Via Greg at ScreenWerk an Amex survey in Oct 2008 shows that many small to medium sized businesses are now seeing a downturn in sales, and nearly 18% have real fears that they will go out of business. It also shows that nearly 40% of them will be late or unable to pay some bills. That's a lot of outstanding cash, and is sure to put even more pressure on cash flow. With this general lowering of the cash-level, we would normally expect the small business to go to their bank and ask for a little latitude, or overdraft. But I don't think we are going to see this happen in the next 12 months. Given that VoiceSage is in the business of helping you bring in your cash twice as fast you might expect me to plug that right now, but I am not going to (oops I just did). The real question here is putting predictability on your cash flow from all possible viewpoints. It is not enough to just sell, you have to "sell well", i.e. know how likely or not someone is to repay you. You then also have to collect well, and by that we mean be pro-active in your collections process.
Data and All It Can Do:
I love it when a service comes out and I go "now that makes sense, that's how people really think": Another HT to Greg Sterling : Homethinking matches a neighbourhood you know, with like neighbourhoods elsewhere. Doesn't this make a lot of sense? Isn't this what we want?; somewhere we understand and know as a baseline compared to a place we don't know that well. Truly excellent idea.
Customer Service: Call Transfer and Click to Call
Don't blind transfer calls. Just don't. Managing click-to-call with better call whispering is something that you might also look at. To see a quick example check out the VoiceSage contact page. Thomas Howe has a short piece on how he misunderstood the power of click-to-call. Some follow up points here on why it might be good for finding keywords as well such as screening inbound calls and gathering details prior to a call. Click-to-call needs a thorough overhaul and I for one am going to request a re-naming: how about "Click-To-Action"? All for that, vote eye (in your best pirates voice).
CrowdSourcing & Price Setting
Robin over at Bytesurgery is a neat example in progress of Crowdsourcing around the development of an entire application. Robin frequently shouts out via twitter and his blog to get feedback on everything from good names for products, to suggestions as to how his pricing model might be constructed. I happen to know that Robin spends a lot of time speaking with the real end users of his new product as well (Decisionsforheroes) but how he taps the community of web talent is pretty inspiring. And speaking of heroes, Sabrina Dent, well known and highly successful web designer, is also an expert in tapping the power of the social Internet. When she recently fell ill, she was able to "lay off"/ "outsource" a few projects to people she had trusted online relationships with.
(disclaimer: Sabrina did a rapid re-design of the VoiceSage website recently).
Eh, so what's so interesting about that Paul? Companies are not islands, they are networks, and the extent to which they are able to create collaborative, co-creating relationships, the more sustainable they will be. As analysts and planners we are often asked to challenge the assumptions but what better way to challenge them than to "publish them" and subject them to experiment? Crowdsourcing may not be good for all types of problems, in all types of situations, but it has certainly thrown open some interesting perspectives for Robin and his crew.