Leading a Digital Revolution

“We all get the exact same 365 days. The only difference is what we do with them.” —Hillary DePiano 

Cheers to 2020! 

 
We are all on a personal journey with lessons to be learned, challenges to be overcome and joys to be remembered. I find this time of year brimming with reflections and ideas about next year. 2020 starts pretty soon, as a little kid, I used to think how far away 2020 was and now here we are. My better self has been looking forward to this for a long time. 

I feel the beginning of resonance, both personally and professionally. But let me opine briefly about Tahzoo for a moment. We are built on an idea that the customer experience should improve dramatically, that technology should be an enabler to better experience and not a crushing quest for efficiency that robs consumers of their joy. How you spend your money and who you spend your money with is one of the most quintessential of human experiences. Think about all of the cities built around a town square and market. There has been a marriage between commerce and community since we became civilized.  
 
Our mission is to improve the customer experience, to build the connections between community and commerce that are the moral equivalent of the market square in the 21st century. Amazon has built an unbelievably efficient distribution engine, it’s really awesome, but recommendations alone don’t make a town square. Our challenge as a company is to figure out how do we use all the technology at our disposal to humanize the customer experience. What is super exciting to me is that the technology is more like a canvas than a set of interstitial building blocks. 

We can now actually design experiences with interaction models that customers will find pleasing and personalized. Tahzoo is a company full of great builders, in 2020 we will become great designers too. It’s all coming together, technology, data, and design to create the company I envisioned 10 years ago. 
 
So, no matter what you’re doing at Tahzoo, remember your job is to make the customer experience better. Every interaction between our client and their customer should feel like opening a present. We are the company that will lead this revolution.  
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad 

Cinematic Design

We just wrapped up a day of video shooting for the new Tahzoo website and internal training. By all accounts, it was a very well-orchestrated and produced event, special thanks to Don Low and Bryan Fitch. It seemed a fitting conclusion to the week and in advance of my Desk of Brad this week, as I am writing about Cinematic Design. Our Experience Design Practice is grounded in a cinematic approach. It’s an approach that is unique to Tahzoo and separates us from all of the design firms that we compete with on a regular basis.

I am sure you’re asking, ‘What is Cinematic Design?’. It’s a philosophy, a methodology, and a series of techniques to guide the consumption of content. Just as a great movie director frames a shot so that you know where to look when you’re watching the movie, the cinematic design is about shaping the navigation and presentation of content so that you automatically know what to do. It’s about ‘less is more’, it’s about centering your eye on the content, and making the next step in the process obvious. It’s thinking more about the personalized experience and less about making every option available.

In contrast to the current approach to UX in which every navigational choice is made possible, the cinematic design is about creating individual journeys through content, applying contextual awareness, and the form factor in mind. Think of it as curated navigation – storytelling in a visual context. When the page opens, or the application loads on your phone, where should your eye go first? How will you know what to do next?

There is a great book called “The Design of Everyday Things” by Don Norman. It’s a fantastic read on how great design is not only aesthetically pleasing but it also informs you about how to operate a device. Think of the fixtures in a shower – it should look great, but you should also be able to easily figure out how to create the right temperature. As someone who has stayed in a lot of different hotels, there is nothing more frustrating than having to figure out how to make the shower work. A website is no different – the design and the operation of the site should be elegant.

In our case, we are tailoring an experience for each person. With dynamic navigation and menuing, cinematic design becomes even more important. We have to create ways of exploring content that are particularly pleasing and relevant. Many of the concepts developed over the last hundred years of filmmaking apply rather nicely to the design approach.

There’s a great video entitled, “David Fincher Hijacks Your Eyes”. Please take a moment to watch the video… You’ll really enjoy it and in turn, hopefully, have a better understanding of why some filmmakers give you the feeling of being in the scene and not just a spectator of the big screen – watch it here. Our approach to Cinematic design follows similar precepts; we create immersive digital experiences through visual storytelling. Even if you’re just on the site to order coffee, you should feel in the moment as the story and the experience is personally directed towards you. Over the next few weeks, Don and Bryan will be presenting our approach in more detail.

Let’s go be great!
Brad

The Experience Effect

The Experience Effect is changing how we do business. This is where Tahzoo comes in. No longer does one-size-fits-all content suffice. Today’s leading businesses need to consider everything they do in terms of “The Experience.” This goes for every company I know. If you make three-dimensional products; good for you, but that product is an experience. Look to the iPhone for inspiration, it’s as much an experience as a phone. If you provide a service, even better.

