Category Archives: user experience

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.

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Landru

Does anyone remember the Star Trek episode about Landru? Landru was the "God" of a very stifled and inhibited society; they were all about "The Body." Being part of The Body meant you did whatever Landru asked you to do, no matter how ridiculous or tastelessly dressed it required you to be.

The apparent reward for this kind of obediance was one day of utter insanity per year, when everyone went completely nutso and broke all the rules, committing atrocities of every kind, and devolved into drunken debauchery.

the original Landru

Of course Kirk has several good fist fights, and I think Spock pretends to "go over to the dark side," infiltrating the priestly ranks of Landru's caretakers. The usual stuff. Finally, they discover that Landru is a several thousand year old computer designed by a benevolent guy named Landru, but the computer version just keeps running the place with the same old program, the same old functions, the same old routines.

Landru

I'm working with a company right now that has a Landru in place–it's their home-grown knowledge management system. Once upon a time, their system was, like Landru, a pretty good idea–the company was smallish and growing like gangbusters and needed some kind of system for standardizing knowledge across all its parts. But now it's just freakish, and has the attendant priest class and this sort of blind adherence and loyalty, even as the rest of the world has moved onto web based KM, google, intranet 2.0, wikis and what not.

It doesn't have the one-day-a-year free-for-all, which is a shame because in this case, it might actually do them some good.
Where oh where is Captain Kirk when you need him?

kirk and team.JPG

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.