Nov. 15, 2021

Jon Picoult

Jon Picoult

In this episode, my guest is Jon Picoult. Jon is a customer experience expert who has been helping guide companies through the customer experience journey to creating "raving fans" that drive business growth. Jon has a new book "From Impressed to Obsessed" and we spend time discussing the book along with an in-depth discussion of his body of work in customer experience.

In this episode, my guest is Jon Picoult. Jon is a customer experience expert who has been helping guide companies through the customer experience journey to creating "raving fans" that drive business growth. Jon has a new book "From Impressed to Obsessed" and we spend time discussing the book along with an in-depth discussion of his body of work in customer experience.

A sought-after business advisor and speaker, Jon has worked with some of the world’s foremost brands, personally advising CEOs and other members of the C-Suite. He helps organizations capitalize on the power of loyalty, both in the marketplace and in the workplace.

Please check out our Life Science Success Resources.  You will find tools that will support growing companies and books for authors I have interviewed.  


Jon Picoult




[00:01:40] Don Davis PhD, MBA: Today on the life science success podcast, I'd like to welcome Jon Picoult. Jon is the founder and principal of Watermark consulting. Welcome Jon.

[00:01:49] Jon Picoult: Hey Don, I'm glad to be here with you.

[00:01:51] Don Davis PhD, MBA: Yeah, thanks so much. Yeah. So can you tell the listeners just a little bit about yourself?

[00:01:56] Jon Picoult: Sure. So, uh, I am the founder and principal of watermark [00:02:00] consulting, which is a customer experience advisory firm.

Uh, that basically helps companies to impress their customers and inspire their employees, uh, creating the kinds of raving fans that drive business growth. And what

[00:02:15] Don Davis PhD, MBA: made you get

[00:02:15] Jon Picoult: into that? Uh, just lucky, I guess. Um, I, uh, you know, actually what, um, What I, I had always planned after a career in the corporate world, uh, that spanned a, you know, about 15 years in executive roles at fortune 100 companies.

I had always toyed with the idea of setting up my own consultancy. And one thing that I did in my corporate career, uh, completely inadvertently was sort of a. Trivial pursuit approach to functional experience. Um, and what I mean by that is I had the luxury, the, the, you know, I was fortunate enough to have the pleasure of actually, um, being in a [00:03:00] variety of functional roles.

So I had the chance to lead a sales, to lead marketing, to lead service and operations distribution, even it. And, um, you know, one thing that a one place where many companies often fall down in the customer experience is they don't realize that their functional silos are kind of working at cross purposes.

Uh, you know, they're all sort of adhering to their own metrics, their own objectives without realizing that. Whatever it is that they're doing is not advancing the greater good is not helping them fulfill the, uh, customer experience aspiration that the enterprise has. And so when I was doing that trivial pursuit game, inadvertently, I started to realize, gee, you know, that's kind of a unique background.

And I thought that might actually, I could parlay that into a unique value proposition of, for consultancy focused on customer expense.

[00:03:53] Don Davis PhD, MBA: Yeah. So centered on that. I mean, I know that I've experienced your, uh, your work in the corporate world. [00:04:00] And so, uh, you know, I definitely am a, am a raving fan of your work.

Um, where do you see this primarily, you know, taking place in the overall, um, you know, life science.

[00:04:12] Jon Picoult: Uh, in terms of customer experience where it fits in. Yeah.

[00:04:16] Don Davis PhD, MBA: And just size of company. Right? Cause we have listeners that could be in a small, say 10 person company. Uh, they could also be in, you know, 10,000 person company.

[00:04:28] Jon Picoult: Right. So, you know, I think customer experience is a domain that is relevant to any company in any industry, no matter how large or small you are. Um, granted some of the challenges that you face are different depending on the industry and depending on your size, I think in life sciences, you know, uh, there are probably two important wrinkles that I would mention.

One is the fact that in the life sciences business, there are really, uh, quite a few constituencies. That life science, uh, businesses are serving. [00:05:00] Um, you know, and, and that is, that's a really important thing for any business to wrap their head around is just who is my customer. Uh, and, um, you know, in the new book that I've got out, that's actually at the very beginning of the book, is this idea of just really understanding.

Who is it that you're serving because it's not always the end consumer, uh, you know, the person that's actually writing the check, if you will, for your services. Um, there could be a whole host of constituencies that you're technically serving. Sometimes even colleagues that are just a few steps away from you.

Um, in life sciences, there are, you know, in the institutions, uh, you're in the B2B business. There are. CFOs that are holding the purse strings. They're a type of customer. They are users of the life science products. They are a type of customer they're are the patients that are actually benefiting from the products.

They're a type of customer. So I think that, uh, I think that's an important thing in the life science business for people to [00:06:00] understand. And the other, I would say to, uh, is just the notion of, um, life science professionals, uh, not getting too caught up in. The science of what they are offering and having a healthy respect for the emotional side of the business.

