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An employee experience update – thought leadership from Microsoft

Microsoft, with its Employee Experience Platform called Viva, is driving some serious thought leadership for the category and since I work there and picked up on this (disclosure), I thought I would share.

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Beyond onboarding – growth hacking adoption of your product with customers

NOTE: Enterprise technology and Microsoft 365 (M365) customers are predominantly the context for this post but hopefully it is still useful more broadly. In this context, I define onboarding as the set of activities related to the initial provisioning and orientation of a technology for users. It should ensure that users have seamless access and knowledge of what to do when first logging in and orienting themselves with the product. Just some of the basic things to consider:

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Internal Communications is more important than ever but missing a trick

If you’ve been following anything I have written in the last few months around employee experience, you’ll see that it is equally as important and indeed crucial to customer experience but often lacks attention, although that is now changing. It’s similar to enterprise software which has often lagged behind end consumer software in terms of innovation and adoption. Likewise, internal communications is a vital ingredient in employee experience but I think its been missing a trick.

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Why hybrid work is the new standard for productivity and sense making

By hybrid work I mean a combination of remote and in-office work, virtual and physical, etc. The extremes have been tested. Before the pandemic it was mostly in-office work. With the pandemic its been all remote/virtual. Now many are coming to the conclusion that a balance is best, in other words, hybrid work. While the data tea leaves are still being sifted, I capture some of what I know on the subject, since I work in the space (disclosure), as well as from recent great articles.

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The employee customer experience connection – fundamentals

Here is an infographic with some supporting source material and an industry overview for context if you want it. Here too is where my interest and expertise in this space lie. This post is intended to dig a little deeper on the subject. Check out the diagram which captures a little more detail than I’ve gone into before and then the notes to elaborate – because its time to level up 💯

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Employee Experience Platform – the birth of a category

This week, Microsoft announced the launch of a new product called Viva (disclosure). Actually it is far more than a new product in many ways. It is also an attempt at consolidating technologies in the employee experience category as well as creating the category. It is also a shrewd leverage of the Teams as a Platform strategy which I have written about several times. Since Viva will be served exclusively through Teams, this is a perfect execution of the Teams as a Platform strategy. And it brings the new product and its functionalities into the Flow of Work.

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Cloudy with a chance of churn and how to retain your SaaS customers

One of the first things a customer will question in a downturn, is where they can cut or reduce recurring payments or OPEX. They will look for any reason, rational or otherwise. Licensing commitments aside, if you are a SaaS business and have been doing your job well, they should find only reasons to stay. Going forward, you can also do things to keep them committed.

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Zen and the right view of cloud technologies

On the path to the cloud, just as in life (as the Buddha would have us understand), one must submit our most cherished assumptions to rigorous questioning. We would make better decisions if we were clearer about the foundations of our own thinking. Cloud technology is a vast subject and this post tackles just a few assumptions, in the spirit of the DharmaHacker.

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Ways auto industry can transform with As a Service and employee experience

The automotive industry is scrambling to transform itself in various areas: green (move to electric); smart (move to connected), etc. Much is being driven by nimble startups like Tesla, unencumbered by legacy concerns. This post focuses on two two areas that could further drive the turnaround and may be even more important because they are in white space.

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The role of innovation in customer success

Customer Success activities are maturing. I have been doing the job since at least 2012 and have seen the profession go through fundamental changes to the point where, to succeed now, you need to be innovating.

I started writing about the role of customer success in relation to customer experience and the subscription economy almost 18 months ago in this post: Customer experience, the subscription economy and 10 ways success teams will make you win.

Just in the time since that post things have changed. There is a constant need to update thinking and refocus. Innovation is be the tip of the iceberg in many ways.

Icebergs

Click to enlarge

The iceberg is not just a turn of phrase. It plays a prominent role in my thinking. I’ve captured other elements using the analogy of an iceberg in the past: The customer success and experience iceberg. These focus on the relationship between customer success and customer experience. They also focus more on the input and output of the two activities.

The iceberg is a useful metaphor and you will see me using it constantly. Customer success as a practice and overarching philosophy should be built and grown to a point where you are mature enough that constant innovation becomes the standard. In the featured image of this post you should see how innovation forms part of the tip of these three elements: build, grow, innovate.

Innovation

Innovation has always been a part of the equation for me and you should see that from the post I wrote 18 months ago and linked above – here is the section covering it. The three subsections below also still also hold true.

  • Automation and AI
  • As a Service
  • SaaS 2.0

Innovation is also at the apex of the maturity model I developed so its fitting to be doubling down on it: The Customer Success Team Maturity Model. The growing and building aspects remain important as they also form the basis for my mentoring.

