Android, then at a later time open the same book on a different device, I get a very thoughtful prompt. The prompt asks me if I want to continue reading from the last read location. Little things like this have a cumulative effect in winning the hearts and minds of customers. This is true whether it is an application like the Kindle Reading App or your own personal relationships. If you don’t believe it, then ask your partner.

Kudos to Amazon
Kudos to the Amazon engineers and others that made this little thoughtful feature a reality. It is a tiny thing in the grand scheme of the Kindle Platform, but it is very much appreciated. It is customer centric and as a customer, albeit a tiny one, I truly feel it.

Contrast this with my experience with Microsoft
I probably have tens of 1000’s of hours invested in using Microsoft products. One such product is Microsoft Word. My current book project is intended to be around 225 pages completed. I’m currently at 323 in the rough (with notes) and about 149 completed, pre-edit pages.  I’ll eventually strip out the notes and get it fully tuned to reach my goal of 225 pages, within a scosche. Of course along my writing journey I’ve spawned many other ideas for books, companies, apps, services, talks, blog posts, etc. I don’t have huge expectations that Microsoft would accommodate the organization, linking, revision control, and a host of other ideas that could make Word more powerful and relevant to my writer’s journey. After all, a product engineer might argue that there are many types of personas using Word and they can’t cater to the nuances of each of them.  Again, I wouldn’t expect that.

However, what I would expect is that autosave doesn’t make my computer go non-responding. Chock that up to an older version of Word? Perhaps. I’m granting that you have “Instant Autosave with Multitask” on the newer version. You do, right?

Be careful of the brand baggage you bestow on customers
Autosave isn’t my pet peeve here. Every day, I reenter my 323-page manuscript (and growing) with the intent of continuing work from where I was last working. This is understandable. Much like preparing a meal in a kitchen or creating a building on a construction site, when you return to the site, you want to begin where you last ended. A lengthy document isn’t any different. It could be my book, a technical manual, even your own strategy document or go-to-market product plan. While Amazon gives me the friendly thoughtful prompt, from Microsoft I get nothing. When I open my lengthy manuscript I expect to see [return to last known edit?], but instead, I receive the very first page, every time. Little things like this annoy, rob customers of time, disrespect, and over time, the negative brand aftertaste builds our brand baggage. Then negative word-of-mouth sets in.

Pretty please Microsoft
It’s not too late. There is hope. Problems like this are knowable and solvable, that is if you listen to customers and become obsessed with serving them. I’ll know that you really care about customers, even tiny ones like me, when you take care of little things like this. I want to believe you can do this. Microsoft, you are a product of my own back yard. I’ve done an internship there. I’ve been a consultant there. I’ve used many of your products and have had some good experiences, too. But, it’s time you become newly OBSESSED with customers. After all, they are the reason you have a business today and in the future. Little things do matter, even for giants like you.

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about the author

image of Greg-Olson-Managing Director of Delightability and author of Experience Design BLUEPRINTGregory Olson is a consultant, speaker, and author. His latest book is L’ impossi preneurs: A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow.

Greg also authored, The Experience Design Blueprint, a book about designing better experiences and then making them come true. The models in the Experience Design BLUEPRINT are equally relevant to organizations of all types and sizes including start-up entrepreneurs, nonprofits, for-profits, and government.

See a book summary. Read the book reviews on Amazon. Read The Experience Design Blueprint on Kindle or any device using the free Kindle Reader application or read the full-color print edition.

Robots Don't Kill Jobs But CEOs Do

image of job stealing robot - Robots Don't Kill Jobs But CEOs Do - Delightability blogRobots Don’t Kill Jobs But CEOs Do
This message is especially for CEOs. Please forward to CEOs and board members if you have the courage. There is much talk of robots taking people’s jobs. It is easy to blame a machine, or another abstract like “a rapidly changing market” as Hewlett-Packard’s Whitman recently did as the company announced another cut of 25,000 to 30,000 positions.

But, to date, a robot has never walked a person to the door, not yet. And, markets don’t eliminate jobs either. I’ve yet to hear of market rain droplets falling onto workers, rendering them unemployed. No, the special words, “You’re Fired” or the equivalent actions are still reserved for humans. It is company leadership that kills jobs, not robots.

Yes, technology changes and so do markets. This has always been the case. But, let’s be really clear about what’s happening. Like stock buybacks, M&A activity and other initiatives that preoccupy the minds of board rooms and executive offices, this is about maximizing shareholder value in the short run.

image of hog that can't see - Robots Don't Kill Jobs But CEOs Do - Delightability blogMore plainly, it is about greed. The intent is to move money that would otherwise be paid to workers and redistribute instead to leadership and investors, either directly or indirectly. It is a flawed equation from the onset. History is proving this more and more, if only we would learn. Unfortunately, maximizing shareholder value and its related bad ideas are still perpetuated by business schools, investors of the short run, and the unwitting. There are simply more stakeholders to the equation that are made to be invisible, namely humans and the environment. Smart progressive leaders and companies already realize this. So do the customers that align to those values.

board room image - Robots Don't Kill Jobs But CEOs Do - Delightability blogA better world begins with the decisions made at dinner tables and carried through to the office and the board room. CEO decisions don’t live in some special vacuum. When a Hungarian camerawoman decides to trip a man carrying his child as they strive for refuge and a fresh start, the world watches. And, when a CEO chooses to trip a person or family that relied on a paycheck, also on the way to somewhere, the world watches, too. The song of cuts has been played over and over again. In the case of HP, 100,000 jobs cut in the last 10 years. In the case of Microsoft 20,000+ in recent years. For HSBC is was 50,000 jobs recently announced to be cut and Deutsche Bank yesterday announced it will cut 25% of its workforce, or 23,000 human beings. Plenty of other examples abound. It is time to change the music. It’s also time to own up to the decision and stop blaming “things”.

