Wednesday, October 31, 2007
The Alarm Clock: has a really nice post on how and where to get those manuals, for all those damn gadgets and appliances you have, and you know you've got that manual somewhere right? OwnerIQ. Brilliant. Ah, the business model? Well if you know that people are looking for the manual, either the thing in question is broken, or the owner doesn't know how to use it. Knowing that, is a great way to make new offers to the browser and suggest other substitute products that have been highly rated by other users, even from other sites. This site should be "mashed" with GetSatisfaction and LouderVoice to make this a reality. Remember, uSwitch went for nearly £210m or $433m.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
I am not usually a big Microsoft fan boy, but I have to admit with being impressed by the news developments on Live Maps. Techcrunch gives a few really good reasons why its worth a look at. The two that get my attention are: —Landmarks are now given in driving directions that indicate you’ve gone too far. —Black is the new red. Traffic speed is now shown with four colours (green, yellow, red, and black). Black means total standstill, versus red, which means creeping logjam. - They have simplified directions so that you don't get "overly complicated instructions", which is pretty much the way most of us remember stuff. I like these developments because they focus on simplifying the user experience and making it more meaningful. It's interesting because of the messaging and interactions that will be required around these "Live!" services. Booked to go on a car journey across town or further afield? How about getting an sms to tell you that a certain intersection is now closed, and have a new map pushed to your phone, or dash? Perhaps you have booked an appointment with a doctor at 12.00 in the city centre. At the moment you could see a Google embedded map on the doctors site, and perhaps got some driving instructions on how to get there. But what if you could subscribe to get a live update from the "map" courtesy of the doctor to let you know that traffic was busy on that route and you might want to leave earlier or book another route? Its not a huge leap to say that this could be integrated and synchronised with a group calender function or deliveries software either. There are going to be huge process benefits to be reaped by closer co-ordination and synchronisation of people, assets, and places.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Javelin report that two way sms is definitely on the way, and has many benefits for financial services. I agree, as I am sure our friends in ClairMail would too. The problem I have with these kinds of reports is how singular the focus tends to be. Taking the solution and examining the problem. People don't want text alerts per say, they want "to know", "to be alerted", to "be able to..." etc. etc. Absolutely SMS has a place in alerting, hell that's why we provide it, but to not even mention that Interactive Voice Messaging is making an impact on many of these areas is to do their readers a disservice, I think. Why do I think? Well, VoiceSage is delivering combinations of text and voice alerts for a number of retail banks and we get extraordinary results by brining voice interaction into the alerting strategy. If you want to know more about it, call our Director of Sales, Mark Oppermann. His contact details are on our website at www.voicesage.com
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Just as the sparks have stopped leaping across the gorges and canyons of California, home of lead users, I wonder will this be the year of "messaging 2.0"? People, individual users, have seen the power of micro-messaging, of geo-tagged-messages, and know it now as "better information and stuff about what is going on around me, because hell, fox news doesn't know", and this is going to leap into mainstream. Companies will want a bit more power and control, to begin with. VoiceSage is ready for this with SMS, Voice, Premium SMS, and a full XML API. Jaiku for the Enterprise anyone?
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Two Sneaky end of day posts:) and a forbidding title to lure you in ! Paul Kedrosky's presentation on predictability and interdependence in markets:(notes on link through to actual slideshare site). price of property is related to the reputation of its local school. So why isn't that on every property site? In even a very decent and 2.0 site like www.nestoria.co.uk, all they show is the location and name of the nearest school. From Paul Kedrosky's view, all asset classes are interconnected in a social network (of assets). The spoils go to those services that surface the interconnected data.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
The popular lifehacker site shows you (in the US) how to get free incoming calls. Basically its a hack between Grand Central and Gizmo. Then there is another announcement that you can get a desktop alert to let you know that the price of the amazon book/film/game you wanted to buy has dropped to a price you are interested in. Now how about a meta-hack that let you get alerted when the price fell, and made your phone ring, so you could confirm and order. Something VoiceSage could do in a hack. If I were a company looking to undersell Amazon on the basis that most people go to Amazon for convenience and reliability, I'd be worred right about now.
