June 11, 2019

6 KPIs That Will Convince the C-Suite to Obsess over Customer Satisfaction

By Marcela Lay | June 11th 2019

We are well into the experience economy: that's where customer experience has overtaken price and product as the key brand differentiator.

So it's hard to believe that brands today continue to create self-centric project briefs and request for proposals without any customer-centric KPIs.

Self-serving KPIs only allow for a myopic view of the desired results.  

So what's the recipe for success?

  1. Get alignment from the c-suite on the right mix of customer-centric KPIs to ensure organizational adoption.  
  2. Align expectations on long-term results instead of the unsustainable short-term results some companies chase.

Let’s break these two key concepts down - after that, you’ll be one step closer to being a customer-centric business.

1 / How do we get C-Suite alignment?

First, you need to understand the stage of customer obsession in your organization.

It's one thing to want your organization to enhance your customers' experience, but it's quite another to put it in practice.

This requires a shared Customer Experience Vision and Strategy to drive the decisions made by the leaders of each department when moving forward.

According to the 2017 eConsultancy guide around customer experience best practices,  is the silo mentality that brings a significant obstacle when getting buy-in on customer experience improvements.

The only path to break organizational silos is to get the C-Suite to buy-in into Customer Obsession, so alignment and adoption are instilled from the top-down.

And you can only get the C-Suite to listen when you speak their language:

You need to understand what matters to each executive, what they measure, and a set of CX metrics that can prove ROI.

Let's analyze the critical stakeholders and what matters to them.

Critical Stakeholder: CEO

What matters the most to this executive: Company vision, competitive position, and growth.

Supporting information:

A Forrester research confirmed how CX leaders lead over CX laggards on both stock price growth and total returns.

Critical Stakeholder: CMO

What matters the most to this executive: Brand awareness, engagement, loyalty, and advocacy.

Supporting information:

  • CX Leaders drive 4.5x willingness to pay a price premium from customers who have excellent experience versus very poor experience - Forrester.
  • Consumers with an emotional connection to a brand have a 306% higher lifetime value, and will recommend brands at a much higher rate (71% vs. 45%) - prnewswire.com
  • 61% of loyal customers go out of their way to buy from specific brands, and 60% will make more frequent purchases - InMoment
  • Tempkin found a correlation between CX and trust, as well as consumers’ willingness to recommend a brand. 
https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0008/7654/Impact_of_CX.JPG
Source: experiencematters.blog

Critical Stakeholder: CIO

What matters the most to this executive: Technology innovation.

Supporting information:

  • According to a research by Deloitte, CIOs from High-Performing Companies (HPC) generally focus on CX as a competitive differentiator more than their peers.
  • According to a report released by Dimension Data, the virtual assistants (chatbots) were voted the top channel growth focus for 2017 while the deployment of the Internet of Things (IoT) was set to double.

Critical Stakeholder: CFO

What matters the most to this executive: Long-term growth and ROI.

Supporting information:

On Harley Manning’s Blog at Forrester, Manning discusses two studies, conducted one year apart, where five pairs of publicly traded companies were compared and where a company in each of the pairs had a remarkably higher score than the other based on Forrester’s Customer Experience Index during the period 2010 to 2015.

  • “In two industries, cable and retail, leaders outperformed laggards by 24 percentage and 26 percentage points, respectively. Even in the industry with the smallest spread, airlines, the CX leader enjoyed a healthy 5 percentage point advantage in global revenue.” — Harley Manning, Forrester
  • And according to Forrester’s Harley Manning, "a one-point score improvement in the CX Index can lead to an increase of $65 million in revenue in the upscale hotel industry."

2 / The 6 Customer-Centric metrics that demonstrate ROI

While business leaders default back to the most commonly used KPIs, there is a set of KPIs that can indisputably demonstrate the ROI in CX improvements.

These KPIs do a great job balancing out the self-centric business KPIs your company is tracking today.

Let’s take a look.

