Emotion Detection: The New Face of Customer Service

Medium: “Companies like Microsoft, Kairos and Affectiva are staking claims in the world of emotion detection. These technologies read faces to detect emotions … Emotion detection will initially be used to measure ad effectiveness and to optimize ads and content. This same emotion detection technology will be able to help customer service agents better manage the their customers’ expectations. Human agents will be able to monitor emotions and mood and make offers to increase satisfaction or cross sell additional products at opportune times.”

Meanwhile: “Imagine that you had a questions that you wanted to ask your doctor, so you launch the HealthTime app and the image of a human agent pops up on your phone asking, ‘How can I help?’ The service always loads instantly, and … you never have to re-explain your issue or question. The agent is consistent — it’s the same human avatar every time — and he/she is non-threatening and even fun to chat with …The avatar is never rude or condescending because the AI literally knows what that experience looks like and can intervene before such behavior appears.”

“HealthTime may take a minute to research or come back to you with more specific questions, but if the service can’t find the answer shortly, then it calls you back at a convenient time. In fact, the service can tell how you are feeling right now, whether you want to be chatty, cheered up, or you just want to cut to the chase; it senses when you start to get irritated and compensates; and it intentionally ends on a high note delivering a shot of satisfying dopamine right at the end of the call.”


Survey: Ace Beats Apple at ‘Customer Experience’

Retail Dive: “Ace Hardware, BJ’s Wholesale Club and QVC deliver the retail industry’s best overall customer experience, according to rankings assembled by research firm Temkin Group.”

“Apple, widely considered to be a prime example of stellar physical retail, managed just a “good” score of 73%, the same score awarded to Nordstrom, a brand widely synonymous with superior customer experiences thanks its part to its famously liberal merchandise returns policy. (Nordstrom last week eliminated 106 customer care jobs, citing a reduction in the number of customers who reach out for support.)”

“For the study, Temkin Group asked 10,000 U.S. consumers to evaluate their recent brand experiences across three areas: success (‘Can you do what you want to do?’), effort (‘How easy is it to work with the company?’), and emotion (‘How do you feel about the interactions?’). Temkin then averaged these three scores to produce each experience rating.”


Tom Dixon, ‘Delaktig’ & The Future of Furniture


The New York Times: With his design for an Ikea bed that is both durable and hackable, Tom Dixon is “trying to make a radical point: that Ikea, the Swedish furniture giant known for beds and dressers that are so inexpensive they are often perceived as being disposable, could manufacture a collection of affordable, heirloom-quality pieces to last a lifetime … Even more remarkable, the bed has built-in channels that allow it to be modified by users and customized with headboards, night stands and other non-Ikea add-ons”.

“Loosely inspired by D.I.Y. Ikea hacking sites and plug-and-play app culture, the transformable bed is part of a new Ikea concept called Delaktig, which will be unveiled at the Salone del Mobile design fair in Milan next week … Mr. Dixon also plans to make upscale components under his own brand, which may include marble side tables and headboards, Moroccan-style pillows, lamps and a kit for a curtained four-poster bed.” He comments: “The measure of success is if you manage to get a whole ecosystem around this platform. Then it takes on a life of its own.” Ikea aims to start selling Delaktig next February, and Mr. Dixon hopes it will have a starting price of about $400.”

“Despite its grand ambitions, when Delaktig is shown in Milan next week, it will be only one part of Mr. Dixon’s presentation … Mr. Dixon will offer film screenings, talks and a Johnnie Walker bar, and present his many creations in a series of shops, including a haberdashery with his first collection of pillows and throws, a chandelier store with his latest lighting collection, a perfumery of scented goods for the home and an antiques shop where his now classic designs will mix with other vintage goods.”


A Groovy Solution for Drippy Wine Bottles

Brandeis Now: “Daniel Perlman — wine-lover, inventor and Brandeis University biophysicist — has figured out a solution to this age-old oenophile’s problem. Over the course of three years, he has been studying the flow of liquid across the wine bottle’s lip. By cutting a groove just below the lip, he’s created a drip-free wine bottle.”


A Grocer’s Story: Introducing Krogerstories.com

Supermarket News: “Krogerstories.com … utilizes long and short form stories, videos, photos and other content from freelance writers, store employees and the company’s marketing arm … The project represents something of a new way for Kroger to pursue credit for its local branding and charitable efforts, while joining a trend toward utilizing ‘content’ as an element of a branding story.”

Kroger’s Jessica Adelman explains: “We believe customers, associates and other stakeholders are increasingly making decisions about where to shop, where to work, and who shares their values based on how well they understand the ways a company makes a difference for their people, communities and the planet. And in this equation, we believe that stories — credible, authentic, human stories — matter more than perhaps anything else.”

In its debut, Krogerstories.com featured “a contributed article from an artist at work on a mural project in urban Cincinnati communities supported by the company; a story highlighting how Kroger’s California based Ralphs and Food 4 Less brands are utilizing food waste to support an organic energy plant; and a video providing a peek into the company’s ‘food styling studio,’ among several other pieces of content.”


