Customer Satisfaction

Niko-Niko Calendar

niko-nikoWhile I was at the recent Agile Leadership Network (ALN) event earlier this month, Dave Nicolette presented a talk on metrics.  I'll admit, I'm fascinated by metrics.  I remember working on the NIH Executive Dashboard and then the NCI Dashboard between 2004 and 2007 .  But since then, I've grown to look at metrics differently.  Though I've taken steps to ask myself questions to ensure my metrics are worth something,  I've seen the Hawthorne Effect in action and it made me question how metrics can be easily manipulated. Don't you hate it when you're trying to measure team performance and then they start acting all crazy due to upcoming dates like the end of the sprint or the end of a deployment cycle?  I've seen developers start to rush.  Risk goes up and quality can go down, just to try and maintain a velocity.  Well, Dave showed a slide in his metrics presentation that really hit home for me.  It's called the Niko-Niko (mood) Calendar. Let's say your position in the company is to ensure customer satisfaction.  A useful unit of measure would be NPS (Net Promoter Score).  Think of it as a customer satisfaction or “happiness” metric.  NPS is based on the fundamental perspective that every company’s customers can be divided into three categories: Detractors, Passives, and Promoters. By asking one simple question — How likely are you to recommend [Company X] to a colleague or friend? — you can track these groups and get a clear measure of company performance through its customers’ eyes.  I've written about it before in a post titled Outdated Success Criteria.

That's all fine and good but what if your position in the company is to ensure employee satisfaction?  As a manager or a leader you should be working to keep your employees happy.  How would you measure their happiness?  You could use a Niko-Niko calendar.  Each individual on a team should identify their daily mood in one of three ways: happy, indifferent, or unhappy.  Because I keep a daily journal of what I do, I recreated a calendar to see if there were any trends.  Do you see any?  Can you see the the days I was working at my other job and I was dreading a particular meeting?  Can you see the days I spoke to LitheSpeed or when I was hired by LitheSpeed?  Though you can't make everyone on your team happy, as a manager or servant-leader, you should be creating an environment that will, in the end, make them happier and more productive.  If everyone on the team maintained a mood calendar, a manager or leader could take action before negative feelings become caustic to a team.

(Zombie) Customer Service

I'm currently enjoying Delivering Happiness, the book by Tony Hsieh of Zappos.  In the book, his approach to customer service reminds me a lot of what Seth Godin wrote about in his book, Linchpin.  For those looking to map this to an activity in the PMBOK, I see this falling under Manage Stakeholder Expectations (Executing and Communications).

In any case, I can relate to my intent to communicate directly to people as people, not as mere customers, vendors, or colleagues.  Every day, I see people act as though they have no free will to make a decision.  They ignore what is right or wrong.  They act like they need permission to be honest and humble. They act like...wait for it...zombies!  Yes, zombies!

I recently sat in a meeting and heard how the vendor screwed up.  I'm talking completely-their-fault nobody-else-to-blame screwed up.  When confronted by the customer, their reaction was "I'm sorry you feel that way about [this].  I respect how you feel."

My reaction?  [expletive] YOU, man! I don't care if you respect how I feel or not.  And don't try to feed me that Dr. Phil line about me owning my own feelings!  What I want to hear you say is "I'm sorry we screwed up.  I will do whatever I can to make this right."

Another scenario that comes to mind was my wife contacting a credit card company about something.  The customer service rep was painfully unprepared to talk to a human being.  They could not deviate from a script one word without needed to talk to a supervisor.

Thank you for calling.  We appreciate your business.  Can we interest you in buying our credit protection plan? [my wife complaining] Oh, I'm sorry, can I put you on hold while I discuss this with my supervisor? [5 minutes]

People, you want to provide great customer service?  Empower your customer service representatives.  Vendors, you want to provide great customer service? Empower your teams to admit when they screwed up and offer to fix it, not just cover it up.

I've always seen the best performance from my teams, when they knew what we needed to do but were not being told how they needed to do it.  I believed they would make the right choices for us all to reach our goals.  Those of you in the Agile community get this already.  Empower the team and communicate with everyone as much as possible.  Don't just communicate.  Talk to them.

So, as I step down off my rant soapbox, I want you to take a look at the Zappos core values (listed below). They actually remind me of the 4 values, 12 principles of the Agile Manifesto or Agile community as a whole.

Zappos core values

  1. Deliver WOW Through Service
  2. Embrace and Drive Change
  3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
  4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
  5. Pursue Growth and Learning
  6. Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
  7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  8. Do More With Less
  9. Be Passionate and Determined
  10. Be Humble

If you had 10 core values for your project or team, how would you refine this list?

