Anneliese Olson has turned listening into an art form.
As HP's Global Head and General Manager, Home Printing Solutions, Anneliese listens carefully to customers across the globe in her efforts to develop the technologies and services that will make business smarter, more efficient, and more profitable for HP's customers.
In the past two years, she helped spearhead a listening tour and body of research that reached 22,000 customers in 10 countries.
"We could go do technology for technology's sake, but if it isn't based on customer insights, we're not investing in the right things, and we're not solving customer problems," Olson says. "We can talk all about 'speeds and feeds,' but that's just technology. When we focus instead on outcomes, then it's about getting the insights that truly serve our customers' needs."
Having been responsible for business profitability both on the printer and PC sides of the business, Olson has learned that the path to profitability lies in understanding customer pain points and finding ways to ease them.
"OfficeJet Pro is a perfect example of how we turned listening into innovation," she says. "We went out and interviewed thousands of small business owners across the globe. Seeing our products in use, we could see the positives, but we could also see the things that could be improved, the problems that needed solving." The OfficeJet Pro is HP's newest small business printer designed to save business owners time. It allows for seamless printing, copying, and scanning, all of which can be done on the go by smartphone or tablet using the HP Smart app, which also includes time-saving capabilities.
HP supplements the information they get from customer conversations with hard data collected from HP devices. By way of example, the HP Smart App has been downloaded more than 87 million times. Monthly users continue to grow. HP is using the data generated to gain more insights and direct future product development. An essential component of the Smart App is Smart Tasks, which delivers game-changing time savings for small business owners, entrepreneurs, and home businesses and is a great productivity tool when used with the OfficeJet Pro. For example, Smart Tasks allows you to eliminate steps when completing repetitive tasks, like expense reports, with customizable shortcuts.
The data collected from monitoring how Smart App is being deployed by customers, tells a powerful story of what's useful, what isn't, and what can be improved.
"It's pretty amazing to see how far we've come," Olson says. "Think about what Smart Tasks can do for businesses. It's an amazingly sophisticated app, but remarkably easy to use. Smart Tasks helps small business owners organize documents 50 percent faster.
"From anywhere, and I mean anywhere, you can create searchable, editable documents with automatic file names when scanning from your phone. You can customize shortcuts, turning time-consuming repetitive tasks, into simple processes allowing you to scan to cloud destinations, email, and print all with a single click!"
Though she's a senior executive at HP, Olson isn't afraid to get in the trenches with her customers.
"I'm a communicator at heart," she says. "It's invigorating to talk to our customers and learn what their pain points are, what the problems are that need to be solved. I love being told, 'actually you're not right on that. You might change it or think about doing this differently.' "Then we go back to our engineers and our software folks and say, 'Scrap that! Let's start over!'"
Olson's listening skills were honed as a small child. Her father was a musician who studied under the immortal Dave Brubeck. Music was literally the soundtrack to her childhood.
"We grew up singing and playing instruments," Olson recalls. "Music's always been a big part of my life." To this day, Olson's side hobby is as an amateur DJ and she has even played publically at one of HP's external events. Like all other aspects of her life, Olson is very serious about getting it right.
"If I was going to DJ, I was going to do it for real. I learned on vinyl because if you can DJ with vinyl, you can do anything else."
While still an avid music lover, Olson now uses her highly attuned listening skills to better serve HP's global customer base. In her 25 years at HP, Olson has seen and heard it all. She has met with customers in more than 30 countries and became particularly attuned to cultural differences in her eight years living and working abroad, including seven years in Singapore where she launched new businesses and helped to reinvigorate existing ones.
"Living abroad and traveling gave me the opportunity to learn about customers all over the world and provided me with deep customer insights; insights we could then transform into practice," Olson says.
Among the many lessons Olson learned in her travels is that there are similar insights shared by small business owners, no matter where they reside in the world. Perhaps the most important common thread is that time is extremely precious.
"We're all 24/7 right? And we all have friends and family we'd love to be spending more time with. For HP to serve our customers in a meaningful way, we have to keep coming up with ways to give our customers the gift of time. Even if it's something as simple as having the printer automatically order ink when levels get low, that's a time saver." In fact, HP Instant Ink, HP's ink subscription service is offered across HP printers and can save customers up to 50 percent on printing.
What gives Olson the greatest pleasure is hearing back from customers who thank HP for how much more efficient they can be using HP printers and apps.
"Anything you can do to save your customer time is going to have a positive impact and we love to hear that kind of feedback," she says.
And that feedback is music to her ears.