Kentucky Fried Chicken’s Customer Experience is “Finger Lickin’ Good”

Greasy food and computers usually don’t mix well. Rule one: do not touch anything while eating fried chicken. Rule two: use those dang wet wipes! They’re there for a reason. So, KFC was mindful of the challenges that face always-connected customers who are trying to eat a bucket of fried chicken. They distributed a wireless, rechargeable, paper-thin, and grease-resistant tray typer on each tray during a one-week campaign in Germany. Armed with robust customer understanding, CX pros used research based stories to map out how a customer moves and feels between the moments they have along the way at KFC. Simply put, CX pros looked for connectors and moments to elevate the customer journey.

Instead of trying to accomplish the massive task of meeting customers’ every need at every point in time, KFC focused solely on the negative nodes of the experience and rerouted the experience along a more pleasant path. But eliminating negative nodes is not just about technology design. Rather, it involves personal interactions, tone of voice, and proactivty. For example, when a Delta passenger contacts an agent after Delta texts her about an automatic rebooking due to a flight cancellation, and the agent immediately asks if she is calling about the rebooking text message. This turns what could have been an emotionally-fraught moment that left the customer experience in tatters into a seamless transition. Continue reading “Kentucky Fried Chicken’s Customer Experience is “Finger Lickin’ Good””

Agile, Scrum, and Kanban: What the Heck Do These Words Really Mean?

In my current role as a Senior Product Manager, I often hear about “new agile frameworks”. Leading up to my current role and responsibilities, my colleagues and I likely did the Homer-Simpsonian nodd, pretending that we knew what it’s about, but we might have one, and only one, question: What the heck does “agile framework” mean? I’ll try to explain and to clarify some of these terms.
Agile methodology is a general approach to project management and product development, which has mainly been utilized in software development. However, Project Managers and Product Managers everywhere are finding we can apply agile principles and practices to virtually any business area in a the company. Continue reading “Agile, Scrum, and Kanban: What the Heck Do These Words Really Mean?”

Project Managers Needed on Deck

Cruise ship operators are now undertaking projects to offer passengers satellite Internet, onboard texting networks, digital signs with touchscreens, streaming video and interactive online gaming. One of the last holdouts against high tech is finally coming around. The complexity, technical limitations and costs of upgrading vessels constantly on the move are big reasons cruise lines have been slow to undertake connectivity projects. Project teams face a host of challenges unique to the industry when integrating new technology into cruises.

Later this year, Royal Caribbean will finish building its third smartship, featuring cocktail-mixing robots and passenger wristbands that serve as room keys. And by late 2016, Regent Seven Seas Cruises will complete a project to roll out free unlimited Wi-Fi access for every passenger. Continue reading “Project Managers Needed on Deck”

A Foundation for Innovation

In order to stay relevant with today’s highly connected and empowered consumers, I’ve been monitoring how some of my favorite retailers are setting out to ensure they don’t get left behind.  The pace of change is showing no signs of slowing down and I’m fascinated by how companies are embracing the new shopper journey. Shoppers will continue to embrace the ‘I Want What I Want When I Want It’ mentality, and the industry will need to evolve along with that sentiment.  As we continue to see the physical and digital worlds blend, the focus of retail is going to become more about creating fully immersive and integrated shopping experiences that start at the point of consumer inspiration and need.

Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Zappos, Walmart, Sephora, and Lowe’s are among the growing list of retailers launching internal innovation labs. These labs feature dedicated tech teams and change agents who focus on understanding shifting customer preferences, investigating emerging technologies and solutions, and implementing new strategies across all revenue channels. These companies are examples of brands with a clear plan to solve key pain points with technology. There’s no lack of ideas or opportunities, but they are not just testing flashy products or ideas without a clear strategy. Continue reading “A Foundation for Innovation”

A Culture of Collaboration

Most of us are familiar with Post-it Notes. But what most people do not know is how they came to be. Unlike so many companies that develop products by imagining and then trying to build something – 3M (formerly known as the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company) owes the development of Post-it Notes , and so many of its other products, to one simple thing: its culture of sharing.

Spencer Silver, the scientist who is partially credited with the creation of the Post-it, was in his lab at the Minnesota-based company, actually trying to develop a very strong adhesive. Unfortunately, he wasn’t successful. What he actually made was a very weak adhesive. Based on the requirements given to him, he had failed it seemed. But Silver didn’t throw his “failure” in the trash out of embarrassment. He didn’t keep his error a secret out of fear for his job or risk of losing credibility. In fact, the unintentional invention was shared with others at the company…just in case someone else could figure out a way to use it. Continue reading “A Culture of Collaboration”

My Latest Inspiration from the Minority Report

“Good afternoon, Mr. Yokamoto,” calls out a Gap employee from a large, flat-screen monitor.  “How did you like that three-pack of tank tops you bought last time you were in?”  In this case, of course, the customer is none other than John Anderton, the character played by Tom Cruise in the 2002 Steven Spielberg movie Minority Report.  This scene is just one of many scenes in the movie that depict technology-mediated, ultra-personalized selling in an advertising saturated environment.  Spielberg and his team, which in this case included 23 renowned futurists who assembled for three days to visualize the socio-technical landscape of a major metropolitan area 50 years from now.

