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Framing your customer success efforts for success

In your customer success efforts, especially when you are going deep with several high touch engagements, you have to think about how to spread yourself for maximum effect. It may be exacerbated when you have several customers each with several engagements. How do you choose what will benefit the customer the most with scarce resources and achieve your goals within your organisation? I have a simple framework and here it is below.

It’s pretty simple really, which is a critical component of any good sensemaking framework 🙂

Scale of impact

What potential does the engagement hold for making an impact, this is the central question.

To answer this, you must first look to the customer engagement and what it is trying to achieve.

If it’s framed in terms of the right business outcomes, you are off to a good start.

If those outcomes are quantified in the right way, you should be able to tie in your engagement activities to those outcomes.

If the scale of impact is high in terms of achieving high returns and the customer holds these returns as a major priority, you are on a good path.

Ability to influence outcomes

This is a kind of sanity test. I mean you can nail the aforementioned activity on scale of impact perfectly but if you have limited means of achieving what you’ve identified, it’s no good.

Your ability to achieve the right business outcomes could have as much to do with resources on your side as those on the customer’s side. Or your organisational intent or that of the customer, or some other blockers that may prevent you from achieving the right outcomes.

So think carefully not only about why and what you want to achieve but also how. If the latter is missing, this should be a major factor in reaching the next point.

Prioritised solutions

You could use a scoring mechanism to help in this task but that’s probably not necessary. You should be able to tell just by plotting the engagements into a visual multidimensional matrix, focused on the two activities covered by two axes – as per below.

This is not rocket science, just sensible thinking. Good luck with your customer success engagements 💪💥

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The rental mindset and path to freedom

Nothing is ours, not even our bodies. We always rent never own. This is liberating. I have written about this before in the context of products and commerce: The end of ownership and the rise of usership. But I am referring in this post to a mindset, a way of seeing things that can lead to a more fulfilling life.

Liberation from attachment

Liberation comes when you realise that nothing you have gained in this life can be taken with you, nothing materially a least. And that most of our concepts of ownership come from an attachment to things.

We think that the more we own of something, the more it makes of us and also the more control we have.

Ownership is like a proxy for control. We feel if we own it, we can control it and have more rights than when we are just a custodian, a mere borrower. Okay this does not apply to everyone (think of those that trash an Airbnb property) but at least to everyone with a moral compass.

Yes some things can be passed on, like a house that falls to your dependents. But you cannot take your house with you. And while you can enjoy it, we sometimes invest far too much of ourselves into our homes than is warranted. It ends up owning us in some cases – think of overly burdensome mortgages.

The ephemeral truth that sets you free

I don’t know why we long so for permanence, why the fleeting nature of things so disturbs. In every nook and cranny, nature screams at the top of her lungs that nothing lasts, that it is all passing away.

When, as nature does, you accept that all is ephemeral, transient and passing away, then you can let go control and be truly free.

Then you can ride the wave and enjoy the thing and the moment. You have no commitment to anything.

It doesn’t mean you don’t have any obligations, as mentioned you do. You have a duty to look after and be responsible in your use and not just to enjoy.

When you can see things as just a renter, not an owner, and do this beyond just material things, then you are free.

Be free.

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How Microsoft Viva can drive Performance – Correlating and Tracking Business Outcomes

I’m doing a lot of Microsoft Viva work with customers (disclosure) as well as working on a trend report on a related subject, so I am constantly thinking about where this work leads to. The obvious question is what kind of business outcome you are trying to achieve and how do you measure it. This post is to share some initial thinking. Anyone who reads this and is involved in similar work, I’d love your input so I can advance this very quick attempt (hence thought rocket).

So first let me elaborate on the format briefly. It’s just a simple table. I felt it was a nice way to achieve what I wanted. Aside from the structure you can create, it kind of helps to list things out. I wanted to have almost a catalogue that I could capture existing work with but also help stimulate future work (or at least thinking around it). The table below is a combination of those things. Considering there are so many modules in Viva, the structure was helpful to work around them too.

Click to enlarge

I don’t think the structure and the breakdowns need much more elaboration – they are fairly self-evident. What is much more important is what goes inside them and the references and descriptions I use.

