Thursday, September 19, 2013

Tinkering with Toilet Seats

Continuous improvement has been a part of my thinking since I was a kid.  My wife has a love hate relationship with the tinkering I am constantly engaging in around the house (she hates it until I get it right or put things back the way they were before I started...). Continuous improvement can make a huge difference to your ability to be successful as well as just making your day more enjoyable.  Here are some of my more recent continuous improvement projects and some insights on how to make the best of your improvements.

1 - Motion detecting lights in the bathroom.
I have 4 kids and I was (am) that grumpy old man who yells "Who left the light on?".  So I installed a motion detector light switch. Problem solved! Nope.  It was more effective for short visits and occasionally left someone in the dark resulting in the need to flap arms while seated...  So I improved it until I adjusted it to stay on 5 minutes without movement.  Sure, it wastes some electricity, but 5 minutes is not so bad.  The first implementation of an idea often has unintended consequences, keeping improving until you get the benefit you intended.

2 - Slow close toilet seats
Since 2 of my children are boys, teaching them to lift the lid was tough and teaching them to put it down equally as tough.  And since sometimes this happens late at night SLAM.  So a slow close toilet seat did the trick.  But I haven't replaced all the toilet seats yet. I'm letting each old one wear out first and then "upgrading".  Sometimes it's best to leave technology alone until it has reached the end of its useful life.

3 - Programmable thermostats
Originally I bought the $40 programmable units and they are great.  They follow the programming you enter perfectly. If someone adjusts the temperature, it reverts to the original program when the next time block kicks in.  Count a win for the grumpy old man!?  Nope.  As with all technology, people who are annoyed by a technology find a way to work around the technology. Kim (my wife) "beats" the programming by hitting the HOLD button which keeps the temperature set where she needs it.  The problem is, this HOLD can last for days until someone releases the hold!

4 - The NEST Thermostat
To solve the "HOLD" problem, I bought a NEST which costs 5 times more than any other thermostat I have ever bought, but it is worth it.  It learns from user adjustments. I program it to do what I think is right (which being a male is never right...) and it adapts to what my wife thinks is right (which is of course always right...) so that the initial programming is not set in stone, but reflects her reality (did I really need to say "her", I mean, "her reality" is reality, right?).   Even on the rare occasion my wife isn't 100% correct, NEST lets us adjust the temperature on our phones, tablets, and PC.  (I swear I've never raised the temperature on her without her consent when I'm traveling... ) The best ideas are simple for users and doesn't require users to change or learn much.  

I'm always looking for more things to improve around the house.  My wife, is hoping I find none...

Around the office, we have a minimum acceptable goal of 6 implemented continuous improvement ideas per person, per year. It is impressive to me how many great ideas have been implemented over the last 24 months.  AppleTV's in all our conference rooms, simplified reporting tools for sales partners, and hundreds of other changes have been implemented.

With over 300 people at our office,  we have 1,800+ improvements every year.  Some very small, some large. It doesn't matter.  1,800+ improvements every years adds up to significant improvement.

What improvements can you make to your home or office?   Are you making continuous improvement part of your culture?

Now back to replacing all my light bulbs with CFL...

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Another survey? Really? Imagine My Surprise...

I, like you, am tired of getting surveyed after every purchase, trip, and transaction that I make.  So when Geiger decided to add a survey to our customer experience, I was cautious about the overall value especially given how much work it would take to implement the survey in a meaningful way.   The value has been much greater than I anticipated.

I do like surveys and I respond to quite a few of them.  I fly Delta all the time and they send me a survey more frequent than I like, but I respond to most of them because of my loyalty to Delta.  I probably respond to less than 5% of the other surveys I get and it's either because I've had a great experience or a bad experience.

And of course, that is what everyone says when you start to survey clients: "You'll only hear the bad news".  Fortunately, we have heard mostly good news (and this is usually the case), but there have been a few instances of bad experiences.  Without the survey, we might not have heard about the bad experience until it was too late.

One client received the email survey and said he had not received the shipment of items yet.  We were able to quickly respond with the delivery information (which was also sent previously as an automated notification but he missed it).   The package had actually been delivered the week before but no one in his office delivered it to him!

Another client received the survey and it triggered a reminder that the client wasn't all that happy with the product they received.  They took the time to let us know and we were able to almost immediately make the client happy.

There are several other minor examples of small issues that we've been able to address immediately. Overall, however, the positive responses are outnumbering negative feedback by an extremely large margin.  It's harder to make changes based on the positive feedback, but the comments help us see the areas people really value and how we can continue to make a difference for clients by continuing to invest in what matters to our happiest customers.

If you have the chance, survey your customers.  Whether it is a simple survey that you send out manually or something more sophisticated like the system we developed, do it.  You'll be glad you did when you see the positive feedback, but also as you have a chance to make improvements.  

I do, however, suggest that you limit the number of surveys you send to any client each month.  

Geiger CIO Dale Denham, MAS+ provides practical insights on how you can benefit from technology in no nonsense terms. Follow him on Twitter:@GeigerCIO.