We live in a service economy. Services are experiences, too. Technology has allowed us the privilege of learning what our customers want, need, and desire and we can use that information and some pretty remarkable technologies to meet them on their terms. We can speak to them in their language and we can treat them to experiences they really care about. This is what the customer experience is meant to be.

For you and me as individuals, the Experience Effect means we will increasingly define our experience by our ability to share them with our families, with our friends, and with the world. For the businesses of the world, the Experience Economy will mean understanding that no matter what product or service we deliver, we are ultimately delivering an experience, some make that experience something different, something memorable. And lastly, companies must be honest and truthful about the experiences they create. Only when experiences are sharable, different, and authentic can they truly transcend.

The Experience Economy is real and it is changing the world. It has already altered every business on the planet and it will continue to do. Now, more than ever, the quality of what we experience is more valuable than the quantity of what we own.

Let’s use that knowledge—and this moment in time—to make millions of people happy.

Brad

Transforming Experiences

When we started the company, our tagline was ‘Driven by Big Ideas’…

As I mentioned earlier, we live in a time of unparalleled change and opportunity. The signs of economic turmoil are ever-present, and it’s because the way in which business is conducted is changing. Over the course of history, during these transitions, companies that established themselves as a force for change and as the instrument of change have shaped the world.

I aspire to work for a company and be part of a team that changes the world. For whatever reason, I can’t and won’t rest until I’ve accomplished this… The problem I aspire to solve is changing the way business is conducted.

We live in a time in which the rise of mega-corporations, consumerism, and technology have sterilized and dehumanized the interactions between people and companies. My dad still goes to the bank to get cash rather than an ATM, and when I ask him about this, he explains that he likes to see his ‘friends’ at the bank, and then rattles off the names of all the tellers in the bank. To be clear, I don’t see us returning to some 1950’s style world in which everyone purchases from the neighborhood store… the efficiencies of globalization are too compelling to be ignored. I do see how Gabi is friends with the UPS man who delivers goods purchased online every day… we’re still able to have humanity in how we buy and sell.

We are currently working on personalization strategies; I never saw this as an endpoint – only the beginning of how we transform the customer experience. Let’s aspire to build a company that brings some humanity, some relevancy, and some good old fashion customer service to how people buy and sell goods. For me, it’s an obligation and moral imperative that we work hard to make the world a better place.

Let’s go be great,

Brad

Tahzoo’s Customer Experience 

I was listening to an old interview with Steve Jobs today, he was discussing the process of product development and how he’s learned over the years to start with the customer experience in mind rather than the technology. I was again struck by his passion to deliver a phenomenal experience to his customers. I have been focused the last couple years on making sure that Tahzoo had the capability to help our clients deliver a great experience, but, candidly, I haven’t spent enough time crafting the experience I’d like for our clients.

When I founded the company, I established the company values as part of a strategy to ensure that we had the right people. In the early days when I was acting as the account manager, I labored over the quality of our work and ensuring that we provided the best possible deliverables, I figured setting a good example would carry the day. As we began to grow, we focused on hiring smart and happy people as a core tenant of our customer experience strategy. More recently we created the Delivery Lead role as the keeper of the customer experience.

While these are important in setting the foundation for our company they are not nearly as explicit as we need to be around our customer experience. I was talking with one of our clients who had recently hired McKinsey to conduct a strategy workshop, and while the workshop was in process they filmed the white boarding exercise and interaction between the teams. The video was streamed live to a group of graphic artists who produced a slide deck that represented the meeting inputs outputs and decisions. At the conclusion of the meeting, the McKinsey team handed the client a freshly printed and readymade deck. Our client was blown away by the experience and we talked in detail about how Tahzoo could make similar improvements in our customers’ experience to set us apart from the field.

Just another example of how you never know where the next inspiration might come from or the surprising ways that the customer experience can be continually improved. Like Steve Jobs said, start there and you’re going to do alright.

Let’s go be great! 

Brad 

Virgin Atlantic Takeaways

Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none —  William Shakespeare, All’s Well That Ends Well 

I had the great pleasure of spending Tuesday afternoon with Richard Branson (Virgin Group) and Kevin Plank (UnderArmor) at a symposium for entrepreneurs in Washington, DC. They spoke at length regarding their strategies, their successes, and, yes, their failures. I had a couple of big takeaways that I wanted to share with you. 
 
