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President Obama's Views Post Presidency

Posted by Tom Smith on Mon, May, 28, 2018 @ 16:05 PM

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Thanks to Okta for inviting me to Oktane18 and giving me the opportunity to hear President Barack Obama - truly a "life experience."

Todd McKinnon, CEO and Co-founder of Okta hosted the hour-long question and answer session.

Following are the points made by the President with the parenthetical notes my own:

  • We live in culture today where everybody feels the crush of information and collision of world’s in a way previous generation. haven’t felt.
  • Previous generations knew 100 or 150 people.
  • How many people do you know today? (Thousands thanks to social media and CRM systems).
  • Today, there are rural villages in Africa in which everyone has a phone.
  • We have the ability to absorb information in ways that can be confusing.
  • While there are a lot of questions around technology and social media, the U.S. had a head start in trying to figure it out because we’re a people that came from everywhere else.
  • We've had to figure out how to work together since the country was founded.
  • The challenge today is how to maintain sense of common purpose, how to join together as opposed to splinter and divide.
  • If we don’t figure it out it will be hard for our democracy to survive (just what the Russians are fomenting in social media).
  • There is a misperception that government doesn’t work, and people don’t work hard based on their experience of getting their driver’s license renewed (everyone laughed knowingly).
  • The public sector has extraordinary talent and does a lot of things really well.
  • There is a big gap in technology, especially with responsiveness and nimbleness. A lot of this has to do with government's antiquated procurement requirements.
  • In a host of areas, like taking government data and putting it out there so organizations can use to improve people's lives, we made real progress during my term.
  • We tried to create, re-architecture and replace legacy systems in the FDA.
  • There is a need for big data sets to achieve the promise of personalized medicine.
  • We made inroads in a few of those areas; however, the political system is not being as responsive as it could be (because we are divided rather than united).
  • Creating a framework that’s agreed upon and transparent, most people understand is a challenge we should welcome and approach it in a systematic and transparent way (however, little in Washington is transparent).
  • We need to be proactive identifying the questions we have to grapple, with the tools we have to protect information, and be transparent about what consumers are giving up (Google, Facebook, et al).
  • There is a big lag between how we’re thinking about the social organization and technology.
  • We underinvest in the IRS because no one likes it; however, it can be a great deal more efficient.
  • As a consequence of no one wanting to give up their write-offs, we discovered the basic IT infrastructure of the IRS is held together by string and bubble gum.
  • If you made no changes to the tax structure you could make interaction with the IRS more user-friendly, but it requires front end investment no one is willing to make.
  • Business identifies the essential problem and hires good people to solve business problem.
  • Government procurement requires you to identify the problem and allocate a budget up front. That's not how a successful business works.
  • We need a good conversation between the tech community and people in Washington for ongoing deliberation and exchange.
  • There should be bias towards making voting easier not harder, there’s a legacy that dates back to Jim Crow to disenfranchise voters and it is being perpetuated.
  • If we can secure the voting process, and there’s a paper record generated along side the electronic vote, I believe it will come to pass but it will take awhile.
  • Laws are structured to make it hard for people to vote.

 

How did you instigate change?

  • Change is hard in personal live, it's hard for groups, it's hard for institutions.
  • The U.S. evolved from an agricultural-based economy to manufacturing-based economy over a period of 120 years.
  • Today we're evolving to a technology-based economy in just 20 to 30 years and that's hard for everyone to accept.
  • Principles for effective change:
    • Talk to people whose lives will be disrupted so you appreciate who they are and insure they are heard before you instigate change.
      • Listening is a good starting point for change.
    • Every issue you are dealing has probabilities.
      • Get the best info available.
      • Have, and listen to, diverse voices around the table.
      • Understand the different perspectives.
      • Have people who can argue all of the sides of the issue.
    • I set up processes so that by the time I made the decision I could say, with confidence, I heard all the voices, had all of the information, and made the best decision I could.
    • Initiating change requires enough situations like that, even when there are disruptions. where you can anticipate the disruptions and be prepared to address them.
    • There will be disruptions with technology (There already has been and there will be a lot more).
    • People are going to be resistant if their jobs are threatened.
    • Anticipate this and be prepared to address the change.
    • Ask people “What do you think?”
      • I would catch people by surprise and they would tell me what they really thought, rather than a prepared answer.
      • Deliberately reach outside the bubble of obvious decision makers.
    • I had a good b.s. detector, if a question wasn’t answered with confidence I’d drill in until I learned what the person was really thinking.
    • Insist on people delivering on bad news quickly.
      • Part of the culture we tried to build, these are human enterprises, they’re going to be flawed when you do screw up or you can’t solve something bring it to me and let’s solve it together

