Category Archives: customer

52WoLP #11: the secret lives of Lincoln Park (Happy 1st Day of Spring)

There’s the beach trail and the bluff trail; the playgrounds, old fashion zip line, wading pool and picnic shelters; the ball fields and, of course, the Colman pool. These are the places we all know and use and appreciate. There are other places, a little bit secret, not so much for us humans, although we definitely benefit from them.

I was looking at a parks dept map of Lincoln Park the other day and was sort of impressed by the forest areas. Forest. Take a look at the list:

Lincoln Park Forests: particularly H, B, G and J

Lincoln Park Forests: notice particularly H, B, G and J

This is cool, because those areas are part of what makes LP the most excellent park it is. HBG and J are beautiful and sort of urban-wild. There are nicely tended trails through and around them, and at this time of year, those forested areas are extremely active…and their inhabitants particularly vulnerable. Why? Nesting. Lots and lots of nesting going on, nest building and baby making by the ones who sing beautiful songs, flit in and out of trees and bushes and make us feel a little bit more alive and in touch with nature. Here are a few of those creatures, maybe you’ve seen one or two?

And this is just a little tiny smidge of the secret lives happening in LP right now and through Spring/ Summer. So, keep an eye out, take it easy in areas H, B, G and J–we’re just visiting where they live. And many of them live pretty close to the ground, so if you are a dog walker, best to stay on paths, keep your dog on a leash and enjoy the beautiful music of the forests.

**H/t to Trileigh for her bird notes and help
52 Weeks of Lincoln Park, a year long project: #11

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Day 92 & 93: MLWC, some green links and Measuring KM

A bunch of green specific websites are springing up. They sort of remind me of the early days in the gay&lesbian community when everything had to be really gay&lesbian and only gay&lesbian or it didn’t count. Things are much more mainstreamed now and that’s a good thing in many ways–hopefully the path to mainstreaming green living, green concerns, green investing will be faster, smoother, better.

So, without further ado:
Greener.com, a green search engine. If you want to find something, but want to narrow the field to green, here’s your engine.
Greenmaven, another search engine that also includes social awareness along with greeniness in its search results.
Hugg is like Digg but with a green angle. This one’s pretty interesting and since I have found myself having a hard time categorizing green stories adequately in Digg, I’m liking the alternative.
Inhabitat is a beautiful blog discussing sustainable design of all kinds. It’s gorgeous in a West Coast Zen kind of way.

And now for something completely different: measuring the effectiveness of KM. Suarez in his blog discusses the ongoing question of measuring KM–to prove its worth to everyone from end users to IT, to Veeps, etc. He despairs of finding an adequate answer to the ongoing question and I don’t blame him. KM usage, wikis, blogs, etc are all experiential and viral in their best cases; like I ranted in my post yesterday, KM of all stripes is a haven for command-and-control management and the insistence on measurement is a key indicator of command-and-control style.

That said, I don’t live in such a fantasy land that I think we’ll get rid of measurement any time soon. I introduced wikis to a very large, global computer maker and the biggest difficulty we had in the process was trying to get them to think differently about “measurement.” I don’t think we succeeded, and as a result, even though the wiki is successful in terms of adoption, the lack of meaningful (read: corporate) measurement has all but made the wiki invisible to upper echalons of management. They can’t talk about it in numbers, so they disregard it. Fortunately, the wiki itself, intended for front line users, can live quite happily without a lot of attention.

My ongoing philosophical question: has Excel made life better or worse or something in between? We now use it because we can–for anything and everything. It’s a fabulous tool…I just wish sometimes we could put it down and thinking differently about things.

Daily stats:
Car: 0
Bike: 10.2 miles
Foot: 0
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 75 & 76: My life w car

Enjoy!

Daily stats:
car: 55 miles (5 tasks, all in one planned gulp!)
bike: 12.5 miles
electric hybrid bus: 0
flexcar: 0

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 = 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.

Untitled

Recently I wrote about the three campuses–Dell, Apple, Microsoft–and what you could glean just from looking at the walls. Dave Pollard discusses a similar sort of observation-centered activitiy: customer anthroplogy. The art and science of observation applied to people in their “end user” environment. very interesting…and encouraging.

Says Pollard:

“What you are looking for is anything that clearly does not work properly or effectively, such as:

* Workarounds: Things people do that the process, tools and facilities obviously were not designed to accommodate, e.g. extra manual worksheets that are maintained because the computer reports don’t do the job.

* User Torture: Evidence of obvious physical or psychological discomfort, e.g. people with phones cradled in their neck because they don’t have headsets.

* Obstacles and Barriers: Signs that people can’t do their job properly because something is physically or procedurally in their way, e.g. people who leave their station for inordinately long times because they need to ‘get approvals’.

* Repurposed Objects: Tools designed for one thing that have been appropriated for something else because no other suitable tool was available, e.g. makeshift doorstops to increase airflow or light in a factory.

* Wear Patterns: Evidence of stress or overuse, e.g. damaged power cords or hinges.

How to Save the World

technorati tags:,

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.