Category Archives: customer experience

PCC is baggin’ my veggies: why?

PCC’s new veggie bags are buggin’ me

It’s a little thing, but it has now taken on a gigantic irritation quotient in my brain: PCC uses this funky, straight-to-the-landfill plastic netting on many of the vegetables, such as brussel sprouts above, green beans and the like.

Why this bugs me: the netting is completely non-reusable, and face it: my relationship with PCC is a values-based thing.  I don’t go there because they have the best price.  I go there because their values are supposed to be somewhat in line with my own.  And my values are like this: I re-use & recycle to the degree possible.  That means: as much as possible.

These little green mesh bags?  Not so much.  Can’t re-use, can’t recycle…in fact, they’re a total waste, not to mention that if I want a lot (and I do, I eat a LOT of vegetables), I have to buy sometimes two or three of these plastic mesh packages.

So when I asked Kevin, the veg manager at my local PCC why PCC has suddenly started using them, his answer so completely underwhelmed that I just walked away: because  “it’s easier to stock with the mesh bags, and there’s less mess to clean up.”  No.  Really.

So, I went straight away to Metropolitan Market, it has a pretty wonderful veg and fruit section, and guess what!  Their sprouts and green beans?  Free as birds, no plastic mesh wrap.  And guess what else!  None on the floor.  No mess.  So I bought some of the green beans, and if this pattern continues, I may be heading over to Met Market for all my shopping.  I do like it better in many ways.

I work hard to avoid putting more stuff in the land fill.  I prefer to partner with organizations that are sensitive to the issues as well.  As I said, it’s a small thing…but those small things tend to have outsize power over time.

 

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Day 98: MLwC & and the Group Health Adventure

The other day I mentioned that the health profile I filled out online didn’t count “walking” as part of its exercise profile–me no likee. I got a couple of comments on that…Today was the actual physical with my actual doctor at Group Health Coop in Seattle.

First though, a quick note: their online site is great, and it interacts really well, has tons of options, so you can do a lot of stuff online, like make your appointments, speed through profiling questions, get history, and get results. Also note: I am about as far from a Medical Industrial Complex Consumer as you can get–I have a lot of contempt for the Industry and am pretty conservative in my use of it. So, if they make it easy and on my terms–so much the better.

Anyway, I mentioned to my doctor that the exercise part of the profile sort of sneered at walking and get this–he actually took notes so he could relay the info! Because his view is: the more people walking, the better. Yazza!

Second big thing: this was a general physical, which I don’t do often so when I do them, I do the whole kit-n-kaboodle. He was setting me up for a mammo and told me how to make an appt–and I stopped him and said is there anyway we can do this all today, like a one-stop deal? He kind of looked at me and I said, you know, I don’t live close and I think a lot about transportation issues….So he says, well let’s check it out. Maybe they’ll have an opening (he seemed a tad skeptical) He stayed on hold with the lab (interesting, I’ve always thought doctors didn’t have to be on hold with their labs) and finally gets through to someone who checks the calendar and sure enough: there’s a free appt in an hour and half.

capp.jpg

So here I am, sipping a capp at the Victrola, excellent place to be waiting for my appt, and when I leave, I’ll be done for the next couple of years.

Again, got me to thinking about how our culture is set up around the car. The doc never really thought about my returning, it was just built into the system–of course you’ll just drive home and then drive back and do exam another day. Brings me to another issue on their website: it didn’t allow me to make an appointment in advance, even though I absolutely knew I’d be getting labwork. If there was a pre-screening or sort of automatic recognition of exam dates, you could have the option of pre-scheduling the standard lab/exam items, negating the need to return at all.

Oh, and one last thing: I want them to not send me hard copies of my results and put everything in my account online–can they do that? Yes, they can! So, this is the kind of customer centric focus I’d like to see in this Industry. Let me choose when, how, where I interact with the company!

Hey Dr. Thayer–if you’re out there, howdy!

PS: kudos to Diana for forwarding this link for checking carbon footprint. Interesting stuff, and great to have this available to anyone/everyone who wants it!

Daily stats (Thoisday)

Car: 20.4 miles (3 tasks)

Bike: 0
Foot: 8 blocks
Bus: 0

Day 88 & 89: my life w car, Wilson’s Warblers and Wikis

It’s all about W’s today: Wilson’s Warblers and Wikis.

