How thinking like an entrepreneur helped Taki Tsaklanos of Bose pivot like a startup
“Thinking and working with startups is my passion. Why do they succeed? It’s a matter of thinking consumer-first. What does the consumer really need? If you start from a real need, then you always have an edge, because you’re going to solve a problem.” – Taki Tsaklanos
Bose Corporation is decidedly not a startup.
The company has been manufacturing audio products like headphones and speakers since 1964 – when I Want to Hold Your Hand by The Beatles was at the top of the charts.
Nearly six decades later, its products look as different as our musical tastes. For example, the company recently introduced Frames, a line of audio sunglasses with a wafer-thin acoustic package hidden in the temples.
Like a startup, the idea of perpetual innovation has been central to Bose’s success, but it’s also ingrained in its culture. Nowhere is that more evident than within its Center of Excellence (CoE) for Customer Experience, winner of the 2021 Adobe Experience Maker Team of the Year award for the Americas.
I chatted with CoE lead Taki Tsaklanos to learn more about how Bose won this years’ Experience Maker award.
“I have to admit, if we didn’t have great people on the team, none of this would be possible. We have to create an environment where the team can shine, because it’s really their work, creativity, energy, and passion that brings amazing experiences to life,” Tsaklanos said.
Pivoting like a startup
When it comes to startups, “you have to be constantly open-minded to be able to adjust and adapt,” according to Tsaklanos.
When shoppers could no longer try on Frames in stores due to COVID-19 retail lockdowns and with the rise of digital commerce, the Bose customer experience team recognized the need to pivot.
Through a diverse, cross-functional group of internal experts, Bose created a unique virtual try-on (VTO) experience for buyers that leveraged live web augmented reality (AR) integrated with Adobe Experience Cloud.
I gave this a test drive and was totally delighted by the experience — it was seamless, instant, and helped me visualize what wearing a pair would look like. I’m not alone. Of all Bose.com visitors, 11 percent engaged with this VTO experience, and those who did converted at a rate 52 percent higher than those who did not.
Fail fast, and welcome the unknown
It was clear to me that Tsaklanos embodies the best parts of entrepreneurial, startup thinking. Like all pioneers, customer experience professionals like him are tasked every day with forging new paths to serve the unmet needs of buyers in a world gone digital.
Every CX practitioner, in a sense, must disrupt business as usual as the needs of consumers shift — drastically in the case of 2020.
“Customer experience development is a new practice. You have to keep on pushing, and even if you fail, get up fast. We need to welcome the unknown.”
Taki Tsaklanos, Center of Excellence Lead, Bose
I asked Tsaklanos that kind of elephant-in-the-room question I posed to all Experience Maker award winners this year: How on Earth did you achieve such success during a global pandemic?
He named three things that guided his team’s success that anyone in customer experience development should take note of:
- CX is a different kind of practice. To get better at it, you need to get skilled at working cross-functionally to handle new situations. The only way to get better at it is to do more of it.
- Never stop. It’s fine to hit some roadblocks, to stumble from time to time, but you need to get up and keep applying unstoppable energy to your vision.
- Get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Be willing to challenge yourself and your business to grow and change.
A future so bright
The Team of the Year award recognizes a cross-functional team coming together and activating Adobe Experience Cloud technology in innovative ways to solve the unique challenges created by 2020’s digital disruption.
“We were really creative with the technology and tried to really stretch the boundaries of what the tools can do. It’s important to think about how technology can support you in your goals. One thing we’ve clearly seen is how you can get support from technology to think lean, build, test, and iterate, from smaller iterations to larger pivots over time,” Tsaklanos said.
Bose’s story is a fantastic reminder to us all that innovative, entrepreneurial thinking is what will help us all sustain the agility needed to navigate the next massive disruption.
That, and the right pair of sunglasses.
Honoring the Movers and Shakers. Learn more about the Adobe Experience Maker Awards.