The Geothermal Genie

Last laugh

A story about an interaction with Steve Jobs is making the rounds at the moment (posthumously).

It’s being fêted as hilarious, but I think it’s anything but.

Not because of Jobs and what he said. Far from it.

Indeed, I think he was one of too few leaders consistently forthright about their thinking around customer experience.

The quote attributed to Jobs (when an Intel exec told him they were going to make it easier for enterprise customers to integrate Apple computers) is:

“Why would I do anything to help the orifice that is the CIO? I’m going to make something so compelling for consumers that CIOs will just have to figure out how to deal with it.”

Putting Jobs’ posturing to one side, I believe it’s too easy for companies to effectively think – and act – in a similar way.
I don’t believe they do it deliberately like Jobs.
Rather they may do it unwittingly.

Customer-centric businesses must genuinely keep their customer – and what they are trying to achieve – at the very heart of their business model. If you don’t do this consistently, your “customer first” principles may quickly find themselves crowded out by inside-out thinking.

Customer Company

You can’t reasonably expect to be successful if you design friction into your customer experience.

Jobs was delighted to avoid enterprise integration and was satisfied with Apple’s forecast growth.
He was right – his premium offering appealed to individual influencers enough that many CIO’s took lots of pressure from them to enable Apple products.

Do you have that luxury?

The purpose of your business isn’t to sell products and services, it’s to create and maintain a customer.
Drucker’s principle is eternal and by authentically following it your proposition should be sustainable.

If your business strategy introduces any friction into engagements with your customers, it’s only a matter of time before the friction frustrates them and they seek an alternative.

This frustration may be instant. Whilst (ironically) further friction may exist which delays your customer from switching their business, without change the switch away from you is inevitable.

Take a look at your business from the perspective of your customer.
Look back at yourself and see if there is anything that frustrates or fatigues you.
If you find anything, you must fix it. Fast.

People only think the story about Steve Jobs is ‘hilarious’ because he won.

If you lose, it will be a tragedy and that’s no laughing matter.

Nine months

Cash bonuses for this year have been paid.
This cycle of deferred awards have vested.
Bankers are on the move.

One in, one out - until?

We hear talk of Long Term Incentive Plans and multi-year deferral/option schemes to align senior executives with the long term vision of their organisation.

But throughout many firms, people have recently completed one annual cycle, have checked out (mentally, if not physically) and are on to the next – but at an entirely different organisation.

If they are held to 3 months notice, they won’t start at their new firm until June/July.  Then comes the summer, when things are traditionally slow.  Momentum picks up again in September when people return to the office.  Just three months later, things start winding down again for the holidays.  And then the process restarts/resets for another period.

The cycle of annual reward handicaps an institution’s true development progress.

I mention on my LinkedIn profile how, when I left ABN AMRO, “I wasn’t finished”.
With at least one major internal reorganisation to implement each year, I never had a full 12 months with a stable organisation to see how it might operate in ‘stable’ conditions.
The positive outcome from this (perhaps the only one) was that the velocity of our decision making (and implementation) had to be extremely high in order to avoid organisational paralysis.

Rolling 12 month planning cycles (effectively 9 months at most) in large, public institutions mean that managing projects, budgets and – worst perhaps of all – people is often reduced to paper shuffling, rather than true business management.

Incumbent businesses no longer compete only with other incumbent institutions which look and feel like them – and operate on broadly the same annual cycle. New challengers – with strong founder-led cultures – are appearing and introducing disruptive technologies so quickly, that an annual planning cycle can simply not keep up.

The compensation paradigm and the planning and reporting that drives it (or is driven by it) will need to genuinely transform for real sustainable change to take place.

Organisations that scale and manage change well know that it’s important to “move 1,000 people 1 foot; rather than move 1 person 1,000 feet”.

To effect sustainable growth and adapt to the new competitive environment, it is not nearly enough to merely shackle a thin executive layer to the organisation for a long period.

Until firms find a way for their teams to adopt a true ‘ownership’ culture, loyalty and engagement will trend lower whilst turnover and instability continues to prevail.

