Categories

November 2017
M T W T F S S
« Oct    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930  

Joseph's Blog

Lead People Not Technology: Interacting to Succeed

Recently an interviewer asked me a frustrating question, “Why are we constantly watching leaders on television who are boastful and self-serving?”

My answer, “Because the leaders we see on television in the United States are predominantly politicians. Those politicians, be they Republican or Democrat, often place their political careers above the broader issues of the country. Those are NOT the leaders who inspire me every day.

Consulting in the C-Suite

My career as a customer experience consultant has given me access to some of the most remarkable CEOs, senior leadership teams, and frontline leaders at iconic global brands. Every one of the leaders I have come to know atop these high-performance companies understands the importance of listening, unifying, and rallying teams to achieve a common vision.

As a specific example, John Gainor, the CEO of International Dairy Queen, (a great leader who will be retiring at the end of 2017) demonstrates inordinate levels of approachability, humility, compassion, intellect, and candor. All of that is packaged with high-performance expectations and a commitment to creating shared profitability for his franchisees and the International Dairy Queen brand.

I could similarly delineate the strengths of any number of leaders like Ben Salzmann, the CEO of Acuity Insurance (a company that is perennially chosen as one of the best places to work in America). Ben is a strategic thinker who is playing five moves ahead on his business chessboard, and he does so with remarkable humor, ferocious passion for people, and an unflinching commitment to creating stakeholder value.

Technology First?

The follow-up question from the same interviewer also generated an emotion-rich answer from me. The interviewer inquired, “Isn’t a lot of leadership success today simply a matter of choosing the right technology before your competitors do?”

My answer, “NO!”

Ok, I can’t stop with a one-word answer, so I continued, “The great leaders I know start by listening with their ears and eyes. They ask lots of questions; they watch their teams and customers. They survey for trends, and they find tools – many of which come from technology – to position their people, products, and processes for success.”

Grounded in Research

Often during these types of interviews, I leave feeling regret about an answer or two and fear that some of my responses are nothing more than opinions. With regards to these two questions, I know I am on solid ground. In fact, a recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) article suggests that leaders of profitable businesses spend the predominance of their time with people, not technology.

Looking at the workday (not just their time in the office) of a CEO, HBR’s survey of 1000 CEOs across six countries found:

On average, about one-quarter of CEOs’ days are spent alone, including sending emails. Another 10% is spent on personal matters, and 8% is spent traveling. The remainder (56%) is spent with at least one other person, which mostly involves meetings, most of which are planned ahead of time. About one-third of the time CEOs spend with others is one-on-one; two-thirds is with more than one other person.

Using John Kotter’s distinction between leaders and managers, the HBR article suggests that both “leader-type” and “manager-type” CEOs spend considerable time interacting with others. Additionally, the research found:

CEOs who tilt more toward “leader” than “manager” run more-productive and more-profitable companies. And, to our surprise, these previously ignored behavioral differences across CEOs have quite a large association with firm productivity, about one-fifth as big as the impact of a firm’s capital inputs (machinery, equipment, buildings, and so on).

Lead Contact

In essence, leadership is a full-contact sport. Leadership involves high levels of human interaction and effective communication. The images we see splashed across our television screens aren’t necessarily in keeping with global business leadership, and the stereotype that great leaders win largely through technology is false. Great technology in the hands of a misaligned workforce or applied to the wrong opportunity is worthless.

Action and Gratitude

So, here’s my two cents (although unlike the interviewer you weren’t necessarily asking for my opinion)…

When in doubt as a leader, get out of your office and ask a team member, a customer, or a shareholder, “What’s on your mind?” and follow that up with, “Tell me more.”

Thanks to John Gainor, Ben Salzmann, and so many other great leaders, with whom I’ve worked, for teaching me the human side of the CEO role!

_________________________________________________________________

Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies. Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

{Infographic} Empathy and Connection: The Not So Secret Weapons for Customer Experience and Life Success

_________________________________________________________________

Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies. Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

Empathy and Connection: The Not So Secret Weapons for Customer Experience and Life Success

While in Las Vegas last week in the immediate aftermath of one America’s most horrific mass shootings, I was overcome by a myriad of emotions. Beyond obvious and deep sorrow, I was struck by confusion over the intentions of the perpetrator and heartened by the outpouring of genuine compassion and concern of locals and visitors alike.

                  

Connecting Emotionally

In that vortex of emotion, I found myself contemplating issues of empathy and human connection. How could someone become so damaged or evil as to train a weapon on a throng of concertgoers with a complete lack of compassion for the lives of those in his sights? Conversely, I appreciated the intense empathy being demonstrated by absolute strangers who were seeking to do something – anything – to connect with one another, the wounded, and the families of the victims.