 

How did you go about vetting and hiring people?

  • The government has two million employees or so, only 3,000 are political appointments.
    • The entire process during transition, gathering names, going through folks who have the qualifications we were looking for, as well as interest in the position.
    • Tech is where we had a problem because tech pays much better than the US government.
    • So, we set up US digital services – a SWAT team of amazing tech folks who, like the Peace Corps, would come into the US government for six months to two years to work on a particular problem – example of the need for more creativity of how we staff government and non-profits.
  • Think of creative ways for people to take leave and make an incredible contribution.

 

What advice did you receive going into office that was useful and what wasn't?

  • Advice not useful and slowed us down and hurt effectiveness early on was the sense that somehow now that you are president there are certain ways you should do things that had to do with traditions but were not effective.
    • During the campaign, we communicated in a way that was fresh and accessible. That changed when we moved into the White House – it made the team feel more conventional than we should have. We corrected this near the end of the first term. There were a lot of fires to put out immediately when we got to the White House..
  • The best advice a number of people gave us was to maintain your humanity. Michele and I, partly because we didn’t want our girls to get weird from being in a weird environment, were very focused on this. It was important to make sure we did not lose ourselves, that we stayed intact in what we believed in and how we treated people, expectations of ourselves, kindness, honesty, being useful, and taking responsibility
    • People given great responsibility, power, and wealth begin losing a sense of what’s important, who they are, and holding on to what they have rather than responding authentically. We did not lose that, we came out intact.

 

What are your greatest observations post presidency?

  • I don’t miss the trappings of the presidency.
  • I get more sleep now versus five hours a sleep each night for eight years.
    • That's what's required if you are going to stay up to speed on all of the issues and consider different points of view.
  • There is a physical and mental element to being president if you are serious about the job.
  • Everything now seems to move in slow motion.
    • Today it takes two weeks to set up a meeting rather than two hours.
What are you and Michele going to be doing with Netflix?
  • I would not have been president if I had not learned early on the importance of stories.
  • As a community organizer I learned instead of telling people what they should think, I needed to ask people about themselves and their stories.
  • If you listen, people will tell you their story.
  • Discovering those stories creates relationships and committed people.
  • I continue to believe if we are hearing each other’s stories and recognize ourselves in each other that our democracy works, if we don’t then our democracy doesn’t work.
  • We want to identify people doing amazing work and create platforms for them to tell their stories.
  • We have all these amazing story tellers and we want them to continue to tell the stories we think are important, lifting up talent to identify the connections that we have between all of us.
  • We want to train leaders around the world to tell their stories.
  • We’re all human and have basic needs, wants, and desires for our families, for our children.
  • The country can go in one of two ways: 
    • We can go tribal, go ethnic, pull in, push off, think "us versus them," think power-first, view life as a zero-sum game, and have a need to dominate.
    • Or, the other narrative is a more fragile, newer notion that we can think, reason, connect, and set up institutions based of the rule of law, dignity, and the worth of every individual based on science and facts. This narrative is one the human race has pursued, and America has been at the forefront of, since World War II.
  • We’ve made progress in all of these areas in "fits and starts." Now there’s a clash in the two alternative ways of seeing the world.
  • Part of the political polarization is if you watch Fox News and read the New York Times you are viewing two different realities (this is divisive rather than inclusive and not in the best interest of democracy).
  • Obviously, I believe the second of the two ways is we need to proceed if we are going to be united.