The fault-back KPIs:

  1. Net Promoter Score (NPS): NPS measures customer satisfaction and loyalty to a brand. It doesn't directly quantify the ROI of CX improvements, but only captures customer intent and visibility into issues.
  2. Customer Satisfaction (CSAT): It measures customer satisfaction to understand if the brand is meeting customer expectations, it can provide visibility into customer pain points.
  3. Conversion Rate: The percentage of total customers who transacted. How easily did the brand make it for the customer to convert?
  4. Customer Effort Score (CES): Determines the amount of effort a customer required to accomplish a task. The CES is a highly actionable piece of customer feedback.

Here are the KPIs that can balance out the self-centric business KPIs:

  1. Customer Lifetime Value (CLV): A long-term metric that supports sustainable results. The longer a brand retains a customer, the more revenue will be generated. Businesses with 40% repeat customers generate nearly 50% more revenue than similar companies.
  2. Customer Retention Rate & Customer Churn Rate: If the brand is not able to retain customers over time, a close look at the experience must be given.
  3. Up-Sell and Cross-Sell Rate: If the brand is providing an excellent experience to its customers, the customers will spend more in return. It is that simple.
  4. Average Order Value  (AOV) & Average Revenue per Customer (ARPC): The more effortless the experience, the more revenue the brand will generate per customer and order.

And then, of course, the Customer service KPIs:

  1. First Response Time (FRT): The longer the time, the more frustrating it is for the customer and the bigger the opportunity to improve the process to show the customer we value their time.
  2. First Contact Resolution (FCR) Rate: The percentage of customers whose question or request is resolved on the first attempt. How simple and friction-free are we making the process?
  3. Resolution Time (RT): it assesses how many interactions are necessary to resolve a customer issue; it brings visibility into the customer pain points and the potential areas for improvement.

In conclusion

Being a customer-centric business is a proven strategy for driving long-term success. To achieve that success, make sure to:

  1. Lean into the critical stakeholders at the c-suite for support as it is at the crux of CX transformation.
  2. Define and track the right KPIs that demonstrate CX improvements ROI.

Once you get the c-suite to listen and to align to Customer Obsession, move to identify the necessary technology, people, and process required to achieve those goals.

June 10, 2019

What Product Managers Should Know About iOS 13, WatchOS 6 and iPadOS

By Poojan Jhaveri

Every year product teams are super enthused to know what’s new in WWDC because they're eager to take advantage of how to increase retention or launch new products/features that could impact the users of 1.4Bn active devices around the world.

This year definitely lived up to expectations around Apple’s ecosystem and its vision of privacy and productivity.

Here’s a quick guide for navigating all of the uber-cool announcements from WWDC 2019 from a product manager perspective.

Product teams should start preparing for:

  • Privacy first
  • Customize around utility
  • Anywhere, anytime with watchOS6
  • Build for an ecosystem
  • Next-gen AR & ML

By the way, did you know that...

It will not be long before iOS 13 takes over this fall.

Privacy first

Apple has always been a strong proponent of user’s privacy and this WWDC they have taken the next step to extend the paradigm to apps and services, acting as a layer between the user and anyone that try to harvest data.

Single Sign-On - “Sign in with Apple” will allow users to authenticate or register within the apps by providing a tokenized or direct Apple ID. From a user perspective, this means not having to compromise their data for wanting to log in quickly. This will be required for any app that supports login using 3rd parties (Google, Facebook).

From a product strategy perspective, this means you’ll have to make explicit effort to get additional user data such as age, location, etc. On the flip side, reduced friction will lead to faster activations.

This combined with Apple Pay will be the UX of challenger brands on mobile.

Location privacy - Starting iOS 13, Apps can request for users’ location each time it is requested in addition to “always” and “while using.” Apple’s also blocking apps to infer location using Bluetooth and wifi.  This means that your location strategy and the UX around it will have to be revisited and taken advantage of especially from those users who have been less hesitant to sharing locational data.

Kids’ Data privacy - Apps in the kids' category will no longer be able to include 3rd party advertising or analytics software to send data. Product Managers will have to rely on user research more to understand app usage.

All in all, audit your apps for data privacy before it is too late.

