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Caring for Employees

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When I share this value with others, I am often asked: “What does that mean?” The sentiment behind this ideal is a reflection of my work history, as I’ve been fortunate enough to work for a series of leaders who not only cared about my performance but also took an active role in helping me improve and further my skills. There is a quote on my desk that says, “Our chief want in life is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be” – by Ralph Waldo Emerson.
One of the more remarkable things about the leaders who have mentored me is that they expected the best from me and gave me the support and education to actually achieve at a higher level. All too often, there are leadership discussions around setting clear expectations, which is meaningful, however, we all need more than just clear expectations to succeed. Most of my bosses have been incredibly demanding of me but I also knew they cared for me personally and would give me the tools I needed to be successful.
I believe in something defined as servant leadership, which is to say that the management and leadership of the company are here in service to the employees so they can do a great job for our customers. You should work for someone who not only cares about you, but cares enough about you to help you be great and hold you accountable. Much of my work these days is ensuring and instilling this idea into our thinking and processes whenever possible. You can help me with this by making sure you have regular meetings with your manager and are soliciting feedback on your performance. It is also important that you share with your manager the ways in which they can help you be better at your job.
Right after the start of the company we created the rate your week survey. Although we were really small at the time and I could see from the results of the survey exactly how someone’s week went, I knew it would be important to have a pulse on the organizational health of the company. As a side benefit, I want to make sure that everyone felt they could provide feedback to me so I could improve the company.
Understanding the strength and quality of the relationships within the company is the biggest predictor of success for Tahzoo. It’s why we survey you all so often, I really do want to know what people are thinking and how they are feeling. Most CEOs focus on the financial metrics of the company (which are also very important), I know however that if the internal relationships are strong and our people know how to work together, then all other goals and problems are more easily met.
We need to be a learning organization. It is my belief that if we can build and maintain strong working relationships, then we can ask teams from around the globe or with many different disciplines and backgrounds to work together to create new ideas. In this way, I hope that we can always be addressing the leading edge of the market place and holding our position as a premium brand company. If we are able to maintain and grow this ethos across Tahzoo, we’ll be a great company to work for and we will have ample opportunity to do meaningful work.
When I wrote out the values of the company, in my mind I thought it would be great if we could create a company that provided employees meaningful work, with an opportunity to grow. It was also crucial that this value of caring for our employees was at the top of the chart because I knew as the company grew it had to remain top of mind for everyone who joined the company. It is also an important filter for making decisions going forward … the simple question is “does this action or decision demonstrate that we are caring for our employees?” It is a great context for deciding “what is right.”

