Friday, December 31, 2010

Visualizing great experiences

Combining data visualization and customer experience into one post makes this my fave 'review' post of the season.

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Information graphics have become a popular communication medium for a wide variety topics. While many of the most popular infographics focus on technological and social trends, there were several customer-centric illustrations this year that evoked important discussions and furthered the customer experience movement.

This post gathers seven of the most popular (and by popular, I mean most discussed) customer infographics from the past year. While the data and assumptions are questionable in some, there’s no doubt they all contributed to the customer service and experience landscape of 2010.

1. Customer Service Best Practices

Customer Service Infographic

2. Online Retailers’ $44 Billion Customer Experience Problem

Customer Experience Infographic

3. What Is Good Customer Service?

Customer Service Infographic

4. The Value of an Existing Customer

Value of Existing Customer Infographic

5. Customer Service Statistics

CRM Stats Infographic

6. Fastest Ways to Lose Customers

Customer Attrition Infographic

7. The Evolution of Social CRM

Social CRM Infographic
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New year's resolutions: use practical wisdom and be a craftsman.

I found the following TED talk from Barry Schwartz at the headquarters to be consistent with the themes I have been toying with: connecting group psychology, sociology and economic theory together in such a way as to ultimately surface "doing the right thing". This is fundamental to the bets I am making on 2011 and while it would be easy to regard this mission as hopeless, I am committing to both feeling and being allowed to be virtuous and to helping others find their way to this same place in their work, love, play, design and craft.

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In an intimate talk, Barry Schwartz dives into the question "How do we do the right thing?" With help from collaborator Kenneth Sharpe, he shares stories that illustrate the difference between following the rules and truly choosing wisely.

Barry Schwartz studies the link between economics and psychology, offering startling insights into modern life. Lately, working with Ken Sharpe, he's studying wisdom. Full bio and more links


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Can an experience culture be designed? What would be the attributes? UX Mag post ~ Cynthia Thomas, Translator

A culture of excellence succeeds through design - thoughtful and appropriate design that becomes implicit in every conversation, every opportunity, every transaction and a key part of every employee's toolkit for success. The attributes of action orientation over process, problem-solving over execution and collaborative and creative at the core are great building blocks for this design.

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Can a Culture Be Designed?

The short answer: yes. This is the definition of culture:

The attitudes and behavior that are characteristic of a particular social group or organization.[*]

Attitudes and behaviors are constantly being shaped within organizations. It's the reason there are performance reviews, processes and procedures, and role expectations. If business leaders want to foster a specific culture, then all opportunities, activities, and expectations of their staffs will be measured against the success of exemplifying that culture. To design is to plan something for a specific role, purpose, or effect—to work out its form. Company culture is designed in every conversation, and in every bit of feedback and evaluation criteria. It's possible to control the corporate atmosphere by choosing which behaviors to support and encourage, and which to discourage. Cultures grow organically, but they are actively designed.

In today's world, customers expect companies to focus on experience. In order to meet that expectation, a company's UX and CX efforts cannot be isolated in a single department, or in one or two positions. The experiences that resonate and are successful for customers are those that are seamless across all touchpoints; experiences should seem to originate from the whole company, not just from whichever department they sprung from within an organization. Companie cannot lean on the experiences customers have with the "customer satisfaction team" and call it a day. Every role within an organization should work together and towards the vision of how the brand interacts with its customers.

So what are the attributes of an experience-driven culture? While the subject is still evolving, I believe there are three core attributes of a experience-focused culture:

Action, not process-oriented
Problem solving, not execution-focused
Creativity and collaboration at the core

From the 'proof is that it's possible' category - DJ Earworm mashes the Billboard Top 25 of 2010

I sense a theme...

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

100 Things to Watch in 2011

A thoughtful presentation from JWT Intelligence:

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Stop trying to define the damn thing and, instead, design the damn thing. ~Jeff Gothelf

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Over and over again, it seems, practitioners within the User Experience world stir up flame wars and heated debates about what it is exactly that we do and what it should be called. From Interaction Design to User Experience Design to Information Architecture to UI Design, titles and job specifications vary as frequently as Sean Combs’ stage names.

Here’s a suggestion: stop trying to define the damn thing and, instead, design the damn thing.


The Enterprise 2.0 Crystal Ball from Scott Ryser on CMSWire

Scott Ryser's unofficial predictions for Enterprise 2.0 in 2011 have new and old players alike coming out of the woodwork. I just happen to do woodwork in my spare time so that works out perfectly... ;-)

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1. Even the Cautious Stick a Toe in the Water

2. The Novelty Wears Off, the Money Rolls In

3. E2.0 Debuts on the Org Chart

4. Did You Say Lotus ShareForce?

5. Security Becomes a Political Issue

6. It’s Not a Business, It’s a Movement


Saturday, December 18, 2010

What's the point of Enterprise RIA?

While I agree that having compelling, engaging software could be cliché, it still seems to me that talking about it is decidedly more cliché than actually doing something about it. I still see a lot of enterprise software that looks like unreadable spreadsheets or is simply a scrape of terminal applications in a runtime chrome.

On the other hand I also suspect that we are not going to get up on our soapbox without faceplanting off the slippery top. The power to create compelling, engaging interfaces is inevitably going to fall into the wrong hands and we are likely going to see some apps that are too rich and too engaging and just as effectively silo’d as their predecessors before the real killers emerge.

Beyond videos, cartoons, and web sites driving towards entertainment, rich user experiences platforms are looking towards “enterprise” use cases for novel and productive uses. While the content and the interaction may be different – you’re trying to get something done in an enterprise setting, not just fill your time with fun – the basic technologies remain the same.

What’s the point of Enterprise RIA?

The discussion starts with Adobe’s Ben Watson (that's me) who explains what this enterprise RIA concept is and why it matters to companies. The idea of having a compelling, engaging piece of software is normally cliché, but Ben does a good job of explaining why you want that, what the benefits are and how that kind of experience can help organizations:

Mobile Kiosk

Next up, we talk with Universal Mind’s Chris Rogers who talks to us about the process and tactics of doing an enterprise RIA project. I tend to think that “has a good user experience” is a different requirement to push through a project, so I wanted to hear how Universal Mind manages to do it. Chris gives a good, quick overview based on their word in the field:
After this project and process talk, Chris shows us an enterprise RIA prototype they’ve built that around cellphone users interacting with their account across different form factors, including a kiosk that we see on the show floor:

Beyond the clip-board with medical records

There’s few enterprise-y scenarios more fraught with pit-falls than converting the medical industry over to paperless, getting rid off all those paper and pen forms doctors, nurses, and hospital staff seem to have a tragic romance with. Thanks to the sheer beauty of new form factors, like the iPad, the folks at Ensemble have been finding success using enterprise RIA as the way to digitize medical records.
First, Ensemble’s Vlad Ghelesel gives us an overview of the project and how enterprise RIA is being applied:
After this overview, Vlad shows us a demo of the product in action on, of course, an iPad:
In addition to the videos above, you can subscribe to the RedMonk Media feed, for example, in iTunes, to have them automatically downloaded.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Engaging communities using data visualization

One of our new enterprise partners, Sapient Nitro, does a lot of interesting work in this area. The Now Network project that they did for Sprint was an interesting example of how to bring different data sources into a single interface. Increasingly I am seeing visualization as a B2C mechanism that is both engaging and interesting that provides a mental advantage through a potentially trusted point of interaction. As enterprise technologists I truly hope we do not abuse this potential point of interaction but more importantly I look forward to applications that use this data and the learning within it as a starting point for new experiences that are inspired by what we learn from the information we consume and share.

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Etsy Visualization:  All Etsy Members with Avatars August 2005Data visualization is a medium for understanding information that had previously been the domain of scientists and researchers.

Today, due to the amount of data available, there is an increasing need to find new ways of understanding what information means that is available through social networks and throughout the Web.

Engaging Online Communities is a report we published this week that explores ways to engage with customers. It looks at the tools available to engage, collect and analyze information.

See more at

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Awesome and creepy cinematic/design execution from BMW

I recommend watching this in full screen HD to get the full effect.

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The brand used flash projector technology to reproduce what happens when you look up at the sun, or see a flash of light: when you close your eyes, you see the contours of that light slowly fade away.

In a recent cinema ad, a really intense racer, all high off his follow-your-dream juice, asked people to close their eyes following a flash of light at the end – and when they did, what they saw were the sharp contours of BMW.

See more at

Monday, December 06, 2010

Building permanent bridges to great customer experience

Many executives and IT management I have met with over the past year share the pursuit of customer experience excellence but they also share a similar pain point - you have to start somewhere and you can't do it all, at least not all at once.

