Clinton Bonner: 20-something years later, and uh… and Chris Pratt’s on a motorcycle training velociraptors. What happened, right?
[CATALYST INTRO MUSIC]
Clinton: Welcome to Catalyst, the Launch by NTT Data podcast. Catalyst is an ongoing discussion for digital leaders dissatisfied with the status quo, and yet optimistic about what’s possible through smart technology and some great people. I’m your co-host Clinton Bonner, and I’m joined with a couple of very familiar voices, especially for those who are used to this being the Postlight podcast. I am joined by Chris LoSacco and Nathan Henry. How are you feeling on this really good Friday? Nathan, why don’t you go first, bud?
Nathan Henry: Yeah, I’m feeling pretty good. It was a short week. Lotta challenges, some successes. But it’s Friday, so all things are going to come out in the wash in, you know, a couple hours.
Clinton: There you go. Challenges, successes, probably both literal and, uh… what’s the other one there? Literal and…
2: Client-facing challenges.
3: There you go.
2: We’ll just call it what it is, Clinton.
Clinton: (Laughs) There you go. There you go. Alright, so we heard Chris there. Chris, how are you doing on this Friday, man? What’s good for you?
3: I’m jealous of the energy that both of you are bringing to this podcast. This is wonderful. But obviously, very happy to be talking with you, I feel like we have a great topic today, and it’s always a fun time in client services, as we’ve talked about many times on this show. Very good stuff.
1: Chris, you mentioned the great… the very specific topic. And we want to talk today about intimacy. So, that is the main…
3: It’s not that kind of podcast, Clinton. Hold on a second.
3: Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.
2: Work-friendly. Work-friendly.
3: We ended up on a different show by accident.
1: That’s right. This is… this is not the Michael Bolton Time, Love and Tenderness version of that word.
1: This is customer intimacy. And, you know, how do you get… how do you get good at it?
1: If you want to get good at it, how do you get good at it?
1: So, I’ll start this way, fellas. I like words. I’m in marketing, I kinda write stuff for a living, or at least part of my job is to write stuff. And I realize that not everybody is going to be, perhaps, comfortable with a word like “intimacy.” And talking about a relationship with, with a client, right? Client services. But I also like honest debate. So let’s start here, fellas. I’m going to ask you both the same question at the same time. Write down your answer, and we’ll see where we all stand, alright? So I’ll give us, like, five good seconds here. So, the question. The term “customer intimacy.” Are you cool with it? Yes, it’s accurate? No, I avoid it? Or “enh, it’s fine, but not my first word choice.” So, let’s do a 10-second countdown. Go.
3: (Singing Jeopardy! theme song) Jeopardy music coming in…
1: Probably not 10 seconds. And… done. Show your answers. What do we got?
2: I’m a no.
3: Oh! I’m a yes.
2: That’s shocking on both accounts.
3: I know.
2: Who have we become?
1: It’s shocking on both accounts, I love that, because you were one of the accounts there, Nathan. So…
3: Explain your no.
2: Yeah. So, for me… I understand what you’re getting for here, Clinton. I definitely understand, I understand the sentiment. But in terms of the term, you know, “intimacy,” I think I’m a no here because the way I got there right away was, that it almost reduces boundaries. And I think there needs to be clear boundaries that are set, that are clearly professional. Again, I am very friendly with all of my clients. I go out to dinners, I’ve socialized. But at some point there still needs to be boundaries. And I just took the word intimacy to… sort of as a construct, that boundary can be moved. It can be more liquid, it can be more fluid. And I think, for myself anyway, I would say that boundary cannot become fluid. There must always be some boundaries set there with that client. Again, my literal interpretation of what that word might stand for, what it might mean. But as it relates to work, I’m just a no. And it’s even provocative. So I tried to get to yes, I really did.
2: But I couldn’t get myself there. (Laughs)
1: I love it. So, Chris. You were a yes.
1: Nathan was shocked. The people want to know, what do you got?
3: Yeah. First of all, let me just respond to Nathan. I mean, you make a very good point. I think boundaries are…
2: Welcome to the podcast.
