3 Easy Lessons from a Home Furnishings Company that Gives a Damn about the Customer Experience

With so many broken and bad experiences and leaders indifferent to correct them, it is truly refreshing when you encounter an organization that breaks free from the herd. I recently encountered, or rather re-encountered, an organization that left me with a very positive brand aftertaste.

Although I’ve walked, biked, and driven by the Room&Board home furnishings store several, OK – hundreds of times, since its opening in my Seattle neighborhood, I’ve never given it much notice. This is partly because I miss the Barnes and Noble bookstore that previously occupied the space, but mostly because I already have a house stuffed full of furniture.

room and board catalog cover image

My numbness to their brand recently began to take shape though. After skimming through their catalog I received in the mail, I landed on the back page. It was here, that made all of the difference. It takes a special kind of company to offer a guarantee that doesn’t expire with hard time bound rules. Room&Board is such a special company. I’d be inclined to visit the store when I find myself in furniture shopping mode again. Here is why:

Our Guarantee
When you shop with Room & Board, you’re also buying the assurance that we’ll be here if you need us. There are no strict, time-limited warranties. We stand behind the quality of our products and the prices we charge. If you’re not completely satisfied with your purchase or any part of your experience, just let us know. We’re here to help.”

room and board catalog back page guarantee image

On the website they go on to explain, “We know that buying furniture for your home is more than just a financial decision. It’s also an emotional investment. From the first sketch to the final product, we work directly with the people who build our furniture, eliminating the middleman and saving you from unnecessary mark-ups. These relationships allow us to bring you the perfect combination of quality materials, craftsmanship, design and price.”

There are 3 immediate lessons to take away from this that you can apply to your own organization:

  1. Some interactions will have more impact than others. For me in this instance, it was a message on the back of a catalog received in the mail. Do you know which touchpoints and channels matter the most to your customers and prospects?
  2. Purchasing decisions are more complex than being purely economic. An important dimension to purchasing decisions is emotion. Room&Board recognizes that customers are making an emotional investment. Do your customer interactions and communications reflect the three dimensions of value (emotional, functional, economic) or are they stuck in a pattern that still believes customers are inherently ruled by logic and reason?
  3. A customer experience philosophy can guide an organizations response, communications, product roadmap, strategy, operations, etc. Does your organization have such a customer centered philosophy to guide you, or are you solely ruled by profits, margins, growth, and share price?

Please reflect on these lessons and this story, no matter the size, type, or shape of your organization. You are slowly becoming either more or less relevant in world full of customers that continues to reward brands and organizations that give a damn about the customer experience. The size of your organization and tenure do not provide you with any immunity from providing bad or broken experiences.

image of Greg-Olson-Managing Director of Delightability and author of Experience Design BLUEPRINT

For more guidance and self help read my book or reach out if you’d like some help. We’d love to help you build an enduring brand that matters.

Greg Olson is the author of The Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations. See the Book and Author Summary PDF or find the book on Amazon.

Your Busy Program is Running You

This is a message to leaders everywhere. Perhaps you lead a major corporation, a startup, a non-profit, a small business, or a government agency; it really doesn’t matter, the message is all the same.

Signs that you are moving too fast - delightability - experience design blueprintEnough! We’ve all been running the busy program, or rather, the busy program has been running us. It’s a bit like driving down the highway, but going too fast to read the signs passing you by. The symptoms vary but may look like: vacations become working vacations; you’re never “off” the clock; there is no time to relax and even in your “idle” time your busy planning your busy time.

The trouble is these “highway signs” you can’t read in your life as your forging full speed ahead are actually opportunities passing you by. One sign that you missed might have said, BIGGEST INNOVATION OPPORTUNITY. Another might say YOUR DAUGHTER NEEDS YOU. Most people never slow down, in order to speed up, that is until they have a personal crisis. For some, that might be a heart attack, death of a loved one, cancer, divorce, or the recognition that your family no longer recognizes you.

It’s time to WAKE UP! You can choose to stop running the busy program at any time. You don’t need a crisis to have a new consciousness.

