So I was meeting with a group of account managers in a local company, helping them up their level of customer service. Good people, who know their product, their company, their customers. But they want to do better, to become better at what they do, to help their customers be much more than just satisfied – they want to delight their customers. Because a delighted customer is “sticky,” and will want to keep their relationship going with this company that so readily exceeds their needs and desires.
In the midst of this session, I told the story of one of the greatest innovations of all time – the cup holder. I’m old enough to remember cars without cup holders (I also remember cars with AM radios, which had to “warm up” as you turned them on. Those were the good old days!)
Anyway, I called the cup holder an “unexpected plus.” You buy a car, you get a cup holder. It was a wonder! – How did we ever survive driving a car without a cup holder?
And then, in the blink of an eye, every car had a cup holder. And now, no one in their right mind would buy a car without one – but don’t worry, there are no cars without cup holders.
So here’s the message. Whatever your business, ask yourself this question: what is the “unexpected plus” I can throw into the mix to delight my customer? Then, add that “unexpected plus,” and your customer will be delighted.
But, beware, once you add this “unexpected plus,” it becomes the new “minimum level” of service/product, and then you have to ask “what is the next ‘unexpected plus’” to add to the mix? And the cycle repeats…
Here is a contribution by Mark Murphy to the “Performance Management” series featured by Talent Management magazine (January 2011). To check out an abundance of resources and sign up for a free subscription to TM and/or Chief Learning Officer magazine (both published by MediaTec), please click here.
* * *
HR leaders and CEOs alike shudder at the thought of employees perfunctorily dusting off last year’s ignored, abandoned or failed goals to keep their boss happy. There are reasons these goals crashed and burned, if they ever even got started. And until those issues are recognized and addressed, the pattern of underachievement likely will stay the same or plummet even further.
A growing number of talent management executives realize that just having employees set goals is not the same as getting them to care about those goals. In fact, many leaders have come to the conclusion that goal setting might be a pointless exercise if employees don’t take ownership of their goals and have a vested interest in their outcomes. Thus, talent managers are looking for new ways to maximize the likelihood of goal success.
Leadership training and workforce research firm Leadership IQ conducted several goal studies throughout 2010 as part of its new book, HARD Goals: The Secret to Getting From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be. These studies, including “Are SMART Goals Dumb?” and “Difficult Goals Drive Engagement,” found that two specific ideas have been capturing top executives’ attention as they search for ways to get employees to care about their goals: visualizing goals and increasing goal difficulty.
Humans are visual creatures. We respond to imagery, which means if we can imagine it, see it or picture it, we’re a lot more likely to process, understand and embrace it. The technical term from cognitive psychology is “pictorial superiority effect.” It expresses the idea that concepts are better remembered if presented as pictures rather than as words. In his book Brain Rules, molecular biologist John Medina tells us that when we only hear information, our total recall is about 10 percent when tested 72 hours later. But add a picture and that number shoots up to 65 percent. That’s a substantial difference.
Every goal an employee considers is competing for finite resources such as time, energy, attention and memory.
Plus, people can only pursue so many goals at one time. Some will be chosen and pursued while others are abandoned. One of the key determinants of whether or not a goal is pursued is how clearly and vividly someone can picture that goal in his or her mind.
Waste removal company 1-800-Got Junk uses goal visualization well. CEO Brian Scudamore said, “If you can’t see your vision come true, you’ll never have enough faith in it to achieve it.” He built a vision wall easily viewable by employees and crowned it with a sign that reads: “Can You Imagine?” It’s here that company goals become so animated that employees feel like they already happened. A 2006 Harvard MBA case study of Scudamore’s vision wall suggested people can achieve what they conceive and believe. The wall included mocked-up pictures and images of 1-800-Got Junk appearing on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” the company brand name appearing on Starbucks to-go cups and the company having a specific number of franchises. The company achieved each of those goals. To top off this visualization success, in the first five years of business, 1-800-Got-Junk’s revenue grew from more than $200,000 to more than $8 million.
* * *
Here is an excerpt from an article written by Francis Gouillart for the Harvard Business Review blog (March 9, 2011). To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Review’s Daily Alerts, please click here.