Steven Spielberg reportedly sold $25 million in product placements in Minority Report, for such brands as American Express, Reebok, and Pepsi.  Lexus alone paid $5 million to put a futuristic car into the film – one that the moviegoer would never even have a chance to buy.  Continue reading “My Latest Inspiration from the Minority Report”

The Corner Shopkeeper

Consider that in 1900 the corner shopkeeper in small-town America knew all of his customers by name and had a window into their daily lives.  He knew what items of merchandise they bought.  He knew how much money they spent – and how much money they might eventually spend.  He knew their likes and dislikes, their personal histories, and their networks of friends and family.  In some cases, he may even have known their dreams for the future.  The breadth and depth of the information the corner shopkeeper collected on his regular customers, simply as a function of their daily interactions, went far and beyond what most companies are able to capture today. 

After all, does Amazon, which calls itself “Earth’s most customer-centric company” – a title it arguably deserves – really know anything about you beyond your click stream and stated product preferences?  Does Allstate, which urges customers to “plan today for a better tomorrow,” have even a clue about your dreams for the future?  Does Nordstrom, long praised for its “high touch” approach to customer care (where else can you buy a pair of shoes with mismatched sizes?), have any inkling of, say, your spouse’s taste in fashion?  For that matter, do most large companies even pass the test of knowing how much money you spend with them, across all their different product lines and business units, let alone how much money you might eventually spend?  In all cases, the likely answer is noContinue reading “The Corner Shopkeeper”

The Whiskey Everyone Asks for by Name

Every business in the world has a potential growth-driving factor at its center.  Most of them articulate a vision (where they want to go), a strategy (what choices they are making), and a statement of what business they operate in and what they are trying to achieve.  In my opinion, one of the strongest and oldest examples of discovering these factors and keeping them relevant and growth-inspiring is Jack Daniel’s.  The ideals behind Jack Daniel’s are virtually unchanged since its origin.  Their entire brand exists to celebrate and evoke pride in personal authenticity, independence, and integrity.  In so doing, it embodies the maverick personality of its founder and evokes aspirational pride of its loyal consumers. 

Through eight generations of management, as the business has expanded to 135 countries and grown to be the largest whiskey brand in the world with 10 million cases in sales, it has remained true to its founding ideals, while continuing to find creative new ways to express them.  When Hollywood songwriters want to use shorthand to show that somebody is a force to reckon with, they put Jack Daniel’s in their hands.  Take for example, the song “Tik Tok,” by Ke$ha.  She includes a verse about brushing her teeth with a bottle of Jack.   Continue reading “The Whiskey Everyone Asks for by Name”

A Method to their Weirdness

Since its unique appearance on the scene with the 2001 launch of its first products, a line of surface cleaners, San Francisco based Method has achieved annual double-digit sales growth and been a game-changing innovator in a mature and highly competitive category. Method is small compared with giants such as P&G, Unilever, and Clorox.  But thanks to “green” products that work as well as or better than traditional ones, Method has achieved a growth rate that has outsized its own impact on the entire household cleaner industry. 

Through the years, I’ve continued to follow Method and have been fascinated to learn how they have seized the power of their brand.  During my time spent in merchandising, I had a chance to meet the Method folks and learned that their mantra is “Keep it Weird.”  The weirdness starts with the crazy titles on their business cards.  For example, co-founder Eric Ryan, now the chief brand architect, is known as the “Party Starter” on his business card. Continue reading “A Method to their Weirdness”

3 Important Principles of Shopping

Lately I’m learning more about the important notion that a store has three distinct aspects: Design (meaning the premises), Merchandising (whatever you put in them) and Operations (whatever employees do).  These big three, while seemingly separate, are in fact completely and totally intertwined , interrelated, and interdependent, meaning that when somebody makes a decision regarding one, a decision has been made about the other two as well.  This is not a good thing or a bad thing – it just is. 

Here’s an example.  The Gap’s trademark is that you can easily touch, stroke, unfold and otherwise examine at close range everything on the selling floor.  A lot of sweaters and shirts are sold thanks to the decision to foster intimate contact between shopper and goods.  Obviously, that merchandising policy dictates the display scheme (wide, flat tabletops, which are easier to shop than racks or shelves).  But it also determines how and where employees will spend their time.  All that touching of merchandise means that sweaters and shirts constantly need to be refolded, straightened, and neatened.  That translates into the need for lots of sales floor associates roaming the floor rather than standing behind the counter ringing up sales.  Which is a big expense, but for the Gap, it’s a sound investment – the cost of doing business.  The main thing here is that it was a conscious decision about the operations of their stores.  Continue reading “3 Important Principles of Shopping”