Wilson’s Warblers come through our Puget Sound area in early spring as the head north and again at the end of Summer as they head south. They’re the most fantastic little birds, wildly energetic and full of song, bright yellow heads with a black cap, dusty yellow bodies with olive/gray on their wings. I always look forward to seeing them because it means Spring is really here–which in some years like this one in Seattle is nothing short of a miracle with its ongoing unseasonably cold weather.

But, they’re only here for a very little while so, I snapped a bunch of picture of one of these little guys in a blossoming tree out front and while I got some great snaps, this one was my fave–he’s almost like a cartoon character mid-jump:

Jumping Wilson’s Warbler
Check his little legs and feet! This guy was moving so fast from branch to branch, I just set the camera to snap him as he moved.

Onto wikis. I gave a case-study presentation last week to an audience in Sydney, AU on the successful launch of a global internal wiki for customer facing tech help agents. As my prez was part of a larger, jam-packed agenda, I didn’t have much time to cover a fairly complex issue, that of how to successfully integrate a wiki into a large, global, unwieldy enterprise environment.

The questions were pretty good–the excitement about integrating wikis into enterprise environments is growing, that’s obvious. But I found it interesting that the focus really fell on how to measure its success…a predictable response from a group that lives and dies by metrics. I don’t fault them, I just find it sort of…well, predictable. I follow this plan: you continue to measure standard issues, such as Handle Time (which in this case showed a decrease of approximately 10% in 4 months), but you make room for adoption and understand Adoption as your number one metric for about 9 months. Because just like the internet, if you don’t have users (traffic), you don’t a wiki.

For now, wikis will resist the standard measurements. But if you care about getting the info out of your agents’ head and out to the customer–that most sought after tacit knowledge–you’ll learn to measure adoption over the usual suspects and then focus on content, quality and customer sat.

Some very interesting trends in wiki use indicate that smaller communities of practices do better with wikis than larger ones. For a global group like the one I was discussing, this presents a problem and it remains to be seen if the problems resolves itself through usage. Another interesting trend is culling the information that is added to the wiki for potential self-help use on the corporate web site–I would dearly love to see this practice flourish, for all of us customers out here who go to the website first for answers–and so often find it lacking in effective KB, especially true with tech or tech-related companies..

Wiki interest is alive and well in Sydney.

Daily Stats:
First full work week without the use of a car!
Car: 10 miles (2 people/4 tasks–Saturday errands)
Bike: 8.5 miles
Bus: 14 miles
flexcar: I’m just about to take this one out, I’m not using it at all.

Day 11: My Life with Car

Today was interesting: my first experiment with FlexCar…and I learned a lot of things.

First, I dropped off my bike at Aaron’s Bike Shop for an overhaul and had my usual disagreement with Aaron–still feel bad about it, don’t know why he’s so difficult to get along with. But check it out: I spent about an hour and a half last week testing the fit of my bike and reviewing all the things that needed to be done. I also wanted to put a new rack on and a carrying case and an odometer. All tolled this was going to cost waaaaay more than I expected but the promise of a great functioning bike was worth it, I figured. Came back today, handed over the bike for the work, and handed over the odometer I’d purchased before. Aaron took the odometer and said, that’ll be $10 to put it on.

Now, call me nuts but I pretty much figured this was already accounted for in the overall and large estimate for everything else. It’s not the 10 bucks, not at all. It’s the fact that I already bought it, already put a down payment on the work and now, after all that, and the time, he hits me with the lousy 10 bucks. It just seemed petty and I said so. Aaron, thoroughly insulted, nearly kicked me out of his shop. I stood my ground and insisted that it should have been included in the final tab. I told him I think he does fabulous work, love the shop, love the local business, etc–but hey, I’m a customer! Treat me like a Customer, fer chrissakes.

Okay, rant over.

I went from the shop across the street to where the Flexcar is conveniently located. I reserved the car for 2 hrs, $20, and was headed downtown for a business lunch; as well, I had appts on both sides of noon so I was nervous the car wouldn’t be there, that I wouldn’t get it back in time etc.

Online reservation is a snap and all went pretty well, for a first time. It’s really weird using a communal car, though–I just gotta say that. The car isn’t anywhere near pristine, it smelled a wee bit like smoke, and it wasn’t so clean inside. But hell, it’s an experiment so I sallied forth.

Entry was pretty easy, got to my lunch on time, got back on time. Exit made me a little nervous cuz you put the key inside the car and shut the doors locked–it’s just so counter intuitive to lock keys inside a car.