How Music Changes Dining Behavior

Quartz: “Soundtrack Your Brand, a Spotify-backed music-streaming startup, today released a massive study on the impact of background music in a restaurant setting … Researchers found that music they deemed thoughtful and ‘on-brand’ can drive up sales—especially dessert sales, as customers linger longer—but music that’s too mainstream can actively hurt sales. Restaurants would actually be better off not playing music than playing a random scroll of top hits, it turns out.”

“Soundtrack Your Brand co-founder Ola Sars, who previously helped found Beats Music, which is now owned by Apple. Sars adds that music branding seems to come down to finding the perfect level of subtle emotional engagement: customers balk at hearing overly popular songs because they likely find them too noticeable or distracting, for example.”


A Straight Line to the ‘Circular Design’ Economy

Quartz: “Our modern industrial economy was based on a straight line—a linear progression of make, use, dispose … But what would happen if we took that line and bent it into a circle? What if the stuff we created never outlived its use? What if its constituent parts could be used as raw material for the next generation? That’s the promise of circular design.”

“Take Tesla, for example … Electric vehicles are powered by renewables, and when you’re not driving, your car can join a Tesla fleet that carries out various tasks and pays you for the favor, thereby offsetting your cost. Instead of just sitting there like a lump of steel in your garage when not in use, your car can also perform personal tasks for you when in autonomous mode, like driving your mother back to her assisted-living facility or delivering a gift to a friend.”

“On the consumer level, several startups are making it easy for buyers to tap into the circular-design economy. Stuffstr, for example, makes keeping products such as mobile phones or game consoles in circulation easy. You log your purchases in the app, and when they’ve outlived their use, it does the work of selling, donating, or giving them away … Spacious transforms restaurants that are closed during the day into co-working spaces, saving both the restaurant and the co-working spaces lease money.”


Endless Runway Project: A Circular Solution

Fast Company: “Since 2012, Henk Hesselink and his team at the National Aerospace Laboratory (NLR) in the Netherlands have been working on a runway design that’s circular instead of straight. Their so-called Endless Runway Project … proposes a circular design that would enable planes to take off in the direction most advantageous for them.”

“Namely, the direction without any crosswinds … the circular runway system that Hesselink designed, with a diameter of about 2.2 miles and circumference of about 6.2 miles, can accommodate two planes landing simultaneously even when there are bad crosswinds. That’s because there are always two areas on the ring where the crosswinds will be aligned with the direction of takeoff. In good conditions, three planes can land and take off simultaneously.”

“To see how the design would hold up at a major airport, Hesselink and his team took the flight patterns from France’s Charles de Gaulle Airport, which has four runways, and used a computer simulation to prove that the circular runway could handle the same number of departures and landings. It’s also more efficient in terms of runway space: Though the circle’s circumference is roughly the length of three standard runways, it’s able to handle the traffic capacity of four. And since landing airplanes wouldn’t have to fight strong crosswinds, airlines would save on fuel, too.”


The 4 Strengths of Office Introverts

Quartz: “There’s no doubt that extroverts can make excellent employees. But introverts have their own unique strengths. Consider the four qualities identified by leaders from companies including Apple, Microsoft, and SAP as essential for strong employees: creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication.”

1) Creativity: “Extroverts are great at driving conversations and contributing to brainstorming sessions. Introverts, meanwhile, tend to listen closely to others and carefully observe as events unfold. This means that they can often perceive problems with greater clarity, depth, and objectivity.” 2) Critical Thinking: “Laura Helgoe, in her book Introvert Power, argues that introverts are naturally drawn to the solitude and persistence required for deep work and have experienced its power throughout their lives. And the biggest impediments to deep work are a frenzy of interruptions in the name of constant connection—something introverts are known to avoid.”

3) Collaboration: “Introverted leaders are most likely to succeed on teams dominated by extroverts. The introvert in charge will ask good questions, encourage novel thinking, and help the team to establish a shared, coherent vision of how to carry the work forward. Extroverted leaders, meanwhile, have a knack for energizing a more introverted team and helping them to make rapid progress.” 4) Communication: “In essence, introverts have a strong tendency to actively reflect upon and refine their own thinking. Such intense and ongoing metacognitive reflection provides greater access to the memory of what it was like before they gained their new knowledge. This provides valuable insight for them as to figure out how to help others grasp new information or skills.”


Client-Centric Offices: Like a Hotel Lobby

The Wall Street Journal: “A number of businesses in the New York area are designing offices with a focus on creating less formal meeting environments for clients, ranging from couches and stools in office cafes to small meeting rooms and game areas … Today, a visit from a client might involve not just a meeting or two but also an extra hour to have coffee or plug into the free Wi-Fi and work. In some cases, companies even encourage clients to bring clients of their own.”

“Morningstar Inc.’s offices at 4 World Trade Center were planned with a variety of spaces to work in and meet … Clients can access informal areas that include Wi-Fi, a cafe, high-backed couches, chairs around coffee tables, a semi-enclosed auditorium and spectacular views of One World Trade Center and the city. Among the goals was to create a space where employees could connect with clients directly. The designers found that Morningstar’s customers started spending more time there between meetings or before traveling to the airport.”

Lenny Beaudoin of CBRE Group comments: “A great office is starting to look like a hotel lobby, and a great hotel lobby is starting to look like a place where work can get done.”