I have long written about the role of empathy and human connection in business. In fact, most of my books about customer experience hinge on the distinction between “caring for” and “caring about” one another. It is my fundamental belief that human beings want to be cared for by the quality of products and services we provide but need to be cared about by the way we take an interest in and create a connection with them. Companies that care about their people create connected workplaces which in turn forge stronger connections with customers. More importantly, all people (employees and customers alike) want to be heard, understood, appreciated, and acknowledged as unique human beings.

Wisdom from a Restaurateur

As my book, The Starbucks Experience was being blessed by commercial success, another book titled Setting the Table was also on the bestseller list. That book written by Danny Meyer (famed restaurateur) and founder of restaurant concepts like Shake Shack and Blue Smoke has been one of the most articulate thought leaders on the importance of empathy and human connection in service and hospitality. In a recent CBS 60 minutes interview, Danny noted:

Everyone on Earth is walking around life wearing an invisible sign that says, “Make me feel important.” And your job is to understand the size of the font of this invisible sign and how brightly it’s lit. So make me feel important by leaving me alone. Make me feel important by letting me tell you everything I know about food. So it’s our job to read that sign and to deliver the experience that that person needs.

Over the years, I have developed countless training tools to help service professionals “read the signs” of customers and place themselves in the role of the customer. Someone once told me you can’t “place yourself in your customer’s shoes unless you take your shoes off first.” Much of great service involves stepping out of our own assumptions and chatter inside our heads so as to listen intently and observe fully.

A Genius Weighs In

Einstein once wrote, “Know where to find information and how to use it – that’s the secret to success.” For me, information is tucked away in the hearts and minds of those we serve. It is written on those “invisible signs” described by Danny Meyer.

If we develop the ability to read those signs and use the information we garner to make other people’s lives better, we are truly successful at work and in life.

While the effective use of information may not put us on the genius level with Einstein, those skills truly will make us emotionally intelligent (EQ). In fact, EQ is commonly associated with five core competencies:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Motivation
  • Empathy
  • Social Skills

In the context of ghastly images from a concert in Las Vegas, I am reminded that all of us can be a force of good at work and in the world. As Danny Meyer and Einstein suggest we can make a powerful difference if we “read the invisible signs” in others and take what we learn and “use it” for their betterment!

_________________________________________________________________

Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies. Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

{Infographic} The Risk of Excellence: Avoiding Customer Experience Mediocrity

 

_________________________________________________________________

Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies. Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

The Risk of Excellence: Avoiding Customer Experience Mediocrity

Some years ago, I had the good fortune of working on an article draft with John Timmerman and Curt Coffman. John is currently Executive Director of Digital Transformation at Gallup and Curt has co-authored perennial bestselling books like First Break All the Rules and Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch.

The article we worked on together had a working title of The Risk of Excellence. The premise of the piece was that to be excellent at something you must say “no” to a lot of things to which you will otherwise be mediocre.

Disciplined Focus

While I view disciplined focus as an essential component of excellence, I’m amazed by how many leaders overreach their center of excellence. It is as if they believe their companies are limitless. To that end, they seek to have their business be excellent at all things. Or excellent in pursuit of an unending slate of new things that appear on the leader’s radar.

Recently, Starbucks began shedding areas where it had overreached in favor of stewarding energy back to their core area of excellence the “coffeehouse experience” or as I titled my first book about the company The Starbucks Experience.

The coffeehouse experience implies excellence in two areas “coffee” and “creating an engaging place to experience” that coffee. To execute at the highest level in those two areas, Starbucks has made two significant changes since July announcing the:

  • Closure of all 379 Teavana stores in 2017
  • Discontinuance of the Starbucks online retail store

Retail Tea in a Mall?

Starbucks has been in the tea business since the brand was founded in 1971. In fact, the company’s original logo captured their product line as Starbucks Coffee, Tea, and Spices.

In 1999, Starbucks purchased the Portland, Oregon based Tazo tea brand for 8.1 million dollars enabling Starbucks to access and sell Tazo branded hot teas in filter bags, bottled juice beverages, Organic Tazo Chai concentrate, and full leaf teas.

When I was working on my second book about Starbucks, Leading the Starbucks Way, leaders at the company were beta testing a Tazo teahouse concept but pivoted to buy Teavana Holdings Inc in 2012 for 620 million dollars.

Teavana had blazed a trail to open retail tea stores primarily in mall locations. At the time CEO Howard Schultz suggested Tazo would serve as a “learning laboratory” for Teavana. Rather than brewing tea for on-premise consumption in an “affordable luxury” setting, Teavana’s business model was to offer samples of tea to encourage the purchase of tea accessories and the purchase of “by the ounce” aromatic and flavorful teas for home brewing.

