Operator or Collaborator

Where do ideas go?

When a customer takes the time to provide considered feedback are the operators bound by a framework that enforces a generic, pre-determined response or are they rewarded for taking the time to understand, excogitate and collaborate.

Having operators is an old model, it only works when we can predefine all the possible outcomes and want to stringently enforce them.

Fostering collaborators takes more time, can change outcomes for your customers, changing their experience and the long term result.

Time to listen

In sales, in business (and a lot in life), it’s not the outstanding pitch, the smooth sales process, the well rehearsed close that will make the difference.

First and foremost, we buy from people we like, someone we connect with and can grow to trust.

The number one thing that influences this is taking the time listen – there is nothing more powerful than taking time to connect, building some basic rapport and genuinely caring for the person.

You can’t fake it but get it right and it can make the sale (if not the sale, a friend).

Is coffee really about coffee?

Unlikely, at least most of the time.

Buying a coffee in the morning for $4, five days a week will cost you $864 a year (assuming you take a holiday and get every tenth for free).

But it’s not really an economic decision which is why the cost (almost) doesn’t matter.

The stronger motivator for coffee is connection, this is why a coffee shop where they know your order and learn your name will always win more business.

This is not to dismiss the coffee aficionados, the coffee has to be reasonable (maybe even above par) but in terms of loyalty and frequency of visits the coffee quality isn’t the main driver, it’s simply a qualifier.

Coffee is a powerful way to connect, it facilitates conversation, reduces the awkward start to meeting an otherwise unfamiliar face and gives you a marker to start the day.

It helps that we have adopted coffee as a cultural norm, that there’s the little luxury of someone making it just the way you like it and that you enjoy the taste but coffee is less about the drink itself and more about the connection it facilitates.

What is the real question?

We ask questions that don’t matter, set benchmarks (KPI’s) that are measurable but have no correlation with the end result and construct hurdles (or remove them) based on stereotypes, perceptions and invisible rules based on what we went through, had to face and overcome – not based on merit, not to empower, support and grow the next generation but to qualify our own importance and protect our ego.

Questions that don’t matter
What’s the real question? – for example, What’s your salary expectation for this role? This is a floored game. Would you be willing to pay more for a disproportionate result? (likely yes, assuming the resulting benefit/sales outweighed the increase cost) yet salary is regularly used as a gate to qualify/disqualify candidates.

Do you care more about what salary you pay? or
How your new employee will tackle the complexity of issues facing your organisation and the results they can deliver?
(then why do you ask the questions in the opposing order?), remember Recruitment is a Touchpoint.

Benchmarks that are measurable but don’t correlate to the end result
If your benchmark doesn’t impact on the end result it shouldn’t be a KPI, monitor as many data points as practicable while they benefit you but don’t enforce a KPI that doesn’t correlate with results, in fact it’s always a risk to measure one item in isolation unless it’s an imperative for success.  This isn’t a new idea, Peter Drucker has always said to measure what can be measured and monitor what can’t, recognizing that good intentions are no substitute for performance and results – insightful advice, difficult to implement, often in conflict with ‘the way we’ve always done it’, the rules (there’s only one reason for a rule).

Stereotype, perception and invisible rule hurdles
You are important, you have done great work and that is one of the core reasons others want to pursue what you’ve excelled at, our experience will be different.  We don’t understand what you’ve gone through (but we’d like to, we’re ready to listen) and to do the hard yards necessary to be successful, we’re not looking for a shortcut, we’re happy to clear reasonable, well defined hurdles and demonstrate competency.  We just need someone to back us, to give us a shot – who did that for you?

We do all these things as defence and safety mechanisms.
Being honest, reflecting and being vulnerable is difficult.
It’s also worthwhile, builds connection and delivers results.

The question is,
What do you really want to know?
What is is the real question?

Change verse Optimisation

Recently we had a change implemented where I work – although it wasn’t really a complete change, more a refinement/optimisation of process.

The difficulty was it was communicated as a radical change – a new process rather than an optimisation of an existing one.

There were waves, a lot of time and passion was funnelled into the debate both for and against, it was a transformational change only in the way it lacked consultation with those it affected.

In effect, it was actually an optimisation of an existing, legacy process that will yield positive results.

The issue is how the process was rolled out: the story that was told.

A well told story has the power to inspire, motivate and move.

It absolutely can change the outcome.

