Friday, December 22, 2006

CRM and Customer Interaction Networks

Patty Seybold picks up the theme of how Customer service functions and customer advocacy and social networks are going to intermingle. It will be a big bold move by companies to finally recognise that you don't control your image, you help customers experience it.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Predictions for 2007

Interesting to see how the world might evolve: Virtual Economics 2007 The predictions are just too good to summarize here, so why don't you drop over to see what he has to say! Paul Greenberg CRM: does a good job or re-visiting his projections of last year and grading himself (to be fair, Paul does ask us to grade his predictions). He is totally on the money with regards CRM companies having to integrate elements of social computing into their business models.

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Credit Card Overdue Fees worth £500 in the UK

The Banking Business Review has an interesting piece on the approaching problem of credit management in the retail sector. Noting that the card sector, overdrafts and mortgages have become the latest products to be scrutinized by regulators with respect to excessive fees, the regulators are clamping down on excessive fees which will undoubtedly be a huge issue for retail lenders. "Indeed, they are likely to lose a significant source of revenue. For instance, over limit and late payment fees accounted for an estimated 11.5% of total credit card industry revenues in 2005. Furthermore, the enforced reduction in default fees will cost the credit card industry an estimated GBP524 million in lost revenue". Given that these companies may no longer financially benefit from letting customers run up these fees, it is probably going to become even more important that outstanding credit is collected efficiently.

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Singing In Tune, Like Dolphins.... One Would Suppose.

Ken Thompson of Bioteam's and Swarm-it fame as been interviewed by Robert Scoble for his podcast show. Ken has a really interesting way of looking at how Text messaging can help development teams keep in touch, and also how it could be used to support social networking activity. Its a very interesting concept, and it will be interesting to see how Ken's concepts get adopted out there in the world.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Friends Will Be Friends, Connectedness

Bruce Hope at Connectedness has an introduction to building social networks and a link to a handbook that helps you get a better understanding of the practicalities of undertaking this activity (download from here)

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006


100,000 Bebo Widgets produced in 12 hours after its launch? David Beisel over at Genuine VC thinks that the secret story of 2006, has been "rise of the widgets". With Yahoo launching its new Widget, and Google going "all widget", the internet, and services, are going to have to become customer configurable. We are going to see more of this in the new year, particularly in the Teen space. It will also be interesting to see if Bebo, MySpace, Linked-In, etc. begin to see themselves as Innovation Ecosystems for customer contact solutions.

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NTL: Atomised Payments?

As reported in the Irish NTL have taken to charging customers a "handling fee" if they choose to not pay by direct debit. At a company level one understands that it costs more to bill those people that are not on direct debit, and it costs more to administer their accounts. The question I would have is what are the demographic or psychographic profiles of the customers that are not on direct debit? For instance, if I am a pensioner, with a post office account, and don't use a bank account, will this look well on the Joe Duffy radio show! "The paper also says that cable company NTL has defended its decision to impose a surcharge for late payments on customers and forcing them to use direct debit mandates. The company has been criticised by the chairwoman of the National Consumer Agency, Ann Fitzgerald, for deciding to charge customers an extra EUR2 per bill if they do not pay by direct debit. Customers who do not pay their bills on time will be charged an extra EUR7.68. A spokeswoman for UPC Broadband, the parent company of NTL and Chorus, said Chorus was already operating the late payment fee and it was being introduced to NTL to standardise both operations".

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Changing Service Providers Is Like Being On A Blind Date....

What happens when you are switching to a new service and the guys don't turn up when you expected them to? Well, you are one unhappy little puppy. James Enck is a pretty well informed telecommunications consultant and when his new service provider didn't turn up when they said they would, he just could not, could not, understand why he wasn't fore warned. I think in the case James is referring to their was a genuine Technology SNAFU and where your data is corrupted their is very little you can do "instantly". In speaking with one client such as the one James mentions in his post, VoiceSage was told that sending out SMS/Text reminders for appointment scheduling and appointment confirmations, actually drove inbound traffic volumes to the customer care center, as customers felt that had to personally "take an action" if the they were to truly feel comfortable withe the confirmation process. This isn't the first time VoiceSage have found that in some situations(types of information) customers are not comfortable with text. In Financial services for instance some customers feel that "updates" via SMS are "spewed from some machine in the basement that knows my account details....". Again, we emphasize that there is no substitute for a pilot when rolling out any new service.

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Your Customer Service As A Predictive Market?

Courtesy of Read/WriteWeb a number of high profile companies ran experiments to see how they could get better decision making by using the principles of "internal predictive markets". In this way, decisions get made under "market forces" and not hierarchy, or the manual, or just plain old this is how we don things around here: This is what they found. 1. Prediction Markets are a great mechanism to extract knowledge already present within the organization and to make better predictions 2. These markets highlight both the collective wisdom which no one person knows individually, and common knowledge which no one is willing to talk about openly 3. They work properly only when they have an adequate number of knowledgeable participants who work individually 4. Participants must have reasonable incentives (financial or social) to make their efforts worthwhile 5. If the group is large enough, the ratio of experts vs amateurs does not have much impact; often, the real experts are unexpected 6. The results of a Prediction Market are probabilities; they must be confirmed through other, external, means Written by Nitin Karandikar from The Software Abstractions Blog.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Passive Purchasing: Are You For Sale?