Saying “yes” to Teavana caused Starbucks to drift out of their coffeehouse experience lane and into a business that was taking revenue away from their profit center. According to a Fast Company article about the Teavana closures:

Despite the fact that business is booming for the coffee giant, the segment that accounts for the 300-plus Teavana stores saw a decrease in revenue compared to 2016, as well as a marked increase in operating loss. In short, tea isn’t the hip moneymaker Starbucks thought it could be.

Ok so they gave up tea, but they can’t possibly focus on the coffeehouse experience to the exclusion of online retail, right?

No to Online Retail

For some analysts, a recent decision by Starbucks leaders to stop selling products through the company’s website appears seriously ill-advised. Those commentators rightfully note that there is an “Amazonification” of everything. Consumers have shifted to online purchase and delivery, so why would Starbucks figuratively throw their race car in reverse while going 170 miles per hour down the track?

In a Wall Street Journal article titled, Starbucks Closes Online Store to Focus on In-Person Experience, Stacy Cowley notes:

As customers increasingly shift their retail shopping toward e-commerce, Starbucks is bucking the trend: It shuttered its online store…Maggie Jantzen, a company spokeswoman, said that the decision to shut down the online store was part of a push to ‘simplify’ Starbucks’ sales channels. ‘We’re continuing to invest in amplifying Starbucks as a must-visit destination and are looking across our portfolio to make disciplined, thoughtful decisions’…

In the same article, Stacy recalls that several months before shutting down the online Starbucks store, Howard Schultz the chairman of Starbucks expressed lessened enthusiasm for digital retail by noting:

Every retailer that is going to win in this new environment must become an experiential destination…Your product and services, for the most part, cannot be available online and cannot be available on Amazon.

Starbucks isn’t Amazon, and its excellence doesn’t live in “take and make” products sold in malls.

Leaders at Starbucks will always explore peripheral opportunities but, if the past few months are any indication, they will not risk excellence by overreaching into areas of mediocrity.

How about you and your business?

_________________________________________________________________

Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies. Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

{Infographic} Not Just Fast: Understanding a Responsive Experience

_________________________________________________________________

Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies. Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

SaveSave

Not Just Fast: Understanding a Responsive Experience

As a customer experience consultant, I find myself working with leaders across the globe and across business sectors on some very familiar themes; needs fulfillment, customer effort reduction, surprise and delight, etc.

Responsiveness

One of those bedrock issues in daily consulting includes “responsiveness.” From my worldview, responsiveness is a make or break differentiator in all business arenas including retail, banking, online sales, air travel, and automotive.

Often responsiveness is cast as simply a swift reaction to an inbound request from a consumer but there is more to it than speed. Responsiveness carries with it the need to provide a relevant and effective reaction.

24 Minutes from Tesla

Let’s take a recent example from Tesla Motors to illustrate the key elements of responsiveness. At 8:47 p.m. on August 18th, Paul Franks from Bamford, Alabama tweeted the following to Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk:

@elonmusk can you guys program the car once in park to move back the seat and raise the steering wheel? Steering wheel is wearing.

A mere 24 minutes later Elon Musk tweeted a response to Paul which read:

Good point. We will add that to all cars in one of the upcoming software releases.

Unquestionably, Elon Musk’s reaction could be characterized as cutting-edge responsiveness from a swiftness perspective, but it is the nature of the response that is equally noteworthy. Elon could have responded in half the time and been less “responsive.”

What if?

Imagine instead of Elon’s actual response arriving in 24 minutes he instead crafted a tweet which arrived 12 minutes from Paul’s original message. That tweet could have read:

Paul everyone has ideas on how to make products better. Get a programming degree, make the fix, and send it over.

The hypothetical tweet would have been faster, defensive, unaccommodating, and “less responsive.”

Ultimately the test of Tesla’s responsiveness will come if/when the automatic steering wheel/seat adjustment is “added to all cars in one of the upcoming software releases.” It is easy to utter a swift and accommodating response after a customer offers input. But it is quite another thing to see that promise into fruition.

Writing for Electreck, Jameson Dow, suggests that Tesla uses its smaller size to be nimble in executing customer responsive solutions:

One of the things Tesla is able to do, as a smaller company, is to make changes a lot more quickly than larger companies can. It also helps that Tesla’s cars are capable of over-the-air updates, so if a feature is missed, it can be added later in a software update. Most manufacturers would add these as part of a new model year, in order to entice owners to upgrade their cars, but since the cost of the upgrade is so minor to Tesla, there’s no reason not to push the software out to every owner. This keeps customers happy and keeps them evangelizing the brand, resulting in high customer satisfaction numbers.