3: Yeah, there you go.
3: I think boundaries are important, and I think in a lot of different ways and areas in your professional life, you have to make sure that you are setting the right boundaries, something that we’ve talked a lot about, actually, on the show before. That line of reasoning makes total sense to me. Let me just validate that. The reason why I like it, though, is because I think it is a common pitfall in a client services business that you treat your clients at arms’ length. That you say, “It is your responsibility, client, to give me the list of requirements and to say exactly what you need, and then we’re going to go fulfill on what you need, and then we’re done, and we’ve satisfied our statement of work.” And I think that is how most of the services industry works, especially in technology, it is very transactional. And I just don’t think that’s how the best work gets done. I really don’t. I think you have to internalize what your client needs in a way that you can’t get when you are keeping them at arms’ length. It has to be intimate. You have to go to their office, a lot of the time. You have to get the badge to get swiped into their building. You have to put on their jersey. You have to understand their customers. You have to pretend like it’s your job on the line when you are working with your client, to say “I’m going to make sure that my success or failure is going to enable the success of my key stakeholder.” And that is… there is an intimacy that’s applied… implied there, that is really critical to getting the job done effectively. And if you treat it like, “Well, I can kinda have some separation, or too much separation,” I think you miss the real goal a lot of the time, when it comes to establishing a deep client relationship. So that’s why I like it. I get that it has some… some other connotations, per se. But I… if you frame it the right way, and if you put it in front of the right people, I think it can be a very effective word choice. And I’m curious, Clinton, to turn it back on you, what’s your take on it? Do you like it, do you not like it? How would you go forward with it?
1: So, I tend to like provocative words, and I realize what the word provocative means. Even on the website, launch.nttdata.com, I’ve had people write me. I’m like… we put on there that our mission is to help people ship and scale, essentially, provocative digital experiences. And they’re like “Hey, you realize what that word actually means?” I’m like “Yeah, well…” I’m like, if you’re DMing me in Slack about a word, it’s like, maybe the word did its job.
2: Mm. I was going to say.
3: There you go.
1: Maybe… maybe it was there to provoke. And I realize there are connotations to a word like “provocative.” And by the way, we have an alt word we also use, “ambitious,” in some of our slideware. And we can always swap that word out and test the word, right? Which I think is really kind of fun. So, I like the word for the reasons, the reasons you stated, Chris. And I bet Nathan agrees with everything you said, it’s just the word choice being applied. He’d say “Well, I’d probably say it a little bit differently.”
2: Right. Hundred percent.
1: Because I know Nathan pretty darn well, we’re going to talk about some of the ways, whether he wants to say he got intimate with clients or not, he did do the things you were talking about. So that’s kind of my stand there. So, uh… and Nathan, you know, Chris gave a nice retort there, anything you want to say before we mosey a little further down the road, here?
2: You’re correct. I stand with everything Chris said. The thing I would highlight is, you know, thinking through of, like, when I’m shipping software and I’m working with clients, like, I have skin in the game. I care, because their success, their failure, is mine.
2: I’ve seen other, maybe larger, companies that are a little bit more detached from actual client success. It’s more of a job. The word “transactional” really hit home, when Chris said that. And so I think that’s something that I don’t see up and down, across Launch by NTT Data, is we don’t just do the job. We care, we’re invested. And when you’re invested, you’re gonna think of a different angle. You’re gonna find another creative solution when you find a roadblock, because you care. You’re gonna make sure that you find a success. And I think that’s the part that really stuck with me out of everything that Chris said there.
1: Very well said across the board there. Alright. So… so we bandied about the word. Whether it’s a yay, whether it’s a nay, we do know what it means and we kinda know what it… it’s almost like, you know it when you see it, you know it when you feel it type thing. And you know it when it’s missing, that’s for darn sure. So, when you guys are approaching new work with a client, in my purview, like a macro set, quite a bit has to go right to deliver really sound software with great experiences. There’s quite a number of things that kind of just have to… they’ve gotta go correctly to really, really deliver. Where do you put, whether you call it intimacy or not, call it knowledge… where do you put that, if you had to force-rank the things that do have to go right from the macro set? So, Nathan, why don’t we start with you on that one? In this particular case, how important is this topic to you?