Tags: Trustworthiness, Ethics, transparency, trust, integrity, authenticity, listen intensely, empathy, inspiration, community, customer insights, big data

Broken Hiring Policies in Technology

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, May, 15, 2018 @ 11:05 AM

This was originally published on the site for my work but was removed over concerns over starting a "flame war." It's a conversation we need to have so I'm sharing on my personal blog. Please keep it civil. Thank you.

 

The Congressional Black Caucus recently visited Apple, PayPal, Twitter, Square and Airbnb to assess whether Silicon Valley was making any progress in becoming more racially diverse. It wasn’t long before the lawmakers discovered that while some of these tech giants had made “small progress,” most had become less diverse over time.

Thanks to Jori Ford, Senior Director of Content, G2 Crowd, a review website for business software and services, for sharing her thoughts with me about inclusion and diversity in the technology industry. Jori, who identifies as black, Korean and LGBT, believes the chief problem is that the tech industry’s hiring practices are broken.

Rather than hiring racially diverse candidates for their skills and experience, tech companies are on a mission to fill empty quotas. But, at G2 Crowd, this isn’t the case, which is one of the key reasons Jori was attracted to the company.

How have broken recruiting and hiring processes led to tokenism (age, race, gender) in tech?

When you think about standard recruiting policies, you see recruiters and HR checking to see if candidates match skills needed. As a candidate you apply, interview, learn whether you’re qualified, and then you’re either selected or you are not.

When you are part of an underrepresented group you already know there’s not going to be a lot of people like you in the process – see Google, PayPal, Uber, and many others. You think you’re a statistic with 90 percent fitting the ideal profile — heavily male, white or Indian.

Unrepresented groups as a whole less than 1% are African American women.

As I ask questions about diversity in interviews, responses have been jarring. Many organizations do not have their own definition of diversity. They’re giving it little to no thought. Transparency in statistics and day-to-day work environments are key.

At G2Crowd, everyone has to take a test and all you have to do was pass. This balances the playing field for everyone.

When you’re not allowed to see who is working at the organization looking for diversity it makes for a walled system. At G2Crowd, is was interviewing in a fully glassed room that allowed me to experience all of the culture around me. The interview is a time when the company is conveying its business to a candidate and the candidate is seeing and evaluating the culture they will be included in. Inclusivity is key to recruiting.

If you don’t see anyone like yourself it makes you wonder if you’ll be accepted by the members of the organization. It’s all about perspective and we each have our own perspective which makes it hard to see outside. It’s hard for me to see where I fit in. Am I welcomed in the space? To get past perspective, there has to be someone you can see, someone you can connect with as an individual.

What’s the solution?

Make sure there is an active pipeline of diverse candidates. Organizations are having difficulty building the pipeline. They need to build the people they want to come and work for them. A lot of people look to incubators, but incubators lack underrepresented groups as well.

I believe it starts as K through 5 STEM programming. The decision doesn’t start in high schools and college. Paige & Paxton elementary STEM curriculum get kids started early before they’re even thinking about college.

Many colleges are funded by larger organizations who say they want diversity but then the lack of diversity is again prevalent.

What are the benefits of having a diverse organization besides being the right thing to do?

Organizations with more diversity have more challenging thoughts and different perspectives that result in more interesting and disruptive strategies to affect the world. Organizations need that thinking in-house before they begin building solutions. Diversity brings different perspectives to the table. You end up with business strategies you wouldn’t have come up with otherwise.

Who’s doing a good job?

G2Crowd is doing well. We have diverse age groups, neutralization of demographic factors through testing that show candidates they are valued for their mind. The interview process is transparent, not judgmental. You interview with a diverse, cross-functional panel of people.

What do minority developers need to keep in mind?

Don’t let statistics deter you. "Token" doesn’t mean what you think. Even though numbers show a sliding scale, people are necessary to make the change. Show your talent and make it known – step into the opportunity. Programmers are taught logic and statistics; however, the math isn’t always the reality, you can shape and mold the reality.

