Mike Wittenstein: The Power of Future Stories in Executing Change Management

May 3, 2023

Mike Wittenstein: The Power of Future Stories in Executing Change Management

Mike Wittenstein: The Power of Future Stories in Executing Change Management
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Mike Wittenstein founded Storyminers in 2002, serving corporate, medium-size, and start-up organizations. His first professional CX experience was to guide the CX design for McDonald’s digital drive-thru in 1999 while eVisionary at IBM. 

He earned the 31st CCXP designation and has helped hundreds of companies advance their CX initiatives and increase their ability to deliver value for clients. 

A serial innovator, Mike has figured out methods and techniques to embed the power of CX stories into operations and cultures. His clients have created over $2 billion in value by applying them. He has worked extensively in Europe and the Americas and speaks English, Portuguese, Spanish, and (a little) Russian. 

Mike’s favorite work is using CX to figure out the future. He believes that customer experience is the perfect tool for businesses to create a meaningful connection with their customers and that brands cannot succeed unless they keep their promises. He has helped many businesses to pivot and adjust their strategies, during tough times like the COVID pandemic or geopolitical unrest, by leveraging the power of their stories and creating meaningful customer experiences.

In this episode, Mike and I delve into finding the essence of a story for branding by knowing who you are and improving observation skills with mystery shops. Mike shares his experience in prototyping technology and optimizing the checkout experience. 

Key Takeaways

  • How leaders can create a safe space and build trust, and the importance of building a culture of being genuinely curious and asking emotionally intelligent questions.
  • Making Transitions feel more real for customers
  • Recognizing and handling common complaints among employees
  • Mike’s thoughts on CX. Why it’s all about doing things for others, not to others
  • Involving your customers in the change process. If you want to find the right approach for customer experience solutions, you need to place yourself in your client's shoes and understand his needs and pain points. 


[00:02:41] "Finding the essence of a story"

[00:06:48] "Aligning Customer Needs with Honest Communication Strategies"

[00:12:43] "Building Rapport & Solving Business Misalignment Challenges"

[00:18:32] "Creating a Powerful Future Story for Change"

[00:23:14] "Transforming Experiences: 3 Success Stories"

[00:25:07] "Transitions expands to retail with a new approach"

[00:27:27] "Creating a Revolutionary Brand Experience for Glasses"

[00:34:25] "Revolutionizing Eyeglass Shopping Experience Through Technology"

[00:36:46] "Storytelling Through Customer Experience Analysis"

[00:38:41] "Meet Consultant Mike Wittenstein: The Expert Guide"


  • On customer Experience Design: "Solutions are always about people. They are front and center, whether it's call center, retail, waiting rooms at hospitals, amusement parks, or whatever. It's all about how people respond. So if you don't show your chops in terms of understanding people, the conversation won't go too far."

  • On Leading Change with Future Stories: "I believe that because there is so much change right now and so much ambiguity and so much opportunity and so many well-educated people... it makes sense that it's the leader's responsibility to paint that picture of the future. Now, should she or he do it themselves because they're in a position of power? Absolutely not. They should do it as a with my people, exercise, with my clients, with my partners and employees."

Connect with Mike

Website - https://storyminers.com/ 

LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/in/mikewittenstein/ 

Email - mike@storyminers.com 

Phone - 404 229 5809

Twitter - https://twitter.com/mikewittenstein?lang=en






Mike Wittenstein [00:01:32]:

Steve, it's a pleasure to be with you. And thanks for such a great info. I look forward to what's coming up next.

