Miscellany

Dear Reader,

(Most Dear Reader letters, I enjoy writing. This one, not so much…)

I’d hoped for a quick resolution and back-to-normal, but I reckon the time has come to admit that I’ve been given a couple of extra balls to juggle (don’t worry, loyal follower of MCE, both The Kid and I are in good health), and it’s clear that it’s taking a toll on my writing.

🙂  A little understatement for you.

The well hasn’t run dry—there are so many ideas I’d still like to share here—but something’s got to give. So for the next little while, the Maximum Customer Experience blog is on hiatus.

In the meantime there is, I notice while contemplating this post, a wealth of information hiding in these archives. You might start with the Best of right there in the sidebar and get energized by those ideas and then move on to the rest. You’ll find that over the years at least two or three books’ worth of information for making customers sing your praise and for making more money in your small business has been given away, for free, in bite-sized chunks at the MCE blog. Plenty to keep you busy whenever you’re feeling stuck or uninspired!!

And please don’t be shy! If you’d like to work with me on creating your own Maximum Customer Experience, you should definitely click through to our Website Audit and Web Experience Solution and we’ll get started. Right now is a great time to work on changing your business for the better—and helping you to grow your business is one ball I am always glad to juggle!

 

Until next time, grow and be well!

Kelly Erickson

Complicated hero of designers everywhere, he uncomplicated design…

… and made everyone a designer—and a fan (or a critic) of design

Steve Jobs, 1955 - 2011

I’ve been accused, over the years, of believing in very deeply Steve Jobs’ message of good design within reach of all of us—and I do. Whether you’re an Apple acolyte or you avoid the trendy buggers like the plague—the computer you use, the websites you visit, the typefaces you print letters with, your music collection, the phone you carry in your pocket, and dozens of other products and Experiences all around you have been irrevocably changed by Steve Jobs’ devotion to the ideal of clean, easy, uncomplicatedly usable products—often, products once reserved for business and tech use only.

Either you’ve bought into it, or the companies who make the products you own have, if for no other reason than to keep playing catch-up with Apple’s constant stream of innovations (another subject near and dear to our hearts here at MCE).

He started the smallest of small businesses (just like you?), and kept his Pinpoint focus, from day 1 to the end of his fabled tenure with the company that changed the world. Here’s to him:

Steve Jobs featured on Maximum Customer Experience:

3 Critical Lessons You Can Learn From the Big Boys (and One You Can’t)

Firm Growth (Not) Guaranteed

Warning: Some Friends Don’t Want You To Be Like Steve Jobs

How To Knock It Out of the Park

Amazingly, This Is Not About the 2008–09 Recession

If The Beatles Hadn’t Been The Beatles

10 Sneaky Ways To Capture 10% of Your Market

13 Ways To Be Like Steve Jobs—Don’t!

 

I want to put a ding in the universe.
—Steve Jobs (1955–2011)

You did, Steve. Good night.

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

One more Little Engine That Could, Can’t. Thinking points, discussion points

Borders bookstores, one of only two giants in the U.S. bookselling industry, bids a fond farewell this month. Within weeks their shops will be empty shells and Borders will be no more. It’s as dramatic an indication of industry change as you can imagine.

Newspapers and magazines as time-tested as Gourmet, and as necessary as city dailies, are going under at an alarming rate.

Record labels continue to consolidate and redefine as best they can, but still find themselves called “hopelessly out-of-touch” and “anachronistic.”

Industries do die, or at least wither to unrecognizable proportions. It happens.

Some of that is seen (usually much later) as necessary to growth and change overall. What happened to calligraphers and copyists when the printing press came in? What happened to cobblers when shoes were first mass-produced? What happened to horsebreeding when the automobile became omnipresent?

(And related industries like blacksmiths, saddle-makers, and buggy and wagon builders are always sucked under by the tide, as well….  Or in the first example above, just imagine the trouble you’d have finding true parchment and a quill pen today. More recently, we’ve lost all but a few typesetters and letterpress printers to the computer. Etc., etc.)

No, there are no answers, but so many related questions, that I thought I’d wonder out loud about some of them today.

We have decided that as a general rule, we don’t want to pay for what these folks are selling.

We don’t want to pay for finely crafted fiction or well-research and developed non-fiction, or for the folks who will hunt it down and present it to us;

We don’t want to pay for well-written editorial or reportage;

We don’t want to pay for the creative genius and complex production logistics in a finished piece of music.

What’s going on? We’re collectively choosing to push the value of all the things these folks used to sell, down towards zero.

But are these occupations and industries—booksellers, publishers, and quality book-writers, print media like mags and rags, record labels to filter through the junk, and find, develop, and distribute the gems—really no longer relevant?

*Are* they the same as scribes, shoemakers, and saddlers, or are we consumers making big mistakes now, trading our own time and energy for the efforts of experts?

Are we devaluing Experience for very temporary expedience?