What should organizations that are serious about diversity and inclusion do?

Look at Project Include, they help organizations, and in particular management teams, learn where to start.

Inclusion is not an initiative. Organizations must humanize and see the people beyond the actual brand. It all comes down to people. Let people see the people for who they are and how they look or you won’t have diversity.

It’s about inclusion and people wanting to be someplace where they’re included and their voice is heard.

Tags: transparency, employee engagement, innovation, employee empowerment, total radical transparency

4 Tenets of Conscious Capitalism

Posted by Tom Smith on Mon, Jan, 05, 2015 @ 10:01 AM

I just read an interesting interview with Kip Tindell, chairman and CEO of The Container Store and a leader of a growing movement called Conscious Capitalism which teaches business leaders to create shared value by making their companies more successful and competitive while advancing the quality of life for the community and the world.

 

The concept of Conscious Capitalism is consistent with a personal philosophy that I shared with a colleague several years ago -- there's plenty of business for everyone that plays nice and plays by the rules.

 

Sadly, we see a lot of individuals who do neither making a lot of money at the expense of others (i.e., executives at Enron, Tyco, WorldCom, Bank of America, et.al.).

 

Conscious Capitalism puts purpose before profits with the belief that balancing the needs of all of a business' stakeholders -- employees, customers, suppliers, community and shareholders -- is the right thing to do and will result in a more profitable and successful business.

 

Four businesses that exemplify Conscious Capitalism are The Container Store, Whole Foods, Zappos and Southwest Airlines.  

 

All four of these companies put employees first and focus on providing an outstanding customer experience -- both of which are integral to the second tenet since employees and customers are both key stakeholders.

  1. Higher purpose.  Also known as the "mission" -- the purpose of the company beyond making a profit or dominating a market position.  A compelling sense of purpose can create a high level of engagement by the stakeholders and generate tremendous organizational energy.
     
  2. Stakeholder orientation.  Explicitly managed for the good of all stakeholders including customers, employees, investors, suppliers and the larger communities in which the business participates.  By creating value for all stakeholders, the whole system advances.  Zappos is making a dramatic contribution to their community by significantly revitalizing a "dead" downtown Las Vegas.
     
  3. Conscious leadership.  Management is driven by service to the firm's higher purpose and focuses on delivering value to the stakeholders. Conscious leaders adopt a holistic worldview that goes well beyond the limitations of traditional business.  Enterprises, and individuals, are part of a complex, interdependent and evolving system with multiple constituencies.
     
  4. Conscious culture as captured by the acronym TACTILE.  T = trust.  A = authenticity.  C = caring.  T = transparency.  I = integrity.  L = learning.  E = empowerment.  A conscious culture is very tangible to stakeholders and outside observers.

The result of this is empowered employees who we know work harder, are more creative, care more and are responsible for driving greater customer experiences.

Another result is long-term trusted relationships with suppliers, consistent with The Integrity Chain, which is more profitable for both parties.

Would your company benefit by following the four tenets of Conscious Capitalism?

What is your higher purpose?

If you're interested, you can sign up for the Conscious Capitalism newsletter here.

 

Download the Free e-book  "Customer Bonding Programs:  How to Get, and Keep,Customers for Life"

Tags: conscious capitalism, empowerment, transparency, integrity, mission

16 Ways to Build Trust with Customers and Prospects

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, Dec, 03, 2014 @ 12:12 PM

trust resized 600

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to the Edelman Trust Barometer who has been performing this study for the past 14 years. This year's research includes 33,000 respondents from 27 countries.

 

The findings are the fundamentals we all need to follow to build trust with customers and prospects:

 

  1. Listen to customer needs and feedback and have a closed loop process to address them. I suggest using a three-question Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey to begin the dialogue.

  2. Treat your employees well. Your employees will only treat your customers as well as you treat your employees.

  3. Place customers ahead of profits. Do what's right for the customer and everything else will take care of itself. Do what's wrong by the customer and you'll be called out on social media and will fail faster.

  4. Communicate with integrity and honesty. Be open and transparent. Again, if you're not, you'll be called out on social media and your business will be toast.

  5. Have ethical business practices. Do unto others . . .

  6. Take responsible action to address issues or concerns in a timely manner. If you can't resolve the issue by the end of the day, let the customer know the status of the resolution and when they can expect their issue to be resolved.

  7. Have transparent and open business practices. Perhaps cell phone and cable companies would have higher NPS scores if they had this philosophy?

  8. Offer high quality products and services. Give people products and service of value. Ask customers if they feel like they're receiving good value from your products or services.

  9. Be innovative. Offer new products, services or ideas. Anything you can do to make life easier and simpler for customers will be rewarded with more business and mentions in social media.

  10. Work to protect and improve the environment. It's telling that all of the BP stations in my area of North Carolina are being rebranded.

  11. Address society's needs in every day business. This goes back to having a vision and mission that's more than about just making money.

  12. Create programs that positively impact the local community. Give back to the community that supports your business and livelihood.

  13. Partner with NGO's, government and third parties to address society needs. We're beginning to see more public-private partnerships to address the country's crumbling infrastructure.

  14. Have highly-regarded and widely-admired top leadership. Your leaders are your brand outside your company. Are they on brand? Are they active on social media and within the industry expressing their point-of- view? Leaders don't hide, they're out front engaging customers as well as critics.

  15. Rank high on a global list of companies. Decide what you want to be known for and be the best you can be at it.

  16. Deliver consistent financial returns to investors. Companies that build trust with customers and have high NPS scores tend to perform better financially than those who don't. It's simply good business to do what's right by your customers and prospects.

To me, these 16 ways to build trust boils down to my personal mantra: "Do what you say you will do, when you say you will do it?"

 

Which of the 16 things is your company doing well?

 

Where can you improve?

 

If you don't know, ask your customers. 

Tags: transparency, trust, be responsive, integrity, customer centric, do what you say you'll do when you say you'

3 Keys to Lead Generation

Posted by Tom Smith on Mon, Nov, 03, 2014 @ 10:11 AM

3 keys to lead generation

 

 

 

 

 

 

Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.

 

There are three keys communication that will help you generate more leads:

 

  1. Provide information of value
     
  2. Be consistent

  3. Be relevant

 

Providing information of value, not selling, builds awareness and trust of your products, services and company, as well as establishing you as a trusted-advisor on the subject about which you are sharing.

 

Start by answering all of your customers' and prospects' questions openly and in a transparent manner. Doing so will help establish you and your firm as someone who want to help solve a problem rather than just sell something.

 

What problem do you solve? How do you do it? How much does it cost? What are the benefits? What are the downsides?

 

By answering someone's question before they even ask you the question, you are saving them time and making their life easier. If you save someone time, or make their life easier, they're more likely to be a loyal, and long-term, customer.

 

Consistency is key. Consistency builds trust. Inconsistency confuses people which leads to distrust.

 

Ensure all of your communications, across all channels, are consistent -- the same information, the same tone.

 

I strive to be genuinely helpful by sharing information I think will be of value to business owners and marketing professionals.

 

Be relevant. This can be difficult if you're inwardly focused. It's much easier if you are customer-centric.

 

Find out what your customers and prospects have questions about and answer those questions.

 

Ask your sales force and your customer service reps what the objections, issues and questions they hear most frequently.

 

Map the customer journey identifying the questions received and the information needed at each step of the journey. Once you've done this, don't forget to share your journey maps and questions with customers for validation. 

 

By providing information of value that's consistent and relevant, you will drive greater awareness, traffic and leads while establishing you, and your brand, as trustworthy.

 

What questions can I answer for you about sharing information of value?

 

Click Here to Download Your Lead Generation eBook

 

Tags: transparency, trust, be real, information of value, alignment, consistent messaging, be relevant

Drive Adoption and Engagement with Employee Advocacy

Posted by Tom Smith on Fri, Oct, 03, 2014 @ 10:10 AM

employee advocates

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to Susan Emerick (@sfemerick), CEO and founder of Brands Rising, Lori Grey (@lsgrey) of Deloitte and Alex Cramer (@cramer1000) of Dynamic Signal for an informative presentation on empowering and engaging employees to help drive customer adoption and engagement.

 

I've written before about how loyal employees = loyal customers.

 

More and more brands are empowering their employees to support the goals of the brand by using content and employee-owned social media expertise and contacts.

 

When you consider the number of social media contacts and followers your brand has versus that of all of your employees, you have a tremendous opportunity to increase the reach of your message by asking your employees to share your messages and information of value with their social networks as well as your customers and prospects.

 

Besides, employees generate more trust than companies:

  • 84% of people trust recommendations from people they know while only 15% trust recommendations from brands (Gartner).

  • 70% of customer brand perception is determined by experiences with people (Market Leader).

  • Leads developed through employee social marketing convert 7X more than other leads (IBM).

  • People like to do business with those they know, like and trust. Employees humanize your brand. 

 

There are several steps to building an employee advocacy program:

  1. Determine the "best fit" candidates.

  2. Provide training, remove doubt.

  3. Personalize. 
     
  4. Reward and recognize.

Determining "best fit" candidates depends on the vision, mission and values of your organization and finding the people who are already in alignment and equipped to share their knowledge and expertise.
Characteristics of "best fit" candidates are:
  1. Already have a strong social media footprint.

  2. Comfortable collaborating online.

  3. Find value in creating and nurturing relationships via social media.

  4. Demonstrate a long-term commitment to sustained engagement.

  5. Open to coaching, guidance and learning from data. 

 

There are several steps you can take to provide training and remove doubt given that people and companies have concerns about employees posting on social media on behalf of the company:

  1. Provide education and training on social media best practices, as well as any restrictions the company may have based on industry requirements.

  2. Have peer mentoring or teammates you can bounce questions off of.

  3. Provide an online source of content that's preapproved -- prewritten, preapproved share text that employees can customize. This ensures consistent messaging and eliminates the need for employees to develop information of value from scratch.

 

Personalize the content you are asking your employees to share:

  1. Employees will be much more comfortable with, and likely to share, content that's relevant to them personally and professionally. They'll also be more comfortable personalizing for the channel or the audience.

  2. Use sign-up forms to create groups to know which topics or industries interest which people.

  3. Use groups to tag and distribute content.  

 

Reward and recognize those employees that are helping spread the company message via social media:

  1. Professional recognition is having contributors recognized by their peers and executive management about what they are doing, as well as their accomplishments.

  2. External recognition is showcasing individuals as industry thought-leaders giving them an opportunity to represent, or speak on behalf of, the company at industry functions. 

 

Do you have an employee advocacy program in place?

 

How are your employees' activities benefitting the company?

 

Click Here To Schedule a 30-Minute Consultation  to Discuss Marketing or Sales Issues

Tags: transparency, empower employees, connecting emotionally with customers, customer engagement, employee engagement, loyal employees

5 Steps to Omnichannel Marketing and Customer Service

Posted by Tom Smith on Fri, Sep, 05, 2014 @ 10:09 AM

omnichannel marketing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great article by Perry Simpson in a recent edition of Direct Marketing News entitled "5 Ways to Evolve Your Marketing to Omnichannel."

 

 

I wanted to share the five steps and comment on them as well as share several points made in the article:

  • According to the Rightnow Customer Experience Impact Report, 89% of customers say they have stiopped doing business with a company after one poor customer experience.

  • Omnichannel marketing, and customer service, is the fundamental practice of providing a seamless marketing experience across multiple channels.

  • Marketers need to ask themselves, what can we do to simplify the lives of our customers and make them more loyal.
The more you can do to save your customers time and simplify their lives, the more loyalty you will earn.
We all know the frustration of having to repeat our information to different service reps on the same call or reenter data when we are dealing with online forms or chat.
What are you doing to make the lives of your customers and clients easier?
Here are the five steps:
  1. Think holistically. Think about the entire customer experience. Map it. Identify the gaps in service that exist between the silos of your organization. It's becoming more common for customers to complete a single transaction acrosss multiple channels. If you don't have a 360-degree view of the customer, you will not be able to provide a seamless, simple, transaction.

  2. Build collaboration. Silos exist in all organizations. It's important to collaborate across silos to identify what a seamless customer experience is and to make the commitment to everyone in the organization having a single view of the customer.

    While silos can still exist within the organization, data silos on customers cannot if you are committed to providing a seamless, omnichannel experience.

    You have to ensure all of the segments of the organizations can work together and share information for the good of the customer.

  3. Map the experience. Know how your customers went about becoming your customers. Sales and marketing need to sit in a room together and map the customer's buying journey and then share their findings with a few customers to ensure they haven't missed any steps or made incorrect assumptions about what the customers actually did and what they were thinking at the time.

    Do this by having one-on-one interviews with the customer about their buying process. They're more likely to provide personal insights in a one-on-one conversation versus a focus group.

    Ultimately, marketers need to define what experience they want their customers to have and then move them through the marketing and sales process in a way that's makes it easy for the customer to buy the product or service you are selling with confidence and trust.

  4. Explore low-tech solutions. Marketing automation and analytics have made omnichannel marketing more attainable. However, don't forget to engage your customers in a dialog about what works for them and what they consider to be an acceptable, as well as, an exceptional, customer experience.

    Providing an exceptional omnichannel customer experience is the best way to turn satisfied customers into "raving fans" that share their experience with friends, family, colleagues as well as all their social media "followers."
     
  5. Embrace transparency. Be real, be realiable, be responsive. Companies that provide an inconsistent customer experience acrosss channels confuse their prospects and customers.

    Consistency breeds trust. Inconsistency breeds distrust and causes your to lose leads, prospects and customers as evidenced by the opening statistic from Rightnow. 
 
What steps can you, and your firm, take to provide a seamless omnichannel experience for your customers?
The more you are able to do now, the more it will benefit your firm, and differentiate your firm from competitors, now.
Download the Free e-book  "Customer Bonding Programs:  How to Get, and Keep,Customers for Life"

Tags: transparency, trust, be reliable, be responsive, be real, consistent messaging, omnichannel marketing and customer service

Top 25 Companies for Culture and Values in 2014

Posted by Tom Smith on Wed, Aug, 27, 2014 @ 10:08 AM

Align along vision, mission and values
Thanks to Glassdoor for sharing their findings.

 

 

 

If you've read any of my previous posts, you know how strongly I feel about companies empowering and engaging their employees.

 

It all starts with having a powerful vision, mission and values and a management team that is in total alignment so they're consistent in what they tell those they manage, as well as how they manage.

 

Where trust is an issue, there is no trust.

 

Values lead to alignment and empowers team members to overcome any disagreement.

 

Clearly the following firms do not have trust as an issue.

Top Companies for Culture & Values 2014

Want to work for a company where employees are satisfied with the culture and values? Glassdoor has announced its report of the Top 25 Companies for Culture & Values, based on workplace insights shared by the people who know companies best — the employees. The following companies stand out for high culture & values ratings and insightful reviews.

Top 25

Ratings Scale: 3.51–4.0 = “Satisfied” 4.01–5.0 = “Very Satisfied”  
Is your management team in alignment with regards to the vision, mission and values of your firm?

Don't assume they are.

 

I worked for a firm and suggested they let me do one-on-one interviews with the management team to ensure everyone was in alignment.

 

The president, to whom I reported, said that wouldn't be necessary since they had just completed a strategic planning session.

 

Sadly, I quickly saw how out of alignment, not only the management team, but the entire staff was and I was powerless to do anything about it.

 

While the company was doing alright, it could have been performing at a significantlly higher level if employees were on one team rather than several different, frequently competing, teams.

 

Ask the members of your management team, independently, about the vision, mission, values and strategic positioning of the firm and see how much the answers vary.

 

I assure you the insights you get will be invaluable to the firm, and may save your job.

 

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Tags: transparency, trust, alignment, vision, mission, values, strategic positioning

6 Insights Into What Customers Want, . . .

Posted by Tom Smith on Tue, Aug, 12, 2014 @ 10:08 AM

dialog with customers

 

 

 

 

 

 

. . . but companies aren't giving them.

This is taken, and expanded upon, from the book, What Customers Really Want, by Scott McKain.

The book was written in 2005, but many of the lessons are just as today as I have written in a number of blog posts.

Here are the six things customers really want and what most businesses are giving them:

  1. Customers want a compelling experience.  Businesses are giving them customer service, and not very good customer service at that. As Peter Shankman has said, all you have to do to be better than someone else is not "suck."
     
  2. Customers want personal focus.  Business provides a product focus. Sell benefits for the individuals rather than the features the engineers think are cool.
     
  3. Customers want reciprocal loyalty.  Businesses supply endless prospecting.  How much does your company spend on branding, lead generation and demand creation versus customer satisfaction.  If it's less than 80/20, your company is doing better than most.
     
  4. Customers want differentiation.  Businesses offer sameness.  Companies are getting better about offering differentiation within a range.  The ability to custom design your Nike shoes online comes to mind.
     
  5. Customers want coordination.  Businesses offer confusion.  This problem is getting worse rather than better as customers interact with companies across multiple channels when the companies remain siloed in terms of structure and where customer data resides.
     
  6. Customers want innovation.  Businesses want to maintain the status quo.  Apple effectively took online digital music from Sony.  One was innovative, one wanted to maintain the status quo.

Are you more focused on your products and services or on your customers needs and wants?

Do you have an open and ongoing dialog with your customers?

 

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Tags: consumer insights, transparency, trust, customer experience, dialog

Limiting Online Reviews Inhibits Transparency, Integrity and Insights

Posted by Tom Smith on Thu, Jul, 31, 2014 @ 11:07 AM

Lack of transparency

 

 

 

 

My sister in-law is a frequent traveler who booked a three-day trip to New York to shop and visit museums with a friend of her's from Chicago.

 

She used Expedia to book the six-star Pierre, a Taj Property, and was disappointed and embarrassed by the service she and her friend received.

 

When she tried to post a less than stellar review on Expedia, she was told, "Your hotel review needs revision."

 

This is the gist of what she said:

 

  • The staff was polite but they didn't know what time their restaurants opened.  My friend and I were sent back and forth between the restaurants at the hotel because neither were open with staff telling us they were open when, in fact, they weren't.
     
  • My tea arrived on a pretty tablecloth but the waiter brought French toast which I didn't order.
      
  • The tea pot burned my hand because the handle was metal and had no cover.
     
  • The hair dryer was cheap and burned my hair,
     
  • When I checked out, we asked the porter for our 5 pieces of baggage.   he said "okay", then turned around and started talking to the other staff members.  when we reminded him we had a flight to catch, he went to get the bags, which we could see in the hallway.   It took three staff members to count our bags. How many staff members does it take . . .
     
  • All in all, I chose the hotel expecting first rate service and got just an above averge hotel stay.  I was so disappointed because I thought so highly of the hotel's reputation.
     
  • The location is superb; can't ask for better.

 

"When I told my friends at work about my experience, they said........"maybe that's why you can find that hotel on Expedia."

 

Expedia is not doing themselves, their customers or the Pierre any favors.

 

I saw recently where Four Seasons had just surpassed Ritz Carlton in terms of customer service.

 

If Taj Hotels don't get feedback from disgruntled customers, how are they going to improve.

 

Companies like Expedia are wasting the value of voice of the customer (VOC) feedback by trying to supress less than perfect ratings.

 

I've seen car dealers do this and they're just hurting themselves.

 

Be real, be reliable, and be responsive -- or be gone.

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Tags: consumer insights, transparency, be reliable, be responsive, integrity, be real, VoC, voice of the customer