I was thinking the other day about the times when I’m most productive at work. So much has been written about the subject and I work at a company and in a role where it’s one of the key functions of my job, i.e. to make people more productive through technology. There are a gazillion sites and services out there on how to be more productive. I think a lot of them miss the point.Continue reading The ebb and flow of productivity at work
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.Continue reading Why hybrid work is the new standard for productivity and sense making
As we’ve moved to remote work, calling and virtual meetings have exploded (see chart below). Much is being done to simulate the advantages of in person meetings to get things done which is useful. But what if that gets abused? Wasted hours in meetings (virtual or physical) has become a trope for good reason. And remote work means that even more now, we can work asynchronously to accommodate private schedules. That’s where writing comes in.
Writing encapsulates so many advantages that make sense. I’m not saying don’t ever hold a meeting again, just think before holding or attending one when writing may be better.
Good writing that gets the right result forces you to think. For that matter, any content creation does but it often starts with writing, e.g. a good video will have a good script no matter how simple. Your brain is forced to slow down and consider what you are saying and trying to achieve much more than with any other practice. Even brainstorming is fine for certain purposes and can work well in meetings but you often need to get clarity in your head before you open up to a broader group. The same applies to the purpose and agenda for a meeting if you need to hold one ;)
A record and reference
Once its written down you have it on record. You can refer back to it. It can help you with actions as well as to be a reference point. You can advance or revise your thinking based on this reference point. Discussion is also more rational and logical written down that when you are discussing things in a meeting, especially when things get heated. Seeing things written down may prevent you from hitting send before its too late – not so easy when talking. Next time somebody asks to hold a meeting to discuss or resolve something, ask if a conversation in any good workplace collaboration tool will do. Follow-up action can also be taken and the answer is visible to others, persistent and searchable.
The asynchronous advantage
The asynchronous advantage can also not be over exaggerated. Not only do people working remotely no longer have or need the immediacy of in person access, the business world is more global and also supports the practice. I love how Brex have incorporated it into their work practices for remote work. Check out their principle number 2: Async decisions by default.
How to master your business writing skills
Not just any reading, good reading. Try some of the greats, Hemingway, Dickens, Dostoevsky. Other than the entertainment and benefit you will get from the escape, you will learn how to improve your writing. And yes you can bring some flourish and emotion into your business writing – why not inject some of it into what would most often be sterile and uninspiring. So learning from these literary greats is just fine.
Practice through other means than just your business communications. Blogging is one great example. Wherever you do it, use it at the very least to help concentrate your thinking. At best you share your thinking and its of value to someone else and best of all, you get better at writing. How do you tell if its good? You get feedback in comments or likes, or from the viewer numbers you should be tracking.
3. Think like a salesman
Always be closing is an adage that comes from the sales world that I love. It doesn’t mean, with writing, that you should always be trying to sell something. It just means you should always be clear about what you are trying to achieve with your message and it should be evident in the conclusion of your piece. I learned this from a well known Silicon Valley sales consultant from whom I received training. I wrote about that in this piece: How to communicate and get what you need from decision makers
I’m often frustrated with how meetings are misused and ineffective at work. I know I’m not alone 😬Continue reading Effective Meetings and Collaboration at work and Microsoft Teams
I’m surprised more organisations haven’t cottoned on.
Focusing on making customers successful with the use of your products or services.
Understanding that this success drives your success. Understanding the drivers of success and amplifying these.
You’d think organisations would have armies focused on this.
They talk about it enough. Think of product demo’s you have seen. Or comparison ads. How a product works for best results or beats another.
Subscription economy companies with their customer success teams get it. They understand: drive successful use > create value and great experiences > win loyal customers.
Other organisations are waking up.
This site set up to support the new eBook / trend report I’m writing has much more on the subject.
I recently wrote that The Future of Customer Success is not Human.
It emphasised the role of automation, AI and bots.
I did specify though that humans’ still have a role. I said it would outweigh that of technology in impact terms.