* * *
There is a major trend in the design of physical products. It is the gradual opening up of the lab and the engineering department to co-creation with customers and other parties. Co-creation involves giving customers the right to participate in the design of their own experience, not only by giving input about what they like and don’t like as in traditional market research but also by giving them tools that allow them to become actual designers.
Engineers are no longer design experts; they are mediators who structure and enable design interactions between imaginative customers and innovative suppliers of technologies and systems. The development of those tools—we call them engagement platforms—represents a major opportunity for product companies and technology developers. By and large, both populations are missing the boat, hopelessly lost in a process paradigm that tries to automate the company’s design process rather than open it up to experience co-creation.
Take the example of a car. Designing an automobile involves engineering a mix of physical objects and virtual interfaces. Cars compete on their sleek design. But they also compete on the social interactions they enable between driver, passengers, and people outside the car.
Car engineers are passionate about the driver experience. They are less comfortable with designing interactions between driver and passengers, and even less comfortable making the car into the hub of the car users’ social network. Engineers love leather seats and shiny dashboards. They do not like Facebook chatter. Most car companies have come a long way in becoming “customer centric” and hearing “the voice of the customer.” This falls far short of co-creation. The voice of the customer is only one voice in the ecosystem of co-creation, and an imperfect one at that since customers cannot imagine what they have not seen. But the main problem with “voice of the customer” is that it is not scalable. Yes, one can create deep ethnographic explorations of selected car experience areas, but the cost of gathering that data and distributing it to the right point in the company’s design process is prohibitive, leading the approach to collapse under its own weight. As a result, car engineers revert to a few “clinics” aimed at testing largely pre-ordained, company-centric designs.
While car engineers are struggling to accept the legitimacy of customers in Co-creation, the greatest culprits are the technology providers. Large software providers remain caught up in a closed-system paradigm, preventing car users from developing their own applications or interfaces.
Designers of product lifecycle management (PLM) systems — the computerized design tools used by engineers to design — remain object-centric and fail to enable the experiential dialogue that needs to take place between customers and designers, long before hard objects are drawn and specified. There are a few exceptions here and there. Infosys Technology has launched a co-creation practice. Dassault Systemes is making a push to make PLM technology more co-creative. By and large, though, the early players in the development of co-creation platforms are technology-weak designers of simple user interfaces, many of them with an advertising, rather than technology, background. Oracle, SAP, Microsoft, and Cisco, where are you?
What is needed is a broad-based engagement platform that attracts car customers and their social partners and gives them tools and structure to interact effectively with car company designers, their automotive parts, and software suppliers. This platform will need to include the ability to discuss abstract items such as lifestyle trends or qualitative design themes, provide the ability to exchange conceptual designs and sketches, and supply the capability to co-design concrete objects such as seats and parking brakes down to specifications.
This engagement platform may emerge in the car itself (the infotainment or telematics interfaces found in many high-end cars offers a promising foundation). Or it may emerge from the PLM desktop of the car engineers or even from a newly created website comparable to what Starbucks has created with mystarbucksidea.com.
* * *
Francis Gouillart (firstname.lastname@example.org) is president of the Experience Co-Creation Partnership, a management education and consulting firm in Concord, Massachusettes, and is co-author of The Power of Co-Creation: Build It With Them to Boost Growth, Productivity, and Profits.
An excellent single source for information, insights, advice, and instruction on website “basics”
Here’s my situation: I continue to learn as much as I can about WordPress basics so that I can work more effectively with those I have retained to prepare and then launch my own website on WordPress.
What I learn from these books accomplishes several important objectives: first, it fills in knowledge and understanding gaps, next, it helps me to ask better questions and to understand answers to them; and finally, because I know what my options are, I can clarify my intentions and make better choices both now and in the future.
I am unqualified to claim that Tris Hussey’s book is the best choice for persons such as I. However, I do think it offers more than sufficient information, insights, advice, and instruction on website “basics.” The material seems to be of high quality and is well presented, in large measure because of Hussey’s skillful use of several reader-friendly devices. For example, throughout the narrative, he inserts “Show Me” video walk-throughs (accessible online) that explain how to complete essential tasks such as “Setting Up and Using WordPress Menus” on Page 166; also, “Tell Me More” audio segments that provide practical insights from various subject matter experts such as “How to Find the Right Plugin for the Job” (Page 128); and “Let Me Try It” exercises that demonstrate tasks presented in a step-by-step sequence that enable the reader to follow along such as “Moving a ‘Static’ Website to WordPress” (Page 239). These three devices – in effective coordination with direct address — help Hussey to establish and then sustain a tutorial relationship with his reader.
