Customer Experience is Everything.


Reigning NBA MVP Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors seemingly has it all. He has money, fame, professional success and a wonderful wife and family. It all adds up to a likeability factor that’s off the charts. He shreds the NBA and then goes home to record a Dubsmash video of a song from “Frozen” with his wife to post on social media.

He’s at the pinnacle of his profession. Under Armor gave him equity in their company to get him to design a shoe for them. His jersey is the top seller. In the off-season, he goes to Tanzania to hang mosquito nets in areas ravaged by malaria. He doesn’t send money like most would. He goes there.

No wonder people really like him.

Remember Tiger Woods? Remember when he was at the top? He dominated the links, his face was everywhere and every blue chip company wanted to be associated with him. He had it all. But even before his fall from grace, there was something about him that rubbed many in the public the wrong way. It could have been his robotic interviews and the cold vibe he threw off.

His popularity was more a form of respect for his utter domination on the golf course rather than a genuine embracing of the man himself. When his game began to deteriorate, the mystique was gone. Even before his shameful indiscretions were made public, he was fading. He offered one thing and that one thing evaporated.

As a company, you want your Customer Experience to be more Steph and less Tiger.

Tiger’s “customers” (sports fans, consumers, etc.) showed that their Tiger Woods “experience” was not something that really resonated on any deeper level. Their grudging respect for his one attribute (excellence on the golf course) was easily unraveled. Admittedly, he made it pretty easy for them to unravel.

When your customer experience is one dimensionally focused on product excellence, you are a misstep or two from a perilous fall. When your product quality, corporate culture, efficient processes and excellent people combine to form your identity in the marketplace, you may find your customers will be on your side if one of those important attributes falters.

Customer experience is bigger than the value your product provides.

Customer experience is everything.


An Open Letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook


Dear Tim,

First of all, belated congratulations on your promotion. I know it came from terrible circumstances. You’re handling it with class. Kudos for that.

Just to be clear, I love your products. I’m writing this on a MacBook Pro. Of course I have the iPhone and the iPad. I’ve got a damn box of iPods in the garage someplace. I’m old so I owned the Apple II and the original Macintosh 128k. Small black and white screen and enough RAM to hold the operating system and, um, nothing. It cost $2200 in 1984. If I’m doing the math correctly, in current dollars that’s like the cost of your Prius with the leather seats, nav system and upgraded sound system. I even got my boss to buy a Newton. Go look it up. You sold three of them. So on a percentage basis, I was one of your top reps.

I used to drink orange cinnamon tea at the Good Earth in Cupertino with my resume in hand hoping to strike up a conversation over a bran muffin and a tofu scramble with someone from Apple who might hire me. Even though at that time, I’d only worked at three jobs, it was a six page resume. I worked at a Burger King for a year, an amusement park and then Macy’s. Six pages. I can spin a little BS, Tim. I had Apple written all over me.

Now that you understand that I bleed Apple um, pure white, help me out.

Your battery life is terrible. Not yours personally. I saw that interview on Rock Center with Brian Williams a couple of weeks ago. Apparently, you get up at five in the damn morning or some such nonsense and put in a 20 hour day. I’m speaking of the products.

Every new generation touts “improved battery life.” Tim, I’ve had every generation of everything. If there’s been improvement, it’s barely noticeable. Like, not noticeable enough to mention. To your average customer, “improved battery life” would mean that they could sit at Starbucks and write an additional…let’s say…six pages of dialogue for their screenplay that will never get optioned. And that’s at a minimum.

And Tim, don’t embarrass us both by showing me a sparse yet aesthetically pleasing graphic of a bar chart showing battery improvement. Improved battery life is like pornography, to paraphrase former Supreme Court Justice Stewart Potter, I’ll know it when I see it regardless of your chart.

And the iPhone battery? When I go to the Apple Store, they tell me that I must have a rogue app running. Or too many apps running. Or Bluetooth running. Wasn’t that the point, Tim? To run apps? To do stuff I wanted to do because I decided that said apps or Bluetooth enriched my life? When you tell me to not do stuff that it seems I should be able to do, the dream dies a little bit, Tim. Just a little bit. Barely noticeable. I could do a sparse yet aesthetically pleasing graphic of a bar chart on my disappointment if that would help drive the point home.

OK, that last thing was kind of catty. I’m sorry. I really am a fan.

Here’s an idea: With your NEXT next generation products, instead of being obsessed with making it one one-hundredth of an inch thinner, make the thing as fat as it needs to be to have a battery that works in the real world. Or solar! I had a solar powered calculator in about 1987.

So Tim, thanks for reading. I know that batteries aren’t sexy and you’re busy with your new dream of becoming the new Bang and Olufsen and going into the television business but if I have to borrow my kid’s Samsung Galaxy S3 to make a call one more time, the dream could be gone for good, sparse yet asthetically pleasing graphic or no.