“It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” Henry David Thoreau

Ask yourself what would you do if you had 10 or 20% more capacity? And what about those you lead and interact with. What if each of them had 10 or 20% more capacity?
What if that capacity were used to be creative, what would that look like in your organization? What if that additional capacity were put to use solving those persistent, nagging, seemingly unsolvable “wicked” problems. What if that capacity were nobly
consumed to live a more healthy lifestyle, or to be more balanced between work and family or personal life? Imagine the kids and Fido seeing more of mom or dad. What if each person WASN’T doing 2 or 3 jobs? What would that mean for your organization? For each of your employee’s experience? For your customer’s experience? What about for the economy?

As you return from this Sunday, whether that was an Easter Sunday for you, or any other Sunday, ask yourself, what if? But, then as soon as you are done asking, do something about it; for you and for those that around you. Chances are, if you are running the busy program, you never saw this message, at least not until somebody that cared, forwarded this  post to you.

image of Greg-Olson-Managing Director of Delightability and author of Experience Design BLUEPRINT

Greg Olson is a business coach to leaders and the author of The Experience Design BLUEPRINT:
Recipes for Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations. Chapters in the book that pertain to this blog post include Chapter 8: The Promise Delivery System and Chapter 14: The World of Work has Changed. Read it on Kindle or any device using the free Kindle Reader application.

What Patient Experience? The Hardest Problems are Invisible and Require New Thinking to Solve

patient journey wordsThe Patient Journey Starts Before and Ends Long After the Patient Sees the Caregiver

As much emphasis that is placed on patient care and better health, there is an invisible trauma inflicted on patients everyday. Misinformation, poor customer service and communications, time wasted, lack of respect, etc. all diminish the positive attributes of medical care. At its worst patients dread the very thing that will make them better.

“First, do no harm” is part of Aim #1: Health Care Must Be Safe in the “Implementing the Quality Chasm Report” a resource from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. While it is necessary for healthcare providers to adopt such a maxim it alone is not sufficient to ensure that harm is not done to patients.

Because the patient experience involves more than the interaction with the caregiver, the physician or nurse alone cannot ensure a great experience. Communications online and with reception staff, lab and testing interactions, and patient billing post services all impact the overall quality of the patient experience. One patient interview revealed angst over an unpaid bill for services provided that the insurance company deemed out of network, even though the specialist the patient saw was in the facilities of the in network provider. The patient was not informed of this nor were they provided any options to visit other specialists. The provider has left a poor brand aftertaste in the mind of the patient who after a year, still refuses to pay the bill, “until things are sorted out”.

The maxim that has guided healthcare professionals for millennia doesn’t penetrate deep enough into the health care system. Employing systems level thinking, and mapping the entire patient journey across all touchpoints can reveal many insights into reducing harm, improving patient care and identifying organizational execution gaps. Results include increased organizational effectiveness, reduced staff turnover, and happier patients and families.

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

Part of the challenge of fixing problems such as healthcare is that the patient experience and problems span many organizations. No one hospital, insurance company or collective can solve the entire problem on their own. Each type of organization has their bias and perspective. Still there exists many opportunities to improve within each organization. To provide remarkable cost effective patient care requires an objective view that spans organizations while never losing sight of the patient perspective. When this happens, we will all feel transformation in a system that today continues to inflict harm to patients.

To Get Started:

  • Charter a team with a vision for improving the patient experience
  • Get an outsider to facilitate the process
  • Prioritize and map the patient journeys
  • Prioritize & implement high impact improvement projects

Want to try it on your own?

book image of The Experience Design Blueprint from Gregory James Olson - DelightabilityChange the conversation in your organization by improving your team’s experience vocabulary. Learn how patients see the healthcare experience differently than you do. Learn about the experience honeycomb, experience hoop and halo, and how to model patient experiences. Then learn how to apply filters, lenses, and levers to improve experiences for patients and for staff. Paying attention to your promise delivery system and the three psychological zones can move a stumbling team forward, turning lackluster experiences into experiences that are remarkable for patients, guests, and caregivers.

The book, The Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations, contains 25 examples, 78 images, and 56 recipes that you can immediately apply to your organization no matter the size and type of your organization.  Click the image to get the Kindle formatted book that is readable on nearly any device including Kindle, Smartphones, Tablets, Mac or PC, even a web browser. Download the one page book summary along with author contact information. Please reach out if you’d like some help.