I’ve had to make this generic and I’ve not added specific targets but the clues to what those would be is in the KPI/Outcome column.

As mentioned, some of these are based on real work and some just ideas. As mentioned, would love any input – just add a comment if you have any. This is still very much a work in progress and any work I do or input I receive I’ll progress this perspective further with.

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The compelling reasons to find and trust your inner voice

Ironically, the basis for this post was formulated after reading the thoughts shared by the author of a book I am currently reading, which in turn is based on the thoughts of someone else.

The essence of the thought is that too often we are swayed and influenced by others rather than finding and trusting our own inner voice.

The book I am reading is The Socrates Express: In Search of Life Lessons from Dead Philosophers by Eric Weiner.

I am currently reading the chapter on Arthur Schopenhauer. A relevant extract from that chapter below (first paragraph starts with a quote from Schopenhauer):

“No greater mistake can be made than to imagine that what has been written latest is always the more correct; that what is written later on is an improvement on what was written previously; and that every change means progress.”

We make this mistake every time we click mindlessly, like a lab rat pulling a lever, hoping for a reward. What form this reward will take we don’t know, but that is beside the point. Like Schopenhauer’s hungry readers, we confuse the new with the good, the novel with the valuable.

I am guilty of this. I’m constantly checking and rechecking my digital vital signs. While writing this paragraph, I have checked my email (nothing), opened my Facebook page (Pauline’s birthday, must remember to send her a note), placed a bid for a nice leather backpack on eBay, checked my email again (still nothing), ordered a disturbingly large quantity of coffee, upped my bid for that backpack, and checked my email again (still nothing).

The encyclopaedia was the Internet in Schopenhauer’s day, and nearly as seductive. Why puzzle over a problem when the solution is readily available in a book? Because, answers Schopenhauer, “it’s a hundred times more valuable if you have arrived at it by thinking for yourself.” Too often, he said, people jump to the book rather than stay with their thoughts. You should read only when your own thoughts dry up.’

Substitute “click” for “read” and you have our predicament. We confuse data with information, information with knowledge, and knowledge with wisdom. This tendency worried Schopenhauer. Everywhere he saw people scrambling for information, mistaking it for insight. “It does not occur to them,” he wrote, “that information is merely a means toward insight and possesses little or no value in itself” I’d go a step further. This excess of data – noise, really -has negative value and diminishes the possibility of insight. Distracted by the noise, we don’t hear the music.

I would say that in my writing, such as on this blog, my guilt is that I too often refer to others. I am too quick in finding validation from and through others.

This is unsurprising since this was the foundation of good blogging back when it first started. That is, hyperlinking and the web of connections and ultimately knowledge this builds up.

Fill your head too much with the ideas of others though and they will displace your own.

While I am not suggesting that the habit of referencing others work and building on the ideas of others is not a good one (on the contrary), I do think we should be more mindful about our inner voice.

Sometimes it’s good to shut the world out and home in on that inner voice. Here is how I think we will benefit.

Benefits of developing your inner voice

  1. Evolving intuition. As much as you might believe that data is the better basis for understanding and making decisions, this is not about a choice. Regardless the weight that intuition and gut feeling play in your decisions (in life and at work), it plays a role. You should hone the skill as much as you can and that is best done by listening to your inner voice.
  2. Build your unique differentiation. Especially in personal brand efforts, it pays to have your own voice that stands out. That you have considered deeply what you stand for and believe in and you can speak that truth widely – it will be appreciated.
  3. Focus. Simply put, you will be less distracted by the clicks. When you need to be that is. As mentioned, there is sense in seeking to build evidence, but when you need to focus, it sometimes makes sense to shut out the outside world and focus on what you have learned and putting it all together yourself.
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Everything can change except values

I’m reminded of this truth in the title which comes from an early interview with Tim Cook of Apple I discovered the other day that I had bookmarked. It is focused on the technology business and it’s an observation on how Steve Jobs worked and it really resonated with me. It can easily transcend the technology business.

