#68 – Open plan office layouts, LinkedIn CEM group hits 100k members


Open plan office layouts, LinkedIn CEM group. Welcome to the 68th edition of my customer strategy newsletter. The five topics this week are:

  1. Customer-centric cost reduction and open plan office layouts
  2. LinkedIn Customer Experience Management group hits 100,000 members
  3. Latest blog posts
  4. Notable items from other sites – NPS for win/loss 
  5. Looking forward
Customer-centric cost reduction and open plan office layouts

Earlier this month two Harvard researchers had an article about the negative effects of open plan office layouts published in the rather obscure journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. The article is titled ‘The impact of the ‘open’ workspace on human collaboration‘. They studied employee behaviors before and after major office layout transformations in two large corporations. Their main conclusion is as follows:

“Contrary to common belief, the volume of face-to-face interaction decreased significantly (approx. 70%) in both cases, with an associated increase in electronic interaction. In short, rather than prompting increasingly vibrant face-to-face collaboration, open architecture appeared to trigger a natural human response to socially withdraw from officemates and interact instead over email and IM.”

The article has been picked up by lots of news sources. I have read or at least scanned about ten such articles. Only one (on the Inc. website) correctly mentioned the possibility that the purpose of moving to open plan layouts is not to improve collaboration, but to save money. 

And yes, it saves lots of money. I have worked in the mixed open/closed environment that was common at Digital, the primarily closed office structure at Compaq until shortly after its merger with Digital, and the almost 100% open office layouts at HP. The HP layouts meant that about triple the number of people could be squeezed into any given space compared to the closed layouts at Compaq. (In our Dornach/Munich Compaq office, status was measured by the number of windows you had. As a Director I had three. A VP had four, and their assistants had three, for example. Lower ranks shared offices.)

A word about customers. Customers don’t care where your HQ is or what your office layout looks like. Putting your building in a low-cost location and squeezing as many people in as possible may be a great way of freeing up cash to invest in things your customers do care about. That is what ‘Customer-centric cost reduction‘ is all about.

LinkedIn Customer Experience Management group hits 100,000 members

Regular readers will know I took over management of the LinkedIn Customer Experience Management group a couple of months ago. Earlier this week we passed the 100,000 member mark. Of course quantity does not necessarily equal quality, and I am doing my best to drive both.

I have received positive feedback on my efforts to pick a new article to feature at the top of the list every two or three days. Both member interest and personal bias drive my choices. If I can see that an article is generating likes and discussion, it is certain to be ‘featured’. There are also subjects like text analytics and cognitive psychology / behavioral economics that interest me personally. I can only pin one article to the top of the list at a time.

I have excluded a number of members for repeatedly posting the same articles. I also delete everything that I see that has nothing to do with customer experience. Articles that don’t include the word ‘customer’ are certain to be deleted, for example. Lots of articles are posted every day, and I do my best to screen them. Your improvement suggestions are of course welcome.


Our latest blog posts

Here are the latest posts. Older posts are still available on the blog page.

image The lower your prices, the happier your customers will be… right? (Not really!)

A combination of behavioral economics experiments and personal experience that should persuade you that your customers do not always want lower prices. Some fun stuff here…

image Suggested method for choosing your strategy from a list of proposals

Once you have a set of insights about customers, competitors, your industry, the external environment and your ability to implement, the next step is to decide what you are going…

image How demographics affect customer experience research – You should expect surprises

It is tempting to keep feedback requests very short to improve completion rates and avoid wasting customers’ time. However, I have yet to see research where demographics did not make a difference. Most notably, men and women often answer differently…

Notable customer experience items from other sites

Net Promoter System podcast: The Business Lessons of Rejection

Rob Markey interviewed Charlie Chase of FirstService for this episode. I have to say I had never heard of them. Their business started off by employing college students to repaint people’s houses. It seems quite intuitive that their lack of professional expertise must be compensated for in some way, in addition to price. That turns out to be the way they interact with their customers. The thing that I found to be innovative in their approach was the application of NPS to people who chose not to buy their services. I think you could consider it to be a form of win/loss analysis. This makes sense in that their business is entirely dependent on ‘word of mouth’. People who don’t select them for the work are of course unlikely to recommend them to others, making it necessary to understand the reasons. You can find the podcast here.

Daniel Ord: Funny things contact center managers ask their agents to do

I admire the work Daniel Ord does, particularly around contact centers. He is based in Asia, though he went to UC Santa Barbara. I suppose the combination makes him particularly attentive to strange and wonderful behavior he spots from time to time. This light-hearted piece is about some funny things he has seen contact center leaders ask their people to do. I have to say I was not sure whether to laugh or cry when I read a couple of them. You can decide for yourself  here.


Looking forward

Relaxing a bit in the northern hemisphere summer. Nothing major happening in the short term. I hope all northern hemisphere readers get a break too.

Here are links to all of our books on Amazon.com. Kindle versions are available in all stores. Print versions are available from the major stores only, with the notable exception of Australia, where print versions are not available from amazon.com.au.

Customer Experience Strategy – Design & Implementation

Net Promoter – Implement the System

Customer-centric Cost Reduction

“So Happy Here”: The Absurdist but Essential Guide to Better Business (Color edition)

“So Happy Here”: The Absurdist but Essential Guide to Better Business (Black & White edition)

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You can also email me, Maurice FitzGerald, at mfg@customerstrategy.net.

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