Gerry McGovern helps customers complete their most important tasks when they arrive at a website. His proven process routinely results in the removal of as much as 90% of the content on a website. This requires content managers to shift their mindset from a simple production model to an ongoing customer-centric “eternal beta.”
Gerry and I talked about:
- the shift in power away from organizations to customers
- the importance of customer centricity
- the evolution of web content from a push model to a pull model
- the differences between keywords, carewords, and brandwords
- how branding has shifted from broadcasting messages to facilitating conversations among customers
- conventional branding’s continued relevance in the digital age
- the evolution of content from project-based production to continuous evolution & improvement
- the importance of focusing on top tasks
- how to identify and measure top tasks
- why we use products we don’t trust
Gerry McGovern helps large organizations deliver a better digital customer experience. His commercial clients include Microsoft, Dropbox, Cisco, NetApp, VMware, and IBM. He has also consulted with the US, UK, EU, Dutch, Canadian, Norwegian, and Irish governments.
Gerry has developed a research and management model to help large organizations improve customer experience through identifying and optimizing customer top tasks. It’s called Top Tasks Management. A highly-regarded speaker, he has spoken on digital customer experience in 35 countries.
He has written six books on digital customer experience. His latest is called Transform: A Rebel’s Guide for Digital Transformation. It shows that digital transformation is far more about culture change than technology change. The Irish Times described Gerry as one of five visionaries who have had a major impact on the development of the Web. He is the founder and CEO of Customer Carewords.
Here’s the video version of our conversation:
[Not an actual transcript – just my quick notes on first listen-through]
00:20 – my intro
00:50 – Gerry intro – same broad intent in both content and tasks – his background is journalism and he writes constantly – so not as if he’s left world of content – mid-90s saw world-changing coming – saw early on sense of shift in power away from organizations to customers – his “North Star” – if you want to be successful you need to be customer centric – how to do this in digital – it’s words that help you navigate the digital space – maybe 10-15 years we’ll navigate a visual VR landscape but for now it’s words – “Content is the foundation of the digital customer experience.” – most essential element of delivering a great customer experience is content – “help people do stuff” – that’s his focus now – customer centricity – still does lots of content even though he identifies as a customer experience person
4:25 – question – evolution of content – carewords over keywords and then tasks – any Eureka! moments?
5:30 – problem with old push media like PointCast – not on the web to be bombarded by random info – early 2000s insight about keywords vs carewords vs brandwords- arose with research on “cheap flights” vs. “low fares” – “low fares” was branding term barely searched for compared with “cheap flights” – marketers said, we can’t use word cheap it will hurt brand but 5 years later they were all using it – had realized that they had to follow – that’s how you get them there, search terms, then when you arrive at the site you need to shift to a different language – like passing the baton in a 400 relay – you need to pass them along to carewords as soon as they’re on the site – another example: university searches – “top-ranked university” got them to site, but “how to advance your career” once they’re onsite – different words bring you to the site vs what you use when you’re there – carewords trigger your intent
10:15 – passing the baton – customer journey – hand-off points – insight here for content marketers? – getting existing customers to do your work for you
11:20 – we’re all impatient now – our expectations are constantly rising – that’s a big shift – things are sold differently now – through free use/trial/freemium model cuts out a lot of traditional storytelling marketing “industrializing trials” – other model, big brands like Facebook, Amazon, Google, no advertising – counter-example: you knew Yahoo had lost when they had to do TV ads to explain how to use it – your current customer is the driver of your marketing, whether social media or other, users are the most credible source vs. fake news – keep it real, let them use it, or help them find someone to talk with who is using it – good marketers are facilitating customer conversations
14:40 – “branding” now happens when customers talk to each other
15:00 – branding was hijacked 20-30 years ago – products like Coke and Marlboro – the more you learn about them, the less you want to buy them – so you tell stories – and people come to think that that’s what branding is – no info, just amazing stories that have nothing to do with the product – but there are products that you need info about – houses, cars, insurance, health care, etc. – there’s a lot of stuff that is important for you to know – you learn that Toyota is reliable from your neighbor, not from Toyota stories – actual facts about reliability from real people – if your brand is what you are, let it express itself through use, facilitate sharing a story that’s already out there, help people using it keep the conversation going
18:00 – branding of things like soda and fasting? a soon-to-be-vestigal thing?