Do What You Love

If you’re not doing what you love, don’t delude yourself into believing that you’re any better than anyone with any other job. Or anyone without a job. I don’t care where you went to school. You’re just doing what you’re doing to get by. I’m reading “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson. It might be the best biography I’ve read. There is a lot to be learned. Trust your gut. Be smart. Make a difference.

Thanks, Steve.

Steve JobsSteve Jobs stepping down as CEO of Apple hit me hard yesterday. Apple will be fine. He leaves them with great products and $75 billion in cash in the bank. It’s hard to find fault with that equation but there’s so much more to it.

To me, Steve Jobs is the icon of icons in Silicon Valley. Yes, there’s Bill and Dave at HP and the guys at Intel and they deserve their due. But I can’t think of another guy who made technology more usable and even desirable for every man, woman and child in the world. The generation that preceded him in Silicon Valley was building technology for technologists and I’m not diminishing the importance of that because it was leveraged into thousands of products that we use everyday. Jobs took things that already existed (notably, at XEROX PARC in the early days) and created new elements and made them highly functional and at the same time, objects of desire. There were thuds, the LISA and Newton come to mind, but even those had some redeeming qualities that were taken back to the drawing board to reemerge as part of another offering.

And who knows better than Jobs how to launch a product? I can’t think of anyone. From the simplicity and power of his presentations to the ads that get across in 30 seconds what competitors couldn’t in an hour. The secret, of course, is that absolutely nothing dissipates the force of a concept faster than a discussion of features and functions. It’s the difference between getting a shotgun blast to the chest versus opening up the shell and throwing the BBs at someone one by one.

Vision counts. It’s so lacking in the world today. We have loud. We have superficial. We need vision and not only does Jobs have it, he knows what to do with it. I hope he continues to do more of the same and that someone steps up to fill his shoes as that iconic visionary that Silicon Valley needs.

Thanks, Steve. In my current job, I use Apple as an example of something  almost every week and the “Don’t think outside the box, reinvent the box” mentality to guide me. I sincerely wish you the best as you deal with your health, your family and future endeavors.

Live to learn but learn to live.

We had dinner tonight with a friend of mine who lives in the Berkeley Hills. The house has a wonderful view of the San Francisco Bay, downtown SF and the Golden Gate Bridge. The drive up is more treacherous than I could handle on a day in day out basis and the the street is narrow which means parking requires ninja-like skill.

When I was younger, I could never understand the concept of paying more for a place because of the view. When I was a journalism student in college, I was doing a story for the school paper on a lawsuit that had been filed against the university. I had to go to the Federal building in downtown San Francisco to get some papers from a bureaucrat. I took the elevator up to some upper floor and walked into an office that was boxes of paper from floor to ceiling. Behind the desk, a grizzled little dude didn’t even look up from his work to acknowledge me but he heard me gasp.

San Francisco is a beautiful place. It’s a special place. And from his little cramped nest, I looked out the window to see a view that made me understand for a moment why some people are willing to die over the notion that there is a God. It was breathtaking. The bay with the ocean beyond. The Golden Gate and Bay Bridges. Alcatraz. Sailboats and tankers dotted the water. The hills of the city looked like a quilt sewn from the imagination of a madman or a genius or both.

The little man looked up and said, “Is there a problem?” I told him there was no problem at all but asked him how he managed to get any work done. How did he not stare in wonder out that window as the sun moved across the sky all day making an ever changing, hypnotic dreamscape.

He blinked and said, “I don’t even notice it anymore.”

That stuck with me for many years. When friends would spend extra hundreds of thousands for houses with  a view, I would remember the little government man. But people can become jaded with anything given enough time like a strip club cashier who no longer notices the naked perfect bodies that parade by day after day.

I now realize that we can become jaded or we can make a conscious decision to not become jaded. We can appreciate the world just for the sake of taking it in. The sin of youth is to want something, get it and discard it because it no longer has the value that can only be held by the unattainable. There comes a time when we must choose to be happy with the unbelievable amount we have and revel in the world around us.

When I looked out the window of my friend’s house, I wasn’t thinking about what he paid for the view,  I wasn’t jealous that he woke up to this every morning and had a glass of wine every night looking out that window at the sun going down behind the Golden Gate. I was thinking about all of the years I wasted not seeking out these kind of experiences because of the visceral feeling I had talking to the little man in the Fed building. I was thinking about the feeling that only the shallow or unfocused could be excited about a view.

Don’t let little grizzled government workers sway your heart. If you are awed by something, go with it. Don’t spend so much time overthinking it.

Dinner? Nice salad with pears, cheese and mixed greens, roasted chicken and potatoes. Fruit tarts and ice cream for dessert. Nice chardonnay and pinot noir. It was a perfect Northern California evening and I may have appreciated it more than usual.