The recent debacle with Bodega shows that the human touch still counts. It drives connectedness and well being. It’s a prerequisite for business success.
Humanity operates in the mind. The heart has a strong role but thats for another post.
And for the foreseeable future, humans are still masters over machines. To what purpose we apply technology and what we create of value through it is still in our hands.
What mindset we bring to the game determines how we enact our purpose. I’m riffing on all this as part of the introductory chapter in my new eBook.
Herein lies the rub. Often we neglect to think about this even when it is in our grasp.
What most determines success is often least addressed. It’s easier to spend time twiddling knobs, tweaking features and functions.
Human affairs are messy.
Yet what we get out depends on what we put in.
What we put in, in turn, is dependent on our thinking. Our thinking determines how we act. This becomes ingrained in habits and the culture of the company.
Here is the flow:
- Mindset and purpose influence employee action
- Action creates habits and builds experience (supported by process, technology, etc.
- Experience drives customer satisfaction and loyalty
So a pretty important area of business to address you would think.
Where to start?
The top is a good place. Digital transformation success is often dependent on leadership. Leaders mindset’s influence organisational behaviours and cultures.
Having a growth mindset is in fashion. The CEO of Microsoft emphasises growth mindset versus fixed mindset.
It’s a great starting point when it comes to customer success too. Not least because customer success manager’s are also growth hackers.
Customer centricity is a worthwhile business goal and a state of mind. It has to involve the whole organisation and often starts with leaders. At least it’s entrenched or enforced by them.
So lots to think about but mindset is nothing without action. I thought these steps might help:
- Have a simple and measurable approach/method. One for creating, reviewing and iterating on purpose, behaviour, culture and outcomes. Customer experience maps are a great way to align all these things toward a common goal.
Take time to infuse this into all parts of the organisation and operations. And it will take time. Great purpose is not realised overnight. Team games, ping pong tables, slides and bean bags are optional extras.
Inspire and appeal to common human yearning. I love what Phil Knight from Nike has said in his new book. I have co-opted it to be a customer success manifesto below. This was not enshrined in a plaque for a wall. But you can tell it was and still is a living, breathing directive for the company.
Empower, measure and transfer. Rinse and repeat. I would start small. Start with a success team focused on this area. Get them to do it right then transfer the success, mindsets, behaviours. Go big. McKinsey capture this approach well: How a digital factory can transform company culture.
These steps, indeed the entire list, are very simplistic. You’ll find much written about this area. How to create or reinvent a great culture and make behaviour change stick.
I love this great case study on Aetna over at HBR: Cultural Change That Sticks.
This post was only a way to think out loud and explore the topic for my first chapter.
Thanks for reading. Did I miss anything or get anything wrong? Please let me know in a comment.
I’ve just started working on my new eBook / trend report and I got to thinking about the cover. A little back to front but it’s often a catalyst for thinking about any other major concepts I want to cover, or ways of explaining existing concepts (sense making in other words).
I have already largely defined the chapters, yet thinking about the cover got me fired up to come up with some new thinking. I also had fun thinking about the cover, it’s a great way to inspire you for the slog of writing a long piece like this.
I started out thinking about a cover through a crowdsourcing exercise which was also fun (part 1 and 2). At some stage past the first few iterations an iceberg came to mind. I think it had to do with the three major themes of the eBook / trend report: the subscription economy, customer experience and customer success. The iceberg easily covered all three with a submerged part, the visible part and the sea in which they are naturally found.
So here is the result in a quick doodle, a video and a few lightly detailed bullets below of the main elements of the iceberg. I’m just working out loud so this is far from final. I’ve already thought of improvements but I’ll include those in the final work and if you have any input I’d love to hear it. I’ll also be digging into any research around some of my hypotheses that these building blocks essentially are so if you have any please send my way.
The ultimate point of a great customer experience and a customer success manager’s efforts is a customer that is highly satisfied. Most measures will lead up to this. In a subscription economy company but in general too, if a customer is sufficiently satisfied they will likely stay loyal which is also the ultimate point.
