Customer Experience in Pharma is About Winning the Hearts of Customers

This post was originally published on eye for pharma by Deirdre Coleman on May 1st:

In the new value-based health economy, pharma companies must understand the characteristics of next-generation consumers, who want to take increasing control of their own treatment, to become co-pilots rather than passengers in drug purchase and usage decisions.



“To build an enduring, sustainable, long-term business and consumer brand, it’s not about fancy marketing, it’s about establishing a very powerful and an unusual emotional relationship with the customer” – Howard Shultz, Starbucks

The next generation of consumers is reshaping the pharmaceutical industry much as they have transformed other industry sectors. Customers want their preferences and behaviors understood and acted upon, constantly demanding more and actively communicating dissatisfaction if their needs aren’t met. As consumers take on more risk and responsibility in their healthcare, they’re migrating from a passive recipient to a joint participant in drug purchase and usage decisions. They have edged ahead in terms of their demands and expectations and traditional pharma marketing efforts are ill-equipped to address their needs and values. In the future, medication will increasingly be designed to appeal to a particular segment’s preferences, rather than everyone’s symptoms. How can you encourage people to have as great an affinity for their favorite brand of medication as they do for their favorite brand of car? What can you do—beyond the pill itself—to encourage people to pick your brand?

Exceeding Expectations

According to best-selling author, keynote speaker and customer experience architect, Stan Phelps, putting the emphasis on customer engagement and lifetime value rather than acquisition is key to future commercial growth. “I founded 9 Inch marketing in 2009 and our philosophy is focused on the value of customer experience as a competitive differentiator and the importance of employee engagement in building a strong corporate culture. For far too long, the overwhelming majority of marketing has fixated on the eyes and ears of the prospect. Not enough has been focused on creating experiences for current customers that drive referrals and create advocates. Great customer experience is about being so remarkable that people can’t help but talk about you; that if you absolutely delight someone – they will not only come back, but they’ll bring their friends. To me, you are never meeting consumers’ expectations you are either exceeding them or you are disappointing them. In a world where 60-80% of customers describe their customer satisfaction as satisfied or very satisfied before going on to defect to other brands, ‘meeting expectations’ is no longer an option. Behavioral psychologists have long argued that only 30% of human decisions and behaviors are actually driven by rational considerations. This means that more than 70% of consumer loyalty and spending decisions are based on emotional factors. Three primary drivers of engagement are personalization, relevancy and superior customer experience.”

Insight Cultivates Connection

Pharmaceutical companies can go beyond the one-way mirror in analyzing consumers, delving into their behavior and motivations. Patients are benchmarketing their healthcare experiences against their experiences with Amazon, Starbucks and JetBlue. Pharma companies will need to face the reality that the bar is set very high in terms of peoples’ expectations of personalisation, convenience and service”.

Many pharmaceutical and life sciences companies have relied on traditional techniques of using demographics such as gender, insurance status, age, and health condition to segment the types of patients best suited for their products. But too often that approach to customer segmentation misses individual attitudes and behaviors, resulting in an incomplete picture of the consumer. “Pharmaceutical companies can go beyond the one-way mirror in analyzing consumers, delving into their behavior and motivations. Patients are benchmarketing their healthcare experiences against their experiences with Amazon, Starbucks and JetBlue. Pharma companies will need to face the reality that the bar is set very high in terms of peoples’ expectations of personalisation, convenience and service. Patients live in a world where they can do everything (banking, shopping) over the phone, where they get pinged on their mobile when their order is ready. That’s elevating the bar for the entire healthcare industry. Patients don’t always act rationally and they may not make their healthcare decisions based on best outcomes – take for example Cleveland clinic. The chief factor determining people’s selection of a hospital was patients’experience (41%), followed by physician’s decision (21%), reputation (20%) and location (18%). Patients are making decisions everyday to change healthcare providers and facilities based on the information they hear from friends, family, online and in their community.  Very quickly, a hospital or practice can become “known” for providing a certain level of patient experience, either good or bad. Consumers want their medication experience to be personalized and meaningful. If theirexpectations are met, they’re more likely to follow the proper course of treatment for longer. Whether a consumer is starting a new therapy, managing a chronic condition, or juggling multiple treatments, evaluating their needs throughout the patient journey is critical to delivering experiences that resonate with the patient”, remarks Phelps.

Customer Experience: 5 Things that Lead to an Exceptional Customer Experience

Companies don’t emotionally engage with their customers – people do. Marketing needs to become more about employees and customers and how to connect more and less about quarterly reporting and campaigns. Companies that have engaged employees grow up to three times faster than others with a company with less engaged employees.”

1)     Employees First

“I would argue that putting the employees first, customers second and shareholders last is a winning formula for any organization looking to succeed. Employee engagement is the emotional commitment an employee has to the organization and its goals, resulting in the use of discretionary effort. Satisfied employees lead to satisfied customers. Because satisfied employees care more, they are more productive, give better service, and even stay in their jobs longer. All of that leads to happier customers, who buy more and refer more often, which drives sales and profits higher, finally resulting in an increase in stock price. Companies don’t emotionally engage with their customers – people do. Marketing needs to become more about employees and customers and how to connect more and less about quarterly reporting and campaigns. Companies that have engaged employees grow up to three times faster than others with a company with less engaged employees. Employee engagement can be a competitive differentiator. Becoming a best place to work soon attracts the best customers.”

