I am thrilled to share that my newest book, ProphetAbility: The Revealing Story of Why Companies Succeed, Fail, or Bounce Back is now available on Amazon.
Exactly 100 days ago, I reconnected with my friend Betsy. We had such a dynamic conversation about what is happening for businesses in 2018 and how disruption is happening in every sector over the next three to five years that we decided right then to co-author a new book.
ProphetAbility is heralded as a "masterpiece" and a "must-read" for CEOs and leaders who want to run a successful customer-centric business because it provides critical insights into the human experience and shows what works, what doesn't and why.
You'll read stories of success, failure and bounce back from companies like Weight Watchers, Pixar, IBM, Gainsight, Xtracycle, Toys R Us, Casper Mattresses, Mylan (EpiPen), PepsiCo, General Motors (GM), and more.
You will gain strategic insights and be able to take step-by-step tactical actions today.
I have a favor to ask of you…
We are doing everything we can to make ProphetAbility a #1 best seller and to get it in the hands of as many CEOs and leaders we can so that we can help them transform their customer experiences...and as a result transform the world.
You can help us achieve this in any or all of these five ways:
1. You can buy ProphetAbility in the paperback version or the Kindle version here https://amzn.to/2tc5rAH. The paperback is only $19.97 and the Kindle book is at lowest price Amazon allows us to offer ($2.99) right now. By the way, if you don’t have a Kindle, no need to worry. Amazon has a free download so you can read the book on any device.
2. You can write a review of the book after purchasing it (you can just read a short section that sounds interesting to start with then write your review) so that others will be convinced this book is right for them.
Jay Elliot, the Best-selling author of “The Steve Jobs Way,” and CEO of iMedGo, said that this book had, “Great advice for any CEO!”
3. You can buy a copy for a friend, business colleague or even your entire leadership team. You can send them the paperback or gift them the Kindle version.
Anthony Royer, the CEO of Allied Dispatch Solutions (4th largest roadside assistance company - a fast-growing startup) told us, “I am going to require my leaders to read this book. It shares real world / current examples that resonate across today’s challenges. Thought provoking!”
4. You can share the link to the book from Amazon to help your followers on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram or LinkedIn find it. (Here is the link again https://amzn.to/2tc5rAH)
5. You can follow me and share my updates about the book during this promotional period so thousands of CEOs and leaders can learn how they can improve their customer experience and create ProphetAbility in their business.
Here are a few places you can follow what’s happening with the book:
How Micro-Moments Are Transforming Your Customer Experience & Impacting Your Sales
Customer journeys and customer touch points are important at the macro level, but buying decisions are made pre-consciously in the micro-moment experience.
I absolutely love video conferencing. Yesterday, I had a video conference call scheduled with a new client. She is the CEO of an entertainment celebrity’s brand.
We were planning to discuss one of their websites and how we could improve the experience of the guest within the first few seconds after arrival so the guest becomes more likely to make a purchase. When we started the call I could see the frustration she was feeling even before a word was spoken. I felt my body shift in my chair; I felt myself go into coach mode.
The Future of Customer Experience
Far fetched? Maybe. But, my reactions to the expression of frustration on the CEO’s face that appeared on my computer screen yesterday were automatic. I did not have to think about them. I could only reflect on the fact that I was aware that I did make adjustments to my body posture and my demeanor and that my mind shifted to a different set of operating instructions which I identify as ‘coach-mode.’ Technology should be able to enhance this natural ability.
For several years now, I have imagined the day when customers and employees will be fitted with biofeedback devices that provide updates to each other wirelessly that we are biologically to slow to be consciously aware of or our bodily senses are not capable of detecting. I can see in my mind how these devices can even trigger an appropriate emotional reaction in the employee to the emotional state of the customer, although the employee is unaware of the reason for the trigger. And, in this emotional state, the employee serves the customer in the best possible manner because he or she is triggered to do so.
What happened to me was a micro-moment experience. Psychologists and neuroscientists believe a moment of human experience is about three seconds long. So, experiences that happen in less than that timeframe are micro-moments. I first learned of this term while reading Barbara Fredrickson’s research on the positivity ratio and love. She examines how micro-moments of positivity have profound and lasting effects on relationships and human performance.
