Thursday, August 20, 2009

Just A note

Finding a lot of interesting links to research from people on Twitter these days. One of the more interesting questions being raised (in my mind anyway) is "what is the job of customer service", much as you might ask "what is the job your product performs for your customer". I think taking that perspective opens out a lot of innovative thinking.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Lost and Back and Lost Again....

And Welcome back.


The New, New Thing & The Old, Old Problem.

Werner, Amazon CIO, said an interesting thing at the last Telco2 in London: "we only look for old problems, and innovate to solve them". Getting your latest newest thing to integrate with the slightly older newer thing, isn't going to deliver you any meaningful innovation. JP has an interesting point to make on one of his recent post on Confused of Calcutta: "The customer is the scarce resource". JP goes into an examination of peoples response to companies that create "artificial barriers" that create "artificial scarcity". Citing a study that indicates that those pirating games do so largely because the "free route" has less "friction to adoption" (i.e. less passwords, less pin numbers, less reconfirms, less etc. etc.), means that it is just easier to go free (if still, illegal). In a way these ties in with something Norman Lewis of Telco2 was saying; his kids made an estimate as to how much the artist themselves would make from any particular delivery channel, and chose the route that compensated them the most. I think both points are related: People Like Fair.

What stinks of "not fair"? Ummm, banning Google Voice from Apple for one. Me not being able to get my LastFm on my iphone (both of which I pay for by the way). If you ask a kid, they can mostly tell you what the definition of Not Fair is, and here's another thing: in psychological experiments children will reject an unfair deal even if it means getting nothing at the end of the day. The child would rather not have anything, than have an unfair deal. And this kind of Fair Deal imperative seems to be in all cultures, it is embedded in our human design.

So when I start thinking about Innovation, and Products, and Services, "what's fair" is not a bad place to start. What's fair will have an audience. What's fair gets a market. So perhaps the "Old Problem" is "How do we create and deliver a business model that is more fair than the solutions we see around us?".

And Speaking of Fair: VoiceSage

The people at Telco2 are lining up more sessions to progress the ideas of the two sided business model for Telcos. They are also releasing a report on Beyond Voice and Messaging which goes into some detail as to how CEBP (Communications Enabled Business Processes) can deliver significant business value. I am delighted to say that one of VoiceSage's customers is the focus of one of the 8 detailed case studies on the use of CEBP and the customer in question has gone from strength to strength as they continue to use the VoiceSage service and business approach to enable process after process.

There are many other companies now starting to say that Unified Communications is really just a bunch of CEBP's tied together. I've spoken directly to a senior analyst at a top firm about this, and we are of one opinion on that particular "marketing approach".

Real thought leaders are asked to speak at places like eComm uh hum .... and we use these forums not to speak about what we do, but what can be done. I am particularly thrilled that we will be on just before The Umair (Umair Haque) of the most consistently thought provoking, passionate, and genuinely "Disruptive" thinkers out there.

The Good, The Bad, and Just Being Able to Breath

I found this piece on an IBM Forum and thought it worth sharing. It basically says that many CFO's, in even the largest companies, need to have a look at what is tying up cash. Incorrect billing information, incorrect buying policy, or poor compliance with already agreed "blanket purchasing deals" result in millions going uncollected. In the IBM example it was $250m, for one company. GULP.  Not giving credit where credit is not due; not allowing your late payments to age and turn into bad debt; not being rigorous about removing all points of payment friction, will cost you a fortune.


(Disclosure: I am an the Advisory Board to eComm).

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Updates Will Continue .....

A brief hiatus dear reader(s). Just putting together a new blog structure. Meanwhile, why not jump over to @paulsweeney to follow my inane updates.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Dialing To Get Things Done: Dial2Do.

I have been following with interest Irish company Dial2Do and I thought I'd extend the invitation to Sean O'Sullivan to tell us what they do, and why it might be important.

1) For those that don't know what Dial2Do do (sic) can you give us a brief overview?

Dial2Do is a phone service that's designed to help you get things done, hands-free. It's a regular phone number that you call, and you speak to get stuff done. So you say "text" to send a text message, say "email" to send an email, and so on. It doesn't require you to download or install anything on your phone - it's just a local number that you dial with any regular phone (fixed or mobile). We have about 50 things you can do - from texts, emails (both listen and send), twitter, reminders, and so on. We've put quite a bit of work in to stitch the popular "web" services in to Dial2Do, so you can use Google Calendar, or Gmail, or RememberTheMilk, or a range of other popular web tools and services, all by dialling a number and speaking.

(2) You guys seem to connect to a lot of Social Media services such as Twitter. What kind of thinking lies behind this focus?

There are a few reasons for this. One is that we're trying to "add voice" to the services that people already use. So if they use Gmail, well let's try and let people listen to their Gmail, and send their Gmail emails by speaking. Same thing with twitter, and with other services like Evernote (for saving things you want to remember) or RememberTheMilk (to do lists) and so on. Really our goal is to "add voice" in as simple and intuitive a way as possible for services people already use and love.

Another reason is that we have a partner-driven approach to building our business. So our business goal is not really to get people coming to and using the service - it's to enable partners with millions of users to add voice to their service using the Dial2Do platform. The Social Media services are some of the key partners for us here, and they're very interested in new ways for their existing users to stay connected and engaged with their services. Dial2Do can help them do that.

And lastly - many of these social media services are viral. When an update goes to twitter via Dial2Do, you'll notice it says "...from Dial2Do" at the end of the update. This helps promote the service among other twitter users, who then try it out, and in turn expose it to their followers on twitter. Email, texting, twitter and many other social media services are great for building awareness for Dial2Do.

