Discovering the unknown
In my youth, I spent the summer months visiting my grandparents in New Jersey where I first heard the term “the dog days of summer”. It made sense, as we get to the middle to latter part of the summer where it is so overwhelmingly hot (and humid in New Jersey), that the dogs just lay around and pant. It made me feel like “dogging it” as well – just lay around with a cold drink and let the heat of the day pass me by.
It wasn’t until several years later that someone said “we’re officially in the dog days of summer” that I began to question the origin. I first questioned the idea that it had an official “start date”. Really, I was not questioning it as much as I was not allowing new facts to change my current understanding of what it meant. Turns out, there is an official start and end date that coincides with the time that the Sun occupies the same region of the sky as Sirius. Sirius (not just satellite radio) is the brightest star visible from any part of Earth and part of the constellation Canis Major, the Greater Dog. In 2021, it runs from 3 July to 11 August, squashing the idea that I’ll take my next leave during the height of the dog days of summer.
While I have known the true definition of diēs caniculārēs many years, it is still fun to think of the dog days of summer as just those hottest days between Memorial Day and Labor day. I do not reject the formal definition nor do I shut down my old way of looking at things.
Assimilating new knowledge
I have a great curiosity about many things. What is the real history behind an event I just learned about? Why are certain phrases used? Even how are things put together? This last one got me in trouble because I once dismantled my brother’s handheld video game to answer that question – though I didn’t have the skills to put it back together.
It really comes down to a bigger idea: Why don’t we question more? Human nature has this tendency to want to be correct. It is what causes us to argue. However, the idea that new knowledge is out there that can change our perceptions does not make anyone right or wrong. We shouldn’t ignore information because it doesn’t align with the current status.
Yet we do this every day in our customer experience programs. From chasing down the practitioners about response rates all the way up to key strategic decisions. In a given week, I will hear several comments about response rates and how the system must be doing something wrong. Yet when confronted with data about respondents being preoccupied with vacations and getting ready for the school year, the prior hypothesis is still assumed to be true. At the other end, when a CEO asks a question about customer experience data, there can be a push to mold the data to that hypothesis, rather than presenting facts that might change perspective. I can imagine the conversation just like this:
CEO: It is hard to believe that we aren’t viewed better with “responsiveness” since we invested so much in our contact center.
CX Lead: I will have my provider dig into the data
CX Provider: We ran the numbers several times in several ways and “responsiveness” is down across the board with many saying automated phone menu take too much effort.
CX Lead: I can’t go back to the CEO with that, we’ve spent a lot of money to improve that area of our business.
Imagine the change that could be made by just assimilating that one small item, but if a company is not prepared to do that, then they might not be ready to really become a customer focused business.
In business reality, we should be ready to receive and assimilate information that conflicts with our current customer experience strategy, that may highlight differences in the company/customer view and (most importantly) might even be considered bad news. Conflicting information does not mean that anyone was wrong, only that there is an opportunity to change to meet evolving needs.
Now that you know, what is next?
Not every new fact or nugget of information requires action, but it does require contemplation. For example, a few years ago I was working at a full-service customer experience consultancy. I had worked with QuestionPro as one of many providers, and knew them to be exceptional in the survey space, but had questions about the customer experience tools that we all need like manager dashboards and closed-loop feedback. There were no industry write-ups, not many clients jumping in front of conferences singing praise or press releases about the CX platform. However, when I took a closer look at everything, all the tools I needed were there and they were building great new tools like NPS+ and CX Workflow that made them better than most CX platforms on the market. Then combine that with industry leading survey tools and available purpose-built tools such as Market Research, Communities and Employee Experience it really changed my perceptions of the fit. Now we’ve received high marks in three industry analyst reviews as well, one which classified us as a “Top CX Provider” in the space.
Does this mean you should immediately halt what you are doing and move immediately to QuestionPro CX. Absolutely not, you should keep doing what you are doing and move to us next week (even CX researchers like to joke, but seriously). The point is really that you should continue to evaluate this new information. Knowing that QuestionPro CX provides ninety percent of the same tools at half the price should be something that is considered. At the same time, knowing that we are not a fit for every program is something else that should be incorporated into the thinking.
Listen for new information. Evaluate that data. Make decisions – even if they were not the same decisions you would have made before. And continue enjoying the dog days of summer for two more weeks.