Customize around utility

Users start building habits on features that Apple provides natively. And so, when a particular 3rd party app does not support it, it is seen as an app that is not outdated or worse - not delivering up to the users’ expectation.  

Dark Mode - There are two kinds - people who love dark mode and those who don’t. Regardless of the team you belong to, two biggest benefits of the dark mode are reduced eye strain at night and better contrast.

And with the possibility of auto switching during specific times, most apps and users will activate this. As a product manager, you must plan to take advantage of this and support dark mode for your app.

Core Haptics - Apps can now leverage a new customizable haptic engine to generate vibrations and audio. This can be used to reinforce action or get attention upon completion of core actions (eg. payment) or validations. Games can also use this framework to create advanced tactile games.

SwiftUI - With Xcode11, Apple introduced a new way of designing user interfaces for the app known as SwiftUI. SwiftUI will allow developers to preview their screen and write code at the same time.

As a product manager, you can take advantage of built-in functionality such as localization, accessibility support in addition to a productivity boost. On the other hand, this might call for some initial refactoring!

Begin by bringing your design and engineering teams together and planning for new design experience.

Anywhere, anytime with watchOS 6

Apple Watch is the best selling smart watch ever, but when it comes to utility, it fails to justify the real need. With watchOS 6, Apple has taken a huge leap to disconnect watchOS from iOS and expand its utility. Here’s how:

Independent Apps -  Developers can take advantage of frameworks and the hardware to build watchOS apps without needing an iOS companion app. WatchOS 6 also comes with App Store on the Watch so users can download apps anytime without needing their phone.

Audio Streaming - With Streaming API, apps can now directly stream audio to the watch using cellular or wifi. This had been limited only to Apple apps up until this point. With this feature, music, meditation, fitness apps will be able to include a live audio feed so as to be with the user wherever they go.

Extended Runtime - Currently, all watch apps (except for workout ones) become inactive after a specific period of time. With watchOS 6, Apps can now be designed for session-based use cases for alarm, self-care, physical therapy, mindfulness, and health monitoring.

It also opens up access to heart rate, motion, and location. As a PM for this category, you can now drive guided sessions or alert users on the watch.

Build for an ecosystem

User’s don’t think of multi-device journeys.

For them, it is about solving the use case as easily and quickly as possible.

With that in mind, here’s how we can take advantage of some of the new features to boost productivity:

iPadOS - Let’s face it - with an increase in iPhone sizes, iPad usage has changed a lot from being an iPhone with additional screen space to now being used as a functioning computer.

This year, Apple separated its OS for iPad as iPadOS directed for more multitasking use. iPadOS supports external drives, multiple windows, split view, and drag and drop gestures.

With this change, the more important question to ask is - Do you still need an iPad App and if so - how will it piece into the ecosystem along with iPhone & Desktop?

Bring your iPad apps to Mac - With project Catalyst, Apple will now allow iOS Apps to be ported over as MacOS apps. This means that the same code can be reused and modified across for iOS & macOS. Not everyone needs a macOS app though.

Here’s how you can decide on it:

  • Does your app function on its core use without requiring mobile hardware capabilities?
  • Does your app need to notify users and has a heavy daily engagement on the web?

If the answer to all these questions is yes, then you should reach out to your team about extending your iPad app.

NextGen: AR + ML

While not a lot has changed here in consumer usage, Apple continues to advance AR capabilities for games and enterprise usage before it is ready for Apple wearable glass.

Here are the features that you might want to take advantage of:

ARKit 3 - ARKit now supports real-time occlusion of people and objects in the environment. With this newly gained knowledge of people and their position in the virtual world, it will also be able to support Motion Capture, which is tracking and using body movement as input for AR. This can be leveraged in health or fitness apps to guide users through a session.

On the machine learning front:

Core ML 3 - For the first time, app developers will be able to take advantage of on-device machine learning and NLP across the watch, iPad and iPhone.  This means that the models can be updated with user-data to prepare a more personalized model all on the device. For example, it can be used for surfacing features or content around user’s usage over time.