Researchers have also shown that our conscious awareness of a decision being made can be delayed by up to seven seconds. This means that we are not consciously making many of our decisions using the logic of our conscious, rational mind. Instead, our emotions are guiding our decisions in a pre-conscious or sub-conscious manner.
Applied to Customer Experience Research
In our research of customer feedback in emails, surveys, pre-sales applications and conversations, we have been able to show that specific pre-conscious nuances in language are indicative of behaviors that will be taken days, weeks or even months in the future resulting in a purchase or a account termination.
More and more of our research is aligning. It seems that the customer journey matters on a macro level, but it is the micro-moment of experience that captures the attention and determines how the customer will interpret their journey. While the journey design is important, the identification and optimization of key micro-moments is the real opportunity for customer experience and user experience professionals in the future.
The DNA of a Micro-Moment Experience
I currently believe that micro-moments of experience have three fundamental characteristics. I refer to them as the 3 F’s.
They are fast, happening between a fraction of a second and a few seconds as described above.
They focus the customer, usually pre-consciously, on a tiny detail that sets his or her expectation for the future moments or determines how past moments will be interpreted.
They involve feelings. I define feelings very specifically here as the conscious awareness of an emotion. The science of emotions demonstrates that a multitude of emotions are firing in our body all of the time in order to transfer information around the body and to or from the brain. Yet, only a small number of emotions ever reach our conscious awareness in a manner that we can say, ‘I feel…’ about them.
Here are 5 examples of micro-moments that we have discovered in our research and which made a difference for our clients’ customer experiences and their sales.
As early as 2008 I became aware of the impact of just a few words uttered in a micro-moment. A hotel was having an unusually high number of complaints related to the type of bed (i.e. king or queen) in a guest’s room, location of the room, the speed of check-in, long waits, and more. After some investigation the team I was working with discovered three words in the reservation script that were setting false expectations. The agents were telling guests that they “guaranteed your room.” This was not the reality. No rooms were guaranteed.
Once those words were changed to “noted your preferences” the satisfaction scores doubled and the complaints disappeared. A single micro-moment experience altered the entire perspective of the guests’ stay.
A client that conducts trainings for small business owners was doing well, but they were intrigued by some of the case studies we presented. They asked us to do an audit of their pre-sales applications to see what we could discover. We returned with over two dozen findings and recommendations. One in particular made an immediate impact. We found that buyers were more likely to express interest in the expertise of the company’s trainers than non-buyers.
Using this insight, our client altered their subtle patterns of their language during the initial training sessions to focus on the teaching about availability of the company’s internal expertise and to deemphasize their external network of experts. The change of a micro-moment experience resulted in a 90% increase in sales for the next tier of training. In essence, those who were not pre-disposed to buying at the start of the training learned to value the internal expertise during the training so they chose to invest in more training.
A resort company asked if we could help them improve their room upgrades from one-room suites to two-room suites. They found that their overbooking of one-room suites led to giving away free upgrades to two-room suites and the returns for the additional capital investment were not sufficient.
We analyzed their guests’ feedback and found that there were several comments from past guests who expressed delight at the experience they had (as a result of paying for) the upgraded suite. We worked with our client to create small updates to the sales page where the prospective guests of a one-room suite would see a testimonial and other subtle evidence of the value of the two-room suite prior to booking the room. The early results are proving promising. Guests are unaware of the social influences we put in place and are deciding to adjust their behaviors pre-consciously.
Thank You Again
A real estate firm reached out to see how we could help them improve their social reputation and word of mouth referrals. We did an initial audit of the online reviews and found that the company was doing nearly everything perfectly. So, we dived deeper into their operations. We found that they sent out a survey for their internal benchmarking and tracking. In this process they had an automated ‘thank you’ message delivered to the client who submitted the survey.
I encouraged the CEO and her team to also send a handwritten ‘thank you’ with a $5 gift card. This was a complete surprise to their clients because they thought the electronic ‘thank you’ was the end of the process; they already had psychological closure. That additional micro-moment of surprised delight made a noticeable difference. It triggered a desire in the heart of the client to reciprocate. Within two weeks of implementing this new step, the CEO reported that word of mouth referrals were up and they were directly attributed to the handwritten note and gift.
