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Hassle Mapping The Customer Experience

A benefit of working at Journyx is our CEO, Curt Finch, has an uncanny knack for having wonderful conversations with some of the smartest business thinkers out there. A few weeks ago, Curt talked with Adrian Slywotzky who wrote The Art of Profitability and just penned the upcoming Demand: Creating What People Love Before They Know They Want It. I’d highly recommend you add it to your reading list (or just go ahead and preorder it now).

One of the key points in their conversation – which can be found in Curt’s Inc blogpost – centers around generating greater market demand and improving a customer’s experience through the creation of hassle maps. Slywotsky defines a hassle map:

Whether you’re talking about a consumer or a corporation, a hassle map defines all of the actual steps that characterize the negative experiences of the customer. Think about these questions: Where are the emotional hot spots, the irritations, the frustrations, the time wasted, the delay? Where are the economic hot spots? And then think about this: What are the ways that businesses can radically improve the hassle map for both the customer and themselves?

Many companies face a problem when it comes to the user or customer experience. It’s rarely one huge catastrophe that sinks them. Rather, it’s more akin to death by a thousand cuts. Our customers or users experience a hassle here, another hassle there…eventually, the hassles build up to a point where the negatives outweigh any positives. And another otherwise satisfied customer leaves for something better.

Let’s get a better handle on these hassles – understand what they are and ruthlessly rip them from our customers’ lives. At Journyx, we’ve started developing a Hassle Map Program to collect and catalog how customers interact with our software. I thought I’d share a bit of how we’ve set it up.

Step One: Collect feedback through conversations and observation.
We’ve piloted the program using local customers, which gives us the advantage of getting some face time with them. It’s always a benefit when you can put names with faces…and let the customer do the same.

For these in-person sessions, I record use a Kodak Zi8 video camera and tripod. I love this camera because it’s unobtrusive and still provides pretty good picture and sound quality. And since I also want to ensure I’m capturing every move and mouse click, I set up a recordable GoToMeeting session. I find the combination of video camera and G2M give me several angles in which to understand the hassles our customers experience when using our software.

Step Two: Build the Hassle Map
When it comes to developing the hassle map, I’m a big fan of the mind mapping technique. While it can be done on paper, I much prefer electronic because we’re going to want to build a database of hassle maps. Of all the mind mapping software out there, I highly recommend Mindjet MindManager. It’s pricy but it does something that few others will do: it allows me to conduct searches across maps. So if I want to look for patterns of frustrations across customers, I type a keyword and let the program perform its magic.

Step Three: Put the Maps into Action
It’s not enough to gather the data, right? For the whole Hassle Mapping program to be productive, the data needs to be put to use in your market strategy and product planning. Factor it into your roadmap. Start sharing the outcomes throughout your organization. More than likely, you’ll uncover some hassles not just around your products and services…you’ll learn about hassles with support and sales. If so, make sure that gets to the right folks in your organization.

If you want to know more about our Hassle Mapping program, come to ProductCamp Austin this weekend. I’m proposing a session called Hassle Mapping Your Way to a Better Product Experience. If you can’t make it and would like to know more (or if my session isn’t chosen), reach out to me and I’ll make sure you get the PowerPoint and session collateral I’m preparing for the event.

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Adding Qualitative to Your Social Media Measurement Mix

I should probably offer Mark Schaefer some sort of kickback since his blog never fails to stimulate new ideas. A couple weeks ago, he wrote a post on measurement in social media. Now you’re probably thinking, “Yet another blogpost talking about measurement? Why in the world is that so special?” It wasn’t just the content that was special…the post sparked some interesting comments around the necessity of measurement and types of measurement to consider for social media.

When most folks talk about metrics and ROI and all the various forms of measurement, they’re usually referring to a quantitative methodology. You know…like measuring number of Twitter retweets, Facebook fans, online WOM mentions, blogpost traffic, generated sales, etc. These are things that can be counted and evaluated fairly easily so long as you know why you’re doing it in the first place. Just measuring for the sake of appearances really isn’t going to help you or your organization get where you want to go. Which leads us to…

Why measure at all?
I’m not going to go into this too deeply because there are so many super-smart folks who’ve already made a compelling case for measuring online activity. I will merely add that measurement is a form of feedback, which is critical to learning what works and what needs to be improved. How will you know if your latest online customer engagement program is succeeding in meeting its objectives (you did establish objectives, right?) if you can’t measure the results.