I main driver of satisfaction is when you get value from something. There will be a myriad ways of quantifying value but as long as a customer is deriving some material, financial or emotional reward for using a product or service, they should logically be satisfied.
When you unpack value you’ll likely find that that there are contributing factors that influence the eventual quantification of value. These can hopefully be defined as clearly articulated outcomes. This is not easy, especially when it comes to the softer type of outcomes like status or emotional wellbeing. Outcomes are ideally something a good customer success manager has identified and quantified (with solid metrics) upfront, and not realised unintentionally at the end of the journey. But there maybe be some element of backward engineering for some outcomes.
Method / Process / Tech
A good customer success manager will have a robust approach that can be applied as a set of key building blocks of activity which lead to the intended end points above. A repeatable and measurable process and methodology that drive intended outcomes. One thing I have added consequently and is not in the diagram, is technology. That is, a platform or combination of platforms that will facilitate the journey of delivering the intended end points.
You have to be able to understand (through careful reporting and analysis) what is driving the intended end points. That has to be a well tracked and represented set of activities that lead to understanding. It is typically centred on user activity (of your product and/or service). The understanding will allow you to work with your approach to see what is working and what isn’t. The holy grail of customer success management is when your planned interventions (made up of the approach covered above) can be materially tracked and tied back to impacts on usage – see rough doodle for example. The way to connect these two is through insights on usage data.
Raw data primarily around how your product or service is being used is what I mean here. This often will stem from a key source which is the product or service being used. But sometimes there will be other sources of data that require integration into a single funnel which is then reported on and analysed for insight. For example you may want to take raw usage data and combine it with transactional data around the customer from a CRM system and together they enrich the meaning.
It’s a given I’m talking about a tangible product like a technology platform but it need not only be that. Service delivery around a product should also be considered. Even just a service in its own right. The key thing is that you have a product or service that is made up of interactions with customers and technology plays a role in either fundamentally driving the interactions or in the means of digitising them.
First I was contemplating about the term “purpose” and what it exactly means in German. Is it more about intention, a goal, aim, only a task or it more about a higher meaningful purposeful goal with significant core values which makes the world a better place? Well, I guess this question exactly triggers the right aspect and to starts my and your own journey (‘The way is the goal’ — Confucius) into a purposeful (work) life where I am first discovering my own gift:
- my talents and skills: am I using them to help others?
- my (working) time: how should I prioritize my time?
- my power and influence: How I could I have a larger positive impact on the life of others?
I have made the experience that joining a Working Out Loud Circle as described by John Stepper is really helpful to discover my own gifts because of this impressive feedback culture which should exist in every great circle. A circle is a protected and confidential space (video conference or on-site meetup) where a group of people meet every week for 12 weeks to reach their goals. Using public social media channels is part of the exercises but not an isolated goal without a senseful meaning behind it.
Working Out Loud is not a wild and uncoordinated broadcasting of news or random (personal) information. That is what I hear a lot as major concern: “Why should I want to read that others are currently eating a cookie?”
For me it is a learning space with very concrete purposes: helping other people and organisations to achieve more. That is the main focus. It`s all about supporting others and reaching own goals is a secondary gain.
I have modified the famous quote from Pablo Picasso: “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”
I see sense making as a bit of an art but also believe there is a science to it. At least to doing it well. I also believe we will have to get better at it since it will be one of the key skills of the 21st century (check out this article on a Future Work Skills 2020 Report that believes the same). Especially when you consider the plethora of information we are going to be bombarded with online which will increasingly become our standard operating environment for work and play (if it isn’t already). This doesn’t mean that’s where we will spend all our time, just where we will turn to for information, and increasingly, for sense making. So I’ve tried to capture the science of it as I see it in this diagram below. This also combines an approach I see at least myself taking in this blog where appropriate.
- Data. This could mean mastering the challenge that is big data. Equally, it could simply be the ability to use some raw quantitative input into anything you are trying to make sense of.