A single goal

Startups are often referenced as being amongst the most innovative and nimble businesses with a seemingly unique ability to expedite processes, cut through red tape and achieve disproportionate results.

Passion and personal responsibility is often sighted as filling the gaps and moving the focus away from pay, conditions, systems, reviews, complaints and other BAU work.

Recently I’ve been reading about How Amazon and Zappos will pay staff to quit, one way to maintain a culture where passion for the brand, product and mission are maintained.

Im not sure that paying staff to quit would have the desired result in a lot of businesses (building passion into the culture) or that the ability to expedite processes and achieve great results is exclusively a ‘startup’ quality.

Instead, I would suggest it’s more strongly linked with pursuing a clear, well-articulated and easy to measure goal. In one sentence Amazon and Zappos could tell you why they exist.

When it’s clear where you’re heading, it’s easier for people to ‘get on the bus’ (as Jim Collins would say) and the organisation can operate in a more horizontal manner, where ideas can be generated at any level (despite hierarchy), expedited and cut through the red tape – all flowing from the singular goal.

(Of course there’s more to achieving disproportionate results that just a single goal but it’s an important place to begin).

Playing Partners

I seem to be on a golf theme lately, I think there’s some superb parallels to be drawn with life.

One of the most enjoyable (and important) parts of the game is who you’re playing with – your playing partners.

It can take three or four hours to walk the course, who you choose to do it with changes the dynamics of the round.

Personally, I like to play with golfers that are better than I am, that have technique and demeanor that exceeds my own.

By doing this, my game is challenged, a good playing partner will influence your game, the shots you take and the way you play.

On my own, my instinct is to go direct at the green with the biggest club in the bag even if the distance is too much or the fairway closes to the narrowest of corridors.

You know the shot and the likelihood of seeing the same ball again is low (except maybe as it hits the water).

The problem with that shot is on the next hole, you now have an extra two shots on your card to make up for the round and here comes the big shot again.

That’s why I play with better players, those that understand that laying up is a good option, to succeed in golf, it’s about the round – not the individual hole.

When you’re in the rough, or forced to take a drop it’s hard to have that perspective.

This is true in life and in marketing, there’s no secret shortcut to a great round or engaged and loyal customers but choosing your playing partners carefully is important as it will influence the result.

The Sweet Spot

Sometimes when I play golf, I hit one of those shots.

You know the one, the drive that sails straight down the middle of the fairway, the chip that hits the fringe and rolls to within a few feet of the pin. The stroke feels smooth, it’s controlled and makes a beautiful sound as it contacts the club head – it hit the sweet spot.

What a great feeling, to know you hit it as intended and the result is superb.

I really enjoy golf with shots like that,  what a great game.

When you’re doing what you love, your work changes, doing more isn’t a burden, it’s a joy.

We can all find (at least elements of) this everyday – working in the sweet spot.

Image Credit: Carl Wiens

The channel shouldn’t cheapen the message

It’s an exciting times for marketers.

There are so many ways to get your message out, reach your target market and connect with your customers.  

The market is increasingly fragmented and using multiple channels to reach your audience is now the assumption (and the norm). A multi layered, integrated campaign is important for success.

The risk is that we allow the cost of channel to change the message.

It is easy to spend less time on the execution of the campaign that uses one of the lower cost channels (perhaps based on the thought that we can do it again or that it’s somehow less important, cost is often associated with value/importance).

This adjusts our focus from our customers, the message and experience we deliver.


Representative Response

Measuring everything is now the norm, click-through, browsing pathway, time spent, cart abandonment, enquiries – any form of response.

We then set out to associate a return on investment for a large proportion of these actions. It’s a good idea (one that I think marketers need to do better) that helps to apportion a limited budget to be the most impactful and generate the best results.

There is however an issue, the response you receive in an instant may not be representative of the group you’re making decisions about.

There are a few considerations for this, we are all ‘busy’ so the responses are often weighted towards customers with specific current issues, new customers seeking to understand how to best deal with you, your business or product (you should take note of these to educate future customers) and the reality is a lot of what you do isn’t geared toward an instant response (building for relationship rather than an instant/transactional response is important for long term success).

There have been countless times where the response to a communication or action isn’t discovered until weeks or months later when you see the customer and they thank you for the follow-up, appreciate the thank you note you sent (get the pen out!) and acknowledge the impact of the action you took.

Just because you can’t measure the return right now doesn’t mean it’s not a worthwhile investment.