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There is a Big Difference Between Can’t and Won’t

A series of recent experiences on the customer side shed light on what I believe is a growing problem, possibly made worse by the public nature of communications – or possibly just poor grammar.

Cannot or Can’t is an expression of inability or incapacity – “I can’t take the garbage out”

Will not, or Won’t is also deliberate choice not to act – “I won’t take the garbage out”

For those of you with kids, those phrases are really quite different if they are used in response to “hey, would you please take out the garbage”. My reaction would be (has been?) very different in each case. Yes, I realize that some kids will use improper grammar and use one, and actually mean the other, so please look beyond that point.

When someone in customer service says “I cannot help you”, I believe that what they often mean is that they won’t help you.  However, if those words are used, while they might be honest, they might incite a much stronger reaction. Think offering a hotel voucher due to a delayed flight, or a refund for a poor experience or some other scenario. Read between the lines of ‘ I could help, but I am choosing not to help, so I won’t’ – yeah, probably not going to fly.

The unfortunate use of “Can’t” is when a subordinate is acting as a face for a more senior person or larger organization. Is this an act of proper deflection, a way to defuse the situation? “My boss says I can’t” Which is a proxy for, my boss can, but won’t and I will get in trouble if I let you talk to him (this exact scenario happened to me last week).

This may simply be a game of semantics, but it is a bit more complicated when the social web becomes involved. I cannot think of many more examples, or maybe I simply won’t try :-)



Stop Thinking in Two Dimensions

The language of computers is binary, it is ruled by ones and zeros 1/0. I fear that this has rubbed off on us humans; Yes/No, Black/White, Lager/Ale (I digress), the list gets longer and longer. In the land of the social web, it gets even worse; Like/<nothing>, +1/<nothing>, ‘Heart’/<nothing>, this is not even two dimensions, it is one!

It is not about Offline versus Online, it is not about Sales versus Service, it is not about User Experience versus Customer Experience, finally it is not about Mobile versus <what is the opposite of mobile?>. Is it about Public versus Private, Digital versus Analog? Maybe, but probably not.

If you are a business, your customers have already integrated the elements to their own liking (businesses are behind in this regard). This is why I struggle with ideas like a channel strategy or a social strategy. What is needed is simply a communications strategy and if you are a business a ‘provide our customers the best possible solution’ strategy. On a personal level it is simply about being you, wherever you are. As I stated in my previous post, personal and business are integrated, so this is about both.

If your true colors shine through online, then it is pretty likely that they shine through in person. This conversation is about being a person in a world that has more than 2 dimensions.  Maybe we should stop trying to think and act in two dimensions and start to think and act in 3 or 4.  Give individual elements proper focus, but consider the impact to the other elements – consider that 3rd dimension.

No Beginning, No Middle and No End

When I was growing up, my dad got up, went to the office and worked, came home put his brief case near the door, where he picked it up on the way to office the next day.  I work from home,  I never leave work and I do not have a brief case. My workday does not have a beginning, middle, nor end – this is not a complaint, nor is this a work life balance post. Work and life are “integrated” (thank you Paul G for the epiphany). Relationships are integrated, friendships are integrated, nothing is just one thing anymore, connection points just keep increasing – That is my way of thinking about the ‘Internet of things’.

My conversations on Social Networks channel hop; from Twitter to Blogs, Linkedin, Facebook, Skype, Phone, Text, Email and Real-life and back again. They can start and stop on one channel and simply move on to the next. Conversations no longer have a beginning, a middle nor an end. I take part in many conversations, with many people and the diversity of topics is awesome. Some people are part of 3, 4 or 10 different conversations. That said, I need something (aka software) to help refresh me in regards to a particular conversation with a specific person. This is my Internet of things.

Buying Cycle; Sorry, no Beginning, Middle or End

On the consumer side, I am in the market for a car the moment I drive off the lot with a new car. Why don’t car dealers realize this fact? I am the same way with Computers, Phones, Cameras and Watches – I admit it. Do I always act upon the ‘urge’ – no! I have my first new car (not minvan or family SUV) in 25 years. I get a new phone more often than most, not as frequently as some. On the camera side, should my wife be reading this, I will pass on this part of the conversation (hint: she probably wishes it had an end).

It is very hard to figure out exactly where in the buying cycle a person, prospect, buyer might be, why is that? Likely, because they do not know! As buyers know a whole lot more about you than they used to in years past, I am not so sure they know any more about themselves. Buyers are really well informed on what you can do, but I am less convinced that they equally aware of what they need. Their needs are driven by what you can do, until they really think about it. Because, this is backwards and it is a vicious cycle.

