Friday, November 11, 2011

No Customers, no Business: What if you could delight your customers?

This session started off with a discussion of the art and science of customer satisfaction, structured as a dialog between the panelists and audience.  The panelists included:
  • Eva Manolis, VP of Retail Customer Experience at Amazon
  • Kaaren Hanson, VP of Design Innovation at Intuit
  • Marie K. Daniels, Senior Director at CA Support
  • Pat Shriver: Senior Director, Development Services and Technologies at NetApp
The facilitator was Jeni Panorst, Product Line Manager at Intel.

To start the dialogue off, the facilitator asked, what is the most important skill for customer interaction?
  • Eva said: have empathy, how will the customer think about the product?  Keeping that in mind to drive your work.
  • Kaaren said: not just having empathy yourself, but how to get others to have that empathy too, so they stay awake late into the night thinking of how to help their customers
  • Marie said: Be accountable.  Don't blame the computer, process, or environment, own the problem and work to solve it.
  • Pat said: listen and adjust.  Listen to the problem you are given, not the solution they are trying to give you.  If you delight your customers, they become an advocate for you.  If you don't, it will take them a long time to believe you.
  • Jeni added: You need to deeply understand the problem and have a desire to have that understanding before you can go about solving it.
Are you required to give the customers everything they ask for or just solve their problems?
  • Eva said: The number one question Amazon asks is, 'did we solve your problem?'.  It's the key metric they track for all of their customer experience.
  • Marie said: If you just give the customer what they ask for, you miss a real opportunity to really listen and understand what the customer is trying to do.  You might be able to solve their problem and not just answer their question.
  • Jeni added: Sometimes you can go down every single path to try to solve a problem and can't.  Sometimes you need to back up and go down a completely different road to solve the problem.  Work collaboratively to solve problems.
Sometimes customer loyalty is borne out of an ability to recover from a negative situation.  What is a negative situation you've recovered from:
  • Kaaren Hanson said: people notice when you don't truly care.  It's important that it comes through in your dealings with them.
  • Marie Daniels said: you can recover with genuine apology and going the extra mile to do so.
Eva Manolis touched on an interesting point that to truly understand your users or customers, you really need many kinds of data: usability studies, research, data from the product.  Kaaren seconded this by talking about conducting ethnographic studies.  Marie Daniels said you have to have trust to bring forward ideas/problems: executives have to support innovation and creativity in terms of customer delight, but you also have to hire people who really care about it.  Eva says you need to have every single person in the company to have a 'customer obsession'.

Are technical women uniquely poised to provide solutions for customer interaction/delight?
  • Pat said: people who work in services have to be 'wired' for it, regardless of gender.
  • Kaaren said: if you have empathy in your engineers, then you have the 'secret sauce'.  Women in general are slightly better at this than men.
An audience question asked how you develop for global customer experiences?
  • Kaaren said: you really need to be in a given country to design a good experience for people who live in it.  You need to really understand the culture and it's hard to do that without proximity to it.
  • Eva said: some problems are global; at Amazon everyone needs to buy things.  However there are surprises.  For example, the wish list is used different in different countries - the name just didn't work in French.  Once the name was changed, the performance of that feature tripled almost overnight.  You really need to test the customer in their environment to understand what's going on.
Another key point made was that if your employees aren't happy, your customers won't be happy.  You need to delight internally in order to delight externally.

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