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Money Can Buy Happiness – 8 Principles


OK. Normally I don’t think about the notion of “money can’t buy happiness” but I was doing some research on top level executives and “money motivation” and discovered this paper, “If Money Doesn’t Make You Happy, Then You Probably Are Not Spending It Right,” written by Elizabeth Dunn, Dan Gilbert, and Tim Wilson. While focused more on individuals I pondered how these same 8 principles might apply to executive pay and compensation:
1 Buy Experiences Instead of Things
2 Help Others Instead of Yourself
3 Buy Many Small Pleasures Instead of a Few Big Ones
4 Buy Less Insurance
5 Pay Now and Consume Later
6 Think About What You Are Not Thinking About
7 Beware of Comparison Shopping
8 Follow the Heard instead of the Head
Go figure…read the paper for more insight. Cheers! Rick

Cirque’s Mystere – why “Choreography” is a customer experience essential

During a recent engagement, reshaping the skill requirements for a 2000 person sales force, I started chatting about “disconnects in choreography”.  When I think about choreography its about taking a KPI – such as the Net Promoter Score – and connecting to organization delivery.  It’s why I combine frameworks for customer experience, sales effectiveness and service delivery when investigating how to increase CX ROI.

For example, at a large telecom the Net Promoter Score for the sales team was almost all 9’s and 10’s yet overall NPS was declining.  Why?  Because the service installations were taking 2-3X longer than promised and getting to a service agent was a worse than solving a rubik’s cube puzzle.

So when you think about customer experience tied to enterprise choreography think about what it takes to execute one of the Cirque shows…

Lessons  from Mystere

Kellogg’s Innovation Network allowed me the opportunity to talk to the director of Cirque de Soleil’s Mystere and get a behind the scenes look at the business and how the show is developed and executed – Here are 8 key lessons….

  1. Customer Engagement: Emotion, emotion, emotion. It’s hard to imagine anyone that would go to Mystere and not find a wide range of impactful and divergent emotions. At times I was in absolute awe of the what a human body could do, lost in the visual imagery of the art of the spectacle and laughing at the acts of the clowns.  Yet the engineer in me kept wondering – how did they do that! It’s that power of emotional connection that all businesses wish they could achieve instead of what most businesses do – cutting costs to deny you service (even to point of creating customer terrorists). This was truly an engineered emotional experience.
  2. Talent Selection: The actors are sought from a pool of the best athletes, musicians, and dancers in the world – most often through employee referral.  The “best” isn’t just a mirror of a leader (i.e. the model emulates the leader) but a diversity of thought, geography, and ideas to ensure a level of organic renewal and energy to the show. It’s about bringing the whole person and their creativity to the stage.
  3. Development: Two thoughts emerged as I listened to the Mystere team. First, this was a leadership team that any CEO would be proud of. They have all come up through the ranks, demonstrated their craft, and believe in the mission of Mystere. They also have a degree of respect and caring for each other and valuing the contribution of the entire team in a way I found something to be proud of. I also learned that they are SERIOUSLY vested in developing critical thinking skills and whole brain thinking.
  4. Process: When a new Cirque show opens there is process that it goes through (akin to new product or service development). There is an ideation stage to formulate the base product (such as Mystere, O, Zumanity). Then there is a creative process between the director, artists, and technicians to formulate the theatrics by mixing a combination of the three into a “flow”. Then there are the rehearsals – with a heavy dose of safety management (it’s easy to see where a missed move could result in death). The opening is a “perfecting” period to get the recipe and routine locked down, and finally it’s “locked” in. If I recall correctly, the “baking” took 18 months. This is followed by ongoing quality and safety procedures and practices (akin to Six Sigma perfection and OSHA level safety awareness).
  5. Alternative Business Model: Think about what Cirque did to the circus business in general. It elevated the art of the circus actors to new levels, created an accessibility to audiences by an innovative redesign of the circus experience as fun, stage, art, and form, and restructured the business economics – targeting Cirque at a premium to market. Wouldn’t we all love to create the game changer business model?
  6. Innovation logic: New ideas are always looked at to give even a long running show like Mystere an organic nature. As the director stated, each new idea has to be fully worked out and goes through an R&D process that often “leaves a dumpster full of ideas”. While we did not discuss how many new ideas enter the pipeline.  Only a few make it to the end after a rigorous and valued test and learn process.
  7. On-boarding: An artist must first do their own personal homework by watching videos and studying the character. Once they have studied for a few weeks the artistic director will work with them on stage for about 2 weeks (2 to 3 times a week). This time is used so the artist can learn the character movement. It is also a time for the artistic director to see if the artist could bring something new to the character. Then they spend a week working with props and costume pieces. Once the artist is comfortable there is a full show audition – staging with other artists. Then they are ready for the show. It takes an artist about a week in the show to feel comfortable.
  8. Coaching to Win: The KIN attendees watched the last rehearsal of a new member and then saw him in the actual show later that evening. One thing I noted was how the artistic director coached the new actor. There were no incentives, no stick, just a calming guiding hand with the language of any great football coach focusing on how to draw on strengths and downplay and mitigate weaknesses by drawing on the combined strengths of the entire team.