VisionKit: Apple opens up its document scanning framework for all 3rd party apps. In addition, it can also provide detecting text from images and a heatmap of all areas of the image that the user might focus their attention on.

Brainstorm with your team to take advantage of Machine Learning for your app.

Bring this to life.

When should you start planning? Now.

iOS, iPadOS & WatchOS Developer Betas will be available in July with public release later in the fall (somewhere around Sept).

Let’s connect on how we can help you bring your ideas to life and get first-mover advantage before September.

Learn how we helped Staples become the world’s first Apple Pay retail integration.


June 3, 2019

Y Media Labs Partners with Google To Define Future of Machine Learning with TensorFlow and Tensorflow Lite

June 3, 2019 — By Will Leivenberg

After months of working together informally, Y Media Labs is proud to announce it's partnership with Google focusing on their TensorflowLite technology. YML is helping the worldwide developer community learn and adopt TFLite technology — the core open source library to help developers of all levels understand and train machine learning models.

Google worked specifically with YML's Innovation Lab team. The T-Lite team challenged YML to translate a complex topic like machine learning into something approachable and easy to navigate. Since then YML has become a leader in the application of Tensorflow for developers worldwide.

"The YML team produced thoughtful and thorough documentation concentrating on how best to on-board developers from various backgrounds, ranging from machine learning to mobile and web," says Sumit Mehra, YML Founder and President. "The work ultimately laid the foundation for how developers across the spectrum can create world changing applications, not to mention a collaboration yielding four applications that make the framework as seamless as possible," Mehra added.

The partnership is ongoing.

May 29, 2019

YML Teams Up With Damjanski to Build First of Its Kind, MoMA-inspired AI

May 29, 2019 — By Will Leivenberg

Listening to the dialogue between Stephen Clements, YML's CCO, and Damjanski is like overhearing two mischievous kids hatching their next scheme. It's whimsical, suspenseful, and kind of terrifying.

Only difference is it's happening over Zoom, and each of these guys are sporting a bit of gray hair.

The two have a storied past of creative endeavors and recently found their way back together about one year ago around an unexpected project. Damjanski had become fascinated with AI, to the point that he'd began considering if there was a way to actually collaborate with a program.

"Was there a way to integrate it into my thinking process?" said Damjanski about his original idea. "Could I create original work that demonstrated this concept, was ultimately the idea."

Stephen saw Damjanski's vision, and knew just the team to bring it to fruition — YML's Innovation Lab, the scrappy team of six based in YML's Bangalore office. What ensued was a plethora of emails, Zoom calls, sketches, math equations and countless cups of coffee over more than six months. Led by Innovation Labs Director Darshan Sonde and Kinar Ravishankar, YML helped not just conceptualize, but ultimately build the AI for Damjanski's project.

The final work would come to life as "Damjanski: Natural Selection," a collaboration between Damjanski, his longtime collaborator, Vasco, and YML that debuted May 1st at ONCANAL in New York City.

From left to right: Damjanski, Darshan Sonde, Kinar Ravishankar, Vasco.

As the exhibition website reads, Natural Selection "investigates ideas of collaboration with an AI and its integration into the artist’s practice."  Damjanski specifically wanted the AI to build around all the archived exhibition statements of the MoMA, in New York.

"The challenge was to create more lifelike speech for AI," said Darshan Sonde. "We had created lots of models, but in the end the model released by OpenAI worked the best. This wasn't the work we were used to doing, and it was especially different because this is for an art show, but that also gave us more liberty in what the text could generate."

The exhibition comprises a headset where people can interact with the AI to create new exhibition statements that will be delivered by a printer. Each statement is a new source of information that will inform the artist’s thinking process. Damjanski compares this process to the biological evolution of genes, which is driven by reproduction and survival in order to procreate or grow.

"The unique challenge was training the AI on data," Sonde said. "Data has to be large, so we had to write custom scripts to scrape the data from the MoMA website and cleanup and tweak it to generate good results."