A Mighty Big Country

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I am on holiday this week driving from Seattle, Washington to Washington DC with my family. This is an annual trip for me and some of my best thinking and reflection occurs during these holidays. In addition to the family trip every year, I’ll occasionally do a solo cross country trip to really get away and think (and stop at some of my favorite BBQ joints along the way).
It was on a solo trip a little over 5 years ago that I found the courage to start Tahzoo. I was listening to an audio book called The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, his book was born out of a lecture he gave in September 2007 entitled, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.”
For those of you who don’t know the book, Randy was asked to give a lecture and share his wisdom and perspective a month after receiving a terminal cancer diagnosis. It is a heartwarming, albeit deeply emotional book given his circumstances. The main point of the book and his lecture, is that your dreams and aspirations matter and that setting yourself on a course of achieving those dreams is the cornerstone of a life well lived. As you achieve your dreams you can then focus on enabling the dreams of others. His book had a profound impact on me and has changed the way I live my life. Among them is that I wanted my work to be a source of meaning for me, not necessarily a place that provides me a sense of self-esteem but a place where I can serve a purpose greater then myself.
A big part of the process for me taking inventory of my dreams and what I’d like to be a part of … only after that, did I begin framing out what we’d do and how we’d do it …Tahzoo is culmination of several dreams for me. 
I believe in great customer service. I can think of very few things as satisfying than taking great care of a customer. I often tell people that waiting tables was one of my favorite jobs because I got to create a wonderful evening for my customers. We remember the experiences we’ve had far more than the stuff we’ve bought. The web has made the world more efficient, but mostly at the expense of the experience- let’s change that! I wanted to a build a company that I could take pride in the way that it impacted the lives of others. In our case it’s that we should help our clients deliver an experience that makes their customers happy. We can be responsible for creating millions of pleasant moments everyday… that possibility makes me happy.
I believe that in order for Tahzoo to be a great company we need to take great care of one another. I have been fascinated with how people work together since I was a boy. I have been fortunate to be on several great teams in both sports and in business, I have found this experience so compelling, so profound, that I’ve spent most of my adult life seeking to be a part of or helping to create great teams. Every great team that I have been part of has had one common thread… a high degree of trust and commitment to one another. I see pockets of this at Tahzoo but not nearly enough to feel like we’ve got it figured out. The irony is that a great company is a byproduct of the people… not the actual company. I need your help and your commitment to making your team a great team.
I want Tahzoo to be a platform for all of us to learn and change. We have the opportunity to solve really interesting problems, explore different aspects of our thinking and ideas, all while helping our clients be successful. One of the things that appealed to me was the idea that if we worked on leading edge problems, we could get paid for doing cool stuff. The interesting challenge I am working on is how do we create a company that encourages people with different backgrounds, disciplines and perspectives to work together collaboratively on behalf of a customer? See it’s so much easier to hire a bunch of likeminded people and ask them to work together, however; the best companies, leading 21st century companies are the ones that bring many perspectives together… the best results and decisions are made by teams that work all sides of an issue. That’s an example of how I see Tahzoo as an opportunity for me to explore how to do something better. What is the idea that you’re working on? How are you seeing your time at Tahzoo as an opportunity to explore and deliver a big idea?
In any event, I thought I should share with you how I got here, how we got here. I decided these dreams of mine were too important to just think about or to hope that one day they’d come true. I set out on a course of action to make them happen. I am not done yet and there are more dreams to be shared and pursued. I hope in some way this inspires you to participate in my dreams and I hope that Tahzoo is a place that can enable your dreams. It can be as simple as just being a great place to go to work every day or inventing the next generation of human to computer interfaces … either way it’s up to you. Tahzoo has a remarkable future in large part because of all of you. I am so proud to be a part of this company.

Growing a Business

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As a young manager at Nordstrom, I was speaking with John Nordstrom one day and he was complimenting me on the great service my department was giving. I was pleased to be receiving the compliment, however, I was curious about how he could know that when he’d only spent a limited time on the sales floor with me. So I asked him “how do you know we are giving good service?” He said “happy and well-served customers spend more money. When I looked at your numbers, the increases in your sales are a result of good service.” At that time, my department was one of the fastest growing in the company. He was right in that we had a great team, giving great service and it showed in our numbers.

One of the core values of the company is that if we care about our employees and care about our customers, we’ll have a company worth caring about.

When I think about caring for clients, I think about how they are trusting us with their goals, their work, and ultimately their credibility. This is a precious gift and we need to treat that with the honor and respect it deserves. Understanding and exceeding a client’s expectations is the hallmark of good consulting. When we disappoint a client, it’s rarely a blatant violation of their trust, more often it is what I call benign neglect. An apathy or an unwillingness to understand the client at the right level of detail or the unwillingness to do the little extra. At Nordstrom, if I saw someone walk past a messy table and pretend not to notice, I knew that person needed coaching about the importance of doing all the little extras that made up a great experience for our customers.


So what are the little extras in our business? First, it starts with building a relationship with your client. Most of my clients, I consider friends. Some better than others, but I build relationships based on trust and exceeding expectations. My goal is always to become a trusted advisor to my clients. Whenever I am asked about the secret to building trust, I tell people that trust is a function of consistency over time. When clients can depend on you to consistently meet their needs, they will trust you … If you consistently exceed their expectations, you’ll become a “trusted advisor.” Back to the little extras, prompt return of phone calls or emails. Handwritten thank-you notes. Being on time and prepared for meetings. Ensuring that your work is client-ready or pitch perfect. Ensuring that your team is informed so they can be effective in working with your client. There are many ways in which each of us can do the little extras and build trusted relationships.

We also employ something we call the employee thermometer with customer centricity and customer satisfaction surveys to understand how we are doing as a company and what needs to be fixed in order to make us a great service organization. These tools are critical to ensure that we have the insights we need to make the right investments in the business.

Based on employee and customer feedback, we created a role in the company called the Delivery Lead. The Delivery Lead is the single point of accountability within Tahzoo to ensure the quality of our work. In short, the person responsible for making sure we are exceeding client expectations. A DL operates at an account level, overseeing, working on, and guiding multiple workstreams. It is and will continue to be one of the more important roles within our company as we build our digital transformation business.

But back to the John Nordstrom story, survey results notwithstanding … how will I know if we’re building trusted relationships and do the little extras to make a client feel appreciated? I’ll see it reflected in the numbers.

Hi … (insert customer name here) how can I help you?

My first real job was working at Nordstrom, when I was 15 years old. At that time, they only had 7 stores and the beginning of what would become a nationally recognized reputation for great customer service. I grew up at Nordstrom, and in many ways much of how I approach business is a byproduct of the experiences and lessons I learned while working there. So, flash forward a few years, well more than a few … I am running a digital agency that builds branded digital experiences for our clients. We focus on helping our clients create engagement by delivering personalized experiences on any device, in any format, on demand.
At Nordstrom we believed in personal service … we paid attention to you, said hello, created a pleasant environment, and worked hard to make sure you found what you were looking for. It’s a pretty simple approach to making clients happy and building lasting relationships. There are many stories about the legendary customer service, but I’ll save them for another time. Tahzoo is a service driven organization and we believe that if you take care of the client and you take care of the customers, you’ll have a company worth caring about.
I’ve started this blog to discuss how we think and approach building engagement on behalf of our clients. Simply put, just because your experience is online doesn’t mean it can’t be a personal, pleasant and a satisfying experience. I’ll spend the next few months discussing how technology innovations, when applied to the marketing function, are creating a new world of possibility for building customer connections. Most people who know me, know I like to debate so don’t be shy with your comments: good, bad or indifferent.

Customer Journey Mapping Comes Into Greater Focus

Thanks to Tom Hoffman for this thoughtful discussion; see Tahzoo CEO Brad Heidemann’s thoughts below, and read more on the 1to1 Media blog.
When companies first began attempts to map the customer journey, it often involved a rudimentary arrangement of Post-it notes or other unsophisticated steps to chart the customer’s end-to-end path to purchase or mission to resolve a product or service issue. Customer journey mapping efforts have become considerably more mature over the past year or two as decision-makers are placing greater focus on understanding the types of experiences customers want as a means of attracting and retaining customers. Progress on customer journey mapping has dovetailed with a recognition by organizational leaders to cater more effectively to customers’ omnichannel and cross-channel behaviors. 1to1 Media Staff Writer Anna Papachristos recently wrote a terrific article on the topic, pointing out how many brands are revisiting their customer journey mapping planning tactics.
For instance, writes Papachristos, companies are increasingly using journey mapping to place customers at the center of their initial planning processes to deliver more customer-centric experiences and to help increase engagement.
Brad Heidemann, CEO at Tahzoo, says companies are applying significantly more detail into the development of both customer journey maps and the creation of customer personas. “The initial work around developing (customer) personas was pretty anecdotal – here’s ‘Mary’. She shops between noon and five.”
Today, says Heidemann, customer experience leaders are considerably more meticulous in their approach to developing customer personas and in mapping how customers are using various touchpoints in their cross-channel journeys. “People are recognizing that a journey map doesn’t just illustrate where you as a customer fit on the support cycle but what channels you’re on and how you’re using those channels,” says Heidemann.

