Wednesday, June 30, 2010

If I were CXO of AT&T

This is the second in a new experiment for me. If I make it beyond 7, I think I'll make it to 30.

If I were CXO of AT&T I would:
  1. Acknowledge risk - I would immediately recognize that AT&T must make a revolutionary improvement in customer satisfaction to prevent a significant amount of churn once the iPhone is available on Verizon.
  2. Tend the root - Actions to improve the network would help, but they are not the root of customer loyalty. True loyalty transcends momentary transactional advantage. If AT&T is to stave off this near-term defection, it must act to win the hearts of consumers and then capitalize on momentum to win back the minds. The hearts can only be won if people truly believe that AT&T is committed to doing more than just short term talk. Start with saying what we mean, and meaning what we say in every communication (i.e., Be Authentic).
  3. Spend like there's no tomorrow - Do the thing we've said we are going to do. Do "everything possible" to fix the network issues. People from government to private industry cavalierly use this phrase with no thought to the actual meaning. It doesn't mean "everything within reason" as most people seem to think. "Everything possible" means doing things at a breadth and speed that approaches recklessness. In order to win the hearts, a gesture must be made - improve the network in the most populous areas "overnight". Set ludicrous goals for improvement and throw enough money at them to make the impossible possible.
  4. Simplify - AT&T bundled plans are industry leading. Capitalize on this and go further. Simplify beyond the realm of what consumers think is possible. Throw away concepts like the "triple play" and go for the "whole enchilada" $200 unlimited everything (TV, phone, wireless, data, internet, long distance, local... etc.). I don't know if the number is right, but the concept is incredible - and that's what AT&T should be shooting for: beyond credulity.
  5. Be world class - make our core service offerings world class. I don't mean "be perceived as world class". I don't mean "look like we are world class". I mean actually "be".
  6. Develop an innovation strategy - scour the enterprise for the best and brightest and find mechanisms to directly and in-directly incent innovation. AT&T lost something big when it lost Bell Labs. Bring that back.

#2 (of my experiment) - still like it

intentionally not being #1 - garbage

I want to share something with you: The three little sentences that will get you through life. Number 1: Cover for me. Number 2: Oh, good idea, Boss! Number 3: It was like that when I got here. - Homer Simpson

Sunday, June 27, 2010

If I were CXO (part 1)

This is the first in an experimental series of entries. I am going to pick 10 different companies and explain what I would do if I were hired as the CXO (Chief Experience Officer). I don't know if I'll continue just yet, but I'm willing to give it a shot to see how it works out.

First off, my favorite company to hate, and a frequent bash victim of this blog - Blockbuster.

Discarding the fact that I would more than likely turn down an offer by a company that is doomed to be out of business before 2020 and is squarely opposite in orientation to my principles, this is what I would do...
  1. Start with why - Refocus the company from making short-term revenue to one of providing truly great in-home entertainment experiences
  2. Apologize with a megaphone - Blockbuster recently reinstated the dumb tax and is once again collecting late fees. This action speaks to the fact that Blockbuster exists to make money first and foremost and does not exist to be of preeminent value to people seeking home entertainment. I would immediately and publicly apologize for this misstep, remove the late fee policy and explain how it is antithetical to Blockbusters fundamental reason for being.
  3. Make amends - Just like a past entry in this blog points out, apologies without genuine gestures that show contrition are platitudes and ultimately contemptuous. I would refund each and every late fee collected since the reinstatement in the form of store credit.
  4. Catch-up - Partner with a hardware retailer (Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony, or possibly Tivo) to get downloadable movies off of computers and onto the television.
  5. Fix the in-store experience:
    • The lines are too long and picking a movie from the shelves is too time consuming. Put kiosks in the store for help selecting movies and checking out.
    • Stop yelling "Welcome to Blockbuster" as customers walk in.
    • Upgrade the POS and peripherals (scanner, printer and signature pad) along with the couponing process that barely work, waste paper and power and serve to commoditize the offering.
    • Unify all the CRM systems to enable promotions to be applied and tracked without the use of paper
    • Enable "return to any store"
  6. Fix the multi-channel experience - starting with quantitative and qualitative user research search for opportunities to ultimately improve customers in-home entertainment lives and execute on those that align with the overall brand proposition.
  7. Expand the reach - Put vending kiosks or mini-stores into airports and other locations where impulse meets opportunity. It is critical to integrate these with the overall CRM system and "return to any store" policy in order to drive the sense that Blockbuster exists to serve it's customers in the way that will most fit into their busy lives.

My "If I were CXO" experiment - Like it. I Think I'll do it again.

Current customer experience at Blockbuster - Garbage

"No, no, no, Lisa. If adults don't like their jobs, they don't go on strike. They just go in every day and do it really half-assed. That's the American Way." - Homer Simpson

Paradox of Language

As my career has progressed one thing that can lift me up or conversely drag me down is the linguistic capabilities of my coworkers. My wide vocabulary and semantic orientation for precision drives some people batty and I have often been made to feel pretentious at best and elitist at worst for using "fancy words" (e.g., cognitive dissonance) in business conversations.

Over the last year my wife and I have watched the complete Tudors series on Showtime. While my wife is most fascinated with the drama, cinematography and history I can't seem to get enough of the linguistic pirouettes engaged in by subjects and nobility in discussions with governmental figures and the king.

As I have watched the fabulous dialogues unfold I have been ironically reinvigorated with my desire to use language more precisely in that I am at the same time vexed with the paradox therein - it's not what you say, it's what other people hear.

There is another paradox, however, that fascinates me even more; how language is at once the vessel to new rational understanding and the horizon that bounds our ability to conceive. It is both the device of perception and the blinder.

This conundrum became apparent while watching the Tudors in that I was stunned how lords accused of treason, and royalty seeking fealty could use language in such a precise manner that enabled verbal jousting of a form we rarely see today. What was equally apparent is that we have lost something in our culture - nuance.

In our constant endeavor to use terms and language accessible to the common man and shunning orators who use complex concepts and ideas as "too intellectual" we have lost the ability to see subtle yet important differentiators in topics in culture, art, business, relationships, politics and everywhere else.

The English language has an intrinsic beauty in its unique ability to differentiate between concepts so close that they can seem one and the same but have chasms of difference in meaning when applied. The English speaking populace used to pride itself on it's ability to break new ground and find new conceptual understanding through the use of language and dialogue.

The very construct that we use to break through our boundaries and create new communicable understanding is also the barrier that we must break through if we are to mature our intellectual capabilities as a species. This is apparent when we talk about how certain concepts or cultural idioms are only understood if you can truly think in a particular language. Some words do not have equivalent translations between languages. One mildly famous but erroneous example is Schadenfreude (which actually has an English equivalent - epicaricacy).

So what? Who cares?

It is my opinion that the inevitable result of the dumbing down of our cultural linguistic capabilities is the rise of anosognosia (meta-incompetence - the inability to discern competence from incompetence) in that when you lose the ability to describe the difference between things you begin to lose the ability to see the difference between things. One unexplored consequence of this trend is that deception will increase as those with a greater command of the language will be able to dupe those with only surface level understandings.

I beg all of my readers/followers (are there more than 3 of you now?) to fight back! Do not succumb to the penchant for simple un-nuanced language. Rather, educate your listeners and readers such that they may begin to see discernment as a valuable skill to protect themselves from deception and chicanery.


The Tudors - like it

Nuanced Language - like it

Aspersions of elitism for using nuanced language - garbage

"How is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain. Remember when I took that home winemaking course, and I forgot how to drive? " - Homer Simpson