Many of our clients, like the CEO of the entertainment celebrity’s company I mentioned at the beginning of this article, believe they have greater opportunities to convert visitors who arrive on their homepage. We’ve worked with consulting companies, health and wellness firms, even a bicycle manufacturer who was moving to online sales.
We audited their customers’ feedback, their customers’ behaviors and the current customer journeys (i.e. the homepage and website experience). In each case we found between five and seven immediate opportunities for improvement that can impact sales. These include minor changes to the pictures, the presence of logos of clients or third party certifications, short quotes from customers that validate the value proposition, and more.
Where to Look for Micro-Moments
When you have an awareness of the power of a micro-moment you can evaluate your customer experience in a new way. The emotions expressed in written comments, the words your staff consistently hears, and even the expressions you detect on customers’ faces can all become data for you to analyze. Then you can exam the under-utilized assets you have that will trigger positive micro-moments. These could be:
Logos of clients or awards that languish at the bottom of your homepage
Testimonials or quotes on social review sites or in your survey responses
A picture of a customer engaging with one of your team members
Opportunities to surprise or delight with a small gift
Gamification of a process
These small, seemingly insignificant elements of the customer journey, or of a customer touch point are in fact the most influential elements responsible for triggering positive micro-moments.
You Know It When You See It
While I was on the video conference with the CEO yesterday, I walked her through several examples of where her team could make improvements. I continued to coach her until I saw it: the ‘Aha!’ look that washed across her face followed by her joyful expression, ‘I got it! I know I should do this but until you told me I just didn’t think about it.’
Sometimes an outsider can more easily and quickly see the opportunity for improving micro-moment experiences because to them, everything is new.
Leadership can be a daunting task. It can be lonely. It can be gut-wrenching. Especially if you are changing the culture of a company.
At other times it can be exhilarating, fun, and sometimes even transcendent.
If you're a leader, you probably understand this. And as you read this, maybe today is a good day for you. But, for many of you, I am guessing it's a bit rough.
Leadership is not for the timid. Doing it right takes brave souls who have the willingness to persevere and the determination to grow. While I believe everyone has these capacities at birth, few seem to apply themselves to the deliberate practice of expanding their emotional resilience and mental focus to the point that they can be called a brave leader.
Over the last 17 years I've worked with or for numerous executives who led startups to Fortune 500 companies. I was focused on researching the causes of customer experiences and behaviors (i.e. conversions, sales, churn, etc.) that were the resulting effects of those experiences. Our goals were to sell more, save more and satisfy more.
Somewhere along this journey I began to learn about more than just customer experiences. I dug into my own personal and professional experiences. I dived deep into the causes of the very essence of human experiences. What I learned changed my view of nearly everything.
From that point forward the successful implemenation of the recommendations I made in my customer experience research projects resulted in dramatic improvements for some clients. But, for a select group of clients the recommendations ended up just becoming 'yet another' research project. No action was taken. They had a list of reasons they couldn't move forward. And, if we solved that challenge, another would inevitably arise. It took me a bit, but I eventually realized that it was not my recommendations but something deeper in my clients mental and emotional habitual patterns that caused their hesitation.
In time, I discovered several things about the leaders that made the greatest companies great and ultimately distinguished them from all of their competitors. The brave leaders of the greatest companies have daily practices that they use to be both highly effective and highly efficient. In essence, they use these practices as their north star in rough seas. They return to these proven practices each day to bravely take on the challenges facing them. When they run into an obstacle, they return to the practices. When they succeed, the credit the same practices.
What Brave Leaders Do
What is it that these leaders do? Here's the list that I've come up with. You may have some to add. They:
Set clear intentions for themselves and they help their teams do the same. (NOTE: Intentions are more than goals.)
Challenge themselves and others.
Track and celebrate the success of putting in the right effort, not just reaching a destination.
Treat trust as their most valuable currency and they invest in increasing its return.
Build authentic relationships based on genuine caring.
Grow as a whole person and help their team do the same.
Ask for and accept help, while making it safe for others to do the same.