2: For me, I think any good, successful engagement must start, I’m pretty firm on this, with a strong client relationship. So, go to client intimacy if you will, or client knowledge. You really have to understand that client, befriend them, build trust with them. Then all things become possible. That’s the cornerstone of the relationship. When you do that right, you understand their goals, you understand their motivations, you understand sort of their… both explicit and implicit needs, things that they’re not saying but you might be able to pick up. Also, when you get that right, they’re going to open up the access to users. You can be more trusted to be able to talk to end users. Actually hear the pain points, make sure that they’re validating the problem space. Again, and then it’s also when you have to deliver bad news, or say no. That happens a ton. If you don’t have that relationship, they’re not invested back in our relationship, right? And so, if you’re more transactional, they’re easy to hear bad news and break up the transaction. To become very less intimate, if you will, to use your provocative word. And so, I think that relationship… building that strong, core ethos, making sure that you understand what motivates them, both for their jobs and also what keeps them excited outside of work, and what’s passionately happening in their lives, or who they are, or what’s happening… you have significant milestones. Maybe they’re getting married, or having a child. Like, those things matter. They’re changing lives. And if you’re in close enough to know those things, you can celebrate those successes outside of work. That builds that bond, so that when you do have to deliver bad news or cut scope, or… you know, something happens. It’s software. Something… there’s always challenges that are going to come up. Websites, you know, sometimes aren’t built with the right speed, or maybe there’s something that goes down, or there’s a bug that gets logged after the launch… being able to go to that client and give honest counsel has to come from a good relationship. If you don’t have that, they’re not invested in your ability to solution that, or to fix it, or to become long-term partners. I don’t see my client engagements as projects. I think of those as lifelong friends that I’m gonna continue to do work with, and have fun with, and just really, you know, co-exist on this earth together in a very peaceful way. I know that sounds very Kumbayah, but as I’ve said to my friends, I don’t work, I come hang out with people doing jobs that we like and have fun. ‘Cause if it’s not fun, and you don’t love what you’re doing, you’re in the wrong line of work. And I love everything that I do, and it’s fun that I get cool people around me that let me build cool stuff for them. It’s the… that’s the highlight.
1: Yeah. I love that. And Chris, what else would you add to that part? If you were ranking the client relationship, or the intimacy, as you’re looking to start an engagement, where does that fall in terms of things you make sure you’ve gotta go get right?
3: I have a couple thoughts. This is a little inside-baseball, right? We’re a client services company, that means you have to be in deep enough with your client to really internalize where they’re going, and how what you’re working on maps to where they’re going. We’ve often said, internally at Launch teams, we gotta keep the thread. What is the thread of what we’re doing? How do we make sure our teams are keeping the thread? In my view, like I was saying before, it’s implied that you have to have a certain level of intimacy to really know where they’re going. It’s not the same for every kind of project, though. Like, let’s just call it what it is. If you’ve got a project where you are churning through six months of technical debt, and you just need an engineering team to, like… you know, rewrite a bunch of existing platforms and new language, it is less important for you to understand, you know, the ins and outs of your customer. I think that that is just true. Because it is a little more cut and dry. It’s a little more defined in a “here’s the backlog” kind of way. We’re gonna churn our way through the backlog. But if you’re introducing a new product to market, if you are rethinking an interface, if you are modernizing an entire platform or a set of applications, and you’re starting from an earlier stage in the process where what you’re really orienting around is business value, as opposed to “Hey, we’ve got a laundry list of things that we just need to check off,” then customer intimacy is near the top of the list. Because you have to really, truly be rooted in what’s important to the business. And by the way, this same advice goes for people who get hired internally. When you get hired at a product company, or when you get hired at a big enterprise and you own a piece of what they’re offering in the digital realm, you have to make sure that you are connected to the business realities. And… “Here’s how I am affecting the bottom line. I’m driving revenue. I’m saving cost. I am putting something out into the world that is increasing subscribers or customers,” or, you know, all of these things. It is very easy for technologists to get lost in, or lose sight of, the bigger picture, because they get lost in “I gotta make sure that, you know, I land my sprint,” or “I gotta check off X number of story points” or whatever. And that stuff is… it is an abstraction. It’s one layer removed from what is actually meaningful to the business. So, again, I come back to, when I think about customer intimacy it’s about what is meaningful to this business, and how do I make sure I understand the industry, the landscape, the position that this company is in? And I’m gonna really make sure that I have it in my blood, that I internalize it, so that I can drive a team to, you know, go after the business goal that is in front of us.