Here’s a relevant piece from the article:

There’s this thing in technology, almost a disease, where the definition of success is making the most. How many clicks did you get, how many active users do you have, how many units did you sell? Everybody in technology seems to want big numbers. Steve never got carried away with that. He focused on making the best.

Tim Cook, Apple

I do wonder if we in the Customer Success business as I am, sometimes focus too much on the clicks, active users, units consumed over the amazing that we help our customers deliver? Are our values and focus right?

I and many of my professional colleagues in the space have moved much more to a model where business outcomes matter. This is more values based, value for the customer.

But I am often guilty of obsessing over the changes in those numbers Tim refers to. Often it is in pursuit of the targets we are chasing, driven by senior executives. So one must guard against this.

Now as our world is changing rapidly before our eyes, and in many ways terribly, I am reminded of this truth more broadly.

It looks like the world is rallying around the right values. People, companies, countries are standing up for what is right and what they believe in while all around them, age old wisdoms about the order of things change. They have been reminded of what is important and what values matter.

Time will tell if the values were the right ones and whether they have prevailed.

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Hackathons the MVP and lean startup

I’ve been doing a lot of work recently supporting customers with their hackathon efforts. It’s been especially focused on use of Microsoft Power Platform and Teams as core technology platforms underpinning the hackathons. I captured a best practice story about that and this is based on the many hackathons I’ve been involved in over the years.

Click to enlarge

But what I wanted to cover here was a thought rocket on where hackathons fit in to the innovation cycle using MVP’s and the Lean Startup cycle as context.

I see this as a kind of sweet spot for hackathons – cue DanelDoodle.

One key focus of a hackathon would be that it is used as a starting point for MVP’s (a key principle of Lean Startup methodology), as a main outcome of the event. That is, the winner’s ideas get taken forward for further implementation.

Thus a relatively simple yet collaboratively rich and less risky way for finding ideas to experiment with that then get taken forward through building prototypes.

Cheap and rapid experiments systematically lower innovation failure rates and risk.

These can be stage gated along the way with checks and balances so that they are constantly being evaluated for risk and future development (or not). A key measure should be through data.

The Lean Startup cycle is one of the most flexible approaches and you can easily see how what I have suggested fits in, but other innovation process flows could be considered.

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3 ways to automate WordPress and improve content creation

This is a test post to some degree as well as an explainer. I’ve been trying to work out the best way to get a post out without needing to tend to some of the tedious chores of publishing a post every time. I want to get those out the way fast so I can focus on the writing. Read on to see what I am trying out.

I make use of featured images – a lot. I try have them in every post except when I create a DanelDoodle because then the doodle becomes the only image I want the reader to focus on.

Most of the time I create custom featured images for each post because when you share on social media, the central part of the featured image stands out. Sometimes it matters less so I looked at several ways of to automate the creation of a featured image.

One was super simple which I loved but there was no way to distinguish between posts and pages (Default Featured Image). Another broke my site since the plugin hadn’t been tested to work with my version of WordPress (Auto Post Thumbnail). The third worked a charm: Quick Featured Images.

The featured image (and thumbnail) for this post was automatically generated by using the plugin so its a step I can skip when creating posts with a specific tag. I’ve started with this and will see how I go but so far so good.

Social Sharing

click to enlarge

I had a challenge with the social sharing function in the past but I am now trying to see if it has been fixed. I’m referring to the Jetpack function that you see in the screenshot.

In the past, the message I would write for the audience would overwrite the heading and excerpt I normally capture at the start of the post or in the SEO description.

I don’t want that to happen.

I would prefer it if the message was displayed in addition to the title and the excerpt I normally see.

That is because each plays its own role in making content stand out. I have been doing it manually for the last year or so but am hoping this will now work and save me more time.

Once this post is published, I’ll come back and confirm how it worked.

Block Templates

There are two ways to do this:

  1. Reusable blocks. This entire page and its layout can be saved as a reusable block. I would first have to group the elements I would want to reuse and then save the group. There’s more on that from WordPress. This does not included the featured image however and nor the headline.
  2. Copy post. I could just go to my list of posts that have been published and copy the entire post. This would copy everything and then I just need to change the things I want to change but everything else in terms of structure, would remain. More on that here.
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3 reasons retailers are leading at the intersection of employee and customer experience

As the featured image suggests, this is a thought rocket, some sensemaking on the fly – essentially some quick thoughts on a recent development, announcement, etc.

