Thursday, September 28, 2006

Software Within The Enterprise As Competition

Dion Hinchcliffe an enterprise 2.0 commentator over on ZDNet has a very good article on some of the basic principles of using or creating enterprise software under "2.0" principles. (
Some points I draw from this:
- Traditional enterprise software imposes structure on the user. Its pretty much our way or the highway. Enterprise 2.0 favours "atomisation of information and code", so that users can pick and choose such things as tags, labels, interfaces. This exposes the "fine-grain" which creates more opportunity for evolution, i.e.. this enables more fine "grained environmental-fit".
- Enterprise 2.0 enables every participant to define their own use-cases, to create, adopt and adapt their own softwares. This in turn creates an "internal market" for software and the best softwares win out, i.e. this brings the power of competition into the enterprise. The free flow of competition gives the enterprise the power of emergence.
- Enterprise 2.0 may not have the power to "act upon" its "internal environment", which in turn would not help it act upon the "external environment". Dion uses the example of Digg, which famously has a core of perhaps 1% of users that are very active diggers, who more or less define what the rest of us see ( However, the numbers are so large that this still contains the requisite variety in order to be accurate. Within the firm, that 1% of users figure, would be too small to provide an useful "emergence". In effect it would be like a focus study where one person drives the conversation off into their own parochial concerns.
I think that some of the "set it free and they will come, create, and communicate" arguments something worth speaking further about. Consider that kind of approach with recent revelations that it was some good old fashioned mass marketing that helped MySpace achieve its tipping points. For those interested in hearing Dion speak about this stuff, try this link

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Google SMS Reminders

In terms of personal remindering, Google Ireland now allows you to set "sms reminder" options on your calander entries. EirePreneur has the scoop on This is the first step by Google in its bid to hold all your information remotely. Its a terrific service but I suspect that many companies and people will wait a while before throwing away their Outlook or Lotus Notes.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Eye Contact, The Check Out Moment

Getting Past The Check Out Being in the business of customer interaction, I do find myself running constant audits of my customer interaction experience. It's a professional tic, I suppose. One of the very first things I learned in the area of retail was that if you mess up on the check out, you will ruin the experience. If you've walked around the shop, listened to the well-informed staff talk to you about the features of the gizmo, and then you have to wait too long in line, have product mispriced at the checkout, your debit card doesn't get processed first time, etc. then you feel a bit miffed. They blew the check-out. The one I can't get over in bars, hotels, and retail outlets is "when you are taking the customer's money or handing the customer back their change, look them in the eyes!". Handing over money and resources is a powerful moment everytime you do it. There is an inherent risk involved. When you buy online you have a check-out moment; when you receive an invoice for a service and now you have to pay for it, you have a check-out moment! What are you doing to actively manage that moment? You can also get a very big brand effect by showing that you are concerned that things are meeting your customers expectations post check-out. In the old days, they would ring you up and ask "did that parcel get to you ok?" because there was an understanding that the postal system had some widespread delivery variances. When was the last time an online retailer phoned you and asked you just about anything about your delivery experience? Even if I was to tell them that everything was great, just as I expected, often the very fact that I have had to articulate this has re-inforced my belief that this was indeed, a very good experience. The power of that "check-out moment" can be recreated in many other non-retail environments. Why don't you try to settle on three or four questions that help you manage your everyday check outs? Here are some examples - - Did you achieve what you were hoping to achieve from this meeting? - Do you think there is any way we could have made this a better or more productive meeting? - What do we have to do now to ensure the success of our next meeting?

If you have any examples of great examples of check-out moments, I'd love to hear about them.

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Friday, September 22, 2006

Crowd Sourcing and Bubble Thoughts

I've been giving a bit of thought to the information loops between a company and its customers, and prospective customers. In a rapidly changing environment, new offers and opportunties are created and deployed as commercial services faster and faster. But are you asking the right people to give you feedback on your products and services?
The ever thougthful David Pollard has an excellent article on the Wisdom of Crowds versus the Wisdom of Witch Doctors (Consultants and Senior Management).
In the article Pollard outlines where crowds and experts might be best suited to particular types of problems, or stages of problem. All in all, pretty standard mangement theory. What has changed over the years is our ability to "source crowds", poll opinion, and gather feedback. For me one of the key questions that comes out of this article is "how can companies build qualified crowds", and in fact, is this capability in itself an organisational key competence?
Given that many of todays Web 2.0 companies depend upon rapid development and feedback cycles from early adopters perhaps their 'crowds' are not representative of the requirements of the vast majority of their actual end target audiance?. Perhaps we should develop tools to profile our 'crowd" before we put down some baseline strategic assumptions about our products or services.
In many ways we, as management and as companies, have the world pre-interpreted and pre-digested for us by our own histories, our teams experiences, and many other structural aspects of organisational behavour. Perhaps in the "open world" of the internet, many companies and teams are unwittingly singing to a choir of their own choosing? So here is a thought for the day: "how could a customer service department use web 2.0 and voice technologies to source qualified crowds to give you a better and more realistic context for your decison making"?