In search of genius

I’ve mentioned before that if you want a great insight into the strategies and relative performance of the major tech players, then Ben Evans is the one to watch.

However, my own experience of Apple etc. is as a mere consumer. I’ve recently had the misfortune to notice what may be a sign that Apple’s market share is increasing significantly – perhaps further than their support models can manage.

My 2013 Macbook Pro (Retina) has decided to stop displaying anything.
Last night over chat, the Apple support people diagnosed where the issue lay.
It’s a video card hardware issue rather than the laptop display itself.
Next step is to get the laptop into the Apple repair ecosystem.
Which should be easy.
Apple easy.
But getting an appointment is now far harder than it used to be.
With so many new stores opened in London (Covent Garden, Westfield + Stratford, plus Brent Cross and Kingston-upon-Thames) you’d think I’d be able to drop it off somewhere today/tomorrow and pick it up in a week or so like it was in the good old days (2012/2013).

No more.

Apple Genius Reservations 2014-03-21 13.15.49

First available initial appointment is in one week’s time.

That’s new.
And not great.
I love Apple’s customer care. The Genius bar teams are miracle-workers, exceeding customer expectations by default.
But if you can’t get in to see them, you can’t start enjoying this greatness.

Has Apple (in the UK, at least) grown market share beyond where their support levels can maintain this level?

What are your own experiences?

Customer service – an investment, not an expense

I didn’t learn customer experience from my employers, I learned it from my parents.

Customers enjoy fabulous customer service when the brand they are dealing with has a culture of service. Authentic customer service, delivered gladly is not the product of an afternoon of staff training.

SAP recently featured Ted Coiné on the future of customer experience which is worth a read.

Customer Experience Is An Investment, Not An Expense

Some soundbites and principal points of note:

Funding and time horizon:

Customer experience done professionally is an investment, not an expense. Companies that give top-tier service dominate their markets and are more profitable

If you want to beat the market’s expectations this quarter, slash customer experience from your budget. If you want your business to be thriving ten years from now, invest in a top-rate customer experience.

On the change imperative:

Change is the result of insurmountable market pressure. Nobody changes just because they’re bored.
Companies in intensely competitive industries have already gotten smaller, flatter, more transparent, and more nimble, or are struggling for survival right now.
Others – where pressure is weak – are in a slow burn toward change.
Most are somewhere in the middle, undergoing change right now at whatever pace they must to survive.

Command-and-control hierarchies and the sluggish bureaucracies that enable them are over: they can’t compete.
Organizations composed of mature, responsible adults who make their own decisions based on the strategic intent of the org as a whole? Those are the winners in this brave new age.

I believe customers easily sniff out fake service levels.

If these themes count for customer service, how true is your organisation’s culture for digital or ‘social’?

Improving digital government

Under the leadership of Mike Bracken, the UK is undertaking an ambitious effort to simplify public access to government services and information.

If you are not already aware of Mike and his impact on digital government services, this will be a good read/watch.

Either way, there are some invaluable nuggets in here for you to take away including:

- the manner in which they have inverted the approach to digital – so it is for the user first;

- the way they are providing the services (via GitHub…) for local government to draw down as and when they wish;

- the small data/big data approach of engaging users in conversion to determine where in the available dataset they might find utility.

Very smart man, leading a talented team and having a noticeable and sustained impact on society.
Enabling real change through user-centric digital design and execution.


I have a joke I seem to roll out every December/January when so many of us start thinking about making resolutions for the new year.

I can’t remember where I ‘borrowed’ it from originally – I’ve been reposting it in Bloomberg chat rooms for years and started posting on Twitter a while back:

(couldn’t find the 2012/13 version in my Twitter archive)

Seems I’m not the only one who has a habit around new year – those interested in finding out how to lose a little weight have searched Google with – perhaps unsurprising – regularity for Weight Watchers since records began.

Google Search Trends default search "Weight Watchers"

h/t @sammarelich

I wish them all well.

Windscreen wipers? So last century.

McLaren believe they may have discovered a practical way to eliminate the windscreen wiper – in use since 1903.