18:20 – no – we don’t always want to know the truth – want to do emotionally satisfying, but perhaps sinful things – so that kind of branding won’t go away – with these products marketers have a blank canvas on which to limn those stories that speak to your base human instincts like vanity, – but, also another big world that has emerged with the web – Hey, I want to check this out – for example, used to be hard to get health info – now world has opened up for us
[technical issue: lost internet connection ]
21:20 – gear shift to customer centricity . . . role of key tasks – often results in removing 80-90% of a site’s content
22:10 – part of the evolution from content as project to content evolution, a model of continuous improvement, the eternal beta – lots of work for content people in this new model but more about improvement and optimization than ongoing creation – core set of top tasks are important and need to ensure that they perform well, are easy to understand and accomplish – focus like this is crucial – e.g. 999 emergency servive in Australia found that saying “what’s happened” instead of “what has happened?” saved 9 seconds in getting the crucial life-saving info – and so they focus on that ongoing – gets at the power of language – “We so underestimate the need for precision in language” – even if we work in content – good to think about impact of words – “We spend our lives like coal miners. Digging and shoveling. We really should be gold miners. Sifting.” – even though we are surrounded by words, people forget the latent power of language – instead we measure volume – “impact is hard to measure, so we won’t measure it.” “Volume is easy to measure, so let’s measure it.”
25:10 – how do you identify & measure top tasks?
FIRST, identify task environment – e.g. health: check symptoms, where to go for help, vaccinations, & other stuff that has to do with health – can do same thing with cars, data centers, or whatever – can always get down to 100 tasks, usually more like 50-80 – both internal and external sources – frame it from customers point of view but also talk to all others involved – management, etc. – to create the map of the area, the parameters
SECOND, give entire list, randomized, to folks on their own and force them to choose 5 – every time they get the same pattern – disproportionate – top 5 always get as much as the bottom 50 – same results across geography, demographics, industries – you see what really matters, but equally important to identify least important – often the bottom 50 are disrupting the top 5 – inverse relationship often: the less important something is to the customer, the more content is being created for it, because organization has this psychological view that you create importance through the production of content: “The empty vessel makes the most noise.” – if only you create loads of content about it [unimportant-to-user task] we’ll create demand – not necessarily – you actually end up taking your people’s time away from their ability to work on content for the top tasks – e.g. work with US EPA they had no time to focus on Clean Air Act because there was a team working on badger preservation loading down the site with pictures of cuddly badgers – pet projects taking up resources that should be going to more important things
30:25 – measuring that dynamic and then implementing change?
30:35 – Cisco, e.g., top task is downloading software – measured downloading tasks – team used to be measured on production, creating software and uploading it to the system – they changed the model of measurement to how can the end user find and download the software – so, instead of being producers they had to manage the customer journey to consumption – and once they were measured on findability and usability – before (2010) took 15 steps and 280 seconds to download; after (2013) took 4 steps and 40 seconds – shift to measuring consumption instead of production – culture change: identify what’s critical to customer and then measure the team based on the customer’s ability to find and consume that critical thing, rather than on the production of the software and components
32:25 – anything last?
33:00 – has been looking at trust, and connection between trust and use – “A lot of the things we use, we don’t trust.” – if we look at Facebook – we know what Google and Uber do – wouldn’t necessarily their management – so why do we use them? because they’re really useful – In many ways, use trumps trust.” simplicity, ease of use, etc. – where is tipping point – when will we care about our privacy? – we don’t care now – “if something is useful and easy, customer gives it a lot of leeway” – “The power of being useful overrides so many other concerns – not saying it should, but if you are useful, if you are simple and easy, “Simple and easy is the gold dust, it’s the diamonds of today. The things we are attracted to.” – we lose perspective when things are easy, and that can be psychologically manipulated – “We talk a lot about trust, but when the rubber hits the road, we go with the stuff that makes our lives easier.”