Over the last week, we traveled from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to the Black Hills of South Dakota. We’ve camped alongside lakes, rivers, and a car show. We watched Joe Mauer get inducted into the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame (and watched the Twins demolish the Diamondbacks 12-1). We’ve driven by bighorn sheep and bison in the Badlands.
But perhaps most memorably, my 10-year-old caught two walleyes that we were able to take back to the campsite and cook over an open fire.
“Fish on!” a local man chortled at the front of the boat. A Vietnam Vet who spent thousands of hours on Mille Lacs Lake, he took pleasure in watching my boys reel them in and was equally excited whenever he pulled one up.
Mike’s a regular on this boat. It’s captained by another Mike, one who’s equally qualified to showcase Minnesota’s walleye offerings. He’s happy to be on the water, whether it be in his hometown of Isle, MN, or Alaska, or Florida. And I was happy to be in his company, despite the chain-smoking. He made up for it by putting the bait (ugh, leeches!) on our hooks as needed.
The Mikes reminded me to slow down, be persistent, and cheer for the victories, no matter how small the fish. But my biggest lesson was about the importance of agility.
When one spot went dry, Captain Mike announced, “10-minute warning!” We’d be moving along to another location on the lake in search of more fish. Not a minute after the warning, we began hauling them in. We stayed put for a bit longer.
But eventually, it got quiet, and we were given a 5-minute warning. The secret spot had been good to us, but sometimes, we have to up-anchor and move along.
We hoped the next spot would be as abundant, and we’re thankful to our Captain who had a clear strategy, based on prior knowledge and an understanding of weather, water conditions, and walleye behavior. Our second spot was equally successful, and while we didn’t fill the boat, every person on the boat brought home some dinner.
Agility pays off. Analyzing it in the context of fishing and customer experience reveals some important insights:
Flexibility in strategy: As I mentioned, Captain Mike adjusted locations and techniques based on conditions. Businesses need to do the same, adjusting based on shifts in customer preferences, market trends, and technology advancement. Too often we get stuck hoping that the same strategy will work, without noticing the signs all around us that it’s time to change.
Real-time monitoring: Just as anglers consistently assess weather conditions, water temperature, and fish-finding sonar, businesses should utilize monitoring tools and AI-driven analytics. These tools provide valuable insights into customer behavior and feedback, helping businesses make informed decisions and achieve remarkable results.
Experimentation: Successful anglers don’t rely on a single technique. They have a variety of bait, lures, and techniques. Businesses need to experiment with new approaches in CX strategy, from different communication channels to new service offerings to surprise-and-delight moments.
Continuous Learning: Honing a craft requires learning from experiences to make improvements. My first cast of the day looked much different than my fifth. Businesses must foster a culture of continuous learning. Every customer interaction becomes an opportunity for growth. Encourage employees to view customer interactions as valuable lessons, turning each experience into a source of insight. Actively seek customer feedback and encourage open communication among team members to identify areas for improvement. Regular training sessions and knowledge-sharing initiatives can empower employees to adapt their approach, refine strategies, and consistently evolve to meet changing customer needs and expectations.
Recognize the ‘moments that matter’: Just as I'll forever remember the sunset over Mille Lacs Lake and the triumphant poses with freshly caught fish, businesses must also appreciate the significance of key customer touchpoints—first impressions, personalization, problem resolution, and lasting impressions. In those moments, where trust is built and emotions are stirred, lies the true heart of customer experience design.
As we cast our lines into the waters of both fishing and business, let us remember the enduring value of agility. As the waters shift and fish move along, so does the landscape of customer expectations. It’s our ability to adapt and appreciate that we find success.