1: Very well said. And I love controlled experiments, right? And the definition of a controlled experiment is, you’re doing the same darn thing and you change a variable. Right? Change one thing. So I think you did a great job of kind of showing the dial of when more intimacy is required to get to an outstanding outcome, and again, continue to build that trust because you’re delivering, versus where it could be dialed back, if you will, a little less, because it’s a bit more of a didactic “go do these things this way.” They are pre-described, go execute on them and that’s that.
3: Clint, let me add one thing.
1: Yeah, please.
3: There’s another metric that I think you can use to measure how much customer intimacy do we need to prioritize or not, which is, how available are the key stakeholders on the customer side? This is something that we often include in our, like, in the proposal stage, when we are talking to a prospect before we actually have a statement of work written up. It’s, “How involved do you want to be?” Because sometimes, if the client is really overtaxed and they don’t have a lot of bandwidth to pull people in, that can put an extra layer of… I was going to say pressure, maybe that’s not the right word. But an extra expectation, so to speak, on our team that has to implement. So, the less involved, the less support you have from the client or from the business, the more engaged you have to be with really connected to what they’re going after. Versus, if you have a lot of support, you know, you might be able to be a little less, you might be able to draft off of that a little bit more, when it comes to your team. So just… another way to think about, you know, “How deep do I have to go?” That’s one way to picture it.
1: Yes, and Chris, I definitely want to go another click down on those deltas there, and I’ll toss that to Nathan in a second. I couldn’t help but think, while you were talking about when we’re not getting the details from a client, the very specific things we need to gain that intimacy, and the expectation might be thrown back on us or a service provider to say “Well, just put more people on it,” as if that’ll magically, like, extract the information. It reminds me of the ride at the beginning of Jurassic Park, where the spare-no-expense guy who built the park, and he’s taking them on the Mr. DNA tour, and they’re like “Oh, we just borrowed a little DNA from the frogs.”
1: Like, “What could go wrong?” You know? Turns out everything! That… everything goes wrong!
3: Yep. We know how that movie ends.
1: Yeah, exactly, exactly. So don’t go that route, is what we’re saying, right? Don’t… don’t just splice in frog DNA, people. Don’t do it. Do the work upfront so you get the full strand, and that means it’s coming from your team, so that we can have that intimacy. And then Nathan, Chris did a very nice job of talking about that dial, between when you need more or less of the knowledge or intimacy. I also want to ask you, what happens if it’s a green field project? Right, and green field, we’re defining it as, maybe the client doesn’t even know what they want yet, but they’re there to discover it and go forth and create something absolutely brand-brand new. Versus, an expansion of existing, an existing asset or product, or a V2, V3 of an existing product. On that particular level, where would you put the need for that intimacy, and where is it harder?
2: Yeah. You know, I still think it’s pretty important in both circumstances, and I think there’s a little bit of a scale here. You know, but when I think of… just being a little bit of a nerd, you know, the word intimacy… it just implies some close familiarity.
2: And so, going to the second part of your question first, for sort of a known, tried-and-true, maybe you’re building on new features or adding to an existing platform, that familiarity and that intimacy, it’s not just with that client, that team, it’s also with that software and that problem statement that you’ve already solved. There’s a new problem that has come up. I know it’s getting a little bit outside of a client, but that factors in to how you’d handle that relationship, and what that close familiarity becomes. It isn’t just interpersonal anymore. You actually have built a thing together, or you’re going to continue building upon a thing that exists. I don’t know how I can make this analogy, but it’s maybe more of a stepkid that you’re learning to love, rather than having your own child. Still your child, still you care, still…
2: You know, wanna raise and nurture it. But when it’s green field, I think the scale tips to even more important for that intimacy, and I think it’s harder to win the trust. I think it’s a longer effort, I think you have to pull, put more energy, pull out all the stops. Because if you’re building something green field, you know, like you said in your question, the client may not even know what they want.
2: They may know what an outcome is, or what they’re thinking about.
2: So, you’re going to be defining this on its own. It’s unknown. There’s going to be just tons of ambiguity that’s gonna abound, not just even in the problem, but what the solution is, how you get there, the trade-offs you’re going to make along the way. Like, the road isn’t built that you’re going to be driving on. So you have to have that relationship together to make sure that you’re giving that true counsel of why you should do something, or why you should not do something. Or… the other part I think about here is also, insulating them a little bit from the noise. Right now every single potential client I talk to wants… well, it was AI, and now this week it has changed to generative AI. Every single person wants that. And my most immediate question is, “Tell me what your business problem is.” And the answer I’m getting more often than not is, “Well, everybody else is doing it.” Ma’am and sir, that is not a business problem. That is a, everyone is doing it, we’re keeping up with the Joneses problem. Which I would say, don’t keep up with the Joneses, build your own house. So I think with that, you know, building those relationships to say “No, you shouldn’t do this.” And that’s counter to probably what I should be saying, of like, “Yeah, let us build this for you. I’ll… you know, we can bring in some revenue, we can build something for you.” But if it’s not solving that problem, there’s no reason to do so. One of the things that you mentioned early on is, you know, honest counsel and being an honest challenger, and I think that’s really core to that relationship-building piece. Whether you’ve known that person for five minutes or five years, honesty and truthfulness has to be the core of that, because when things are great, those successes are going to be better. And then, when things aren’t going great, you can have more frank conversations about solutioning it and not spiraling into a pit of problems. You know, I think of the Inidiana Jones movie where he opens up the ark and there’s all the snakes in there. Like, do you want to be in there? I don’t!
2: I never want to be in there!
2: But if I’m in there with a friend, at least somebody’s going to boost me out of there, right? So…
2: Kind of think about that. To bring your movie analogy to something a little bit more in my wheelhouse.
1: Yeah, for sure.
3: I can give a concrete example, here. ‘Cause I think you’re making a great point, Nathan. You know, we’ve talked about our work with the MTA before, and I think it’s very instructive and speaks directly to what you’re saying, because the MTA came to us, and they said “We have a screens problem. We are putting digital screens across our entire network of transit, you know, subway stations and train stations and bus stops, and, you know, the entire transit network, and we need to figure out how to get things on screens.” And the simple solution would have been for us to say “Okay, yeah. We’ll build you a platform to put, you know, digital posters up.” You know? You can just create something that is the digital equivalent of someone working in InDesign, Adobe InDesign, and then pushing out a TIFF file and then it just gets posted on a screen and you’re done. But instead, what we did was, we said “No, let’s understand what you’re really going after.” And what you’re really going after is, getting timely information to riders on the transit system. You’ve got New Yorkers and folks who are, you know, visiting the city, and they’re trying to get around, and we’re trying to get timely information in front of them so that when they’re going down into a subway station or getting on a subway, or on a train track and about to get on one of the commuter railroads, they have the information they need at the time they need it. And that is actually not a screens problem. That is a data problem. You need to think about how to generate and produce good data and get it in front of the rider, wherever they are. Which might be looking at a screen, screens are an important aspect of that, but it also might be getting directions in Google Maps. Or it might be looking at the website. Or it might be hearing an announcement over the loudspeaker at the station. And so, we took a first principles approach, where we were like “Let’s think about, how do we get to the core of what we are doing? and then we’ll solve that problem and we’ll put a really great software platform in place that lets you produce great data that then manifests in all of these different ways, one of which is screens, but that’s just one of the many things that we do.” And so, there’s no way we would have gotten to that had we not been like, “Let’s ask the question about, you know, what is this client really after? What is this customer really going for? What is the true business problem, rather than a solution in search of a problem, or an imagined problem?” And so, again, when I think about customer intimacy, that translates directly to me to, let’s make sure we’re defining the problems correctly, let’s make sure we’re being that honest challenger, so that we can ask questions and get to the root of something and then go solve it together.
