Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The One-Day University Experience—a Customer Perspective

This past weekend my wife and I attended what is called The One Day University.  This was our first experience and we committed ourselves to a full day from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM to learn from a variety of topics delivered by eight stellar professors all from different institutes of higher learning.  The four classes that I personally chose and that interested me the most were the following.
  • 1.       The Civil War and Abraham Lincoln: What's Fact and What's Fiction?
  • 2.       The Science of Happiness
  • 3.       Everything You Must Know About Sleep (But were too tired to ask)
  • 4.       Untangling the Web: Why the Middle East is a Mess and Always Has Been
This seemed to me like the most diverse set of topics and my primary goal in listening to these particular lectures was simply to absorb and remain completely open to thoughts and ideas as they relate to life experiences in general and to my work as a Customer Experience professional. 

It was intriguing to me that after having spent a full day in academic lectures that spanned such a wide array of topics that I could have emerged with insights about my own career and experiences on the receiving end of being a customer.  Let’s begin with the obvious.

I willingly signed up for this One Day University which was not free but was modestly priced.  The topics themselves were the biggest part of the draw for me, but price and perceived value set my expectations right from the start.  The professors / lecturers came from among the most prestigious Ivy League institutions—Harvard, Amherst, Georgetown, Princeton, Columbia, Cornell, and Rutgers. One hour presentations followed by 15-20 minutes of engaging and solid Q&A.  Setting expectations is such a key element in the customer experience.  Get that wrong and the rest really doesn’t matter.

So how might Abraham Lincoln, the science of happiness, sleep or the Middle East, further relate to customer experience?  The following were my connections and takeaways.  Let’s begin with sleep. 
Sleep is a significant factor in determining your happiness and sleep is a proven predictor of athletic performance and clear thinking.  The reality is that sleep is a necessity and not a luxury.  The average person requires 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.  This resonated with my feeling about the reality of a positive customer experience—it’s a present day business necessity.  Treat it as some exception or luxury and suffer the consequences.

I learned that 50% of our happiness derives from our genes and so the other half we must create within our personal ecosystem. I also learned about the three main components of happiness—(1) meaning in our relationships with others, (2) engagement and anticipation, and (3) pleasure.  As I started thinking about this from a career perspective and knowing the undeniable connection between employee engagement and customer satisfaction, it occurred to me that happiness in one’s work is a combined responsibility between employee and employer.  Lose sight of this and you can see where customer experience can drop off and business outcomes can take a big hit as a result. 

Lincoln was President of the US during the “War of the Rebellion” or more commonly known as the Civil War—which was anything but civil.  Lincoln was a storyteller and we realize the power of storytelling within our own organizations.  At one point, in an attempt explain his views on the abolition of slavery, Lincoln told a somewhat deflecting story involving a group of clergy debating and obsessing over how they might cross a particular river when the eldest of them explained that there was no use in debating this since in his own experience he never crossed a river until he came to it.  That caused me to reflect upon how many times I might have engaged in a solving problem exercise long before the problem ever presented itself.  This is not to say that thinking ahead doesn’t have merit, but sometimes the pre-planned and rehearsed responses are the ones that come across as rather insincere.  As consumers, how many times have we heard the cliché “Have a nice day” coming at us within three hours of midnight?

The complexities of the Middle East are dynamic and countless for sure and that train of thought led me toward thinking about how complex and dynamic customers are as well.  As Customer Experience professionals we understand that our mission and work is never complete and it requires constant attention. But that’s what keeps us moving forward.  We believe that the ultimate goal of creating more rewarding and memorable customer experiences will lead toward better business outcomes and an overall better world for consumers and for businesses alike.

As a customer, The One Day University experience for me was a microcosm of the world in general.   Everything I heard and learned connected with me as a consumer and with my professional discipline.  I’m allowing myself to get more sleep now as an experiment to prove some of the facts I learned in that session.  I’m working on that 50% of happiness that is within my control.  I’m thinking of more stories that I can use to help give color to some of the more black and white topics I often have to work with. Not too small a set of outcomes for one day!!