Both men have a passion for their customers and products that was infectious and unyielding. They were so clear about what the experience should be … that it drove their companies forward. I often write about the state of the market or customer experience, but I don’t spend nearly enough time talking about the experience I’d like our customers to have. People hire us because they believe in us because we can help them do things they can’t do for themselves. 

So, what’s the experience that I want for our customers? I want them to enjoy a great relationship with us, one in which we are trusted advisors and agents of change
 
The second takeaway was about disrupting markets. In both cases, Kevin and Richard identified a market where a superior service and product would be disruptive. For Branson, he had a simple goal: to make flying fun. He talked about being the first to put a bar in a plane and the importance of great entertainment. UnderArmor was focused on making a better shirt than its competitors, not just another shirt, but one that was designed for athletes. In both cases, I was taken by the relative simplicity of their goals. They were not elaborate or high-minded. They were focused. Most of all, they were achievable. 
 
In some ways, you can say that Tahzoo needs to do both things well we need to have provided a great experience and seek ways to wow our clients. Because we do digital transformation, our product is not really a product at all, but the outcomes we deliver for our clients. 

 
The measure of our success with our clients’ needs to go beyond just the quality of our builds, documentation, or code, but to the central result we produce did our work improve the customer experience? Did it achieve the business result for our client? I have been pushing the business development side to do a better job of articulating the Tahzoo value proposition, well beyond the breadth of our capabilities, but what makes us unique. In my mind, we should be able to sell Tahzoo with a single slide with a summary of the results we’ve achieved for our clients. 
 
If you’re working on a project and you don’t know what the expected business result for the client is then start asking questions until you know. By the way, if the answer you hear is that we finish on time, on budget with good quality, then you got the wrong answer. We get hired to achieve results. Ask questions. Get engaged. Get to the heart of the matter what is the business result your client is trying to achieve? Then go out and help them do it. 
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad 

The Experience Economy: Part 3

This concept of the experience economy I have been talking about for the past two weeks is a fundamental shift in the American system of values. People no longer care what goods you have; they care how good you have it. This is not just my speculation. It’s been documented scientifically.


There is a large body of research showing that “contrary to expectations, life experiences are a better use of money than material items. Essentially, what happened was or value system shifted from things to experiences. This was quickly and increasingly reflected in the economy—the “experience economy.”


Here are a few examples; Uber blended car-sharing and ride-sharing to totally transform the experience of getting from point A to point b. Make no mistake, Uber is a very practical and valuable service, but it is also an amazing experience. I press a button, a car arrives, I pay. Done. I remember the first time I used Uber. My only thought was, “This is amazing.” In the same vein, AirBnB ubered the hotel business. Suddenly, each of us had a living room and a well-appointed kitchen in practically every city in the world. The mathematics of the Experience Economy was pretty simple: Sharing plus experience is economics. The uber-example of the experience economy, however, is Netflix. That company has reshaped itself three times and each time it has trumped the old industries that once stood in its place. First, it was mail-ordered DVDs, which sounded the death knell for Blockbuster Video and it’s the late-fee revenue model. Next, it was streaming movies, which will someday destroy the cable industry. And, most recently, when Netflix learned that cable and the movie studios could limit the growth of streaming by tying up the content for extended periods, Netflix pivoted yet again and became a producer of high-quality, high-demand content like “House of Cards” and “Orange Is the New Black.” Game, set, match: Netflix.


It’s the Experience Economy, and it’s changing not just what people buy, but why. And what, exactly, will be the impact of the Experience Economy? Well, we are already seeing it in the fact that sharing has become more important than owning… You don’t need a new drill, you need a hole, so you rent the drill. You don’t need a vacation, you need a destination, so you rent the apartment wherever you want to go. The Experience Economy is changing the way we buy, too. According to a recent study, hotel revenue has decreased by 8-10% in AirBnB’s most popular markets. According to 2015, Alixpartner’s study of the 10 U.S. metropolitan car-sharing markets, each shared vehicle displaces 32 personal vehicle purchases, equally roughly 500,000 vehicle purchases avoided in the last decade and forecast to avoid 1.2 million sales by 2020. The Experience Economy is even changing the way we communicate. Now, all our experiences, from the most mundane to the truly transcendent, must be shared. Our lives are inherently interactive. We live in the instant with our lives are displayed for all the world to see on multiple channels and myriad devices the minute they happen… Be here now. Indeed.