2)    Driving Loyalty & Retention

“Traditional marketing is all about building awareness for products and brands. The emphasis is on getting new customers, and very little attention is paid to retaining existing customers. The way to accomplish “more” is through added-value. It works by giving customers unexpected extras. Those extras improve the brand, drive loyalty, and promote referrals. Referrals are key. Referred customers are four times more valuable than customers acquired by other means. Why? A referred customer spends twice the amount of money and refers twice the number of customers than non-referred customers do. Unless you spend a lot of time in Louisiana, you likely haven’t heard the term ‘lagniappe.’ But this Creole aphorism has the power to transform your business. Defined as “the gift” or “to give more,” lagniappe represents the potential to turn customers into your largest sales force by exceeding expectations. According Gartner research, decreasing customer churn by just five percent can increase profits by 25 percent to 125 percent. The reason is that it’s expensive to get new customers—it’s much easier and more sustainable to keep your current customers happy and sell them more products or services.”

3)    Outside-In Approach

“Really think about what’s important to the customers, and how you can make those things great in terms of delivery. Whether stretching beyond the bounds of segmentation and demographics or increasing the focus on behavioral insights, the industry must find a way to tap into its customers’ nuanced lives to offer an enhanced personalized experience. Patients want personalized care and real-time feedback. They want to be treated as active participants in their care and treatment and they are demanding convenient, cost-effective solutions.”

4)    Give Little Unexpected Extras (G.L.U.E.)

what's your purple goldfish“Shifting your focus away from awareness and acquisition towards the customer experience and retention is a mindset change that pays dividends. My book, What’s Your Purple Goldfish is based on the Purple Goldfish Project, a crowd sourcing effort that collected over 1,001 examples of signature added value. if you are not willing to differentiate yourself by creating valuable experiences or little touches that do ‘above and beyond’ for your customer, you will languish in the sea of sameness. Creating small unexpected extras can go a long way to increasing retention, promoting loyalty and generating positive word of mouth.”

5)    Handling Mistakes

“Mistakes are part of doing business. How you handle the fumble determines whether or not you will recover the ball (or business). Showing a little empathy and a willingness to go the distance can make all the difference.  Johnson and Johnson’s handling of the Tylenol tampering crisis is an example of how to get it right. The company immediately alerted consumers across the nation, via the media, not to consume any type of Tylenol product. They told consumers not to resume using the product until the extent of the tampering could be determined. Johnson & Johnson, along with stopping the production and advertising of Tylenol, recalled all Tylenol capsules from the market. The recall included over 30 million bottles of Tylenol, with a retail value of more than 100 million dollars. They offered to exchange all Tylenol capsules that had already been purchased. It was estimated that millions of bottles of Tylenol capsules were in consumers homes at the time. Although this proposition cost Johnson & Johnson millions more dollars, and there may not have been a single drop of cyanide in any of the capsules they replaced, the company made this choice on their own initiative in order to preserve their reputation. Their ethical approach and their commitment in putting humans above profits made a heroic event out of a catastrophic event.”

Empowered patients are wanting – and taking – more control. The focus on customers’ experiences will require seamless collaboration between healthcare providers, pharmacists, insurers and pharmaceutical companies and a choice of treatment options. Customers are reacting with increasingly high expectations of the industry shaped by experiences in other sectors.The pharmaceutical industry’s challenge is to create similarly meaningful experiences across the patient journey. The advent of social media and real-time interactive feedback via the Internet allows every customer to build and expect a relationship with your business, rather than just touchpoints. Engagement and an emotional connection will make a customer relationship the driving force for loyalty and differentiation. Is it time to get emotional?

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Empathy in healthcare is key. Seeing things through your patients eyes and being aware of their thoughts and feelings. This is a MUST SEE video by the Cleveland Clinic. “If you could stand in someone else’s shoes . . . hear what they hear. See what they see. Feel what they feel. Would you treat them differently?”

Does your company love you enough to deal with your dirty laundry?

nextjump_logo_blackEmployees at Next Jump in New York City are routinely asked the following question,

“How can we make things better for you to be happier at home or at work?”

Once a response shows up a couple of times, the company looks into the viability of the suggestion. A few years ago employees complained about the need to do their laundry on the weekends. It turns out that an afternoon every other weekend was wasted in laundromats around the city.

Founder Charlie Kim looked into the possibility and decided to offer wash and fold as an employee benefit. According to the Next Jump website:

laundrybagEmployees can drop off their laundry bag in the office on Fridays every week. Their laundry is washed, dried and folded over the weekend and can be picked up the following Monday. This program ensures maximum “strategic disengagement” for the employees. Instead of spending hours doing laundry every weekend, employees can have more time to rest and relax, ready to be energized for next week.

Next Jump came up with the motto: 

“My company gets my laundry, I get my weekends back.”

green-goldfish-15-ways-to-drive-engagement-300x248Next Jump also has a number of other (green goldfish) programs that work to reinforce the desired culture. Like Google, they hit on all cylinders whether its the Basics like recruiting, onboarding, food / beverage, space, wellness, modern family, time-away, Belonging like transparency, team building, recognition, flexibility, retirement and Building like training, pay it forward and empowerment.

I had the privilege of hearing Matt Tenney speak at a couple recent events. Matt is a thought leader around the topics of servant leadership and corporate culture. Here is Matt talking about Next Jump as part of a keynote. In addition to the laundry, Matt touches on Code for a Cause, The Avenger Award and Office Bedrooms and the amount of applicants at Next Jump:

ServeToBeGreatMatt is also the author of the upcoming May 5th Wiley release, “Serve to Be Great.”

TAKEAWAY – Take a cue from Next Jump, routinely ask your employees how you can better serve their needs at home or at work. Because happy engaged employees create happy enthused customers.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Want to take a look inside Next Jump? Here’s a quick video by the folks at Wistia:

Who Gets Treated Better? Employees, Customers or Your Top 20% of Both?

This was originally posted on Salesformics:

Who Gets Treated Better?

110131_BB_STARBUCKSLOGO.jpg.CROP.original-originalMicah Solomon recently wrote about Starbucks in He shared a conversation he had with an employee in Seattle. The employee asked Micah,

“Do you think Starbucks takes better care of its employees, or of its customers?”