Do these seem on point or at least interesting? Keep reading below to understand why each matters and how you can apply them daily. Many of these are simple, but not easy to do. They take courage and a willingness to face one's fears, doubts and worries. This is why I have come to call leaders who engage in these practices brave leaders.
Setting Clear Intentions We've all been inundated with advice related to goal setting. Some of it is good, but much of it is just recycled nonsense with little actual proof of it's value. Fortunately a study was finally done to prove the value of goal setting. But, it went further to show how you can achieve more with goal setting. In fact, the Dominican University study on goal setting shows that only 43% of those who just thought about a goal made significant progress whereas 76% of those who wrote down a clear goal with committed action steps and shared weekly updates with a friend achieved significant progress. Brave leaders take each of the steps described in the latter case because they know that thinking about goals alone is not enough for success.
However, the brave leader goes one step further. They help their employees do the same thing. In fact, a Gallup study on goal setting showed that leaders who helped their teams set goals had, on average, nearly ten times more employees engaged than those who leaders who left their employees to goal set on their own (38% vs 4%). And because engaged employees consistently produce higher results in every meaningful metric, this step alone can make a massive difference in a team and a company's results.
Many leaders may protest, saying they do this already. But remember, it is not one-and-done activity that is for January alone. This is a daily practice that breeds real long-term success.
Now, it is important to note that goals alone are not enough. Intentions are key. And, intentions go deeper. Intentions involve how we are going to be while we are achieving a goal that we are working toward. What is our mindset? What will we choose to feel? Who will we show up as when we are faced with challenges or we achieve success.
I've spent nearly two decades finding ways to bring together the quantitative data companies collect from sales, clicks and cancelations with the qualitative data of emotions, influences and opinions. Studying one without the other may give you some insights. But, when you bring both together, you have a powerful combination that provides the key to lasting success.
The same is true of your daily goals and intentions. Decide what type of person you want to be today while you are achieving or failing to achieve your goals. Help your team do the same. What a tragedy would it be to have achieved our goals and yet been miserable or been the source of misery to those we are closest to daily.
I often remind myself of what Steve Jobs said,
"I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: 'If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?' And whenever the answer has been 'No' for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something."
To me, in the context of the commencement address in which he made this statement, I believe he was referring to the quality of his life, not just the quantity of his achievements.
Challenge Yourself and Others As a researcher of human experience I study many theories and models of psychology and behavior. There is one model that has always fascinated me because it resonates so deeply with the way I work and with what I have discovered as a key to excellent customer experiences. This is the model of Flow, conceived by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. (Watch his TedX Talk below for more insights.)
Flow is alternatively defined as 'optimal experience' by psychologists because of the depth of connection we can achieve with our best self. While in this state we lose track of time, self-consciousness fades, we are at the edge of control and we even feel at one with the task we are performing. This is truly the edge of where our skills are tested and expanded in the face of a challenge. Athletes call this 'being in the zone' while artists describe it as transcendence because things just happen automatically and their well-trained bodies and minds take over to achieve spectacular results.
Flow theory postulates that a person has to meet three conditions achieve a flow state:
Be involved in an activity with a clear set of goals
Receive clear and immediate feedback regarding your progress
Perceived challenges must be in balance with perceived skills.
When leaders move into a flow state, they perform a peak levels. When their teams achieve this state, it seems that magic happens.
Brave leaders focus daily on creating the environment that allows and encourages their team to participate in the flow state. They do this by helping their team set daily intentions with an eye on the right level of challenge with a clear set of goals as well as identifying how progress can be measured and feedback provided on a moment-to-moment basis. This feedback may be something binary (i.e. yes-no or on-off), quantitative or progressive (i.e. checking an item off a list, etc.). It should also be emotional (i.e. I feel stuck, I feel confident, etc.).
When we partner with companies in doing customer experience improvement efforts, we apply a similar method. First, we research what customers say when they are having an excellent, fair or terrible experience. Then we teach employees how to listen moment-to-moment for customer feedback or to evaluate customer emotional expressions. Based on this feedback the employees know to engage in actions that will enhance good customer experiences or resolve poor experiences at that moment.