2: Hundred percent. I want to jump in on that one here, because, sort of seeing this and becoming really close to the work and the case study, and as a rider of the MTA every day, you know, the original ask was to be a… signage supplier.
3: That’s right.
2: Put software so signs can be done. But instead, by taking the approach that we did, we actually put forward the actual problem statement for the actual user that we were solving for, which is the full citizen experience. And that’s such an important term, to make sure that they are… they’re the riders, they’re the passengers, they’re the ones that are consuming the services of the MTA. They are not better served by just having a picture on a screen. They’re much more served - and it gets to the heart of the problem - having rider safety information, having train times. All those things that factor into the services. Again, being biased as a frequent MTA traveler, like, all the things that I need for my journey just to come to work or make friends or whatever, all of that is empowered and makes my experience as a citizen so much better and so much more well thought out than just seeing a poster on a screen that’s been digitized for some reason.
3: That’s the thing. Imagine the frustration, if you see a poster on a screen, and then you go to the website and you see different information. And it’s infuriating. And you’re like, “What’s going on? Why am I getting different information about the trains?” And there’s an alternate reality where that 100% would have happened, because they would have been managed by different systems, different people using different interfaces, and they just would have been out of sync. And I guarantee you there’s somebody listening to this episode thinking, “That’s my company.” Where we’ve got two teams, or N teams, doing different things and it translates to customers getting this disjointed, out-of-whack experience. And for us, right? As Launch, as consultants, when we come in, this is what customer intimacy is all about. We gotta understand the full landscape so that the thing we’re building for you is holistic, and really addresses the core of what you’re going after. Because if you’re not addressing the core, you’re just putting band-aids on all these other things.
2: A hundred percent. And I just, to put on my strategy hat for one second here, also the solutions can also come with revenue streams built into them. So you can also then defray those costs. So if you are listening to this and have a similar problem, we would love to talk to you and make your pain points less painful, and solve them for you, and find ways to help defray some of that revenue cost.
1: Yeah, we like talking about this stuff. We actually like doing it, too, right?
1: Even more so. It reminds me, of course, people love to quote the famous Henry Ford quote, “If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
1: In the case of MTA, there was a perception of the problem, and you went deeper and you came out with a more holistic scope and solution. How do you crack the really tough nuts? Like, who do you need to win internally there? So, in the case of MTA or other clients where you had to listen, say “Hey, we hear you, and we want to offer you a different point of view that’s gonna challenge some things at the fundamental core of what you’re asking for.” Who do you tend to find are the toughest nuts to crack that you really just… you have to win over, otherwise you’re not gonna go anywhere?
3: I mean, it’s not a one-size-fits-all answer, you know. At the MTA there were people who had been using outdated interfaces for 15, 20, 25-plus years. And so they learned a lot of bad habits, not because they were not good at their jobs, but because you have to work around the systems that you have. And so, we had to win over a lot of hearts and minds with a newer, better way, but even newer and better is different.
3: And so, a lot of our challenge early days at the MTA, was: once our new platform started to come together, we started to have designs and, you know, visual mockups that we could show to people, it was getting them on board with changing the way they do things today. And that’s… you know, a common problem when you think about building enterprise software is, there’s very often something in place right now that people are, even if it’s awful, they are figuring out how to use. And you have to be thoughtful about, when you come in, how do you get them comfortable with using a new thing, even if it’s, you know, 20 times better?
1: You know, they may also have perceived value of their value to the organization…
3: Yeah, 100%.
1: Because they have such crazy domain knowledge, right?
1: It’s, they know the spaghetti. Not that they created it, but they… they found their way through the maze and they can get the job done with the current tech, even if it’s a… a sad state. And that can be hard on a human level, because you can feel like you’re prying away from this person. However, that person’s knowledge of that maze is so friggin’ valuable, right? (Laughs) We talk about the Ark of the Covenant that Indy swaps at the beginning, right? The little eggy thing, the boulder. You need that, because without it, you don’t know the map innately. You don’t know how they get through this today, and so you have to win those people over and bring them along as a partner, which is really intriguing… almost, like, psychology experiment.
3: In the best scenario, they become your advocates.
3: Like, you win them over and you show them a better way. And you have to do this… again, in an honest way. That’s the word that comes to mind, right? You can’t just be saying, “Well, I’m going to try to convince this person because I need them on my side.” You have to say, “Let’s get to the core of what you need, and then we’re going to bring you something that solves that problem, that issue, and makes your job easier, better, more enjoyable, more fun.” And once you get to that place, if they buy in, they will evangelize it to the rest of the org. And that is crucial, right? It’s so important to us as a client services company. We’re a third party who’s in the room, and we have to get people who are, who will represent us in the organization. It’s also important, if you are an internal leader, maybe you’re new or maybe you’re in a new role, or you’re trying to do something that’s a little different than how the organization has operated, you have to make sure that you are showing and proving regular value so that you get people who are advocates for you inside the organization.
2: I’m gonna give some tips on how exactly to do this. This is some secret sauce, I’m gonna drop it, so if you’ve not… if you’ve listened this far, here you go. To do exactly what Chris did, to become a change… an agent of change inside of a complex or multithreaded agency, four things. This is simple. Show up, actively listen, truly and genuinely care, and then fix the problem you set out to fix. The fourth one is hard, I get it, but if you do the first three, you’re going to get the map built for you. You’re gonna know what to build.
1: I do love the logic and the simplicity that you just built there, getting down to systems, small systems that really work well, and I think you just presented one there.
2: People are complex, but if you hear them and you listen to them and you genuinely care, you’re gonna build that bond and that alignment where they’re gonna tell you their pain points. They’re gonna tell you what they need. And that’s all this is. At the end of the day, it’s showing up and caring. It’s not just leading with software. Yes, we’re gonna get there, but I care about your pain points. I care about, your job is less efficient than you need it to be because you were trained on some spaghetti mix of intercombined systems that no one knows how to untangle, so you’ve got all these weird workarounds and Post-its… there’s nothing worse, when I walk in to an internal user, and they just have nothing but Post-it notes on how they do their job…
3: (Laughing) All over their desk. Yeah.
2: I feel such empathy and such care and I really wanna fix every single one of those problems. Because that person, you see, they care, right? They’ve got the Post-it notes, they’ve built the map…
3: Oh, yeah.
2: But the map is just not the straightest way to get from point A to point B. And that’s where we can come in, and we can just, you know, build that new expressway, where it has the one exit you need to get off to do your job, so you can go home and not think about work when you get home.
3: But again, this is… the theme of the episode is customer intimacy, right? This is where it comes to, you’ve gotta be at their desk, right? It sounds simple, that first point…
Chris and Nathan: Show up.
3: Right? And yet, so many companies get it wrong. So many companies, they’re not present, right? Sometimes that means physically present, but even if you’re on a video call, like, you have to be present, you have to be actively listening. You have to be there with the person that you are talking to and listening to, right? And you can feel it. You can feel the difference when someone is not engaged. And we’ve had clients who’ve come to us, who say “Wow. Your team is so much more in it with us than the team before.” And it’s these kinds of things that lead to that feeling, right? And you can call that customer intimacy, you can call that whatever you want, right? But that…
2: Good client services. But, sure.
1: Doing it well. Right, exactly.
3: Doing it well, that’s right.
1: We’ve been talking, I don’t even think with purpose, and in the sense that a lot of the things we’re talking about have been, moving people. The MTA and moving people. And then Nathan, you are on a specific client that I know, I know you’re very close with very recently, where you were aboard a way-longer-than-3-hour tour. In fact, it was a transatlantic tour. And I know that to get close to that client, you had to literally hop aboard and sail the high seas, so I’d love to know about that particular client and lessons learned there, too.
