Tuesday, 29 June 2004

Usability Not Usable? Part 1

Conventional wisdom states that websites and other new products should be evaluated with non-tech savvy participants. With 63% of American adults accessing the Internet regularly, 83% of teens, and 20% of adults actively avoiding the online world we are a nation of tech-savvy or tech-avoidant. Conventional recruiting strategies not longer apply.

Rather than pursue an audience that is actively avoiding technology, we recommend iteratively evaluating new products with the expert customers – the professional amateurs. Professional Amateurs have done the competitve research, they know what works for them, and best of all – they’re passionate and articulate.

Benchmarking and evaluting with a novice customer-base provide a rear-view mirror description of where your competitors were. The key to surpassing the competition in the technically sophisticated landscape described above is listening to the needs of your professional amateurs – those customers engaging with your products on a daily basis. By paying close attention to their needs, opportunities will be obvious. As an added benefit, it will only strengthen your relationship with them.

The Sidewalk Pitch

Help us defeat George Bush.


Do you have a moment for Greenpeace?

You’re running late for a meeting, which of these lines stops you?

Political activist recruiters are on the Nicollet Avenue street corners this summer . Last week it was the Democratic National Committee and this week – Greenpeace.

One of the volunteer coordination tips I learned from Camp Wellstone:

Get potential volunteers to say ‘Yes’.

The another is be specific and compelling. The Greenpeace representatives are doing neither. They’re offering me – and everyone else an early out.

On the other hand, I congratulated the DNC rep on his compelling sidewalk pitch.

Monday, 28 June 2004

Repeating the Same Action and Expecting a New Result?

Engagement at meetings and excitement about projects is down. A number of key people are leaving. The passion that sparked our initial conversations is waning. One of our clients is at a turning point with their organization.

A number of never-been-tried-by-us suggestions were thrown around in a recent strategy session. Most of them immediately dismissed with a quick “that may work for some organizations, but not us.”

We talked about a number of approaches that could provide more value to their customers and more energy to their organization – from repositioning their offering to bringing on some lower-level individuals to assist management to really fulfilling on their unique selling propsition.

The resistance to change – when survival is most in question – is not unique to organizations. BusinessPundit struggles with the issue of a resistance manager and Seth Godin discovers the same issue when offering suggestions on improving presentations .

We at Working Pathways offer 2 suggestions for approaching a new strategy:

  1. Have you and your team answer this question, “What’s the worst possible outcome?”Answer it for your current situation and any potential strategy. New directions are never as forboding as existing strategies.
  2. The most successful, maintainable strategy is doing as little as possible

Friday, 25 June 2004

Daily Productivity Tips

We’re working with a number of clients to make their days more effective. One of the smallest, yet most profound changes is making each meeting a working meeting. Though powerful and effective, this technique does go against more than 96 years of conventional wisdom

This technique works especially well for document review meetings – have an attendee, you?, make the changes discussed as they’re decided upon. At the end of the meeting, the document is updated – no longer hanging over anyone’s head.

Another tip – before scheduling an in-person meeting, ask yourself what the quickest, easiest way to accomplish the purpose of the meeting. Can the 1o-member project kick-off meeting be handled through email? Probably. Can a decision be reached by a couple of phone calls? Probably.

Over at Worthwhile Magazine, Anita Sharpe highlights a couple other tips for getting time back on your side.

Thursday, 24 June 2004

Hotel Room as Showroom – Part 2

Starting this week and running through Sept. 20, guests can check out the cameras, take pictures and print them using an HP Photosmart 245 photo printer installed at the hotels

Following up on the original Hotel Room as Showroom article, Yahoo Reports that Fairmont Hotels and HP are partnering to offer guests digital camera rental and printing during their hotel stay.

Thanks to Perception Analyzer and Peter Davidson.

Taking Ownership

Clients, customers, collegues don’t care why there’s a problem. They just want it fixed and to move on. To do that, each person approached with a client issue needs to take ownership of problem and feel they have the authority to deliver a satisfactory solution quickly.

Take this Ritz Carlton experience for example:

At exactly 7:00 p.m. I returned. I was there, but dinner wasn’t. At 7:11 I called Gloria…she immediately apologized and said a rush would be placed on my order. At 7:22 there was a knock at the door….”Mr. Blackman, Gloria and I once again apologize that your dinner has arrived late. Tonight, your meal is compliments of the Ritz.”

Gloria didn’t need to check with her manager – the Ritz trusts each and every employee to solve their guests issues effectively. All organizations need to trust their employees to take this level of ownership.

Tuesday, 22 June 2004

On-Board Wi-Fi

The last place for wireless to penetrate may actually be where the money is – according to this Forbes article:

Boeing plans to charge $30 for flights longer than six hours, $19.95 for flights of four to six hours, $14.95 for shorter flights and $9.95 for a 30-minute trial.

Continuous access from Munich to LA for $30? Definitely.

How about Munich to Tokyo? Definitely.

Wi-Fi is a valuable amenity and airlines should use this offering as a stepping stone to more specific and valuable customer offerings.

This may just be what carriers like United need to cruise into the black.

In a related story, Two Apple managers videoconference at 35k feet

In what might have been the first in-air commercial videoconference, Apple product manager Kurt Knight, on the ground in Cupertino, hooked up over iChat AV with product line manager Eric Zelenka, returning to San Francisco from Munich, by leveraging Lufthansa’s new wireless high-speed broadband connection service.

Friday, 18 June 2004

McDonald’s Learns From Best Buy

In the Star Tribune’s recent “Best Buy Copes with Costs” article, they report that Best Buy’s customer-centric format roll-out (and here) has been scaled back 40%.

The customer centricity strategy has its costs. Operating expenses as a percentage of revenue were 2.2 percent higher at the test stores, the company said. But the test stores’ sales and gross profit rates also outpaced traditional locations.

That’s right – even with slightly higer operating expenses, Best Buy has dramatically increased sales by focusing providing an excellent experience to specific customer segments.

In a related development – McDonald’s has also declared that one brand experience doesn’t fit all

“…no single ad tells the whole story,” Larry Light, McDonald’s chief marketing officer.

He continues:

“We don’t need one big execution of a big idea. We need one big idea that can be used in a multidimensional, multilayered and multifaceted way.”

There you have it – 2 big names declaring mass marketing is not longer effective and moving their organizations to a more individual customer experience model. Is this the end of mass marketing and the return of local specialization and identity as Seth Godin recommends? I hope so.

Friday, 11 June 2004

The 30 Second Rule

If it takes you or your collegues longer than 30 seconds to find a piece of information, then your workplace organization needs drastic improvement.

I recently attended Minnesota Technology’s overview on Lean for the Office. The 30 second rule is a great yardstick to measure your day against.

Extend the principal a bit..if no one but yourself can find the information needed to conduct business, the office is being held hostage, and you can’t take a vacation. Two points that wear down the morale of the workplace.

You Expect What You Pay For

Recently – a collegue recounted his experience selling a fully-capable product with a price less than half its competitors.

“After the presentation, the customer turned to the sales representative and asked, ‘What’s wrong with it?'”

This, more than 78 years after J. Walter Thompson’s research for Pond’s Cold Cream proved that price and quality are directly correlated in customers’ minds

Compare the potential customer’s – “What’s wrong with it?” – with the following from JWT’s 1926 Pond’s customer research:

“Reasonable in price, used by everyone, many women had begun to think that they could not be as good as creams that were more costly or that were imported.”

This strategy also works in the service industry, illustrated by this exchange between a collegue and an industry leader:

“How to do you get clients to buy into your recommendations?”

“Charge more.”