The Payoff

Tesla not only holds strong satisfaction numbers, as referenced by Jameson but more importantly it drives enviable loyalty among its existing customers. In the 2016 list of Car Brands, Consumer Reports ranked Tesla first among customers who said they would buy from the same manufacturer again. Not only was Tesla ranked #1 in this Consumer Reports survey but they substantially outdistanced all competitors. Here are the results for the top 6:

Rank Brand Would Buy Again
1 Tesla 91%
2 Porsche 84%
3 Audi 77%
4 Subaru 76%
5 Toyota 76%
6 Honda 75%

What About You?

Whether you are a massive service organization like the American Red Cross, an individual brand like an attorney in private practice, a mom-and-pop restaurant, or a retail behemoth like Amazon; responsiveness matters. To be known as responsive, we can all take a page from Tesla:

1. Be Swift

2. Be Accommodating

3. Be Relevant

4. Be Active (delivering on all promises)

If you consistently deliver on those four ways of being you will “be” two of the most important things of all – rare and long-lasting!

_________________________________________________________________

Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies. Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

{Infographic} Keeping the Attention of Your Audience

_________________________________________________________________

Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies. Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

SaveSave

Keeping Your Audience’s Attent…Look There’s a Squirrel

Well, it’s officially over…your attention span that is!

Smartphones Fault?

I’m not sure if you are still reading given recent findings on just how short attention spans have become but here goes…

I knew things had gotten bad back in 2015 when I read an article in The Telegraph titled Humans have shorter attention span than goldfish, thanks to smartphones. According to that article:

Researchers surveyed 2,000 participants in Canada and studied the brain activity of 112 others using electroencephalograms. The results showed the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000, or around the time the mobile revolution began, to eight seconds. Goldfish, meanwhile, are believed to have an attention span of nine seconds.

That was 2015! Two years later have things deteriorated further?

Bye, Bye, 30 Seconds

One sign of our darting attention span is the erosion of the venerable 30-second commercial. In fact, the Fox Sports Network has recently begun airing six – yes you read that right – six-second commercials during NFL and Major League Baseball. According to Ad Age, Fox began testing six-second spots in August during the Teen Choice Awards. They also reduced the overall volume of commercials during the test by 20%. In an article, titled Fox Will Air Six-Second Spots In NFL Games, Jeanine Poggi notes:

In theory, most people in the industry would agree that less commercial clutter is valuable for both consumers and advertisers. Fewer ads increase the chances that the spots will be remembered. But there are plenty of questions surrounding the economics. In order to maintain ad revenue while decreasing ad loads, networks have to raise prices on the inventory. Marketers are far from convinced that they should pay more to be in a program with less commercial clutter.

But pay they will! During that six-second commercial pilot conducted during the Teen Choice Awards, Fox reportedly generated 30% more ad revenue despite decreasing ad density by 20%. According to some reports, Fox collected $75,000 for each of those six-second ads, which is the equivalent of 30-second spots on many reasonably popular programs.

Purposeful Interruption

Therein lies the lesson, albeit a quick one. Every form of communication today should be viewed as an “interruption.” When you are trying to get a message across today less is more and quick beats slow!

People are doing what they enjoy and fending off a daunting barrage of messages – ads, blogs, texts, and posts on Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – you name it! According to an article for Forbes.com, Jules Schroeder notes:

Industry experts estimate that the average person is exposed to around 5,000 ads a day, which speaks volumes of the subconscious overload we experience to buy, buy, buy.

Brevity Wins

So how will you disrupt in six-seconds? What message do you want to share?

Not long ago I did a TEDx talk that was 12 minutes in length. As a keynote presenter accustomed to being invited into the brain space of audience members for typically 60-90 minutes, I found the task invigoratingly challenging. Even from the keynote stage, my colleagues and I have long been trying to shift, twist, surprise, and accommodate audiences filled with drifting attention.

When forced to be particularly brief and powerfully disruptive, I harken back to the writings of Blaise Pascal. In his Provincial letters written between 1656 and 1657, Blaise wrote, I only made this letter longer because I had not the leisure to make it shorter.” Today we need leisure to “make messages shorter,” or many of us won’t have an audience to keep our day job!

I could say more but my time has long elapsed! A very special thanks to those of you who’s attention has outlasted my goldfish!

_________________________________________________________________

Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies. Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

{Infographic} When It Matters Most

 

 

_________________________________________________________________

Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies. Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

SaveSave