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As we head into 2017, the millennial generation is now the largest domestically and worldwide, outnumbering even the Baby Boom generation from whose loins they sprung, according to Pew, which tracks such things.

So it's more important than ever to be sure that your customer service practices and customer experience design are ready to serve these young customers the way they want to be served. The time to get this right is short; the millennial generation, also known as Gen Y, has a purchase power as well that will soon equal and then eclipse that of the Baby Boomers. To compound the effect, it’s not just consumer (B2C) dollars they’ll have under their control. These young customers are also becoming decision makers at major corporations, thus controlling purse strings that affect the success and failure of those of you with B2B companies as well.

With the impending new year, let me offer a year-end recap on how to provide the best customer experience and customer service for millennials, adapted from my Forbes Media ebook on the subject, Your Customer is the Star: How to Make Millennials, Boomers and Everyone In Between Fall in Love With Your Business.

1.Your customer-facing technology needs to be intuitive, and it needs to simply work.Millennials have grown up with digital devices that bundle communication, entertainment, shopping, mapping and education all in one. From an early age, smartphone use has been the norm. Millennials have always had Internet at home and in school. MP3 players have long offered them ubiquitous music options. Naturally, then, millennials embrace and align themselves with technology.

Because of this identification with technology, millennials tend to adopt new technology more quickly compared with the more skeptical approach of previous generations. Technology has become far more user friendly during millennials’ lifetimes, particularly when compared to what previous generations encountered. The relentless focus on simplifying the user interface at Apple, Amazon, Google and other less visible technology players has set a new standard of intuitiveness across the tech industry that millennials accept as the norm. Businesses should be careful not to throw clunky, alienating technology, systems, or processes at these customers and expect patience or understanding as customers struggle to find a workaround.

2. The customer experience—and the purchasing decision–is now a social experience.Millennials express their sociability online as well as in real life (“IRL”), particularly in the many arenas where online and offline activities and circles of friends overlap. Offline, millennials are more likely than other generations to shop, dine and travel with groups, whether these are organized interest groups, less formal groupings of peers or excursions with extended family, according to Boston Consulting Group data. Online, their sharing habits on Facebook, Snapchat and other social sites, and the opinions they offer on Yelp, TripAdvisor and Amazon reflect their eagerness for connection, as do their electronic alerts to friends and followers (via Foursquare et al.) that show off where they are, where they’re coming from and where they’re headed—online alerts that reflect and affect behavior in the physical world.
 

This social behavior has big implications for those of us who serve customers. Millennials tend to make buying decisions collaboratively, and they don’t consume food, beverages, services, products or media in silence. They eat noisily (so to speak) and very visually. They review, blog and Tumblr, update Wikipedia entries and post Youtube, Vine and Instagram videos. Often these posts concern their consumption activities, interests and aspirations. All told, as Boston Consulting Group reports, “the vast majority of millennials report taking action on behalf of brands and sharing brand preferences in their social groups.”

3. Your brand needs to be open to customer collaboration and co-creation. Millennials enjoy the possibility of collaborating with businesses and brands, as long as they believe that their say matters to the company in question. They don’t necessarily see a clear boundary between the customer and the brand, the customer and marketer, and the customer and service provider. Alex Castellarnau at Dropbox, the popular file transfer service, put it to me this way: With millennials, “a new brand, service or product is only started by the company; it’s finished by the customers. Millennials are a generation that wants to co-create the product, the brand, with you. Companies that understand this and figure out ways to engage in this co-creation relationship with millennials will have an edge.”

4. You need  offer self-service and crowdsourced customer service options. Building the right experience for this new generation of customers requires you to think hard about an uncomfortable subject: where human employees are helpful to customers, and where they just get in the way. Today’s customers often do want you out of the way. Millennials, and those who share a millennial outlook, hold different ideas about where human-powered service fits into the customer experience. Younger customers, through years of experience with online and self-service solutions, have grown used to the way technology can reduce the need for human gatekeepers to ensure accuracy and manage data. So the last thing they want is for your employees to gum up the works without adding value.