Of course, you know that we will still make exceptions. Or, we will still make exceptions some of the time.

Some folks still go to bookstores for “real” books, still read newspapers, still pay for music, etc. Almost all of us do so at some times, even those who are most bitten by the “free” bug.

To which, when I put on my MCE-hat, I say: Then be the exception! But only a total Pollyanna would fail to see that this is becoming a very tricky target to hit indeed.

I’m really thinking hard about these changes and very open to your thoughts—on saving industries (maybe this is happening in your own industry, too?), or moving on.

If you’ve got a crystal ball, I’d love for you to look into it today. Can anything be done to stop these trains? Should anything be done?

Much later, will these changes make perfect sense? Or will we wish we hadn’t given up on the booksellers, the record labels, the newspapers and the like, who used to help us keep order in our lives by picking and selling only the fruits that were ripe?

Share your thoughts in the comments below or use this post to start discussions of your own today—you can link to it, Stumble it, or otherwise bookmark using the “Share” button below.. The more crystal balls, the better!

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

… to clear a few things off the MCE-plate. Back shortly. Thanks for your patience!

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

Quick! Time Management and True MCE

Projects for clients take 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 times as long as you expect…

… but you budget for that, right? Basic time management says to make sure to give yourself a little wiggle room so you can afford to do an exceptional job for the client. (& basic Maximum Customer Experience says do an exceptional job if you possibly can.)

Projects for yourself/ your company, inevitably, take 4 times as long as you expect… even if you budget for twice as long…

… and get delayed whenever any item of import or interest comes up… so they’re actually finished in 14 times the span you hoped for…

… if ever.

It’s nearly obvious:

Assign your internal projects to someone besides yourself. Have them set (realistic) deadlines they way they would with any client project—deadlines for you, and for the other staff on the project.

Then honor your deadlines, just as you would with client work. Deliver delight—just as you would for a client.

You can hire someone to do the work, or do the work and meet the deadlines yourself, but whatever you do, don’t make it last on your list.

Whether it’s a new business card, a new website, new employee training, or sprucing up the entry to your shop, don’t let work on the business suffer because work for customers right now is “more important.”

Your customers notice your neglect. They wonder if you can really be as fabulous as word-of-mouth makes you out to be, if you can’t manage to keep your image in tip-top shape…

… and they flee to someplace that never leaves questions lingering in their minds.

Work on the business is a lot more important than it sometimes seems. Treat it as seriously as work for a paying customer, if you hope to continue growing your paying customer base.

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

But for you all, I hope that reading Corbett Barr’s The First Rule of Building a Thriving Online Audience will.

I got quite lost in his wonderful blog while sniffling and sneezing and…

… well, enough about that. Please do click away to read his thoughts. Short and sweet and to the point, whether it’s a blog or a business you’re trying to build online. I couldn’t have said it better myself… erm, especially not at the moment.

🙂

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

Apologies, dear reader, for weirdness, strange occurrences, and all manner of creepy crawlies now through the weekend. Hopefully the bug will be located and MCE will return to its usual peaceful and helpful state in just a few days.

 

In the meantime, grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

On writing this blog for you for 3 1/2 years… ish

I had another post half-written when I got this urge to write about writing for you.

When I started the Maximum Customer Experience Blog, back in 2007, the first thing I did was to write for a couple of months before… actually starting the Maximum Customer Experience Blog. I wanted to be sure I enjoyed the routine, and I wanted to be sure blogging was a medium that suited me as well as talking and teaching and consulting about Customer Experience suits me.

Turns out blogging is a lot like talking (if you want to come off as a human being), and so it suits me fine. And the routine… ah, I’m an old letter-writer, journal-keeper… in fact, I’ll write just about anything, from client work to songs and poems to giant research papers about my hobbies, if a piece of paper’s in front of me, so the routine of concentrated writing a few times weekly on one subject was easy to slip into.

I get asked, now and then, how I keep writing week after week, year after year. Well, one thing is to go easy on yourself. If you’re in it for the long haul, strange computer voodoo and Internet connection issues and illness and life and all sorts of things will come at you. If you don’t blog for a day or a week, the world will not cave in around you. Some folks get pretty rigorous about the schedule, and then they get pretty down on themselves if they can’t keep it up. To me that’s not a way to integrate blogging into your life long-term.

The other key is to act as if you have all the time in the world.

When I began the Blog, I blasted out a series called Experience Design 101. I’m still quite happy with how it turned out, and I occasionally revisit that “go for broke” writing style, with series like Naming Your Business 101 and Experience Design 201: Customer Profiling for Maximum Sales. Those series try to tell you all you need to know about a subject, going broadly over it and deeply into the most critical issues for your company to tackle, as well.

Most of the time, though, I write about tiny topics, and if you’re considering writing a blog for your company, I recommend you do the same.

