#9 Communication errors, ‘Alternative facts’ and business strategy


Welcome to my latest newsletter covering customer experience and customer-centric business strategy. The five topics this week are:

  1. Communication errors
  2. ‘Post-truth’, ‘Alternative facts’ and business strategy
  3. Science-based management
  4. Recent blog posts.
  5. Articles on text analytics and humor in support that I find interesting.

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Communication errors

It is amazing how often even simple communication goes wrong. As my former colleague Santiago Cortes used to say “Communication is something that happens at the receiving end.” What we think we are saying is not what is heard. When Mark Hurd was CEO of HP, he spoke about one aspect of this in particular. He wanted to invest loads of money in hiring new sales people. He liked to say “The first rule of selling is that you have to show up.” Of course we had to find the money for this somewhere, and we did it through massive cost cuts outside sales. Mark said that he found it was difficult to impossible to combine messages about cuts and about growth in the same speech. When both received equal time, audiences only remembered hearing about the cuts.

That particular phenomenon comes from what behavioral economists call loss aversion. We are really averse to losing whatever we currently have. Remember this when you have to talk about reductions. This is of course only one potential area where you can mess up. My latest blog post mentions others. 

‘Post-truth’, ‘Alternative facts’ and business strategy

I am an engineer and think of myself in the general category of ‘scientist’. This give me unrealistic expectations for business discussions. In essence, when someone says this or that business strategy, marketing promotion or (and this is where I am going) customer experience improvement method is worthless, I expect them to provide some sort of evidence. I should know better. To use an analogy mentioned on a satirical web page, why bother attending medical school when you can be a fully-qualified Google Medical Doctor in just a few minutes.

My extensive reading of behavioral economics should have prepared me for what I read regularly. Some things are not surprising, such as the incorrect belief that happy employees are essential for the creation of happy customers. Others surprise me more. About once a week I read that there is no scientific basis for the Net Promoter System. In each case, it is clear that the person making the statement has not read The Ultimate Question 2.0 or the research Forrester, Temkin and others have published on the same subject. Rather than taking a day to read, they have taken a minute to make up their own minds. And since it is easy to find Google search results that agree with this (or anything else you want to believe), they rush into print. 

It is true that the best way of getting attention in the thousands of channels of information available to us is to take an extreme or unexpected position on something. I observe that when people take a position that has no supporting evidence, and evidence of the opposite is shown to them, many still persist in the same beliefs. Think about it this way: based on an average population, about a quarter of the people reading this believe acupuncture works, despite over a thousand double-blind studies that prove that inserting needles randomly produces exactly the same placebo effect. The same people probably believe it is about 3,000 years old, when the technology to make the needles has only existed for about 80 years. (It was all about ‘bloodletting’ before that.) None of this evidence seems to matter. The emotional belief remains.

It is the same in business strategy and customer experience strategy. There are strategy and customer experience creation and implementation methods that have been proven to work. I promote them, based on years of study, research and experience. That is what you will find in my blog posts and books. Yes, it will always be easy to find Google search results that contradict my methods. That does not make the search results right.

Our latest blog posts

Older posts are of course still available on the blog page.

image Cost reduction communication mistakes I have seen

This post covers several examples of major communication mistakes I have seen. Managers generally don’t like talking about reductions, and do quite a poor job. Leaders get things done mainly by what we say and what we write. Your audience reacts emotionally, rather than rationally to cost reduction announcements. Read these examples. If they make you squirm a little, I will have been successful.

image Customer-centric Cost Reduction and ‘Hygiene Factors

Today’s post is a follow-on to my introduction to the concept of customer-centric cost reduction, back in January. You may recall that it is about how you achieve necessary cost…

image Customer research confusion reduction – There are six types of customer surveys

There is quite a lot of confusion about which types of customer research are useful for predicting revenue, and which serve more general purposes. No matter what type of research…

Notable customer experience items from other sites

Thematic: Reliable and Scalable Analysis of Net Promoter Score Verbatims

A deep and brilliant white paper from the Thematic software team. As some readers know, Thematic is the best software I have seen for analyzing NPS verbatim responses. (I have no personal connection or financial interest in Thematic, so feel I am a neutral judge.) The new white paper goes into detail about how it works and why it works so well. It is all about Natural Language Processing algorithms. When you sign up to receive the white paper by email, you will see an offer from Alyona Medelyan and her team to provide you free test analysis of your own verbatim answers. They have done so for me, with great results. I admire the work that Paul Astle of Shopdirect.com has done with SAS software on their huge volumes of responses, and want to mention that I have no personal experience with SAS, so can’t compare it. You can find the Thematic white paper download page here.

Forbes: How To Provide Witty And Effective Customer Support On Social Media

Jimmy Rohampton wrote this short and entertaining piece on the use of humor in customer support. While humor is something that does not cross borders well, particularly the border that is the Atlantic Ocean, I found the examples useful. Use with care. I suppose the light tone counterbalances the somewhat negative items at the start of this week’s newsletter. You can find the article here.

Looking forward

I confirm that my brother and I have now completed all editing and illustration work for the Kindle versions of our three books. I am now targeting March 15th for making them available for pre-order in most Amazon stores worldwide. My generally paranoid nature means that I expect them to be actually deliverable a week to ten days later. I will provide an update on that next week. The print versions will probably take a further week or two to be available.

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