5. Paradoxically, millennial customers also crave a true, authentic, personalized experience as customers.  Millennial customers crave the joys of adventure and discovery, whether epic or everyday. Millennials often view commerce and even obligatory business travel as opportunities rather than burdens, due to the adventures that can be had along the way. I’m reluctant to chalk up this phenomenon to youthful wanderlust alone, because the breadth of experiences this generation craves suggests there’s something more at work. For example:

• When shopping, millennials they prefer an “experiential” retail environment, where shopping is more than a transaction and the pleasure of being in the store isn’t limited to the goods that customers take home.

• When millennials dine out, for example, they’re often in search of something exotic, adventuresome, memorable or new to explore during their dining experience. This has helped transform cuisine searches (“tastespotting”) into an adventure—and food truck-following (a concept sure to evoke fears of stomachache in some of their elders) into its own culture.

6. They care about your values as a company. Millennials integrate their beliefs and causes into their choice of companies to support, their purchases and their day-to-day interactions. More than 50% of millennials make an effort to buy products from companies that support the causes they care about, according to research from Barkley, an independent advertising agency. And they’re twice as likely to care about whether or not their food is organic than are their nonmillennial counterparts, according to Boston Consulting Group. When you consider how money-strapped many millennials remain, their willingness to put a premium on such issues is striking. And millennials are concerned with more than political and ethical issues. They also care about what’s genuine and authentic. This interest falls somewhere between a purely aesthetic preference and a search for honesty, for truth. And it’s a powerful force for motivating millennial customers.

Source forbes   

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I recently read a report about the consulting market in the GCC. Valued at about 2.7 $billion. obviously the lion share goes to KSA with 1.25 $billion, growing 9.4%.

However, what caught my attention is Oman. A country with roughly a population of 4.5Million and a GDP of 70$billions. The Omani economy is mostly trade led with high exports. In 2015, Oman has spent $100 million on consulting services, a 7% growth versus previous year.

The reasons behind this increase in GCC spend is the need to step-up their strategic capabilities in various domains to offset slowly their economy's dependence on oil & gas towards knowledge-based economies but also to be able to compete more strategically in the global markets.

In Lebanon, a country with almost similar population size, Per Capita GDP and an economy focused primarily on Services, most companies are yet to embrace the concept of investing on developing their strategic business skills & capacity building by tapping on the intellectual capital embedded in consulting services.

The reasons are many and are also to be found in the traditional mindset of 'doing things in-house' as a way to save money but also as an ego-centric form of saying that “we don't lack the capabilities and we don’t need anyone to tell us how to do things” type of self-reassuring/bragging statement.

And when they do ask for advise, they want to pay the cheapest possible because the painful truth is that they value the returns on Human's intellectual capital, & knowledge in general, way much lower compared to assets or financial capital. Whereas in the west, intellectual capital, innovations & patents are worth much more than the fixed assets of any company.

After all every successful company in the world was built around a great/ big idea and then scaled using applied knowledge, creativity sound strategic decisions.

Let us correlate the above with few recent facts:

-      Today the leading French newspaper shockingly revealed: "half of the banking sector deposits of $155billions is held by less than 1% of the total depositors”. The IMF has warned against this salient inequalities of wealth distribution.

-      According to to 2015 World Economic Forum competitiveness report, Lebanon ranked 101st out of 140 countries. Ranking 61/140 in terms of business sophistication and 95/140 on innovation.

This tells with some degree of certainty, that a substantial number of the country’s top economic actors are only interested in investing on traditional tools and the minimum they can on IC build up in view of maximizing and accumulating profits in the banks. A very short-sighted approach with potentially devastating effects on the country’s economic and social well being.

They are ready to invest on tangible assets, that usually depreciate fast, due to rapid changing technology but little on building up their intangibles such as strategic business capabilities (not only technical skills); Knowledge, R&D, Business model innovation, digital, customer-centric processes & policies and Customer experience all that create sustainable long term value, new employments, wealth creation and increase the stakeholders returns.

