Curve Balls


Curve Ball
I always hated curve balls. I think this was primarily because I didn’t want to break out of the comfort zone of my particular habits, stance and swing, which worked wonders on fast balls, sliders, split fingers, and the rest.

You’re forced to focus and adapt quickly to respond to the precise movements of the ball as it hisses towards you.  There is this dizzy sensation the moment you realize the ball is moving in an unexpected and deceptive direction; it’s almost hypnotizing.

It was because of my dislike for the curve ball that I stopped developing my skill as a baseball player.  I struggled through the end of my sixth year playing and then quit.  Now I can be a little more understanding of my younger self. I was 13 and short for my age, forced to advance to the 16+ league, so I definitely had the odds stacked against me.

Even so, that unfortunate lesson stuck with me. I couldn’t be proud of shrinking back from a daunting challenge.

No matter how many times you’ve seen them, curve balls look a little unique every time.  An unexpected budget cut, a project for which you lack essential skills, an aggressive up-and-coming competitor, or a seemingly unattainable goal imposed by senior management.  With each curve ball, there’s the terrible feeling of the unfamiliar, the unknown.

But after a while you gain a paradoxical confidence that is able to exist alongside the feeling of unpreparedness and anxiety.  Thanks to the great example of many leaders, friends and family in my life, I’ve gradually changed my perspective.  I can now welcome curve balls because they break my mental habits of maintaining the status quo, contradict my inflated sense of expertise, and challenge me to take risks. 

When you approach the plate eager for a new challenge, I think there comes a really healthy sense of pride.  This attitude is good for career development, but really, it’s also practice for life, for virtue and for conquering the deeper personal challenges we all face, both externally and internally.  That’s something to take pride in.

So next time you see an over-eager, slightly hubris-driven achiever leaping at a chance to be thrown in the middle of a project for which they are obviously under-qualified, don’t simply write him or her off as mere opportunists looking to advance their career.  Chances are, they’d love it if you jumped in with them.  You’ll be glad you did.

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Living the Ethos of Customer Experience


I design user interfaces & workflows, communications, perform marketing analysis, and I work on developing brand identity.  It is easy to get disconnected from your customers when you’re interacting over a virtual medium of a website.

And when I ask friends in my field questions about the specific pain points, desires & needs of their customers (as they relate to the website), I almost always get a blank stare.  So it appears I am not alone in seeing the potential disconnect.

So, through mistakes and successes, I’ve jotted down a few things I’ve learned about the ethos of customer experience management:

  • Get Your Hands Dirty with Deep Customer Analysis – Without acute segment analysis, you might not even notice you have a customer retention issue. The inflow of new customer revenue sometimes covers up the loss of revenue from recently departed veteran customers.
  • Welcome Feedback – Provide ongoing platforms for direct customer feedback within your inbound channels of communication. Encourage honest feedback and continually reiterate and demonstrate a commitment to acting on customer feedback.  It builds trust, reduces customer frustration and feelings of alienation, demonstrates transparency and seriously contains issues from exploding into PR disasters so you don’t need to worry about reputation management on communication channels over which you have very little control.
  • Initiate One-to-One Contact  – Marketers shouldn’t be afraid to pick up the phone and talk to individual customers.   To improve customer retention, throwing out blanket apology emails can help, surveys can help, offering refunds through customer service channels can help, but it means a lot more to customers when marketers and other managers of customer experience proactively contact them with the express purpose of fixing their pain.
  • Create a Culture of Perpetually Re-evaluating Customer Experience – “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is the antithesis of a customer-centric mindset.  There is always room for improvement in customer experience, so build a culture of ongoing revision and enhancement.  You’ll do a much better job of preempting customer service, satisfaction & retention issues. Rain or shine, evaluate retention.  Just because customers stopped complaining doesn’t mean the problem is fixed – it might mean they’ve given up and left already.