Perhaps you’re a long way from considering yourself a “thought leader” in your field. If you decide to write day after day, week after week on one topic, you’ll find that’s just what you become—one thought at a time. Too much smashing your readers over the head with heavy articles that feel like homework is not likely to turn your readers on, and it will probably burn you out as well. Even with folks that manage to keep their writing light, so many blogs that I’ve really loved for their insightful content have died early deaths because they ran out of things to say… by dumping all the contents of their wonderful brains at once.

There are a thousand little angles on what you do for a living. On your main website, yes, you want great, timeless writing with broad strokes and some amount of completeness of thought. But for writing a blog, where you breathe life into what you do for a living, where you create trust and develop relationships and answer questions, paint the picture with a small brush, as if you’ve got all the time in the world to reveal the complexity of your field to your reader.

Come back next week for the post that this post interrupted, another little story about the ways Experience Design can make your small company grow big.

🙂

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

and Musing, and Other Things I Generally Don’t Do Here

When it’s almost your blog-birthday, you seem to do a bit more thinking about the things you do and the things you don’t.

Or maybe that’s just me.

… …

I’ve never asked for a lot of “consumer feedback” here at MCE. This isn’t because I don’t believe in knowing your customer well (which here, would be readers), and asking for, and valuing their opinions. You know I’m huge on talking with your customers. But we have no surveys here, no “how’m I doing?” kind of questions. No turning my readers into some sort of focus group for the blog.

Just honest-to-goodness reporting “from the field,” telling you and all my wonderful readers what I see and how I apply it in the work I do, so you can go make Maximum Customer Experience work for you, too—one little idea at a time.

In part this is because I don’t believe in focus groups and other forms of generating masses of opinions. I don’t find I learn more in that way than I can with sharp eyes and educated, professional ears. In part it’s because keeping in touch with what I’m burning to tell you about keeps me burning to keep writing. (And though I reckon that sounds kinda selfish, self-motivation is bound to be… kinda selfish.)

Of course I get lots of feedback in the comment section below on individual posts, and I welcome that and cherish it! I get email feedback here and there, and enjoy that as well. It’s great to hear that folks appreciate the time I take to write articles that can be helpful to you. Your comments and perspective do help shape the future of MCE, but in more subtle ways than surveys and formal feedback would.

… …

I’ve never Tweeted or Facebooked or… whatever else one might do to stomp a huge footprint onto the “social media” scene. (Though I’ve welcomed and cherished the emails from those of you who’ve suggested this is my way to Internet mega-stardom.)

I read many blogs avidly, leave comments when I can contribute meaningfully, Stumble or leave links to other folks’ posts both here and elsewhere, and try to be a valuable member of the blogosphere in many ways, but I don’t overdo.

Like you, probably, I work a zillion hours a week. I’m also a single mom and a friend and a daughter, and sometimes I even keep our house clean. (I won’t push it on that claim.)

I think I once had hobbies.

By my count I need an extra 48 hours in every 24-hour day to do all I do up to my own standards, so I don’t add tasks to my week that I know I couldn’t give 100% to.

… …

All this means the blog has grown slowly over these 3 years, but I like to think it’s grown very meaningfully, perhaps for the same reason, and I’m just fine with that. My dear friend James Chartrand wrote one of my favorite blog posts ever on this subject some time ago, and though I’m rock-solid on why I write this B2B-2C blog and I’ve never been one to worry about “the numbers,” picturing you out in that audience every day has been a poignant image for me ever since.

I reckon my social media efforts are about the same as my real-world efforts: Imperfect, but full of heart. And guts. And brains.

… …

I also don’t take time to do a lot of “just musing” kind of posts here—there are plenty of places to get that on the www, and you came here for advice that’s a bit more tangible.

(Or that’s what I reckon you came here for… because I don’t do surveys, y’know…)

So I reckon this is one of those “just musing” posts. The blog you are subscribed to, or perhaps reading for the first time (Thank You!), is one of the longest-running sources for Customer Experience information on the web. My don’t-burn-out style—write what I see, what will help you best, don’t bend too far in the winds of the web, and don’t stretch myself too thin—is probably one of the keys to being around for so long.

So don’t expect a lot of shifts in that strategy over the next 3 years. (Unless I hit the “big time” when you Tweet all your friends about how essential the MCE Blog is to your business’ success, and I get 50,000 new readers this month and start surveying them for what they want to see in our blog…)

For now, we’ll just say that as usual, I’m humbled by and grateful for your kind attention. I reckon you already knew that.

I might not do surveys or Tweet my joy thrice daily, but I assure you, I know that you, dear reader and spreader of wonderful word-of-mouth, are an essential part of this blog’s success. Thanks.

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

 

P.S. To all my friends and readers north of the border, Happy Thanksgiving. Have a great long weekend, y’all!

Straight out of my funky, poem-like notes

A quick thought for you today…

(In most cases)
It’s much easier to stop
What you are doing
Than to start
What you are not doing

There are pros & cons to that.

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson