Monday, January 28, 2008
Bruce Tempkin over at Customer Experience Matters makes a few interesting points about creating memorable customer service. There are two aspects he points to:(1) "peak experiences" and (2) sign off. I think some banks pay attention to this in that they are delighted to call you and tell you "that loan has been approved" etc. It's an opportunity to push the happy moment up a notch and make it memorable. The sign off to a job is akin to getting off the stage, having hit the last high note, but it is just so messed up in a lot of companies that I just can't understand what they are thinking. Perhaps people just don't understand that there will be an inevitable emotional experience involved in the interaction with your service. If you are handing over cash for any service, it is normal to feel a little hesitant to hand over cash, our instinct is to hold onto our resources. This is one of the psychological reasons that people pay on their credit card; it reduces feelings of guilt because their is no immediate experience of loss. I've mentioned this before, but my brother in law provided a service where he went over to the UK to pick up cars he had bought for clients, and then he would arrange all the paper work, number plates, and park it in your drive. Neat service. But what his clients commented on was that he would wash the car thoroughly inside and out in their driveway, and he left all their documents in a neat leather folder. I am sure that many organisations have empirical metrics that need to be managed day in day out in order to hit Customer Service targets, i.e. we will phone you within 12 hours of your application to let you know where it is in the process, but how many companies track the "emotional response" of customers, or take these measure around times/interactions where their is the opportunity to enable a peak experience? There are many instances where thinking about "leaning over to the customer" and asking a question, or making an offer would be welcome. Just received your credit card in the mail? Chances are you are happy to have it, so why not follow up with a call and ask is there anything more you need to know about the service, or posting them a parcel with a genuinely pleasing gift that is related to their specified interests? Here are some interesting articles on "happiness" and what delivers happiness....ah...mmmm.... "experiences deliver happiness"....
Friday, January 25, 2008
Sandy is getting some lovin from Profy. :) It's great to see a simple productivity tool ring so many bells for people. I've been hearing nothin but good things about her.
Techcrunch uk's Mick Butcher report on Yabb, a service that integrates with your Skype to make the call. You go to the Yabb site, find a topic of conversation that you are interested in, and then send them a voice message that you are interested in a conversion. It seems that you have to register for the beta and get an invite to see it in full swing but from Mike's description the fundamental flaw in this is that you don't send voice messages to people you don't know! Yes, its that simple. You don't even text them. People consider it an unforgivable violation of their mobile phone, a very personal object. If Yabb had considered using voice to "stay in touch with the conversation", of "extending the conversation", then they might have been on to something. Never the less, I wish them well, its never easy to start something new.
Damovo and Ericsson are saying that "missed calls" and "phonetag" are costing business $700m a year. Not a bad figure for the global costs....oh.... wait, that's the estimated cost for the Irish marketplace? The average worker spent 73 minutes per week leaving voicemail? I know I talk to people on the phone, and waste that amount of time within the call itself. It's certainly not a case of stop leaving voicemail, get an IM, you will find yourself more efficient, because you will get interrupted. At its base level, what this should have been about, is that there are modes of synchronous and asynchronous interactions and requests for interactions that could be managed more effectively. The opportunity for time saving is of an order of magnitude higher than this piece of PR might suggest.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Free is not a business model. Some things occurred to me about the recent Radiohead experiment (nee "revolution").On TheDrama20Show there is a lengthy piece on "consumers are cheapskates" provoking comment on the model; one of the comments is very very telling, and very very important: "Cutting out the middlemen lowered the price that a Radiohead customer was willing to pay for Radiohead’s music. The loss of the middlemen did not entice non-customers into becoming customers. This makes sense since the loss of the middlemen did not make Radiohead’s music more valuable, it simply made it less expensive" The comment is unattributed but wow, nail-on-head. But it did not end there: oh no, Drama20 returns: "Do you really believe that the elimination of the middlemen factored into the customer’s evaluation of the value of the music? I personally doubt that the average customer calculated the costs eliminated by the removal of the middlemen and adjusted the price accordingly" I've also heard someone say this about their kids, i.e. that they knew what the royalty split was and just decided on a price point that gave more money to the artist (i.e. artist may have received $3 under old programme, so paying $4.50 seemed a good up to them). And kids talk, especially about music, and especially about their favourite band, so if this "fair price" got out there in circulation, I have no doubt that the "crowd" might set a price (not that it is one crowd). The argument goes that the "studio system" is required because it fosters bands brings bands to the attention of the audience, that only 5% of bands actually make money for the record company, i.e. most bands don't find an audience (product-market-fit failure), i.e. the company is a two sided platform that doesn't work very well. (hatip Umair ). Name-your-price/ priceline model is a great way of segregating customers; it's a great way of gaining attention by being viral. On my own Lastfm.com front page Radiohead own the chart; they are probably played 5 times as much as anyone else. Will that translate into more ticket sales to gigs? Absolutely. Will it sell more T-Shirts? Absolutely. i.e. the "profit pools" lie in ancillary services, attention is the razor, belonging is the blades. Given the moves by companies such as Newsgater to offer their products, once premium priced downloads, for free, is premised on the rationale that having experienced the products in a personal capacity, end users will understand how paid-for enterprise versions could be value adding to their companies ( i.e. Free in consumer to cross subsidise marketing to the enterprise). It's an interesting hypothesis, but essentially it is betting that "the ultimate customer", in this case the enterprise, is also willing to pay for your product, and that another competitor isn't cross subsidising entry into your market "for free" in order to gain access to their own "profit pools" (imagine IBM giving away free Publisher Manager in order to sell you business process improvement consulting?). So, not only is "Free" never "Free": sometimes Free might just be putting a time-delay between you and the realisation that some other bigger animals are slowly sauntering towards your profit pool. Of course, I could be way, way wrong....
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
A few days ago I shared a story about how hard it was to get integrated information about transport systems, and that a "live ticket" might be very useful, i.e. a ticket that adapted my planned-schedule to my actual real-time schedule and pro-actively presenting me with options. The official Google blog today indicates that Google wants the public sector transportation agencies to upload their "feed/availability/presence-of-object" data via the Google Transit Feed Specification. With Railroad stock, and airline stock being easy to aggregate, it will be "the messy bit in-between" where the massive value will be created. Where is the local cab company, is there a local cab nearby (GPS), can I order it (one-click-order); etc. Google will allow everyone to upload their information for Free, and become yet another 2-sided platform matching supply of stock with a stock of customer intentions.
Revealing Latent Potential: Incentivise Data Disclosure (Or, Let People Tell You Stuff So You Can Co-Create )
I've been following property sites for a while because I think they lead the way in business model development. The amounts of money to be made from Hot Leads, is akin to Hot Search results, or the database of intentions. But what if people don't declare their intention? Usually, your surmise their intention from context, and their history of interaction with you, and with others. Another way to surface intention is to pay: Techcrunch reports that a clever new company called Notchup will enable you to let companies bid for your time to interview. So, you are a competent, succeeding manager in financial services, happy with your employment and internal prospects? Surely you would be tempted to interview if someone was willing to pay you $500 for an hour of your time?
OnCustomer has a nice piece on customer service 2.0. How do you build "Trust and Credibility with Customers"? Well one thing you can do, is make your relationship a bit more "transparent" by letting the customer know where they are in your process. I for one really like it when Amazon tells me that my product is delayed, or that one half has shipped etc. But I would really like it if they told me "It should be with you tomorrow", because then I get a whole days anticipation, which is part of the pleasure of the purchase. There are practical implications as well, such as actually being there for the delivery. As other people were doing this January, I had a look at some Credit Card deals. I made an enquiry to one of the big ones, they asked me some questions there and then (note: have your bank details around you when you make this kind of call!), and then they told me that they would contact me soon to tell me if I was approved. Three days later, I get a call, a live call, telling me I had been approved and they would send out the forms. A full week later, those forms are on my kitchen table. That's one full week for me to change my mind, look at other card providers, or for me to just fall into apathy and stay with my current provider. Now as you can see this post has shifted towards a kind of "VoiceSage is great for form follow on's and turning prospects into customers", which is true: but why the hell hasn't my existing card company, who can see my spend pattern, and who no doubt know that I am shopping around, why don't they contact me and make me some offers? Frankly, because I haven't acted as if I am going to switch. The minute I pick up the phone and call them, only then will I appear on their radar. Silly silly. I am going because nobody bothered to contact me. They have done nothing to build my trust, they are obviously doing nothing to help me. UPDATE: as if by magic, the new credit card company just called me! So I will be returning those forms today, and I will overcome my inertia. I was feeling like someone should have called me, and someone DID call me, which probably means there is a predictable time within which customers expect to be reminded, even subconsciously.
