My guest interview this month is with Jerry Cox, he is the President of Brainier and we met in September at their annual user conference. I was so impressed with his presence throughout the event and the growth of the company under his leadership, I thought he would be a great person to interview. He has some keen insights on connecting with users on a human level in a high tech environment, not an easy task. Welcome, Jerry!
JS: What kind of advice would you offer to other executives for maintaining resiliency in an industry that is constantly changing at a rapid pace?
JC: A key component of resiliency is staying in touch with the person/group you are advocating for in the market. Having an open line of dialog to understand what challenges they face is crucial to developing solutions. It is so easy for companies to become complacent with success. A byproduct of that complacency being the focus stays on improvements to current products and services which solve yesterday’s problems and neglect the R&D to tackle the challenges of tomorrow. This habit of constantly listening to clients and prospects and, in turn, developing solutions for their changing needs, mixed with an adequate amount of humility will keep an organization responsive and leading the pack. A group lacking this quality is merely making bold and potentially expensive guesses.
JS: In today's world, where do EQ skills (recognize, read, respond) rank in an ideal leadership competency?
JC: This ties in directly with every organization’s struggle for resiliency in the sense that utilizing these basic EQ qualities has the potential to keep the focus on the drivers of change in a business opportunity. The most desirable companies to work for often repeat the often-quoted Steve Jobs line about listening to employees: "It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do." Brilliant as that is, that responsiveness and openness is only one side of the equation. I do not believe that a leader can be successful over time if they have not mastered the ability to read themselves and others and respond appropriately to a wide variety of issues and situations.
JS: What role does human connection play in user engagement?
JC: The core of user engagement is “empathy.” A good developer will build a bulletproof platform or system for a user to navigate where they need to go. A great developer will map out the path through that platform using cues to lead the user to success. The difference is empathy. The most successful organizations in nearly every industry approach a new task with the focus on how the technology will empower a user to solve a problem as opposed to building a theoretically superior system.
Part of the customer support training we do internally at Brainier is founded on this empathetic approach. When a user requires a human connection to solve their issue, the least we could do is listen and be prepared as best we can.
This is our simple, yet effective Customer Care Checklist for every incoming call:
1. Make sure the caller takes away more USEFUL information than they brought.
2. Establish a path forward that includes Brainier.
3. Make sure the caller is satisfied with the answer.
It sounds very simple if we consider how many times that actually happens to us personally as consumers, it’s not often. I think EQ has a direct and profound impact on user engagement and the entire customer experience.
JS: How does that translate in a technology-based industry?
JC: In a technology-based industry, using an empathetic approach is critical because the stakes are higher. Users are very impatient and have higher expectations all the time. At Brainier, the products we are compared to are generally updated monthly, if not sooner. We find that users have almost zero tolerance for products that look potentially out-of-touch to them. This continual dialog is what maintains our relevance with our clients and in the industry.
Jerry Cox, President - Brainier Solutions
Mr. Cox has more than 30 years of general management experience, having worked in several industries including distribution, software, and manufacturing.
Since 2001, he has been the president of Brainier Solutions, a Minneapolis-based company, which provides technology-based Training and Development products to Corporations World-Wide. Mr. Cox has also held positions in technical sales, sales leadership and executive level leadership throughout his career.
He holds a BBA degree from Cleveland State University and has additional studies in electrical engineering and computer technology. In his spare time, he is an accomplished musician, an avid reader, and offers volunteer leadership on several boards and associations.