I've been thinking that mashups will break through in some way, and was positing that it would have something to do with property and real estate. Well, maybe the fires of California might be a turning point. ProgrammableWeb, Marshall Kirkpatrick at ReadWriteWeb and The Official Google blog, all have lists of different mashup's that are helpful during this emergency. Marshall points out TwitterWhere which presents all the "Twitter messages" from a particular location and pushes them as an xml feed. Again, what is particularly good about these kinds of solutions is that they can be accessed from any browser, and can send sms updates when the network is jammed. I have to raise some concern around the delivery of such messages via sms however. I have personally experienced these kinds of messages coming in a full day late, not something you would like to contemplate in an emergency. Not all phones will be Instant Messaging enabled, and there are issues around prioritising call channels during an emergency, so at best, these unofficial alerting systems have to be strongly overlaid with the "official messaging systems" of the municipality. I thin we are going to see a little bit more data being used as well. By overlaying these kinds of maps with data such as prevailing wind direction and speed, level of traffic on the highways, further predictions can be made about the risk of staying in certain areas and the need to re-allocate resources. For early adopters and technically literate people, these mashups "seem easy to use", but for the man on the street, they are still just not easy enough for the mainstream. It may take someone like Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft to "push" relevant modules/gadgets/widgets to your front page for them to see true wide spread use.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Designing services a la Campbell's Soup matrix or Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream, Communications Breakdown has a nice little list of services you may not have heard of. I should do one of these.
Interesting to see EnThinnai (via NMSCommuncications )discuss the requirement for "availability status" as opposed to "presence status". It also has an interesting take on how you may, or may not, want to allow others to "ping your status". The other thing I find interesting (If I am understanding it correctly) is that due to a peer-to-peer network architecture, there is no central presence server required, and thus no server loads to be managed. Even better, they are using Amazon Web Services EC2 and S3 to give them scalability. EnThinnai will be interesting to watch, I must say, I like the approach but find the lack of company information and information on who has developed to the service a little off putting. Especially as this is a P2P play.
A great example of how messaging technologies are changing peoples capability of responding to external events. MobileMessaging2 shows how the state authorities are able to send out sms alerts to mobile phones on a geographical basis to alert people to the movement of fires in San Diego area. This is no small thing given that many of the networks tend to be jammed and thus near inoperable during crises times, as the first instinct for most people, is to phone loved ones. The piece also shows how individuals are using services such as twitter to keep each other updated directly about how things are going at the local or family unit level. The first solution is top down, and perhaps "official", the second is "edge, informal, and unofficial". By scanning the Twittersphere/ Jaikusphere for keywords, and geotags, the official central system could re-broadcast updates or advice around actions. Matching these two spheres could make for a compelling citizen action and co-ordination platform.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Online advertising spend isn't online marketing spend. Many companies are looking to build better customer experiences for the consumer, to produce a "wow, you really made that easier for me" effect. One of these is Nike.
Digital media spending is doubling every year at many big companies, industry data indicate. But the research firm Outsell found this year that 58 percent of marketers’ online spending went to their own Web sites, rather than to paid ads. More than two million people visited Nike-owned Web sites in July, according to Nielsen//NetRatings.Source: Platformeconomics Of course I am thinking that social media will play a big part in that spend, as will creating better company-individual interactions, online and offline, and crossing both. The relationship has to become more fluid, and relevant.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Nobody paid that much attention to Jaiku and Google at Telco2.0, there were some passing references, but no real Eurika moments. I'd just like to take a moment to say why I think this is going to be important. Jaiku and Gtalk are both built on Jabber, an instant messaging protocol. That means that anyone with gmail, or gtalk, could probably start using those services as jaiku-like, or jaiku-enabled services. I sent a gmail to your gmail address? bingo: your on my gtalk list, and I can see what updates you post about your location, your thoughts, your conferences etc. It will not be very long before Gooju (just made that up!) will be able to tell who your near and far friends are, and place them on your "buddy list" in a dynamic way, in terms of gooju's interpretation of what you might want to see, given your interpersonal context. So, would you rather that, or would you rather just have a brick there with a number on it? That's the fundamental difference between a "presence flow" and a "phone number". Now download the gooju client onto a mobile phone, and gooju knows where I am, who I am with, and who we want to talk to. Combine that with our use of maps, and gooju can make some pretty accurate assumptions about what we want to do. Oh come on man, nobody wants that? If his is your reaction your are thinking sequentially, not in parallel. I've seen what gtalk does when a group of friends puts it on blackberry. Weird things start to happen. People update their facebook profile with Jaiku and Plazes, they change the status bar on their Gtalk to be ironic about their availability, in short their phonebook becomes a social application. The phone company, (oops, the Telco), is thinking about location based services, is thinking about presence. Their is a world of opportunity out there for location based data that is available, mashable, and re-packagable. By trying to ring fence where the revenues are going to come from in the short term, they are removing themselves from the innovation that is occuring in the channel and at the edges. Its not data services as you know it fella's, its the data inside strategy....
