Enhancing Customer Experience: Three Easy Rules to Live By

I recently attended a breakfast seminar about customer experience sponsored by Chase Bank.  The presenter, Joe Calloway, talked not only about customer experience in general but how to connect it with business growth.  It was an interesting and thought-provoking way to start what would have been an ordinary Tuesday morning.

One point that stuck with me is the nature of purchasing decisions today.  Whether we are making a personal purchases or buying services on behalf of a company, we will seek out reviews, testimonials, and referrals to help make the right choice.

Recognizing the importance of others’ opinions, it is essential to run our businesses and organizations based on what we want our clients and customers to say about us.  To use a quote by marketing guru Seth Godin, “If your reviews aren’t stellar, do better work…”  Makes sense.

We did an exercise where we chose three attributes we would want people to say about us.  It might be providing great value, delivering on time, or being responsive when dealing with questions.

Based on the exercise, we were asked to answer this question, “What are the three things you have to get right every day?”  For some reason, phrasing it this way helped me clarify what is important.  Sure, we get busy with tasks, meetings, and a long list of to-dos, but focusing on those three things you HAVE to get right really helps cut through the clutter.

As I thought about OrangeBoy, the three things we have to get right every day are:

  1. Do what we say we will do, when we said we would do it (Deliver)
  2. Be thoughtful and responsive to our clients in meaningful ways (Think)
  3. Solve problems, and if you can’t solve it alone, find someone who can help. (Innovate)

When my days get busy and I need to prioritize my time, I remember these three things and it helps keep everything in perspective.  I encourage you to come up with three things your business or organization needs to get right every day to bring a renewed sense of focus and clarity.

Tara the Hero Cat Has Got Nothing on OrangeBoy

By: Sandy Swanson

You have probably seen, or at least heard about Tara the Hero Cat, the family cat that saved young Jeremy from getting mauled by a dog while out playing in his driveway http://taratheherocat.com.

Impressive as this feat was, those of us at OrangeBoy know how special our feline friends are.  After all, we named the company after ours.  Many of you know the origins of the OrangeBoy name, but for those who don’t, please allow me to recap.  Yes, weopie2 named the company after Opie, our first OrangeBoy.  Opie was no ordinary cat. His personality and strong work ethic matched our values and embodied what we wanted to accomplish as a company. He was a real working cat. His primary job was to protect his territory. Every night, whether it was raining, snowing or below zero, Opie went out on night patrol to defend what was his. He was not afraid to go up against the neighborhood terror, “Buddy the Biter,” even though Buddy was twice his size. Opie came home a little bloodied sometimes, but yet he’d head back out the next night. Like Opie, we know the territory and we are not afraid to go up against firms bigger than ours because we are confident in our abilities, and we know the territory.

We enjoyed watching him take on new challenges, like mastering the tightrope walk on the banister in our loft, which was about 14 feet from the ground. Opie tumbled off that banister once or twice, but he shook it off and tried again until he got it right. These traits personify the qualities we have for OrangeBoy. We too take risks to seek out new opportunities and new clients. If we fall, we get up and try again until we get it right.

We can take a lesson from Opie as our business continues to transform. The one thing we know for sure is that change is inevitable. As OrangeBoy grows, we too must adapt to new surroundings and take on new projects without fear, just like we encourage our clients to do.  He is a constant reminder for us each day when we walk into the office and see his image memorialized in the office artwork–reflect on our accomplishments but anticipate the future with excitement.

We deeply miss our friend, confidante and muse, but we honor his memory by living his motto – Keep the fur flying!  Plus, we have a new OrangeBoy – George.  He most certainly lives up to his namesake “Curious George.”  His superhero power is his cuteness, but he is developing a new talent—Bird Catcher.  Even though we are city dwellers, George has successfully caught two birds, though he has let both of them go unscathed.  We’re convinced he paid the birds to stage his hunting prowess!