Micah didn’t have an answer for him. And, as it turned out, this was the point. The employee added,

“I’ve worked here a long time, and I’ve thought about it for a while. And I just don’t know. I think Starbucks cares about, and takes care of, both groups. I think it’s equal.”

This is truly an aspirational goal, “When its a toss up as to who is treated better?” But for the majority of companies, it comes down to prioritization. Where do you focus your time and resources first? Based on my research, here is the ideal progression:

purple green and golden goldfish1. Employees (Green)
2. Customers (Purple)
3. Top 20% of customers / employees (Gold)

Start With Employees

Take care of your employees first. You can’t have happy enthused customers without happy engaged employees. There is a great book by the CEO of HCL Technologies on this premise. It’s called, Employees First, Customers Second. Another one on culture is by the founder of Patagonia Yvon Chouinard called, Let My People Go Surfing. Your actions need to demonstrate your commitment to your employees. Case in point: ING Direct used to fire thousands of customers each month, especially when they abused employees or made unreasonable demands on them.

Then Customers

How can you do the little things to add value and make things easier for your customers? Here are some top B2B examples from companies such as FedEx, Disney and Wufoo:

And Top 20% Last

The last in the progression is your top customers and top employees. Twenty percent of your customers will account for 80 percent of your profitability. I recently wrote about this on Switch & Shift in a post entitled, All Customers and Employees are Not Created Equal. These employees and customers are your vital few. The idea is that you don’t treat everyone the same, you treat everyone fairly.

employees first customer second top last

Imagine a round target like on an archery range. The outer ring is employees, the middle ring is customers and the bullseye is top customers / employees. Start on the outside and work your way into the center.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure)Here is Howard Schultz talking about the Starbucks brand at the London Business Forum. Great quote in here, “You can’t exceed the expectations of your customer as an enterprise… unless you exceed the expectations of your employees first.”

Do you have a signature onboarding element like the Green Carpet?

onboardingLess than 25% of organizations conduct formal onboarding. Onboarding refers to the process through which new employees become socialized and acquire necessary knowledge, skills, and behaviors. This process helps them adapt to the company and allows new employees to become effective members of the team. Onboarding is one of the first types of Green Goldfish.

Why is Onboarding Key? 

Onboarding is key because you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Research by HCI shows that employees make the critical decision to stay or leave within the first six months. New employees that participate in an onboarding program show improved  “retention, engagement, and productivity.” Companies that make an effort to help socialize new employees enjoy positive benefits including higher job satisfaction, better job performance, greater organizational commitment and reduction in stress.

Yet, culturally onboarding new hires can be a real challenge. While sleek videos, laminated pocket cards and lobby placards may help employees memorize the company values, the actual understanding how to “live” the company values can be a whole other story.  Culture is only as cohesive as the people willing to live out the shared values.

Attitudes begin to form at the initial point of contact with an organization. There is no better place to start than when you are welcoming new employees to your company. Smart companies take advantage of these early days in order to ensure a strong, productive, and dedicated workforce.

Enter Greene Resources

greene resources

Gary GreeneI had the opportunity to be introduced to Gary Greene last year. Gary is the founder of Greene Resources [see video of Gary]. The 14 year old Raleigh based company is an award-winning employment solutions company. Greene partners with world class companies such as SAS, CREE and RTI.

From Day One, Gary put culture at the heart of Greene Resources. He literally has a school of Green(e) Goldfish in each of the 15 categories. Here is just a small sampling:

green resources kermitTeam Building – The team goes bowling, plays skeeball and competes in the annual Greene Olympics.

Recognition – The company gives out customized “Kermit” awards to employees who create a “Wow” experience. Greene hosts “appreciation” events.

Pay it Forward –  They give back to the community through numerous programs such as Habitat for Humanity.

Training & Development – Employee training gets offered through the Greene University program.

The one area that Greene Resources excels in is onboarding. The organization goes above and beyond to acclimate new hires. During the first weekly staff meeting, two interesting things happen. First, team members are asked trivia questions about the new hires. It’s a fun way for the existing team to show an interest in new team members.

greene resources green carpet high fivesThe second involves the green carpet. At the end of the meeting, existing team members exit to the hallway. A green carpet is rolled out to the new team members desk. The new team member then walks the green carpet while receiving hallway high fives along the way.

TAKEAWAY: In the words of George Bradt, managing director at PrimeGenesis, “The way you manage the transition of somebody into your culture speaks volumes about the culture to the person coming in, because you’re making those first early impressions and they know what’s expected of them”  What’s your signature onboarding practice? What’s Your Green Goldfish?

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra for good measure) – Gary Greene is fond of a children’s book called The Three Questions by Jon J. Muth.

The Three QuestionsHe says it defines Greene Resources’ culture best. The book’s three questions are:

1. What is the best time to do things?

2. Who is the most important one?

3. What is the right thing to do?

The book concludes: “There is only one important time, and that time is now. The most important one is always the one you are with. And the most right thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side.  For these are the answers to what is most important in this world. This is why we are here.”

According to Gary, “At Greene Resources, we strive to live out the answers to these three questions every day.”

All Customers and Employees are Not Created Equal

vilfredo paretoThe Goldfish and the Pea

107 years ago a man would stumble across an idea that would change the course of history. This revelation would come from a simple observation in his vegetable garden. Vilfredo noticed something interesting about his pea pods. He discovered that 80% of his peas came from a mere 20% of his pods. This intrigued the 59 year-old Italian economist. Soon Vilfredo was applying this ratio to other socioeconomic scenarios. His last name was Pareto and his most famous finding was that 20% of the people in Italy owned 80% of the land.