Mostly, however, the Experience Effect is changing how we do business. This is where Tahzoo comes in. No longer does one-size-fits-all content suffice. Today’s leading businesses need to consider everything they do in terms of “The Experience.” This goes for every company I know. If you make three-dimensional products; good for you, but that product is an experience. Look to the iPhone for inspiration, it’s as much an experience as a phone. If you provide a service, even better.


We live in a service economy. Services are experiences, too. Technology has allowed us the privilege of learning what our customers want, need, and desire and we can use that information and some pretty remarkable technologies to meet them on their terms. We can speak to them in their language and we can treat them to experiences they really care about. This is what the customer experience is meant to be. For you and me as individuals, the Experience Effect means we will increasingly define our experience by our ability to share them with our families, with our friends, and with the world. For the businesses of the world, the Experience Economy will mean understanding that no matter what product or service we deliver, we are ultimately delivering an experience, some make that experience something different, something memorable. And lastly, companies must be honest and truthful about the experiences they create. Only when experiences are sharable, different, and authentic can they truly transcend.


The Experience Economy is real and it is changing the world. It has already altered every business on the planet and it will continue to do. Now, more than ever, the quality of what we experience is more valuable than the quantity of what we own.

quality vs quantity - experience economy


Let’s use that knowledge—and this moment in time—to change the world.

The Experience Economy: Part 2

Consumerism is Dead

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about this word “experience.” It got me wondering, where does this focus on experience come from? Though it’s clearly been around for a long time, it’s only recently become an object of intense focus.


Think back to the era of great American consumerism—the 1950s through the 1970s. This was a time of huge post-war economic growth, the spread of the American dream, and suburban ideal. It was also a period of incredible growth in mass communications, too, most obviously with television, which created a sort of global community that inspired a series of famously shared experiences—Elvis, the Kennedy assassination, The Beatles, the man on the moon, etc. Camped out in their living rooms, people experienced these things together. And yet, while we watched these incredible transformative events collectively, we did so in isolation, in our own homes, the communication was one-way. If we wanted to talk about it—if we wanted to share our experiences—we had to wait until the next day at school or the office to talk about it.


Marshall McLuhan had it right. The medium was the message. The one-way, mass communication of television had a profound impact on advertising and marketing. This was the great Mad Men-era of push advertising. The goal of this sort of one-way communication was to convince people that acquiring stuff, lots of stuff, preferably the same stuff as your neighbor, was a higher purpose. If your neighbor buys a Cadillac; you needed a Cadillac. Thus was born the Age of Consumerism. More is better was the mantra. Eventually, new forms of communications grew, each one taking hold at a faster pace than the previous—VHS, cable TV, satellite TV, DVDs, PCs, cellphones.


With the advent of social media, however, things changed dramatically. As if overnight, Facebook and YouTube flattened the world. It was the birth of the sharing economy. Broadcast yourself, they said. Every meal, every vacation, every life milestone had to be documented and shared with the world. Suddenly, stuff you had didn’t matter so much as the experience did. The selfie culture was upon us. The Mona Lisa of this new era happened on Oscar Night when Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, and others joined in that memorable selfie. In that instant we were all “friended” by celebrities we could otherwise never approach.

Rigid consistency is passe.

It was the signal of a larger trend. People stopped caring about the endless pursuit to acquire the exact same stuff that other people had. All this consumption left us empty and led to the conclusion that maybe more wasn’t better after all. Mass-produced consumer goods became less desirable. People started sharing cars, not buying them. Zipcar and Uber grew. Ford and GM looked for new ways to capitalize on the sharing culture. Mass-produced food declined, too. McDonald’s struggled. While many say it was because their food is unhealthy, you could look at it and say It’s because all their food is the same in every store in the world. The exact thing that McDonald’s was known for—rigid consistency—became passe. There was no experience to be had.


In response, we saw the rise of the fast-casual trend with companies like Chipotle and Panera, but even those companies are becoming too common and are now being replaced by a new generation of niche restaurants. In Washington DC, we have Cava Mezze, a Mediterranean-themed restaurant offering lamb meatballs, tzatziki, and harissa. The ultimate mashup of social media and fast-casual dining is the “food truck” where each day saw gourmet food peddled on different street corners, the location of which would be announced through social media. The food was great. The concept was great.


…But the experience was greatest of all.

Why should you care about CX?