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Business Continuity in an Always On Society?

Poor Dell. Fantastic business model, great execution. They sell millions of computers and by the law of averages, something had to go wrong. The now infamous exploding laptops. But in the world of the internet, where everyone is connected, and where more and more people have mobile phones and flickr accounts, you are now more likely than ever to "see that failure" on the internet. A Dell laptop exploded on the Yahoo! campus, you can be sure it will circulate in tech land. Will this affect the Dell brand? You bet it will. What could Dell do? Dell now has to not only provide great support, but be seen to provide great support. They need to create a story about their "legendary support". I am not saying what particular storyline would work, but I am reminded of the business cases around FedEx where the delivery guy goes far beyond the call of duty to deliver the parcel. This became the basis of the movie Castaway with Tom Hanks. Given that computers are moving towards commodity, Dell will be all about the service, and the managed services. They need to build a story that supports this future position. Now some take away?
  • Do you have a way of "monitoring" what is being said about you in the world of the internet?
  • If your company suffered a severe product or service failure, do you have a plan that enables you to react pro-actively, and manage your brand?
  • Do you have an "influence strategy" and a "company storyline" that can be expounded?
Finally, I am reminded that all the best laid plans go astray. Take the Ryder Cup. If your golf tournament was flooded out by rain, could you contact all your VIP's and VIP handlers to let them know that they should delay departure by two hours?

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Surveillance Society?

Wired reports that an "art exhibit" demonstrating how close we all are to a surveillance society managed to due what 4th and 5th generation netorks have been promising.

They used ordinary cell phones placed at strategic locations to "log" where people were, where they had been, and then made suppositions about what they might have been doing. This was made possible by the fact that most people leave their bluetooth settings open (technically termed bluejacking I think). But if Google earth, and google maps, and your google IM are all on, then google can make the same suppositions, and charge marketers for the privalage. Now if your telecommunications company holds all your records for 7 years, that's a lot of data records.  What has any of this got to do with customer interaction? I think you can take it for granted that if you are thinking abou customer contact stategies, and the mobile phone isn't right in the middle of your strategy, you might be missing a tic.

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Innovating in Health Care Customer Interactions

Dave Pollard in his always excellent innovation blog shows us how interactions between a pharma and its customers and channels can be evolved. At its centre is the idea that the customer needs to be the centre of the information flow and play an active role in their ongoing diagnosis. But also there is the idea that diagnosis and "threat evaluation" is probably better manged within the context of social and information networks, where information has been "cleared" and "approved" to some extent at least. A strong correlation between the trusted source and the perceived trustworthyness of the information shared by that source, means that we will probably pay more attention to the information we get from our sister than from the PA at the doctors surgery. With regards our own "blind spots and biases" active participation in a network should open out some of our blind spots. A new "fitness service" called Traneo gets you to nominate a person to monitor your progress, and to encourage you. Understanding your motivational triggers is key here, as is the ability to "know or predict" when you are cheating. If there is real-time exchange of your shopping list, your weight chart, and your gym entry, then there is a chance you can be monitored (i.e. "I go to the gym all the time", well actually, no you don't"). In this respect we create our own "diet management programme" in a way that nobody else could have managed or perhaps even envisaged. The US health care system sees this and has made moves towards defining some principles that outline the principles upon which all "care based services" could be evaluated. The recommendations of the US National Institute of Medicine's 2001 Crossing the Quality Chasm report which laid out these ten 'rules' to govern effective health care:
  1. Care based on continuous healing relationships. Patients should receive care whenever they need it and in many forms, not just face-to-face visits. This rule implies that the health care system should be responsive at all times (24 hours a day, every day) and that access to care should be provided over the Internet, by telephone, and by other means in addition to face-to-face visits.
  2. Customization based on patient needs and values. The system of care should be designed to meet the most common types of needs, but have the capability to respond to individual patient choices and preferences.
  3. The patient as the source of control. Patients should be given the necessary information and the opportunity to exercise the degree of control they choose over health care decisions that affect them. The health system should be able to accommodate differences in patient preferences and encourage shared decision making.
  4. Shared knowledge and the free flow of information. Patients should have unfettered access to their own medical information and to clinical knowledge. Clinicians and patients should communicate effectively and share information.
  5. Evidence-based decision making. Patients should receive care based on the best available scientific knowledge. Care should not vary illogically from clinician to clinician or from place to place.
  6. Safety as a system property. Patients should be safe from injury caused by the care system. Reducing risk and ensuring safety require greater attention to systems that help prevent and mitigate errors.
  7. The need for transparency. The health care system should make information available to patients and their families that allows them to make informed decisions when selecting a health plan, hospital, or clinical practice, or choosing among alternative treatments. This should include information describing the system’s performance on safety, evidence-based practice, and patient satisfaction.
  8. Anticipation of needs. The health system should anticipate patient needs, rather than simply reacting to events.
  9. Continuous decrease in waste. The health system should not waste resources or patient time.
  10. Cooperation among clinicians. Clinicians and institutions should actively collaborate and communicate to ensure an appropriate exchange of information and coordination of care.
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The Dynamic of TimeShifting