Why add qualitative?
Because sometimes your quantitative data lies to you. Not deliberately, of course, but all those quantitative metrics you’re racking up may not be telling you the full story. This is particularly true in the area of social media where we’re trying to gauge not only action but more emotionally-charged and nebulous qualities like sentiment and beliefs. For instance, when a fan says they “love” their iPhone, what does that mean? Or when someone else tweets that your company’s sales efforts are old and they suck, what’s happening here? A strictly quantitative measurement approach likely will not dive deep enough here to give you tangible results you can use to connect with your customers and make necessary adjustments.

What kind of qualitative measurement methods can you use? The major knock against qualitative is the perception that it’s time-intensive, which can be true. But you have to weigh that through a cost/benefit analysis: is what I’m learning here worth the investment of resources? Still unsure? Then take a page from the work of social scientists and build a sample. Dont’ try to eat the elephant all at once. Your purpose here is to build bite-sized understanding. The key is to construct a random, representative sample that’s going to give you intelligible feedback on the sentiment of your customers (the whole topic of how to build good, measurable samples for social media probably should get a blogpost of its own).

Interviews: These don’t have to be long. Your objective here is to go deeper than a standard quantitative survey by uncovering the more subtle meanings of what “love” and “suck” mean for your customers.
Observations: The simple truth about us human beings is that we often say one thing only to turn around and do something rather different. There are plenty of reasons for this, but figuring out ways to observe our participants is a good way to get closer to actual action that drives behavior.

Do you still need quantitative?
YES! There’s no either/or proposition here…the best measurements will combine both quantitative and qualitative methods. Once we have a working hypothesis (we have to know why we’re doing this in the first place), it’s a recursive process where we use qualitative research to figure out what questions we need to ask, construct quantitative research to gather data, then another qualitative round to complement our data by delivering further depth of insight.

Okay, so it’s a rather high certainty you don’t have time to do recursive research, but the point here is that it’s important to not overuse quantitative measures. How can you best incorporate qualitative methods into your own plans? Or if you’ve used particular qualitative tactics, how well did they work for you?

photo credit: hutchscout (via Flickr)

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Seeking A Sponsoring Organization For Applied Research

For those of you who may not know, I’m currently a master’s candidate in Applied Business Anthropology at the University of North Texas. My broad focus is working with organizations and helping them better understand their internal employee cultures.

The capstone of the program is a practicum where students work with a sponsoring organization to design a research project to solve a very real problem. For me, I have two potential areas of interest and am searching for organizations which might satisfy one or both project possibilities. This will be a great opportunity for any company to get help understanding and resolving a thorny problem through research-based solutions. Oh, and also at no cost to the organization.

If your organization would be interested in sponsoring me and would like more information, please contact me at chris -at- chrisbaileyworks -dot- com.

Interest #1: Organizational Change and the New Rules of Business
In the last few years, there has been a phenomenal shift in business thinking related to the influence of social software on business strategy. Professionals in the technology and business consulting fields have termed it “Enterprise 2.0.” Generally, it differs from traditional business by using newer technology tools to break down silos within organizations; build more collaborative working structures internally and externally; develop more authentic relationships between the company and customer. Yet, with these dynamic changes in business strategy, there is a tension between the old ways of operating and the new, less familiar ways of doing things.

My interest within this field is to study how established industries at a macro-level or businesses at a micro-level are adapting to the changes incurred while moving toward Enterprise 2.0. My hypothesis is that as core functions of business are being changed, businesses not only need to alter their policies and procedures, they need to recreate their people-systems and the cultures that exist within their organizational boundaries. They need a more clearly defined roadmap to deal with the disruptive paradigm shifts that Enterprise 2.0 introduces to daily business and the costs and benefits it generates.