A few lessons for all of us…



The Right and Left Brain of Customer Experience

I’m updating a talk “Branded Associate Owner” from the 2010 CX Forum… Surprisingly my predictions held up pretty well.  Let me know if you’d like to collaborate on the research.  The talk was born out of watching the great “customers matter approach” that John Kanas, CEO BankUnited, and the North Fork Bank team had created [NOTE – it was VERY targeted at a few segments in small business!!!] morph as Capital One overlaid a much more analytically driven approach in the branches – after the merger – in pursuit of credit card consumers [It’ll be interesting to benchmark the new BankUnited vs. Capital One in the NYC market].

The Right and Left Brain of Customer Experience

By Peter Merholz, Adaptive Path

Last week I attended the three-day Customer Experience Summit and became acutely aware of a left-brain/right-brain divide in the field of customer experience. In my practice and writing, I discuss customer experience as an evolution of user experience, and is largely addressed through customer research and design activities. At this conference, customer experience was seen primarily as the evolution of customer service, the majority of attendees had call center backgrounds, and the conversation was very “business-y” in tone, dominated by discussion of metrics, customer satisfaction surveys, and Six Sigma Voice of the Customer.

I was dismayed at the lack of vision and heart displayed in most of the presentations. “Customer experience” is seen as something you simply engineer into a system, and when you have “breaks” in your customer experience (identified through surveys conducted ad nauseum), you isolate the problem and address it. The discussion was very bottom-up, and the importance of a big picture vision for these activities to roll up to was never stated. This is an approach that might raise the metaphoric floor, but will never raise the ceiling.

That said, I realized that as the design community increasingly addresses the broader customer experience, designers need to get more comfortable with this level of analytical rigor. Designers are often satisfied to come up with the big picture and let others figure out the details. Designers need to recognize that they are not just designing the experience at touchpoints that customers have with a company, but they also need to appreciate and design for the internal realities within companies. The “front-line” is perhaps the key component in delivering a great customer experience, and if our design work neglects this, we are missing a sizable component. This is something that service designers have already been grappling with, and UX folks who find themselves crossing channels would do well to seek out their ideas.

My single biggest positive outcome was hearing and meeting Rick Otero. He is currently Executive Vice President, Services and Customer Experience at Capital One Bank, and definitely gets the left- and right-brain aspects of CX. He’s posted the slides of his presentation, “The Branded Associate Owner”, on his personal blog – CoreCX_Employees are the Brand – which has a bunch of his thoughts “in pursuit of the great customer experience.” He, too, cites Southwest Airlines in his presentations, and showed this SW Airlines – Day of a Ramp Agent being able to articulate Southwest’s customer value proposition as evidence of the importance of everyone in a company feeling responsible for the customer experience.


The New Retail

In 2011 I did a study for BAI’s Retail Delivery Conference, which is coming up in October.  The theme of the study was to explore the range of options as the world shifted from branch-centric to omni-centric channel distribution.  I am in the process of refreshing that study – which explored  best practices in retailing – largely outside of banking.  However, to hold you over I have included the notes version of the 2011 presentation – CXX_BAI_To Branch or Not to Branch_Otero .

Surprisingly, it holds up well today.  My chief concern is the Millennial system shock that all retailers are starting to feel – as the channel preference differences between Boomers and  Millennials are EXTREME…. hold on!



Moments that Matter – The Framework

Here is the summary version of  my proprietary “Moments that Matter” framework for CX design and overhaul. The “backbone” of the framework is the Service Profit Chain.

Recall that the service profit chain follows this logic.