Partly because of Pareto’s work, the field of economics evolved from a branch of moral philosophy, as practiced by Adam Smith, into a data intensive field. Yet Vilfredo Pareto’s discovery and contribution was largely unheralded until two decades after his death. During the second word war, social scientist Joseph Juran uncovered his work while streamlining shipment processes for the Lend-Lease Administration in Washington, D.C. Juran was the first to coin the phrases, “Pareto’s Law of Unequal Distribution” and the “80/20 rule.”

Pretty soon Juran was applying the rule to a number of scenarios. Here are a few of the findings:

  • 80 percent of the World’s GDP is controlled by 20 percent of the people
  • 80 percent of the complaints come from 20 percent of the customers
  • 80 percent of a company’s sales come from 20 percent of the products

The Vital Few

Juran’s most important application came within the field of quality control. He noticed that the majority of defects came from a small percentage of the total causes. Juran famously referred to Pareto’s Principle as, “The law of the vital few and the trivial many.” Juran pioneered the quality movement. His work is credited with spawning the six sigma and lean manufacturing philosophies. It was Juran that traveled to Japan in the 1950’s, giving a number of lectures that were responsible for igniting the Japanese quality manufacturing movement.

According to The Economist, since Juran’s original research, “Everyone from Xerox to the IDC and even the United Nations have tested Pareto’s Law, and found that within a tolerance of 5%, the 80/20 rule works just fine across a range of cause and effect scenarios.”

The 80/20 rule was also recently popularized by Tim Ferriss in his 2007 book, “The Four-Hour Work Week.”  Ferriss suggests “firing” the 80% of customers who only bring in 20% of overall sales. His rationale is that it gives you more free time and allows you to focus on your most profitable customers.

Of all the applications of Pareto’s law, here’s the three I believe are the most important,

  • 80% of your profits come from 20% of your customers
  • 80% of a company’s sales are made by 20% of its sales staff
  • 80% of new business comes from 20% of your existing customer base

Are all customers created equal?

When talking about how to invest our time and resources in the fields of customer experience and employee engagement, the answer should be clear. In the spirit of Juran, we should be focusing on the vital few. My first two books, Purple Goldfish and Green Goldfish, explored the “little extras” you do for all customers and employees. The underlying premise is that you standardize these programs across your entire workforce and customer base. While these efforts are important for establishing differentiation and improving overall culture, they are probably not the most efficient use of resources.

The Golden Goldfish

what's your golden goldfish coverI’m currently writing my third book about goldfish. It’s the “golden goldfish.” The little things you do for your top 20% of employees and customers. Why Gold? Gold is one of the three colors of Mardi Gras. It’s a direct reference to the birthplace of the creole word called lagniappe. A word that Mark Twain once said, “was worth traveling all the way to New Orleans to get.”

Inspired by Pareto, my goal is to find the Top 201 top examples of how companies do the little extras for the vital few. Here are some current examples:

  1. Home James – If you are an upper class flyer of Virgin Atlantic, they offer free car service within 75 miles of the airport. In addition, the driver calls dispatch 15 minutes out with the number of bags the person has and when they arrive at the baggage carousel, they tag and grab it.
  2. New Jersey – The Tampa Bay Lightning gave season ticket holders a special STH game jersey. Embedded in a patch on the sleeve was a computer chip. Scan it and receive 25% and 35% off food and merchandise respectively at the arena. Nice way to acknowledge and thank your best customers.
  3. Helicopter Roadside Assistance – If your Lexus LFA* breaks down over in Europe, the car manufacturer will helicopter in a team to fix it. A big repair… no problem as Lexus is prepared to put you up in five star accommodations. (*one small snag, the LFA costs $400,000)

You don’t treat everyone the same, you treat everyone fairly

So – how do you get started developing Golden Goldfish? Here is a 3D circular framework inspired by Vilfredo, Joseph and Tim:

  1. Discover Design DeployDiscovery – The first step involves identifying customers and their needs so that these can be satisfied. Ferriss calls this deconstruction and selection. Who are your vital few? Find your critical 20% and more importantly determine what really matters to them.
  2. Design – The second step is about developing ideas and processes that can meet those needs. Prioritizing those you think can make the greatest impact. Then piloting and testing those concepts to gauge their effectiveness.
  3. Deployment – The third and last step is about operationalizing those ideas, measuring their progress, and constantly trying to improve those processes. The best organizations are those who resist sitting on their laurels. They realize today’s extras become tomorrow’s expectations. They treat these three steps as an ongoing circular process.

Are you willing to achieve more by doing less? Ready to count your peas? What’s Your Golden Goldfish?

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Here is the late Jim Rohn talking about how Pareto applies to leadership. Some timeless insights here:

Throwing in the towel(s) at Microsoft

A Cautionary Tale

The year 2014 marked a dubious 10th anniversary for Microsoft.

Here’s the backstory: As part of a broad series of cutbacks in 2004, Microsoft eliminated their laundered towel service. The towels were available for employees who showered after biking to work or playing sports on the company’s Redmond campus. That and the other changes, especially to the employee stock purchase program (ESPP), caused a groundswell of opposition from Microsoft employees, folks commonly referred to as “SOFTIES.” The towels became a rallying point of discontent.

microsoft throws in the towels

It’s Not the Towels, It’s What the Towels Represent

According to the blog mini Microsoft,

It’s not like we’re sweaty work-out animals always in need of a shower and fresh towel. No. What riled us was the bone-headed way the towel cut-back was handled, explained, and justified. It truly made us wonder just who are these people in charge and just who do they think they are leading? The towels became the symbol of poor leadership.”

Rancor continued and some prominent departures from Microsoft ensued. Business Week reported about the troubling exits,

“Just whisper the word ‘towels’ to any Microsoft employee, and eyes roll. Employees who helped the company build its huge cash stockpile were furious.”