This is very awkward in our times when you think that the biggest global driver of value today is innovation which is by definition the outcome of intellectual capital and knowledge-based economy. P&G, PepsiCo, Google, Apple & Samsung to name just few examples are not competing on Assets or Capital anymore. They do on the best talents, knowledge accumulation, acquiring Intellectual capital and attracting strategic advisors & hiring of consulting firms to design & develop the most innovative customer value propositions via cutting edge products & services.

Uber and Airbnb both with astronomical capitalized market values don't own a single asset(cars or hotels). Their success lies in their capabilities to capture human needs and ideate simple solutions, scaled using existing knowledge and technology. This gives food for thought and illustrate my point.

In Lebanon, most observed companies keep doing the same things and expect different results. There is a tendency to blame all shortcomings on the economic & political situation. Only part of it is true. The other part is that customers have changed with the world around them, they are connected, demanding and expecting different experiences, to be valued, understood and served on multi-channels with consistent quality levels. They want their brands to surprise them & delight them but also to play a meaningful role in their life. They want to live and work in a stimulating, creative and dynamic ever learning environments.

To adapt to these customers’ demands companies equally need to design a growth strategy that mandates to review and upgrade their strategic capabilities & acquire new skills & knowledge that is usually lacking or not widely available internally. So accepting to call upon outside professional services of consultants & advisors must be embraced & paid generously as it’s the fastest way to bridge the knowledge gap, acquire and adopt best practices to increase their competitive advantages.

Luckily this is changing slowly as we are now witnessing more & more local companies driven by a new generation of leaders with an open mind to these facts and willing to mutate from traditional capital-based model to knowledge-based one.

We are blessed to be working with some of the country’s top businesses and new leaders who understand the importance of reinventing their organization, adopting new mindset, listening to their customers, sourcing strategic capabilities and trying new ideas.They ask us to help them build internal knowledge, innovate their strategies & services and even create innovation design labs so they build sustainable and differentiated value propositions.

So we hope more companies would start believing and embracing the value of knowledge so the above facts and performance indicators about our country can be improved substantially and make Lebanon with its immense human capital potential and creativity an example of a ‘knowledge country’.

Joe Ayoub- Business design/brandcell consulting.

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In the business world, it’s become commonplace to improve relationships with customers by improving the customer experience. As products and services have become increasingly commoditised, providing the best customer experience has emerged as a key competitive differentiator. Companies vie for customer loyalty through personalized offerings, rewards programs, and one-to-one marketing initiatives—all in the name of increasing brand equity. And that’s as it should be. After all, customer loyalty drives business profitability.

However, in the quest to create exceptional experiences for customers, businesses often overlook a critical business fundamental: if you want happy customers, you have to have happy employees—and that comes from providing your employees with an exceptional experience too. Yet all too often there is a misalignment of one degree or another between the experience companies create for their customers and what their employees experience in their everyday work life. Who sees this misalignment better than anyone else? Employees.

The snowball effect

When companies shortchange employees in any number of ways, there’s a snowball effect. Employees become resentful and they disengage. That resentment and disengagement eventually finds its way to customers in the form of poor service and inferior products.

Adding to the disconnect is the fact that employees are customers too—of their company’s products, and potentially of competitors’ products as well. As an employer, wouldn’t you prefer your employees use and champion your products and services? If your relationship with them is poor, like any other customer, they’re likely to take their business elsewhere.

Treat employees like customers

Some forward-thinking companies have recognised that the foundation for a great customer experience is a great employee experience. Leading companies like Microsoft, Best Buy, and Capitol One are taking unique approaches to building relationships with employees, much like they’ve built relationships with customers.

