The Customer Experience Report for Jan 26, 2013

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The Customer Experience Report

January 26, 2013 – An Occasional Newsletter (Vol. 2, No. 1)
Rules for Better Customer Experience: Hacking Your Brain

Brad Feld shared a story about meetings and making them better this week, including the memorable rule #0: Do We Need To Meet? This story made me think about the process of customer engagement and of a few suggestions that can make the process of delivering and receiving the experience better all around (and not just in meetings).

Hack Your Brain to Change the Situation
These suggestions have to do with brain hacks: specifically, the idea of reframing the situation and of suggesting a “Best Practice.” Reframing means to present the scenario so that you can change the way that people see things and suggest an alternate solution.

In my experience, one of the most powerful reframing tools is “The Happy Path” – it’s basically a way of saying “when nothing goes wrong, this is the best expected outcome for the process” – and suggesting this path to the customer. When the customer is closest to the ideal persona (a user model popularized by Alan Cooper), then the combination of the Happy Path and the ideal persona can produce a documentation of the ideal customer experience.

Matching the Happy Path with the Real World
Except when it’s not the ideal customer experience, because as we know, the Happy Path and the Ideal Persona rarely meet. It’s also really important to be able to say no instead of maybe to a customer who’s trying to do something that doesn’t really fit the experience.

It’s tempting to let them wander on and come up with an “almost” solution, and this often causes problems later on from a support or experience perspective when the “almost” solution encounters a hitch or a bug or a change of mind. So how can you introduce a bit of the Happy Path to the customer without diverting them dramatically or by trying to create a kind of customer model that they can’t ever meet?

The Just-in-Time Happy Path
One way to do this – especially in a feature rich product – is to uncover the right solution to a problem that they didn’t know that they have yet. An example from the CRM and Customer Service world is the ability to combine merge text (variables that substitute values from a case, customer, or company) with pre-written or “canned” content. By adding this very simple change, you can turn formulaic content into something a bit more personal, and streamline what could be a tedious manual process.

How can I learn more about Personas?
To get started, you can read the Cooper Group’s Guide to Personas. You should also read this article about making personas your team can actually believe in and embrace. Finally, consider this article about making sure that the details of your personas are grounded in fact and not just in vague description.

tl;dr: Customers may have a hard time finding The Happy Path on their own, and as an expert, you need to share multiple happy paths they can traverse.

Great stories from this week

Why our brains like short-term goals (from Entrepreneur Magazine)

Setting an experience and a reward is better than just money (from Digital Telepathy)

Using Bloom’s Taxonomy to Teach Critical Thinking (via @getlittlebird)

You can also find up-to-date customer experience tidbits here

Here’s how to find Metrics that Matter

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Is there an Easy Solution?

The biggest challenge for most businesses is getting from “this is a nifty silver bullet” to “this service is an integral part of our business” I bet you’ve been there, either as the buyer or as the seller. You really really want to believe that whatever you’re selling or they’re buying is going to solve your problem without any work being involved. Occasionally (when accompanied by some masterful Sales Fu) this appears to happen, and most of the time there is extra work to be done to take the Lone Ranger’s Silver Technology Bullet and turn it into the Swiss Army Knife your business actually needed.

Finding Metrics that Matter

What should happen then? In a great essay on metrics that matterSuhail Doshi points out that “Companies need to start using a new set of metrics that don’t simply make them feel good.” This is a perfect way to frame the question of the technology silver bullet, and to point out that you already know all of the attributes of the service that you need to succeed. The friction you feel when you try a new product and it doesn’t match up to the marketing (or your expectations, or to your initial impression) originates from the fact that you haven’t yet defined the solution that you want. Once you define that solution, you can match what’s available against what you need (and want) and make a more informed decision about whether you’ve found the silver bullet, or just another shiny object.

A great way to start finding the One Key Metric – the thing that really matters and “moves the needle” for your business – in Doshi’s parlance is to define success at the beginning of a project. Imagine what it would look like to look back at a successful project and be able to deliver for your business the results you were seeking from that shiny object so that it does become a valued part of your business. This process works much better if it’s concrete and starts with the real world results you want (e.g. go from an average of N views per post to Y views per post over a period of 4 weeks). Don’t be fooled into creating analysis paralysis: just pick some goals you can do today and some actions you can take to get started right now.

An example: increasing traffic to a marketing blog

It’s attractive to think that a simple goal – like increasing traffic to a blog – can be accomplished with a simple solution. There are simple solutions (write more, and produce great content), expensive solutions (use Mechanical Turk and pay people to visit), automated solutions (spend money on paid placement advertisements or send out an email blast) and many of these actions won’t be successful over the long term because they don’t define a hypothesis (what should we do) followed by a test (let’s do something) and a next action (how do we evaluate what we did and do we do anything to follow up that idea.)

What’s Next (Your Turn)

In this example, the end goal of “increasing traffic as an integral part of the business” needs to be supported by clear actions (make a pledge to write 3 posts a week for 6 weeks, and experiment with low cost ideas to publicize that idea) and next actions as the outcome. The best SEO or Email Marketing Packages in the world won’t bring you more traffic – they will simply give you increasingly more powerful tools that you can choose to learn as you transform your initial idea into reality. Just remember, silver bullets only work in the movies.

Automate the stuff you do all the time

Example of snippet used to invite for a meeting

Do you sign your emails the same way 80% (or even 100% of the time)? Do you find yourself retyping bits of text, like “let’s meet up – send me your information” and “here’s our latest press list”. If you’re like me, you’d really benefit from using a small piece of software to help you be more productive (a little bit at a time) all the time.

I’ve been using Smile Software’s TextExpander for several months now, and I’m amazed at the amount of time I save from emails I send a lot of the time.

Instead of writing, “what’s a good time to meet? Send me a few dates and times and we can find a suitable time?” I just time “t-meet” and the following text is auto-filled whereever my cursor is pointing:

Please suggest a time for us to talk at – this is a service I use to schedule meetings with fewer back-and-forth emails – I hope you find it useful.

I look forward to speaking with you soon.

This is useful for a few reasons:

I don’t spend as much time typing stuff over and over and make fewer mistakes.
I send similar standard emails based on tasks, which saves a lot of time in my day when I already know what I’m going to write.  I can focus on the message I’m adding to the email and less upon the actual nuts-and-bolts of the process. This makes a four- or five-sentence email into a much shorter process.

I have a standard reply when I’m solicited by people I don’t know.
This one’s my favorite – how many times have you received semi-junk email (“bacn”) and thought, “I’d like to reply, but I don’t have the time.” I now have boilerplate that I’m able to customize quickly and respond to the other email quickly without breaking my flow.

I can share my best “snippets” with my teammates.
Now that several people on my team at work are also using TextExpander, I can literally make them more productive immediately by writing a TextExpander snippet and saving it in our group Dropbox folder. This is an excellent way to standardize a marketing message, prepare three or four standard replies to an inbound query, or just to make everyone happier that they can type less.

My best productivity hack is that I get to think more about what I want to say.
Thanks TextExpander! You’ve helped me to spend more time crafting an effective message and less time typing it.

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