"The YML team was an outstanding partner and I'm proud of the work," said Damjanski, who's work at the exhibition is live through the end of May, and open 7 days a week (11am–7pm) located at 322A Canal Street, New York City.

---

Damjanski is an artist living in a browser. He is a co-founder and member of the incubation collective, Do Something Good, and also the co-founder of the MoMAR gallery within New York’s Museum of Modern Art. More info: http://damjanski.com

For more information contact 

@d.a.m.j.a.n.s.k.i                  #oncanal

May 28, 2019

Living Through Iteration: 8 years at YML

By Ryan Spencer

I started my journey with Y Media Labs on April 11th, 2011 meaning I have just reached, and passed, my eight year anniversary with the company.

YML has gone through many fundamental changes (even just referring to it as “YML”!), but I believe the most important factors to our success have been outcomes of our collective curiosity and openness to change.

We began our journey with a narrow focus in building apps for mobile devices, and realized over time that our true impact is not through just great work, but by also being advocates of a customer-first mindset.

What we really do:

In addition to creating digital experiences for clients, a lot of what we do for our partners is to try to help them reimagine their own process to better reflect the needs of their customer.

While there are many large companies who employ some type of design thinking throughout their organization, there still are many that do not and still do not understand the value. Our goal is to tap into the biggest opportunities and bring about change.

In this article, I would like to reflect on my experience here at the company and how we shifted our own perspective over time. This is how we turned a small design shop into an experience design company with lasting impact.

YML 1.0 (2011-2013)

I believe I joined Y Media Labs in version 1.0. At this time, creating mobile apps was our only priority.

Early on, our goal was to simply try to produce the best work possible. The output was key, and we wanted to keep the process simple by not convoluting it with complexity. The “we make iPhone apps” industry was a bit of the wild west, and for us, it was a process of learning, exploration, and opportunity. Somedays the lack of structure created turbulence, but over time we realized through it that we grew as a result — to be agile, adaptable, and fast.

The problem: business and stakeholders alone lead product decisions

In the early days, clients tended to lead or change the product direction on the fly because there was no north star or overall product vision.

We didn’t have the confidence to say “trust us, we are professionals” and we feel as though there is a greater opportunity in following our prescribed roadmap.

Truthfully though we were just so immersed in the process of learning, creating and problem-solving that we didn’t have a realization of the immense experience we grew over time.

And after all, clients are paying us to create their overall vision. So they should have absolute say, right? But as we began to hire more people to the team, we realized that this wasn’t going to work for everyone the way we anticipated.

  1. We need a vision. The success of the work is the most important factor. We were simply following marching orders, designing, building, designing building…and on and on. There wasn’t a shared understanding of a larger iteration cycle, of what an MVP could be. Instead, products were massive, often times convoluted as a result of a lack of focus, vision, and unfortunately user-validation. That often caused projects to fail, and clients to distrust our decision-making skills. We needed to build a product process that could support itself through validation and use a scientific approach in predicting success over time.
  2. Eliminate subjectivity at all costs. We’ve all been in the situation where a client might say “do it this way, because I’m the client and want you to do so” If our team is not shielded from this tactic then they can easily get demotivated with projects, and it’s not a win for anyone involved. We needed to have some objective fact as a guideline to our decisions, and this needs to be built in to the process as much as possible.

In this first version of YML, we we beginning to attract some of our first marquee clients from great work alone. Some of the most notable ones in this phase include Symantec, Bank of America, Sesame Street, Photobucket, Nom Nom Paleo, Intro to Letters, and Credit Karma.

By the end of 2013 we had worked on a huge body of work, both projects and pitches. This includes one of my absolute favorite projects I’ve worked on which was YMLs first award-winning product, NomNom Paleo (Now with two Webbys).

In many cases, we were seen as app design mercenaries who were there to help where needed, not meant to guide – but we aspired to be more and wanted to figure out how.

These learnings in YML 1.0 along with a bigger, brighter team brought us into the next phase.

YML 2.0 (2014-2017)

The business-driven “app shop” gained a customer-focus through design thinking methods.