- Experience. The best way to make sense of the world around you is to experience it. Take a trial of a product where possible (ideally free :), interact with an organisation, use a sample.
- Ideas. Without direct experience or data you have only an idea to work with. This can be examined and investigated for its merits. Art would fall into this category but pretty much anything can be explored in it’s raw initial state as an idea.
- Value. Take all your key sources of input and judge them at this stage on what value they deliver or you believe they might deliver. What do you get out of them on a tangible and intangible basis.
- Impact. Next is impact on the audience you believe is the intended one. No matter how small or big, what impact will it make. This can be very subjective because impact is relative to context and think about this as broadly as you can before judging
- Sustainability. In other words, does it have a future. Maybe this is not intended but if it is, how likely is it to exist 5, 10, 20 years from now?
- Own judgement / peer review: These are really only mechanisms to help you judge.
- Theory. One possible outcome could be that you are left with only a theory, because nothing can be proven (but then can anything with absolute certainty). Theory’s are a good starting point for experimentation though and that is often all you can do.
- Strategy. You may be a little more certain and so one bit of output could be a clear strategy if its a big enough piece of work and needs it.
- Actions. Finally, you could either have the actions needed to implement the strategy or simply a clear set of actions to take as a result of your new found knowledge :)
I work in an organisation and industry where a key mantra of work and of the value we offer to customers is (improved) collaboration. Central to this is effective teamwork and working like a network. I believe in this wholeheartedly with every fibre in my body since I have been working in this space for the last 10 years. However, there are times when it is counter-productive and things need to be stirred up a little.
There are times when “group think” can set in. Shared thinking can become stultifying. There is a risk of echo chambers forming. Out of the ordinary thinking so necessary for innovation can be lost. I’m not the only one to think so:
Inspired by this article on how to disrupt yourself, I borrowed liberally but modified it somewhat to focus more on an organisational level. I also added the last four points. It is essentially a set of principles intended to keep everyone on their toes, responsive to change and disruptive. This is for people who understand that the way organisations work has changed but not all minds in them have yet and the path to changing them sometimes need revolutionary tactics. This could also easily be a chapter out of an Intrapreneur’s Playbook – hence the title. So to the list:
1. An autonomous unit of contrarians who understand that new models and methods need to be created constantly.
The unit should have all the functional skills it needs to succeed, the right mindset and the wherewithal to operate independently of current business responsibilities (including finacial independence) but are still deeply entrenched in core business operations.
2. Leaders who come from the relevant “schools of experience.”
These leaders have addressed a variety of challenges, especially in the kinds of problems new business models and challenges will face.
3. A code of conduct and principles (like this set :).
Adherents should be inspired and can subscribe to them easily because they are clear and unequivocal and can be communicated and even tought consistently throughout the organisation.
4. Independent collaboration and communication channels.
These should not be required to coordinate with or defer to existing channels. A channel that allows for super efficient information flows, hyper connectedness and virality of movement. So by channel I don’t mean email – I’m talking Yammer, Slack, etc. :)
5. Performance standards that are open to the unit.
It should be able to reflect priorities different from those of the core business. You can expect the new unit to do as well as the core in terms of performance, but the formula for generating that performance must be different.
6. Unwavering commitment by the CEO.
He or she must be willing to spend an inordinate amount of time understanding and guiding the development of the new movement and must protect it from the natural desire on the part of managers in the core business to shut it down.
7. Understanding the status quo.
What the group thinks is not what is going to move you forward but its important to understand from whence you are coming so that you can better plot a chart for the destination. What will, how it will and why then becomes a robust rallying cry for the movement for change.
8. Hack the change and in turn the culture.
The insurgent’s/disrupter’s way is through Guerilla tactics – small, incisive attacks at the status quo that end up disrupting it. Piecemeal successes that collectively make up success at scale. A little more about hacking here.