Um, because the work that life science professionals do, obviously, I mean, it's not. It's not exaggerating to say it's life or death. Right. And, um, I think that, uh, understanding that it's so easy to sort of get consumed by the details, uh, every day of the mechanics of. The product or the service that you're offering and losing sight of sort of the guiding purpose of your business and the impact that you are having on people and the vulnerability that they might be experiencing at the time when they are going to be using your products.

And those are all things that are really important to understand. When you're trying to engineer a life [00:07:00] sciences experience, that's going to resonate very positively with.

[00:07:04] Don Davis PhD, MBA: Yeah. So let's talk a little bit about the book, um, from impressed to obsessed as the title of the book and, uh, what compelled you to write it?

[00:07:13] Jon Picoult: So, uh, I, something that has always bothered me, uh, even before I started my own firm, uh, when I was back in the corporate world, uh, something that always bothered me was, um, all of the indignities, that company. Subject customers and employees to, um, And, you know, I'm talking about everything from incomprehensible communications, uh, to long waits for help, poorly staffed retail stores, uh, people that just don't do what they say they're going to do on the employee side.

You know, you've got mercurial bosses. Uh, that don't advocate for your career interests. Um, you've got colleagues that just aren't helpful. Uh, I mean, there's just so [00:08:00] much indignity and incivility and a lack of humanity in so many circles of the business world. And what always bothered me is that there were so many simple, small things.

That I knew that organizations and their leaders could do to fundamentally elevate the quality of the experience that they were delivering, be it to customers, employees, or any other constituency. Um, and that's something that I've just been focused on my whole career. And I was just interested in getting that out on, uh, on, on the page, uh, to try to, um, amplify that message and get in front of more.

[00:08:33] Don Davis PhD, MBA: Yeah. So let's start by talking about the provocative opening of the new book. Um, it says if you're aspiring to satisfy your customers, then you're aspiring to mediocrity. That seems to contradict the fundamental business tenant. Um, so I just wanted to, you know, just kind of just talk a little bit about, you know, how to you is customer satisfaction, key, and you know, why should we all rethink customer satisfied?[00:09:00]

Right, because

[00:09:00] Jon Picoult: it seems kind of insane to say, don't focus on satisfying your customers, right. Stop doing that. But I truly believe that, uh, the most successful, the most admired businesses, they really, um, th th they really do put that traditional tenant to the side, because the fact of the matter is.

There've been a lot of studies that have shown that satisfied customers defect all the time. Um, and if you really want to derive competitive advantage, strategic advantage, economic advantage from the experience that you're delivering, it's not enough to really satisfy people. You need to impress them in my view.

Uh, and, um, you know, the key, the reason why impro, I use that word impress. To really create competitive advantage. You need to leave indelible impressions in people's minds, uh, be kinds of impressions that make them excited to work with you again, uh, and to tell others about you, um, and forging those impressions, uh, and [00:10:00] etching that, that those memories in people's minds.

That's not something that you achieve by just satisfying people, uh, by just meeting their expectations. You, you need to go beyond that and that's when you start to create those indelible impression.

[00:10:15] Don Davis PhD, MBA: Yeah. So I, I feel like I, I should tell our listeners though, too. Um, if you really want to see something impressive, Google Jon Picoult's name and go look up his video, I'll have a link to it in our show notes with him on the stage, telling the Ritz Carlton story about him and his wife.

And you will leave totally thinking that that left an indelible impression and wouldn't, we all want that for our customers, you know, going, going into the future. So, uh, um, you know, Jon, I, I know I've watched it a few times and I've shared the video several times with people.

[00:10:51] Jon Picoult: Yeah, no, thanks for that plug.

It is a great story and you're right. It is a great example of leaving an indelible impression. I mean, I just add to the legend and [00:11:00] aura around Ritz-Carlton, which was at the center of that story. I wish I got royalties for every time. You know, I told that story or somebody listened to it, but, uh, you know, they deserve it.

They deserve it because they did an excellent job in that situation. And you're right. It's a great example of. Actually in that case, how you can take what could have been a really negative experience and flip the script and turn it into something really exceptional that leaves that, uh, you know, that, that lasting impression.

[00:11:27] Don Davis PhD, MBA: Absolutely. So we'll leave the mystery there for keep your out and to watch the video. Yep. Um, so what's the difference between customer experience and customer service? Aren't aren't those two terms entertaining.

[00:11:39] Jon Picoult: Uh, so I don't believe that they are. Um, and I think that's actually one of the key issues that, uh, that a lot of companies stumble over, um, is, um, They don't actually develop sort of a shared understanding even within their own walls of what this term customer experience means.

You know, people throw it around and they [00:12:00] think it's synonymous with customer service or maybe user experience or brand experience. Um, but you know, the difference between customer experience and customer service to me is customer services, but one component of the customer experience, uh, and, um, You know, the customer experience in my view really encompasses every live print and digital interaction point that your customers might encounter when they do business with you.

Uh, and they might encounter those touch points even before they're a customer. So the customer experience actually begins before people are even doing business with you. You know, when they first hear about you from a friend or they see an advertisement or whatnot, That's part of the customer experience and then it actually persists longer than you'd imagine.

Um, even if you have a customer that eventually defects from your business, that point of defection is part of the customer experience. So customer service people think customer service, and I think their heads go to that quarter of traditional vision of someone in an 800 line call center. That's answering the phone or responding to [00:13:00] chats or.

And that's an important part of the customer experience, but it's not the whole thing. And what's interesting is that you could even argue. That, uh, the need for customer service indicates a potential problem with the customer experience because in many types of businesses, uh, the only reason that people seek customer service.

It's because they've had some upstream problem with something else, uh, in, in the experience. And I actually think within the healthcare industry, a great example of this, uh, is explanation of benefits with health insurers. Um, if you think of an EOB, uh, you know, No notoriously, uh, poor touchpoint, you know, uh, it's a great example of one of these unsung hero touchpoints that so many companies ignore.

They think it's this administrative interaction, but healthcare, uh, health insurers, they don't understand that it actually accounts for the most [00:14:00] common touchpoint, uh, with their customers, you know, between a customer and a health insurer. The health insurance just view it as this sort of this administrative touch points.

They send out these ELBs that are incomprehensible. Well, that's part of the customer experience. Now what happens when you get an EOB that is in comprehensible and you have a question about it, what are you going to do? You're going to pick up the phone and you're going to call the health insurer that triggers the need for customer service.

But if you had just designed that EOB from the. To, uh, answer more questions than it raises to be easily understood and clear. Um, what you really do is obviate the need for customer service in the first place. Um, and, uh, you know, that lets you deliver a better experience actually at a lower cost. You know, that

[00:14:46] Don Davis PhD, MBA: actually brings to mind just, you know, one quick example, which is that, you know, you'd have to assume that EOB is from the insurer's standpoint, are.

Easy to design in a [00:15:00] standard way and ship out the door quickly. Um, they weren't designed for the customer in the end. And so the customer experience sort of, you know, starts off with that, you know, sort of poor journey. And to your point about. Now I need to go call somebody to go figure out, you know, exactly what this thing says.

Not only is that going to be a bad experience, I've also had the opposite experience where you call in. And of course you have to wait on hold and go through 50 prompts and try and find your way to the right person. That can answer the question. So, um, so yeah, it seems to me like, almost like that, that experience as a whole just wasn't thought.

You know, from that same standpoint, how do I make this easier, uh, in terms of the insurance consumer, or even the healthcare, uh, the person who needed healthcare in the. Yeah.

[00:15:49] Jon Picoult: Yeah, I agree. And you know, it gets back to that, that what we were just discussing in terms of what is the definition of customer experience.

And I really believe that health insurers and other companies fall [00:16:00] victim to this with other types of interactions, be it a billing, a billing statement, a proposal, a contract, you know, these are all things that these companies view as administrative interactions. You know, it's just sort of. The paper that we push, but they don't put themselves in the shoes of their customers and understand, you know what, this is an opportunity to actually enhance the experience.

It's an opportunity as you note to avoid what could be an even worse experience, because we know that when they call up our, uh, you know, our call center, that they're going to have to wait a long time and it's going to get even worse. So it all gets back to that definition of just what really encompasses your customer expenses.

[00:16:42] Don Davis PhD, MBA: Yeah. So I'm going to change gears on you. How would you convince a skeptics on a company's board? Um, that there's a real value in a great differentiated customer experience.

[00:16:54] Jon Picoult: Yeah. So this is kind of a hot button issue for me and, you know, uh, I'll uh, forgive me [00:17:00] in advance. I'm going to sort of probably go off on a rant here, but this is something else that always bothered me in the corporate world.

And then it become, it became even more important when I set up my own consultancy, because if you can't get bored, Top executives to buy into the idea of customer experience. Then you're not long for this world as a customer experience consultant. Right? So the thing that always bothered me is that I would see that, um, boards and executive teams would routine.

Make a leap of faith. They would routinely take a leap of faith when making investments in lots of things that arguably had intangible ROI associated with them. And, you know, some examples I would give you would be, uh, the hiring of a multimillion dollar celebrity CEO. Hmm, uh, or pursuing a, you know, mega million dollar acquisition, uh, you know, even the accounting concept of Goodwill, you know, uh, marking up Goodwill.

When you do an [00:18:00] acquisition, that's like a tangible manifestation of a leap of faith. That's basically telling people, Hey, you know, there are these intangibles here with this acquisition. So. The value of this company is really tenfold what it is on the books. And that's why there's an ROI to this acquisition.

And it always bothered me that, you know, these boards and executives, they would routinely take the leap of faith for these investments that would have questionable ROI. But the moment you talk to them about delivering a better customer experience, then it's like sharpen the pencils. You know, we gotta, we gotta be very clear of exactly what the cost and what the return is going to be.

And that always bothered me. And so, um, when I started my consultancy, uh, you know, this was something I needed to figure out and I remember vividly it was a night, right around Christmas time, 2009. Uh, and I said to myself, What language do these people understand? Like how do you explain this in a way they'll understand it and what dawned on me?

The language that boards [00:19:00] and executives really understand is the language of shareholder value. Uh, and so it dawned on me, Hey, why don't we take a look at the shareholder return of companies that lead in customer experience versus those that lack. And I had no idea how the numbers were going to come out, but we crunched the numbers and.

Sure enough. It turned out that over the longterm companies that are rated by consumers, mind you, I'm not picking the companies, but rated by consumers as being among the top and customer experience. They actually outperform the companies that are at the bottom of the rankings by an over three to one rate.

Uh, and you know, the, this study is actually described in the book and, you know, the graphic that kind of encapsulates it is just striking. When you see the benefit that the customer experience leading firms are getting, as well as the penalty that's being exacted on the ones that lack because they not just, they don't just lag the leaders, they lag the market [00:20:00] index.

Uh, and so I have actually found that that is a really helpful study to share with boards and executive. I'm not suggesting that it is the end all and be all. And they look at that picture and they say, oh, well, let's spend whatever it takes. But what it does do is it opens their mind to the idea that the ROI of customer experience is not soft and intangible.

It is real and material. Um, and it opens up a dialogue and it gets them to start thinking that there really is something there that they should start focusing. Yeah.

[00:20:35] Don Davis PhD, MBA: So to that point, I mean, who are the examples today? Who are, who stands out in your mind as providing an excellent customer expects?

[00:20:44] Jon Picoult: Well, uh, you know, uh, I mean, some of these, some of these companies are going to be the usual suspects that I'm sure familiar to your listeners, and they might even be lifelong fans for these companies as well.

Um, I think that in many respects, Amazon has really raised the bar and [00:21:00] redefined what customer experience. Certainly around a value proposition that, that centers, uh, that centers around convenience and saving time. Not that that is the value proposition that every company should necessarily go for, but for them it's worked very well.

Um, I think Costco is another example of a company that does very well. Um, I think Delta airlines is a great example of a company. A lot of times people ask me, well, Jon, is it really possible? To really stink at customer experience and then turn it around. And there aren't many companies that have succeeded at doing that, but I have to say Delta is one current example that I think has made great strides.

Uh, years ago they were rated among the bottom of the pack and theirs, their CEO, ed Bastian came in, decided. Focus on customer experience. They did some very smart things and they've really catapulted themselves now to the top of the, of the rankings. Um, so, you know, those are some examples of companies that I would [00:22:00] argue, uh, are really, um, doing a great job of intentionally and thoughtfully engineering, their customer experience to create those loyal brand advocate.

[00:22:12] Don Davis PhD, MBA: And in your mind, I mean, the one question I have here is just, you know, really how can companies that are, that are constrained or have limited budgets, you know, offer a better customer experience. Um, and does it really costs, you know, a significant amount to do.

[00:22:31] Jon Picoult: Yeah. So, uh, it is, you know, we were talking about the Ritz Carlton, right?

And the, the Ritz Carlton, the story on that video. Uh, I think that oftentimes when people hear about let's improve our customer experience, I fear that their heads go to like this Ritz Carlton. Uh, view of customer experience. And so they immediately think it's like a gilded, uh, customer experience. And so obviously it's going to cost more to deliver.

And, you know, the Ritz [00:23:00] Carlton is that's a luxury hotel. They spend more than the motel six. I, you know, I get that, but, um, here's the key thing for your listeners to understand a great customer experience does not have to cost you. Uh, and actually, if we go back to our discussion around the EOB, um, I think that's a great example of, of this principle, because if you are delivering a great effortless customer experience, the kind where things work exactly as planned upstream, so that you obviate the need.

For additional service or customer handholding downstream, essentially what you are doing then is delivering a better customer experience. And you're able to do it at a more competitive cost because since you are fielding, you know, in this example, fewer customer inquiries, because the EOB is incomprehensible, uh, it puts less stress on your operating infrastructure.

And as a result, [00:24:00] You can control your expenses better and you're delivering that better experience, uh, in the life sciences arena. I think another good example in this regard. Is with how you design products, uh, to facilitate, um, error-free and streamlined installation. So this is a great example of how investments in one area of customer experience, you know, Cost code, if you will, the benefits might not be seen, but in another cost code.

And it's why it's very important. When you're looking for the ROI of customer experience, you have to sort of look holistically at the entire enterprise because. Let's say that you have a life sciences product and the manufacturing group, the engineering group, they're trying to hit a certain, uh, you know, cost objective.

And so the way that they're packaging the product or the instructions that they're creating, they're cutting corners or whatnot, because for them, it just doesn't seem that important. You know, they wanna make [00:25:00] sure that when you put it together, it works and it does it's as it's supposed to. And it's a quality job.

The problem with that is if you take that approach, You're actually creating more costs downstream because it takes longer for the field techs to unpack the device, to assemble it, to get it to work. And so that's an example where, you know, if you do it right upstream, and if, when you're designing the product, when you're thinking about the packaging and the instructions, if you think of.