From the world of Media Economics comes a very interesting concept: "When is something for sale?" Perhaps it's not when you decide to sell, perhaps its when the market places a certain value on your asset and you feel that you have to now consider this option? Over at Virtual Ecomomics a good example being looked at is the housing market. Basically, can there be a mechanism by which you don't say your house is for sale, but that you are "persistently open to offers" or perhaps "valuations". By extending the concept into Web 2.0, and Semantic Web type reasoning, if an extended network of individuals put a value on an asset, and you own this asset, this might "trigger" your interest in initiating a sales process. Surely this represents a massive "information aggregation and arbitrage opportunity" for someone who understands the power of social networks. This kind of thinking, coupled with ideas of social search, and persistent search, may yet have legs. Given how much money is involved in each property transaction, maybe mortgages, and UK and Ireland real estate agents will be the first to pursue it? ( On this blog we have spoken before about how VoiceSage see a whole range of triggers that could be initiated from the web, appliances and devices, it might be fun to post a few ideas before Christmas on this theme.

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Attention Defecit Disoder

Interruptions, and interruption management are going to be key in the new attention, and intention economies. Colleagues, friends, family are all vying for attention time, and we, collectively need to get things done, and agreed, in "intention-time". Creating Passionate Users are making some fun of a service called Twitter, that enables people to send simultaneous sms messages to people on a list. Somebody pointed out that this was a bit like micro-blogging (hey, why upload this stuff, when I can just Twitter). There are a few services like this including I was following a conversation over at on the future of social networks like Linked-in, and the key issues seems to be "make your service messy at the edges so that people can invent their own uses for the service". It would seem that people believe that Twitter is so easy to see going big, because it allows for this customer based innovation. Question remains: if its the customer's time, it will be the customer to determine how and when they want to interact with you. As a service provider, its your job to figure out what the "intention-interactions" are, and what the subsequent "attention interactions" have to be. My two pence.

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Google Goes Social?

Google and Health care move into social networking. They use your trusted sources to present search results on targetted subjects.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A Story About A Credit Card, A Tailor, and A Bank

Here at VoiceSage we think about how, when and where people would like to be "interrupted", and what they would want to do "in that particular context". The thing is that every customer company relationship has its own context, and every person will have different psychological thresholds. In a way, how we interrupt our customers is a corollary of how much attention they want to give us. Let me illustrate with a personal experience. I was in Abraham's tailors (Little Ann Street, Dublin) and having had a wonderful buying experience I hand over my credit card. As I've said before I think the "checkout" experience is key to entire purchasing process. Well, the card was stopped and the staff member was advised by the machine to have the customer call the bank in question. "Perhaps" my tailor advised "you have run over the limit?". "Not likely" I replied, "I have acres of space on the card". My tailor handed me the land line, and we called the bank. The bank did not deal with the query and handed me over to credit card services, who in turn told me to go to the local bank branch IN PERSON and sort this out. Wow, I said. I work in this kind of business and this is a horror. "No problem said the Taylor. I will hold the suit for you". I go to the bank THE NEXT DAY and they say, hey no problem with the card. "You were just making an unusual purchase, and they stopped the card" (because I was in Dublin, not Limerick). I think I looked at the bank official for a few minutes waiting to see what they were going to do to ensure that this situation would never happen again. No such luck. First, there is no reason why when an account is triggered as a potential fraud alert that a call cannot be initiated to that person's known mobile, a pin number requested, a transaction legitimised, and a confirmation received, all in the one phone call and with no other need for human interaction. Secondly, an automated call asking for verification could have increased my confidence in my credit card company; Thirdly, I could be a "highly risk averse person" who very much appreciates these kinds of alerts and interrupts.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Social Customer

An introduction to Social Networking, from The Social Customer Guys!