Companies today are also putting a lot more effort into not only understanding which channels customers are using but also the needs and behaviors that are prompting customers to use different touchpoints as well as their perceptions about their experiences at different touchpoints. One of the benefits of gathering insights into customer attitudes about their experiences at different points along the journey is that they can enable decision-makers to identify and act on points of friction that are disrupting the customer experience. Customer journey mapping can also help to identify opportunities for turning mediocre experiences into amazing ones.
In addition, the use of customer journey maps can also help executives and managers to envision and plan for future customer experiences. For instance, the use of customer journey maps for key customer personas as well as direct customer feedback gathered by a travel company can help identify opportunities where customers want to use self-service tools to handle aspects of travel research or booking on their own. In this scenario, the deployment of tools can strengthen the customer experience while lowering support costs by deflecting the volume of calls coming into the contact center.
Moreover, the use of customer journey maps can allow decision-makers to identify touchpoints that can serve as important listening posts. For instance, customers often use chat tools to express how they feel about both positive and negative experiences they’ve had. Organizational leaders can draw off such feedback as well as changes in customer behaviors to update customer-facing processes.
Meanwhile, savvy companies are using visualization tools to help decision-makers to chart and understand how and why customers are using different touchpoints for research, sales, and support. These tools can be invaluable for training customer-facing employees and educating them on how to respond to different situations.
For organizations that aren’t currently making use of customer journey maps, it’s definitely worth considering. One of the greatest benefits for those companies that are diagramming the customer journey and then attempting to align the types of experiences that customers want with their organization’s activities is that it is encouraging many of these companies to become more customer-centric.
Read more from Tom Hoffman: 1to1 Media

To Make Meetings Count, Don't Count Past One (Per Week)

We all know the feeling of looking at our calendars and realizing that a day of back-to-back meetings looms ahead. The panic sets in, knowing the whole day will be spent talking about what needs to be done, but not actually doing it. In fact, a 2013 study by officebroker.com found that the average office worker spends 16 hours in meetings every week.
As CEO of Tahzoo, a fast-growing 21st century CX agency, I recognized this struggle in my employee’s (and my own) days. We were all trying to reclaim portions of the workday to truly focus on projects, devote our undivided attention to clients and check items off our ever-growing to-do lists. And it isn’t just meetings and unsolicited invitations to ‘touch base’ that bombard our calendars. The modern work place is full of distractions from mobile devices (that are constantly checked during meetings), to unexpected calls and requests to ‘check in’ or get a ‘status update’ without proper notice or preparation.
Many companies have implemented approaches to increase productivity. They’ve attempted to eliminate meetings, make them shorter, or designate Mondays as “Meeting Day.” It simply isn’t feasible to eliminate meetings altogether. But, how can you increase meeting productivity in your workforce?
1. Schedule just one meeting.
Rather than scheduling several 30-minute meetings throughout the week, consider holding one longer meeting (even two-three hours) when you can ensure that every action item is addressed. I hold one two-hour meeting with my senior team each Wednesday when we discuss everything that needs to be focused on that week.
2. Make it mandatory.
If you only have one meeting per week, attendance is especially important. No other commitments, even client meetings, should trump it.
3. Make it consistent.
The structure of the agenda for the weekly meeting should be the same each week so that all attendees come prepared and are accountable for their portion of the meeting. This also allows you to clearly track progress each week. In our weekly senior team meetings, we always discuss corporate vision and metrics, including everything from financial metrics to employee satisfaction surveys. That allows us to make sure we’re not wasting time on unnecessary discussions, but rather mapping every aspect of the meeting back to the higher-level goals of the company.
4. Know your role.
Regardless of whether you are hosting a meeting or attending it, knowing one’s role within a meeting is crucial to productivity.
If you’re hosting, make sure you clearly outline the decision that needs to be made as a result of the meeting. Identify who needs to be present and, more importantly, who does not, in order to make that decision. Think about everything you’ll need to address for that decision to be made, from data to previous presentations, and have it all on hand so not a minute of meeting time is lost (and so that a follow-up meeting doesn’t need to be scheduled).
If you’re attending a meeting, make sure you know exactly what your takeaway should be. Are you seeking feedback on a project? Then make sure you’ve already sent over the final copy for review at least a day prior to the meeting. Are you seeking approval on a decision that you’re not qualified to make? Then come with a clear recommendation and details of all the moving pieces.
5. Remove the distractions.
In today’s ultra-connected, multi-tasking business environment, we find many employees constantly checking email or devices. Consider making a no-devices rule. That’s no laptops and no smartphones.
6. Invite the global team.
As organizations expand internationally, executives can be challenged with fostering a collaborative team across regions. Choose a time that works for everyone and use the weekly meeting to connect with colleagues in different geographies.
By scheduling just one, very focused meeting each week, you can vastly increase alignment, productivity and motivation across your team and gain valuable time back in your day.
Source: Entrepreneur.com

Brad Meets England’s PM

Team Tahzoo, 

The joke at our leadership off-site this week was me asking everyone what they were doing on Friday and when they asked me, I would share that I was meeting with the Prime Minister of England. Yes, you heard that right, David Cameron in the flesh. This morning, I was one of about 10 people representing relevant US companies and was joined by top investors in the region and a selected group of UK Cybersecurity companies that accompanied the PM on his visit.  We met at the 1776 innovation labs. I had an opportunity to share that we are a thriving CX agency that recently expanded into the UK. I was also able to ask him his thoughts in enriching the highly educated and technical talent pool in the UK to support our investment there as we continue to grow. It was a GREAT conversation and I felt supercharged! I have this picture as proof of the meeting 🙂 

While at our off-site, when all jokes were put aside, I shared with the team how I am seeing this convergence happening in the marketplace where computer processing speeds are increasing faster and faster and the algorithms in place to understand human behavior have never been stronger. It will be about asking the right questions to get to the right outcomes. This is what we need to help our clients do – get to the right questions to be asking about their brand so that we can build the right experiences for the right audiences to yield those outcomes. It’s no doubt that I have intense curiosity as do many of you. I want to encourage you to be thinking about this convergence and welcome you to send me an email with your thoughts on it or any other interesting curiosity you may have. 

I also shared that in 2015 I want there to be more of a focus on the innovation we bring to the marketplace. I want the whole company to know the “sandbox” work we are doing and I want the marketplace to see just how we have been able to apply different ways of thinking to solve business problems. I know there is a lot of work happening as we speak – let’s make it public, as this innovation is the soul of our company

The leadership team then reviewed our 2015 plan, our budgets, our delivery models, our insight work, our sales, and the marketing pipeline. From where I sit, last year was about building the foundation. This year it will be all about adoption and outcomes – for us and for our clients as we continue to thrive and change the way business is done. The payoff is going to be huge and I’m super excited to get down to it. 

And while these are just a few items from our planning off-site – many more details of our 2015 plan with being presented at our in-person All Hands next month. Look for details on that agenda soon. 

The Evolution of the CXO – a Q&A with Brad Heidemann of Tahzoo

The CXO – or Chief Experience Officer – isn’t a new position. However, the number of CXOs – and the general focus on customer experience – has grown exponentially over the past few years. In fact, looking at an Indeed.com job trends graph, it appears that job postings for companies looking to fill CXO positions initially became popular in 2010, before exploding in 2012.
Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Brad Heidemann, the CEO and Founder of Tahzoo. He is a contributor on Future CX and has decades of experience establishing customer experience programs for large brands. During our discussion, Brad shared why CXOs are becoming popular additions to the C-suite, why the role is so important today and the major challenges that are awaiting all CXOs in a convoluted and rapidly shifting marketing and customer experience landscape.
Here is what Brad had to say:
RS: Customer experience is something that we’re hearing more and more about. Why is customer experience so important today? What has changed in the past five years that is making companies focus on experience so much?
Mr. Heidemann: There are a few answers to that question.
First, there has been a proliferation of channels by which customers expect to have interactions with a company. In the past, when it was the mass-market media, all you had to do was make sure that your call center and your in-store experience was well organized and thoughtfully articulated – then you were done with your customer experience.
Now, with the rise of the Web, mobile, social channels and the increase in the number of digital touch-points that we have with the customer – whether that’s a kiosk or even a display within a bank – there is now a requirement to manage all of those experiences in a thoughtful and coherent way. As a consumer, I have choices now about how I want to engage with your company.
The second part of it is much like the personal computer wave. In the nineties, we all got computers, and it wasn’t really called a business productivity wave – it was called the personal computing wave. And, the reason why it was personal was that people had control of their desktops and control over the experience. That model worked for 10-15 years. And with the rise of the mobile devices and the proliferation of channels, those personal computing experiences became public computing experiences.
Due to social media, those experiences have moved from personal to communal. And, the idea that the shopping experience – which was always communal in the way that people shared their opinions, thoughts and ideas about a brand – also took a digital format, could become expressed in a digital environment and be more easily shared outside of the standard, traditional referral network.
Those two macroeconomic forces combined have forced large companies – in fact, all companies – to rethink how they engage consumers. Customer experience needs to be inherently personal, and you have a tremendous amount of channels that people would like to be engaged in or on.
RS: What are the major challenges facing CXOs today? Are these challenges exclusive to any one industry, or are they impacting multiple industries?
Mr. Heidemann: The challenges are completely industry related. However, that has more to do with what your business model is and how you choose to sell to consumers – do you have a direct to consumer model, or distribution model or an Internet-based business – all of which impacts your approach to digital marketing and customer experience management.
More broadly, across all businesses, there are three basic challenges as a CXO. The first one is getting a handle on the number of channels by which you’re willing to engage your clients. For example, I send emails to Starbucks complaining about their loyalty program, but I never get a return response from them. So, it’s clear that although they encourage customers to send emails, they’re not optimized to respond via that channel.
As a CXO, it’s essential to consider with what channels you’re willing to engage with your customer. If you’re going to follow people on Twitter, are you going to respond to them? It’s about being realistic about your budget and resources and your ability to intake and project commentary and communication across various channels. That’s probably the first challenge for getting started.
The next is probably identifying the brand experience that you want to deliver on that channel and how you want to engage with your customers on that channel. I’ll use the Starbucks example again. Starbucks has a loyalty card which – the best I can tell – is really part of a promotional marketing strategy and less of a loyalty program. I think a lot of the time, CXOs get confused by whether a program is about experience, or if they’re an offshoot or extension of a marketing program where they work in a promotional function rather than an attract, convert and retain model.
Also, CXOs need to be careful that the experience they give is consistent with the brand experience. For example, if you go into a Nordstrom, you expect to receive a personal experience. Similarly, if you send an email, you would expect to get a personal response from a person that you’re working with – not just a canned response.
Finally, CXOs need to understand the relationship between technologies and experiences. Large software companies are spending billions of dollars in research and development to deliver customer experience more efficiently and effectively with software that they provide. With consumer expectations shifting rapidly, CXOs need to be on the leading edge of what technology can provide and be able to tailor experiences that are up-to-date and in-line with what the consumer is expecting.
RS: As a CXO, how do you overcome these challenges?
Mr. Heidemann: If you’re going to be a CXO, it’s not just a marketing function, it’s also a service function. How you manage your customers through the life-cycle is especially important. To overcome some of the challenges, you need to make sure you have the mandate, budget and authority to help manage the delivery of that experience.
We’re helping a client in the insurance industry with their demand-side, direct-to-consumer strategy, which consists of a Website, mobile experiences, marketing automation, etc. But, the reality is, on the back-end, they have 17 different systems that manage the customer’s policies. Regardless of how much we help them on the demand-side, if they really are serious about customer experience management, they need to identify how to deliver a coherent experience – and the management and servicing of those policies. It really becomes move of an organizational development conversation.
I think it’s essential to ensure that you’re not confusing marketing with customer experience management, and that you have a clear view and mandate that is broad enough to tackle all of these problems. You can’t solve one of these problems – the attract, convert or retain – independently.
RS: How has the way enterprises interact with customers and prospects changed? What has facilitated this change?
Mr. Heidemann: As we discussed before, customers have so many more channels with which to engage businesses today. As for why companies are embracing these channels, it starts with consumer expectation. Enterprises are responding to consumer demand. Granted, there are certainly efficiencies that can be realized by engaging these customers via new channels, but many times they wind up as cost centers since companies haven’t adjusted their budgets and reorganized their marketing and service departments to take advantage of these efficiencies.
What you really have is an increase in customer expectation – like the Starbucks example where I send an email and expect a response, and when it doesn’t come, I’m unhappy with the brand. So, the consumer demand is certainly driving enterprises to embrace these other mediums.
In addition to serving as the Chief Executive Officer of Tahzoo, Brad Heidemann is also a contributor on Future CX. Be sure to check back for more articles from Brad.
Source: Ryan Schradin, Future CX