The intermediate customer in mind, cause your field tech that assembles, it is one of the co one of your customers. And if you're focusing on them, not just the people using the product, uh, you have an opportunity to create a better installation experience. And when you do that, you are going to save money on the part of your field techs and ultimately the customers who flip the switch and get it to work out of the box.

[00:25:53] Don Davis PhD, MBA: Yeah, the ties. I mean, it ties very well mentally for me. I mean, being at GE, we, we used to take 60 days [00:26:00] to install an MRI. One of my key six Sigma projects working with a team of people, um, was to cut that down to eight. And so, um, and from that, we saw all sorts of savings, all over the place and packaging and shipping and all sorts of things.

And, you know, To, um, you know, other examples that we've seen, uh, whenever I was at Roche, I mean, we cut the cycle time for implementing systems there too, so that they can install machines faster, um, and met the demand of COVID. So, uh, so for sure, um, you know, there are huge benefits that can come out. Out of doing this and to use your simple example, my mom, my mom's been in and out of the hospital.

She's 90 years old and, and, um, so has to visit the hospital quite frequently. And so whenever we get an EOB, it's normally 30 pages and it's for every single indication that she was in the hospital for. So you get lots of them. And, um, maybe the insurance companies could cut down on the number of pieces of paper.

If they just said, [00:27:00] these are the things that you really care about. If you see a bill that shows something different, Give us a call. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:27:07] Jon Picoult: Much better. Yeah. Yeah. But it is a key takeaway for your listeners. You know, nobody should walk away thinking that the only way that we can deliver a better customer experience is by increasing our, our, our expenses.

Uh, because that is most certainly not the case. Uh, in many instances, these, these improvements can be self-funding or they get actually over the longterm, even reduce your expenses while delivering a better experience. Yeah. And one of the things

[00:27:31] Don Davis PhD, MBA: that I loved in the book is in the, I think it's in chapter eight, you show like the, the overall customer journey or the customer experience kind of peeking through time and hitting troughs at other times.

Um, you know, I guess whenever a company's think about doing an exercise like that, um, did they glean a lot of visibility overall in terms of. What happens in their customer's journey or, um, do most people look at things like that and say, yeah, that's what I knew [00:28:00] happened with our.

[00:28:02] Jon Picoult: Uh, I find that usually there are a lot of surprises when you help a company understand what it really feels like to be their customer.

Uh, and the reason I say that is a lot of the work that my firm does is, is actually helping to bring this. Uh, open people's eyes and accompany to what it actually feels like to be their customer, because very often what organizations do when they sit down, uh, to talk about their customer experience, they're doing it based on their perception.

Uh, and, um, you know, that's a very inward focused approach to dissecting the customer journey. Um, when you actually, you know what it's like, when was the last time your board of directors actually called your 800 line? You know, when was the last time the CEO of that health insurer actually tried to interpret the EOB, you know, actually viewed any OB.[00:29:00]

So I do think that it's just sort of natural. Day day to day Malmstrom a business that companies kind of lose sight of what it really feels like to be the customer, because they just don't take the time, uh, you know, to, to, to go. I call it in the book, going out into the, into the, uh, you know, the natural habitat of your customer, uh, observing them in their natural habitat, getting out of your office, getting out of the cubicle, uh, and, and, and really observing customers.

As they are going about their day-to-day business as they're using your products and services. Uh, so yeah, I often find there are surprises. The other thing I would also say is that when companies, uh, take a step back and say, oh, let's look at our customer journey, you know, let's talk about our customer experience.

Oftentimes they approach that to parochial. And so going back to the example that we were just talking about with EO BS, uh, or in life sciences with, uh, uh, you know, um, uh, [00:30:00] installation or, uh, configuration of products and whatnot too often, I think companies, they approach those exercises from a functional silo perspective.

So for example, the people in the 800 line customer service center, they're thinking, how do we improve the experience from the moment the phone rings. To the moment that we hang up, what they lose there though, is the whole idea that there are things happening upstream that if you did differently, could potentially obviate the need for the call in the first place or could make it a better experience once the caller gets to you.

And so if you have blinders on and you're really just looking to parochially at the experience you miss out on what could be a lot of game-changing opportunities. Yeah. How do you stop the

[00:30:46] Don Davis PhD, MBA: phone from ringing at all,

[00:30:49] Jon Picoult: right. Yeah. It's, that's not the first place where we're, you know, we're, we're where people's heads go.

When they're working in the call center, they're thinking about how do I get more efficient, just answering the calls that are coming in, not how do I [00:31:00] take the calls off the table entirely. Absolutely.

[00:31:03] Don Davis PhD, MBA: And how has the pandemic really shown the light on customer and employee experience?

[00:31:09] Jon Picoult: Uh, so I think that the.

Uh, I think it's actually highlighted the importance of both in, in really significant ways on the customer side. I think that what the pandemic did is it really heightened one of the 12 principles actually it's covered in my book, which is the idea of creating relevance for your customers. Um, and by relevance, I mean, uh, engineering and experience products and services.