For those such as I who lack extensive technical training and practical experience with various WordPress procedures and processes, this book offers two major benefits: gaining an understanding of how to work effectively with those who do have such training and experience as well as gaining an understanding of how to increase a website’s capabilities, once the basics have been accommodated. In my case, my objective is to create a community of interest in cutting-edge business thinkers as well as in the articles and books they write. My website (email@example.com) also features interviews of these business thinkers.
I am grateful to Tris Hussey and to those whom he invited to contribute to the material in his volume. It should be added that those who purchase a copy can access three additional chapters (“Tips and Tools for WordPress,” “Managing Multiple Blogs,” and “Becoming a Part of the WordPress Community”) by visiting quepublishiung.com/using or usingwordpressbook.com. They can also “unlock the free web edition” when doing so.
Here is an excerpt of an interview of Roger Angell by Dave Weich for the Powell’s Books website. To read the complete interview and interviews of other prominent authors, please click here.
* * *
In the spring of 1962, William Shawn sent Roger Angell to Florida to write about spring training. Forty-one years (and three New Yorker editors) later, Angell still covers baseball for the magazine. “No other sport has been so well served by any other writer,” Jonathan Yardley once noted in the Washington Post Book World.
Now, Game Time gathers the best of Angell’s writing, from that inaugural effort to last autumn’s review of Anaheim’s improbable championship run. In a special introduction written for the new collection, Pulitzer Prize winner (and former Inside Sports columnist) Richard Ford observes:
“Roger Angell has been writing about baseball for more than forty years—mostly for The New Yorker magazine—and for my money he’s the best there is at it. There’s no writer I know whose writing on sport, and particularly baseball, is as anticipated, as often reread and passed from hand to hand by knowledgeable baseball enthusiasts as Angell’s is, or whose work is more routinely and delightedly read by those who really aren’t enthusiasts. Among the thirty selections in this volume are several individual essays and profiles (the Bob Gibson profile, ‘Distance,’ for instance) which can be counted in that extremely small group of sports articles that people talk over and quote for decades, and which have managed to make a lasting contribution to the larger body of American writing.”
Now a senior editor at The New Yorker, over the years the Harvard graduate has fostered into print the work of John Updike, Garrison Keillor, and William Trevor, among many others. Yet Angell, who turns 83 this year, remains as productive as ever. In 2001, he published his first full-length book, A Pitcher’s Story: Innings with David Cone, and recently he contributed introductions to several classic works by his stepfather, E. B. White.
“I’m writing a piece right now,” he says, “a memoir about automobile trips, driving around when I was in my teens, and before that, in the 1930s.” Welcome news for us all.
The opening piece, the first spring training piece, “The Old Folks Behind Home” [click here to read it], I hadn’t read for years. That was the first baseball piece I wrote. Believe me, I had no idea what would follow. I never saw this as a career. I really didn’t. And I think it’s a good thing, too, because if you say, “Oh, this is my career,” that’s when you stiffen up and begin to aim the ball.
In that first piece, you write about watching Whitey Ford and Warren Spahn pitch:
“Suddenly I saw that from my seat behind first base the two pitchers—the two best left-handers in baseball, the two best left- or right-handers in baseball—were in a direct line with each other, Ford exactly superimposed on Spahn? throwing baseballs in the same fragment of space. Ford, with his short, businesslike windup, was shoulders and quickness, while, behind him, Spahn would slowly kick his right leg up high and to the left, peering over his shoulder as he leaned back, and then deliver the ball with an easy, explosive sweep. It excited me to a ridiculous extent.”
Did you have any idea what you’d be writing about when you started that spring? How you’d be approaching the subject?
I had no idea. I knew I wasn’t a baseball writer. I was scared to death. I really was afraid to talk to players, and I didn’t want to go into the press box because I thought I was faking it.
I was in my thirties. I wasn’t a kid. I think that instinctively I thought I’d have to trust myself and to report about what I was seeing, what I was thinking as a fan, and not to try to fake it by being knowing about these players and their deliveries and all that stuff which I later learned about. This has run all through my work. I’ve never been told that I have to be objective. I can take sides and I can say how I feel.