Again, Service Untitled with some thoughts on how to manage the late appointments issue. As a customer of many services I have to admit that the thing I hate most is turning up and waiting an hour or two because a service provider "stuffed the waiting list" in expectation of cancelled appointment times. Perhaps I am crazy, but a little analysis of common underlying trends in who is late, what time slots tend to be late, and time of year effects might yield further insights into why people are late. Such measures as "distance from the office/hospital", "previous arrival history", or "transportation mode" might act as predictors. Either way, I really appreciate it when people phone me and tell me "sorry, the office is running late your 4.00 appointment is likely to occur closer to 4.30, if you'd like to speak to our office receptionist please press one". When I get the update I can take more time to find a car parking space, grab a coffee, perhaps bring my book with me. If you don't call me it just feels like "yeah, we've loads of business, we really don't care if we waste your time, because its not as valuable as our time". Harsh?
A post over at Service Untitled discusses how to avoid inbound calls. These are all pretty good ideas (1) better email support (2) better online self service (3) an easier to use product (4) alternatives such as click to call. I'd like to add a further spin to that: before you try to put in inbound call avoidance strategies think about why and when customers, or prospects, are phoning you in the first place. In a previous life I did some research on the reasons behind inbound calls and you know 75-80% of them had to do with order status, the "where's my stuff" question. Just by putting some customer self service checking into your extra-net companies could avoid all those calls. For particular sets of customers, or times, or late changes you might think of pro-actively calling customers to give them an update. UPS has done a wonderful job ot enabling companies to bring this capability to the desktop by enabling to get your alert to the desktop. The email company Zimbra had a nifty feature that allowed you to send an email with an "embedded live link" to data in the UPS systems so that when you checked an email that was send two hours ago, it contained Updated information on the product delivery status: i.e. it was live information. A neat solution. Could your outbound email system contain links to live order status and delivery information? could it contain click to call links to live operators available at that time?
Patty Seybold of the Seybold group is a clear advocate of 2.0 principles for the new services and products paradigm of "bringing the customer in", thus the name of her blog "outside in". So it may be a bit of a surprise to hear her say that a great way of findout out about deep customer issues is "to ask them". Yip, pick up the phone and interview them about their experience. But the key difference is that you might look at interviewing your clients around their experience around a specific process or transaction, not just the "overall relationship". That way you get specific recommendations. Great idea, and pretty easy to set up.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Telco2.0 is brought to the industry by STL partners and its executive brainstorm is positioned as a genuinely open environment where industry people can challenge their own assumptions and gain insights. Let me boil it all down for you: (1) "if the browser is the gateway to the pipe, how in the world are telco's going to make some serious money"? (2) "is there anything in the mobile experience that can be tied to the telco network capabilities that delivers superior user experience" (3)"to get real breakthrough services, you need to have a deep understanding of the social-anthropological background that people use these services in: social networking is a result of peoples de-communitisation in the physical realm, that's why they play with age, identity, and relationships in the virtual realm". (4) "what's the point of innovating at the edge where even complete absorption of the online advertising industry would barely move the needle for the CEO of a major telco" (actually those figures are quite frightening). There is just so much money involved in network based investments that its hard to walk away from this kind of thinking. This is where Martin Geddes analogy of the experience of the shipping industry when it moved to the container based model had its real import: "the money was in shipping. with containers, it moved to the ports". I took this to mean "the edges". This is big strategic thinking here, and I am not sure how many people in the room really understood this. Sure, graphs and charts of value migration might have hammered the point home, but the overall narrative in the room was still rooted in "we have huge assets, how can we muscle in". Our CTO Graham Brierton had a clear idea of what the telco's needed to do to support innovation and companies like VoiceSage: hosted apps, hosted services, hosted data, common standards. Finally, I think that VoiceSage received a lot of very positive attention at the event as a great example of the "new thinking". We met a few people that very much "got it", and we look forward to continuing the conversation.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
This thought may strike some people as a bit strange, but innovation is happening at the edge of networks, at the edge of social networks, and in the edges of the enterprise, and in short, at the edge of your business. Sick of waiting 12 months for an approval process, business process owners such as Customer Service Directors, and Logistics Managers, are making smaller below the radar adoptions of products and services. Customers are adopting new and innovative ways of interacting with you, through blog posts, wiki contributions, ratings, or even forming pressure groups on facebook. Companies like GetSatisfaction are doing a great job of inverting the customer service issue and making "problems" and "issues" public, and encouraging customers to help each other out, often called "crowdsourcing" customer service. These trends are a big deal. The same thing is happening from the Telco perspective. The big innovations aren't solely happening in the core of the network, in the network switches, and fibre optics. They are happening when customers decide to use a capability in a new way, that suits them and their particular sets of needs. A lot of people are calling this 2.0 Thinking. Here's an example I came across today, and already two people I know are using it. Damien Mulley pointed out that you can use Google Mail to filter spam from your eircom (or any other) account. eircom have a nice product in providing you with a hosted security service, but with google buying out postini how long before I can get a similar hack or mash up for this functionality? Now imagine that I am connected to a network of other people that can share tips such as these, and that I can share them, and adopt them easily. Yes, free voicemail. Yes, Free conference calling. Free wireless roaming. Free International calling. The only thing stopping this now are information asymmetries ( a fancy way of saying you just didn't hear about it because there are barriers to you hearing it). Well most of these functionalities are available on facebook, today, and as social networks open out to each other, pretty soon everyone else. Once your friends start using it, so will you. When you give customers access to your product, allow them change what they wish, recombine, customise, re-purpose, you open out a world of opportunity. One company might use VoiceSage for an appointment remindering service another might use a variation of this routine for soccer practice or event management. So far, so traditional. You sent messages, and take messages from the people that you know. However, more and more of our presence and friendships take place, or are mediated, by our internet participation. In a company, it might be ok to have a click to call button straight to my work number from the company website, but do I want that capability from my Facebook profile? The difference here is context, and context is everything. Do I want to hear from someone that knows someone that I know when I am in city I am travelling to? meetup, pairup. FOWA (Future of Web Apps) London was some fun, and from a 2.0 technical perspective, interesting. What was missing (besides the GetSatisfaction guys) was a clear sense of how 2.0 thinking was going to effect the enterprise space (or E2 as it's been monikered). Now comes the time for the Telco to think about its role in this whole emerging ecosystem. More interesting for us is that VoiceSage will now be presenting in the Innovators Zone of Telco 2.0 Brainstorm in London, Oct 16th to 18th. Not only is this a global forum on the future of the internet and telecommunications, but some of the true thought leaders in the space will also be there. Strong Irish contingent at the show, unsurprisingly, as Ireland has a cluster of telecommunications software and services companies. Acision, Aepona, Openet, as well as Google, Yahoo. One of the core themes in the show is Voice and Messaging, and what is next in that arena, because that is what is driving value today, and what will continue to drive value in the future, a future that is looking far from bright for traditional telcos. Wondering what is driving internet stocks up and telecoms stocks down? One word: Google. Its thus even more of an honour to be guest panelist speakers for this thread. Later in the day Thomas Howe, he of US Voice Mashup fame will be giving a presentation and we look forward to what Thomas has to say. For those of you interested in that kind of thing, you can see a presentation Thomas gave here. VoiceSage is invited to this kind of conference because we are not an ordinary company. The next six months will see a lot of interesting developments coming out of this company. How do you know you are doing something right? Key "2.0 questions" to ask yourself if you produce a product or service : - Am I doing everything I can to build applications that learn from your users? - Does my application get better with more users, or just more busy and more crowded? - If "Data is the Intel Inside" of Web 2.0, what data do I own? - What user-facing services can I build against it? - Does my platform give me and my users control, or take it away from us? Source:ReadWriteWeb. So, I'll put the offer out there again: "If you are a leading edge 2.0 Company, give me a call. I want to work with you". Simple message. Lets see what happens.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Mckinsey Quarterly has a good article this month on Inbound Call Mangement. While its relatively easy (for the call centre operator) to see where there is value in turning inbound calls into an automatic voice response system, it is somethimes easy to loose sight of the fact that engaging with customers that have the right type of query can be very valuable. In the McKinsey study, they found that what we might regard as routine questions are actually customer signals that they are in a certain mode of thinking with regards your company. If I phone you about gaining clarity on my price package, I am not doing so in order to re-emphasise the feeling of fantastic value I am getting in this relationship. However, If I am phoning in to see if I am still booked for that appointment tomorrow, then that has a different motivation, and probably contains a low probability of cross and up selling opportunity. While the McKinsey analysis is a good analysis of inbound calling, dare I say its not a very good analysis of customer interation management. By pro-actively calling customers with approved upgrade offers, or better pricing tariffs, you can make a massive difference to measures of customer satisfaction and customer loyalty. By thinking about the type of information a customer wants to be presented with and leaving it up to them whether they want to know more, confirm, buy etc. you can drive a range of other organisational measures other than "average operator time per call". Given that questions surrounding "bill payment" are key to overall profit contribution of the call, why is there not a recommendation to pro-actively call customers that have certain bill detail parameters? If a persons bill "varies by 25% from their last bill, call them, and give them this offer....", not very hard to do, and I for one would welcome such an intervention before I put my telecom bill down on my kitchen table, frown, and surf the net for better deals.