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Monday, December 04, 2006

American Experess and New Enterprise Approach

Dion Hinchcliff over at ZDNet has an update on American Express and their use of Enterprise 2.0. What is interesting to me is that when combined with Paul Greenberg's comments on Reardon Commerce and their supply of "Mashed Services" into the American Express Customer base, what you begin to see is a "Traditional, Conservative Company", really understanding that the dynamics of customer interaction and value creation are changing. The three "buckets" that American Express is currently dividing its Web 2.0 and SOA technologies into: Web 2.0 and SOA Combined: Three Resulting Aspects 1) Improving the Customer Experience ("this is top for us") * Interactive, dynamic compelling user experience * Convenience and reach * Harnessing user generated content in recent promotions they've been doing * Experimenting with rich Internet applications * RSS used on customers sites and partner sites * Looking at RSS technologies, subscribe to the events that are interest to them, and get notified when they want. 2) Community and Collaboration * Experimenting and piloting wiki technologies * "Pretty good uptake" with tools by internal teams to collaborate and generate content * AmexLabs, an online area where select customers come into a site and preview and provide feedback of new interactive capabilities (these customers are individuals, not businesses, cardholders) * Gives us the opportunity to better understand how products are being developed) * Pioneering and piloting widget technologies 3) Simplicity and approachability * How do we make integration a whole lot easier (REST)? * Leveraging the ease of use of the consumer Web Dion goes on to say that "This is a pretty interesting list in and of itself but Bob went on to keep explore how Web 2.0 techniques, when combined with SOA, can help deliver returns that SOA by itself generally hasn't been able to". Notes on Using Web 2.0 to Leverage SOA (Source: Bob Morgan, American Express) * SOA succeeds in making data more readily available in general * Integration and security requirements, combined with Web 2.0 creates brand-new challenges (compounds integration and security challenges) * The power combination: Web 2.0 (mashups and RIAs) can bring the data in a SOA to life * Allows one to take the volumes of data on hand and makes it accessible * Because it's embedded in place, mashups can put corporate data into the right context * But putting so many pieces together creates problem in the environment * Enterprise-specific Challenges * Security - If we can't secure it, we won't use it (hit with as first issue every time) * Protecting privacy and including identity in mashups # Manageability, Performance, and Scalability * Mashups can result in overly complex integration * Unpredictable throughput, capacity, and difficult to monitor * Lots of sensitive customer data, big challenges, and not a lot yet done to address this * When we build these things, there's lots to take into account, how to deploy, monitor, manage end-to-end Also he says that "sites made of mountains of user generated content — are far less constrained by regulation, governance, privacy, and trust issues than business sites are. Thus figuring out how to leverage the positive aspects of the emerging best practices on the Web today, without eliminating the very benefit they provide, is one of the biggest challenges in providing a Web 2.0 "context" in the enterprise". Some Challenges sited by Dion in Applying Web 2.0 in the Enterprise 1) Development Challenges * All of this needs close ties to manageability * The big design tension: Fast and easy vs. well designed and well engineered * Lack of standard development methods with Web 2.0: Need proven tools and enterprise design patterns * We now have tools built to bring applications together very quickly, in contrast with traditional development platforms * And if you build them this way, how can you make them scale to million of customers? * Lots of existing platforms with different tools, how to preserve an organization's huge investment in current skills and technologies? 2) Business Value * Is there broad business value in social networking? * How to do this dealing with a lot of private customer data? * It's not likely you'll want to bring people together to share customer data * Not entirely clear yet how to apply social networking profitably to business models

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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Social Network and Healthcare Service: Trading Information

"Why should someone else hold your health information?" John Hagel III posited a long time ago that customers would eventually get to own the information that is relevant to them and their digital identity. Now John Batelle, search engine guru and the guy who literally wrote the book on Google, is saying that perhaps Google is going after heathcare information. He makes a point that we touched on in this blog before, i.e. why don't people think about using the power of social networks to find others that have "used that medicine for this condition"; had that treatment; had those symptoms during treatment etc. etc. "As the Internet increasingly helps link communities of people, we also think there is an opportunity to connect people with similar health interests, concerns and problems. Today, people too often don't know that others like them even exist, let alone how to find them. The industry should help there, too" Empowering the customer is always good, both economically and socially. Sunlight Disinfects, as they say. Yet, It strikes me that there is an inherent "assumption here" about Diagnosis versus monitoring. When considered in tandem with Malcom Gladwell's analysis of decision making in medical care, even the trained physician often does not make the "right number of right decisions" because they are unaware of the "odds" associated with each treatment strategy. These are big issues. If we could "gather our family medical and social histories" into a "Google-index" and it could be mined on a health algorithm, or you could have your family members "sign in" to a health information network, this would help with the diagnosis and risk elements. Treatment strategy outcomes could also be made available. People could share their experiences of making liminal decisions (should I go for that surgery given the benefit outcomes with THIS doctor, in THIS hospital?) Either way, your customers have digital information that enable you to give them better service, better products. So how are you thinking about enabling them to give it to you? Do you make it worth your customers while to trade information?

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Friday, December 01, 2006

Turn Your Company Inside Out

More good stuff from the Social Customer. Well worth looking at "turning the company inside out"... Regards Paul

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The Y Generation At Work

The Y Generation At Work. "The Millennials will drive a revolution in the way products and services are chosen, developed and procured. Customer endorsements on blogs and forum sites will become very important, and suppliers and partners will need to be able to work collaboratively online on every aspect of a product or service's development and delivery. Organisations in Ireland need to start embracing the Millennial way of working in order to keep up with the way their customers and partners want to do business," Penny Rhodes, general manager of Xerox Ireland.

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Catalog Still Big Business

Some interesting information on how to "get your customers attention" over at TomBomb, and this is important for Marketeers thinking that with teens, its time to go All Digital, All of the Time. Why? it's harder and harder to "interrupt people" and give them your marketing message, and its very much harder to get new customers. - Catalogs are persistent, in that you deliver it once, you can read them over and over again - You can use the catalog to help you make online purchases - People have to live somewhere (physically) and this is a way to make them reachable. What I find interesting about Tom's comments is that are all pretty much about becoming "embedded" in the customers life, their home, the "way they do things".

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