A byproduct of the consumerization of IT is that IT are starting to act like consumers!

(The best image for this post would be Esteban Kolsky’s‘s infinity loop / continuum, but too many others have borrowed it without giving credit. I will just give credit and not use it)

Rethinking the Customer Journey

Funny thing about customers, they do not seem to follow a Map.

In the good old days, if you wanted to plot a course, you needed a map; a physical piece of paper with roads, highways, streets and avenues written in different colors, big fonts and a picture of a compass near the corner. Unfolding a map was easy, closing it back up the same way was really hard.

When you traveled to a new city, you needed a new map. When you visited that same city again four years later, you needed a new map again (because the previous map was carefully put in a spot you would not lose it — it is still there).

When traveling with the family, the course was carefully plotted; stop here, visit there, spend the night … right about … here! Somehow it became a journey an adventure, more than just a trip.

If you commute to work every morning, you do not need a map, well, not usually. The route is the same each day, unless there is traffic, then the commute becomes an adventure, with plan B and C close at hand. There are highs — a hidden restaurant or rainbow out the window, and lows — traffic, construction, a snowstorm. Some things can be predicted, some cannot.

Customer Journeys are not Static

A funny thing about customers, they do not often follow a map. The customer relationship with their vendor or service provider, from first touch, to purchase and support is a journey. Some portions can be predicted, some are hard to predict. Even if you had all the correct data, personal information and preferences, what would you do? Is it possible to manage the customer journey?

Each customer has a unique channel preference, web search, community, social media, talking to friends, talking on the phone, sending an email or browsing through the store. Some like one of the above, some like all of the above. Do you plot their course, push them in a certain direction? It might be easier for you, but is it easier for them?

We as individuals like to be treated as, well, individuals! Today, we live our lives in a high gear, always running and fighting against the clock, time never seems to be our friend. We hate to read long emails, but we like blogs (why is that?). Listening to telemarketing calls is annoying and we skip commercial ads by time shifting. When we go out to the store talking with shop staff is not a priority.

So, if we feel that way as individuals, why do we assume in our professional role that things will be different? Why don’t we follow the basic “don’t do to others what you don’t want done to you”?

Planning the Journey Versus Adapting to Course Correction?

With volumes of data available to you, telling you and your team exactly where customers went, how long they stayed on a page, what they searched for, giving insights into likes and dislikes, the question should be, “what are you planning to do?” [with all this data]. The information collected through all the touch-points with all the customers and all the transactions that they have with you must be leveraged to get into one point of personalizing the experience and get the most out of the relationship. This, however, is not managing the journey, nor the experience.

This is simply trying to make each journey, each experience along the way better and more meaningful.

In the past and unfortunately in the present the CMO and CIO do not quite understand each other. It is a bit like the CIO is building the roads and the CMO are building the attractions. What good is one without the other?

CMO and CIO should be close partners, friends, allies and peers. They should both work together to get the personalization of brands and the to leverage the experience of their customers. They can only achieve that by combining the communication channels with the right information at the right point in time — this is called context integration. The communication should be tailored to each customer, based on all the information that the brand collected about each customer. And the information should be stored and worked in every experience that the brand has with its customer.

It is not about managing the experience or controlling the journey. It is about understanding your customers and the roads they like to travel. Brands can only be successful in the future if they adopt new strategies to provide value along the journey at each step and enhance the experience for their customers and they can only achieved that, by listening, learning, engaging and understanding.

This post was written with the help of Jorge Teixeira da Silva, Head of BI at DRI, has over 20 years of experience working in CRM and BI. Jorge spent time at TMN, Portugal’s largest mobile operator. Jorge adds a layer of analytics to several projects, directly via BI and also embedded in CRM and BPM based projects. It is reposted from a submission to CMSWire

The Simplest Thing I Ever Had to Write

This is a personal post, but as the title of blog notes, I am not limited. On May 1, 2012, a Father, Friend and Grandfather to many was lost. Below are the words I shared at the memorial service.

Dad_MeToo often we wait to reflect upon something until after it is complete, done and the last chapter is written. I often wonder why that is the case. Is it because we need to evaluate an entire experience as one thing? It is important to remember that the perception of experiences is skewed by that which is most recent.