9. Celebrate the successes through stories.
They must be authentic, based on experience and driven by emotion (narratives close to people’s collective purpose). They should also use facts and data based on reality that point to real successes and value. Enliven your stories with rich media, video, audio, diagrams, etc.
10. Start at the beginning.
The enemy never sleeps and you have to reinvent yourself constantly. Failure is an option and experimentation is the insurgent’s/disrupter’s Petri dish and the new planning.
I learned of a technique in a training session given to Yammer Sales and Customer Success Management (CSM) staff in 2012. The technique adopts an approach for emailing someone, typically for the first time, that you are keen to get something from – essentially you would be cold calling them. We called the technique “the Hoff mail” after the person who taught it to us – see link below.
The person being contacted is also typically senior and difficult to get hold of. They will have many people contacting them and have limited attention so the Hoff mail is first and foremost intended to be impactful and to the point. It is also often a first step in achieving an ultimate outcome, for instance, closing a sales deal but starting with agreement on a first meeting or call perhaps. Or it could be to get a commitment to do something or provide some key information like a use case need, etc.
A CSM could also use it to branch out of existing relationships if they are being single threaded or stuck in IT (so building relationships with business decision maker’s). The key principles can be applied to communications means beyond email, e.g. LinkedIn, etc. See PowerPoint slides at the end which cover this a little more specifically.
The training was provided by http://www.mjhoffman.com/
THE MAIN CONSTRUCTS:
- Sentence 1 is a specific reference to the person or company that makes your “ask” relevant
- Sentence 2 is the connection to your company / solution
- Sentence 3 is the close or what you are asking for
THE COMPELLING “CLOSE”:
- Something you want
- Easy to Deliver
- Open-ended questions only
- Don’t include links in prospecting emails. The Idea is to get their attention, not to sell them on the first email
- Don’t make mention of your name or company in the beginning of the email
- Do not make reference to failed attempts at outreach
- DO NOT use “tell me about your business” or make any reference that you don’t know about theirs
- DO reference how our customers are gaining value from Yammer. People are far more interested in what our customers have in common vs you
- TRY KEEP EMAILS IN THE SHAPE OF AN “F”: The first sentence is longer than the second which is longer than the third and closing sentence.
- Subject line could be a shortened version of Sentence #1. It has to be relevant
- Most likely be read on a iPhone
- How Top Salespeople Land Hard-to-Get Meetings
- 10 Rules of Professional Etiquette for the Digital Workplace (see point: Be Specific)
- Five Ways To Revamp Your Pathetic Follow-Up Emails
- Three Ways To Write Shorter, More Effective Emails
- How To Ask People for Things Via Email: An 8-Step Program
Example provided by Jeff Hoffman:
I saw that ACS was named to Training Outsourcing’s annual top 20 list, and I was inspired to email you directly. I found your approach to learning and education refreshing.
We offer a revolutionary approach to sales training based on sales efficiency and pipeline management. Some of our notable clients include SAP, Deutsche Bank Alex Brown, Forrester Research, and Akamai Technologies.
Who do you recommend that we contact at ACS to introduce our programs?
Example of what has worked for me:
As (customer name) have invested substantially in Office 365 technologies, I have been assigned to your business as a global specialist based in London, to ensure you derive maximum value from the technologies for your users and the business.
I have experience with (industry) across EMEA and will be in (location) 23-27 November. I typically engage with customers to support roll-out of the technologies in digital innovation initiatives.
Can you and your team be available on the morning of the 24th as well as for calls beforehand to start preparing?
Warm regards, …
More in the deck below
@ragnarheil you’ve already published an awesome write up on your use of Neurosky and have covered some other tools. You made some really good points about what they do.
