As I was scanning the Twitter feed for voices from Altamont Group’s Total Customer Experience 2014 conference in San Francisco yesterday, a few very interesting images caught my eye. The work of Bobby Meeks, user experience architect at AutoZone, were some of the best designed “notes” I’d ever seen. 

“I grew up thinking I was weird for not taking notes in a linear fashion,” Meeks told CMSWire.  “My textbooks, folders, and composition books all had doodles in them instead of bullet points. Fast forward to present day … I found the awesome book by Mike Rohde, The Sketchnote Handbook, that put a name to the practice and went deeper into how to be more disciplined when doing it.  Now I do it as part of my daily routine.”

I was so intrigued by Meeks’ note-taking talents, I asked him if he would expand on them and give us his perspective on Day 1 of the Total Experience conference, which focuses on customer/user experience, as well as experience design.

Meeks’ Notes, Expanded


This being my inaugural user experience conference, I was bright-eyed and giddy this brisk San Francisco morning — eager to see what all the hubbub was about. My condition may have been exacerbated by the coffee and Central-to-Pacific time zone differential, but the experience was the same nonetheless. The keynote speakers were Roy Barnes and Stephen Riley, both accomplished champions of making customer experience a corporate priority.

Satisfied Is a Weak Word

Roy Barnes, customer experience expert and managing partner at Blue Space Consulting, opened the morning with some excellent points that will likely upset many in my executive chain, so I will have to find delicate ways to report my lessons learned when I get home. Specifically, his castle analogies and his spot-on assessment of the negative impact of silo building struck a painfully familiar chord.

I also felt a sense of validation when he spoke of the need to provide value to your customer in order to deliver more than a satisfying experience, referring to “satisfying” as a weak and outdated term. I am now compelled to push harder to create emotionally engaging experiences in order to increase loyalty rather than simply satisfy requirements.

His last resonating bullet point was to "stop celebrating random acts of great customer service." All in all, a great way to start the day.

Data-Informed vs. Data-Driven

Stephen Riley, senior director and customer experience leader/UX designer at Symantec, was a perfect complement to Roy. The peanut butter to his chocolate, the Ponch to his John, the Spock to his Kirk … you get my drift.

Though admittedly unintentional, their messages together were nearly seamless. Stephen segued into his keynote by asking, "How do you know you are doing a good job?"

Using a typical four-quad chart, where most companies hide low and to the left in order to survive in a soft market, Stephen encouraged a movement high and to the right — pointing to a little company from Cupertino [that would be Apple!] and their continued growth in a down market. 

Data-Informed companies, he pointed out, will outperform Data-Driven companies by "designing for delight" rather than settling for satisfied. Quantitative Data, as he went on to say, does not answer the "why" of customer dissatisfaction or satisfaction, and should not be the "crutch" that guides executive indecision around CX/UX.

Stephen also pointed out another often upside down paradigm in the play-it-safe market: the priority order of $$, Strategy, Employee Competency and Customer Delight. He opined that the differentiator between surviving and thriving is a simple flip of the mindset.

When companies make it a priority to delight customers by having talented and engaged employees design and implement strategically aligned solutions, the results are exponentially better. To which I say, Amen.

This was a great first day and I very much look forward to the rest of the sessions. I will certainly have some fresh ideas on how to encourage other cross-functional teams to join me in steering the customer experience.