That are that resonate with your customer because they are addressing either their overt needs or their latent needs. You know, they're addressing whether it's their needs, their hopes, their aspirations, but it just aligns with sort of their essence, their soul, if you will. And I think what the pandemic did is suddenly overnight, what was relevant.

To [00:32:00] customers in many types of businesses completely changed. Uh, and, uh, you know, creating relevance is something that companies have to perpetually do and make sure that they are always, uh, they've got their finger on the pulse of their customers. They understand how their needs are evolving and changing.

But I think what the pandemic did is just overnight, it sort of shocked businesses because if you aren't stepping back and reflecting on. Okay, the world has changed. So what is now relevant to our customers? Because what was relevant yesterday is quite, possibly not relevant to them today. And if you ask that question, I think the companies that did well during the pandemic.

They asked that question early and they made changes to how they engage with customers in order to capitalize. And I don't mean that in a bad way, you know, in terms of exploiting, but to capitalize on what were the new requirements that customers were coming to the table with based on how the [00:33:00] world had changed after the pandemic.

So from the customer side, I think that's how the pandemic has, has influenced things on the employees. So. I think what the pandemic has done is really highlighted the idea that there is dignity in all work. Um, I think that, you know, suddenly people. Came to realize that, you know, something that nobody thought about that was as boring as the supply chain or the last mile of delivery, you know, with the ups delivery person or the FedEx or the cashier at the grocery store.

I mean, suddenly we were all relying on these people, right. To do their job in order to keep things going while we're under lockdown. And. I think that, uh, my hope is that a lot of business leaders will, uh, we'll take a permanent lesson away from that in terms of the dignity of all work, the importance [00:34:00] of all work, uh, and every role within the organization.

And I think you are seeing right now the balance of power between employers and employees has shifted, uh, you know, in terms of the difficulty, uh, hiring positions and the need to try to address some of the emerging. Uh, needs that employees are now coming to the table with, uh, born out of the pandemic.

Things like wanting to work remotely or wanting to work on a, on a hybrid basis. And employer's hands are being forced. Um, you know, they need to accommodate these things if they want to keep business going. So I think it's heightened attention to the employee experience, uh, and, and the need to architect.

One that is not only going to attract great talent, but retain it.

[00:34:45] Don Davis PhD, MBA: Yeah. Yeah. I, I completely agree that it's, it's definitely shifted things. I mean, you've seen it even on the news, you know, apple wants to have everybody come back to the office and that's well, and good. And then all of a sudden the office workers are like, yeah, I don't think [00:35:00] so.

I don't think it's, I don't think it can go back to the where the way that it was. So, uh, you know, we definitely did. That shift in thinking more about, you know, sort of, you know, what is it like to go to work, you know, on a, on a daily or weekly basis, you know, might my shift

[00:35:14] Jon Picoult: as well. Yeah. I mean, it should have been a huge wake up call for every employer when they started looking at these studies, indicating that the majority of employees didn't want to go back to work.

You know, didn't want to go back to the office because I mean, you've got to look at that data and say, Okay, something's wrong here. Like, there's something about the workplace that turns people off, or there's something that they're getting by working at home, whether it's free, additional freedom or flexibility, there's something that's of great appeal to them in that environment that they can't get in the workplace.

And. Companies need to solve for that. They need to answer what's going on there because, uh, if you, I mean, it's like, imagine if your customers did not want to come into your store, [00:36:00] like that would be a problem, you know, you would want to figure that out. Well, you've got employees that don't want to come to your workplace.

Okay. You've got to square that and figure out what's going on.

[00:36:10] Don Davis PhD, MBA: So to that point, I mean, you know, should customer experience and design techniques be applied to, you know, kind of the job search processes.

[00:36:19] Jon Picoult: I absolutely think that they should. Um, and, and that's why, uh, you know, in the book, I'm very clear that I use the term customer very broadly.

Uh, and, uh, you know, we talked about this earlier in B2B businesses, like life sciences, how there are many different types of customers. Uh, sometimes the customers and internal one, you know, the colleague, a few steps down the hall. Uh, but I think that leaders should view their staff as customers. And I think that employers should view potential employees as customers.

Um, you know, if you, most, everybody in their career has at one time or another searched for a job, uh, I'm sure you have Don. I have. And I have to tell you, at least in my [00:37:00] experience, I have found that the job search process is devoid of all humanity. You know, you talk about exacting indignities on people in the business world.

I mean, forget it, the job search I've just found. It's horrible. Whenever I've had to go through that. And I know so many people that say the same thing. The incivility that is infused in that whole process. The whole idea that, you know, you send a hundred applications out and 99, uh, you know, the companies never even respond to you.

Um, so I do think that, uh, Using customer experience, design techniques, applying that to the job seeker arena is, uh, I think there's tremendous potential there. Um, you know, one of the, uh, projects my firm worked on was actually doing precisely that for, uh, one of the 10 biggest employers in the CA in the country.