Does it Matter Where Ideas Come From? Sourcing Innovation at McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Your Organization

When I first began to write this article I thought I’d start with a little history and facts to compare McDonald’s and Starbucks. I even thought that it would be nice if I created an infographic that showed the comparison. But, I’m not going to do that. If you hop over to Nasdaq or your favorite stock peering site you’ll find that both stocks are doing well. At the bottom of this article I’ve included links to fun facts about each of the companies.

Both companies have provided great returns to shareholders over the last 10 years. Both of these companies have a large and growing worldwide presence, a huge number of employees and partners. No, I’m not talking about those things because they are not a predictor of future performance. Heck, even each of the companies will remind you of that in their safe harbor statements.  And remember, there are plenty of darling stocks that perform, at least until they don’t.

Remaining culturally relevant and connected to consumers share of mind and wallet
No, I’m going a different direction. I want to talk about things that aren’t so closely tied to stock performance or revered in annual reports and press releases. I want to begin a discussion of how each of these companies source innovative ideas and ask readers if you think that this topic has any bearing on a company’s ability to be sustainable, viable, cultural relevant, and able to gain a share of your mind and wallet.

starbucks infographics on mystarbucksidea
MyStarbucksIdea has launched 277 ideas from customers, and celebrated its five-year anniversary March 2013. (Graphic: Business Wire)

Starbucks practices on sourcing innovative ideas
Starbucks encourages idea submission from anybody, inside or outside the organization and even encourages you to vote, share, discuss, and see other peoples ideas as they are made visible on the My Starbucks Idea website. Experience it for yourself at
http://www.mystarbucksidea.com

One of the reasons for the My Starbucks Idea website is that CEO Howard Schultz wanted to improve the customer experience. He felt that the 60 million customers visiting its stores on a weekly basis might have something to say about what the future Starbucks experience should look like. In that sense Starbucks customers are encouraged to co-create the future. In the first five years of the My Starbucks Idea website, from 2008-2013, 150,000 ideas have been submitted from customers with 277 of those being implemented.

McDonalds no loitering sign as seen in a Seattle McDonald's
Picture of sign seen inside a Seattle area McDonald’s. When asking how that sign made one customer feel, she reported it made her feel hostile. She said she would not be coming back.

McDonald’s official policy on unsolicited ideas
McDonald’s, on the other hand, doesn’t have an equivalent My McDonald’s idea website. If fact, they make it very clear in an FAQ that resides on their website exactly what their policy is concerning ideas, “It is our company’s policy not to consider unsolicited ideas from outside the McDonald’s system. Because we are always working on new ideas and strategies within the Company, we do not review ideas from outside McDonald’s to avoid confusion over the origin of an idea. We realize that we may be missing out on a few good ideas, but we had to adopt this policy for legal and business reasons.” When companies cite policy they appear less human as in the sign I saw at a McDonald’s in the Seattle area.

Did you know that McDonald’s delivers to its customers in 18 countries? But, if you want delivery in your country don’t bother asking or trying to vote on it. Remember, your ideas are unwelcome and irrelevant. I find that a little offensive. I also find it a little off-putting that the McDonald’s system, as they put it, does not include the customer. Any organization’s business system, or promise delivery system as I call it, should have the customer at the core.  Imagine the burden this places on Hamburger University and Franchise owners. They must innovate and own all of the good ideas in isolation, a tall order for them compared to the 60 million customers that visit a McDonald’s each day that may actually have some insights to share and ideas how to improve the McDonald’s experience. For my mental model on a promise delivery system, sign up to be notified of my forthcoming book.

If we are voting on which company and brand will be more culturally relevant across populations and feel more human and alive, I’ll vote for the Starbucks brand. If, on the other hand, we are voting on which brand will attract me for the late night drive through or clean restrooms available during a road trip, I’ll tip my hat to McDonald’s. But, I’m only one customer. I’d like to understand how each of their practices around ideas makes you feel as a consumer? Which brand speaks more to you? 

Try This!  What about in your own organization – does it matter where an idea comes from? Could it come from customers? Does it matter at what level of the organization the idea comes from – Senior Vice President versus the most recent hire in accounts payable? What about a supplier? Do you know the answer and if you do, would others in your organization see it the same as you do? Start this discussion inside your organization.