Essentially, these companies know that the solution to the employee versus the customer experience disconnect is right in their wheelhouse—treat employees like customers. This effort pays off in more ways than one. Research has shown that a 10% increase in employee engagement levels can boost a company’s customer service levels by 5% and profits by 2%. Not only that, in 2015 a multi-year study by Glassdoor Research indicated companies with a high level of employee engagement out-perform the S&P 500 by 122%.

In my next post, I’m going take a deeper look into the seeds of experience-driven disengagement and show how it can impact your business.

Source accenture  

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1- Bain & Company: “Our colleagues are legitimately smart and always interested in helping you progress your career.”

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2- Facebook: 
“Great benefits, culture, mission. There is a lot to love about working at Facebook. Most employees believe strongly in the mission.”
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3-Boston Consulting Group: “Great career progression, opportunity to learn, collaborative culture, very smart teams.”

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4- Google: 
“Smart people, data-driven decisions and culture, a mission I can feel good about when I go to work.” 
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5- World Wide Technology: 
“Extremely caring towards their employees as well as their customers. The benefits are amazing."
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6-Fast Enterprises:  
"The family atmosphere makes working together as a team satisfying and successful, as well as the out of office adventures and team building."

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7-In-N-Out Burger:
"Always busy, time flies, with hard work you move up pretty quickly, everyone is so nice and friendly, great positive atmosphere."
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8-LinkedIn:
"They truly invest in the professional development of employees. Very proactive at making sure that you're in a role you want to be in."

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9-Adobe:
"Great company culture, benefits and overall atmosphere to work. People are very open, knowledgeable and potential for advancement is very much available"

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10-Power Home Remodeling:
"The career growth opportunity is outstanding. Everyone in the office genuinely cares about each other and wants to see you be successful. Communication with upper management is incredibly easy also."

power-home-remodeling-group-squarelogo-1460060781152.png

Source glassdoor  



 
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Brand intimacy is a new paradigm that leverages and strengthens the emotional bonds between a person and a brand among six markers that identify the character and nature of ultimate brand relationships: Fulfillement, Identity, Enhancement, Ritual, Nostalgia and Indulgence.

1- Apple

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2- Disney

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3- Amazon

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4- Harley Davidson

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5- Netflix

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6- Nintendo

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7- Samsung

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8- Whole foods

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9- BMW

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10-Toyota


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Source mblm
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Relationships make the world go round—from that first flicker of attraction in high school or college to walking down the aisle on your wedding day. From landing your first customer to striking the business deal that takes your startup to the next level.
 

Relationships are key to every aspect of our lives.
 

So why is it that so many business owners rest on their laurels when it comes to customer relationships?
 

How can we future-proof ourselves against developments in the world of customer relationships? Well, the first step is to understand them.

New platforms, new opportunities

Advances in technology have blown customer interaction wide open. While such interactions were once limited to face-to-face in-store interactions, telephone conversations via customer service channels, or email marketing communications, modern customer relationships are played out across a variety of different fields. These include:

Social media

Social media is a vital tool in your customer relationship arsenal. Over 80% of adults in the United States are engaged via social media.

Adopting a diverse approach by utilizing the benefits of Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, and others pays dividends for businesses.

Mobile devices

Mobile devices are similarly important. The percentage of online interaction handled via mobile devices is increasing year-on-year. Mobile marketing revenues now exceed $20 billion.

Optimizing your online presence for mobile browsing, deploying applications to support the needs of customers, and integrating mobile into your consumer nurturing strategies are effective ways to prepare for the future of customer relationships.

Feedback loops

Developing feedback loops are also important. High-quality communication transforms your client base from a steady source of income to a rich resource of information which you can use to develop the services you offer.

Build feedback opportunities into the structure of your customer interactions – either via CTAs deployed amongst your content marketing pieces, or by reaching out directly after a purchase – and use the information gathered to hone the service you provide.

CRM software

It’s not so easy to go it alone with so much data to process across a variety of different fields and metrics. This is why a good quality piece of customer relationship management – or CRM – software can help to lighten the load.