The Bee’s Knees

Bees

By: Sandy Swanson

One of the advantages of living close to The Ohio State University are programs like “Science Sundays.” The College of Arts and Sciences offers monthly lectures on interesting topics like the Great Lakes, Neuroscience, and Bees.

I attended the bee lecture on Sunday. The speaker talked about how bees, as well as wasps and ants, have been able to organize themselves, divide labor, and thrive as a species for more than 60 million years. The interesting part of the discussion is not the behaviors themselves, but how these insects know how to do these things.

There are a few takeaways from the lecture that relates nicely to the human species even though we have time clocks  scheduling software, project management tools and staff meetings to organize ourselves and get our work done.

  1. Noise is good – One of the things the researchers found in working with insects is that a little bit of tension is good when executing tasks. When there is a roadblock, they are able to address it and move on. It’s ok that everything does not always go perfectly. In fact, the outcome is better when they have to overcome some obstacle.
  2. Specialists vs. generalists – Insects have to be generalists when they are working solo. It isn’t until there are at least seven of them they can divide up the labor. Once they specialize, the system works best when handoff times are quick. Think of it this way. Let’s say you were part of a team, and someone didn’t complete their handoff. You have two choices. You can wait around for them, or go do it yourself. This is what bees do. Some will stay, and others will go back to being generalists.
  3. Use experience to your advantage – Ants take on easier tasks when they are first hatched, and get more dangerous jobs, like leaving the colony to get food, when they get more experience and approach the end of their life expectancy.
  4. Make your case and then shut up – Bees have an interesting decision-making process. When it’s time to select a new location for a hive, they send out a few scouts. They will come back, a few promoting Location A and a few promoting Location B, ‘dancing’ to make their case and recruit more scouts. After they finish dancing, they become silent and let the next recruits take over. The next round of scouts mimic the same behavior, dancing and then becoming silent. After a few days, the location with the most “buzz” (sorry, I couldn’t resist!), is the location they choose.

So, what are the big takeaways here. Well, first, we should embrace a little conflict in our work or personal lives. In other words, noise is good. If everything always went according to plan, we would never figure out how to improve processes or make new discoveries.

Next, figure out where you can specialize and where you need a generalist approach. If specialization is not working well, perhaps there is a weak link in the process or a person somewhere along the line. Use experience to your advantage. Maybe this approach is intuitive with parents teaching their young, but are you leveraging experienced workers in the workplace?

Finally, a little silence is golden. Make your case, try to get buy-in, and then let the process evolve. We’ve all been in committee meetings when Mary or Joe monopolized the conversation, even though they couldn’t win their argument but refused to let anyone else take a shot.

Who knew bees and other insects were so interesting? I think I’ll make a “bee-line” to my library to check out a few more books on the topic.

©OrangeBoy, Inc. 2013

Photo courtesy of the Backyard Bee Hive Blog

I’ve Been Everywhere, Man…

By: Sandy Swanson

As the Rihanna song “Where Have You Been?” starts, “I’ve Been Everywhere, Man,” and so has OrangeBoy.

As we’ve grown, so have our frequent flier accounts, with clients in more than 20 states across the country. In just the first six weeks of this year alone, team members have been in Illinois, Washington, Maryland, New York, Michigan, and of course, Ohio.

Last year, as people came off the road, we started dropping our hotel key cards in a bowl near the coffee machine. It was fun watching the pile grow throughout the year, and we informally voted on who had the most colorful and best designs (I personally like the Hyatt Place cards the best).
photo 2
The cards in the bowl continued to grow and we had accumulated about 200 cards at the end of the year. I wondered what I could do with the cards to display them in an artistic way. I ended up sorting them by color, and then gluing them on a canvas in a criss-cross design. The final piece resembles a colorful, patchwork quilt.

Now, besides having a cool new piece of artwork for the office, the key card mosaic is a symbol for our work, our values, and our commitment to clients. Travelling these days is no easy feat, with airport security, cancelled flights, weather delays. These cards are our badge of honor. We do a lot of our work virtually; utilizing cloud computing services and tele-conferencing to provide a positive customer experience. But sometimes nothing beats being there in person.