My book is the Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations.  Read it and you’ll be better equipped to design more remarkable customer experiences and then make those experiences come to life in your organization and the business landscape. You’ll also build a more relevant and enduring organization.

Here are those fun facts on Starbucks and McDonalds.

About the Author

image of Greg-Olson-Managing Director of Delightability and author of Experience Design BLUEPRINT

Gregory Olson is a consultant, speaker, and author of The Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations.

Connect with Greg on Linkedin, Facebook, or Twitter.

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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 post include:

  • Chapter 1: What Makes and Experience?
  • Chapter 5: The Rental Car Experience?
  • Chapter 6: Aiming for Remarkable, Unbroken, and Generous Design
  • Chapter 7: Improving the Journey
  • Chapter 8: The Promise Delivery System
  • Chapter 9: The Neighborhood
  • Chapter 14: The World of Work Has Changed
  • Chapter 14: From Argh to Aha!

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.  Already read it? Please connect and let me know.

Are you an Entrepreneur or one of the other 12 types of -preneurs?

Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone but, are you aware of the other types of ‘preneurs?  Perhaps you fall into one of the other types, or you will at some point in your life.

Entrepreneur  this is the traditional risk taker that sees the path they are forging as less risky than working for somebody else doing something that isn’t interesting, isn’t rewarding, or may conflict with their values.  They often see what’s next and can’t imagine not pursuing it.

Solopreneur – an entrepreneur acting in isolation without the support of others in the same organization.

Multipreneur – an entrepreneur that is pursuing multiple interests simultaneously either because they have to, in order to make ends meet, or because it is part of a portfolio strategy to see which plays out the best.  Or, they may simply have the capacity to do more than one venture.

Intrapreneur an employee acting as an internal entrepreneur inside the organization that has many of the risk elements of a classic entrepreneur but, is insulated from the brutal reality of having to manufacturer their own paycheck.

Wannapreneur this person wants to start something but doesn’t know what. They are more constructive that the complainapreneur below but may lack ideas or a clear path forward.

Ideapreneur – this is the person who is stricken with ideas, suddenly and often but they don’t take action. They don’t have to jump on “this” idea because another possible better idea is right around the corner.

Olderpreneur – this is an older experienced person, the age can vary of course,  but this person has decided to take their wealth of experience, network, skills, and package it up into a credible “what’s next” story told with the authority and credibility that may be lacking in a younger entrepreneur. Often they are motivated by pursuing an interest, addressing a nagging problem, leaving a legacy, or designing a venture around a lifestyle.

Complainapreneur individuals that are stuck in the grind and don’t have the courage or clarity to escape. Instead they bemoan their situation, wishing things would change, and eventually they usually do.

Dreamapreneur those individuals that dream of pursuing a new passion but really never will commit to action. It is simply more fun and much more safe to fantasize about it while enjoying the security of a paycheck, limited working hours, and the familiar.

Adventurepreneur – this person works only to play; these folks might literally have a sign on their door or online profile, “Gone Fishing” or “Kayaking” or “Climbing.”

Loyalpreneur these are those dedicated employees dutifully carrying out the orders of those they work for in exchange for a paycheck.

Philanthropreneur – a generous, thoughtful person that supports other people’s projects, initiatives, and ventures often times without concern for any payback.

Luckypreneur somebody who has a job that allows them to make a big impact, make a good living, and also make a difference in the world.

Have another type of  ‘preneur to add to the list? Connect and let me know.

Whether you are on your own or in the walls of a larger organization surrounded by colleagues, you’ll need to be mindful of the customer and continuously improve your organization. A sure path to do this is to read and follow the 56 recipes in my book: The Experience Design Blueprint: Recipes for Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations.

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. 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.

10 Quotes to Help You Overcome Your Crummy Situation

Deserters and Dead Men Walking
At some point we all find ourselves in a crummy, untenable situation. That can happen at work whether we are the leader, or the follower. The blame game in high tension environments is omnidirectional and if the oxygen is thin (as measured in cash flow), all kinds of seedy characters suddenly appear on the scene. We can get caught up in having the wrong conversations about things that probably don’t matter, especially not to customers, or a greater set of stakeholders. Many give up and move on before they can turn it around. Others stay put, like dead men walking. This happens in the tiniest of companies as well as the behemoths. So, how do you free your mind if you can’t free yourself?

The Time Machine
I want to share with you an inspiring character that if I had a time machine, I’d visit. Better yet, I’d bring him here and get his take on a few things. That character is Ben Franklin. One of the reasons I admire Ben is that he overcame who he was, to become what he could be. If you didn’t know, Ben Franklin was an indentured servant. The 10th child of a family of little means, his father once considered giving him to the church. Instead, Ben’s eldest brother took him on as an apprentice which was really more of a master – slave relationship complete with periodic beatings. Ben, of all people, could have marched on, beaten down by a system larger than him, but thankfully he didn’t. Ben went on to live 84 years and contributed to humanity in many ways including as a prominent author, printer, politician, postmaster, satirist, inventor, musician, and diplomat. He invented bifocals, electricity, and the United States Postal Service among many other things we rely on today. He created the first library in the colonies and Poor Richard’s Almanac. I still pick up a copy of the Farmer’s Almanac most years and I have library books due right now. Thanks for both of those possibilities, Ben!

Getting Free
Ben was a multifaceted success and certainly fought adversity, whether Britain and the Stamp Act, or his own people in the colonies as he promoted what’s next. He was an outspoken critic of drinking beer on the job, a recipe for declined productivity, he argued. I imagine that idea was not popular. Maybe you are a modern day Ben Franklin.  Or, perhaps you harbor a Ben stuck in your organization or even your family. If so, maybe you should set them free to do their best work. I don’t know what quotes Ben Franklin might find inspiring especially while he was in servitude. But, the 10 quotes below, I imagine would have further fueled the fire in Ben’s belly.  Perhaps these quotes can help you find your new freedom, so that you can do your best work, too.

“We can’t become what we need to be by remaining what we are.”
― Oprah Winfrey

“Lightning makes no sound until it strikes.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.

“We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.”
― Ronald Reagan

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
― Albert Einstein

“Imagination works so quickly, quietly, and effectively that we are insufficiently skeptical of its products.”
― Daniel Gilbert, Author, Stumbling on Happiness

“Entrepreneurs are simply those who understand that there is little difference between obstacle and opportunity and are able to turn both to their advantage.”
― Niccolo Machiavelli, Italian diplomat, political philosopher, musician, poet, playwright (1469-1527)

“We must not say every mistake is a foolish one.”
― Cicero Roman author, orator, & politician (106 BC – 43 BC)

“As the births of living creatures are at first ill shapen, so are all innovations, which are the births of time.”
― Francis Bacon, English philosopher, statesman, spy, Freemason and essayist (1561 – 1626)

“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood — and probably will themselves not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will not die.”
― Daniel Hudson Burnham, American architect and urban planner (1846 – 1912)

“People go from denial to despair so quickly that they don’t stop right in the middle and do something about it.”
― Al Gore, an Inconvenient Truth

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. 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.

Why Leaders Everywhere Continue to Provide Broken Experiences and How to Turn the Tide

Most experiences have evolved and are not intentionally designed. As an example, our experiences getting through security at an airport often requires 3, 4, maybe even 5 bins to get our jackets, electronics, shoes, and other items securely examined by x-ray equipment and TSA personnel. There hasn’t been any increase in capacity for the system to accommodate those bins, if we are pulled aside our items are at personnel risk, and there isn’t a smooth exit as we are reacquainted with our shoes, much like cattle being pushed through a gate.  Read the article where the CEO of the Airline Trade Group is begging for a meaningful security overhaul that doesn’t disgruntle travelers.

We live in a world of specialists but, most cannot afford to hire the specialist needed to create smooth experiences. When we do, we have trouble herding them toward a successful outcome or making a case to retain them in changing business conditions. Not everybody can afford a complete service design overall like Alaska Airlines did to the tune of  twenty-eight million dollars.  But, they did prevent having to spend the estimated five-hundred million to build a new terminal.

In our world of “right now” we don’t make time to listen intently or think deeply. We then race to a quick understanding by dumbing things down so that we can make sense of complicated, interconnected things. What if we all stopped listening to children that struggle to put together their words?

We don’t understand change and human psychology. We still operate under the illusion that saying it is so, makes it so and people will follow the leader. This is especially a problem in a low trust environment where employees view themselves as free agents employed for the moment by the firm that just recently let others go.

There is low employee engagement and it is diminishing. In many environments it is increasingly hard to find the rock star employee that will go the extra mile to own a problem to resolution. More often we cite policy, throw our hands in the air, and rush you to the next person in the chain, or worse we “rush you to the door.”

We lack a common mental model to even understand what comprises an experience. If you don’t’ believe me, ask a colleague to coffee and compare notes. When you are done go for the advanced topic, explain how innovation works inside your organization.

We are unable to get past our biases. We still think abandoned shopping carts is a homeless problem. Never mind that it may be a transportation problem faced by seniors and bus stop moms with children in tow.  We really don’t even want to have the conversation, it’s too messy and not in my purview.  What conversations are you blind to in your organization?

We react to possible dangers while we avoid addressing dangers that lurk everyday.  The threat of terror has creating bad experiences like the TSA agent at SeaTac airport that treated an elderly woman as a terrorist as she struggled to explain her artificial knees.  At the same time Brian Fairbrother, Seattle resident, rode his bicycle down a blind set of stairs on a Seattle sidewalk and died as a results of his injuries. Disaster here was predictable and preventable with thoughtful design.  Everyday neglect by the city played a direct hand in killing one of its own.  No crime board at the local precinct and action taken too slowly.  Where does one report the lurking danger in your city?  Will anybody listen? 

We average the experiences for all audiences. Average is unremarkable for most and outright broken for some.  I recently saw an interactive climbable section of the Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland permanently closed because it was not wheelchair accessible. Hopefully, this doesn’t spell danger for bicycles and hiking trails? Not all customers are created equal.  Let’s embrace that we are all differently enabled, not diminish our uniqueness by creating an artificial average. If some can jump higher, raise the bar. If others cannot, then help them.

Most leaders are busy running the business and never slow down enough to work on the business. We mostly don’t know what it is like to be a customer. That is why I like the television program “Undercover Boss.” Sometimes we have to slow down, in order to speed up.

We lack empathy for our customers’ real situations, desires, and challenges. Many organizations have forgotten that they serve customers not shareholders. And, as leaders we often lack the courage to do what is right and change the conversation when it’s not.

Many employees really don’t care about others experiences. We are simply are too focused inwardly, struggling with our own problems, sometimes working multiple jobs to make ends meet. When our own experiences with our employers are broken it makes it hard to compassionately serve others.

Most don’t feel that they are really citizens of the state. With the outsourcing of most everything the original care and feeding of customers doesn’t necessarily translate. We are ill equipped, unwilling, or unable to get ready others to serve.

Experiences are largely invisible. Customers don’t have a way to make visible, their poor experiences except for begging for attention in social media and review sites. Imagine if Customer Relationship Management (CRM)  software actually provided a view for the customer to see. That might be a little scary because customers might then calculate the lost time in dealing with organizations that erode their experiences and rob them of their precious time.  Would you be willing to give your customers a view?

Experiences seldom blend well across channels.  Most things digital are handled by the “digital” department instead of being integrated across channels and into the company’s sales, marketing, and operations.  A visit to the United State Postal Service will quickly reveal that most workers don’t know the capabilities of their own USPS website. They treat it like another company.  This is why I applaud the Citibank’s North America Head of Consumer Marketing, Vanessa Colella’s recent decision to eliminate the digital marketing department citing that we should all be digital, that “digital”  isn’t a department. Read the article here.

We want to have a metric for everything as opposed for some things and do more things right in spite of difficult or nonexistent metrics.  Do you love your puppy?  Well then, show me the metric.  Sometimes you have the courage to do the right thing, even if your big data doesn’t show it.  I applaud Puma and the story of the little red box.  With no clear metric or obvious path to completion or payoff, they had the courage to proceed on a project to eliminate the shoe box and tissue that ships with every pair of shoes sold.  Check out the video at this blog post.

If an employee has a good idea to improve an experience they are often stymied. We don’t have healthy innovation cultures that tolerate and advance ideas that can come from anywhere.  And it seems that the more connected we become, the more we lack the recipe and know how for advancing ideas to reality.  If we work for a really big company then we must really make the case that what we’re proposing is the next great thing, typically measured in billions.  But, most big ventures start as little ventures and we need more ventures of all sizes to make a healthy economy.

We simply lack recipes for making things better for the customer, or for the organization. And… that is exactly why I’m writing the Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations. (update: The book is now completed and available in digital or full-color print.)

about the author

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

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.

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.

Abandoned Shopping Carts Litter the Landscape in Anytown USA

Here are a few photos of abandoned shopping carts seen around town.  This urban blight was in the Seattle area but this could be Anytown, USA or beyond. Kroger, QFC, Safeway, Bartells – no one store is immune and the problem is worsening. Bus stops, apartment homes, retirement homes, sidewalks, bike trails, parking lots, and dumpster areas seem to be the favorite dropping off stations.

See the related post: When Metric Fail: It is Time to Change the Conversation

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.

 

 

 

 

When Metrics Fail it is Time to Change the Conversation: a Walk in the Park with an Abandoned Shopping Cart

abandoned shopping cart found on sidewalk in the evening - Delightability researchLurking beneath the metrics you’ll find the truth. This truth may have slowly crept up on you and suddenly poked you in the eye as a new reality. But, you say, “We have these metrics and this is the way we measure, and see, and do things around here.” Exactly right, but exactly wrong too.

Here is an easy target to pick on. Abandoned shopping carts litter the landscape most everywhere. City Councils have metrics and want to hold stores accountable for their wayward carts. Stores have metrics and are stuck between cracking down on their patrons and giving them freedom to take carts as needed. Biases are at play too. What looks like a theft problem to the store’s Loss Prevention Manager is a transportation problem to the “bus stop mom” or “urban retirement dweller.” Once you get past the bias that this is a purely homeless problem, you’ll see that kids, and moms, and grandpas all play a part in this problem. Even police are being called upon by municipalities to “do something about this menace.” One police department recently posted on their Facebook page a reminder to the public, that it is a crime to take a shopping cart off of store premises. Each of the stakeholders, save the shopper themselves, have metrics, but who is right here?

The world has shifted – shopping carts have gotten smaller and more maneuverable, the price of gas has continued to rise, and some have opted out of owning personal transportation in favor of walking or using public transportation. But, amid these changes, stores are probably blind to the transportation realities their customers face.

While stores have found more and more ways to understand our shopping preferences and probably have metrics related to the foods we buy and the prices we’re willing to pay, they really have little understanding of why we choose their store, how we got there, and if a grocery cart will be on our list of items to take home today.

So, there you have it, amid all of those metrics the human behind the customer has been forgotten and that is exactly wrong. Imagine if the metrics for a given store revolved less around how much orange juice we purchased and at what price and instead examined who the shopper is and what transportation they used to get to and from the store. That might just spawn some new services and brand loyalty to the stores with courage enough to change the conversation.

“Don’t get so set on your goal that you lose your humanity.”
Cicero, Roman author,orator, & politician (106 BC – 43 BC)

If you are a grocery store leader, city council member, or other stakeholder to the problem and would like to talk, please contact us. We’d love to share with you the findings of a public workshop we hosted where we brought people together from all walks of life to discuss, dive into, and propose a range of possible solutions to the abandoned shopping cart problem.

Here are a few photos of abandoned shopping carts seen around town.  This could be Anytown, USA or beyond.

View the workshop photo album and visit the Big Idea Toolkit to learn more about the large format visual planning system that we used to guide our workshop discussion.

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. 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.

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.

When Emails Become Overcooked Carrots

Dear Pushy Brand “Communicator,”

pushing plate of carrots awayIf I receive your email newsletters, updates, press release, etc. and I no longer want to receive your stuff, then please let me easily unsubscribe. Asking me to login to an unwanted “account” in order to change my communications preferences is tantamount to asking me to finish the meal, even though I’ve decided I don’t like the taste. Please recognize that I no longer want to eat.  Maybe I don’t like your food or I’m simply too full.  Whichever the case, please don’t fight me when I push away the plate. Better yet, be a good host and recognize when I’ve long stopped eating and simply offer to take away the plate for me.

Sincerely,

The many peeps that are full of your brand, but not as full as you are