Putting Experience Back into Customer Experience

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Yesterday I wrote about the importance of reading mean tweets. It’s a post about the rough and tumble nature of online conversation and what can happen when you step out into the gaze (and full throttle voice) of the social web. And then today, almost on cue, comes what BuzzFeed calls the most epic brand meltdown on Facebook ever.

It began with an appearance on Gordon Ramsey’s reality TV show, Kitchen Nightmares. As you can see from the footage from the show, the episode did not play well for the owners of Amy’s Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro in Scottsdale, Arizona.


No doubt, BuzzFeed did a great job of amplifying an already hot story. But a story can only take you so far. It needs to be stoked. Fed. It needs to be cultivated, fanned and coaxed to become a raging fire.

And that’s exactly what is continuing to happen.

With each comment on Reddit, Yelp or even BuzzFeed, for every tweet and mention on Facebook, owners Samy and Amy step into the breach to fan the flames of this conversation. They continue to take brand experience to a new level with each and every comment or tweet. Take a look at some of the Facebook comments and conversations captured on the BuzzFeed page by way of example.

I am always fascinated at the way that people behave under pressure. Some deal with scrutiny gracefully. But not all of us are able or willing to. And I admit, I was drawn to this unfolding drama … to the flaming tentacles that lashed at every passing message. And then suddenly, the kraken appeared and I became part of the story. A small moment where the story was not part of someone else’s drama, but part of my own.

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And I must admit I was a little flattered. To be singled out here, on the other side of the planet, for my limited cameo appearance. But all jokes aside, there are salient lessons here – not just about social media, crisis communications and brand management.

What intrigues me is that certain point where the social media experience eclipsed the brand experience.

I can already imagine this restaurant becoming a Mecca for an inverted kind of customer experience where diners choose to expose themselves to the Samy and Amy experience unplugged. It has happened before and can happen again. But maintaining this level of performance comes with a cost. And there are precious few who can continue to operate at that level indefinitely.

Where will this go? Who knows. But it is a brand performance that few will forget in a hurry.

I’m Just a Little Bit in Love with This

I'll Give You All I Can...

I’m just a little bit in love with a great presentation by Martin Weigel.

I didn’t want to get in the way between you and this presentation – but it’s important to remember that there is a huge perception gap between what WE think consumers want, and what they EXPECT from us. It’s not even that we have to CLOSE the gap – just acknowledge it is there. Then we can get to work on truly inspirational customer experiences.

I'll Give You All I Can... Brandon Warren via Compfight

Gustin Shows Why Retailers Still Don’t Get Digital

Gustin to transform retail

For years, Australian retailers have under-invested in digital. They held back technology investment, closed down innovation programs and hired traditional marketers when they should have been growing their own breed of tech-savvy innovators. And while retailers had their heads in the sand, the world changed.

Recent failures like ClickFrenzy have been down played and it’s clear that even the retailers with some digital budget are unprepared for the fast moving transformation taking place thanks to mobile.

In spite of all the trends, facts, figures and forecasts, retailers remain unconvinced. What is driving this myopic view of the future of business? In many ways, it feels like a classic illustration of the The Innovator’s Dilemma – companies (and indeed a whole industry) misses out on new waves of innovation because they are unable to capitalise on disruptive technologies.

But I also think retailers are captives of “Big Thinking”. Because they operate at scale, big thinking clouds their judgement. It’s easy to discount competitors when they generate sales that are fractions of a percentage of your business. But it’s not the percentage that’s important, its the velocity and momentum.

Hand made men’s clothing manufacturer, Gustin, illustrate this shift beautifully. They launched a Kickstarter campaign some time ago with the aim of raising $20,000. The premise was simple:

  • Capitalise on their growing brand and reputation for premium menswear hand-crafted in San Francisco
  • Allow for pre-purchasing of products through crowdsourcing – perfectly matching the demand and supply chains
  • Deliver the retail items to customers directly at wholesale price

Now, with two days before the campaign closes, Gustin have massively over-reached their goal. Currently sitting at almost $407,000, Gustin have smashed the target, connecting with almost 4000 new customers and validating not only their approach but also whole product lines.