We can pretend that these decisions will be in isolation and there will be no ripple effect or interactions, but that would be delusional. The effects will be long-lasting and far-reaching, inside and outside your organization. As a former CEO shared with me last week, “When there are deep cuts in the organization, it never recovers. Everybody becomes scarred. I can’t say I was unaffected.”

girl on pier looking onward - Robots Don't Kill Jobs But CEOs Do - Delightability blogSelf proclaimed plutocrat Nick Hanauer warns us in his Ted talk, “Beware, fellow plutocrats, the pitchforks are coming.” In that talk he says, “We plutocrats need to get this trickle-down economics thing behind us, this idea that the better we do, the better everyone else will do. It’s not true. How could it be? I earn 1,000 times the median wage, but I do not buy 1,000 times as much stuff, do I? I actually bought two pairs of these pants, what my partner Mike calls my manager pants. I could have bought 2,000 pairs, but what would I do with them? How many haircuts can I get? How often can I go out to dinner? No matter how wealthy a few plutocrats get, we can never drive a great national economy. Only a thriving middle class can do that. ”

Nick realizes that he won’t be purchasing 1000s of computers and phones and haircuts and meals to make up for those workers who will lose their jobs and have to tighten their belts.

image of hope - Robots Don't Kill Jobs But CEOs Do - Delightability blogAs fictional character in The Hobbit, Thorin Oakenshield, said, “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. But, sad or merry, I must leave it now. Farewell.” Tolkien’s worlds are make-believe, but ours are not. And, there is no my world, your world, and their world. It is all “our world”. I implore CEOs to make it a better world, not worse.

CEO actions need to make the companies they lead more relevant to more stakeholder and not less so. Let’s admit that the keys to the kingdom have been in the hands of the wrong people, the takers. This “taker” corporate culture has been more about taking, evading, cutting, dodging, buying back, and shifting. Boards of Directors have been complicit in this corrosive behavior. Others have watched from the sidelines cheering it on or in horror. The rabbit hole of greed is very deep. If corporate leaders continue on a destructive “taker” path, they’ll build an organization of diminishing relevance.

imagine mosaic image - Robots Don't Kill Jobs But CEOs Do - Delightability blogHuman progress is overdue. It’s time we return the keys to the makers. Let’s once again make, create, invest. Let’s celebrate progress, collaborate, innovate. Let’s inspire. Let’s be authentic. Let’s be concerned. Let’s invite newcomers to the table. Let’s keep our promises both explicit and implicit. Let’s solve problems of the world. Boards need to support CEO actions in this regard and then hold them to account.

In this re-frame, companies have an opportunity to become more relevant. Relevant to the older worker and the younger worker alike. Relevant to the budding innovator that has yet to graduate. Relevant to the communities and the stores and channels and vendors that work in those communities.

If you are the CEO, ask yourself why should your employees, customers, partners, or other stakeholders be emotionally invested in the business when you are not.

image of journey - Robots Don't Kill Jobs But CEOs Do - Delightability blogThere are plenty of people who can help you re-frame your business, redefine your products and services and build relevance for what’s next. Look for customer experience consultants, service design expertise, innovation consultants or as I prescribe in Ch 14 of my book, create an innovation neighborhood and stock it in part with outside entrepreneurs. Use technology to complement humans not replace them.

Jobs will be eliminated for reasons, some good and some bad. I realize this. But, if you are the human behind the decision to destroy jobs, then you must confront reality. You’ll eventually have to. Because the humans you eliminate will likely build robots and organize a silent revolution that will one day displace you, too.

about the author

Gregory Olson is the author of The Experience Design Blueprint, a book about designing better experiences and then making them come true.  As discussed in Chapter 14, the world of work has changed and it’s not coming back as we knew it. The book is available in full-color print or on Kindle.

His latest book is L’ impossi preneurs: A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow, a light-hearted and deadly serious book about a brighter future where we all live more meaningful lives, governments invest in people and sustainable progress, and technology serves humans. Chapters in L’ impossi preneurs that relate to this article include Chapter 1: Flavors of Entrepreneurship, Chapter 5: Wealth & Economy and Ch 12: World of Work.

Some of the “impossible” ideas of Chapter 5 include Universal Unconditional Basic Income, an Innovation Clearinghouse, Participatory Budgeting, The Make Meaning Department, Empathy Builder, Building a Truth Sculpture, a Safety Net for Entrepreneurs, Household Prosperity Index, and revisiting the Corporation.

image of Greg-Olson-Managing Director of Delightability and author of Experience Design BLUEPRINTGregory Olson founded strategy and design firm Delightability, LLC. with the belief that if you delight customers then success will follow. He believes that we all have the potential to do better, as individuals, organizations, and communities, but sometimes we need a little help.  Gregory also serves as a volunteer board member for Oikocredit Northwest, a support association for social investor and financial institution, Oikocredit International.