Track and Celebrate the Right Efforts Douglas Conant, the turnaround CEO of Campbell Soup Company, credits his practice of sending handwritten notes that celebrated specific contributions of employees as a key to his success as a brave leader.
"Most cultures don’t do a good job of celebrating contributions. So I developed the practice of writing notes to our employees. Over 10 years, it amounted to more than 30,000 notes, and we had only 20,000 employees. Wherever I’d go in the world, in employee cubicles you’d find my handwritten notes posted on their bulletin boards." Douglas Conant, Former CEO, Campbell Soup Company
It is critical to celebrate success, but as you can see from flow psychology, immediate feedback that one is headed in the right direction is essential for peak performance. When you focus on celebrating that a person engaged in the right effort, you encourage a growth mindset. As research shows, those who have a growth mindset are more likely to take on greater challenges, have more energy and enthusiasm and achieve more success over the long-term. Those who only see success in the destination will tend to withdraw from new challenges and will succumb to the fear that they might not be good enough.
As a brave leader, you must be willing to look at the efforts you and your team are taking and correct where you are off course as well as celebrate where you are on course, even if the target seems further away than you expected. Modeling behaviors (i.e. doing what you teach), the language you use (i.e. 'great effort today with that challenging prospect' vs. 'way to close the deal'), and giving positive behavioral examples (i.e. reading excellent customer reviews, etc.) on a daily basis can impact team performance almost immediately. Researcher, Carol Dweck, showed that a person can be subconsciously shifted from a fixed to a growth mindset with just a few of the right words.
Treat trust as Your Most Valuable Currency When I speak at conferences, one of the most popular questions I am asked is 'What drives an excellent customer experience?' Usually they want the 'one thing' that makes the difference. But there isn't one thing. There are several factors and the influence of each factor depends on the industry, company, product, marketing messages and a host of other variables. However, there is one constant. Trust.
If you read any excellent review you'll see a common thread. It is a theme of being delighted or impressed that this company, employees or product actually did more than the customer expected. In other words, the company set an expectation by making a promise in their marketing campaigns and then they more than kept that promise. Or, the company's previous customers made promises under the auspices of recommendations or reviews, and the company lived up to and exceeded the expectations the promises evoked.
Trust is a currency. In fact, it is the currency of currencies.
What are a piece of paper, or the numbers in a bank ledger or the stars on your online review worth? It all comes down to trust.
Brave leaders know this. They understand that if they are not trusted, even the truth they speak will be greeted with skepticism. So, they work daily to promise what they can deliver. They work to exceed that promise. And, when they fail to do so, they are transparent quickly and set an action plan to remedy it. They teach their teams to do the same.
Look to the reviews on Glassdoor.com to see how employees to express their opinions of companies and management. This site is a go to resource for employees evaluating their next potential employer. Current or former employees provide reviews and ratings that help other potential employees learn what can be trusted and what to be skeptical about. Leaders have to be brave to face what is now being said publicly about their company and their behaviors. And they have to act bravely to do the right thing to build trust.
"Trust is a core currency of any relationship. Sometimes our need to control and micromanage everything erodes our confidence in ourselves and others. The truth: People are much more capable than we think. A hearty dose of trust is often what's needed to unlock the magic. Go ahead, have faith." Kris Carr - Creator of the 'Crazy Sexy' Well-Being Brand
You'll find that brave leaders trust in a deeper way. They tend to trust in a power greater than themselves. Some may call this power 'God' others have a different name for it. Regardless, they believe in and operate from the world-view that there is something greater than themselves helping them navigate through the challenges of life. This provides these leaders the confidence to go on when it seems illogical. It gives them the strength to get up after being knocked down hard. It is a source of comfort during the storm that seems to have no end and it is the reason for hope when only hopelessness makes sense.
Can you measure trust?
Researchers like Dr. Paul Zak is working on it and cracking the code. He has led the way in some profound research already. We still have much to learn. And, there are elements of trust that may not be measurable, like so many other emotions we have. Therefore, the logic of the actions we take under the influence of trust may still be a mystery. However, every brave leader does behave in a manner that proves he is trustworthy and he does trust others.
Build Authentic Relationships Based on Genuine Caring According to research conducted by Google, leaders "who 'express interest in and concern for team members’ success and personal well-being' outperform others in the quality and quantity of their work."