One element of the VoiceSage service is that you can set up your contact campaign now,and have it delive" red at a future time. One of our clients actually set up their campaign and then went on holidays! "Time-Shifting" refers to products & services that enable you to "consume" the service at a different time (i.e. TiVo). Here is a simple little service that allows you to email yourself at a future time On a personal note I use gmail and GTD (Getting Things Done) to set up a series of filters that enable me to search and priortise on the basis of the priority or the work context.

Thinking about how your own product or service might be subject to the forces of timeshifting might enable you to extend your service capability in a meaningful way. More and more customers want to be contacted at a time of their choosing, not yours. They want to define under what circumstances you contact them under, in other words, they want to define how your relationship is going to work. So how are you going to enable your customers to define these points?

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Getting Creative With Your Numbers

A tad silly this post, but exactly when do you have to remember numbers? Well, if you think about it, you have to remember a lot of numbers, mostly pin numbers. Your phone numbers are on the mobile phone, you synch them with your outlook an phone. But here are 3 interesting services that will help you to generate memorable name-tags for your numbers:

(Hatips2 lifehacker!)

If you are a telco, one of the strategic things you might be looking at achieving, is getting more and more numbers saved onto the mobile phone. Research has shown that the more names a person has on their phone, the more calls they make in the month. That's because seeing the name on your phone acts as a prompt to call. Many companies are now thinking that internet "widgets" those add ons to your google, yahoo IM, and your desktop will act as similar prompts.

What are you doing in your company to embed such a trigger for your product or service?

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Great Example of Platform Voice Product?

Over at a great example of using a basic capability and leveraging it in an interesting way. This service lets you create your own audio-cast for the blogsphere, with call in functionality, and its on a revenue share model. It will be interesting to see how many "podcasters" want interaction on their podcasts (there are implications for lenght of podcast and whether listeners want information or arguement for instance). It might be even more interesting to see if some of the mainline media players can find ways to leverage this capability into a format that they inherently understand.

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Can Companies Create Social Value?

The lastest trendwatching briefing is interesting in that what is being discussed is how to create interactions with customers that enable the customers to acquire increased social status. Additional commentary over at the emergence marketing blog at For "socially consumed products and services" the uses are obvious. We like to feel that the products and services we buy are expressions of superior taste, better buying skills, being "in the know". The examples given in the trendwatching report of "distill your own whiskey" are, in my opinion, another take on the trend towards "mass customisation". What I find interesting is that companies often do not look at how their product or service might be able to provide an opportunity to increase the customers "social equity" within a given social network, or the "brand equity" of a company within its customer, supplier, and partner ecosystem or network. The ones that do, do so by mentioning the customer in key case studies, reports, and best practice measurements. Hey, everybody likes to be thought of as being on top of their game, professionally speaking. But what about enabling that person or company to re-configure your service or product so that it speaks about their ability to understand value creation, not your ability to give them access to "exclusive products and services". I guess what it boils down to is a simple question. "Do you believe that companies can create social value for their customers" or "Do companies provide the best platform upon which customers can define what value means to them"?

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Friday, September 15, 2006

Innovation in Financial Services

Interesting conversation on when money and banking goes completely "virtual/digital" over on It seems like Rabobank is going to evolve more and more to an internet and new media focussed bank. "It's very difficult to be a personal bank, when you don't have physical contact with the client anymore", De Jager tells us. "We're using CRM systems to make the personal approach possible, so the customer will feel like Rabobank knows them."

