The Heart of the Experience Professional

For an Experience Professional Practicing Otherness in a Selfish World is Essential

One of the core values at our company The Michelli Experience is otherness.

Our team knows that otherness is a seldom used word but we like the sound of it and moreover we like the concept behind it.

For us, otherness is:

  • the antidote to selfishness
  • a virtue that is in short supply
  • the right way to do business
  • a brand differentiator
  • a characteristic that is much needed in a polarized world

If you think we are enamored with otherness, you are absolutely right. Why else would you and your company ascribe to a value,  if you don’t deeply value that concept or believe that the concept has value worthy of pursuit?

Otherness by our definition is not equivalent to selflessness. We don’t want to lose ourselves in the service of others. Instead, we want to bring our best self to work and serve from self-efficacy and esteem.

Enough about us, a blog about otherness should be all about you. In fact, conceptually otherness emerged from a business principle in my book about The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company titled The New Gold Standard. I labeled that specific business principle, It’s Not About You, and went on to explore how leadership at the Ritz-Carlton benchmarked other world class customer providers, learned from the Malcolm Baldrige Quality Excellence process and listened to the voice of their customers in personal and systematic ways.

I was reminded of the importance of keeping a positive perspective on customers when I recently ran across a presentation deck from Neil Cooper for a Customer Marketing Summit titled, Customers are irrational, emotional, biased and selfish. In it, Neil depicts something akin to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which he calls the Hierarchy of Me wherein customer escalate their selfishness up a pyramid like the one depicted below:experience professional

In the balance of the presentation, Neil looked at the ramification of these customer qualities through the lens of a marketer, and he asked, “Does our brand, product or service make people feel cooler, sexier, more influential?”

While I won’t debate the science or wisdom of looking at customers as biased and selfish, I will acknowledge that all of us have the capacity to focus on ourselves or others.

My experience suggests that people who authentically focus on the needs of others in business achieve sustainable success when compared to those who make their own business needs primary and customer success secondary.

Business professionals that perform most poorly create the illusion that they care about customers – an illusion that customers see right through.

At a very practical level, practicing otherness requires a willingness to consciously shift perspective away from short-term self-focused business objectives and toward the wants and needs of customers.

We’ve found a number of statements and questions help us stay the course on our otherness as does celebrating examples of otherness demonstrated by team members toward peers and customers.

Here are a few of my favorite otherness prompts:

  • It’s not about us; it’s about our customer.
  • If your customer were sitting here right now, what would they be saying?
  • The people who pay our salary should have a voice, what’s best for our customers?
  • If we were to forget about ourselves and do only the right thing for our customer, what would that be?
  • What would mom tell us to do in this situation? (This a great segue to encourage you to read Jeanne Bliss’ new book titled Would You Do that To Your Mother – a brilliant work on mom’s wisdom and customer-centricity.)
  • Let’s bring this back to the customer.

Sorry if this blog sounded a bit sermon-like but we are passionate about finding ways to combat self-absorption and keep customer’s front and center. We’re also convinced that otherness is a virtue that transcends business success to positively impact all relationships including parenting, intimate relationships, and community involvement.

We spend a lot of time helping companies train employees, managers, and leaders on otherness as well as primary skills that affect it – including active listening and empathy. By helping others help others, we selfishly are fulfilled.

I would love to hear about your journey to otherness. Simply reach out to Patti and she will set-up a time for us to talk all about you.








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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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