This post is related to a trend I am watching: Employee Customer Experience Connection. My thinking is captured in the title, in essence. It came to me on discovering the video from Samsung after which I have also added some additional thoughts:

This is really inspiring and makes total sense. It’s well within the realm of the possible so I don’t think this is just marketing fluff.

I dug a little deeper and found this article: Here’s how retailers can improve employee and customer experiences.

So clearly the hero’s of this video are Scandit technology and the Galaxy XCover Pro. But Microsoft Teams on which I work a lot (disclosure) also cracks a nod in the article.

That makes total sense and Microsoft is doing a lot of work with retailers on this – check this video out showing how the venerable institution that is Marks & Spencer in the UK, is using Teams to support their frontline workers.

Here’s why retailers are leading

  1. Frontline workers often kept things afloat and profitable during the pandemic and are the face of employee experience (EX) and customer experience (CX). It’s where the rubber hits the road. Frontline workers in retail (unlike in manufacturing) are interacting with customers all the time – there really does have to be a meeting of these two experience connections as I have posited in the trend that I am watching – see infographic below which I created for this. The Samsung video really illustrates this superbly for this industry specifically.
  2. In 2022, labour shortages in general but acutely for this industry will force organisations to take a closer look at the intersection of their experience data. They will need to optimise these experiences to wring out every possible efficiency in an highly pressured and competitive environment – those that do so will win. The way to do it is through insight as to how the company is delivering through and for these two critical stakeholder groups – employee and customer.
  3. Employees want what customers already have – consumer grade experiences. And nowhere is it more evident than in retail and especially when online shopping has also exploded. So consumers have become expert at using digital to enhance their shopping experience. Employees had better be up to the same level and need/want to be – often customers in store will confront employees with the fruits of their expertise and knowledge. Internal employee tools are often not up to scratch but that is changing – see the M&S experience and how vendors like Microsoft are beefing up their support to the retail industry.

I’ve also written about the retail industry in a special section of my latest trend report – you can find out more about that and get the report by hitting the button:

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Thought Rocket: I tweet therefore I am

I tweet therefore I am is a gloss on Descartes I’ve reinterpreted this last year. Cogito, ergo sum – I think, therefore I am. A philosophical statement that was first made in Latin by René Descartes. My take is a modern twist on that because I don’t believe in it.

Continue reading Thought Rocket: I tweet therefore I am
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Homo Deus and the cosmic dance between humans, mind and machine

I’ve just come back from holiday where I read Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari.

It focuses on many things and chiefly the direction is forward looking, as opposed to his first book, Homo Sapiens, which looked backward from whence we have come.

One aspect I was fascinated by was his account of the recognised decoupling of consciousness and intelligence and how this might play out in the future given the rise of “machines” and their impact on humans.

With machines and technology getting bad press of late, I thought it would be useful to highlight the positives that I see.

It’s very much in line with my take on Dharma Hacking – more below.

I created a #daneldoodle of course, to summarise my thinking. Here it is:

And some added notes to elaborate:

Why the Dharma Hacking in the title? There is more here on what it is but essentially it is based on the the interplay between humans finding our way, developing our mental capacity (especially consciousness) and using technology to help.

We have only just scratched the surface in terms of expanding our known mental states and utilising our super consciousness.

Technology, far from being the bogey man that it currently is, can greatly help us get there.

It plays its role (intelligence), we play ours (consciousness), in a unique cosmic dance of creativity.

In this past post (The post robotic AI age and the role of creativity and innovation) I think I was somewhat deluded in my belief of what will distinguish humans based on their unique skills in the future. Intelligent technology will be able to master these skills and are already (see next point) but it will be advanced levels of consciousness (super consciousness) that will be our unique differentiators.

AI and Super AI is already doing credibly well with being creative and innovative. Check out the comments in this video I uploaded a while ago of famed theoretical physicist and futurist, Michio Kaku (you’ll need to view the video on YouTube for that). He also it appears, was deluded.