And all this was done by taking an outside-in view of their business.

Until other retailers can transform the way they think about their business, their customers and the experience they provide, they will continue to struggle with this new world of digital.

A Palpable Dis-Ease – Graham Brown’s Mobile Youth

We don’t have to look far to see that we are living in a digital world. On my desk sits half a dozen connected devices, wifi enabled, flashing, beeping, spewing updates from sites, friends and acquaintances thousands of miles away. But for me, this is a world that I have chosen to participate. For many in the Gen X and Baby Boomer demographics, adoption of technology has been a conscious choice. We grapple with this changing world for work or for pleasure – sometimes for both … but always with the knowledge that the off button is only a short distance away.

But for succeeding generations – the always connected Gen Y and Gen Z groups, there has never been a time of “non-connection”. A battery or wifi failure is not just a technical issue. It’s an existential crisis.

In May 2012, when young Chinese student, Xiao Zheng, sold his kidney in order to buy an iPad2, the headlines around the world amplified the outrage. From the outside it’s easy to point a finger and call out the insatiable materialistic desires of a morally bankrupt generation. But surely there is something deeper going on.

Graham Brown’s new book The Mobile Youth digs below the surface to reveal a compelling story of dis-ease. Peppered with statistics, insight – and most importantly – an anthropologist-cum-storytellers eye for observation, Graham reveals a hard truth that we all share in:

The rise of technology isn’t undermining the social fabric of society. Technology’s rise is a response to our loss of a meaningful social world.

As a reader of a lot of business communication (books, blogs, papers, presentations), I am often disappointed that the power of the writing doesn’t match the power of the ideas. This book is the opposite. It’s a business book written in the style of a page-turning blockbuster. For anyone interested in the changes taking place in our society and the collision of generations, culture and communication, it makes for compelling reading.

But most importantly, it provides an insight into the seemingly disconnected nature of our ever-more connected lives. Download your copy of The Mobile Youth and let me know what you think. I found it fascinating.

Here’s to Your Strange Heart

Many, many years ago – back in my early days of social media, I connected with a very strange person. His name is Mike Wagner. He was a boldly creative and generous spirit that leaped at me out of the vast sea of social media chaos. I loved his energy and his thinking.

But the thing is … he stood out. We connected. We conversed. And after many years of connecting over social media, we met – face-to-face – in Des Moines, Iowa – and I felt like we had been friends for years. I thought it was about some deeper truth related to social media. But I was wrong.

And now I know how he did it. He used his STRANGE on me.

In this great TEDxDesMoines talk, he talks about the positive power of strangeness – and how we can tap into our strangeness to connect with the people who can help us solve the problems of our world.

So how do you feel today? I’m full of Johnny Cash today, but tomorrow I expect a touch of Ray LaMontagne. Rock on with your strangeness today.

Trust + Scale Trumps Bright and Shiny – Australia Post Goes Digital

You can tell when you are in a Post Office by the smell. You open the door and you get the feint mustiness of paper, humidity and light glue mixed with a light dusting of body odour and desperation. It’s the same smell that has been around since I was a boy – and it greets me whenever I have to trudge my way to the local post office to pick up a package.

A cynic would suggest that it is entirely manufactured – that a consultant somewhere had manufactured a brand experience, turned it to liquid and issued it en-masse to every Australia Post location around the country. It is a smell that reeks of authority. It smells like my grandfather.

And visiting the local post office is just like spending a weekend with a half crazy relative. The in-store displays and products are as haphazard as Aunt Mable’s crocheted rugs – lots of bright colours, incongruous items and bargain basement prices right next to first day of issue stamps and rare coins.

But all that is about to change. Well online anyway.

