Category Archives: transferable thinking

Steve Jobs: saying goodbye to a master of 1:1 

Steve Jobs memoriam from


Among other things Steve Jobs did well, he was a master at making 1:1 connections. When he shared his enthusiasm for a new product or his delight in an innovation, he managed to engage each member of his audience – whether in person,  online, or on air, and make us feel like he was looking and talking directly to us.

It wasn’t just the “cool” factor or  the great technology made simple that drew in customers and inspired loyalty. He made us feel that he and Apple made those devices especially for us.

Maybe that is why so many had a personal reaction to his death.

Each of us may not have his talent, but we can embrace his commitment to connecting with, not an audience, not “customers”, but with individuals. I’m in. Will you join me?

Tsumani Reporting as User Experience

In the aftermath of the tsunami in Japan, there’s been an wide variation in the way information has been presented as media channels scrambled to be the first with images and news.  I’ve been as compelled as the next person, watching endless versions of the same video and  pictures  – to the point of horrified overload.

Then, thanks to friend’s Facebook postings, I happened upon the following, similar pages: one from ABC News Australia and the other from the New York Times.

Before/after tsunami image- ABC Australia

ABC Australia

Before/after tunami image from NYTimes

New York Times

Both do well what others did poorly, or not at all – they provide context. Each makes it possible to understand specific information in terms of the bigger picture.

If the objective is to inform us in a way that we can make sense of what we see, these pages hit a home run.

  • As information design, they excel:  they communicate clearly without needing a narrative, just simple captions.
  • As user experience, they excel: they’re straightforward, easy-to-use, the interactions follow a consistent pattern. -The user doesn’t have to work at all to “get it.”

Why is this important?
Each page on your site should make it easy for the user to achieve her/his goal in addition to serving your business purpose. Do your key pages resemble early tsunami information presentation? Or have you done the work, as the two sites above have, to make it simple for your user, and therefore more likely that they will do what you want them to do while there? Hopefully it won’t take a disaster to see the bigger picture.

Unexpected Delight – from a marketing call?!?

Interruptive marketing calls- we all hate them. The only reason I haven’t signed up for the National “Do Not Call” list is professional curiosity.

Well, I got a call last week from a company that said they were contacting me based on my responses to an online form that expressed interest in their service. Yeah, sure.  I asked which site the form was on (suspecting they wouldn’t have an answer),  asked them to take me off their call list, and moved on.

Yesterday, I received the following  snail mail:

Dir Sir or Madam:

First let me apologize for any inconvenience that we may have caused you. As you requested,we have placed your phone number on our internal Do Not Call list. I’ve also enclosed a copy of <company name’s> “Do Not Call” policy.

Again, I sincerely apologize and ask that you contact me directly at <real phone number> if I can be of any further assistance to you.

Vice President of Human Resources

Wow!  I was impressed.  The letter was dated, had the name and number of a real person, and a copy of their “Do Not Call” policy. Thorough, professional and completely unexpected. If I WAS interested in their services, this is exactly the sort of company I’d want to do business with.

In a world where most interactions are answered with computer-delivered confirmations, this response, even though it was basically a form letter,  seemed personal. Why is that? Because they

  • Responded directly to my specific concern
  • Provided a real person to contact
  • Provided specific information that created transparency (the policy, in this case)

My cynical side fully realizes that in fact, this also served as another opportunity to put their name in front of me. Yet I remain impressed. They turned a no-win situation into a win-win situation by using the opportunity to demonstrate their company values. In the process, they provided unexpected delight. A good return for not a lot of effort – and if I ever need their sort of service, they’ll be at the top of my list.

So – which customer equation could you change by applying the same principles?

Pondering the Local Latte

Cafe Santoro, the independent coffee establishment across the street from where I get my car serviced, delivers an integrated experience that is head and shoulders above the one I get at a Peets or Starbucks. In fact, it’s at the top of the delight-o-meter.

I’ve run into other independents around the country that are equally delightful and each has my undying loyalty. Any time I am in hailing distance from one of them, I’ll find the time to stop by.

So, what makes the difference?

I’m a long time coffee aficionado. So why will I seek out what may/may not be technically the best cup of coffee? Aside from the specific charms of each establishment, what do they share that exerts such a pull?

Genuine Engagement
Customers can sense whether someone is genuinely happy to see them/provide them service/interact with them, just going through the prescribed motions, or in truth, couldn’t care less. It makes a difference.

My experience today has just that sort of engagement: I only come to the Santoro when I have work done on my car, so folks here don’t know me. When I came in and joined the line this morning, I noticed the barista (who is also the owner) look up from the espresso machine, and acknowledge each person in line with a smile and “I know what you want.” When he got to me he said “But I don’t know what you want,”and proceeded to ask for my order as if he wanted to get to know me.  It’s rare to experience that sort of smile-producing welcome from a chain.

Chains, even the good ones, are regimented. One of the strengths of a chain is the dependability of the product. But the regimentation of overall experience leaves little room for personality. If a particularly engaging person is on staff, she or he can infuse personality into the atmosphere, but once that individual is gone, the shop goes back to being a variation of the corporate norm.

Independent establishments have an identifiable personality that is a product of personal approach, not just company policy. Patrons “make friends” with that personality.  A great example of this is when the staff at Santoro sang ‘Happy Birthday” to,and joshed around with a customer in line. Ir was the interaction of friends, not patron and provider. They even used the language of friends: “It’s your birthday, let me buy you a latte.”

Not just a cup of coffee
The characteristics that make for a connected, delightful experience don’t just apply to grabbing a cup of coffee.

Genuine engagement is palpable, even online. Personality is important; it’s a telltale sign that humanity is at work, not just policy. Neither personality nor genuine engagement will compensate for out-and-out poor execution, but when price, quality and convenience are equal, these so-called intangibles can strongly influence whether a customer will come back.

What do you think? If your company or organization were a cafe, would I want to come back?

Learning from Robocalls

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Last night, when the number of political robocalls reached 6 in the space of an hour, we stopped answering our phone. Tomorrow is election day, so we won’t answer our phone tonight, either: the “do not call” list doesn’t apply to political campaigns.
I may not be thrilled when a call from a live campaign volunteer interrupts my dinner, but I’m positively turned off by robocalls. At least when I get a call from a live person, I know that someone cares enough about an issue to volunteer his or her time. It’s part of the democratic process. (Full disclosure: I have been that volunteer in the past.) Volunteer calls at least are a dialogue. But robocalls are just annoying, auditory, time-wasting spam. 
Doing a bit of quick research, I found Politics Magazine’s Political Telemarketing Guide and Local Victory Political Robocalls: Dos and Don’ts. They  resemble CAN-SPAM guidelines and the early email marketing rubric. My favorite paragraph in the Do’s and Don’ts begins:
“Watch out though, some voters get turned off by too many robocalls.  Even if your campaign only does one or two rounds of calls, if your opponents have been bombarding the phone lines with calls, the voters may penalize you when they hear your call.”

Bingo! And this sort of fatigue resonates with what happens when those in the broader world lose sight of the basics: the proverbial blizzard of round after round after round of holiday and annual appeals is right around the corner. Oh, boy!

When companies and organizations stray, their efforts just add to the general noise that leads to overall viewer disaffection. How many times has your company or organization gotten so carried away with an internal viewpoint or become enamored with a technology that the effort ceased to really focus on the audience? Missing the mark on the basics costs time and money, but rarely achieves desired results.

So if you’re turned off by a robocalls or campaign email and literature, take a look at your company’s or organization’s efforts through that same critical lens.