This iteration of the company was when we began to hit our stride professionally and culturally. The work begun to become more visually appealing, but more importantly we had a better understanding of the value of a strategic approach could bring.

Creative Gets a Voice, Customers too

YML began as a technology-forward company, and in many ways it still is. Although design has always begun outnumbered in headcount, it had become a much greater force in the company. There had been a number of design leaders along the way that were key to helping us through both our projects and process.

In 2015 my colleague Alex Huang and I were given the charge to co-lead the Creative team, and with that came an opportunity to bring new ideas and process to the work. Alex and I had the fortune of working on some incredible pieces of work at this time. There were some high-profile brands, all with unique challenges of reaching massive audiences in a way that felt personal, engaging and intuitive.

We were always looking for ways to do things differently, and dreaming of ways to solve problems differently with tools, methods, or process.

While working on The Home Depot mobile app, we conducted a small experiment.

We thought it would be useful to show up at the local Home Depot at 6 in the morning with donuts, prepared with paper-prototypes and a list of questions for contractors and customers willing to speak to us.

Surprisingly they were willing to talk to us and give us valuable directional feedback that saved us a lot of hours down the line. Customers convinced us, helping us to convince our stakeholders.

We learned that failing early was far more preferable, and the closer we got to customers, the more empathy that we were able to build for people we were designing for. Design teams working off a rich set of customer insights rather than subjective opinions was a huge breakthrough for us and our clients.

Divergent and Convergent Thinking

Around this time we also were increasingly convinced in conducting workshops as a way to understand the challenges more clearly. We went through a number of different iterations of a design studio workshop as a method to begin the process of divergent and convergent thinking.

We quickly transitioned from the “silo” design model of working on designs at our office and sending them back over, to a much more collaborative working partner, which I believe led to a better quality product that was produced in less time. 

Looking back at the outcomes, this was a really promising era for YML and it was the first time that I felt truly proud of our work. It felt more guided, in tune with the audiences, and the outcomes improved dramatically.

Marquee clients: Apple, Staples, The Home Depot, State Farm

YML 3.0 (2017+)

Mobile app design to full ecosystem design. 

New Office & Brand

This phase was kicked off with a move to a new space in Redwood Shores.

We were able to work with an architecture firm in thinking about the way we wanted our space to look, feel, and function. We took some of our early lessons forward about the necessity of collaboration, and made sure our space reflected that need. Whiteboards everywhere for spontaneous ideation, and an open environment where music and energy were able to flow through.

Redesigning our office caused us to rethink the way we presented ourselves from a brand-standpoint. Through our internal discussions, we began to feel as though our brand of Y Media Labs needed to be somewhat neutral aesthetically. Our work and our people are our focus, and therefore our brand should take a step back. We felt as though our space and our site should both resemble an art gallery — a passive place that great work can be displayed.

At the same time, our identity is shaped by the individuals on our team, so we wanted to create some emphasis on displaying the work and a focus on the people that shaped our work. This fresh start made us reflect deeper into our brand, ourselves, and the work we wanted to do.

+CCO

The most recent turning point came with the addition of Chief Creative Officer Stephen Clements, who joined from 15 years at AKQA. He immediately challenged the way that we thought, how we approached the work, and the way we speak of our successes.

He has a great vision for YML and the way in which we bring impact for our clients, and we have since been more vision-focused than ever with our work. He has pushed the quality of our work forward on multiple fronts and has been a fantastic mentor to all of us on the team.

He’s been a huge contributing factor to my personal growth as well as the positive trajectory of the company. 

Ecosystem Design

With these changes, we had a moment of realization.

While mobile apps are a central part of a user’s experience with a brand, it is just a single touchpoint in the customer' overall journey Thinking more broadly, there are many other touch-points that need to work in harmony in order to bring value to an entire ecosystem, and we wanted to figure out what those opportunities are.

Customer’s lives are complicated. Digital channels aren’t used in a linear way. They might be browsing a site on their desktop with the intent of going into the store later on to see a product. Or being helped in store by an employee who’s using an iPad to better facilitate customer service.