The draw to this particular topic is strong as it aligns with conversations I’ve had with business leaders and their admitted need for help changing their internal people-systems and cultures to meet new challenges posed by technology. My own personal experience corroborates this need as most businesses can easily focus on execution, but more rarely do they have the time to understand the “why” behind that execution. It’s even more pronounced when that execution hinges on understanding how culture is linked to success. For this reason, I believe there is a place for an anthropological approach providing a holistic assessment of how the human interactions and relationships contained within Enterprise 2.0 contribute to a new mode of organization.

Two professions – public relations and human resources – and one major industry – mainstream media (e.g., television and newspapers) – are at the top of my list of potential sites to perform a practicum on this subject. Each of them is struggling to adapt to critical changes wrought by technology and the impact on their business models. Delving deeper, there are also key issues often embedded in each of their organizational cultures. These manifest as how executives communicate with their employees on rules surrounding social media relationships, how managers build new competencies that integrate old and new skills, and how employees approach their work in an environment where professional and personal personas are increasingly blurred.

Interest #2: Startup Organization Maturation
This interest is one I have been developing over the past couple of years. Recently, I worked inside a company that was in the midst of evolving from a startup to a mature enterprise. What I discovered in talking with individuals who had been with the company from the beginning is how much they missed the “good old days” and were concerned about losing some of the characteristics that made it a great place to work. There was a genuine concern the organizational culture was changing as the company grew beyond the startup set of employees.

These dialogues inspired me to think deeply about what happens when a startup organization is no longer a startup. What happens when the company starts to grow up, find success, increase its product and service offerings, hires new people with different competencies? How does an organization maintain the positive aspects of its startup culture and excise what is necessary for beneficial growth?

My personal experience came inside a maturing startup in the technology sector. In Austin, TX, there is an abundance of such companies which would provide a wide array from which to choose. Ideally, I would select a technology-based company that is somewhere in its fifth to eighth year of existence. The anthropology angle would be to conduct interviews with individuals at various levels of the organization and with various lengths of tenure. The aim would be to learn the stories and rituals of the early startup to understand what cultural attributes originated, which ones have been discarded and which ones have been retained.

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Latest Research: Using A Symbolic Approach To Connect Organizational and Corporate Cultures

As I progress into my Business Anthropology grad work, you’ll start seeing most of the discoveries, insights, and developed applications here either in the form of blogposts or downloadable resources. Look for a new Portfolio page soon.

Over the summer, I did some introductory research on culture in business. What might come as a bit of a shock to most managers within organizations is that the concept of “culture” that’s been thrown around for the last 30 years isn’t really culture in the purest (or at least anthropological) sense. Below is the introduction to my paper; you can download the full article here [pdf].

Culture in Business: Using a Symbolic Approach to Connect Organizational and Corporate Cultures

Introduction
In trying to understand the modern business organization, few concepts have been applied (and misapplied) by management and organizational theorists as frequently as culture. The genesis of this is likely the publishing of Deal and Kennedy’s Corporate Cultures and Peters and Waterman’s In Search of Excellence, both best-sellers in the early 1980s (Hamada 1998:1; Gamst 1989:15; Jordan 1989:2). Both non-anthropological works had a considerable impact on business thinking and in many ways challenged the idea of what culture is. Since then, the idea that culture exists in organizations has grown in acceptance to the point where most business leaders now take it for granted. And herein lies a significant problem for organizations: over the past thirty years the richness and salience of the culture concept has been diluted and devalued by the prevailing conventional wisdom. It is considered yet another faddish management tool rather than a valuable social process that reveals the holistic nature of human group behavior.

Today, when management talks about culture within their organizations, they often focus on tacit qualities they want to encourage among their employees or they use culture as a branding tool for attracting new employees and retaining current ones. While I don’t want to completely disparage the intent behind these efforts, I do argue that these simplistic and directive efforts ignore the complex symbolic and individualistic meanings that exist within an organization. It’s these symbols that help define the structure of the culture and ultimately guide the behavior of the organization’s employees.

In this paper I explore how culture has come to be defined and applied in the business organization and how this differs from the more traditional concepts of culture as developed by anthropologists. This contrast will be important as I examine organizational culture as viewed from a symbolic analysis. This paper will show how the theories of symbolic anthropology can provide a useful understanding of culture that reveals how organizational actors formulate meaning and reality in their collective work.

Download the full article [pdf]

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