The most difficult De Jager finds about innovation in banking, is that people in banking still look with the 'old' paradigms to the new devolpments. They know the world is going to change, but it's difficult to start acting that way. "We're moving from the traditional bank-centered perspective to a customer-centered one."

It will be interesting to see what Rabobank comes up with here. I can't help but see parallel's between "paying my mobile bill" and "having a bank account". They are both "digital currency". Technically I could pay you with call credit, if that call credit could be use to buy anything else. Why aren't young people buying and selling stuff on eBay with their call credit? Probably, because someone doesn't allow them to trade call credit. But what would happen if someone did allow this? I suspect, a whole new ball game....

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Personalise, Customise, Intelligence, & Experience

In the future, an awful lot of your product or service will be evaluated in terms of "it's experience", or even how you enable customers to create, have and share their own experience. You may have come across Google Earth before where you can fly down streets see your own house from space! I have a feeling that we are not only going to see the obvious opportunities for search based advertising, and location based services. How would you use Google Earth to create a story with your customer?

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Why Email Doesn't Always Work

Though e-mail is a powerful and convenient medium, researchers have identified three major problems. First and foremost, e-mail lacks cues like facial expression and tone of voice. That makes it difficult for recipients to decode meaning well. Second, the prospect of instantaneous communication creates an urgency that pressures e-mailers to think and write quickly, which can lead to carelessness. Finally, the inability to develop personal rapport over e-mail makes relationships fragile in the face of conflict.

In effect, e-mail cannot adequately convey emotion. A recent study by Profs. Justin Kruger of New York University and Nicholas Epley of the University of Chicago focused on how well sarcasm is detected in electronic messages. Their conclusion: Not only do e-mail senders overestimate their ability to communicate feelings, but e-mail recipients also overestimate their ability to correctly decode those feelings.

One reason for this, the business-school professors say, is that people are egocentric. They assume others experience stimuli the same way they do. Also, e-mail lacks body language, tone of voice, and other cues - making it difficult to interpret emotion.

"A typical e-mail has this feature of seeming like face-to-face communication," Professor Epley says. "It's informal and it's rapid, so you assume you're getting the same paralinguistic cues you get from spoken communication."

To avoid miscommunication, e-mailers need to look at what they write from the recipient's perspective, Epley says. One strategy: Read it aloud in the opposite way you intend, whether serious or sarcastic. If it makes sense either way, revise. Or, don't rely so heavily on e-mail. Because e-mails can be ambiguous, "criticism, subtle intentions, emotions are better carried over the phone," he says.


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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Persistent Seach and Persistent Customers

If your customer could set out a series of conditions, which if satisfied, they could automatically buy a product or service, what would this mean for your company? In the example from gigaom cFares enables you to find air fares at prices you set, but the search is persistent. If it doesn't find it on the first search, it reaches out to you and tells you "hey, its available now", it may even conclude the transaction. Its going to happen to your business sector; what are you going to do about it? What is your value proposition going to be? What does this do to your existing segmentation variables?

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Personalise, Customise, Intelligence

Personalise, customise, what ever you can do. It would seem this bank "gets it" with regards meaningful personalisation. So you can put your own picture background picture on the card? so what! The real innovation here is that the customer picks their own rates, their own benefit schedule, etc. etc. As I read in another article onetime, if your marketing guy says we sell a commodity product, fire them!

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Saturday, September 02, 2006

Do Customers Say What They Want?

Seamus McCauley has a nice reflection on the use of "tell us what you want type customer reserach". Customers say one thing, and then do another. That's sometimes because they don't often know why they buy things or how they realy rank alternatives. How many times have you gone into a customer and after a conversation about their needs asked "so if a product could do x, you think that would be great and you would buy it",followed by the usual, "and how much would you expect to pay for that", and then gone back months later only to find, well, the customer realy does't want to pay anything extra for that feature or service? In terms of your product development or service development process why don't you ask yourself "is there anyway I can get an early version of the product to a customer and see if they will actually buy it"? The only way to see if there is customer value, is to ask for a value exchange.

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Friday, September 01, 2006

Brochure Ware? A Co-Creation Opportunity Not only great design of a brochure (oh dear brochure-ware), but an example where the customer co-creates the brochure they need. A great example of a company providing the "micro-platform" upon which the customer creates. Now how long before you get to specify things like "nominate a local approved garage and include their contact details", "want to set some good satellite ratio stations remotely", "do you want us to email you a report on the state of your automobile every week?". Telematics and Cars, The new plastics!

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