Less than two years later in 2006 the towels were back. Microsoft reinstated the laundered towel service and added additional extras in an effort to stem the tide of exits and increase morale.

TAKEAWAY: It’s a Commitment, Not a Campaign – A green goldfish “employee extra” is different than a one off or limited offer. Add one or a school of green goldfish at your convenience, remove them at your peril [did someone just say TOWELS?].

Interesting aside: 

According to a report in Mashable, it’s customary for Softies to celebrate their yearly employment anniversaries with candy, and more specifically, M&Ms. Each anniversary, a Microsoft employee is expected to provide one pound of M&Ms for every year they’ve worked. That means if Bill Gates observed the tradition, he should have turned up with 39 pounds of M&Ms on June 27th of this year.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – What’s Your Green Goldfish is based on the simple premise that employees are the key drivers of customer experience and that “Happy Employees Create Happy Customers.” The books focuses on 15 different ways to drive employee engagement and reinforce a strong corporate culture. Here is a preview:

Two truths, a lie and a lesson in leadership: Nazi’s, Twins in Brazil and the Founders Effect

imgresI had the opportunity to watch a program on the National Geographic channel last week. The documentary, “Nazi Mystery: Twins in Brazil” explored a theory proposed by Jorge Camarasa.  Argentinian Camarasa has proposed a shocking theory that Nazi doctor Josef Mengele conducted experiments on women in Brazil during his time in exile.

“Mengele disguised himself as a roaming physician and veterinarian and gave pregnant women in Cândido Godói an ahead-of-its-time, twin-inducing mix of drugs or hormones.”

Joseph_mengelMengele who had notoriously conducted twin “studies” in Germany and experiments with twins in Auschwitz, is known to have fled to South America as the Allies were closing in on the Nazi German regime. The alledged ultimate aim of his experiments: to provide more Aryans to populate Hitler’s “Thousand Year Reich.”  Tales of a high rate of blue eyed, blond, fraternal twins in one part of Brazil stirred the controversy. The rate of twin births in the small town of Cândido Godói in Brazil is 10%. That’s six times higher than rate for the state of Rio Grande do Sul and 10 times the global average. The Argentine historian claimed that Mengele was responsible for the high ratio.

Let’s look at the two truths and a lie

Truth #1 – Mengele lived in parts of Brazil until his death. In total he spent 30 years in South America from 1949 – 1979.

Truth #2 – There are an extraordinary number of twins in Cândido Godóii. Many have blue eyes and blond hair. The features are attributed to the fact the town is largely populated by the descendents of German immigrants. This phenomenon of a large number of twin births is not unique to Cândido Godói, and has also been observed in the town of Igbo-Ora in Nigeria and the village of Kodinji in India.

And a Lie – The Nazi’s aren’t responsible for the rise in twins. Examinations of birth records showed an increase in twins that both predates Mengele’s arrival and continues decades after his death. Even if Mengele had performed experiments during this period, the effects wouldn’t last beyond one generation. Further research points that during Mengele’s supposed visits to the town, the rate of twins didn’t change.

Leadership Lesson: Enter the Founders Effect

The twin rate in Cândido Godói can be explained by a phenomenon called the founders effect. The effect occurs when genetic traits among a small group founding a community end up becoming more common among their descendents than in the population at large. Check out this one minute video on the phenomenon:

The Founders Effect Applies to Business and Leadership

Traits of a key leader or set of leaders create a founders effect in business. It’s important to realize its significance and impact, both negative and positive. According to Drew Hansen in Forbes:

“In business, it [the founders effect] manifests itself when the thinking and traits of the founders are concentrated and amplified.  Although founders imbue their organizations with a strong culture, they can likewise infect them with negative characteristics.”

One of the biggest takeaways in What’s Your Green Goldfish was the impact of senior leaders on employee engagement. Of seventy-five possible drivers of engagement, the one that was rated as the most important,

“Was the extent to which employees believed that their senior management had a sincere interest in their well‐being. (Source: Towers Watson)”

Three Examples of Caring by Senior Management

giveandtake-coverCaring is not demonstrated through words, but through actions. Small things that send a message to the rest of the organization. In the terminology of Adam Grant and his seminal book, Give and Take, its the little things that demonstrate a Giver approach. Here are a few examples from What’s Your Green Goldfish that bring caring to life:

#1 CEO Walk and Talks – According to Louis Brandeis, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” If you want a strong culture, keep things open by default. AnswerLab’s (Green Goldfish #510) CEO schedules Walk & Talks with every employee. These one-on-one check-ins provide employees with an individual opportunity to share any concerns or brilliant ideas they have with the CEO directly. Combining wellness with one-on-ones helps achieve two important objectives simultaneously. Meeting outside the office and getting physical helps eliminate the nerves and intimidation employees might normally experience when connecting with higher-ups. According to Forbes, everyone gets a FitBit pedometer connected with an online leaderboard so all can see who’s clocking how many miles. This promotes more “walk and talk” meetings—which last generally one hour–along with monthly step competitions. The company also reimburses for gym memberships.

#2 – Opening the Window of Information – HCL Technologies (Green Goldfish #809) put together an online forum for employees called U&I. The forum allow employees to ask any question to the senior team at HCL. An open site where everyone could see the question, the questioner, and the answer. Employees responded favorably as noted by this comment,

“This is the biggest change we have seen at HCL in years. Now we have a management team that is willing to acknowledge the dirt.”

amsterdam window theoryWhy open the window of information? Vineet uses an analogy in his book Employees First, Customers Second of “The Amsterdam Window.” Having previously lived on the Herengracht (“Gentleman’s Canal”) in Amsterdam, I can attest that these windows are immense. They are a throwback to the modest Calvinist period when subtle expressions of wealth, such as being able to afford to pay the highest window tax, were favored by the rich. In the words of writer Joanna Tweedy,

“Today, the centuries-old glass, beautifully imperfect, frames the olive-green waters outside and lets natural light, and the eyes of curious tourists, pour in.”