Then I walked home–all good and well. Can I see myself giving up my car and relying on flexcar? Nope, not yet, but it’s early days, very early days. Here’s an interesting discussion of Flexcar usage in Seattle–I agreed with several of the points after my first attempt, but I need more info, much more info.

I realized today that part of the reason living without a car seems more plausible to me lately is because I’m traveling to El Salvador every month–and while I’m there, I just live without a car. I walk, or sometimes get a ride from someone else. And when I come back home, a car seems sort of a luxury. See? It’s always good to get away and get a different perspective.

Today’s stats:

Car: 0
Bike: 2 miles
Flexcar: 9 miles/3 tasks
Bus: 0

busy day.

Wiki use in global enterprise settings

Just considering the possible use of a massive wiki for tech help agents in an enterprise setting.  Any thoughts anyone out there might have would be of interest.

For now, some of the considerations I have would be:

  • flexibility of legacy inputs
  • what kind of SW?
  • use for decision trees, or trees of any kind?
  • measuring use for agents and customers
  • limiting and recognizing abuse
  • governance issues (multitudes, I’m guessing)

I’m convinced through painful experience that global companies with a vested interest in a uniform customer experience and support options will have to have some kind of JIT publishing process and collaborative sharing processes to create a global MindShare at the agent level.

Further, it’s about the only way out there to actually collect and leverage tacit knowledge. But can it be done and measured and proven to be as effective as I think it can?  Don’t know.

Wiki = better corporate culture and customer experience?

Previously I noted in passing about the article in the New Yorker about Wikipedia–great stuff that has received a lot of attention and brought Wikipedia into the mainstream. Love to know what Wikipedia’s metrics for the last week have shown regarding that attention.

Anyway, I’d also noted that Digital Universe offers a very different approach to collaborative knowledge, social networking etc. As I’m trying to apply the wiki concept to the knowledge management of a global company with extreme complexity, a lot of questions come up regarding the two approaches, one being more or less a self-governing free for all, the other being a collection of portals maintained and controlled by subject matter experts as gate keepers.

Of course the global company in question would prefer the controlled model, it makes them feel much more secure that all hell won’t break loose and it suits their command-and-control style of management to a tee. So at first, I was leaning towards the Digital Universe model, but now…in fact, I’d really like to see them give the wikipedia model a try for these two reasons:

Those using the knowledge base are also those who interface with customers. They know what the most current problems are, what the work-arounds are, what’s needed, what works. They know it like the back of their hand. As Peter Drucker pointed out often enough, the frontline workers are the keepers of truly useful knowledge. They have every reason to make sure the knowledge they have at their fingertips is the best, most correct and most useful. They have every reason to make sure their co-workers also have that information so they don’t have to clean up the mess left behind by someone who did the job poorly the first time. They also have every reason to want the recognition they deserve for the knowledge they’ve acquired. In all of these cases, a wikipedia answers the call.

Further, the customer would prefer that frontline worker have as much useful, applicable and timely information as possible, as quickly as possible. That would mean a quick answer to their problems and that’s pretty much all they want.

So, none of this is rocket science but to get a large, entrenched company to recognize the worth and value of this radically new frontier of shared knowledge and JIT publishing…now there’s some magic.

How threatening is a many-to-many publishing? Maybe pretty dang threatening, it could be a game changer. But in exchange, you’d have fresh energy, real motivation to “get it right,” and direct relationship with excellent frontline customer experience.

Experience by Design

I’m a consultant in customer experience, support, online strategies, etc. I’ve done gigs at a lot of well-known, and not so well-known companies. And when I first walk down the halls of these companies, I experience a slo-mo process of understanding how the company expresses its culture on its walls, often knowingly, strategically, and consciously. But just as often, painfully unconsciously.

building your vision into the very structure

As I work with the company, I’m usually pretty busy taking in a lot of information–certainly lots more than the myriad reports and workings sessions that are on the schedule. One thing I look for is the palpable link between the look and feel of the inside of a company with its outside, ie the product or service it offers. This link has been remarkably consistent and telling: the “end-user” of the company, the customer, manages to experience–for better or for worse–the core culture of the company, a culture that is expressed internally in its physical details.

However the company “window dresses” their offering, however much it may market its “customer centricity,” in the end, the customer really will–in a million unspoken ways–truly experience the culture of the company and come to a nearly unwavering “impression” of the company based on that unconscious experience. And it will take an extreme make-over to change that impression.

