December 4, 2013

Mission statements

It's hard to work somewhere when you don't feel a strong sense of purpose. Equally, it gets you drunk with hope and belief to work somewhere the mission is clear and strong.

I've been researching statements of purpose from senior digital folk and came across this one from WPP:

To develop and manage talent;
to apply that talent, throughout the world, for the benefit of clients;
to do so in partnership;
to do so with profit

Not sure about the way it scans but put another way, if Martin Sorrel's network of companies didn't exist there would be less developed and well-managed talent in the world. While I don't see empirical evidence of that it's a strong statement and one I can get behind:-)

Incidentally, I had the pleasure of meeting Mr Sorrel in the ballroom of the Pierre on E61st in Manhattan when he announced his takeover of my employer's parent company (JWT) to the assembled troops. I've had a thing ever since and actually ended up in the UK because IBM didn't think they should keep their business with us after the merger.

But that's another story...

February 7, 2012

user adoption = alignment x value

Have just received a brief from a prospect who wants to increase user adoption. Nothing unusual with that, expect that the wording of the request got me thinking. The request states that the solution is greater usability. In other words, that the level of adoption of a service is directly proportionate to its degree of usability.

I had to stop and think a bit. At first that makes sense, particularly if the current version of the service is really terrible.

But I think usability is the wrong measure. By modelling what the business wants to build into the service and aligning that with what the end users are trying to get out of it an increase in adoption is very likely.

Still, experience is more than alignment. We could get the service exactly right but if a roughly similar service has nicer music or offers free child-care we're likely to go with that alternative.

So it's a balance of alignment and value (in financial terms; emotional; physical; in terms of meaning and self-actualisation etc).

So not being a maths guy, does that make the formula:

adoption = alignment x value

What do you think?

Somebody else is running your help desk

Oh yes:-)

I can now complain in different ways - video, audio, blog, forum, microblog, and on any number of third party sites - Twitter, YouTube, AudioBoo, Plebble, ComplaintCommunity, Facebook, and there is even a complaint aggregator - Amplicate.

Social media has given all of us the tools of engagement, enabling us to be far more inventive, novel and vocal in expressing our displeasure when a company has simply got it wrong.

Really well put. All change: The four trends reshaping customer service

January 24, 2012

Customer Experience Management

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Hi, if you're here it might be because you've just had a chat with Dug at CEM and pointed your device at the QR on my badge.

Really looking forward to the panel this afternoon. particularly looking forward to hearing from GiffGaff's Claire Kavanagh:-)

If you want to keep in touch, you can visit about.me/dug
or even read twitter.com/dug
and if you really want to get serious you can use Linkedin

June 4, 2011

Things that give ecommerce retailers nightmares?

ecommerce nightmaresI was speaking to some consultants recently and we got to talking about empathy and what makes a great ecommerce consultant.

I believe empathy has to be one of the most important qualities of a good consultancy (or indeed of a quality senior manager with a virtual team in a matrix organisation). In some ways it's almost more important than some other core skills in that it's more likely to place the consultant's recommendations firmly under the customer's pain point.

Multi-channel retailers have questions and need some love and tenderness. Ideally, you should feel their pain. They have a bunch of things that keep them up at night and empathising with these will make for a better ecommerce experience consultant.

Here's a rough list (transcribed unformatted from my moleskine) of my favourite nightmares:

  • Do I need analytics, retargeting, algorithmic recommendations, satisfaction survey tools?
  • Single customer view (oh yes... one of those would be nice)
  • Why does enterprise software cost so ridiculously much? (For the cost of a year's license for entry-level analytics I could hire three engineers?!?)
  • Marketing and communication, how much cash should I be giving Google? How can my trading team and my online marketing team work more closely together?
  • How do traditional insight teams (big database, big budget, slow staging) fit in the same plan as front-end analitics-driven teams (rapid staging, lower cost)?
  • How do I manage the difference in staging speed of different business silos (Experience team leading client-side but with the threat that my front-end is making promises to customer that my back-end can't deliver).
  • Platform issues: Where do I start!?! Performance, governance, maintenance, reliability, (in)flexibility, scalability
  • What data can I trust? How can I manage my progress?
  • Generally, how to I measure and manage the impact on my customer experience of:
    • Range extension (marketplace, OEM, etc)
    • SKU availability (allocation online/offline etc)
    • Delivery (number of men, suppliers, boxing and packaging issues)
    • Product information and imagery, access to exciting rich media etc
    • Selling and fulfilling across the channels (multichannel retail suffering!)
    • Social content
    • EPOS disasters, why is it so hard to simply give the customer his pound coin back and why does he have to give his postcode?
    • Content management, why is it so hard to add, to change content?
  • Times are tough, how do I plan the amortisation of my improvements and "burn rate" for new initiatives?
  • How do I calculate the risk and plan the scheduling of the potential rewards?
  • Call centre costs and governance
  • Uniqueness (satisfying the promise of "unique experiences") - many/most platforms assume SKU interchangability, how do I create unique experiences when ecommerce platforms increasingly follow similar design patterns?
  • Should I be focusing on GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT or do I need to go get some new optimising technology?
  • What? Another javascript tag? Why does every vendor tell me it's easy-peasey to integrate their service, I just need to add a javascript tag? How in heaven's name am I supposed to manage the performance impact?
  • If I can't have bespoke channels, can I have bespoke categories (yes I can!)

So yeah, quite a list:-)

I'm guessing there's a lot more, but even with this rough first draft, I can see some broad areas where a consultant might want to focus attention:

Start with the "Digital Map"

Where do we need to be in the mid-to-long term and what do we need to get there? Most businesses maintain a voice-of-the-customer report and maintain a "Customer Plan" these days. The Digital Map builds on those learnings and supports those commitments but with a focus on the elements that directly influence ecommerce performance.

What can I do today?

While we work on a digital map we also need to think about YoY reporting and getting results as quickly as possible. A lot of the nightmares above can be at least addressed at this stage.

Making stuff that works better, like a better online store

A lot of the above touch on good old fashioned design and build. The consultant needs to be able to deliver a quantifiably better ecommerce website building on the customer's platform investment.

Deeper fixes underpinning the online experience

It's unlikely you're going to let me edit the Cobol that structures your mainframe's performance but somewhere between the ubiquitous SAP rollout-that-never-happens and cryogenic defrosting of top programmers active in 1979 there lies a wide scope of systems analysis and solutions analysis and architecture. You're going to want to offer those services too.

If you can't measure it you can't...

Ecommerce managers are some of the most accountable folk around. When your basket is dropping and your MI is a mess its easy to find your bonus under threat. These guys needs top-notch help with people, processes and performance measurement.

So lots to consider when choosing a consultant then:-)

(photo credit college-bound network)

June 3, 2011

Should I commission more strategy work from agencies?

Should I spend more money on strategy

Last year I commissioned agency strategy work to the tune of a little under a million pounds. With the advantage of hindsight, I have to ask myself, "are agencies who produce experience strategy really worth the money?"

The first of the two strategy pieces was run by a really smart guy at a great agency but ultimately, the work they produced had little or no impact on our business. It didn't inform our decision-making nor did it transform any of our research and insights into actionable recommendations. Basically, and no offence to the bright folk who wrote the strategy documents, their work ended up as a couple of big fat Powerpoints on the S: drive. Those docs were briefly consulted then largely forgotten.

The second strategy piece cost twice as much as the first but achieved little more. The brief was to help us accelerate our performance improvements and we went to a leading consultancy in the hopes they would have significant positive impact on our company (or at least our trading performance).

Where the first project likely suffered from poor access to stakeholders, this second one involved a large team of folk in dark suits who made it their business to go as deep as they could and get the information they needed from the right stakeholders.

At first the results seemed encouraging, the team produced a number of documents with amazing facts and figures. Using what I must assume is voodoo and pixie dust, they were able to attach precise performance metrics to general user experience improvements (both UI and UX) and those percentages of 'uplift' (a new word I learned last year) were extremely useful in writing budgets and of course going to the board for cash.

To be fair, the key objective of this second consultancy piece was to generate supporting evidence such that the executive committee could approve a very large budget. Serious people and serious money, so I perfectly understand the need for large documents filled with precise facts and supporting appendices ("the details are all in the appendix" is another favourite bit of consultant-speak I learned last year).

Unfortunately, this strategy also had a fatal flaw. Because it was created top down, with no deeper or longer-term stakeholder engagement, it only took a small change of weather at the top for the budgets to be cut and the whole programme to be shelved.

Now if you ask me, that's a lot of cash (and a lot of time) spent for not a lot of positive outcome. I'm actually looking at my own strategic thinking so I'm not (just) having a bitch and a moan. I am genuinely curious to get a feel for the sustainability of the customer experience strategy industry and learn from the mistakes I made last year so next time this happens we'll get a better result.