While visiting Amsterdam, Vineet asked his friend, “Why so large?” The friend mentioned all the obvious reasons like letting in light and enjoying the view of the canal, but then offered a much more interesting answer… “It keeps the house clean.” It turns out that the bigger your windows, the more glass you have, the more visible your dirt will be – to you and to everyone who visits or passes by. In Vineet’s words,

If you can see the dirt, you will be much more likely to get rid of it.  A transparent house has a dramatic effect on the culture inside.”

#3 Take Note – Showing you care doesn’t have to cost anything. Former CEO of the Campbell Soup Company (Green Goldfish #21) Doug Conant is a big proponent of the power of handwritten notes. In Doug’s words in HBR,

“Look for opportunities to celebrate. My executive assistants and I would spend a good 30 to 60 minutes a day scanning my mail and our internal website looking for news of people who have made a difference at Campbell’s. Get out your pen. Believe it or not, I have sent roughly 30,000 handwritten notes to employees over the last decade, from maintenance people to senior executives. I let them know that I am personally paying attention and celebrating their accomplishments.(I send handwritten notes too because well over half of our associates don’t use a computer).

I also jump on any opportunities to write to people who partner with our company any time I meet with them. It’s the least you can do for people who do things to help your company and industry. On the face of it, writing handwritten notes may seem like a waste of time. But in my experience, they build goodwill and lead to higher productivity.” 

Overall Takeaway: Senior leaders actions are amplified. They have a huge influence on engagement through the Founders Effect.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Here is Adam Grant on Youtube at the Googleplex talking about “Give and Take“:

What does Joe Namath, Gumby and The Container Store have in common?

The setting was Miami in 1969

G.2.11_headline-joe-guaranteed-it_smThe NFL was to face the AFL in the Super Bowl. The New York Jets of the AFL were the underdogs against the Baltimore Colts. The Don Shula led Colts were 7 to 1 favorites and the spread was nearly three touchdowns. Few people other than Joe Namath gave the Jets a shot. Egged on by a Colts fan while giving a dinner speech, Namath went as far as guaranteeing the victory. Joe had watched Colts film all week and saw opportunity. The team hadn’t changed their defensive scheme all season. Namath realized he could read their setup before snapping the ball and adjust accordingly. He pioneered the type of reads and changing of plays that we now see every Sunday from the likes of Manning and Brady.

There is a reason why they play the game. The lowly Jets upset the Colts 16-7 in Super Bowl III. Namath was praised for his intelligent plan and adjustments. “Namath’s quickness took away our blitz,” said Colt coach Don Shula after the game. “He beat our blitz more than we beat him.” The headlines lauded Namath. One ran across two-pages:

“Famed Colt Defense Was Picked to Pieces…By Broadway Joe, Ruler of the Jet Set.”

Namath exhibited flexibility. Reading the situation in the moment and bending accordingly. It would be the shining moment of his pro career.

Enter The Container Store

A good friend relayed a story about a recent visit to The Container Store. She mentioned that she strolled into the store around noon on a Saturday. As a rule she said, “I never go to The Container Store on a weekend. I had hoped to get in their early Saturday morning, but one or two things conspired against me. Now I was kicking myself before even entering the store. I knew it would be packed.” Upon finishing her shopping she peered at the long checkout lines. More internal grumbling. Then a store associate offered to check her out. He immediately sensed her dissatisfaction. He addressed the situation and apologized about the delay. He then proactively offered to give her a 10% discount on her purchase. She walked out of the store in a better mood and as an advocate. My friend would share that story many times and even recite it in front of 40 senior level marketing executives at one of my recent talks.

Actions speak louder than words

3135069-8412017809-gumbyThe founders of The Container Store, Garrett Boone and Kip Tindell, wanted to create an environment that empowered employees and allowed them to act with their best judgement. In order to drive this home, the store has an award called The Gumby (#459 in the Green Goldfish Project). Being Gumby is doing whatever needs to be done to serve a customer, help a co-worker or complete a task. It’s not getting ”bent out of shape” when a customer makes a request of you that you’d rather not do. And it’s also about bouncing back quickly after having a tough encounter with a challenging customer.

Every Container Store employee is strategically trained to think flexibly to solve customer problems. According to Myra Golden, “The company does this with an air of excitement by using the 1950′s Gumby clay-figure TV star. The company constantly reinforces the Gumby culture by having a 6 foot tall wooden Gumby in the lobby at the company’s headquarters and giving away the annual Gumby award to the employee who exemplifies flexibility.” Even the cafe at headquarters is called the Gumby Cafe.

imgres-1With great power comes great responsibility. Container Store understands they need to arm store associates with the requisite skills. The spend over 150 hours a year training each staff member. That’s nearly 20 times the industry average. Part of that training is situational awareness such as being able to read a customer. In the words of Kirk Kanzanjian in Driving Loyalty, “Those in the restaurant business refer to this as ‘having eyes for’ or ‘reading your table.’ Chains such as T.G.I. Friday’s and Romano’s Macaroni Grill have realized the importance of this and now regularly train service staff to make note of body language and off-hand remarks.”

Addressing issues immediately

When a customer has an issue or is experiencing displeasure, its important to address it immediately. A recent study by NOVO1 and ASU’s Center for Services Leadership concluded that only 21% of customers who complain are satisfied with the ultimate resolution. The onus is on the business to correct the situation. This takes employees who are attune to the feelings of a customer and who are empowered to fix it. According to Micah Solomon, “The Ritz-Carlton has for many years given staff  $2,000 of discretion (yes, this is per employee per guest) to be used to solve any customer complaint in the manner the employee feels is appropriate.”

