Join Jim at Mindsurf!

I’m pleased to announce that I will be the keynote speaker at this year’s Mindsurf conference.  Join me as we discuss From People to Profits: The Business Case for Employee Engagement.

We will walk through not only the business case, but also three very concrete steps that you can take to improve employee engagement at your organization.  The official description:

Employee Engagement is not just a feel-good program. Companies are seeing significant productivity and profitability gains through building a culture of engaged employees, as reported by Gallup, Towers-Perrin, Hay Group and others. The worst economic downturn in decades left many employees afraid to leave their jobs. Now that the economy is loosening up, experts warn we may see increasing turnover as employees leave for greener pastures. How will you keep your best people? This session will focus on best practices to engage employees, including the ROI of engagement and how you can get started at your company tomorrow.

I hope to see you there!

Walgreen’s Nails the Pharmacy Customer Experience

I’m not a big fan of ordering prescription medications – and I know I’m not alone. I’ve traditionally used mail order, but as I often forget to reorder in time, I frequently run out.  Also, since I change insurance every few years, I keep having to start over and fill out another form and get another prescription from my doctor.  Too much work.  But it’s been cheap enough that I keep trying to do it.

But those days are over.  Walgreen’s has made me a fan of using my local pharmacy, by offering good pricing with an excellent customer experience.

First of all is the price.  This is mail order’s strategic benefit, but Walgreen’s (and others) now level the playing field through competitive generics pricing.  But it’s the customer experience that separates them.  Walgreen’s has made three changes to really streamline the experience. Read more

Can technology create customer delight?

Bob Thompson at CustomerThink posed this question at his blog, asking 18 Customer Experience leaders (including yours truly) to comment on the topic.  It’s an interesting read.

My response was off-the-cuff, and less formal than a typical post:

Wow – that is a tough one. I agree with your research – it’s interactions with humans that create the greatest delight (or, for that matter, frustration!). Where technology seems to make the greatest impact is when it enables or improves the person-to-person relationship.

I’m “thinking out loud,” but it seems that most effective technology implementations either improve a human being’s access to data (e.g., a really good system at a hotel), or allows a transaction to occur more quickly by avoiding a person (self-service systems). There are some obvious exceptions, like Amazon, but most of those have been written to death.

Loyalty programs were considered a great example of this in their earlier days. But we’re starting to see that loyalty programs don’t build emotional loyalty – they just trap a consumer. In my interviews, consulting, etc., it always comes down to the human element. So I’m not sure that I’m a lot of help in what you’re hoping to accomplish!

I guess my POV is that technology allows your transactions to occur more easily and quickly for customers. This in itself does not enable delight, except that it frees up your staff to focus on the higher-leverage points, which does create delight.

In general, there seemed to be two paths of responses.  More service-oriented bloggers (such as Annette Franz Gleneicki, Bruce Tempkin and myself) focused on the ability of technology to enable delight – but primarily when partnered with a human being.  Others (such as Chip Bell and Leigh Durst) focused on products that delight through technology.

What are your thoughts?  What is the role of technology?  You can see the entire post here.

Case Study: Personal Customer Connections + Employee Empowerment = a Great Customer-Inspired Experience at Davanni’s

“We pretty much let our employees and customers decide what’s on our menu.”

That’s a great example of the philosophy that has led to long-term success at Davanni’s, a Twin Cities pizza and hoagy restaurant. While their local focus and fun atmosphere are definitely part of the mix, it is the extreme efforts to keep fresh with customers and employees that really drive their results.

Davanni’s has 21 locations throughout the Twin Cities. They have been in business for 37 years, featuring family-friendly food on the lower end of the cost spectrum. I originally asked to interview them about their experience with Coke’s new soda machine. But I ended up discovering the best example I’ve found of a company trusting their strategies to their customers and front-line employees. This story is a great example for any industry. Read more

Tekserve: A Blueprint for a Great B2B Customer-Inspired Experience

“Our job is to make our customers look good to their bosses.” 

That’s the philosophy of Tekserve, an Apple retailer and IT services provider in New York City, as articulated by Director of Marketing Jazmin Hupp.