2: So, it’s true. A 15-day transatlantic voyage on a new ship that’s been christened for the first time. It’s a tough gig. It’s client services.
3: Can we say the name of the client?
2: You betcha. Carnival corporations. They’re a fantastic long-term partner, we’ve worked with them for quite a while. We’ve delivered quite a bit of cool software, talking about even internal software, we’ve got some good internal user case studies there. A fabulous client team. And I think, what I’d like to highlight here is sort of the bidirectional relationship that we had. And so, when they sought us out as a software vendor, you know, they were seeing other people. They wanted to make sure they got the right partnership, and partnership means the most to them. And why that means the most is, now having gone on several sailings with them, some were research, some have been for fun, and some have been for, you know, celebrating the new ship… the guest services on board the Carnival branded ships is like I’ve never experienced before in my life. Like, I thought I was a good client service manager? Boy, I had to up my game. Quick story. I took a sailing last May on one particular ship, and then in November took another sailing. Different ship, different line, different total personnel, but there were the same staff, that… a couple of the same staff members. Six months later they recognized my name on first sight.
3: Mm. Wow.
2: How in the world could that have happened when they’ve seen hundreds of thousands of people over the… you know, the six months that it had been? And it wasn’t like they faked it out. Like, they knew me by first name, by sight. And there was hugs. Like… client services, that just highlights how perfect the client services is. So, for them to get the partner that they wanted to, we invested in that relationship. Like, we talked about, you know, building the intimacy. Understanding what their guests need, also what they need. And then who they are as people. They’re also just lovely, fun people that I’ve been fortunate to hang out with outside of work a little bit. And what it means for them, sort of going back to my bidirectional item… they invested in us to take these research sailings. They wanted a long-term partner, and what that meant for them is, “We could come in and have you build the software, fine. Yep. Anyone could do that. But instead, we want to show that we want to invest in this team, and that means, come on these sailings, see us in action, learn about our guests, see the first hand experience in action on a ship.” Which is something you can hear about, you can watch YouTube videos on, of course. But there is no surrogate for being on board. Seeing how this happens and getting, you know, experiencing that passenger experience. So, you know, I think that intimacy, they were looking for a long-term relationship, we were looking for a long-term relationship. And we just hit it off in ways where, we care so deeply about software, they care so deeply about their guests, that the natural affinity of, our software solutions can provide better service for their ship-based and land-based crew as well as their guests. And we do that with passion. And now I’m so passionate for their guests, I understand their pain points deeply and intimately, and I can speak volumes on what they seek in a cruise and how the interactions go, and… I really have become quite a cruise nerd, if I can say so. I had never been on a cruise before in my life before meeting my Carnival friends, and now… well, let me just say it this way. My YouTube algorithm, it’s…
2: …a lot of tennis, and a lot of cruise ship reviews. That’s a thing. I did not know. There’s a lot of monetization in that, so if you’re looking for a new business startup, there you go.
3: Wow. I love that story, I feel like there’s maybe no better example of how, you know, you gotta be with the users than, like, I got on a ship and I was with the users. So maybe that’s a good place to leave it.
2: Well, it all goes back to…
Chris and Nathan: Showing up.
1: That’s it, show up. Whether it’s… you know, whether you’re a landlubber or you’ve gotta get out there on the open seas, show up, and then follow the other three steps that Nathan laid out. And I’m glad we all showed up today for this provocative, and dare I say, intimate discussion on customer intimacy.
3: There we go.
1: So, I really want to say a huge thanks to my co-hosts today, Chris and Nathan, for joining. And I want to say thank you to the audience, because without you we wouldn’t be here delivering all these, what we think are some gems. Because in this studio, we believe in shipping software over slideware, that fast will follow smooth, and aiming to create digital experiences that move millions is a very worthy pursuit. Join us next time as the pursuit continues on Catalyst, the Launch by NTT Data podcast. Thanks, fellas.
3: Thanks, all.
2: Thank you.
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