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go do that. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive.”  -Harold Whitman 

What is CX and why should you care? Part 2 
 
My speech at the digital summit at Marquette University was very well received for those who followed the event or me on twitter yesterday, you got to see firsthand the enthusiasm we generated. There was a woman who was a digital sketch artist in attendance, and she drew some interesting summations of my speech- I asked her permission to include her artwork in this week’s edition of the company newsletter.  

I started the speech with a discussion around the value of experiences and how technology is allowing us to be in the moment but also transcend time. We now live in a world where not only do we have the pleasure of the moment but it can be recorded for all time. The ways in which we can capture the moments is ever increasing as well, we can use 140 characters, 6-second videos, or post it on Facebook to name a few. 

I then transitioned to a discussion around the value or the currency of sharing. In the experience, economic status is derived from the experiences you share. What matters most is not how much you have, but how good you have it. Spending money on a great experience will last you a lifetime. A recent study in the Journal of Positive Psychology Experiences said that experiences also lead to longer-term satisfaction. “Purchased experiences provide memory capital,” Howell said. “We don’t tend to get bored of happy memories like we do with a material object.

The rise of the sharing economy is being driven by the idea that renting is just as viable as owning. We see many new businesses leveraging idol inventory or assets, ZIP car, streaming music, or sites like bag, borrow, and steal as examples. This notion of use when you need it is much more efficient and has profound implications for global manufacturing. For each ZIP car in a major metropolitan area supplants 32 new cars. Over a 10 year period in the US, this has lead to approximately 500,000 fewer cars sold. 

I spoke about Tahzoo’s three truths for our new economy, Experiences must be shareable, authentic, and differentiated. To be shareable an experience, we must consider the variant of formats and contexts in which the experience would be shared. Providing readily available content that can be quickly appropriated for sharing is critical. Brands must be authentic, there are countless stories about how disappointed consumers are when they find out a seemingly spontaneous moment is planned marketing activating, I give the famous Selfie at the Oscars sponsored by Samsung as an example of this. Lastly, the experience needs to be differentiated, in this way it can be personalized, or at a minimum, it needs to be better than one size fits all. The days of the mass market model are over.

The Experience Economy is influencing every aspect of our life. As we engage with brands we are seeking to spend our money and make connections that are profoundly different than we have in the past. I spoke about how this confluence of technology and culture is impacting the way we buy, communicate, and do business. I gave an example of how Venmo is impacting what was once an awkward experience deciding how to pay a bill among friends has now been turned into a simple and easy process. How each of us is now a budding photographer, restaurant critic, and travel specialist, all of these new models are giving rise to a new type of company built on pleasant and seamless experiences; Uber, Airbnb, and Netflix to name a few.

Over the last five years, technology has made personalization at scale possible. We can now communicate with individuals delivering brand experiences that are tailored to be contextually relevant. We are using data to better understand the desires of each individual and recognize patterns of behavior that once understood can be utilized to deliver personalized experiences. 
 
Thanks to Andy Myers, Rhia Pumhirun, Gabi Macy, and John Kottcamp for all of their hard work and contribution to this speech. We have a white paper about the experience economy that we’ll be releasing in the coming weeks. As always feel free to share your thoughts or ideas about the new economy.

What is CX?

Don’t let the fear of losing overtake the joy of winning – Urban Meyer 

What is CX and why should you care? 
 
I’ve been preparing for a speech that I am looking forward to giving at the Marquette University Digital Summit next week. I am working closely with John Kottcamp and Andy Myers to crystalize Tahzoo’s position on what we’re are calling the Experience Economy. 
 
Our thesis is that Experiences will be the currency of the modern age. We are making a pivot from the age of consumerism to the age of the experience. This idea is that the focus on consumption and accumulation of things is giving way to experiences. People are spending their money and time on experiences and then sharing them through their social networks. The proliferation of devices with cameras and social networks have profoundly reduced the cost of sharing our experiences. Imagine that 100 years ago, you’d have to write a biography and hope that someone read it. Now, almost for free and instantaneously, everyone can participate in the narrative of your life. This is the new way to achieve status among your peers The New Currency. 
 
As a consequence, companies need to focus as much or more on the experience they provide then they do on their products. Tahzoo is well-positioned to support our clients as they embark on this transformation. I will outline our principals for experience design in my presentation. I look forward to sharing the full speech with you in next week’s desk of Brad. In the meantime, follow me on twitter @brad_heidemann and the event @mudigitalsummit during the summit for updates.