I thought why not try #workingoutloud to capture a comprehensive list of considerations when evaluating tools for the benefit of others. I also think its important to understand what you are trying to achieve? So maybe we have a list with the main tools and then a some of the main outcomes you can expect or should target. Something like this below:
- MindWave Mobile: Brainwave Starter Kit – See review linked in opening paragraph
- Spire – Device and iOS app
- mindBot – A chat bot available for leading messaging apps
- Muse – A brain sensing headband with iOS and Android apps
- Thync – A device for monitoring your brain and helping influence it
- PIP – Stress Management Device
- Foc.us Gadgets for Lucid Dreaming and V2 Brain Stimulator. Coming in 2016 EEG Flow
- MyndPlay – Brainwave Sensor
- OURA Ring – Tracks and improves sleep
- Bosurgi VR App – Virtual Reality delivery mechanism for the Bosurgi Method™
- Heart Math – Application that measures your heart rate with device and provides feedback in real time, visually
- GPS for the Soul – Uses your phone’s camera to assess your heart rate with tools to guide and improve your mental state
- Nome – Avisual and auditive neuro-feedback device thatsupports meditation
- Bellabeat Leaf – A device that tracks activity, sleep, menstrual cycle and meditation
- The WellBe (Indiegogo project) – The WellBe is a bracelet and mobile app designed to support your emotional well-being. Find out what your stress triggers are and learn personalized meditation and other well-being exercises to release stress.
- Sona – Connected bracelet for mind and body. Also has app and focus is on physical activity as well as managing stress
- Prana – Wearable which combines breath and posture tracking to help you make the most of your sitting time
- Embrace – A bracelet that provides activity monitoring, sleep monitoring, stress management and seizure monitoring
- Feel – A wristband with integrated sensors that measure and track biosignals throughout the day, while a mobile application visualizes the results and provides personalized recommendations to improve emotional health
- Jiyo – Using data from the sensors in your phone and other fitness devices, Jiyo gives you tips for brief tasks that are supposed to improve your well-being, like doing a stretch after a long flight, or meditations and other routines that might improve your sleep if you haven’t been sleeping well.
- Zenta (Indiegogo project) – A personalized coach for both body and mind. Through sophisticated tracking of your physical and emotional wellbeing, ZENTA helps you discover how your habits and actions influence your stress and happiness over time.
- Tracking emotional states alongside daily activities so you can determine what leads to stress and what calms you
- Tracking your state of focus, for when you are meditating for instance, and alerting you when you become distracted. This could also be used for work and help you become more focused
- Gamifying your practice so that you can track progress and set and strive for new challenges
- A chat bot could act as a teacher, a guide to help steer you in difficult or challenging times, building a mindful awareness habit and/or self development goal tracking
If we discuss and add tools, outcomes and general ideas in comments then I can add to the main post as we go. What do you think?
@ragnarheil welcome to this site :) Just want to let you know that you can mention users in this site in the standard way using the @ symbol and user name. You should receive a notification from this post. And this way we can work together and out loud #workingoutloud :)
As you can see you can also use hashtags which are standard WordPress tags in this live editor. Find out more about how to use this site here: https://wordpress.com/themes/p2-breathe/
And I’ll add this post to the Sense Making category under the #help tag because that is where it fits as per initial structure below. Let me know if you have any queries :)
Having been a customer success manager and advising startups on the practice you would probably expect me to be trumpeting its value. You’d expect it from Gainsight too, the customer success company: Information Services, the Subscription Economy, and the Value of Customer Success.
And what about the subscription economy itself – whats in that? According to a 2014 report by The Economist Intelligence Unit, 80 percent of customers are demanding new consumption models including subscribing, sharing, and leasing — anything except actually buying a product outright.
I found that in a post by the poster child for the subscription economy, the CEO of Zuora, Tien Tzuo: The Subscription Economy – A Business Transformation. Zuora offers subscription billing, commerce and finance solutions for the subscription economy.
Experience has been an Economy too at least since 1999, when the seminal book from Joseph Pine and James Gilmore was published: The Experience Economy.
I’ll leave it up to you to decide. In the meantime, I put this slide deck together for some of the Microsoft Ventures B2B startups I mentor based on my experience over the years. It’s my take (including much from others) on what it is and what makes a good program.