We aim to build threads between these experiences, to connect the dots between mobile experience, websites, communication tactics, in-store experiences and beyond. It all begins with research and understanding, and a great team to facilitate the process.

This third version of our company is still at its peak.

Every day we speak with our clients and their customers, allowing them both to dream big with us, and help them shape their perspective on digital experience.

As an experience designer, I consider myself first and foremost a user-advocate: with the intention of reducing steps and complexity while also reducing barriers of communication with customers.

This era’s marquee clients: First Republic Bank, Molekule, Sequoia, State Farm.

Now

In 2011 I would dream of a future of this company where I would be working alongside talented, passionate, caring people on projects that would challenge and inspire me. Through many iterations of exploration, challenges and insights, I’m thankful to see us get to that place.

P.S. Thanks Alex, Neil, Phil and Caroline, for being awesome YMLers. We’ve all been together through many of these iterations and we couldn’t have made it without your support and friendship. 

May 23, 2019

YML Partners With FinTech App, Earnin, on Customer Experience Development Work

YML announced Wednesday its partnership with Earnin, the Fintech payday advance app.

YML will work closely with Earnin to create a category defining digital experience in the coming months.

Earnin helps workers track and cash out wages in real time. The YML work will focus on the development of their mobile app, which is built to aid workers in getting paid as soon they leave work with no loans, fees or hidden costs.

YML is committed to advancing the cause of the gig economy, and working with Earnin exemplifies that effort.

May 22, 2019

YML Presents on the Economics of Design at Adweek Elevate: Creativity

We were out of place no doubt. A Silicon Valley-based, technology-driven, design and innovation agency surrounded by some of the most elite marketers and advertisers in the industry, if not the world, in midtown New York City at The Times Center.

But then we started talking. The room quieted, and the audience was suddenly captivated.

Check out our presentation from CCO Stephen Clements and product strategist Shayna Stewart. Together they illuminated something that related to all parties in the room, whether representing an agency or brand — design is a tool for making businesses better. We're not creating art for art's sake. We're creating to make businesses better.

That idea is rooted in our DNA at YML, and it's how we make lasting impact.

And the impact was strong! We even got featured in Adweek.

Until next year.

Reach out to marketing@ymedialabs.com with any questions.

May 22, 2019

Cult of the Machines

By Hsio Ling Hee

We are all scared that machines will take our jobs.

I was at an exhibition at the De Young Museum last year - the Cult of the Machine.  

A little iPad in the corner asked me, “what do you do for a living?”I typed, “partnerships”. It did not compute. I retyped, “sales”.

Bip, bip. “There is a 14% chance you will be replaced by a machine.”
Software engineers, as it turns out, are more prone - 42%.

It made me feel less bad about myself (suck it, computer scientists!) - but also realized how this little iPad made me vulnerable, less valuable, replaceable.

Source: CULT OF THE MACHINE, Young Museum

We are ultimately scared that AI will replace us, that it will replace our humanity.

By understanding what AI can and cannot do - I no longer feel threatened by AI. AI is a friend, not foe. AI is there, so that we can enhance our humanity. Do things that make us more human.

Caring for your family. Exploring other parts of the world and understand how other cultures live. Leaving a legacy behind for the next generation. 

Imagine ensuring the safety of your family with a lock that unlocks only for people you know. Imagine sharing stories with a new local friend, who you just met on your backpacking trip through South East Asia, with your phone as a translator. Imagine if disasters can be detected earlier if we watch out for warning signs, no one has to lose their home ever again.

This is magic - made possible by AI.

At YML, our Innovation team saw the light too. Actively experimenting and publishing findings since 2016, we have built models that make expressing your ideas and thoughts easier by predicting the next word as you write.

We have even proven that patience does pay off

So when the Google TensorFlow Lite team reached out and wanted to partner with YML to make machine learning more accessible - there was only one answer.

With the Google TFlite team, we built examples and documentation, so other developers may benefit from our experimentation and as a result, reduced the time they may need to deploy a solution to solve a human problem.