Track customer interactions, iron out grievances, and optimize your firm for success in the market; a good CRM platform is worth its weight in proverbial gold.

The all-important efficiency factor

A business cannot survive without its customers, but nurturing relationships with those customers must be cost-effective. This is the endless balancing act; the high-wire performance that we must undergo each and every day.

It all comes down to value. Automating all of your processes, blasting out a ton of identical marketing emails to clients, and stripping back your customer service and nurturing departments is surely the cheapest way to develop customer relationships, but is it effective?

Of course not. No one wants to be treated like that, and this approach will simply turn customers off.

Your customers are human beings; they respond well to a personal service and to high levels of care. It is up to your department to place a value on that level of care, and work to achieve it in a way that is not only cost-light, but also efficient and effective.

Source Digital list mag

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How often have you been to a reputable store or service company, hoping you will get the right product with the pampering service you feel entitled to as a ‘regular’ - or shall I say ‘true loyal’ customer? Instead, you are quickly disillusioned by the lack of proper attention, poor display of product knowledge, and bare minimum service.

 

Yet as you proceed to check-out, you will proudly present the store loyalty card to earn points. Points that you will likely forget about, or lose track calculating and translating them into an actual return of value on your loyalty.

 

This is probably the only positive note you will take from your visit, having spent a substantial amount of money in a short amount of time. So, you leave without feeling as though you have been recognized as a true loyal customer.

The question that always arises when facing situations like this is:

 

“Why do these companies invest so much in building loyalty program systems and fighting for share of voice, and so little on building a genuine, simple yet efficient service experiences that delight customers?”  After all, it is the little things that count, right?  “Why these companies spend so much energy & money on building loyalty program systems and spend large advertising & promotional budgets to fight for share of voice and so little on building a true, simple yet efficient experience that delights customers & makes them spend more money, repeat their visits and refer friends & peers?”

 

Why don’t they invest their resources in better recruitment, competitive salaries, better work environments, incentives and training to engage their staff? Why don’t they try to understand and recognize their customers’ needs, aspirations and expectations, and deliver on those consistently?

 

Treating the staff and the customers equally poor seems like a bad retention strategy, which these companies believe can be compensated by offering discounts or rewarding customers with a Chinese toaster for spending the equivalent of the latest iPhone!

 

Covering up poor customer experience with ‘points’ won’t retain customers. Good service will.

 

Companies might think that they have customers trapped in their loyalty program and this will eliminate the need to invest in improving or innovating the aspects of the service experience that matter most to customers.

This business myopia presupposes that the company is in a monopolistic situation or has a unique offering that brings in clients, regardless of service quality.

 

Very few companies are so privileged, but if one compares their loyalty schemes, most of them are almost identical and offer no true competitive advantage!

 

So, what does collecting points achieve when all the important milestones of the experience are less than satisfactory? Not much, beyond pushing customers to establish an opportunistic relationship with these companies based on deals and bargain hunting.

 

Services can drive loyalty up. Or down. People will come because they like your product, but leave because they detest your service.

 

True loyalty cannot be bought. It must be earned!

 

Customers do not actually consider their purchase of a product or service as ‘loyalty’ to a brand – they are loyal to their own needs – selecting what works in their best interest. Yet, strangely enough, companies still invest billions to ‘buy’ their customers’ loyalty.

Most of today’s programs barely go beyond a transactional relationship, which is based on a superficial understanding of customers. Designing generic or ‘off-the-shelf’ schemes that do not excite customers, and sending out mass emails or SMS offers (that often end up in junk mail) are insufficient.

 

Good service is a powerful way to identify, attract, retain and grow true brand advocates. A better customer experience, including simplified interactions and a feeling that the brand actually cares, would lead to true loyalty that generates consistent revenue growth and costs less to establish.

 

Never assume. Observe and talk to customers in order to understand them.

 

Use service design and customer management tools in conjunction with the data you collected to make their lives easier, to give them personalized treatment and to provide them an experience that reinforces the relationship they have with you. Interacting in such a mindset with a customer is the best way to build a lasting and lucrative relationship.