And it was really a really fun project. And I was so happy to see that there was finally a company that was [00:38:00] taking that seriously because. Particularly in the environment, we just talked about where the balance of power has shifted. I mean, if you are competing for this, uh, there's greater demand than supply for workers.

So you would be a fool. You would be remiss if you didn't try to create. A really great job seeker experience so that you're impressing those job candidates. So when they go through the process with you, even if they get a competing offer from another employer that might even be worth, you know, a few dollars more that they're going to say, you know what?

I really want to go with company a because they just treated me so well because people look at that and it gives them an indication of how they're probably going to be treated. As an employee and that means something to them. So, yeah, I absolutely think that, uh, employment candidates should be treated as customers.

[00:38:52] Don Davis PhD, MBA: Yeah. So Jon and the book you give 12 different principles, you know, for customer experience, what are one or two of [00:39:00] your favorites?

[00:39:02] Jon Picoult: Uh, so, um, you know, one that, uh, one that I really like, because it's, it's almost magical in the way that it works is a principle called the giving people the perception of control.

Um, And the way this one works is, you know, we as human beings, we like to be in control of our surroundings. And when we're not, we're sort of inherently uncomfortable with whatever experience that we're going through. Uh, but the problem is in many businesses, you can't give people what's called direct behavioral control.

You know, you can't. Let them have their hands on the steering wheel. Uh, if I need an operation, I can't do it on myself. I need to delegate that to a surgeon. Um, you know, if, uh, if I need, uh, my new, um, life science, uh, product installed in my laboratory, I can't do it myself. I have to delegate that to a field tech.

And my point is that the minute you start delegating stuff to other parties, [00:40:00] There's a real risk that you're not going to feel as good about the experience because it feels like it's out of my control. But the neat thing is, um, and there's research in the book that I described here is that, um, it's been shown that there's actually a pretty good proxy.

We're giving people direct behavioral control and that's giving them the sense, the perception that they have control. And what's magical about it is that if you just give them the sense that they're in control, even if you don't change anything about the underlying experience. They actually feel better about it.

Uh, and you know, let me give you a healthcare example, actually, that's cited in the book that describes this. It was a research study that was done by a psychology student at USC. Um, and what he did is he went to the local, uh, red cross American red cross. And he started by taking two groups of blood donors and with one group, um, the phlebotomist just asked what's your dominant arm.

And if it's left or right. That's where they took the blood from. But with the other [00:41:00] group, they actually had the phlebotomist ask the donor. Which arm would you like to have the blood drawn from? Well, after it was all said and done, they interviewed these blood donors and the people who had the choice of.

Actually said that they had a better experience giving blood and felt less pain. And you could argue that just choosing left or right arm is really almost an insignificant, immaterial, uh, choice, right? I mean, either way you cut it left arm or right arm, it's still a stranger coming at you with a sharp object.

What the, what was going on there is you are giving people the power of choice and when you give people the power of choice, however, smaller insignia. It actually makes them feel like they have control. It allows them to conform the experience to their thoughts. You know, they're thinking I want this in my lap taken from my left arm and I have a chance to shape the experience accordingly.

Um, but there's actually a second way [00:42:00] to do it to the researcher. Then he did another study where, uh, nobody had the choice of arm, but one group was shown a two-minute video before they gave blood that described in detail. What the procedure would look like, how would unfold and what they would likely feel psychologically and physiologically.

And again, after it was all said and done the people that watched the video and advance. They said they felt less pain and had a better experience giving blood. So what was going on there will, instead of conforming the experience to their thoughts, the way the choice of arm does there, you're actually conforming their thoughts to the experience.

You're actually shaping their perceptions by setting expectations. And the minute you set expectations for how this procedure is going to unfold. It removes ambiguity from people's lives and it makes them feel like they have more control. I like, I know what's coming across on the horizon. I know what's around the corner.

I know how this procedure is going to [00:43:00] proceed. And that makes me feel better about the experience. And so you can see that this is an example. Of shaping people's perceptions. You're not changing the experience at all. Right. I mean, it's still giving blood. Uh, and th I mean, it, it's not like a sharper needle of more uncomfortable, the, nothing like that, but yet people feel better.

So I think that that's a great example to me, of the cognitive science behind customer experience and how improving the customer experience. Isn't just about. Improving the mechanics of it. It's really about shaping people's perceptions and memories of.

[00:43:37] Don Davis PhD, MBA: Yeah, I was envisioning that you were going to say that it was a, it was a worst experience for the person that watched the video, because I'm envisioning like the zooming in of the needle going into the skin like CSI and you know, the blood filling in the vial and things.

So, yeah,

[00:43:52] Jon Picoult: no, but it's, it was really, really amazing and, you know, a good way. I mean every everybody's probably donated blood, but you know, a [00:44:00] good analog to understand how this plays out in sort of a traditional business sense is think about when you call up an 800 line call center and when you immediately get on what they tell you what the estimated wait time is.