It is thought to involve using ultrasound to send 30kHz waves across the windshield, which would keep it clear of any debris, even those really horrible insect remains that can build up and obstruct your view.

How does it stop such debris? By creating a force field that stops rain, snow, or insects ever reaching the windshield. If they can’t touch it, then the glass will remain clean and clear.

Robinhood – we should all share the fruits of capitalism

Stop paying $10/trade.

Robinhood wants us all* to share the fruits of capitalism.

*unless you’re an Android user

Robinhood is a new commission-free brokerage venture backed by Google/Index/Andreesen Horowitz. They want to eliminate the $10 per trade “tax” that normal investors pay whilst High Frequency Traders pay almost nothing to access the market.

Having spent time on Wall Street building market access platforms for large firms, the two Stanford roommates Vladimir Tenev and Baiju Bhatt puzzled over why HFTs pay effectively nothing to access the market while everyday investors get ‘taxed’ $10 per trade.

These guys figure they can build a leaner brokerage from the ground up by avoiding/automating many of the “costly duties” existing brokerages maintain as a holdover from the pre-Internet era.

Over the last decade, technology has enabled building the most efficient businesses in history. Building an automated, electronic brokerage from the ground up allows Robinhood to eliminate the costly touchpoints where other brokerages require human intervention or paper receipts… Robinhood maintains a lean bottom-line, allowing it to attract and retain customers far more cheaply.

It’s an interesting freemium model – they hope to offer margin trading and ‘premium’ services in the future. Web/iOS only – No Android support, though they’ll offer API access to ‘select customers’ in 2014.

Disclaimer still reminds you that you [only] get what you pay for:

System response, execution price, speed, liquidity, market data, and account access times are affected by many factors, including market volatility, size and type of order, market conditions, system performance, and “other factors”.

3D-printed running shoes that self-repair


London designer creates 3D-printed, regenerative running shoes from protocells || The Verge

At the Wearable Futures conference, London designer and researcher Shamees Aden debuted a running shoe prototype that will put your worn out kicks to shame. The shoes, a conceptual product which he developed with University of Southern Denmark professor Martin Hanczyc, are 3D printed from a synthetic biological material that can repair itself overnight.

The running shoes are the product of Aden’s study of protocells. The basic protocell molecules are not themselves alive, but can be combined to create living organisms. Mixing different protocells creates different properties, and allows them to be programmed to behave differently depending on heat, light, and pressure. The shoes’ unique construction allows them to be 3D printed to the exact size of the user’s foot, so they would fit like a second skin. While running, the shoes would react to pressure and movement, providing extra cushioning when needed.

“The cells have the capability to inflate and deflate and to respond to pressure,” Aden tells Dezeen. “As you’re running on different grounds and textures it’s able to inflate or deflate depending on the pressure you put onto it and could help support you as a runner.”

(via London designer creates 3D-printed, regenerative running shoes from protocells | The Verge)

4K, not 3D for Netflix

Weary industry watchers might be inclined to dismiss 4K/UHD—which features four times the resolution of regular 1080p high definition—as just the latest effort from manufacturers to kickstart flagging TV sales. With 3D having fizzled, it’s on to the next thing.

Hunt and Netflix in general think 4K is the real deal, however, seeing it as a natural evolution of what content producers and consumers alike already use and understand.

Some good examples will be needed to sell people on the technology, however, which is why Hunt says Netflix is currently shooting the second season of House of Cards in 4K.

Hunt believes Netflix can be the source of 4K content, since people won’t necessarily want to buy new devices to play discs or upgrade their libraries to another new format.

“We [internet video] are often perceived as the last game in town, the scratchy video in 380p, but here we can really leapfrog to the front. I’d like to win a technical Emmy for delivery.”

Netflix is taking the opposite tack to 3D. That feature has proven to be unpopular with subscribers, mainly because people don’t want to wear glasses at home. “We’re probably looking to back out of it in the end. I’m not sure there’s enough value in it.” Hunt says. “We’ve got a small collection and we’ll keep that going but we’re certainly not looking to expand it.”

You can't fake Authentic