I’m convinced the pre-Socratic philosopher, Heraclitus happened upon an enduring truth when he said, “you can’t step into the same river twice.” I heard that quote when I was a freshman in college and it was the same year I’d read the classic book by M. Scott Peck titled The Road Less Traveled. In this book, Peck suggested above all else people fear change.
That made me wonder if we also fear that things won’t change. In other words, we get bored when things become stagnant and become overwhelmed when change exceeds our ability to cope.
For me, the world of human experience elevation is a perfect mix of dynamic change. There are many enduring truths that underlie what people want, need, and desire blended with ever-changing and subtle lifestyle nuances. Over the course of my career, those subtleties have required stable tools to be refined. For example, I used to provide service training tools involving greetings, meeting needs, and fond farewells. With advances in adult learning research, those pieces of training became more experiential and situational.
Early in the customer experience movement, my team and I would provide a holistic journey map. Over time technology has evolved to craft journey maps based on key customer personas. More recently we have been focused on ecosystem mapping, where we help our clients assess their core customer journeys in the context of all stakeholders who interact with those customers. This approach is in keeping with the observation of Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine in their book Outside In in which they define an ecosystem as:
“…a complex set of relationships among a company’s employees, partners, and customers that determine the quality of all customer interactions. It is the single most powerful framework for diagnosing & the fixing customer problems in ways that make the fixes stick over time.”
This ecosystem approach highlights an evolving awareness that is a “false choice” to prioritize either your customer or your team member. Both groups of people (team members and customers) must be cared for with equal importance for sustainable success. Fortune recently shared insights on the companies that in 2020 made their 100 Best Companies to Work for List:
It’s clear that these businesses are performing well for customers because of their ecosystem approach. For example:
- The cumulative revenue generated by the top 100 companies on the list is roughly 1.15 trillion dollars. That’s a smidge less than the entire gross national product of Mexico.
- Companies on this list are actively providing tuition reimbursement for their team members (assuring that those team members are equipped to address a changing world).
- According to an article about the list written by Fortune, “When the top leadership at a company inspires everyone on their team to contribute, outperform, and realize their maximum human potential—no matter their title, identity, or experience—it helps that organization become a great place to work for all…when it comes to automation, we’ve found that your employees’ biggest fear isn’t being replaced by a robot. It’s being treated like one.”
In my most recent book about Airbnb, titled The Airbnb Way, I captured the evolution of my thinking from customer experience design to human experience design by noting:
You likely understand that sustainable success involves creating value for the people you call customers by providing value to the people you call colleagues, team members, or employees. To be effective, in business as well as in life, we must develop skills to understand, meet, and even exceed the needs of those we serve…
Doug Atkin, Global Head of Community at Airbnb, describes Airbnb’s ecosystem mindset this way: “Employees are both hosts and guests, and guests are also hosts; and vice versa. We have this massive community.”
Since we can’t step in the same river twice and customer experience lives in the context of stakeholder ecosystems, I welcome the opportunity to help you manage the evolving human experience needs at your company – up to and including ecosystem mapping. Simply reach out to me here and we’ll set-up a time to talk.
Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.
Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli
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