Hmm. Um, that experience feels a lot better than an unknown weight because a known weight always feels shorter and better than an unknown wait setting that expectation and even better is if the call center, when you get on, not only do they say, Hey, the estimated wait is five minutes. If they also give you the choice.

To get a call back. Right. You know, you can either wait on the line or if you don't want to do that, we'll call you back. That again is it's showing you these two techniques, setting expectations, but then also giving people some degree of choice. And then it doesn't matter if the weight doesn't change.

People are going to feel better about that experience. Yeah, absolutely.

[00:44:54] Don Davis PhD, MBA: And, um, I mean, it's, it's one of those, one of those things that, uh, you know, having [00:45:00] choice, um, you know, can benefit, you know, the customer experiences.

[00:45:05] Jon Picoult: Yeah. And, and of course, one thing to be careful about, um, in full disclosure and this relates to another principle in the book, which is about keeping it simple.

You want to make sure that you don't give your customers too much choice, you know, I mean, choice of left arm and right arm, not a big deal, not going to get too confusing. But there are also, uh, you know, there's research described in the book where when you start to give people too many choices, that detracts from the quality of the experience, because the way our brains are wired, when we encounter what's called a high cognitive load, because we're just overrun with so many different choices.

Uh, our brains just shut down and we disengage, you know, which is the last thing that you want to happen when you're trying to engage either a sales prospect or an existing customer. Okay.

[00:45:53] Don Davis PhD, MBA: Yeah, absolutely. So, Jon, there are three questions I like to ask every guest, what inspires you? [00:46:00]

[00:46:00] Jon Picoult: Uh, what inspires me, um, uh, it's going to sound corny, but I would have to say my kids, uh, you know, um, my books about creating great impressions and, uh, my kids never cease to impress me and therefore inspire me.

So I would have to point to them.

[00:46:18] Don Davis PhD, MBA: That's fantastic. How old are they?

[00:46:21] Jon Picoult: Uh, let's see, eight, 18 now, 1917. And almost. All right.

[00:46:27] Don Davis PhD, MBA: Great. Entering, entering a that next stage of life soon for you. Yes. We're in

[00:46:32] Jon Picoult: the midst of college applications for the middle one. Yeah,

[00:46:36] Don Davis PhD, MBA: for sure. And what it, what concerns you?

[00:46:40] Jon Picoult: Um, so, uh, I would say that social media concerns me, um, you know, uh, I.

I like to say I'm antisocial when it comes to social media. Um, you know, there's been a lot of recent press, um, about studies that have come [00:47:00] out showing how teenage girls, for example, feel bad about themselves after browsing social media. Well, I'm in my fifties and I feel bad about myself when I browse social media.

So it's like, uh, I think social media is at the heart of a lot of challenging issues that we face as a society, uh, at a macro level, in terms of fostering, um, civil discourse and at a micro level, in terms of fostering, um, reflection and thoughtfulness in people at an individual. So, uh, I would say, um, yeah, that is something that concerns me about our future as a society.

[00:47:39] Don Davis PhD, MBA: Yeah. And we could see just how much social manipulation can happen as well. I mean, we're for sure seeing, you know, the shaping of purchasing experiences and other things, you know, from. You know, where you go in, you know, on the internet and how they're pushing more and more ads to you because you know, you're in social [00:48:00] media and able, and able and willing audience there.

So, um, yeah, I can completely understand. And what excites you?

[00:48:10] Jon Picoult: Uh, so this is going to be a little self-serving, but I'd have to say my new book excites me. Um, just because the prospect of really exposing so many more people, uh, to, um, these proven techniques for turning anybody that you work with into a lifelong fan.

I am just super excited to get that out there. It's a book that, you know, has been rattling around in my head. For seriously a decade. Uh, and, um, it really was the, the pandemic lockdown. One of the few good things you could say that came out of the pandemic, uh, for me was just the time to sit down and finally, um, get the book out on paper.

And so that the prospect of, of getting that out to a much larger audience is something that's really exciting.

[00:48:58] Don Davis PhD, MBA: So Jon Picoult, [00:49:00] before we, uh, get off the air here, uh, where can people get in touch with you and find out.

[00:49:06] Jon Picoult: Sure. So, uh, I'll give you two websites that, uh, that people can go to. One is the official website for the book, which is called from impressed to obsessed, 12 principles for turning customers and employees into lifelong fans.

And the site for that is www dot impressed, too. That's impressive. The number two, Uh, and in addition, they can also go to my personal website, uh, which is Jon That's J O N P I C O U L And from there, you can actually learn about my company watermark as well as my own keynote speaking services.

Uh, and you can also get to the book's website from there. Uh, that also those websites also have all my social media contact information. If you want to follow me, uh, on, uh, any of those.

[00:49:55] Don Davis PhD, MBA: And, uh, also we will have all of this information in the [00:50:00] show notes for anybody that wants to take an easy route and just follow your way through to Jon sights there as well.

Jon Picoult, thank you so much for spending time with me today and thanks for being on the podcast. Thanks

[00:50:12] Jon Picoult: Don. I really enjoyed it. Thanks a lot.