About me

December, 2013

As 2013 comes to a close, I’m finding time to reflect back on the past five months. Those who know me, will tell you I’m in a really good place, especially when it comes to my career. Seems that it’s come full-circle. What a treat to be back at the place I began exploring business with in the mid-eighties, when ironically, many of the customers I’m currently serving weren’t even born. I’m back at the Schulich School of Business, at York University; this time not as a student (where I completed my MBA in ’91), but rather, as a member of the leadership team, heading up Information Services and Technology.

What a treat to be back at the place I began exploring business with in the mid-eighties…

It’s been quite the squiggly path to get here…moving from in-house computer programmer/analyst at some major corporations, to entrepreneur, to consultant in technology, experiential marketing, customer experience strategy and Social Media. It’s a major shift moving from working with varied industry clients into the academic world for the first time in my career. And the timing feels so right. While my main role is to provide a technology vision for the Business School and support our varied stakeholders, I’ve already had the side-benefit and privilege of sharing experiences about Social Media in the business world, with a couple of classes of undergrads here at the school.

We live in an age where the world’s knowledge is available 24×7, privacy is a thing of the past, and control of the brand has shifted into the hands of the consumer.

The world of Information Technology has gone through quite the transformation since I started programming in RPG III on an IBM System/38 twenty-eight years ago. Back in the 80’s, IT was a centrally-controlled, mysterious, geek-centric world that few outside the ‘ivory tower’ understood. Fast-forward to today’s world of highly-distributed, customer-centric, data-ubiquity, where IT crosses into and underlies all aspects of an organization…where people bring their own devices and connect at will to the company’s central hub, or work from a mobile office in coffee shops, hotels, planes, their homes. We live in an age where the world’s knowledge is available 24×7, privacy is a thing of the past, and control of the brand has shifted into the hands of the consumer. What a great time to be in IT and in Higher Education (#HigherEd), for that matter. I’m lucky to be riding this wave with such esteemed colleagues, students, faculty, staff, and alumni, and be able to give back to the Schulich community in so many ways.

November, 2012

My journey continues.  My love of technology has drawn be back to a familiar place.  I’m used to seeing change happen in organizations within months; not years, and business transformation takes years.  So I’ve moved from a pure strategy focus to one that’s more focussed on tactics.  I am grateful to my colleagues at Strativity, who have more patience than I and taught me to appreciate  the true impact of Customer Experience Strategy.

And now as we move into 2013, I seem to have found my calling – helping organizations engage with customers through the Social channel.  We’re seeing a shift in how businesses are beginning to use Social Media.  Historically, it’s been driven by Marketing – pushing one way messages out to a company’s Social followers.  However, Social has given Customers a voice – they can now push back if they feel the brand isn’t listening, they can provide advice, interact with other customers who share similar values and beliefs, solve their own problems, they can reach out to the brand for service, etc.

And now as we move into 2013, I seem to have found my calling – helping organizations engage with customers through the Social channel.

I’ve been successful partnering with technology vendors in the past – IBM, Microsoft, Cognos, Software 2000, Magic, GeneXus, and others.  And I’m thrilled to have found a new partner in Conversocial – they’ve been first in the market with a platform for Social Customer Service and already have some big-name accounts globally.  They have a great product and a great team.  I’ve started a consultancy – Convercentric Inc. – to sell, support, and provide value-added services for their clients…social analytics being a big part of the offering – helping companies make sense of the conversational data.

I’m thrilled to have found a new partner in Conversocial – they’ve been first in the market with a platform for Social Customer Service…

As organizations become more Social, Social Media will be nothing more than a commodity, with all of the big brands jumping on it.  As a channel for customer engagement, Social will become like the telephone, or email.   It’s the experience at the moment that is critical for the customer (what we call the “moment of truth”) that has to be unique for each company and has to create a lasting memory for the customer.  Designing the Social Experience at the Customer Service touch-point, or within the online Community, has to be done in such a way that customers walk away with an emotional connection to the brand – they feel heard, and they feel that the company really cares. There’s an element of surprise from the encounter.  Social Experience design and the ability for clients to make sense of all of this Social customer engagement data, is the nature of what I’ll be delivering to my clients.

March 4, 2011

I’ve always been fascinated by human interactions. Perhaps there was some incident at some point in my youth that left a mark on my psyche. Whatever the case, I feel compelled, through business, to make a difference in how people interact with one another, how they perceive one another’s intentions, how they follow through when they make a promise to do so.

I’ve been in business for over 25 years, starting out in Information Technology, first, working on the inside of IT departments for some major brands, then working for professional services firms, and finally putting my own stake in the ground as an Entrepreneur. I built a successful Professional Services firm, then a firm focussed on Customer Experience Management, and more recently, a Brand Activation company. I’m hands-on, whether it’s dealing with people, implementing Analytics Solutions, Social Media Communities, e-Commerce, back-office or web-based applications. I get Technology; I get Marketing; I get Business.

Through the course of my career, I’ve seen how too often we forget who’s paying us. We forget why we’re in business in the first place, and we get so caught up in meeting financial targets, focussing on the day-to-day operations of a business, trying to climb the corporate ladder, that we often lose sight of the humanity in all of this. At the end of the day, we’re all people; we all have similar human needs and wants, we all go to the bathroom (whether you’re a CEO or an entry-level CSR), and most of us just want to have a happy, healthy life surrounded by close friends and/or family, and enjoy some leisure time. For me that means spending quality time with my wife and kids, going out with friends, getting on my road bike and spending a few hours of self-reflection on the open road, and being able to enjoy some really great food and wine (my wife has taught me well).

We forget why we’re in business in the first place, and we get so caught up in meeting financial targets, focussing on the day-to-day operations of a business, trying to climb the corporate ladder, that we often lose sight of the humanity in all of this.

I’ve had some great times in my life, along with some mind-numbing hardships. I’ve been through several business cycles where during the upswings we were all so into the moment that we lost sight of the possibility that this all could turn south at the blink of an eye.

I think I’ve gained some wisdom over the years that has served me well, and that I can share with others.

As I pioneered a Customer Experience Management business from the early 2000’s to 2008, I found that decision-makers were paying a lot of lip-service to the Customer, thinking (or at least hoping) that if you measure it, you can fix it. Drive people to fill out an online survey, build a scorecard, follow-up on bad service incidents, and voila, the customer’s on your side. Problem is, you can’t cure lymphoma with a pill. Select few business leaders wanted to invest in reshaping their own culture and enhancing the relationships with their own employees – they just figured they could patch up a few customer touchpoints and be done with it. But it just doesn’t work that way.

…decision-makers were paying a lot of lip-service to the Customer, thinking (or at least hoping) that if you measure it, you can fix it.

Over the last few years, I had the fortune of being immersed in the Social Media wave, building a business that integrated digital social with real in-home social events. I’ve worked with some brilliant Gen-Y application developers and thinkers who’ve helped me to relate to this new channel of communication. But again, at the end of the day, we always seem to come back to people…to physical interaction…to face-to-face meetings. That’s where real relationships happen. That’s where the real deals are consummated.

And so, at this juncture, I’ve found it timely to have the opportunity to return to THE CUSTOMER, and really make the Customer Experience the focus of this next leg of my journey. In March of this year, I accepted a role as Canadian Director of Customer Experience (CE) Strategy for a global CE Strategy firm – Strativity. From what I have experienced first-hand, in terms of their approach, and their successes, they’re a leader in this field. They’ve taken the same holistic approach to the Customer that I’ve always touted. And they’ve been able to transform some major brands using a set of strategies that they’ve been successful at executing. While there are many strategy firms and related companies jumping on the CEM bandwagon right now, because it’s the hot thing, there are select few that have established a beach-head of success in this truly profit-enhancing space.

…at this juncture, I’ve found it timely to have the opportunity to return to THE CUSTOMER, and really make the Customer Experience the focus of this next leg of my journey.

My passion is at a high. I look forward to this next phase in my life and driving success for businesses that are sincerely committed to the Customer.