Steve Pappas [00:01:38]:

Me too. Because I don't know what's happening, but we're going to figure it out together. So let me give them your Bio first. So Mike Wittens Dean is the founder and managing partner of Story Miners, IBM's former Evisionary, mike is expert at the intersection of technology, story design, as well as strategy. He helps leaders differentiate their brands through service and helps employees connect with their customers. Fluent in four languages. Mike also knows how to share the details that lead to success with customer experience. I think that's right up our alley today. And as a speaker, consultant, and designer, he shares insights, tools, and inspiration with the people around the world. Mike has achieved leading designations as a consultant CMC, a speaker, CSP, and designer CCXP. So I think we've got a lot to unpack, Mike. But first of all, let's talk a little bit about Story Miners. How did the genesis of Story Miners come about?

Mike Wittenstein [00:02:41]:

I was working with my co founder, Tom Milkovic. We were sitting in a Starbucks one day, the same day that Delta and Coca Cola announced thousands of layoffs in their marketing department. Tom and I were talking back and forth about what the world needs. He wanted to jump from agency to client side or back and forth. Everybody moves their career wherever they want to. And we started talking about what is it that the world needs right now? Well, all these people are coming on the market and all the businesses that were downsizing were changing in a sense. They all had new strategies, they all had new stories to tell. Nothing different from today with all the crazy stuff we have with COVID and geopolitics and artificial intelligence. Everything is up in the air. Everyone is in a pivot. If you're using the strategy from Pre COVID, you might as well hang it up. You've got to be adjusting. So Tom and I were going through that same thing back in the early two thousand s and we realized that what we were very good at, individually as well as together, was finding the essence of a story. And every person has a story. Every business has a story. And the story that matters to customers isn't the one that you tell them, it's the one that they tell by having an experience and then turning that into a story about you. So your brand really lives inside of your customer. So those are some of the things that Tom and I knew intuitively and we kind of brought it towards in that meeting at a Starbucks. So the notion of the whole thing is we would help brands find their stories and then be their stories. Because there are two parts to branding you got to know who you are and hopefully that's what you love to do, what you're good at and what other people want to hire you for. But you can't just make promises with your brand. Your business has to keep those promises. And that's where I think customer experience comes into play because it's a perfect language for getting those two to talk with each other.

Steve Pappas [00:04:48]:

It's interesting because it almost gets me thinking about the different archetypes of business that we could potentially have. Like some businesses might be the innovators, some might be the authority types and some might appeal differently. But whatever type the business is, they not only have to understand it, they have to live it. It has to become part of the culture, but they also have to market it that way too. And I think a lot of companies probably fall short on being able to tell their story outwardly based on the archetype they feel and they want to present. So how do you sit down? I mean, what does a conversation look like when somebody comes to you? What have they recognized in their business that they say, I really need help. We're having a problem. I need somebody to help me. I guess the question is, if we were to fly on the wall in a business, and I'm saying this in a way that our audience can relate that who recognizes that they need help with their story? And then how do they communicate it to the person that's going to go out and find you to say, here's the problem, because sometimes that translation might be a little bit different and then maybe walk us through a little bit of what your conversation with the company starts to unfold and what you try to get to. And I know this is a three part question, but your discovery process with them. So one is how do they recognize they've got the bleeding head wound? Two is how do they communicate that to research who can help them? And then three, what is the path you kind of take to discover how you can help them? Does that make sense?

Mike Wittenstein [00:06:39]:

That makes perfect sense. And I think you could be a politics interviewer too, because they love to stack up questions to the candidates which.

Steve Pappas [00:06:45]:

Never get answered the proper way anyway.

Mike Wittenstein [00:06:48]:

Well, I'm going to try to answer your questions because that's the honest and the right thing to do. So typically I've asked these questions too, doing win analysis or loss analysis to find out how my own business is doing. So usually there's some complaining going on. The things that it boils down to are my people don't understand me, I'm stuck or lost, and something has changed in my business, like a competitive move or a regulatory change, things that are structural. So the complaints usually come out like, this is so frustrating, and not exactly these words, but it boils down to I'm uncomfortable, I don't like the way I'm feeling, I'm out of sync with everything else. That is the absolute core. And while people think of that as a complaint, it's truly a gift because it means that people have recognized that something is out of kilter. So it's time for an adjustment. It's like you don't go to the chiropractor on a day you feel good. You go on a day when something hurts or is out of alignment. So if you are a secretary, a first line, a direct report, somebody in the call center, and you notice this kind of misalignment, it's not something to skirt around or avoid, it's something to lean into. I would recommend that people pay attention if their boss is getting a little bit antsy or starting to feel out of sorts is the best way I can say it, misaligned and in a politically correct way. Bring that to attention, have a conversation about that so that you can be part of the solution. You might think that they're supposed to do everything for you or that you're not allowed to talk to the boss, but they are a little bit distracted, perhaps a little bit lonely, perhaps. They love and appreciate having somebody corroborate some of the things that they're feeling and share their perspective from a very different point in the organization. So that's usually the starting point. How do people communicate what they are looking for? That is really weird, Steve, because everything has changed with the Internet. We have so much more technology and we have this growing gap between people who have needs and people who have solutions. It's just getting wider and wider and wider. It's not easier with all the tech. It's harder, it's less predictable, especially in professional services, because our conversation is about customer experience and you don't find that in the Yellow Pages. It's just not there. Does anybody know what Yellow Pages are? So they communicate things like strategy, operations, some kind of metrics research, things like that. But that's not really what they're looking for, which makes it kind of hard. Some of the colleagues that I have say, mike, this is really easy. You're making it too hard. All you need to do is tell people that you'll give them what they ask for, but then when you get to work, give them what they need. I am not really comfortable with that because that's a bait and switch. That's a lie. Right from the start, I think all of our jobs as customer experience practitioners, whether you have your own business, you're a solopreneur or you're working inside of a company, to have that alignment and be honest about your brand, you have to know who you are, who you serve, what you can do, how you work. That needs to be very clear. You shouldn't promise one thing and deliver something else. It just always unravels and it doesn't last long enough. So the communications part that you asked about, it's not uncommon for an executive, a medium size or larger firm, to ask somebody else to go shopping. And they usually go shopping in one of two ways. One is they'll look for a role, title or a named expert. And the other way is they'll look for a situation. If they're looking for a situation, they're usually going to fall prey to pain, point selling. Are you frustrated with this, that and the other? Have you always felt, blah, blah, blah, we have the solution? They kind of go for that kind of answer. If they're looking by role or for popularity, they're going to find the people who are most visible and most popular. Doesn't necessarily mean they're the best fit. So I know I'm leaving a gap here, but we'll come back and we'll kind of fix that in just a minute. How do you find the right person? Is the question behind all of this. Once we start talking to somebody, the conversation usually goes something like this hi, nice to meet you. Blah, blah, blah. We have a little chitchat, build some rapport. I've always studied up a little bit on a new person that I'm meeting, if there's time and if I can find out more about them. But I'd like to get my very first impressions from the people that I talk to so I don't go overboard on LinkedIn research and trolling and profile searching and all those kinds of things. I'll try to get a gist of what somebody's done in terms of their professional experience, what some of their beliefs are. But I don't go too deep because the best impression that you can get is the first impression from somebody. That usually tells you a lot. The older you get and the more experience you acquire, the more those unvarnished first impressions mean to you, because you understand how to read people a little bit better. And if you're in customer experience, that's a skill that you work on your entire life. You're always curious about people, seeing patterns, putting things together so that you can serve others. Because if you're in customer experience, you're doing things for other people, not to other people. All right, are we doing okay?

Steve Pappas [00:12:41]:

Can I keep going or yeah, absolutely.

Mike Wittenstein [00:12:43]:

All right. So the conversation usually goes like, what's going on? Some basic opening question. And I'll usually hear something like, I'm having a problem with ABC. I'm trying to be very generic here because I know everybody's got a different background and different areas of interest. So I'm interested in ABC or I've heard this is a good way XYZ to solve a problem, or I'm struggling because I can't get from here to there. And then we just start having a conversation a little bit about what have you done, what's worked, what hasn't worked along the way. It's very important to build rapport, and this is a strategy that anybody can use, especially on the inside of an organization. Create a safe space, give others the opportunity to speak freely, do what you can to earn their trust. And the best way to do that is to be sincerely curious. Ask intelligent and emotionally correct questions. When I say emotionally correct, I mean don't just dig in for raw emotions. Look for the emotional side of things that will add value to the conversation that you're having. That not only gives you better information, but it lets the person that you're talking with understand that you get people and customer experience. Solutions are always about people. They are front and center, whether it's call center, retail, waiting rooms at hospitals, amusement parks, whatever. It's all about how people respond. So if you don't show your chops in terms of understanding people, the conversation won't go too far. So typically what happens, Steve, is we'll start to find out that there is a misalignment. Back to that word again, between the goals, the incentives, the processes, and what customers want. Sometimes leaders leave their goals in place too long because they've been working them. And everybody uses that as, like, the orchestra's rhythm. This is the cadence. So we need to get our sales numbers and we need to sell shoes, and we need to have people through the door. And that tends to not become a measure, but to become a goal. And in a changing world like we're in right now, when customers change their minds the way they buy, the expectations that they have, if you keep using those same metrics all the time, you're going to end up giving customer what they don't want, and that's going to create a lot of friction. And the only place that that can be solved is at the top. You can't rely on your frontline to make up the difference between bad goals and new customer desires. Does that make sense? It does. Once we've got a sense of where some of that misalignment is, we'll explore that a little bit. And usually in the course of a 30 or 60 minutes conversation, we'll try two or three different approaches and just kind of see which one feels right for the customer. There are so many wonderful consulting approaches out there, and there are so many wonderful customer experience designs and approaches and templates and methodologies. But picking the right one for the job is a little bit of magic. And the only time you can do that is at the beginning when you know the least after you've been working with a client and you understand the dynamics and the real needs and where the real pain points are, then you're better able to pick the right methodology. But being able to do it early is a function of experience and you do it so that you find comfort for the people involved. Because nobody likes to be told to change or to change. They like to be part of change. They like to make change. They don't like to be made to change. So once you figure out where that latitude is, then you can pick a great methodology or mix a few parts together and things like that. Usually the client's interested in seeing what some kind of a process is and they get a little bit comfortable and go from there. So these were long answers that I tried to communicate what you asked.

Steve Pappas [00:16:44]:

All right, so let's fast forward a little bit. Let's get to the point where you've decided that their story has predominantly been misaligned and you need to help them get their story into the future. Can we talk about, at least from a more generic perspective, what are the components of the story that you will probably recommend moving forward? Because most people probably don't even think about things as a story.

Mike Wittenstein [00:17:16]:

Can you unpack that a little bit? Because we went from selling all the way to future story. Let's add a little context in there for everyone that's listening.

Steve Pappas [00:17:23]:

Yeah. So once you have that discovery call and you're starting to make some type of a recommendation here, you're discussing with them what they need to move to as a new state from where they are today to where you need to take them to. But there needs to be some type of a formula. Doesn't have to be the same for everybody. I get that. But there has to be some type of a formula that needs to either speak to culture, business, morals, values, et cetera. And there needs to be a way that we'll start to see, other people will see it, because not everybody sees the story the same way. But you need to get across a certain way so that they see it the way you need them to see it. So maybe we can kind of go through that process a little bit and maybe where your recommendations fall into place in them developing their story together. I'm sure you're doing it for them, but you're doing it together because it has to get rooted as part of the fabric of their business.

Mike Wittenstein [00:18:32]:

The answer is in your question. That's really well done, Steve. So there's do it yourself. Like Home Depot, there's do it for you, and there's do it with you. And I'm very much a do it with you practitioner it's very hard to introduce change and expect it to last if the company is doing it on their own because it takes too long. That's why they're calling for help. And if you do it for them, they're not engaged, they're not involved, they're not a part of it, and they don't feel like they have to do it. So as soon as the winds change, they're off in another direction. So this idea of creating a future story is incredibly powerful, and anybody can do it. Some do it better than others. But the notion, just like you said, is if you can imagine the future state of the business the way you'd like it to be and paint a picture with your words, and sometimes with pictures, people can go, oh, I see what you're saying. If you just give them PowerPoint charts and spreadsheets, they can't see it. They understand that they've got new metrics to hit, but how are we going to do it? All those decisions get left up to people fighting when they don't have enough context and understanding. I believe that because there is so much change right now and so much ambiguity and so much opportunity and so many well educated people. We've never had a more qualified workforce in the history of the world than we do today. Whatever day you're listening to this, every day, every one of us is getting smarter and better, more capable and adaptable. So given all of that, it makes sense that it's the leader's responsibility to paint that picture of the future. Now, should she or he do it themselves because they're in a position of power? Absolutely not. They should do it as a with my people, exercise, with my clients, with my partners and employees. So when you start to do a future story, your question was spot on. Steve, what are the components of that story? Well, you need to know who's going to be in the story, where the story is going to be, what are some of the events that happen? What are some of the responses. And what we all look for in stories that's so cool is how is it going to affect me? Not just what's going to happen to me, but how am I going to grow, transform, develop, learn, become somebody else sidebar. There is a story pattern known as the Hero's Journey. Joseph Campbell made it popular some 20 or 30 years ago. It's been around forever. Ulysses, if you ever made it through that very long book as a hero's journey story, hercules, Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker, and there are many women, too. These are all examples of how an average person has something terrible happen and they kind of dip down. They're in a different situation. And to get up and to learn and to grow, they transform into somebody else, and then they can accomplish ever more amazing, great things. Inside every corporate change, every one of your employees and partners, anyone who touches the business, remember they're going through a hero's journey. So the story that you're telling about the future needs to talk about what happens to the people, because that's what they really care about. So if you center the story on the key people or types of people you think of, personas, if you like, inside your organization and describe how they're going to come to this new state, what are they going to have to learn? How are they going to interact with people differently? What's it going to be like as a ritual in the morning? Instead of a stand up, we're going to be doing a what? So you describe that level of detail, not just the goals and the outcomes, but what does it mean to individuals. And starting with a small core team and then growing out and growing out, you get the same experience to happen over and over. What happens is, as a leader, you don't have to write all the future stories. People write their own versions of the future stories, ones that they will believe in ascribe to support and help move forward. That's the magic of using stories and customer experience and change efforts.

Steve Pappas [00:22:52]:

Interesting. I love it. Do you have any examples we could use? I mean, whether you could use brand names or not, but do you have any examples of companies that came to you and needed your help and how you took them on a journey?

Mike Wittenstein [00:23:08]:

No, I don't. It's all made up. No, I'm kidding.

Steve Pappas [00:23:13]:

Almost heavy there.

Mike Wittenstein [00:23:14]:

Well, I'll give you a few, and then you can pick one for Transitions Optical, they came to us as a wholesale distributor of lens materials that had been treated a number of different ways to keep UV light out, reduce glare, things like that. And we did a store of the future for them so they could get into retail for a conveyor belt manufacturer. Now we're talking real down to the real basic machining manufacturing operation. Havasit makes conveyor belts of all different kinds. You can throw tanks and trucks and cars on them, or you can process chickens on them, or you can move boxes. And they wanted to transform their experience. And another one is a company in between called Partner Tech, now called Scanfil, and they were contract manufacturers, so they would make repair, ship, handle your products. If you're scaling down in terms of volume, or if you're scaling up, they're your perfect partner for breaking into the United States, especially if you're from Europe. That's their specialty. So each one of those has a really interesting story and happy to talk about any one or all three of them. Which one would you pick?

Steve Pappas [00:24:21]:

Actually, they all have great approach, and the Transitions is an interesting one because I think many people probably have transition lenses, or at least probably half the population out there use the product. But I guess understanding where they were and where they are is interesting because I believe heavily in the story approach today, and for it to be an honest and very frank way of communicating. But it has to carry through in everything that they do. That story has to become part of the culture as well as part of the marketing, as well as whether it's a prospect or a longtime customer. They all have to feel that same story. So maybe you could talk a little more about that.

Mike Wittenstein [00:25:07]:

Sure. Transitions was wholesale only, and they sold through Dispensaries Optical Stores and Opticians. They wanted to get into retail for a number of different reasons, primarily to grow and to own more of their product. It was becoming a much more capable product set. And they were finding that the folks in the distribution channels were not doing a very good job at telling their story. So they wanted a place where they could tell the story the way they wanted to. Big picture. We saw that every store they put up could serve three functions or four functions. It could sell glasses, educate customers, give people their eye exams all in one time. But it could also and this was new area that we discovered, it could also be a training center for all these folks who weren't doing their jobs as well as they could. Demos, explaining the concepts, who is this good for and not and all of that kind of stuff. And the plan for the stores was to put in a broadcast center, much like we have social media things happening all over the place back then wasn't quite as popular as it was today. So we put in a plan for a broadcast center. So product releases, frames, lenses, new things, customer stories, training, everything would be done right in the store. So the idea behind that was to reduce production costs and let it feel a lot more street and a lot more real. So that was one of the ways to get Transitions to be real for folks. Instead of just jumping forward, let's make this more conversational. I can go down the how did we do it path. We can talk about what were some of the cool innovations, we can talk about challenges. What would your audience like to hear?

Steve Pappas [00:26:53]:

I would imagine if they're yelling at their podcast system right now, they probably want to understand the how they did it part, because I think we could bring this to a large audience that work with dealers, distributors, brokers, franchises, representatives, manufacturing representatives, et cetera, that are all trying to carry a story from a brand to an end customer. And there might be thousands of them. It could be retailers.

Mike Wittenstein [00:27:27]:

All right, so let's make it generic. You gave me a really good direction there. So the first thing that we had to do since we were working for the director of marketing, who, by the way, became the director of brand experience for the company during this project good for her is we had to extend the definition of what the brand was. So there was a brand statement for the company, and we extended it to create a brand statement for the experience. And in the case of transitions, it was to not just make better glasses, it was to create experience that astound wearers and non wearers of transitions glasses. That's a very different goal than selling more. The idea was to astound people. That meant that we had to find a way to let people try on transitions tech without buying and grinding and getting their glasses custom fit. Because you had to make your 500 or $700 decision before you could actually see what the results were. You had to do it on trust. So we use tech to allow people to look through a little box or through the window of the store and get a feel for how much better your eyes felt, because the material inside the lenses actually changes the physics of the light coming into your eye. It allows you to see things in the mid range more clearly, and it reduces a lot of glare, which your eye kind of reacts to, like, closing up. So you lose a lot of clarity when that happens. So that was the first thing we did, is we redefined the intent of the experience. The next thing we did is simultaneously we did some mystery shops. We shopped transition stores. They didn't have any stores, so we went to stores that sold transitions products and optical dispensaries. We also looked at the competition owned by the same brand and also independents and things like that. And we learned a lot about how glasses are sold, what assumptions are made, how traffic flowed inside the store, how long you had to wait, what was the selection. And the logistics of selling eyewear is crazy weird because nobody really knows, with a few exceptions, what frames they have in the store. It's just bizarre that they don't know that the postman knows what mail he's carrying. I even get a little email in the morning telling me what's coming that afternoon, but they have no clue what they're going to have at 02:00 or 04:00 or tomorrow. So a lot of logistics to deal with. We created a video from the worst Moments in customer Experience. It was painful to create and hilarious to watch. There were so many egregious errors being committed every day by so many of the different players. Now we handpicked the Worst moments. We didn't pick the best moments. It would have been easy to do that too because in any health care area, there are so many people there that wear their hearts on the sleeve in a good way. They care, they're helping. They're filling in the gaps between what customer need and what the business is set up to deliver. But we focused on the bad stuff and that made the case for we need to change. There's an opportunity here. And where should the opportunity start? The high end, the middle, or the low end of the market? $1,000 glasses. $500 glasses. $50 glasses. Now you can't get transitions for $50, but you can sell them through a discount retailer. So because of the partnerships they had in mind, we went after the discount retailers first. That makes it kind of harder, but it also made us more creative because we had to find ways to be more operationally efficient, more profitable and deliver a higher quality experience. It's kind of like Apple Computer and Tesla because both of those companies have lower cost to produce products that they sell at a premium. Pretty cool. And they get better with like a Tesla gets better with Age, like a bottle of wine because they keep working on the software, whether you like Tesla on the company or Musk or not. It's amazing how it's one of the few products that improves over time instead of depreciates over time. Anyway, once the case was made, the folks on the inside of the organization said, this is worth it. So we kind of went from idea to brief where we had this written down. And then they said, all right, now go build us a plan. We never said, can we go build a store? We said, Would you like to take a little more detailed of a look at this and what would you like to see? Well, we'd like to see spreadsheets and we'd like to see how much money we're going to make. Well, okay. And how are we going to do that if we don't invent the experience and program the store? Programming a store means like laying out what you can do in different areas physically and what kind of outcomes they have and what's the experience going to be. Oh yeah, the experience. So they kind of realized that they had to design that. So we said, guys, this is not going to be rocket science. We can just do this on paper. You can design an experience the same as telling a story just using your words. But we had the benefit of working with a couple of amazing sketch artists and writers. A retail designer named Ian who was fabulous and what we did is we first programmed the store. So you walk in, you go past the frame station, you go see the doctor for your appointment. I'm doing this all out of order. You get your glasses fit, you pay, you leave. And once we came back with our very first pass at that, everybody said, no, that's not the way it works. You can't do it that way. It has to be this way. And we just were very good listeners, very calm. Everybody listening. Be calm, be kind. Everything is going to work out okay. And they started telling us all the things that they wanted to see. And then item by item, we had a discussion about, well, how is that better for the customer? And after a couple of meetings, the heads started to turn, the hearts opened up a little bit, and we were able to take that starting statement that were there to astound wearers and non wearers, and it started to affect the programming of the store. And that was one of the turning points that made things go in a very positive direction. People could see that if they kept their own requirements for inventory and for sales and for pushing customers through the store in just a few minutes, that it might not astound them. And that wasn't their goal. Their goal in getting into retail was to create this multivariate experience that would help with training and press and new product releases. It was a much more connected business model than before. Checking in with you? Are we doing okay? Can I keep going?

Steve Pappas [00:34:16]:

Yeah. Well, I want to just look at the time, too, because I know I only have you for a little bit and maybe we can wrap up the story because I do have one more question for you, too.

Mike Wittenstein [00:34:25]:

Okay. The middle part of the experience was, for me, the most fun. It's where we got to design technology and prototype it that would let people try on frames without their glasses on, because anybody who goes to an eyeglass store can't see that, well, I've got my glasses right here, and when I wear these and I go shopping for frames, I can see them so clearly. But when I take my prescription off and I put on empty frames, I can't see what I look like in the mirror. So we would take pictures of them, snap, snap, snap. And then when they put their own glasses back on, play them back so they could see what they looked like. We did things like a prototype of balancing the traffic in the store so that each interactive exhibit that they went through as they were learning either accompanied or on their own, we could adjust the timing to make sure that as many people as possible could get to see the doctor. So lots of very integrated approaches to doing things like that. The architecture was just a ton of fun. There was interactive lighting. And as people did things in the store, it actually changed the store environment. Colors would change, sounds would go off, things like that. The core of the whole experience was a demonstration station where you'd move into kind of a semicircular environment that was all open, very safe. The lights would dim. You could put on a little opera stick with some glasses on it and hold the lenses in front of your face. And different things would show on the screen and you could see what it was like to have transitioned lenses. So the checkout experience was optimized and so much more. It was one of the funnest projects I've ever worked on. Big team of about 2025 people, all doing some of the best work of their life.

Steve Pappas [00:36:11]:

Well, now I'm glad that I picked that use case.

Mike Wittenstein [00:36:14]:

There you go. I have to learn to talk faster.

Steve Pappas [00:36:18]:

Actually, I've got one quick question for you. We like to give our audience a little bit of homework so when they're talking to their team, they can work on a particular area that they learned from the show. So I think we talked about telling the story from a different perspective. Maybe you could explain that in a minute or so. Give them a homework assignment that will help make the content from this episode real and they can use it.

Mike Wittenstein [00:36:46]:

All right, so very simply, let's say you have five people on your team. Have four of them go visit different stores or keep it in a retail scenario. It could be different warehouses, different hospitals, whatever it is. But go look at four different businesses and write the story of what it's like to be a customer for them. You could start with seeing a billboard or a social media ad. You could go to some kind of registration page, download an app, walk by the business, schedule an appointment, go see someone. So, in a sense, mystery shop with a customer experience, lens what those different businesses are, but bring it back as a story and bring some pictures with you. Screenshots, Polaroids, cell phone, camera pictures, whatever you like. And then your job is to tell the story of what it's like to be a customer, the other four people, and you will ask questions of that person who's doing the reporting about how did the customer feel? Why is it that way? How can it be better? Would that take a lot of change? Would it affect other parts of the business? So the idea here, Steve, is that by critiquing other businesses, you can build the muscle of not being afraid to ask questions, the muscle of observation, and the muscle of being emotionally in tune with customers. And then you take all of that and you turn it on yourself, and everyone's going to be excited to want to tell a story. And you'll avoid a lot of the fear. You'll be working from a position of competitive intelligence.

Steve Pappas [00:38:24]:

Perfect. I think that's great. Mike, in the minute that we've got left, can we tell folks how to get in touch with you? And if they're looking for understanding and really redeveloping their story, how do they get in touch with you? What's the best way?

Mike Wittenstein [00:38:41]:

Super easy. Learn my last name. It's Wittenstein. And then go to Chat GPT or Bing or whatever other service you use and say, what kind of a consultant is Mike Wittenstein and how can I get in touch with Mike Wittenstein? And what is it like to work with Mike Wittenstein? What do clients say about working with Mike Wittenstein? And you'll get all your answers, but to make it easy, Mike@storyminers.com S-T-O-R-Y-M-I-N-E-R-S is my email and my telephone number. I answer my own phone is 404-29-5809. I do not need siding, roofing, insurance or lawn service.

Steve Pappas [00:39:27]:

Mike, thank you very much for joining us today. This has been great. I'll tell you, the approach that you guys take is just phenomenal. And I think most companies out there at least should kind of audit their own stories and start thinking about what the story needs to be for the future because a lot may be using the same story from the last four or five years and that probably needs to change at this point. And I'm glad we've given them food for thought here. So thanks again for joining us.

Mike Wittenstein [00:40:00]:

Thank you, Steve. All the best.

Steve Pappas [00:40:02]:

Thanks. Well, that's another episode of The Science of CX. Everybody, I'm Steve Pappas, your host, and as always, until we meet again, please stay safe, stay healthy, and do take care everyone. Goodbye.

Steve Pappas [00:40:16]:

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