Source: AI in motion: designing a simple system to see, understand, and react in the real world

Our own experimentation in machine learning paid off.

Machines give us room to expand our human minds. It gives the mind much needed oxygen to birth a creative solution to a human problem.

Because if a machine with no consciousness (topic for another day) can do your job, wouldn’t you want to work on something more impactful and fundamentally worthy of your humanity?

Improving and evolving (albeit with help from our AI friends) - what is more human than that?

May 15, 2019

YML Partners With C3.ai on Customer Experience Design Work

YML is ecstatic to be partnering with Tom Siebel and the C3.ai team to produce category defining customer experience design work. C3 is the leader in how to bring digital transformation across massive organizations, and we believe this work will be transformative for their brand.

Read more about the partnership here.

May 9, 2019

Three Ways the Hertz / Accenture Drama Underscores the Need for a New Working Model With Technology Companies

By Stephanie Wiseman

A few weeks ago, all of us saw our LinkedIn feeds and inboxes fill up with the major lawsuit Hertz filed against Accenture.


And honestly, I — and presumably the collective folks on the “agency” side — cringed a bit because we’ve been there.


Initial promises were made, people change, new information comes to light, and a contract is the last thing anyone is thinking about when there is a list of 50+ priority QA Bugs with an imminent launch and marketing campaign staring you down.


The scale of this situation, however, is significant. And it underscores several points that all of us — client and service provider — need to realize as we work with one another.


You can’t figure everything out in a contract.

A statement of work for any technology project is full of optimism from the sales team (um…me), past traumas from delivery, and a bunch of assumptions everyone has come up with about time, tasks, and people.


Yes, you can look back and say historically you know how long integrations, features, strategy deliverables and design may take to produce. But every client and every engagement is unique, making a contract impossible to be perfect. (My favorite example is the list of items that are “out of scope” — which really is confusing since isn’t everything not listed in scope just out of scope?)


At the end of the day, we’re all just hiring experts that we trust — based on referrals and past work — to help us get to an end goal. So let’s start focusing on that goal, and the major things we need to do on the way there, rather then several paragraphs of who is creating what wireframes. 
(And by the way, that goal should be related to your customer…but that is a different rant.) 


Technology companies are not consulting companies.

Some of my favorite (and smartest) people in the world have come from big consulting firms, they are technologists through and through. But we’re seeing the industry shift significantly with acquisitions of product design firms and technology integrators. And with that we’ve all just assumed that an “end to end” solution for clients has been created overnight.


But, there is a big difference between the agility / product mentality that comes from organizations that started off as designers and engineers, and the ones that started off as consultants. 


And while I’ve probably just barred myself from ever working with/at a consulting firm, hear me out: they both can and should exist. But in my experience the model of a long, analyst-driven strategy is at the opposite end of the spectrum then the prototype-test-iterate methodology that us development-folk are used to. 


We call all agree that the perfect mix is somewhere in between. A middle ground where you’re not jumping into the waters blind, but also not spending several quarters doing research. But in the meantime, we all must remember that these are different people, mindsets, and approaches that many times are opposing forces.


We need to put our money where our mouth is.

This, to me, is where the real change needs to happen. Everyone has to start being honest that technology and service models are endlessly changing. No one company can do everything. And a level deeper, brands must shy away from the knee jerk reaction to “whitespace” in an industry report, but rather emphasize creating things that are meaningful to customers because that is just as — if not more — important then a marketing campaign.


Providers need to put the bets on themselves. At YML, we call it putting our money where our mouth is’. Specifically, we work towards a joint goal — an actual specific and measurable KPI — and if we don’t hit it, we don’t get that final invoice. 


One could call it risky, but if we are saying we’re going to do something, shouldn’t we actually mean it? You wouldn’t give your contractor for your house the entire check at mid-demo, would you? Why should the core to your business be any different?


Like anything, the struggle that Hertz and Accenture have gone through show that there is yet another evolution coming to our industry and this one being a focus on the balance of strategy, innovation and technology. 
In the meantime, our point of view remains unchanged: joint goals are core to a successful partnership and premium work.

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