When marketing and technology come together to support a paradigm shift this large it creates natural pressure to get it right and get it right now.  There is no shortage of data that points to real business justification for building stronger ties to your customers.  Consider these data points from Forrester, Gartner and others in the space:
  • Companies are increasing their investment in their most important asset – customers - with 90% seeing this as the most important investment they need to make
  • A company could increase revenues by over $12 million annually in the research and sales process, while the cost savings for improving service could reach $2 million by improving online customer experience
  • Increasing customer satisfaction by 10% for Global 500 companies can lead to additional $200M in potential revenue (on average)
  • Four attributes will characterize the next phase of development - experiences will be: customized by the end user, aggregated at the point of use, relevant to the moment, and social as a rule, not an exception.  Forrester's Megan Burns refers to this as the CARS principle.
  • 50% of customer service applications are custom built and the packaged customer service app market is highly fragmented, often focusing on a single channel of interaction
  • 57% of online customers will abandon a purchase & 65% are very unlikely to return if you do not provide a good online experience

Productivity experts clearly favor the most successful strategy for any large to-do list as breaking it down into manageable pieces and this is no exception.  There are some things you could consider in your breakdown to help you prioritize, such as:
  • Finding a quick win that will produce fast or high return and does not require a long project to implement
  • Choosing a starting point that will build in a platform or cultural shift that will support further projects or broader change
  • Using data to determine where you have low satisfaction or bottlenecks that could ease conversion or increase loyalty
  • Focusing on people's passion or commitment to get behind a specific area of change
Many of Adobe's customers who are focused on transforming their customer experience have done exactly this.  By focusing on key touchpoints in a customer's journey around points of conversion (acquisition) or complex support interactions (service) they were able to identify projects that were addressable, had clear KPIs, and would help them put in place a signpost for future change and a platform to support that change.  What follows are some great examples of companies who have tackled the customer journey one step at a time, and they were able to start and finish with a clear and attainable goal.

EBS (more info)

The team at EBS recognized that information technology is a powerful tool in delivering value to the business and to members. EBS had an aging client/server technology for mortgage origination that lacked flexibility and did not offer members intuitive and engaging ways to do business with the organization. Driven initially by the need to replace this mortgage origination system — a crucial tool for specialists in 100 branches across Ireland selling mortgages to members — EBS embarked on a major IT modernization project by starting at the beginning of a customer's journey with them.  Along the way they realized some substantial benefits:
  • Reduced time to process mortgage quotes by 62%
  • Determined member needs based on age, savings, debt, and other factors, using information from disparate systems
  • Linked with multiple systems to recommend a complete array of relevant financial products
  • Increased value of every member transaction
  • Transformed back-office system into dynamic, front-office sales tool
  • Cut total cost of ownership by leveraging existing SOA infrastructure
Another factor driving technology and business process transformation at EBS was the need to comply with “Know Your Customer” (KYC) regulations. KYC requires financial institutions to identify new clients and gather relevant information prior to conducting financial business with them.
“We stay ahead of the industry curve, and we wanted to be among the first to comply with KYC rules, but we saw KYC as more than just a compliance requirement,” says David Yeates, head of IT for EBS.. “We recognized that KYC was an opportunity to more efficiently gather new members’ financial information up-front to serve them more professionally and efficiently, and to tailor product and service offerings to their individual needs.”

EBS put in place a technology solution built on Adobe LiveCycle ES using Adobe Flex that leveraged its Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA), existing IBM WebSphere application server and IBM mainframe environment.

Other companies that also benefited from this focus on initial interactions and the purchase process include:
  • impuls systems, who signs up new customers online and streamlines closing contracts, strengthening competitive advantage and doubling online engagement. More
  • Verizon Wireless, who built an online storefront for engaging customer experience and increased revenue from online media assets. More

It starts with conversion, but don't stop there

Another key area to consider is the second call a customer makes. This is the call a customer makes after they have signed up and configured their product or service and are experiencing a service, product or administrative issue that is going to require some help.  If you acquired the customer online, you have a much better chance of successfully serving them online but you need to invest in this touchpoint to make it as seamless and effective as possible.  According to Forrester, more than 70% of customers still abandon online service and support situations in favor of more expensive support channels and this is hurting your brand image, impacting customer satisfaction and costing you money every time it happens.  For many executives I talk to this is the most important touch point and even if that is debatable the value of getting it right is not.

Rooted in the firm belief that there is no better place to receive medical treatment than in the healing environment of the home, Janus Health set out to transform the delivery of in-home care for doctors and patients. Janus built a rich Internet application (RIA) workspace leveraging Adobe LiveCycle ES solutions that enables doctors to provide full-service, compliant medical attention to patients in-home.