Takeaway: Joe Namath doesn’t win the Super Bowl a.) if he isn’t trained to read the Colts Defense and b.) if his coach doesn’t give him the ability to change the play at scrimmage. The Container Store doesn’t win an advocate if a.) they don’t train their employees to be situationally aware and b.) if they don’t empower them to rectify a situation. Do you demonstrate flexibility like Joe, Container Store and Gumby?

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Here is a YouTube video of Jeanne Bliss talking about the Gumby Award:

An empowering employee program with No Boundaries @webershandwick

Last week I gave a webinar for the PRSA on driving employee engagement that was hosted by the Counselors Academy. We reviewed the 15 ways to establish a world class agency culture from my latest book, “What’s Your Green Goldfish.”

I shared the ingredients of a Green Goldfish and how these little signature extras for employees can reinforce culture. We discussed why:

  • Showing you care drives engagement.
  • Engagement is key to growth.
  • The ingredients of a “Green Goldfish” create a stable environment, build high-functioning teams and empower employees to do great things.

The fifteen ways to drive employee engagement are broken up into the three B’s:

Basics, Belonging and Building

green goldfish 15 ways to drive engagement

I shared a number of agency examples from the likes of Coyne PR, Weber Shandwick, Peppercom, The PR Freelancer, Allen & Gerritsen, PARTNER + simons and The Nerdery. One of examples of building during the presentation was Weber Shandwick Minneapolis. They were Green Goldfish #310 in the Project for a number of programs developed by their Employee Action Group (EAG). Each month the EAG sponsors fun events to celebrate successes and encourage teamwork. Previous events have included the annual “Shankwick” golf outing and their own version of “The Amazing Race,” appropriately renamed “The Shanmazing Race.”

One of the newer initiatives is the “No Boundaries” program. The program awards three employees each $1,000 and five days off to pursue a professional goal. Selections are made based on quality of the application essay, degree of professional enrichment and time of year requested for the journey.

weber shandwick no boundaries

Past program participants have:

  • swam with tiger sharks in the Bahamas
  • attended a writers conference
  • volunteered in a Nicaraguan health clinic
  • ran their first marathon
  • snapped a photo journey in South Dakota
  • took improv training lessons
  • embarked on a culinary tour of Tuscany
  • attended the Burning Man festival
  • traveled to Honduras to work for Soles4Souls

Participants in the program contribute to a blog so they can share their experiences with their colleagues.

Empowering Creativity

I love how “No Boundaries” gives a few agency folks each year the opportunity to pursue a passion. But why not push it further? The integrated marketing agency Fast Horse offers a similar program to all its employees. Fast Horse (#297) employees enjoy $500 a year  with a program called Muse It or Lose It. All employees are eligible for a stipend to help underwrite creative endeavors that spark creativity away from the office.

How are you driving employee engagement at your office? What’s Your Green Goldfish?

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Want some additional examples? Here’s a slideshare deck talking about the 15 ways to drive engagement and reinforce culture:

20 questions about employee engagement and the green goldfish

voiance employee engagement webinarEarlier this month I had the opportunity to be part of a webinar about employee engagement hosted by Voiance. The webinar was entitled, Driving Employee Engagement: 15 Keys to a World Class Office Culture

There were a number of questions that were posed by webinar attendees that unfortunately didn’t get addressed during the hour long session. As a little lagniappe today, I wanted to do two things:

What's Your Green Goldfish1. Give away free copies of the Green Goldfish eBook on Amazon. Click here to download your complimentary copy. The offer will expire at midnight PST on 10/24.

2. Answer those questions:

#1 – Coping with the cost

Q: We are a free transportation company. Being unique is hard to find and so is the cost. Any ideas? Also can i get a copy of this slide show?

A: Good question. I’d concentrate on simple elements like recognition and team building. Many times these things can be extremely low cost. Like one unique award that gets passed around. Or a fun team building exercise like a smoothie recipe contest.

Here is a replay of the webinar on Viddler an here’s a slideshare for the Green Goldfish.

#2 – What if we’re union

Q: We have a union here and as such my hands are very tied. Do you have any ideas in that area? We are no tallowed to just give extra time off or anything like that.

A: I think transparency is key when dealing with unions. Check out this post featuring a Brazilian company called SEMCO. They have unions, yet they go above and beyond to develop trust with their partners.

#3 – Dealing with Negative Employees

Q: How do you deal with a bad attitude? When you have tried numerous avenues, but they keep negativity on the workroom floor?

A: It’s always difficult with people who perpetuate a negative attitude. Hopefully you can try to manage the necessary behaviors. This was done effectively in the case of Sky Lakes. See this case study to see how they increased positivity with one simple rule:

#4 – Creating a recognition program that involves employees

Q: We currently recognize individuals for production-based metrics, but are considering a recognition program to reward those who contribute most to the morale of the call center. My first thought was that the winners should be voted on by their peers, but I’m concerned about it turning in to a popularity contest and missing the point. Can you suggest a better way? Or would the engagement be better by having direct input to who wins?

A: I don’t think there is a silver bullet here. You are correct. You don’t want the program to become a popularity contest, yet you want the employees to have input. It may make sense to have a bit of both. Whereby employees nominate other employees based on specific criteria and behavior that adds to morale. A manager or program director reviews the nomination for approval. This adds an element of control. Managers would also have the ability to nominate employees based on merit.

#5 – Making the time for employee engagement

Q: With a do more with less mindset how can you motivate and retain employees. Q: Our people are very busy and don’t have time to even complete their day to day tasks, how do we get them to make time for some of these fabulous “little things”?