It’s only taken twenty years, but Australia Post looks like it might just be going digital.

I’m pretty excited to see this transformation. The Australia Post Digital Mailbox promises security, accessibility and convenience. Imagine being able to store valuable documents like your passport somewhere easy to reach. Or being able to access account details, pay bills and receive registered email. It sounds almost too good to be true … and I would say that it was if it was an offering from anyone else.

But despite the external appearances – Australia Post clearly understands scale, the importance of trust and security. They understand what it takes to deliver services at volume and speed. And with an ageing population, a brand like Australia Post may well just deliver greater online participation and a deeper sense of trust than newer platforms and brands have been able to manage.

It’s great to see Australia Post take this bull by the horns, finally. My grandfather will be happy!

When Your Twitter Campaign Goes South – #qantasluxury Ditches

Today, Qantas launched a Twitter-based competition. Perhaps underestimating how much damage has been done to the brand in the wake of the recent lockout of its workers, the vocal Twitter community hijacked the campaign and have been busily reminding Qantas management (and Board) just what negative brand sentiment can translate into. Clearly, Qantas has not learned from their social customers.

But what does it look like when this happens? How is it expressed? 

Tiphereth Gloria has done a great job monitoring the situation and pulling out a number of key tweets across the day. Using Storify, Tip shares and amplifies some of the most salient points.

We used to say that the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. But does this apply in a world where personal recommendation trumps brand allegiance? It seems that this Qantas saga has some way to run – with Fair Work Australia now required to produce a binding outcome which could still take months. And the question on many customers minds has to be – who at Qantas has their eye on the safety, customer experience and  brand value of the business? Clearly not the Board or the CEO.

What’s New with News Limited in Australia? Digital Subscriptions. That’s What

An interesting cast of folks assembled at News Limited's Sydney office to be briefed on the upcoming digital subscription offer being rolled out for The Australian. Those present included Katie Chatfield, Tim Burrowes, Tiphereth Gloria, Craig Wilson, Karalee Evans, Bronwen Clune, Laurel Papworth, Gary Hayes, Ross Dawson, Melanie James and a few folks I didn't have the chance to meet. Here's a selection of the main points tweeted at the briefing.

The Facebook Valuation in Perspective

The news that Goldman Sachs had valued Facebook at $50 billion is big news. Well – big – in that it is a lot of money. But from a per user point of view, it values all our individual profiles at $100 each. That’s not such a big deal. But it would be more significant if it was $100 per user per year. That would give us something to really measure against.

And for yet another perspective, take a look at this infographic from The Next Web. It shows how the Facebook valuation sits cheek-by-jowl with other web companies like Amazon, Google and Apple.

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Wikileaks Payback Targets

With Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, refused bail, it is now down to the network of Wikileaks editors, technologists, journalists etc to carry on with their publishing plans.

Meanwhile, a payback campaign has been launched by loosely connected activists, hackers, bloggers and various Wikileaks supporters targeting efforts aimed at financially crippling the Wikileaks group. This group, known as Anonymous Operations are using the web to orchestrate and plan their efforts – and are, at present at least, keeping one step ahead of efforts to shut down their servers. Google’s caching servers unsuspectingly seem to be supporting this.

But who is on the list and why? A quick scan of the cached Anonymous Operations target page reveals the following:

BBC for it's manipulative, distorted and selective reporting on Wikileaks related events.

Any US Anti WL site,

  • FoxNews
  • EveryDNS
  • cnn.com
  • washingtontimes.com
  • Eventually Mastercard/ Visa, not viable with current hive.

If we go after a US site, more US anon will join, its only (as of this writing) 10:20 EST, vs. like 4 am in euro.

  • http://www.dyn-intl.com Exposed by WikiLeaks cables; DynCorp, headquartered in DC with Texas offices, helped pimp out little boys as sex slaves to cops in Afghanistan. Currently not enough attention has been brought to the gross misconduct of a US private contractor.