This initial investment not only provided payback in terms of the quality of care provided, it also helped the IT team to put a platform in place that they can build further projects on, effectively increasing the ROI of each subsequent project.
C. Gresham Bayne, an M.D. and Janus Health co-founder, told Adobe, “Escalating healthcare costs can be reduced dramatically by offering acute care in patients’ homes. Adobe LiveCycle ES provides vital tools for solving the complex information and business processing requirements for in-home healthcare."
Along the way they also realized some other benefits, including:
  • Streamlined compliance with privacy and Medicare regulations
  • Increased number of housecalls possible in one day
  • Reduced Medicare program administration costs
  • Automated processes for ordering prescription, imaging, equipment, and other critical services
You have to start somewhere

Your customers, partners and business suppliers interact with your company in a myriad of ways across multiple channels and using increasingly sophisticated systems and devices to do this.  Having a technology platform that can help you detangle the problem is a good place to start but an even better place to start is based on what customers need and how employees can help them.

According to Patricia Seybold, whose initiative strikes at the heart of this work, "You should realize that this is probably the most challenging and gratifying work you’ll ever do in your career. The satisfaction that comes from working on applications that touch the customer directly is immense. The continuous feedback you get from customers as they use these systems gives you clear, unequivocal priorities for each of your releases."

When you realize additional benefits along the way this is your customer karma and it's performing an important task in building your overall reputation.  It's bringing you happier, higher value customers and empowered, satisfied employees all based on the simple fact that together they can get things done and they can do it in a rewarding, engaging and frictionless way.  This feeling, coupled with some customer data and proofpoints prove that your efforts are focused on the right things.  Cultural and technology shifts will empower the next wave of even more successful and even more rewarding customer experiences.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

10 irregular predictions (and somewhat hilarious) stolen, borrowed, plagiarized and culled by Dennis Howlett

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‘Tis that time once again when analysts of all stripes have the Pavlov Dog urge to churn out predictions for the coming year. They can’t help themselves. In the spirit of injecting realism into such things here are my highly Irregular predictions for 2011. Some have been stolen, borrowed, plagiarized or culled from colleagues’ remarks on Twitter. You know who you are but trust me; I’m in media; I’ve got your backs.

  1. 2011 will be like 2010 only more so.

  2. Collaboration will be big. Somewhere.

  3. It will be increasingly cloudy. Especially in Manchester, north west England where they get 300 days of rain a year. Elsewhere, the IT media will be buried in cloudy press releases.

  4. Industry analysts wont revisit their 2010 predictions without massaging what they said before. Almost nobody will notice except those who keep an eye on quantitative analyses and call bull on the numbers.

  5. Industry analysts that got more than 10% of their predictions right will crow over their ability to predict the future. Nobody else will care.

  6. Industry analysts will make bold predictions for 2011 based on their current research agendas. Vendors whose offerings align will sign away millions in wasted ‘research.’

  7. Software will conclusively prove that cows are the biggest contributors to greenhouse gases. The ensuing bovine cull will ensure population starvation on a massive scale thus solving our climate change issues. Those flogging carbon solutions will be put out of business.

  8. Someone will insert an RSS enabled RFID device into Mark Zuckerberg’s rectum so that we all get to know what he really thinks about privacy. As a result, Zuck will have to endure a TSA pat down but will opt to be processed in a private area. That won’t prevent any of us from knowing what’s going on while enterprise security experts study the resultant data stream with interest.

  9. Social business consultants will win huge government contracts - to be executed from padded cells over the next 25 years. People like me will be relieved that the madness of social business has been correctly allocated the appropriate resources.

  10. Social media will suffer a backlash (oops - it’s already happened but the social media mavens didn’t notice. This is just to keep them up to speed.)


Saturday, December 04, 2010

200 Years In 4 Minutes

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Via the BBC, Hans Rosling examines the correlation between income growth and life expectancy in 200 countries over the last 200 hundred years in an amazing animation. Take a look:

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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

AAA on investment in CX and UX and measuring the payoff.

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UX Magazine sat down with Sylvia Veitia, Vice President of Member Experience at AAA at the Forrester Customer Experience Forum. This discussion was part of our ongoing effort to profile business UX leaders so other businesspeople can learn from the examples set by other managers and executives, and so practitioners and consultants can hear about UX from the client's perspective. You can read more about the Business UX Leaders Series here.