A Customer-first approach to Job Titles

Does your organization design job titles and specifications to place emphasis on the customer?  When considering the ability of different parts of your team to impact the experience of your customer, where are the points of pressure?

A commercial transaction is an experience, wrapped around a promise.  The value which is exchanged (monetary, utility, emotional) and the extent to which the transfer is well-balanced, affects the experience of the promise.  Over time, a brand's meaning is the sum of the promises made and kept.

People and organizations can make promises in different ways.  What levels of people your firm, or people on your team, have influence on the consumer experience?  Do they:

  • Greet or interact with customers in person
  • Answer inquiries on the phone or those that come in by email?
  • On-board new team members?
  • Decide on employee compensation, perks, or benefits?


The people who do any of the above are not just employees; these people can make, keep, and break promises.   Now think about the number of those people whose job title is coordinator, specialist, or assistant?  How many of them receive instruction from managers, directors, or VPs?

I recently came across a posting for a "Director of First Impressions."  Here's the line I liked best from the requisition:

"Candidates should only apply if they can provide the highest level of customer service, with a smile on their face, no matter what the position throws their way." 

To handle the unexpected, to be sure about your motivation and commitment to customer success?    It's not always easy to keep your promises - having people who take that seriously, and who know they are empowered and expected to do so, can make all the difference.  Don't waste an opporuntiy to think about how your next "Assistant" will delight a customer, and maybe even lead by example.




Team Management Lessons from Trading Places

Looking good, Billy Ray!

Feeling good, Louis!


This refrain has been among my favorite New Years sayings for years, and Trading Places is among my favorite holiday movies.  On January 2nd, the refrain means even more - the morning Billy Ray and Louis get revenge.

What struck me during this season's rewatching was, Coleman wins big, for a butler.  Technically, Coleman works for the villainous Dukes, but at the end of the movie, everyone who has been manipulated by the "science experiment" joins forces against Clarence Beeks and the Dukes.  Coleman contributes logistical support, and his life savings, to a nice manipulation of Futures contracts in Frozen Concentrated Orange Juice.  At the end of the film, Coleman, Billy Ray, and Louis are all enjoying fresh seafood and champagne in a Carribean paradise.

A few lessons:


  1. Let your employees buy in: having enough capital was crucial to the coup executed by Louis and Billy Ray, and both Ophelia and Coleman put up their life savings. They were richly rewarded.  Employee stock purchase and retirement plans can't quite keep up, but for startups, the risk/reward gets closer.  How are your teams incentivized?
  2. A steady hand is hard to find: Although Coleman clearly detests the Dukes, he's a solid judge of character and can see Billy Ray is a fish out of water.  When Coleman offers to straighten up after Billy Ray's party, it's compassion and the kindness of a trusted deputy  - we've all had team members like that, and it's never a bad thing.  Keep them happy and treat them well.
  3. Be careful about gossiping in the restroom.  Not that anyone would condone rich oligarchs running social engineering experiments on unwitting citizens (let alone employees)  - it's all undone when Billy Ray overhears Randolph and Mortimer in the Mens' Room.  

  4. The stakes matter.  Think about the demands we make as managers - and the requests we fulfill for our senior leadership.  There is a different level of scandal altogether when finding out about the maneuvers or perverse incentives of the head honchos.  Transparency, governance, and the red face test, matter. Team leaders shouldn't make side bets, whether it's for a dollar or not, but it's the insignificance of the amount that pushes Winthorpe over the edge.

There are surely more lessons, but for 2015, my hat is tipped to you, Coleman!


The Rise of Digital Product Managers at Time Inc.

Digiday has a nice look at "product builders" at Time, Inc., who in their independent existence (free of the Time Warner mothership) begin with an idea and a landing page, find some early adopters, and refine their products.  The "Cooking Light Diet" app appears to be one example.

Under SVP digital Kevin Heery (it appears) that a team of 4 product managers, who work in conjunction with the editorial staff have figured out how to build interesting products  - not just more pageviews.



Race Review: Tough Mudder San Diego 

Tough Mudder has been somethign of a facscination for me ever since I began work at Competitor Group.  I personally admired their approach to social marketing, and it was clear that the mud run category offers somethign much diferent from the bands-along-the-course marathon celebration.

Rachel and I have been doing crossfit now for almost a year, mixing Monday-Friday workouts in with 2-3 runs per week.  This worked well for preparing us for the overall enducrance challenge.  The fact that we had completed the Rock 'n' Roll San Jose 1/2 Marathon a few weeks prior seemed to confirm we were up to the challenge.  

Our course at Vail Lake was billed at 10+ miles, so while there was less running, I definitely felt more exhausted by the experience than running 13 miles  - this event challenges everyone in different ways.  TM is a brutal athletic event with lots of people and plenty that is frightening, intimidating, and yet very memorable. 



Have you come a long way?

I promise to remind myself how far I've come. Clockwise from upper left: me ca. 2006, my wedding in 2011, me in 2012.

I lost 75lbs and have kept it off for 6 years.