Is it any surprise that employees who feel like they are interesting and cared for perform better? Of course not. But, many leaders don't understand how to apply this on a daily basis.
Being aware of personal and professional challenges, opportunities and goals is a key part of the relationship building process. If you are a brave leader you are already doing these based on what was described in the sections above. In addition, taking the time to engage in water-cooler conversation, team-building and even let down your guard to have some fun can really build relationships. And, if your team is customer-facing, they will learn how to do this with the customers in a way that generates more sales, better service and higher satisfaction.
"More than half of people who leave their jobs do so because of their relationship with their boss. Smart companies make certain their managers know how to balance being professional with being human. These are the bosses who celebrate an employee's success, empathize with those going through hard times, and challenge people, even when it hurts." Dr. Travis Bradberry - Expert on Emotional Intelligence
Grow as a Whole Person There was a time, years ago, when I worked in Corporate America that I felt like I had to check my soul at the door every morning as I walked in. Don't get me wrong, I worked for a great company and I loved my role, but I just had to leave so much of myself behind to be the person I thought the company wanted me to be in order to earn a promotion. It nearly killed me. I eventually left to start my own company. I have no regrets about working for the company or leaving the company. It served me in many ways. It was the catalyst for me to realize there is much more to life than just my career.
Brave leaders know this too. They invest the time and money in growing themselves as a person and as a leader. They invest in helping their team do to same through recommendations of books, paying for seminars or onsite training, or encouraging employees to take personal growth courses.
We have come into an era where there is an abundance of evidence that shows our mental health and emotional resilience is directly related to our ability to be creative, productive and manage stress well. Leaders who ignore this reality put their lives and the lives of their employees in jeopardy not to mention the profitability of the company. We've seen clear connections between the companies that offer training to help leaders and employees personally grow and the profits of the company growing.
There is no better way to show people you care than by letting them know that you are aware they're not there just to serve the mission of the company. They are there to earn money to care for their family, to be fulfilled, to contribute and give to the world, to earn more than they need so they can take vacation and spend quality time with family, friends or maybe just learn more about who they are and what they are capable of by engaging in a hobby. When you show an interest in and actively support their growth you and your company will be rewarded. Do the same for them and for yourself.
"More than once in the history of Whole Foods Market, the company was unable to collectively evolve until I myself was able to evolve - in other words, I was holding the company back. My personal growth enabled the company to evolve." - John Mackey - CEO, Whole Foods Market
Ask For and Accept Help Brave leaders know they don't have to answer every question or or solve every problem. They can ask for help and be vulnerable. Their vulnerability unleashes a strength within their team.
Andrew Carnegie, the king of steel and the richest man of his day was aware of this. He told Napoleon Hill, author of "Think and Grow Rich," that the best way to lead was to form a mastermind that brings together those with the highly specialized skills you need for the "coordination of knowledge and effort, in a spirit of harmony...for the attainment of a definite purpose."
When you bring people around you who are smarter and more capable and you organize the thinking and vision of the team, you unite the minds in a way that increases awareness and creativity. Research shows that certain structures in our brains can create connections between leaders and followers or collaborators so closely that they the individuals mirror each other's feelings and brain chemistry. The result of their collaborative thinking can be ideas that are more powerful than any single individual could have come up with on their own.
"Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change." Brene Brown
Becoming an even Braver Leader As you consider the daily practices of other brave leaders, you may realize you have areas where you too could improve your leadership. While it is not for everyone, we have created a program to teach advanced leadership skills to those who want to achieve more, more quickly. We call the program Brave Leadership Mastery. It is available by application only. We leverage the latest research in human experience to help you overcome the mental and emotional patterns holding you back from success. We help you instill daily and weekly practices that are proven to work through rigorous double-blind tests at Harvard, Stanford and other top universities.
*** Tony Bodoh is the co-author of the #1 best selling book, "The Complete Experience: Unlocking the Secrets of Online Reviews that Drive Customer Loyalty" and he is the creator of the 30 Day CX Challenge where employees quickly learn how to really listen for the hidden patterns in what customers say or write and then how to effortlessly act to evoke a 5-Star customer experience.