 

The most commonly practiced customer engagement bait are the discounts or earned points flashed in front of them.  However, the majority of customers say that what they really want is special treatment and well-tailored offers. They want to feel like they matter to your company.

 

Amazingly, the majority of companies accumulate but do not use customer and loyalty program data to develop a proper customer engagement strategy.  This strategy should outline why, when, how the company is to connect with its customers to provide better experiences.  Without such a strategy, it would be exceedingly difficult to build stronger relationships with their customers that leverage their lifetime value.

 

Think ‘customer first’ by mapping a solid and differentiated customer experience strategy, and enjoy the kind of loyalty that generates greater share of wallet, lower costs to serve and the opportunity for customers to share their stories of your brand with families and peers.

Joe Ayoub - Brandcell CEO

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Companies in Lebanon are always praised for being resilient. While this is definitely a quality needed in our country and region, it brought with it a malicious side.
 

According the National Geographic, When faced with imminent danger or death, certain species of ducks will play dead. They freeze any movement, fake death and compress their body structure and temperature until they are out of danger. It’s called tonic immobility, and scientists think that the response is a defense mechanism. Unfortunately, it’s not a very good one: These death-feigning fowl are often eaten anyway.


 So let's imagine then what would happen when this danger last longer than the species had envisioned?

As it is immobilized, it looses its reflexes for normal agility, mobility and exploration for food/growth as well as any sense of hope in surviving to the future. It focuses only on the short term.

 This is exactly the negative side of continuous resilience mode that practiced over a long period could plunge companies in a perpetual status quo that becomes the norm and fossilizes mindsets  even long after danger fades.

 

One of the main side effect is obviously loosing any sense of initiative that is new or unfamiliar as it will be considered a risk taking even if probability of success exceeds by far chances of failure. As failure is lived in our culture  as a weakness exposing self to danger of extermination rather as a training for fitness and prosperity over the mid to long term.

 

The point is that resilience without an alertness on its side effects and establishing a continuous exploration and agility drills and exercises is equally fatal as external threats to any organization.

 Practically top management need to stop using the political and economical downturn as an all out excuse to fossilize their organization and people and bring to a halt any sense of creative and uncharted initiative whether internal or externally induced.

 That is, to a substantial extent, why in my view our youth are emigrating. It's not all true that they do so because of lack of vacancies in our country. The truth is that they can't see themselves prospering and flourishing in a rigid and constantly tuned on short terms and overwhelming negative survival mindset work environment.

 One of the most frustrating and irritating facts is when established and high performing companies refuse upfront to embrace new ideas and suggestions brought to them by theprogressive thinkers and just want to do business as usual. The usual being few decades old! They claim being different yet they copy the familiar and safe in every aspects and at every level.

These companies have lost their childhood like sense of curiosity and exploration. They want to know and control the outcome of any initiative before they embark on the journey!

Why ? Fear that became their  driving force and second nature. The comfort of safety versus the thrill of new experience. This is where the call comes. Established companies have a duty, yes duty, to give new ideas and the people behind them a chance!

 They have to embrace them not fight them as without new blood and new thinking they would maybe survive but they won't create joy and excitement for our societies, families, customers and future generations and we will certainly drag behind other nations and markets.

Their duty is to be as much cautious on their values as much as progressive in trying new ways and new techniques for managing change and transformation from the old way to the new. Duty is to create R&D labs, innovation labs, ideas labs. bring talents on board to co-experiment together. Explore the latest techniques and technology that will ensure their healthy longevity, competence and prosperity for all stakeholders.

 What is the cost of trying and prototyping a new way of doing business compared  to the cost of missing the train of progress and differentiation. A question worth asking!

 

Joe Ayoub- Brandcell, Business design consulting.

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Deutsch’s Douglas Van Praet discusses how focus-group feedback, and the whole notion of the consumer, are misguided and how research should focus on understanding the unconscious and improving human lives.