Friday, January 18, 2008
Ok. Who thinks that their web site/web service will be up all the time? If you absolutely depend on online presence you have to go one step further for your users. 37 Signals, the leading 2.0 site, went down and Dreamhost went down as well. We deal with companies in the financial services sector that have extensive plans in place for such outages. Yes, I know most 2.0 firms and smaller hosting companies don't have the customer service staff to man the phones, but you don't always have to. A simple outbound message to the end users phone giving them the message, and a sense of how long the delay will be, would go a long way to alleviating anxiety. AND I suspect that showing that you are more than a web site by going "out of band" would go a long way towards increasing your brand equity with them (fancy way of saying, "everybody fears that the services they use will fail, but if you recover very strongly and with great integrity, you will not only win loyal customers, but advocates"). "Our agents await your call!"....
Thursday, January 17, 2008
When (note when) data becomes more open, public, and portable new information service opportunities will arise. Great article today from Brian McConnell guesting on Om's site. If phones produce "flow data" that is "location aware", anonymous data can be used to generate an analysis of everything from average Q lengths to data that can help design better people flow through shops, airports, and public transport systems. The guys over at Telco2 have been talking about this for ages and ages. How you expose your phone and identity data will become the issue, and how you tie this to your personal profile data, and not a la Beacon from Facebook, but more along the lines of Google, Jaiku and Google trends. Now here's the kicker: there is one level of service opportunity that the data aggregator can get (i.e. the Telco) and they can sell that on (or make it available for revenue share), and their is another level of data that is added to this (from other data pools) that match this meta-data against a particular individuals "profile" in the context of their relationship to your company. Thus building up your customer data is a strategy that is only going to become more and more important.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
I was in the UK recently and needed to go from plane, to train, underground and taxi, all within a particular timeframe. Although I left home with a plan, inevitably something will change: a meeting is longer or shorter than expected, or an opportunity to take another meeting presents itself. Many 2.0 companies look at "cheapest ticket" solutions, (www.kayak.com www.skyscanner.com) but I think there is a whole other market out there. If I could buy a "Live Ticket", I would. It would tell me that "the next train is 2 miles from here, or 20 minutes by cab (do you want to book a cab, do you want to check train availability etc.). It would be linked between transport systems ("your train is on time"), it would push a text or call to me that allowed me query ( al la www.tellme.com, contained a weblink, or put me through to help desk). Even a simple 2.0 service that allowed me to set up my journey in advance (on Google Maps?) and then texted me with updates as to the current status of my plan, or "next train", "Next plane", and gave me "options" at the end, this would dramatically improve my current experience. If these options are push (appropriate time, place and mode of course), it would decrease the stress and pressure of travel, i.e. it would have strong psychological selling points. It could dynamically "suggest" that I "re-schedule outbound flight at this point in time", it might have learned that I do not like to have less than 45mins at the airport prior to flight time or base it on an evaluation of optimum price : value : risk profile that I have. To those that follow the online space, this all sounds pretty "semantic web". But it doesn't have to be that hard, I think. What would participating companies get for participating in opening up their data? Everything. I don't buy flights, I buy "on time attendance at meetings", (paying for predictable and reliable flights); I buy "ability to take a speculative meeting" (due to low price point); I buy the total cost of getting me to that meeting. A vendor like Blackberry/Nokia with a simple Google Maps application could be pretty much ready to go "out of the box". And it is very much in the telco's interest to enable this as volume of interactions would be exponential. I think we are going to see a lot more of this kind of thinking in the next two years as companies find their train times, flight times, reviews etc. mashed into other services. It will begin with simple outbound texting, but will quickly move to "intelligent co-ordination". And there are very few industries out there that couldn't benefit from thinking about how the confluence of low cost sensors, mashed data, and ubiquitous mobile phones will effect them.Update: As if "by magic" Forbes Article on Semantic Web and Travel. Sramana Mitra is always a good commentator on the strategic thinking behind Semantic Web. Her thoughts on next generation 3.0 Enterprise can be found here.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
So, by any chance are you a telecom company finding that you have "sub prime" customers? AT&T seems to think so: AT&T's market capitalisation went down nearly 5% as they reported that people were not paying their phone bills on time. One way of looking at this is that billing and payments management are notoriously difficult to manage well. That's why when analysts look to the core competencies of large carriers, they rarely look at the access technologies, they always point to the billing and payments management. That's why when you declare that you are not "on top of it", you get hammered. You get hammered for "not managing cash flow" in every industry. I've been following Telco as a space for quite a while now, and it has always bugged me that Telco's can't seem to use the billing moment to declare value delivered, not minutes consumed. Of course their are also some customers that should just not be allowed run up a bill.
Sometimes I listen to the radio, well, on the radio. Other times I like to listen online. I don't mind registering some basic info, or logging in with my OpenID. So why do radio stations play me stupid mass market advertising when I am online and so blatantly available for a more targeted, geo-specific direct offer?