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Good Customer Service

This post is relatively short and sweet.  Today I got my first Verizon Wireless bill.  It had an initiation fee of $35.00 on it.  Seriously?  I realize we all need to make a buck but this was ridiculous.  When setting up my account, I didn't even talk to anyone.  I did everything online. I called Verizon Wireless, since they don't have a Twitter account. (that's right, I asked them)  I realize the agent on the other side had to have a script she had to follow.  I couldn't be too demanding.  I was quick and too the point.

Hi, I'm a new Verizon Wireless customer.  I got my first bill and there is a $35 charge for initiating the phone.  I don't recall reading anything about this fee and I think it's excessive.  What can you do to make me feel better about this situation?

The agent paused for a few seconds.  She apologized and said I should have seen something mentioning the charge on the last screen before I purchased my plan.  Regardless, she appreciated the fact that I am a new Verizon Wireless customer and offered me one month free voice service. ($39.99)

That's all it took.  I'm a happy customer and I wanted to tell others.  Just remember, when providing good customer service, a little empathy goes a long way.

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The Pepsi Challenge of Waterfall, Agile, or Kanban

I kind of enjoy it when people get all in a huff over which soda is the best.  It's bad enough they can't even decide what to call it. Is it soda, pop, or soda-pop?  I've even heard a few refer to any brown carbonated non-alcoholic beverages as a "Coke".  I don't get that at all.  I'm going to assume these people just don't care.  All they want is a brown carbonated non-alcoholic beverage that will satisfy their thirst.  As far as soda-pop, I am the complete extreme opposite.  I drink Coca-Cola.  I don't drink Coke; I don't drink Pepsi.  If I ask you for a Coca-Cola and you ask me if Pepsi is OK, I'm going to respond with a stern but polite "No".  But, at the end of the day, I am also just looking for something to satisfy my thirst.  But, I digress. Since the Pepsi Challenge in the mid-70's, there has been another battle raging.  Let's call it the Delivery Challenge.  Regardless of what facts may be reports, detailing which approach lowers risk the most, which approach delivers the most value up front, or which approach leaves the stakeholders feeling the most satisfied, we all have our favorite.  If delivery approaches were soda-pop (yes, soda-pop) in a blind taste test, chances are we'd stick with our favorite regardless of what we may have picked.

From my own perspective, I don't believe we should be so blind to these opportunities.  We should be open to the idea that formulas can be improved and we should be open to the idea that processes can as well.

When I'm dealing with the government client on a particular contract, I use Waterfall.  We're talking Waterfall the size of Niagara Falls.  It's not that I choose this approach (drink).  It's all that is currently offered. When I'm managing my own personal projects and deliverables, I use Agile and Kanban.  I'm not saying one is better than the other!  But, when the choice is mine, I know what I like from each.  I ala carte the way I do things, so (as the customer) I get the most value while not bastardizing the original processes.

I know there are those out there who are cursing me.  They are strict Coke, Pepsi, and Dr. Pepper zealots.  Think of me as that kid down at the local Kwik-E-Mart who takes his cup and adds a little of each soda-pop in his 64 ounce cup.  It may look nasty but it sure tastes good.

...and at the end of the day, isn't it important that I just satisfy my thirst?

Image source: USAGeorge

Measuring Success in NYC

When you have a project, you need to find out from the customer how they will judge the success of the project.  Don't go off giving the team high 5's and leave the customer scratching their head looking at the bill.  At the inception of the project and at the identification of each deliverable, get agreement from the customer as to success criteria. I just returned from a trip to New York.  Let's use that trip to illustrate my point.  My wife and I will represent the customers.  Both of us had a different measurement of success.

For my wife, the trip would be a success if we made it to the Gershwin on time to see Wicked.  For me, the trip would be a success if I got to have dinner at John's Pizzeria.

We identified contingency plans, so we could have different levels of success.  [1] Drive almost an hour and a half to Union Station in Washington DC.

Milestone 1 - Success

[2] Take the train to Penn Station in New York.

Milestone 2 - Success

[3] Get to the W Hotel in Time Square and check in.

Milestone 3 - Success

[4] Get to the Gershwin Theater

Milestone 4 - Success (Customer #1 is 100% satisfied)

The show was really good.  If you haven't seen it, I would recommend it.  It was odd seeing some people not dressed up.  Call me old fashioned but if you're going to the theater, it wouldn't hurt you to dress up.

[5] The next milestone was get to John's Pizzeria.  I just wanted a pie and a beer.

Milestone 5 - Success (Customer #2 is 100% satisfied)

After dinner, we returned to the hotel and then spent the evening in Time Square.  Last time we were in there, I proposed.  Not a coincidence, our hotel room was right over the spot where I popped the question. Since I take everything so seriously, we then went to a toy store, where I was promptly attacked by a Transformer.  Needless to say, that was not on my risk register.

Thank you to my wife for allowing me to check in via Foursquare and Gowalla.  I didn't do it a lot.

How was your weekend?