Outside of the maturity model which relates to activities within the organisation, the profession has reached a point of maturity that means doing customer success well is not enough to differentiate you.

And as all industries face the growing power of the customer and all companies focus on meeting customer demands better, so innovation that drives better customer experiences becomes key.

As a Service Trend Report

The As a Service part which is listed as a subsection of innovation in customer success above will actually be the focus of a new trend report. It will incorporate customer success practices and innovation in this as well as many other practices.

It will also cover innovation as a whole, insofar as practices that are successful in one industry can be adopted by other industries to innovate. Find out more about the report by hitting the button below.

Other considerations

Innovation is a key focus area but as part of this, other considerations need to be borne in mind, within customer success as well as the broader As a Service trend. I’ll cover them in the trend report as well.

  1. Employee Experience. Addressing this leads to good customer experience – there is a powerful connection, see my daneldoodle below. I see the impact of the connection in the work I do and mentor on every day.
  2. Role of Leadership. This is critical in setting the tone in terms of mindset and culture which is so necessary for success with customers and creating great experiences. I will also cover trends in the creation of the Chief Customer Officer or other senior roles like it that indicate the growing importance of and focus on the customer.
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Leading the right behaviours through metrics and new work models

Metrics drive behaviour. Organisations also know that they can better manage, what they can measure.

So if you want to change behaviours, look at the metrics you are using and how they are driving behaviours.

You also need to look at the models and frameworks in which the metrics are contextualised and which drive them.

The foundation

A while back I felt that an overarching model or framework for the modern organisation did not exist considering the many accelerating changes we face.

An holistic one that encompassed business needs as well as that of the individual and collection of individuals that go to make a business work.

One that was current and kept up with the times.

Abraham Maslow defined a model for the individual that started at a basic level and went through increasing levels of motivation through to actualisation.

It has been broadly adopted in many fields, including business and has survived the times. It focuses on the individual. I wondered if a similar model could apply to organisations and the Modern Organisations Hierarchy of Needs was born.

The application of an existing and accepted framework/model to a new field is nothing new and works if the respective fields have similarities and largely they do.

The new framework/model has been well received and even replicated since which is validation to some degree.

What is missing?

For one, the quantifiable, measurable determinants that would validate the levels and allow it be applied in a real world context.

Further external validation of the model itself is needed too.

I teamed up with Natalia Dobias (a colleague at Microsoft and a change management consultant) and we set about exploring the options.

One task has been to look at whether we could make the current model measurable and the reason for this post.

There are other factors we are going to look at to validate and indeed improve the model if we can.

In this post I wanted to work openly to capture and progress my thoughts on measurement of business performance in the context of the existing model. A classic sensemaking piece.

My theory is that if there are valid metrics being used out there for the many different levels and aspects of the current model, that is a form of validation.

What do good measures in the current model look like

On the basis of some simple Google searches I found a few good posts in each category and chose the ones that ranked at the top and I thought did the best job of covering the category. The exercise was simply to see if the category was covered and how well, as a proxy for its importance.

  1. Business metrics. Loads of results for this category as you would expect. Here is a great post that captures a wide array of business metrics. The author has done a good job of collating a range of metrics covering financial, human resource, marketing, sales and SaaS metrics. So many of these sub categories fit into mine below, naturally.
  2. Technology and Space metrics. This is also a broad area so some elaboration. This post covers the technology side on the pure IT function metrics but that is just one area. How technology helps achieve specific business outcomes requires delving into each business category the technology supports in helping to achieve those outcomes. That’s another area, for example, CRM tools are clearly designed to focus on driving revenue metrics for sales teams. Then, as with Microsoft where I currently work and perhaps uniquely, there is technology to help track personal and organisational productivity through use of technology. On space metrics, there is lots on the facilities management front, this post for example. What I was keen to find out was the impact of physical space on employees and any metrics that were used to judge that. Do a Google search on the keywords in italics and you will find much on the subject. I’ve kept these two areas together because technology is increasingly intertwined with the physical, think IoT, digital twins, etc.
  3. Culture metrics. Lots of results on querying this category. Some great pointers in this post and I thought worth mentioning because of its well rounded and holistic views on how culture impacts other areas, eg, innovation, collaboration, etc.
  4. Performance and learning metrics. My first port of call is metrics that HR departments will use to manage employee performance – great post here on that and many more besides. Similarly on the learning and development side which is a pretty robust field of study with a good post on that here.
  5. Creativity and innovation metrics. As I was hoping and expecting, tons of results on the innovation side and not just focused on R&D activities, the traditional domain for innovation performance measurement. This article captures some really good alternative metric categories for innovation. Creativity is a little more nebulous but is often tied into innovation. This discussion thread and in the last comment a whole bunch of excellent onward links, identifies the challenges and opportunities for measuring these two inter-related areas.

