The ten principles behind great customer experiences (Matt Wilkinson)

Book review: A few good ideas on an important topic, which falls short in part because of the very hubris it criticizes. An honest and more useful title would be: “Some ideas for better customer experiences”. It’s mercifully a light read, the introduction chapters make some interesting points (for instance that companies depend on appeasing the financial god’s short term requirements which is putting their long term viability in jeopardy) although clearly on shaky ground when talking about economic history.

The ideas ranked by usefulness:

“Great customer experiences satisfy our higher objectives.” A more useful way of putting it: we need to keep an eye on what our customers are actually looking for (which they may not be expressing correctly as they’re not product experts) and what they actually value and are prepared to pay for; so we’re talking about core, not necessarily higher, objectives. Marketing has long known this (at least anyone who read Theodore Levitt’s Marketing Myopia) but companies have drifted farther and farther away.

“Great customer experiences set and meet expectations”. Indeed.

“Great customer experiences are effortless / stress free”. This can be understood as the equivalent of good industrial design: if it’s good the customer won’t notice it; which doesn’t mean it will be effortless and stress free for those designing the better experience.

“Great customer experiences strongly reflect the customer’s identity / are socially engaging / consider the emotions”. Our customer’s reasons for buying our product have social and psychological components which we need to take into account; particularly when our customers are interacting among themselves on the web; old style advertising knows this but the noise it generates is widely ignored by consumers, we now have the opportunity to respond, attract, seduce, cut through the noise, instead of throwing mud at our customers.

“Great customer experiences put the customer in control”. A more useful idea is that great customer experiences take into account that the customer already has more control.

So that’s four nice ideas for the price of seven. Now to the not so useful “principles”:

“Great customer experiences leave nothing to chance”. The problem is the customer experience then becomes a huge, never ending inward looking project; companies need to choose where to invest to improve their customer’s experience the most.

“Great customer experiences indulge the senses”. This sounds like smell-o-vision and design frippery: good design makes the experience more productive, easier, gets out of the way; we want to help, not to wow with clever design.

 

The Internet’s Original Sin (Ethan Zukerman, the Atlantic)

It’s not too late to ditch the ad-based business model and build a better web. Must read.

Stuck on advertising and investor storytime: “Investor storytime is when someone pays you to tell them how rich they’ll get when you finally put ads on your site.”

“most online advertising doesn’t follow your interest; it competes for your attention. It’s a barrier you have to overcome… to get to the article or interaction you want”. Amen!

“our attention, as viewers, is worth only a penny an hour to Facebook’s advertisers”

“Targeting to intent (as Google’s search ads do) works well, while targeting to demographics, psychographics or stated interests (as Facebook does) works marginally better than not targeting at all.”

Advertising on the web downsides:

  1. Advertising implies some sort of surveillance.
  2. Generates clickbait, “but little thoughtful engagement”.
  3. Centralized, bigger companies buy start ups.
  4. Personalization creates silos.

I would add a 5th downside: companies are out of the loop of their customers’ experience, are missing out on the opportunity for their customers to achieve better results with their products, to enable customers to contribute to the overall experience, for instance by telling companies which options they’re looking for, appreciate more and would be willing to pay for.

Micropayments are part of the solution; web solutions are now within the grasp of companies to engage their customers directly, ditching ads altogether.

ICANN explained to unitedstaters (Vint Cerf)

 

The Internet under threat

Spot the bad guy

‘Father of the internet’ Vint Cerf explains ICANN. (Via Engadget). ICANN is the organisation responsible for translating easily usable domain names (samizdats. wordpress.com) into ip numbers (192.168.1.1).

Explanation to unitedstaters: we’re not giving it away to evil superpowers, we’re just trying to make it more democratic.

We now need an explanation for everyone else: how come the US is supposedly giving away it’s authority over ICANN when it’s been thwarting democracy all over the planet for decades? The elections in Egypt don’t come out with the right winners? You can’t support that kind of democracy! And the list goes on and on.

The easy, lazy answer is a conspiracy theory: they’re not really giving away the authority; and this conspiracy suits quite a lot of people, like the Russian plutocracy, the Chinese Politburo and everyone for whom conspiracies explain the entire universe.

The more interesting point is a dual morality, in which unitedstaters see themselves as the good guys, and everyone else sees them as the bad guys. When confronted with reality would unitedstaters accept themselves as the bad guys or would they reject the horrors done in their name? This also applies to everyone else, to varying degrees but without this relativity making the point irrelevant.

The take away is that we all need to confront this reality and choose who we want to be, the good guys or the bad guys who twistedly try to think of themselves as the good guys, or the victims. There are hints of this dilemma in popular culture: Carmela Soprano scorns the cop who stops her husband “instead of the drug dealers”: she knows where the money comes from, she’s the drug dealer’s wife, and her actions will have repercussions.

10 things you need to know about the global food system (The Guardian)

Informative and entertaining 12 minute video from feedingninebillion.com.

Their four proposed solutions:

  1. Science and tech: Local solutions for local challenges. As opposed to one size fits all, like North American products for Europe, o European methods for sub saharan Africa.
  2. Improve distribution; short term food aid. The naysayers will forget their christian roots in the altar of mammon and talk about communism; it’s plain morality and common sense, although not without putting corruption in the picture.
  3. Local food systems as a buffer. Not as the way to feed everyone.
  4. Stronger regulation, for farmers, for finance, for the environment. “Left unregulated, financial institutions behave badly” amen! The baying naysayers will see this as unnecessary government meddling in spite of the obvious market crisis; government intervention does need to be transparently controlled,

I would propose a fifth: consumer responsibility helped by transparency: Where does our food come from? Who does the farmer have to pay to produce? Which nasty corporations would we not want to ultimately be buying from (taking into account that only a handful of them supply most of the grain for instance)?

All solutions depend on the willingness to do something, which goes against dogma (the market gods know what they’re doing, we don’t want to make them angry) and sheer stupidity (the party of no in the US); unchecked government action is not enough.

 

Education vs success (Heather Havrilesky)

Learned Helplessness (Bookforum, via Le Nouvel Observateur): “Do we want to populate our planet with self-concerned, ultracompetitive warriors, or compassionate citizens?”

The answer will be obvious and completely opposite when read in the US (success means money, everyone else is a loser) or France (success means a balanced human being).

The deeper question is the same for all children, and follows Elizabeth Spiegel’s approach: help kids be responsible for their actions; show them their mistake but don’t put them down, help them overcome obstacles; this goes against the cult of the rich, self righteous sociopath in the US, but also against expecting the State to provide the means to achieve “normality” as in France.

There is a further element: the weight of social / psychological issues: what if normality means failing? What if any sort of progress, social, cultural, monetary, is frowned upon by those around you? This is a reality at least in all of Latinamerica, African-American US.

Problem: Hollande seemed a nice guy, is now seen as incompetent; nasty but hyperactive Sarko still lurks.

Consequence: nice people need to learn how to put the nasty, dominating people in their place, show how pathetic their “success” is; this has an extension for social democracy caught in between vociferous extremists.

Consequence: tiger moms are particularly ridiculous.