How technology will help us develop our consciousness and to what ends is outlined in some of the elements I position in the doodle. Essentially it is between the island on which we currently find ourselves with our known mental states and the antipodes of the mind as I call them. I’m not sure what these supporting roles and end states all are yet but I will be exploring further – watch this space 😊

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Thought Rocket: State of Enterprise Collaboration

As the title of this post suggests, this is a very quick thought on the state of enterprise collaboration, mostly captured in the form of a DanelDoodle – the one above. Some added thoughts/considerations:

  • In my view, each new phase supplements the last, not replaces and all products and forms of activity still exist and have a place today. But there is a natural, progressive emphasis.
  • There are many other products, I have just highlighted the major ones, no offence to the ones I left out 😁
  • The penetration & value axis is wildly subjective and not intended to be accurate. Also because it conflates two characteristics it will be difficult to judge accurately. It’s just a stab at plotting what’s important.
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Thought Rocket: Anatomy of a Perfect Customer Success

I captured a few simple points in a video a few weeks back in a flash of contemplation (hence thought rocket). Other than capture and share it here I wanted to elaborate a little. First the video:

The first thing to say is that customer success is not an isolated event or activity and this video and its content should not be taken to mean that.

Customer success is a series of purposeful activities or events which over time lead to the customer achieving their intended outcomes.

That is my super simple definition specifically as context for this post.

The 5 points captured in the video are merely outcomes that can be captured at any given time and may characterise a single moment of success. There could be many others. These are my top five. These and the others happening repeatedly over time would constitute long term customer success. This would be the true customer success.

So now onto a wee bit of elaboration on each of the 5 points because this is a thought rocket after all and I don’t want to over think it.

1. Outcomes

Probably the most important thing about any short or long term success is that a business outcome is achieved. Of course the ideal is that it is positive and satisfies the customer but I would also say that it should be the result of purposeful intent. That means you achieved what you set out to achieve. Unintended outcomes can happen and you can even allow for those and they can be of greater consequence. But better would be those that were achieved as a result of purposeful cause and effect planning because this can lead to repeat-ability.

2. Stories

Being able to capture a success in a way that it inspires greater use, adoption, success and value creation is best. Not all successes can be made into a great story. Stories are what capture the imagination and drive greater momentum but the detail of that is for another post.

3. Reuse

If the success can be reapplied in the same area (team or department say) or ideally even more broadly (another team or even department or company) then so much the better. This again drives further use, adoption and success and is fundamentally a scale lever.

4. Measurable

The ability to quantify or qualify the success in some way greatly increases the value of the success. Nothing succeeds like tangible, measurable success. Especially if it fits in with predefined targets you intended to achieve and then you blow them out the water. I’m talking KPI’s baby 🎯 😁

5. Permanence and impact

If it succeeds in changing behaviour and sticks then so much the better. Most customer success efforts are oriented around driving a change in behaviour so that different outcomes are achieved. This is most often the promise of the new technology being sold, implemented and adopted. So this becomes “très importante”.

What else, what have I missed, what would be your top 5 – let me know in a comment if you dare 😜

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Thought Rocket: The Conversation is the Collaboration

Workplace chat is something I am heavily focused on at the moment, i.e. my customers use of Microsoft Teams. Either through lack of knowledge or legacy thinking, I’m faced with initial confusion. This quick video aims to tackle that.

I’m trying to emphasise that it’s not about the many things I get asked to address first. After doing a demo, often the immediate questions are around how to structure files and folders, Teams and the different environments themselves, how to organise Teams and Channels, Tabs, etc.

I try get to the essence of a tool like Teams. For me it’s first and foremost about the conversations – in channels or chats. That is where the essence of teamwork and collaboration happen. Get that right and then the structure will flow – that is the right order and based on getting the hard but most impactful stuff done first.

That is the essence I am trying to distil in the short video which is a play on Marshall McLuhan’ famous view on the Medium is the Message. So since this is a thought rocket, a super quick view on things expressed in a short video, doodle or blog post, I’ll leave it at that and for you to make of it what you will.