Mark Schroeder

The Rules of the Game; or, How Our Customers Are Worlds Unto Themselves

1. Customer Service — whatever channel it is provided in — lives within the world of language.

2. That world can be viewed as a game.

3. The game has rules, some clearly articulated and scripted (“answer X when customer says Y,” “provide this offer when this action occurs,” “the desired ROI is this…,” and so on). This is the explicit knowledge of the game — it can (ideally) be accessed by anyone.

4. Some of the rules of the game are not explicit — they are tacit. They guide our behavior but we can’t articulate them. As the thought-provoking chemist Michael Polyani noted in both Personal Knowledge and The Tacit Dimension, “we [often] know more than we can tell.” Riding a bike provides a good example of tacit knowledge; when riding, for example, one never makes explicit the laws of mechanics (balance this, exert pressure here, etc.) — one simply rides.

5. Indeed, the majority of rules in the game are tacit. We have to observe the world at work to understand what the rules actually are. As the great language philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein noted, “I do not explicitly learn the propositions that stand fast for me. I can discover them subsequently like the axis around which a body rotates. This axis is not fixed in the sense that anything holds it fast, but the movement around it determines its immobility.”

6. Tacit rules can be observed at work in different contexts. For example, we may notice, after repeated trials, that a number of customers use an unexpected word (or cluster of words) at a specific node within the customer journey. We craft a response, a rule changes, the customer journey map reorganizes itself — and the world accommodates that change. In this instance we can codify the tacit knowledge and make it explicit.

7. Our goal is to convert tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge.

8. And indeed, many companies are doing an excellent job at codifying tacit knowledge — that is, making what was previously hidden explicit.  Cogito, for example, is an interesting company in this regard, in that its emotional intelligence software surfaces up the “hidden signals” that inform language (tone, inflection, etc.) and then provides directions (“speak more slowly,” etc.) on how to respond to the customer and even provides a CX score — just like in a game. After a period of time, in-the-moment suggestions (“be more empathic”) can become normative rules (“If customer says X, then Y”).

9. “Repositories of data” provide the framework for “world views.”

10. Worlds are alive — they grow with each interaction and interconnection.

11. Each client comprises its own world.

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By |September 26th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

The Ghost in the Machine; or, The (Un)Intended Consequences of Amazon’s Purchase of Whole Foods

Imagine the Whole Foods of the near future — it’s no longer a store in the classical sense but, rather, a space of “personalized anticipation.” It’s an intelligent place, complete with sensors for tracking customer purchases, robots for stocking shelves, and cameras that record your facial gestures, in case you need help. It’s a place that knows you better than you know yourself, what you eat, and if you are a member of Prime, of which half the households in the United States are, then what you watch, what you listen to, what you read, and much, much more. In this new world, to paraphrase Buddha, “All that we are is the result of what we have consumed.” And Amazon knows (or will know soon) what you have consumed.

In the next few years Amazon may well achieve its own Copernican revolution in the way we “position” ourselves in the shopping universe. Davey Alba writes in Wired that Amazon aims “to minimize friction in the shopping experience—and, it should be said, reduce labor costs. In Amazon’s world, you don’t even get out of the car. And if you do enter a supermarket, you can get what you want without so much as reaching for your wallet or phone.”

To be sure, there is a sense of shock and awe when one considers Amazon’s strategy — a two-fold strategy, really, as Ben Thompson points, consisting of AWS for businesses and Prime for consumers. There is intellectual audacity in what Amazon does, innovation, and a focus on the long game, the results and ramifications of which are now appearing like some new land glimpsed dimly on the horizon.

And a sense of unease, too, for there is a suspicion that we are on the verge of an epistemological break with the objects in the world — rather than acting upon them with some modicum of intentionality and rationality, they will act upon us, limit and shape our choices — indeed, anticipate us. To be sure, Amazon is playing no small role in reformulating our being-in-the-world.

Of course this purchase will have consequences, some unintended, within the whole grocery market eco-system. Many will be positive, in that they will create more jobs in a variety of areas. For example, in the Whole Foods of the future it’s fair to say that we will see very few staff — Amazon’s use of automation in their warehouses and their experiments with the technologies that power Amazon Go presage such a shift.

This means that customer journey maps will need to be adjusted as the customer experience changes. Micro moments within the journey will assume different positions and will require different responses. Branding — and storytelling — will take on even more importance. Label information will need to become more effective and precise. And lastly, the product provider will have to assume more responsibility for “customer education.”

The information delivery mechanism will change, also. More and more we will see information on products delivered via a kiosk or roaming robots. Companies will need to take a page from the Amazon playbook and develop rich, seamless omni-channel learning experiences to succeed. This will be particularly relevant for companies that make products for the Whole Body Department (vitamins, supplements, etc.).

Of the shopping experience of the future, Amazon likes to say “No lines. No checkout. (No, seriously.)” Forward-thinking companies might want to insert an additional sentence — “No staff.” — and plan accordingly.

** Look for Amazon to buy a health insurance company in the near future, further extending the reach of Prime into all aspects of our lives.

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By |September 20th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

“Dogs Are People, Too”: What I Learned At Big Boulder 2016

This week I had the fantastic experience of attending the 2016 BigBoulder conference, thanks to the largesse of our partners over at GNIP. This was my first time attending the conference and the Big Boulder Initiative deserves a round of applause for the great job they did. Boulder’s best hotel, the St. Julien, was a gracious host, the food and drinks catered to a variety of tastes, the talks covered a wide range of pertinent issues in the social data world, and of course informing it all was the vibe of Boulder — even though I have lived here for twenty years, I still can’t get over how spectacular a venue it is. And if that wasn’t enough, the Dalai Llama was also staying at the St. Julien. Talk about a vibrational charge!

The BBI has already blogged about the talks in some detail so I won’t rehash a job well done; rather, I would like to share a list of thoughts, observations, and “things overheard” (without “last person” attribution). I have kept the list short, but truth be told, the conference generated a whole host of thoughts and ideas. So, without further ado: 

  • Dogs are people, too.
  • Brad (a real guy) does a better job than Radian Six at measuring sentiment. No one should tell Salesforce that.
  • A lot of folks are watching Mr. Robot. Is life imitating art?
  • If not art, then life often imitates (or is shaped by) Twitter — at least during political crises.
  • Pictures can tell a story — if we can see them.
  • Empathy — in design and presentation— will be a key element.
  • There are multiple truths.
  • We have miles to go before we sleep.
  • Bots are the future. But they still need Brad.
  • Algorithms are biased.
  • Now what?

Here are a couple of suggestions for the BBI for next year (assuming unlimited time and budget):

  1. It would be great to have a meeting planner capability where attendees are able to schedule meetings with other attendees prior to the conference. That may have been available and I was not aware of it.
  2. How about some workshops for brainstorming specific problems?
  3. What about a start-up competition? Start-ups would get ten minutes on the stage to make their presentation. Attendees could vote on the winner.

Look forward to seeing you all at Big Boulder 2017!

— Mark Schroeder

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