The bowl is starting to fill up again, and I can’t wait to see what we do with this year’s collection. If you have any ideas, let me know!

©OrangeBoy, Inc. 2013

Here I Am… Rock You Like A Hurricane

By: Sandy Swanson

The 80s song by the Scorpions says it best. Hurricane Sandy rocked our worlds this week with a little bit of everything—wind, rain, snow, fire, floods, and massive power outages.

Last week when weather experts were predicting this ‘perfect storm,’ a late season hurricane mixed with a good old-fashioned nor’easter, I found out the name was mine: Sandy.

I must admit, I was somewhat excited. After all, who doesn’t yearn for the spotlight at some point? My 15 minutes of fame were to share a name with this super storm, also dubbed “Frankenstorm” because of its timing with Halloween. Quickly, however, my excitement turned to dread as events unfolded. Headline after headline highlighted the hurricane’s wrath: Sandy Shuts Down NYC Subway, Sandy to Cost Billions, and Sandy Causes 108 Storm-Related Deaths.

(Photo: NOAA)

Every time I would hear one of these stories, it would catch me off-guard. Seeing and hearing my name associated with such devastation made me appreciate the value of names.

I remember in the early 1990s, I worked with a woman who had the misfortune of sharing a name with a newsmaker. Do you remember Joey Buttafuoco and his girlfriend Amy Fisher? Fisher shot Joey’s wife in the face in the midst of an affair with Buttafuoco and resulting scandal. My colleague’s name was Amy Fischer. The last name was spelled differently, but it didn’t matter. I could hear her repeatedly answer, “No, I don’t know where Joey is!” to people over the phone and in person. To them, it was funny, but for her it was a nightmare.*

Sometimes the shoe is on the other foot and we desire to be associated with a famous name. I had a recent conversation with a fellow team member whose mother named her after a 80s sitcom star. I also recently read that celebrities Beyonce and Jay-Z made an unsuccessful attempt to trademark their daughter’s name (Blue Ivy) to avoid derogatory use.

Hurricane Sandy is a good reminder that names (whether personal, company, or product) are important. They are our identities, our brand, and help differentiate us from others. To the best of our abilities, we have to protect them. Certainly, there was nothing I could do to prevent sharing my name with Hurricane Sandy. So, guess I will take my place in history and wait for next season’s hurricane to give someone else the limelight. In the meantime, it doesn’t hurt to set up a Google Alert to monitor your name. You never know how might be used.

Share your stories with us about names. Write us below.

* As an interesting side note, the infamous Amy Fisher known as the “Long Island Lolita” has since changed her name, according to Wikipedia. I guess she did not like the notoriety either.

Clear as Mud – Tips to Develop Presentations that Work

By: Sandy Swanson

I just got a new laptop. My Dell was four years old, but the gray hairs were starting to show. I now have a new laptop that weighs 2 pounds and I love it. As part of this process, I transferred and archived old documents and files stored on my laptop, and came across a cartoon I clipped out of The New Yorker a few years ago (see photo below). It made me chuckle again as it did when I first saw it—a man presenting an elaborate chart asking the audience to let the information sink in.

I think consultants do this to clients all the time—show charts and graphs depicting gobs of data, expecting clients to understand and the results to be crystal clear. Sometimes it is clear alright—clear as mud.

My world as a consultant is all about interpreting data: Market trends, customer data, survey results, and demographics, among others. But what does it all mean and how do we help our clients interpret results into something meaningful?