If we stop to consider the moment, is the moment gone? During the past few months I began to reflect upon on my dad. There were things I wanted to understand and a person I wanted to know better.

There is no one way to describe who Arthur was to me; Father, Fan, Friend, Critic, all of the above. My experiences with dad covered the spectrum, it was not one thing, they were lots of things. These experiences are mine, what I am left with. Many I will cherish, some I will consider for years to come. Near the end, dad and I came to an understanding – that we really did not totally understand each other – do not confuse that with our love, caring, nor mutual respect; just we are each complex. I am good with it, it was decided with a laugh and we moved on.

About the Man       

If you really want to understand the man, look no further than a deck of cards. Arthur was a poker player – not a gambler, a poker player – there is a difference. There are some very interesting life lessons hidden inside the game of poker.

Poker requires focusing on making decisions based upon incomplete information. It is the quality of the decisions, not the outcome of the hand that matters. (In the year since I wrote this, I find this to be more and more true everyday)

Poker challenges you to deduce information and recognize patterns; peoples behaviors, habits, body language and tendencies, deducing what they want you NOT to know. The more complete the information, the better the decision making process.

Luck is part of the game, but out of your control. It is about the discipline that is required to ignore bad luck and move forward to the next hand and never to dwell on lucky or unlucky outcomes.

Finally, poker is fundamentally a social game, centered around group dynamics in a competitive situation; playing with a diverse group of people, some skilled, some not. Looking sometimes for the weakest at the table, exploiting the weakness, capitalizing on an opportunity – it is a metaphor for entrepreneurship.

Dad treated many facets of his life like a game of poker; no disrespect meant, quite the opposite.  It worked to great effect in his ability to negotiate, litigate; and dare I say, intimidate. My memories of dad include riding the train from Westport to NYC, watching him play. It was never about the money, that just made it a bit more real and a bit more fun – it was about something else.

Poker was dad’s social network – no Facebook or Farmville for him. It is where he went to relax and learn. Looking back, there is no doubt in my mind that he took the lessons from the poker table to the board room, court room and living room (the original version had a few other rooms, but there were kids in the audience).

I began to write this many weeks ago, as I sat with my younger brother while he worked through the final months of law school. I have spent time with all of my siblings during the recent few months and given the distance of our homes, this in itself is a worthy feat, and worth every moment. We were united in the beautiful things, St. Maarten, Sam and Jeff’s wedding – as well as the not so fun, his illness and …. Other things.

A Contrast of Simple and Easy

The author Robert A. Heinlein stated: “Do not handicap your children by making their lives too easy”.

This is the balance that dad tried very hard to keep. As I parent, I can assure you that this not as ‘easy’ as it seems, it is different for each child and grandchild. His efforts to abide by this sometimes caused dad conflict; as he always wanted to provide, according to need, but the needs were not always clear.  As a parent we always want things to be ‘equal’, but what if the needs are not equal? I am not talking about money, rather something much more valuable – time.

To his grandchildren, grandpa did not always have the time to let things take a natural course. Where he tried to lead and guide his children; your parents, aunts and uncles, he began to run short of time and took a much more direct approach with many of you. He wanted to, needed to, get his point across in a sometimes uncomfortable way.  To extend the poker metaphor, he did not know you as well as he would have liked – another conflict. He loved each and every one of you, in a way only a grandpa could.

Albert Einstein is credited with saying “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

What Einstein was getting at is that when describing something one should reduce it to the smallest ‘pieces parts’ required to make the point. Any less, and the point does not come across, any more and complexity is reintroduced. Few people can walk the fine line, Dad could.

Dad believed in both of these concepts, and could walk the line; but they are sometimes at odds, a paradox.

In this family simple is not always easy, and easy is not always simple.

Dad – these words are a reflection of you, for you, for me, my siblings and your grandkids. It would not be fair to stand here and say you were perfect; I might have a credibility issue if I did; that said perfection is not something you sought. What you wanted was to live life on your terms – it was a hard fought negotiation, the terms nebulous at times, but true to form, you won.

This is what I learned; some from you and some from the person you helped me to become. In more ways than one,  physical and logical, you taught me how to put the pieces together:

Reflect upon the past in as much as it can help us to prepare for the future. Take from the past what we need to move forward. Dwell on the past, and it will be like a 4-wheeler tied to a tree.

Most important – I have a great family and when push comes to shove I know my back is covered, and my siblings know I have theirs.

Dad, this was simple to write, but it was not easy.