  1. Customer Loyalty drives Profit and Growth
  2. Customer Satisfaction is fundamental to achieving Customer Loyalty
  3. A clearly defined and executed Service Value Concept is the foundation of Customer Satisfaction
  4. Employee Productivity is the foundation of Service Value Concept delivery
  5. Employee Loyalty (and retention) drives Employee productivity
  6. Employee Satisfaction is foundational to Employee loyalty – employee engagement and organization climate
  7. Well designed people practices are foundational to employee satisfaction.
  8. The people practices include workplace design, job design, employee selection and development, employee rewards and recognition, training and development, and systems, tools and processes for servicing customers.

So now the question is how to design, implement and execute.

At the front end of these steps I propose using frameworks that translate brand to customer promises. These include tools for articulation of the value proposition, user-centered design, kansei engineering, and Zaltman methods.

The next tool set is really a system for customer centric culture transformation – Net Promoter Score/System.

The next framework is the elicitation of the service value concept using a framework developed as part of the Ownership Outcome talk (although a more public version is either the Business Canvas or the Customer Journey Canvas).

Then for employee engagement I propose using an employee engagement net promoter method, coupled with a high performing work team framework (for organization and culture assessment) and SERVQUAL for service support capability gap analysis.

Last but not least is connecting these to service support capability and systems using lean six sigma and process classification assessment techniques.

There are a dozen other complimentary frameworks than can and should be used depending on whether the transformation is implementing a new CX design or repairing a CX system with gaps.

However, while some of this is deeply rooted in science, we all know that customer experience had a fair measure of feel and emotion in the perceptions of the “branded customer experience”. I’m continuing to evolve the portfolio of tools on the art and feel side…. so stay tuned.




The Top Ten of Employee Engagement

{A Repost}


I’ve finally wrapped up the whirlwind conference season which started with my prototype “Making Moments Matter” workshop for BAI Retail Delivery (I’ll be making a few improvements) and concluded with the kickoff of the Customer Experience Professional Association (CXPA) in Boston last week. I’ll have a LOT more from that conference in upcoming posts…

While we in the US have been a bit distracted, I continue to be amazed at the dramatic CX and employee engagement (EE) innovation in countries like Australia, Denmark, and Norway. Those cold winters in Scandinavia have produced some of best thinking about service design and delivery, including a host of new frameworks for CX transformation, which I discussed in a prior post. As a service profit chain believer (and instructor) I believe that any CX strategy where you have employee facing activities must have a strong employee engagement component. This is important whether you are B2C (Target), B2B (Cisco), and B2B2C (Nationwide).

While preparing for on a student service leadership workshop for the Rhode Island School of Design, I felt I needed to put my millennial psyche on and get a sense of the twenty-something point of view and ran across this video – Inside Employee Minds, The Next Generation – in my search.

It turns out that David Zinger of Canada – again the cold weather effect – has done a great service for the CX community by founding the Employee Engagement Network. The network’s site a treasure of tools, techniques, and videos to help anyone doing a CX transformation drive culture change and get employees engaged. It’s my personal opinion that there is something about the business culture in Canada that never forgot that great employee engagement and development (a.k.a. organization learning & development) is a foundation for business growth. I learned that lesson while being the strategist for David Colcleugh, who used to lead DuPont Canada and had the “all in a business family” organization approach and was the best organization mentor and coach I’ve had the privilege to work with.

To get you started here is the “Top Tens of Employee Engagement“.

Make Moments Matter!



Small Businesses… a great Customer Experience resource!

I’ve had my head down focused on documenting new workshops for Net Promoter Score implementation, customer journey mapping, service blueprinting, and using SERVQUAL for service performance management.

As I mentioned in an earlier post , I have a backbone framework I like to use for doing a CX or service improvement project and I like to think it’s pretty solid.

However, if you are a small to medium business and want to get started on improving customer experience what can you do?

There are literally hundreds of books on the topic – which encompasses the subtopics of customer experience, service design, and delivery, and touches on business process improvement and user centered design. Whew, I get tired thinking about it. However, I’ll let you in on a big jump starter of a secret. The folks at Smart Cities (Belgium) have created a customer profiling guide that walks any non CX person through the steps of identifying how to transform their customer experience. To make it even easier they have compiled all this into a new “Customer Insight Profiling and Service Design Guide“, that in fact does guide you through a well done sequence of activities to transform your CX.

Grab the pdf and also be sure to click the introduction section as there are even more valuable CX resource links.

Happy CXing!


What Santa Can Teach You About Leadership

Wow… I never knew that Santa and I had so much in common – in terms of leadership philosophy. What Santa can teach you about motivating employees. Check it out!

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