Understanding the unconscious and improving human lives.

Whenever  the word "consumer" is heared, a term unavoidable in marketing, a certain part winces. The label is counterproductive and misguided, suggesting hubris by putting corporate interests over customer concerns. The worst offense is that it presupposes a response you haven’t earned yet. Their purpose is not to consume your product!
Yet this label frames market research, with an emphasis on sales and usage, in other words, the bottom line, market share, or ROI. The ultimate goal is profitability, not helping people better themselves.

How these research studies are done is at sharp odds with what science now knows. The elephant in the room is that the vast majority of our decisions are made unconsciously. What is a no-brainer for any cognitive scientist remains mind-boggling to marketers. The conscious mind is simply not running the show, but we’ve created an entire industry pretending that it does.

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Advertisers are doubling down on this myth, investing in exhaustive investigations of self-reported preferences, attitudes, opinions, and beliefs. These deceptions become guideposts for product and campaign development. For $150 and a ham sandwich, panelists are drilled for hours in formal focus groups before two-way mirrors and cleverly concealed microphones that elicit groupthink and inauthenticity. The best become "professional respondents" glibly dominating groups on the topic du jour—from potato chip to microchip.

What is the problem?

The problem is we’re profoundly social beings having spent 99% of our evolution relying on vital resources from tribal affiliates whose opinions mattered. Group rejection likely meant a death sentence. So it’s no surprise we still only put our best face forward while artfully maneuvering ourselves competitively in the pecking order.

The brain is designed to hide most of our intentions and promote self-confidence, an adaptive function that improves lives and prevents information overload. So we invent stories and believe our lies and confabulations. Social science experiments reveal that we are inherently self-righteous and consistently overrate our knowledge, autonomy, and abilities. We say advertising doesn’t influence us even though sales say otherwise. And we maintain these self-serving delusions when wired to a lie detector, which means we are lying to ourselves and not intentionally to the experimenters!

But marketers cling to these false convictions and post-hoc rationalizations in large-scale quantitative studies that test and track "awareness," "topline" reports that skim the surface because they ignore real motives that lay hidden in the depths of our "unawareness."

This vast data dump is distilled into a target "persona," the "true north" for creative inspiration. Psychologist Carl Jung is turning in his grave because he coined the term to describe the façade we contrive to make an impression on others while concealing our true nature. The persona is the mask of overconfidence that colors reality in our favor to adapt to social situations.

We need to penetrate this veneer. As Jung put it,

"In each of us there is another whom we don’t know." This inner "self" is a term he used to describe the totality of the psyche that includes our unconscious intentions or, in essence, "the real you."


And we all share an inner essence through our DNA. We’re not consumers, eyeballs, non-responders, laggards, Millennials, or Hispanics. We are humans. And by raising our sightline and defining customers more broadly we will not only deepen empathy and relevance but also widen appeal.

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This doesn't imply all research is bad research. Measuring sales and online engagement is very useful because we observe what people do, not what they say they do. And despite the pitfalls of qualitative research we can still observe face-to-face, micro-expressions and body language that belie words. Skilled moderators can unveil hidden agendas and unconscious defenses. But these researchers are rare. Strategists who inspire through traditional methods make subjective leaps beyond the data. They succeed in spite of current research protocols, not because of them.

A 7-step process was developed, shedding human insight on how idea becomes action:

1) Interrupt the Pattern
2) Create Comfort
3) Lead the Imagination
4) Shift the Feeling
5) Satisfy the Critical Mind
6) Change the Associations
7) Take Action

Source Fastco Create
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Balance Goals

Today's top employers are doing much more than providing a good salary and basic benefits to recruit and retain employees. In fact, some employers are trying to empathize with employees' personal needs as much as they focus on their professional needs. You've heard of on-site fitness classes — but how about on-site health clinics? Unlimited vacation is nice — but wouldn't a flextime schedule better match your work-life balance goals?

For companies that offer these and other "personal" benefits, the potential payoff is promising — based on a recent report, UK consultant group Lady Geek found that the most empathetic companies increased in value more than twice as much as the least empathetic companies in 2015.

How do you measure "empathy"? Lady Geeks defines the term as "a cognitive and emotional understanding of others' experiences" and consults clients on how to engage with customers and employees holistically. Their analysis uses a variety of metrics, such as CEO approval ratings, gender ratios on the board, brand controversy (such as scandals and fines) and sentiment on the company's social networks. 

Below are the 10 companies that topped their Global Empathy Index — and a little something to learn about empathetic policies from each.


1. Microsoft

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Headquarters: Redmond, WA

Monetary value: $436.4B*

Number of employees: 118,584

Empathetic policy highlight: Microsoft offers a lab program, Microsoft Garage, which both encourages and supports employees' side gigs and creative ideas. The program allows employees across any department to brainstorm, plan and develop projects outside their primary job or function at Microsoft.

2. Facebook

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Headquarters: Menlo Park, CA

Monetary value: $289.1B

Number of employees: 11,996

Policy highlight: Facebook allows employees to select their own workday start and stop times. The flextime program provides employees with the opportunity to align their hours on the job with their lifestyle, which Facebook believes leads to greater flexibility and productivity.

3. Tesla

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Headquarters: Palo Alto, CA

Monetary value: $29.2B

Number of employees: 12,000

Policy highlight: Tesla pays 100 percent of the direct plan costs for employee health plans. The plans come with high deductibles, but with an in-house medical clinic, employees can avoid unnecessary visits through an on-site clinic visit first.

4. Alphabet (Google)

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Headquarters: Mountain View, CA

Monetary value: $515B

Number of employees: 59,976

Policy highlight: Mom or dad-to-be? Moms get up to 18 weeks of paid leave, while dads get six. To help out even more, the company provides "baby bonding bucks" to help with expenses, such as formula and diapers.

5. Procter & Gamble

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Headquarters: Cincinnati, OH

Monetary value: $213B

Number of employees: 118,000

Policy highlight: Life happens. And when employees are going through a difficult time, Procter & Gamble offers a personal leave of absence. Employees can take up to three months off periodically without pay — but with continued benefits — allowing employees to take time for personal needs and the company to retain valuable talent.

6. Apple

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Headquarters: Cupertino, CA

Monetary value: $587B

Number of employees: 66,000

Policy highlight: Apple prioritizes employee health by offering a wellness center at its corporate headquarters, which includes doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors and dietitians. Don't work full-time or at corporate locations? No worries — even part-time and remote employees qualify for benefits.

7. Johnson & Johnson

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Headquarters: New Brunswick, NJ

Monetary value: $278B

Number of employees: 126,500

Policy highlight: Johnson & Johnson is a leader in understanding how employees' movement while working affects physical health. They've built an ergonomic workplace and implemented strategies to improve productivity as well as long-term health and wellness.

8. Walt Disney

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Headquarters: Burbank, CA

Monetary value: $170.2B

Number of employees: 180,000

Policy highlight: Employees receive free and discounted admission at many Walt Disney theme parks across the country, which can save workers' and their families thousands over the course of one's career with the company (not to mention provide some pretty cool vacations for theme park enthusiasts).

9. Prudential Financial

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Headquarters: Newark, NJ

Monetary value: $35.8B

Number of employees: 48,331

Policy highlight: Being a caregiver for a parent or relative is a tough job, but Prudential makes it easier by providing adult care in an employee or loved one's home. In addition, the company provides geriatric care services (in-home care and facility assessments), elder law services and adult care-giving seminars.

10. Audi

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Headquarters: Herndon, Virginia

Monetary value: $28.8B

Number of employees: 80,000

Policy highlight: The Audi Veterans to Technicians Program is designed to bring veterans back into the workforce. Participants in the program receive individualized support, advice and assistance from a team of dedicated program staff.

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