Items 1, 2 and 4 in the diagram above make up what you might call the "strategy context" of the brief. I reckon this is where the first agency came a cropper. Specifically, we didn't tell them absolutely everything about the business and they had to make assumptions as to our likely performance. Their analysis was actually pretty clever but we hadn't completely gelled our vision, values and purpose. This meant fragmented results and there was no way our organisational delivery was going to be able to cope with the agency recommendations.

I guess there's a lesson here. If your customer hasn't nailed vision/values nor indeed sufficiently clarified objectives, don't go into strategic analysis. Maybe the brave thing to do is say "we love working with you but let's revisit this in six months when your brand team has had a chance to clarify where you stand" (or words to that effect).

If strategic context was the downfall of the first project, team process was the problem with the second. The consultants were able to get a reasonably good fix on the strategic context (the brand had gelled more since the first team) but they worked to a time-frame that didn't permit the embedding of the "organisational delivery" of their proposed strategy. Simply put, they didn't get deep buy-in across layers of management.

I'm not sure what the answer is here but I'm guessing when one budgets one's headcount on a strategy project, perhaps it would be worth spending a little extra on getting people on the ground to build deeper commitment to one's strategy (could this compliment the usual idea of providing a deck as 'armament' for a director to then socialise in the business?)

Finally, I wonder how much work went into tailoring the work to a client-side audience. I found large parts of both agencies presentations and documentation to be very opaque. You can be as clever as you like but if you don't stimulate your stakeholders to action you're not really having any impact. Something to think about...

There are a hundred other lessons to learn here as well but I'm concerned with those that directly impact the client/agency relationship when dealing with strategy development.

Are you Director of Customer Experience Strategy in an agency? Comments on a post-card please:-)

May 10, 2011

Fix your bill with your thumb

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The insight here was customers were forever getting bills they didn't expect and they didn't like the BT model of having to purchase an extra package to save money.

In our proposed concept, the bill is visualised in a two-way feedback system which allows the problem to be fixed by dragging the circle with a gesture and the appropriate back-office adjustments (change of package, supplement etc.) happen in the background.

April 6, 2011

Forty Hall Estate Bacchus 2013

Nicki is working on the branding for a new wine grown in Enfield, North London (yes, really). You'll have to wait a few years to get some in your glass, but the service design is making headway.

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We've built a lovely responsive site that reinforces the key brand values of "community", "brave" and "quality" to the vineyard's three primary audiences: English wine business, mental health charities, soil association.

FHV_responsive_design.png

Since launching, donations are up 250% and the vineyard managers are tracking their web and social performance with the tools we installed:-)

Nicki is looking at how the prospective customers will experience the brand across time and across multiple touchpoints (we've just tested the awesome i-nigma qrcode reader on the iPhone and it automatically goes from scan to website, very nice).

Forty Hall Estate Bacchus 2013

It's great to be working with a real 'maker' brand. Satisfying gig and I may even get a case of wine out of it:-)

March 14, 2011

Global Service Jam 2011

I just spent the weekend in Leeds jamming with some very interesting folk. We were challenged to develop a service prototype in 48 hours under the overall theme of "(super)heroes".

We chose to work in the problem space around youth and crime.

Crime and punishment stakeholders

We brainstormed and eventually tried a mental model which exposed an opportunity space between the child who "wants to be free" and the mentor and institutions that can't usefully communicate the difference between right and wrong. The service we came up with was a space where young people could experiment with alternative behaviour in the safety of the virtual world.

Lisa is 14 and wants to have fun but is learning to help others and do the right thing

To evidence the service we built a scenario around Lisa who is 14 and wants to have fun but is learning to help others and do the right thing. Here's the mini-blueprint of the service.

Mini-blueprint of the "Do the Right Thing" service

You can grab the pdf if you want to look at the detail.

We worked under a Creative Commons license and the details of Do the Right Thing (and many other astonishing projects) are online at http://planet.globalservicejam.org/ and do check out the other projects as teams around the planet put in the equivalent of 50,000 man/hours over the weekend:-)

January 11, 2011

Dixons Retail: Getsat pilot

Get Satisfaction A screengrab from the Dixons GetSat server

One of the key pillars of the four-year Dixons Retail transformation program is to be thrifty when building and this is particularly relevant to software in the enterprise where feature-bloat and mystery licensing can mean you get some exceptionally poor value for your corporate dollar.

Dixons Social Dynamic social content on the new dixons.co.uk

As part of the effort to discover new ways to build cheaply online Dug is running a number of pilots including web-based customer-led support via GetSatisfaction and using open-source blogging tools to enhance our ecommerce websites.

Fingers crossed these will lead to some greater efficiencies, not least the ability to build quickly as well as cheaply.

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