At OrangeBoy, we are constantly trying to find new and better ways to interpret data so it is easily understood by our clients. Some days we’re more successful than others are, but over the years, I have learned a few tactics that have been helpful. Here are a few tips I try to employ:

  • Pick one thing.  Instead of showing multiple data points on a chart, pick the one thing that is most compelling and focus on that. Your presentation should tell a story. Choose the data points for each chart that help you tell that story.
  • Edit.  More is not better in all cases.  Sure, we have all been guilty of building 100-slide decks, but I’m not proud of that.  Get the scissors out and cut, cut, cut!
  • Take time to digest the information.  Sometimes a situation is complex and it takes some time to really think about what the data is telling you.
  • Use images and words.  Words are good, words with images are better.  What’s the old saying?  A picture is worth a 1,000 words.
  • Narrate. Presentations are best delivered in person. Give your data added shelf life by providing speaker notes to your client to share with others. Better yet, provide an audio recording to accompany slides so others who were not in the presentation can have a similar experience. We have found the slideshare.net product to be a helpful tool.
  • Explain it to your mother. I once saw a cancer researcher present his work.  He said he always tried to explain his research as if he were talking to his mother.  In other words, lose the jargon and simplify the message.

I taped this cartoon to my desk.  It’s a good reminder to remember my own advice.  Good luck with your own data interpretation, and be sure to share your own tips with others below.

©OrangeBoy, Inc. 2012

Do You Have a Backbend in Your Yoga Practice?

Lessons Learned from a Recent Yoga Experience

By: Sandy Swanson

I have been “gym-less” for about six months, thinking I could devise a workout schedule on my own combing the fitness center in my condo with the high school track next door, and the great outdoors.

Well, it didn’t work. So, I decided to investigate local health clubs, selecting one that offers a variety of strength and cardio classes. I found one a few minutes from my house that seemed to meet my criteria, so I signed up for a seven-day pass.

Knowing I had a limited time to try a variety of classes, I intended to make full use of the trial to make my membership decision. On Saturday I went to a spinning class, and that was awesome. On Sunday, my only two class options were spinning class or yoga. I have never been much of a yoga fan, but I didn’t want to do spinning again, so I gave yoga a try.

I can count on both hands how many times I have been to a yoga class, and the last time was three years ago. I don’t know why I thought attending a 90-minute class with limited experience was a good idea, but it seemed so at the time. That’s where my grand plan went awry.

Ten minutes into the class, the error of my ways started to show full force. We kept doing the same movement over, and over, and over… (I think the technical term is called a vinyasa). I wanted to leave, but my pride would not allow it. To add insult to injury, the instructor kept coming over to re-adjust my body to get the correct form. Oh, and did I mention there were only four other people in the class? I couldn’t blend in. So, I stuck with it.

My favorite part was 45 minutes into the class, when the instructor announced that we were going to do backbends. He turned to me in all seriousness and asked, “Do you have a backbend in your yoga practice?” I wanted to be a wise gal and ask him, “What do you think?” Instead, I just said, “No.” Then he suggested an alternate pose.

Afterwards, the instructor came over to me. I thought he was going to gently tell me not to come back. But instead he was very nice and welcomed me back if I wanted to stick with it. I kindly told him thanks, but I don’t think yoga is really my thing.

I’m happy to report that a turbo kickboxing class on Tuesday evening and another successful spinning class on Wednesday restored my resolve, and I joined the gym as a permanent member today.

I don’t regret my yoga experience. It taught me a few important reminders about myself that also apply to business.

  1. Don’t be afraid to experiment. In other words, take risks. OK, so yoga didn’t work out, but now I know for sure so I can try other things. As it happens, I found a really fun aerobic class that I enjoyed and am anxious to add it to my workout schedule on a regular basis.
  2. Don’t be afraid to seek outside help. I realized that I was not able to reach my fitness goals on my own, so I sought outside expertise to help me.
  3. Find the humor or good in difficult situations. I still get a smile on my face when I think about his question about the backbend.

In summary, don’t be afraid to enlist outside resources for your personal or professional life or organization. Sometimes we can’t do it alone, but there are specialists out there to help. Also, try new things—it may not turn out be your cup of tea, but you might also just luck out. Finally, try to find the good with the bad. A difficult situation might just be your next favorite story to tell.

©OrangeBoy, Inc. 2012