Imagine that you are a long-time Apple retailer and supplier, and then Apple builds their flagship store just two miles from you, then four more just as close. Some might find it time to close up shop. Instead, Tekserve used the challenge as an opportunity to refocus on their customers. Their reward? Consistent growth, being featured in the Crain’s New York Business Fast 50 and the Computer Reseller News’ 2012 Solution Provider 500 list, which ranks the top technology integrators in North America.

Tekserve doubled-down on the service surrounding Apple’s products, particularly for businesses.  Almost 2/3 of their revenue comes from B2B relationships, where they are far nimbler than Apple. Much of their work involves integrating Apple products into existing networks, including wholesale conversions from PCs to Macs.

Tekserve credits their growth to three main areas of focus: Read more

Best Buy’s New Store Format: Beautiful Design Limited by Store Execution Issues

Best Buy unveiled a new store format last week at its flagship location a few blocks from their corporate headquarters. I visited the store twice last week. You can find more general review at The Mama Report, including photos, as well as at the Star-Tribune. The store has opened to rave reviews, and understandably so. The new format is beautiful, and greatly increases the opportunity to play with and learn technology.

The company traditionally introduces new store concepts in 1-3 stores, evaluates them, and determines which parts (if any) to scale. There are too many changes to include in one post, including such additions as a “Solutions Central” to ask questions, educational “digital displays” teaching about products, and vignettes that allow you to see how appliances might fit into your home. I will focus on the overall look and feel, and three specific areas: Tablet Central, the 3DTV Experience, and the Magnolia Design Center. This post reviews the format, and gives advice as to which parts should be scaled.

Full Disclosure

I worked for Best Buy for six years through 2008, and still love the brand. My last three years I designed interactive experiences such as those featured in this store. Several are clearly descendants of projects I led. This makes me more familiar with the issues than most. Read more

Does technology replace the customer experience?

From Iconoculture:

UK: “Facebook” pub serves punters with table-side technology
The Thirsty Bear pub in South London is using tablet technology to help punters order food, drink and update their social network status without leaving their table. Table-side iPads and serve-yourself beer taps enable customers to order food and drink for self- or waiter-service. To start an electronic tab, punters simply leave a credit card behind the bar in order to add to their bill. Finger clicking is no longer required to grab waiters’ attention. Connected consumers can simply text staff direct via an instant messenger app to alert them that they require table service.

This is a fascinating idea. But how long can it last? Read more

The #1 Tool to Engage Your Customers

Note:  This post was originally listed at Annette Franz’s blog at http://cxjourney.blogspot.com/.  If you aren’t subscribed to her blog, you really should consider it!

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You’ve gathered your customer insights and made the changes. Your website is streamlined and easy to use. Your add-on services are perfectly aligned with customer needs. You have invested in the finest training for your employees. Your IT upgrades ensure that your staff has up-to the-second information at their fingertips.

But somehow nothing is changing. Your sales are flat, and your customer experience scores are static. What’s wrong?

Tell me, how good are your line managers?

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The employee-customer interaction is where the magic happens in almost any service-based business. Whether renting a car, shopping for groceries or eating out, the customer-facing associate makes the difference between a ho-hum experience and one that brings you back for more. Read more

The Second Key to Creating a Great Customer-Inspired Experience: Engage the Entire Team on the Opportunity

Once you know what matters, the next step is to get everybody involved.

I have been speaking about this topic quite a bit lately, and one exercise I have is for participants to identify five recent projects or programs their company has developed to improve your customer experience. These could be new products, pricing changes, sales training programs – any new idea. Go ahead and do this, as well. Write down five new projects your company is implementing:

  1. ______________________________
  2. ______________________________
  3. ______________________________
  4. ______________________________
  5. ______________________________

Now that you have this list (you did do the exercise, didn’t you?), let’s look at your projects. Whether you work for a 50 or 50,000-person company, a good rule of thumb is that 90% of your company’s employees are individual contributors. So if your company is doing well at this key, 4-½ of these ideas should come from front-line employees. Brave readers: comment on how well you did!

Of the hundreds of attendees in my talks, how many had at least three ideas come from an individual contributor?

Four.

None came from a company of more than ten people. Only about half had even one idea come from a front-line employee.

We can do better. Companies pay consultants to tell them what to do, when they have dozens (or hundreds or thousands) of passionate employees who know far more about their customers. We need to do cast a wider net. Read more