Archive for September, 2017

Create a Friction-less Experience

September 26, 2017

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In this age when we are inundated with so many choices, and the ‘do-nothing’ choice is so attractive to many, it’s important to provide a friction-less experience in order to build mind-share and revenues.

  1. Being friction-less means knowing what you’re providing, and delivering it to those in need in a way that works for them.
  2. Provide a product or service which is both relevant and sustainable, both scalable and versatile, one that is configurable with many standardized elements.
  3. Everything end-to-end – from ordering to integration, from support to billing – should be easy, intuitive, seamless and elegant.
  4. Documentation should be freely and easily available. Support should be patient and understanding. User communities should be welcoming and helpful.
  5. Make the product or service available in modes most convenient to the customer – desktop, mobile, device, etc.
  6. Build a community of users who can connect to each other, and work together to help improve the offering.
  7. Allow this community of users to customize the product or service offering and provide feedback for desired future functionality.
  8. Track the right metrics, and know what the metrics mean about the needs of the customer, so you can deliver the experience they’re seeking.
  9. Be laser focused on the value-add of your product or service. Collaborate with partners for elements which are not part of that core offering, but make sure that your partners are delivering an exceptional frictionless experience.
  10. The bottom line is that the leaders and the product and service offering must provide a stellar service offering, and inspire trust and loyalty by consistently delivering results which customers define as exceptional.

Sounds easy and obvious right? But few are able to execute well on all elements. Maybe your offering will be one of those lucky few.

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Age of the Customer

September 15, 2017

CustomerFountainBlue’s September 15 VIP roundtable, on the topic of ‘Age of the Customer’! Please join me in thanking our gracious hosts at Polycom, who provided on-site support and helped lead the interactive discussion.

Below is a compilation of their ideas and thoughts on how to lead and thrive in the Age of the Customer. 

Change is impacting leaders and companies across geographies, across industries, across roles. Technology is keeping up with the changes, and even helping facilitate the changes. Customers are becoming even more verbose, more demanding, more specific, and more diverse. In general, they are seeking:

  • An easy, simple, consistent and intuitive interface so they can perform the customized tasks that are most useful to them;
  • Background information and context for new offerings and how they compare to other offerings, and how they would improve how THEIR customers are supported; and
  • Real-time, relevant, ongoing data/information/solutions which provide clear value.

In response to the changing needs of the market and customers, our executives have the following advice.

  • Embrace market-driven innovations. There’s much less tolerance for technologies in search of a customer. If you conclude that a product is missing something AFTER it’s been built, it might be easier to make the product changes rather than to change the minds of the customers!
  • Be ever listening to what customers say AND what they mean. Remember also that the most active/profitable customers are the most important ones and pay close attention to their current and anticipated needs.
  • An acquisition-and-integration strategy can help companies strategically pivot to a more customer-driven offering. When undergoing an M&A, don’t get so distracted by the internal organization that you lose focus on the customer opportunity, the customer experience.
  • Have a clear understanding of current and prospective customers and the segments, niches, and opportunities they represent. Empower these customers to partner with you to serve their current and anticipated needs.
  • Measure and report on results, but don’t focus so much on the data that you’re reporting on the wrong metrics, or making conclusions which don’t make sense. 
  • Filter so that you can tailor messages to audiences, but don’t filter so much that your funnel gets too narrow as you will miss many prospects.
  • Whether you’re a growing start-up or a corporate running a business unit, ask yourself strategic questions about the growth opportunity ahead – what are the trends, why are customers buying, what needs are you serving, how large is the market, etc. Your success will depend on whether you can continually serve the needs of those customers, so you must continually ask yourself these questions.
  • Often there is a complex ecosystem around a solution, so there are many stakeholders playing multiple roles. For example, in healthcare, the ‘customer’ might be a patient, an insurer, a hospital, a pharmaceutical company, a caregiver, a government agency, a nonprofit, a hospital, and/or any combination of the above at any given time. Serving each customer throughout the process is critical to the success of a company and its offering. 
  • While we are all forced to go broad with our communication, with our technology understanding, with our offerings, we are also asked to go deep and be specialists where appropriate. It’s a rare individual who can do both at the same time, but including people who can do both sides each a critical success factor.

Below are thoughts on some hot opportunities ahead, given our focus on customers.

  • If we focus on minimizing the churn which comes from product/technology updating, what are the opportunities ahead for platform and service offerings?
  • Your strategy should focus on where the data is – the platform rather than the hardware, the AI rather than the cloud.
  • Look not just at existing and growing markets, but also at the adjacent markets.
  • Every technologist has a different background, and every company has different processes, technologies, and preferences. There’s a huge opportunity for rapidly integrating tech professionals into tech companies.
  • Beware of hyper-segmenting yourself, doing so much filtering of ideas and information and people that you’re not exposed to other ideas, other ways of doing things. Indeed, these diverse ways of thinking and doing things are the heart of innovation.
  • Offer frictionless engagement and participation which is easily personalized. 
  • Make it easy for users to regularly engage – which would mean recurring revenues and corporate stability.
  • Look for opportunities for the digital leveraging the cloud, ML, AI, databases, etc., while also addressing the physical realm with the IoT, 3D printing, custom-designed products, etc.

In this Age of the Customer, leaders and companies must do things differently. 

  • We must be more strategic, so that we can understand and deliver to the needs of the customer. 
  • We must be more collaborative, working with partners across the ecosystem and with customers to deliver real-time information, personalized products and solutions, and more. 
  • We must be more inclusive, so that every perspective, every voice can be considered in planning and delivering to customers.

Make Your Own Rules

September 14, 2017

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FountainBlue’s September 8 When She Speaks event was on the topic of Make Your Own Rules. This month’s panelists were full of spunk, confidence, creativity and inspiration. They had practical ideas which delivered results, great things to consider while toeing the line and while breaking the rules. Although they varied in terms of background, education, upbringing, perspectives and even gender (!), they had many things in common.

  • They have built their reputation and their credibility so that they are well positioned to facilitate change.
  • They are respectfully confident and know how to engage all the leaders and stakeholders to make shifts small and radical to address the long-term and short term needs of the company.
  • They break rules because they know that it’s core to innovative and transformational thinking, the heart of business success.
  • They are passionate and empowering communicators who made others want to work with others, to make a stand for the greater good.
  • They know themselves and keep choosing positive, proactive learning environments and experiences – so that they can better perform, better support those around them.
  • They are open-minded, curious and innovative by nature, and embrace opportunities to expand their perspectives and opportunities.

Below is a compilation of their advice for others who want to make their own rules.

Know yourself. Be centered. Stretch yourself.

  • Trust yourself, your judgement, your gut.
  • Surround yourself with those who can keep you centered and strong and reaching for stars. People who will help you keep changing and growing and breaking and bending rules, even when it gets uncomfortable.
  • Know your own unconscious biases. 
  • If you’re not happy, do something to change the circumstances. Consider getting more education, following a different discipline or role or company or industry.

Be strategic.

  • Keep an eye on the big picture, while also knowing how the individual pieces fit under the overarching vision. With this perspective, you can help ensure the broader view fits the market and customer needs, and that the tasks, projects and technologies are in alignment with that vision.
  • Decide on what’s important to change and whether it’s the right time to change it.
  • Know the circumstances around the rules, and choose to strategically choose conform, acquiesce, resist or transform based on your own moral compass.
  • Evaluate your actions individually, rather than scripting responses based on the ‘rules’ and circumstances. 
  • Be willing to lose a battle so that you can win the war.
  • Sometimes it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission.
  • Look for opportunities to innovate collaboratively.
  • Understand the mentality, the thinking, the rationale for all new strategies and directions. And get on board if you can, or bring up objections respectfully, making a stand for principles, for customers, for staff, for products. But when the decision is made, fall in line so that all can roll forward together.
  • Know the consequences before you break a rule. Be willing to live with them.
  • Learn from the risks you’ve taken yourself and encourage risk-taking in others. 

It’s about the people.

  • Be with the people, projects, processes and team who will help you stay productive and optimistic and positive.
  • Be curious about people who are not like you, as their perspectives are also valid.
  • Be around the people and culture who believe in you. And then BE the biggest, best YOU possible. 
  • Build momentum, allies, partnerships behind a new direction, reversing a rule you’d like to break.
  • Invite the ideas and participation of all people, especially if they are not inclined to actively participate.

When others are driving change

 

  • Agree and commit or disagree and commit or offer another solution.
  • Do not stay silent, or do nothing – you become part of the problem

 

Resources:

  • Consider Kohlberg’s six stages of moral development when evaluating whether to break the rules: 
    • hedonism – because you can get away with it (probably not best for long-term goals or relationships)
    • pleasing – because you would perceived as the good girl/boy (following rules is generally good, especially if it’s adaptive for your safety . . . but don’t blindly follow rules)
    • intentions – consider the intentions behind the actions
    • law & order – because you would perceived as the good girl/boy (following rules is generally good, especially if it’s adaptive for your safety . . . but don’t blindly follow rules)
    • majority rules – rules can be changed by majority vote (if you don’t like a rule, change the rules within the system)
    • moral mandate – do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do, regardless of the above 

I’ll conclude by saying that understanding deeply what rule needs to change and why is only a beginning. A leader must also communicate with all stakeholders to get them on board with the new direction. With these communications, the leader is metaphorically tossing a stone in a pond and embracing the ripple effect, spreading rule-breaking change to all, for all.

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Please join us in thanking our panelists for FountainBlue’s September 8 When She Speaks event, on the topic of Make Your Own Rules and our gracious hosts at Texas Instruments! 

  • Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue, Chief Revenue Officer, 888 Steps 
  • Panelist Alex Gorjanc, Area Director, Texas Instruments
  • Panelist Daniela Busse, Director, Innovation & Strategic Partnerships, Citi Ventures
  • Panelist Rajni Dharmarajan, Product Line General Manager, Texas Instruments
  • Panelist Suruchi Kaushik Sharma, Senior Director, Corporate Strategy, Flex