It’s All About the Experience

Why a great customer experience matters, even if you’re selling widgets


With the advent of digitalization, our experiences as consumers have reached a whole new level.  You know exactly when to turn on the porch light for the pizza guy, you can have Fluffy’s kibble delivered to the same porch the next day and you can even get insurance quotes from a cockney reptile from the comfort of your favorite arm chair.


Yet when you look at the customer experience in business-to-business, especially for industrial products and services, it’s like stepping into the dark ages.  Websites often function as a product brochure, with a white paper thrown in here and there.  While it’s true that decisions in this area are more rational, decision-makers are still humans and they still appreciate a great experience.  They are the same individuals watching their pizza progress from the oven to the delivery guy and this shapes their expectations of a great customer experience.


I’m not just talking about digital experiences, either.  eCommerce platforms can come with a hefty price tag and steep learning curve, but there are other elements of the experience that don’t. For instance, good old-fashioned analog elements, like following up with a customer to see if they are happy with their solution.


In my role as an insights expert, I interview many business decision makers.  If I had a dollar for every time poor customer experience came up as a pain point, I wouldn’t be typing this from the middle seat at the back of the plane.  This includes the basics like not returning phone calls, messing up billing and not communicating when there are lead time issues.  It’s all about being easy to do business with.


The good news is that there is a lot of upside potential.  So if you are looking for a differentiated value proposition, take a good look at the experience at every customer touch point.  Your customers will thank you.

Are You Too Smart To Be Great?

The best executives aren’t too smart for their own good.


Have you ever worked for the smartest guy in the room?

I don’t mean literally, I mean figuratively…as in he thought he was the smartest guy in the room, and so he disregarded good counsel constantly.

There’s a segment of leaders out there who got where they are by bringing a lot of horsepower to bear.  They got there by answering the question.  They got there by making A’s on tests and getting the top grade in the class.

And, on the way?  They lose their ability to be good executives.

I once worked near a senior executive who was an insufferable, arrogant boor to everyone around him. He wasn’t a boor in the “gets drunk and makes off-color jokes” fashion.  He was a boor in the “don’t even bother to argue with him” fashion.  He was the smartest guy in the room, even when it was demonstrable on the facts that he was not, in fact, right.  This habit–one of being always certain but only sometimes correct–drove people away from him until he lost all effectiveness.

In my 4 lives as an investment analyst, a “big firm” management consultant, a corporate executive, and now a boutique strategic partner, I’ve witnessed the foibles of dozens of senior and chief executives up close (not to mention my own).  And, given that experience, I think being too smart is a tremendous hindrance to effectiveness.

Why?  Let me count the ways.

First, executives who are too smart for their own good tend not to delegate.  Why? Well, nobody else is smart enough to get the job done right.  Executives, by definition, have to drive organizations. Being too smart to delegate is a killer.  This does not mean that they necessarily micromanage…they just don’t give freedom to their less smart underlings.

Second (and only slightly less bad), too smart executives tend to try to delegate via control and process.  They institute “simple” processes that muck up management culture and drive people who aren’t so smart absolutely crazy.  The next time you wonder why your TPS reports have to have three covers on them, you will think about the executive who is too smart.

Third, and building off that point, executives who are too smart tend to overcomplicate.  This is especially true in today’s data rich and insight poor environment.  The too smart executive wants to study more, build in that extra variable to the model, vet and validate assumptions, and generally create intellectual friction.  They drive complication.  The worst of them drive complication and then ask their teams why things are so complicated.  It’s exhausting.  Watch out for the executive who always orders studies and never makes decisions.  He’s probably an over-complicator.

Fourth, and final for the purpose of this post, the too smart executive runs the risk of being dismissive of outsiders.  I watched one C-level executive consistently disregard questions and encouragements from his board.  The board “just didn’t get it.”  A slightly less smart executive learns to take it all in.

And, my friends, that may be the key to this post:  Listening.  Executives who are smart enough learn to listen to outsiders, insiders, superiors, subordinates, and others.  They listen for signs that their own intellect may be getting in the way.

Go out there and be smart…but not too smart.