Other factors and new work models

In early discussions, Natalia and I have identified a bunch of opportunities for improvements and further work to develop a more robust model. I’ll share those here as we progress.

Metrics are just one aspect but you have to start somewhere and this is as good a place as any. This post does work that I never did on the model too, so is also a good start.

Metrics have shortcomings when they are purely business focused as I have been in this post. Without a sense check on ethical, social, humanitarian and other grounds, you could be blinded. By any measure (pun intended) there are some classic mistakes of this having gone wrong.

So the one thing that I think is missing from the model so far is the social impact of an organisation’s activities. Also the collective effort of the organisation – the network or community which was a problem identified in criticism of Maslow’s original Hierarchy of Needs – see underlined part that comes from Wikipedia. An organisation is after all a collection of individuals striving to achieve a singular purpose.

Natalia and I have our work cut out. This is a beast of an exercise but imagine having a “theory of everything” for the modern organisation. I’m looking forward to the journey in any event.

If you have any thoughts, research or experience to share, please hit us up in a comment below.

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The connected car vision is missing a few connections

The connected car is the future for automotive companies.

There is a lot going on in this space. I know because in my business, I have several customers in the industry.

But you don’t need to be in the business to know.

I recently purchased a car. It’s connected and awesome, I’m impressed.

But my experience taught me that something is missing.

I did not need too many people to help make the decision on the company and car I chose.

I made my decision and purchased without seeing the car physically. I investigated many options with various companies and did it mostly online. Talking to sales people was necessary at certain points.

I also made a decision to lease a car which will be up for renewal in 2.5 years.

That part took some time. To understand all the nuances I had to speak to people.

Dealing with the people and in many cases the online experience around many of the decision factors was mostly an awful grind.

That was all leading up to my decision.

In 2.5 years I will decide to continue with the same car and company, or not, based on a different experience. Some of that experience will be based on the car, including its connected features, some on further experience with the company.

I’ve not had much to do with the company since. The experience with the company after I decided was mostly good but it could have been a lot better.

I’ve opened up all communication channels with the company. I’ve made myself as receptive to the experience as possible. Time will tell.

Some questions for the industry

I get that the connected car concept is all about technology but is the industry thinking enough about other necessary connections?

Does it get the connection between experience and satisfaction and that this derives from many (often joined up) factors like people, technology and processes?

When the experience derives from people do they make the connection between the employee experience and how this influences the customer experience? To be specific I’m thinking that employees that have a great experience and are satisfied at work reflect that on to the customer.

Do they get that the rules of ownership are changing. Many do, getting in on the subscription model business, e.g. BMW and Lexus, Mercedes Benz, Volvo, etc. But do they realise subscription models bring new responsibilities?

Do they get how influential experience is in driving decisions, especially ongoing decisions about staying with a company or product, or not?

Do they get that technology is easily copied but experience isn’t?

Conversely, does it get that technology could play such a large role in connecting not just the internet of things for instance, but the internet of human experience?

They would probably say yes to all of the above. From my rhetorical questions you might guess where I lie on the matter. I guess it’s a question of maturity.

My recent experience and these questions are useful for the eBook / trend report I’m writing so excellent grist for the mill. I will try and answer them and provide recommendations. In the meantime…

Three ways I suggest the industry can start improving:

  1. Be more SaaS. The Software as a Service industry has learned a trick or two about how to build superb customer experience and the importance of customer retention and lifetime value. Specifically adopt many customer success approaches. Use the product itself (the car, starting with onboarding) as a core part of the experience with add on technology to enhance it through ongoing interactions that are data driven and point interactions with humans to amplify and delight.
  2. Extend the experience map. Map experience from employee through to customer and deliver on it from end to end. See it as an holistic journey that is harmoniously interdependent and made up of many parts: people, process, technology. Many are doing experience mapping but not adequately and not end to end in the way described.
  3. Bolster your employee experience. Its not just about the customer. This so often lags with employees playing second fiddle especially with the technology that supports work not matching what the customer gets. Robots and automation, especially in the auto industry, may play an increasing role but for the foreseeable future, humans will still play a disproportionate role in creating and nurturing human experience. Customer experience starts with employee experience.