Even then, I did sense that nobody was writing about the fans. Since I’m a fan (I’m a different kind of a fan now), I could say we and talk about people watching a Giants game or a Mets game or a Red Sox game. I could say we as a bunch of New England fans, whatever. That allows me to be a lot more open to feelings and maybe judgments, as well.
There’s a piece in Game Time where Tom Seaver talks about the mechanics of pitching, standing in front of his locker breaking down the elements of his wind-up for you and a few other writers; then later in that same chapter Don Sutton, a pitcher with an entirely different motion, follows with his take. When I read that, I remembered a piece published in Season Ticket where you queried catchers in much the same way, specifically about the mechanics of their jobs.
That led to a very long piece. I liked that a lot.
The great thing about catchers is that they do a lot of different things, and they’re basically overlooked. As I think I wrote in that piece, it’s maybe because they’re facing the other way; we don’t think about them. But there’s a lot to catching, and catchers tend to be smart.
Once I could persuade these guys that all I wanted to hear from them was what they did—Tell me what you do—once you can persuade someone that this is all you’re after, you can’t shut them up because we’re all fascinated by what we do. If we’re lucky, anyway. Some of these guys were great talkers. Ted Simmons, who was with Milwaukee then, was one of the great baseball talkers. I saw him in spring training again this year, and I thanked him for his paragraphs.
A catcher who makes several appearances in Game Time is Tim McCarver. He has interesting things to say about what goes on on the field, but also about the sport’s place in our culture.
Tim is unusual because he is such an enthusiast for the game. A lot of people I know can’t stand him. “I just can’t stand him,” they’ll say. “He’s always blathering on about baseball.” This is not an effort for Tim. He’s extremely excited about it and he knows it through and through.
He’s in that piece on catching, briefly. He loves situations and he doesn’t hesitate to hold back on what he sees out there. This has not always made him popular.
Actually, he’s now done an amazing thing: he’s announced the World Series the last couple years, and he’s twice called the final play—he’s said what to look out for because of the way the batter was being pitched—though it wasn’t the very final play last year because it was in the sixth game. There was another after that, Spiezio’s home run.
I’ve been lucky. I’ve met a lot of baseball people, and I’ve learned to value people who talk—people who talk well and in long sentences and even long paragraphs. One of them is the Giants’ pitching coach and later manager, Roger Craig. A previous book of mine had just come out when I saw him at spring training that year. He was sitting in the outfield, so I went out and shook hands with him. Another writer was already sitting out there. He pointed at me and he said to Craig, “Roger has a new book out. Have you read it?” Craig said, “Read it? Hell, I wrote half of it!”
You tell a story in the book similar to one Doris Kearns Goodwin tells in Wait Till Next Year, maybe one that’s common for lots of people who grew up in those years: listening to a ballgame in the afternoon on the radio, keeping score on a pad of paper, then replaying the action from your notes for your father when he returned from work.
That was the first time I did a box score on my own outside a ballpark. It was in 1933. I think the Giants were playing the Senators. There was no television back then, but they did radio now and then. My father was a lawyer, so I got one of his yellow legal pads and quickly ruled out the line-ups and took it all down. It was fascinating. I was twelve years old, or just turned thirteen.
These days, do you listen to games on the radio? Do you prefer to watch on TV or to be at the ballpark?
I listen to the radio if I’m driving or sometimes if I’m in the country. I watch quite a lot of televised baseball, but the trouble with televised baseball for all of us is that we’ve become so impatient by television in general that if nothing is happening we flick over to see what’s on HBO or what’s happening in that other game. If I’m watching the Yankees, I’ll see what the Mets are doing. It doesn’t really satisfy you in the end.
Baseball is meant to be watched all the way through. Sure, it’s boring. There are boring innings and sometimes there turn out to be bad games, but you’re not going to have a feeling for the good games unless you’re willing to watch.
I think I wrote once that baseball in many ways is very much like reading. I said there are more bad books than bad ballgames, or maybe it was the other way around. I can’t remember. But each have formal chapters. There are wonderful beginnings that don’t stand up and boring beginnings that are great in the end. You just don’t know. They’re both, baseball and reading, for people who aren’t afraid of being bored.
* * *
To read the complete interview of Roger Angell, please click here.