Take, for example, three big names: Microsoft, Dell and Apple. Big complex companies with high visibility and well known business models. All three talk about the customer, all three talk about experience, all three have numerous internal initiatives in place to improve the customer experience–on the box, in the box, online, on the phone, by email, chat, IVR and what have you. They all truly do want the customer to be happy–who wouldn’t? It’s not rocket science to figure out, even if you are a monopoly, that if you ain’t got customers, you ain’t got nothin. (I’ve been in Austin a lot lately).

So, each has expended an enormous amount of energy and money, money, money to make sure the Customer Experience works. They have the latest technology, they have metrics, they have visibility…into what they think matters. And this is where things get a little dicey: what they think matters.

creating the model customer

I’ve been to all three campuses and here’s the news: the difference between them is startling and speaks directly and clearly to the culture of each.

At Microsoft you will see expensive art on the walls and lots of banners proclaiming the latest launch, the latest version, the latest product innovation. These internal promotions are big on team, big on being the best, huge on “evangelism.” You’ll see colorful and smart internal marketing that pumps up the troops with enthusiasm for the next…product.

msft windows.gif

At Dell, you won’t see a lot of art; some but not a lot. There’s most definitely a manufacturing feel to the place, a certain boot-strappiness that eschews glitz in favor of process. But you will see a lot of posters with top leadership announcing the latest push to greatness. A lot of internal marketing about top leadership and a can-do attitude. A lot of internal focus with a linear, top down spin.

At Apple, you’ll see something altogether different from the other two. You’ll see pictures of people who use Apple devices. You’ll see a lot of art, and in fact, the pictures of customers are professional quality portraits of Hollywood or otherwise historical figures who use Mac and who Think Different. It’s cool, it’s inspiring, it’s all so beyond the computing device…because after all, Apple is nothing if not an experience. And experience is all about a subject/object relationship, ie, the customer and the device–a Relationship writ large.

Form Follows Function

It’s spooky to me, once I started to notice this, that the customer “impression” of these companies over time pretty much lines up with what the companies believe about themselves.

MSFT believes its next big thing is going to crush the competition and change the world, it’s the next big thing, it’s microsoft–and that’s what customers perceive as well.

it's the product, stupid!

In fact, customers are exhausted by the next big thing and just want one thing that works well consistently and without an inordinate amount of maintenance. Customers never want to think as much about their OS as Microsoft thinks they do.

Dell is Affordable. It’s all about JIT manufacturing, process, and offering a high tech device to the world for out-of-this-world prices. It’s a supply chain, something most customers know nothing about and don’t want to know about…and yet, in the last year, customers have begun expressing the notion that they are part of a supply chain, the wallet part, and that once they’ve done their part, Dell would prefer they disappear until needed again. A growing percent of Dell customers feel used and uncared for–something, by the way, that most all of the Dell employees I’ve worked with would like to change. They’re good folks, they want to take care of their customers–but there’s an internal engine, a process in place, that makes that damn difficult.

top down--who's the customer?

And then there’s Apple. Apple has managed to package The Relationship. They’ve thought of everything, and everything just works. Apple is so cool, is able to do so much so easily that they underscore ease and simplicity by leaving enough space left for surprises: eye candy, ear candy, all kinds of candy. And it all just pretty much works and keeps working without you, the user, having to do too much to ensure that it works. Apple knows about people, and this focus is palpable in all that they do, from their online store, to the super cool phsyical stores, to their email, their IVR system, the metrics they keep and watch, the relationships they make and tend to in a hundred different ways. Everything about Apple screams relationship. Even the names of their products–iMac, iPod etc–encourage you to relate to your devices in a most personal way.

I don’t want to be a slavish devotee of Apple. In fact, they have made, and will make some blunders, big and small. I don’t like how the iPod mini user manual doesn’t tell you how to switch the damn thing off, for example. But do I care? Not really. It just forces me to relate to my Apple-maniacal friends in order to get tips on how-to. And there you have another brilliant, cohesive aspect to Apple: the community.

Does the look and feel of the campus have anything to do with the look and feel of the final product? I sure don’t know of any studies, but it doesn’t seem like a real stretch to me. Would it help a company that is disconnected from its company to have pictures and videos of their customers scattered around? Real live stuff? Well, it sure couldn’t hurt, and it may be the spark that’s needed.