A: Many of the ways you can execute green goldfish don’t involve $$$. But they do require time and commitment. Organizations need to make sure they put principles and culture above efficiency. Culture isn’t a campaign, it’s a commitment.

#6 – Empowering managers

Q: How do you get managers to trust and empower their direct reports?

A: The biggest mistake organizations make is not spending enough time to develop effective managers. 75% of employees that voluntarily leave an organization don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses. You need to train effective managers and provide the necessary support systems for employees.

#7 – Overcoming skepticism

Q: How do you overcome initial skepticism that people will have when these new ideas are introduced?

A: There is always going to be a level of skepticism and in some cases, outright resistance. You can improve the implementation by sharing the reasoning behind new programs or policies. Creating alignment and getting employees behind new initiatives is key. Some companies have ambassador programs. The key employees (ambassadors) help lead the way with new changes.

#8 – The link between engagement and feedback

Q: One slide referenced the link between employee engagement and feedback – is the increased level of feedback the actual cause of the increased engagement or are they just related in the sense that companies that show higher levels of one tend to show higher levels of the other as well? Q: How do you engage employees when the “sticky” conversations seem to lean more towards the negative, even though the positive is constantly being reinforced?

A: This is a great chicken or egg question. I’m not sure if it’s the actual cause or just a behavior that correlates with engagement. There are two elements of feedback. How often it’s given and the ratio of positive to negative. Here are the takeaways from recent studies. The Losada line refers to the ratio of positive / negative. It typically needs to be at least 2.9 to 1 ratio for feedback to be effective. Employees that tend to get feedback more often, are more engaged. Accentuate the positive. To steal a famous line from Dale Carnegie, “A drop of honey gathers more bees than a gallon of gall (vinegar)”

#9 – Obtaining Feedback

Q: Have you found that leveraging employee surveys to find out what they want is valuable or is it better to communicate to them what the company is doing for them, or a combination of the two?

A: It’s probably a combination. It makes sense to do both quantitative and qualitative research. Surveys, focus groups and interviews. Sometimes you can’t rely on the employees to tell you what they want. To quote Henry Ford, ““If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Sometimes you need to roll things out on a test basis and see what sticks.

#10 – Dealing with staff reductions 

Q: We have recently had to reduce our staff. Aside from being very transparent about our current financials, how can I help employees feel more secure and reduce the negative energy/fall out from that?

A: It’s difficult to reduce fallout. You do your best to communicate how the company is moving forward to meet the challenges. The biggest factor that impact engagement is when employees believe senior management cares and acts in their best interest.

#11 – Going ROWE

Q: I would love to implement the Results-Only-Work-Environment type of approach and allow employees to be responsible to get work done only/ no schedule, however we have scheduled customer service phone hours that constantly need coverage from 830-430p and a very small employee population to get this done. Do you have any suggestions how to implement the type of results only culture but ensure our phone hours are covered? Q: How do you add flexibilty in a call center?

A: A ROWE workplace doesn’t work for every organization. Especially those in retail or with coverage issues. If you are interested in learning more about going ROWE, I’d recommend checking out Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson’s site.

#12 – Getting Unstuck

Q: What is good way to initiate culture change within a “stuck” organization?

A: Here is a good post on how to progress through change: Measure, Manage and Monitor:

#13 – Connecting over the phone

Q: How do you engage in the two-foot area between business and customer when doing business over the phone?

A: In many ways it’s the same. The value is created between the front line employee and the customer. It’s about making a connection. Here’s a good post on the process of making that emotional connection:

#14 – The biggest “don’t do”

Q: In your experience, what is the biggest “don’t do” regarding employee engagement. Something we can stop doing today to help engagement?

A: Good point. Sometimes it’s a matter of stopping something you currently do. Try “killing a stupid rule.” Check out this article from Inc. Magazine on how to do so.

#15 – How do I impact a team?

Q: Many of these are company-driven which is great but not all companies have bought in to these ideas. How can I, as a manager, start implementing my own “engagement” program within my own team? Q: How do I impact a team on an individual level, versus an entire organization?

A: Focus on transparency, flexibility, recognition and team building.

#16 – Convincing senior management 

Q: How do you convince a very traditional, conservative management team to embrace or even consider these “small things” we have liability issues, workplace constraints and mostly, hesitant management….love all the ideas, wonder how to implement (caring versus business); we are 100K plus workforce company.

A: You need to make the business case for employee engagement programs. People are motivated by three factors in business: 1. Things that make them money, 2. Things that save them money, and 3. Things that make them look good. Here’s an example of how Aetna saved over a million dollars by doing a little extra for employees.

#17 – Empowering local offices

Q: When you have offices around a large geographic area – do you empower the locals with their own programs that work, or provide guidance from corporate?

A: You have to provide your offices with latitude and support. There is a great example from the South African Insurance provider Etana. They let innovation come from the bottom up and then do there best to support it.

#18 – Manufacturing Examples

Q: Do you have any ideas for techniques that may work in large manufacturing type workforces?

A: One of my favorite examples from the entire Project comes from a manufacturer called Semco. They are featured in this post.

#19 – Virtual teams

Q: Any suggestions for managing a virtual team that doesn’t have a lot of face time?

A: No easier answer here. You need to make the extra effort with remote staff. By virtue of being virtual, they are going to challenged when it comes to team building and recognition. Take additional steps to bridge the gap.

#20 – Being fair

Q: Sticky: Making a gesture “memorable” and “talkable” is great. But the team environment at my company is very “me vs them” – so much that giving to one employee and not all employees would (has) cause discord. Advice?

A: As a rule you don’t need to treat everyone the same, but you need to treat everyone fairly. I’d be sensitive to your team, but at the same time you should do what’s right for the organization.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Not sure if you’d like the complimentary eBook, here is a preview in Slideshare: