Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Fourth Dimension of Customer Experience

Image by Salvador Dali
In my last article I discussed the need to better understand what experience is in order to really make advances in how we can improve it.

I arrived at Three Dimensions which I will summarise below – but feel free to refer back to the original for the full story because now I want to move us on to consider a Fourth Dimension:

1. Dimension One: Thoughts.

An experience can be described in terms of the thoughts arising in my mind at any one point in time. Customer Journey Mapping has been relatively successful at grappling with this. This is the realm of:

  • Rational choice.
  • Mapping out what the customer is doing and what the customer is trying to achieve – the process
  • Transaction points

We can streamline it and make it easier and see incremental improvements.

2. Dimension Two: Emotions.
  • Design Thinking is increasingly playing a role in experience design. 
  • Placing yourself in the shoes of the individual helps you understand where they may be driven to anger, what prompts fear, what inspires love. 
3. Dimension Three: Sensitivity.
  • The layer in which we can personalise and contextualize experiences.
  • Responds to the mass of previous experiences that create an individual's Sensitivity.
  • Solves the Trip Advisor problem: Two people have the "exact same experience" but score the same hotel very differently
  • Our sensitivity to the experience is our context. 
This third dimension is rarely called out for separate consideration yet it is where we must focus our efforts if we are to offer truly personalised experiences. This will be the dimension in which Decisioning technologies and the application of Artificial Intelligence will have the greatest impact. Bots are already capable of keeping a record of what they have learned about an individual customer and using that to shape their future interactions with that customer.

Many see a crazy amount of complexity to deal with. Others see the possibilities for AI and the full set of cognitive computing capabilities to make sense (and profit) from unstructured data.

But where to start? Well first, let me add an additional complexity. We like to think about ourselves as a single self – an individual. Yet science (neurological and behavioural) tells us we are really the intertwining of two selves: The Experiencing Self and the Narrating Self. You don’t have to take my word for this. Start with the cannon of work by Economic Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman

The Experiencing Self is the one in the now. It experiences – discomfort in the long queue to see the Princess at Disney. It experiences a sense of fun when it interacts with the smattering of supporting cast found towards the head of the queue. It experience great joy when it gets its brief moment with the Princess herself.

But more often than not the decisions get made by the Narrating Self.

The Narrating Self will evaluate the experiences it has had and generate itself the story of what it has done, from these experiences.

It is the story the Narrating Self tells itself that gives it ammunition to decide whether or not it’s going to endure the misery of the length of queue for the next Disney attraction. It makes its judgment call based on everything the Experiencing Self has gathered – not in aggregate but on average.

So, in the Disney case, if you asked guests to score their experience at each part of that journey (1/10 while I was stuck at the back of the queue, 6/10 when I met the supporting cast, 10/10 when I met the princess) a simple average would give us (1+6+10) /3 ~5.7.

And if we weighted that for time spent in each phase (queue 90% of time, cast 8% of time, princess 2%) then our satisfaction score would collapse to much nearer 1.

Why then do we in fact remember a magical experience and one we rush to repeat?

It is because the Narrating Self – our big decision maker – places a great deal more weight on the end of the experience and completely discounts duration. End on a high.

Disney gets this, It’s why their experiences are structured the way they are. The classic Kahnemann experiment involves volunteers placing their hands in cold water for X time. The same volunteers then place their hands in water of the same temperature for X time + Y time (and during Y the temperature of the water is slightly raised),

When asked which experience they would like to repeat they choose X+Y.

This is because the Narrating Self discounts duration and actually adopts a rule we cannot ignore when designing experience – The Peak-End Rule.

It retells the experience only in terms of how it felt at the peak (and this will usually be a peak of discomfort) and how it felt at the end. It is the average of these that determines how we take decisions. That’s why 2% of the time with the Princess at 10/10 is remembered – and talked about as much as the 90% of the time you spent in the queue.

What are the implications for how we go about our work in Customer Experience?

4. Dimension Four; Narrative.
  • We have seen that duration has little impact on the final story of an experience we tell our Narrative Selves and it is this Narrative Self that will make the decision on which experiences it wants to repeat. It is the story of our experience we share with others, too.
  • We know the Narrative Self uses a Peak-End Rule to evaluate. This means it calculates an average of the worst it felt during the experience and how it felt at the end. The duration of these phases has little or no impact.
  • An experience which offers an improvement in experience at the end versus peak discomfort will be seen more positively even if the period of peak discomfort is considerably longer than the End phase.
This gives us important parameters to work within for improving personalized experience.

Just as with Senstivity, while we may occasionally stumble across and apply elements of the Fourth Dimension of Customer Experience when conducting our work (Leave ‘em on a high, for example!) it is seldom called out as a tool of inquiry and a framework against which experience can and should be assessed and designed.

I am confident that considered one-by-one, the four dimensions will help us design the experience customers will both enjoy in the now and choose to repeat in the future.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Voters must learn to trust voters again

Image via A-Z

Trust. Given the seismic societal and geopolitical events of the last year I think it's worth reminding ourselves about Trust.

58% of eligible Americans didn't bother voting. Liberal democracies work on the assumption that the voter knows best. This is built on a basic trust. We have faith that the 'other' has our best interests at heart.

As the world has globalised, the question of who should vote on what issues arises. If you take a global perspective why should a nation vote alone on whether or not it leaves (for sake of argument) The European Union. The impact of the decision made by voters goes far beyond the impact on themselves. Do they have the right, within one nation, to vote for things that harm others?
Climate change, accords and fast-growing heavily polluting nations raise similar concerns - as does the free movement of refugees. People moving from difficulty to plenty has been the story of human expansion over the face of the Earth - until we invented passports and border controls.

Democracy it seems can only work if we share a basic beliefs/traditions/outlooks with most other of your fellow voters. When fellow voters are like us we accept the results - and I reiterate, we do so because we assume they have our interests at heart, too.

When those interests are ignored, we don't accept the results. If their experiences are far removed from my own, if they don't understand how I feel and don't care about the things I hold dear then I'm unlikely to accept the result no matter how 'conclusive'.

Is this what we have seen at play in Brexit and in the election of Donald Trump?
Or is there more that binds the people of the UK and the people of the US than divides them?

To move forward both nations must find a place where voter can trust voter again (this is more important than whether we trust politicians, for whom we all have our crap filters set to stun permanently anyway).

I do believe that trust can be rebuilt - I wrote a book (The 10 Principles of Open Business) which lays out how we can do it in brands and business and the principles are equally applicable to our institutions and way of life.

In the main we do share basic beliefs and traditions. If there are differences it is in outlook. Some see the post-globalised, digitised world through fearful eyes. Others with optimism.

If we connect more, share more, enter more transparent discourse, act ,more as what we are - partners in civil society - we can help rebuild trust. In so doing we can enable more people to identify and access the benefits of the connected world so many of us have enjoyed.

If we cannot we will break down (and self-organise ourselves) into the bubbles our Facebook timelines seem intent on generating.

Think for a moment how important trust is in winning this battle, in rebuilding the partnership we aim to have with each other in civil society -
The following are excerpts from The 10 Principles of Open Business.(Palgrave-Macmillan 2014).
"Without trust there can be no relationships of any value. Without relationships there can be no organizations, no customers, no believers, no advocates, no future. Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt went as far as to say in his 2009 University of Pennsylvania Commencement Address that: “In a networked world, trust is the most important currency.” Every politician, every newspaper editor, every CEO, every brand manager, every one of us knows it is essential. It is what ties customers to brands, families to each other, organizations and societies together. It is a very human trait and one which has given us an evolutionary advantage defined at its simplest as: “I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine.” 
Evidence from neuroscience (e.g., “The Neurobiology of Trust” by Paul J Zak in Scientific American, 2008) suggests we get chemical feel-good rushes to reward us when we trust and are trusted, and that there are large portions of the brain developed specifically to deal with its complexities. Being able to trust our neighbor allowed us to build civilizations. We’ve evolved to demand it. To work closely with people, requires it. Partnership, the paradigm of Open Business, demands it. And when trust diminishes we are in crisis.
Trust,... is a measure of the belief in the honesty, fairness, or benevolence of another party. Build this kind of reciprocal trust and your partners are more likely to forgive your failures of competence; they will cut you slack if they trust that you are trying to do your best for them and being honest when things go wrong.  


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The third dimension of customer experience

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Experience is the primary differentiator in the selection of products and services in a post globalisation world. Making it better is at the heart of any digital transformation where humans engage.
There is a reason we value it so highly - in an increasingly humanist world it is replacing religion as our arbitor in gathering ethical knowledge - best described in the phrase "If it feels good it must be right".
Our feelings - built entirely on our own experiences and our experiences of others provide a 21st Centurry equivalent of scripture.
This argument for the primacy of the internal self, that the pursuit of wisdom is the collection of experiences, is well made in Homo Deus - a brief history of tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari
In the last fear years Customer Experience has become very hot with marketers and technologists, CFOs, CDOs, CTOs amd CEOs.
But few have really stopped to understand what experience actually is - and without doing this we are missing a trick in improving it.
So let's start with the basics:
An experience isn't empirical data. It can't be found in the air around us or in the atoms of the desk in front of us. This is important because so much of experience design has focused on optimising for one generic experience.
Experience is not done to people - it is done by people.
It is subjective. And it has three dimensions.
1. Dimension One: Thoughts.
An experience can be described in terms of the thoughts arising in my mind at any one point in time.
Customer Journey Mapping has been relatively successful at grappling with this part of the mix. This is the realm of rational choice after all. We can map out what the customer is doing and what the customer is trying to achieve and it's all very transactional and rational and we can streamline it and make it easier and see incremental improvements and roll the same journey out on the assumption we are all rational actors (which any regular reader of this blog will understand is very far from the truth).
2. Dimension Two: Emotions.
There has been an emerging focus on emotion in the customer experience world which is to be commended. This is often because Design Thinking has played a role in experience design. Placing yourself in the shoes of the individual helps you understand where they may be driven to anger, what prompts fear, what inspires love. But again there is a one-size-fits all weakness to this which leaves room for improvement.
3. Dimension Three: Sensitivity.
This critical third dimension is the layer in which we can personalise and, very importantly, contextualise experiences to meet the experiential needs of the individual.
We can design for customers based on their past behaviours and (if we can apply AI to the unstructured data of their latest published thoughts) their self-expression of mood. What we have difficulty responding to is the mass of previous experiences that create an individual's Sensitivity.
I call this the Trip Advisor problem. Two people can have what we have come to describe as the "exact same experience" and score the same hotel very differently. Our sensitivity to the experience is our context. As my old friend Alan Moore is always fond of saying, Without Context There Is No Meaning.
Reviewer One may have been spoiled with five star hotels his entire life. His sensitivity to quality is therefore somewhat raised. Reviewer Two may be more used to the Two Star life. When both end up in a four star we may design their experiences to be exactly the same from booking to check-out but their own sensitivity will determine if this is a better than normal experience or a worse one for them.
Sensitivity means paying attention to your sensations, emotions and thoughts - and allowing them to influence you.
Without it we do not experience.
And yet we continue to work on customer experience without giving this third dimension - this dimension of context - due attention. We stumble into it rather than calling it out as a specific area of work to be considered.
I believe by identifying and describing this third dimension of customer experience we can go a long way to greater application of technologies such as Decisioning and Artificial Intelligence to deliver contextualised customer experiences which best fit an individuals sensitivity.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

The technology storm that threatens to blow Trump's promises away

Image via
President Elect Donald J Trump (which is something I never imagined having to type) faces the Brexit problem. How to deliver on all the Make America Great, on-the-hoof, populist claims he made to secure the votes of a majority.

He has promised. Now he must deliver.

His problem is that he has made promises to the 'forgotten' those manually skilled, rarely college-educated, family and God loving folk who jobs have come under significant pressure from vast global economic forces which, frankly, are beyond his control.

Even if they were, he would be facing up to an even bigger challenge right now,

Consider for a moment some of the biggest technology trends reshaping our world ;

Next Generation Batteries; Most of the batteries you use apply the same principles as were discovered for making electricity hundreds (if not thousands) of years ago. New power sources will make intelligent devices more self sufficient, give commercial and long-distance reality to electric cars and transform how we consume power (with all that entails for the supply chain of fossil fuels).

They deliver high enough capacity to serve whole factories, or towns. Based on sodium, aluminium or zinc. They avoid the heavy metals and caustic chemicals used in older lead-acid designs, are cheaper, more scalable, and safer than the lithium batteries currently used.

Critically for the energy workers in the traditional industries Donald is setting out to unforget, the new batteries are much better suited to transmissions from solar or wind power. (Hint, Donald, focus here and you don't have to pollute the planet, either)

Which takes us to Autonomous Vehicles; What are all the truck drivers, taxi drivers, bus drivers, white van drivers, Donald's driver... what are they all going to do?

An Autonomous Vehicle is really just an extension of the Internet of Things. My guess is Google will do a better job of organising the information required to get us all from A to B swiftly and safely than we can individually. Choose surge pricing and perhaps you get their faster. Emergency services would get right of way and ignorant drivers failing to move to one side would no longer be an issue. Accidents down (ambulance and fire and rescue drivers) less need to police the roads (police drivers); less time stuck in traffic. More time doing what you were going somewhere to do. Less stress. What's not to like?

Unless you work as a driver.(Pilots, you should worry, too).

Then we have robotics - ready to do all those manual labour jobs the lowest paid, hardest workers have to do. If you have a house robot why do you need a Mexican maid?

And if the boss has a dozen 24/7 robots to work your warehouse, why does he need you on your forklift?

Apply AI and the threat to humans in jobs spreads quickly into blue collar jobs. Even many parts of white collar roles will be threatened - there are many parts of a lawyers work or a doctors work (such as sifting case law, or looking for patterns in patient treatments and responses) which AI can happily handle - delivering results faster.

Put these parts together and why would you ever need to go to a shop (your IoT devices would tell you when they needed upgrading, identify the best price source, place the order, a robot would make it, AI and autonomous vehicles would handle the logistics and the product would be in your home both produced and delivered as efficiently as possible with real-time processes applying machine learning to both make decisions and continuously improve.

All of that was once done by humans.

Trump's challenge, if he is to make good on his promises, is to ensure those forgotten people feel part of this revolution of the abundant. That requires a rethink of value and a restructing of what schooling is.

If he really wants to Make America Great Again he should start with the greatest skills retraining programme in history and follow up with defining what national education for a world of permanent innovation looks like.

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?