(3) Have you learned any lessons about developing for a "social phone" that are any different than other 2.0 services?

I'm afraid so :-) When you're developing a "purely web" service, everything is about the web site itself, and making that web experience the best it can be for users. And when you "open" your site, it's open, world-wide, the instant you push the button. It's inherently global.

With services that work from the phone, even ones like Dial2Do that don't require anything to be installed on the phone, things get more interesting. For example: we're open in 24 countries (meaning, we have local access numbers for calling Dial2Do in 24 countries) - it turns out that not all networks pass caller ID through to Dial2Do in the same way, so the system needs to be aware of the vagaries of how caller id might be managed in different places. Or take text messaging: it's a little tricky to reliably deliver a text message (and to ensure it has been delivered) in all the countries in which Dial2Do operates.

As a result, we've tried to put a lot of thought in to making the experience via the phone as consistent and usable as possible, in every country where we have a presence.

I think the other big think with respect to the "social phone" is how to successfully merge your phone contacts with your online contacts (from social networks, or Gmail, or Outlook). No one has really cracked this yet, and whoever does will be on to something big.

(4) In one of your recent blog entries you say that remindering is a popular application on Dial2Do. Are there particular use cases that are driving this (birthdays, just regular to-do's etc.).

That's right - reminders are really popular. I think there are two reasons.

One of the reasons is simplicity: it's one of the simplest services to use - just call the number, say "reminder" and then say your piece. People find it's very habit-forming - every time they think "oh - must remember such and such" they hit the Dial2Do number and do a quick reminder. It's easy and you're done in 20-30 seconds.

I think the second reason is that we've had a focus on the driver. One of our things has been to position the Dial2Do services as a great set of services to use while driving, if you have a Bluetooth headset or a hands-free carkit. And it turns out that people do quite a bit of, well, thinking, while they drive. On the way to work they think about their day ahead, and as they process what's in store, they start triggering little reminders - "must tell Ted about this" or "better not forget to mail that". I guess intuitively we all know that, but we see it in action with how some drivers use Dial2Do. During their morning commute, they create reminders, send texts, add things to their calendars and fire off emails - all en route to the office!

(5) Given the wealth of Interconnecting API's Dial2Do what kind of role do you see for API's in your companies future?

Well there's two parts to answering that. One is, we're obviously big consumers of APIs from other services. So for a start, we're trying to be good citizens in terms of using emerging standards like OAuth and the like, and offering people additional protection for their Dial2Do accounts (like the optional PIN protection we added last week).

Dial2Do of course, is really a value-add voice platform, to enable other players to "add voice" to their own services. And so, we're working on our own API which we'll make available in a future release. Today we work with one or two key partners to trial the API and ensure we strike the right balance between simplicity and functionality, as befits a service like Dial2Do.

(6) How are you going to deal with the body blow loss that Leinster will suffer at the hands of Muster?

I'm in good shape for that game, as both my parents hail from Cork city centre. So it's clear which team I'll be supporting on the day :-) I've lived in Dublin most of my life, but the Cork roots go deep. On a serious note, it should be a fantastic occasion, and in fairness to Leinster, the tag of underdog will suit them to the ground - I'd expect a ferocious battle with both teams at full tilt before a packed Croke Park. Can't wait!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Recession Pain Points

Consumer Segmentation Changing Behaviour

The Harvard Business Review has friendly matrix that tells us that all retail buying is now up for re-evaluation as consumers change their mindsets. Marketing departments have to adjust to the new realities with some "old fashioned" thinking:

- Support your brand and brand values, it's "good investment" spend because in the long run, brand value is a huge profit generator for companies;

- Prune products and brands that were ailing in the first place or are unsuitable for current economic conditions. Also prune back to "core products" and abandon weak product line extensions;

- Maintain brand positioning; don't move down to value category just to fill short term revenue objectives, you will alienate your core customer base, and leave yourself poorly positioned for the upturn when it comes;

In deciding which marketing tactics to employ, it’s critical to track how customers are reassessing priorities, reallocating budgets, switching among brands and product categories, and redefining value. It’s therefore essential to continue investing in market research

The responses to recession also include the introduction of lower priced brands; cash incentives, credit plans, etc. etc. I found that other interesting points buried in here were:




You don't need to blanket reduce costs by 20%. You need to target cost reduction at the right products, in the right segments in response to shifting customer psychology and the realities of your product category.

Consumer confidence is currently shattered by fear. As a company some of the ways you can begin to think about the challenge this sets is to think about how your customer contact strategy needs to be amended and augmented to build trust in your brand. These shifts can be subtle (i.e. Agent Scripts) or fairly dramatic (focusing on emotional responses not agent minutes as a critical metric). I think that the companies that make the very special effort to treat customers well, and to deliver exceptional experiences, will be the ones that build deep seated trust. Cutting back on customer service will do the opposite.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Business Models, Cheating, and Retail.

Taxonomy of Web Business Models: What I like about the wheel below is that someone thought it would be neat to lay it out in a non-tabular format. Having created a standard table, this new view gives us clearer view on what the popular models are. Imagine if you cross tabulated with actual "likelihood of success" measures available elsewhere.


Incentives To Cheat: scale, probability of detection, group membership, and importantly (for me) signaling to ones sense of self, and sense of group. If everyone in group keeps the rules, I won't break them: the further we move from the object itself (i.e. money) and more towards its abstract (derivatives), the more likely we are to cheat, or perhaps act irresponsibly. I like how these ideas could also be related to how we agree to actions, and future actions, in terms of paying bills, keeping appointments, and other social routines.

Retail Therapy: Reinvention. The SAS blog has an interesting piece on large scale retailing and how the downturn is affecting it. Yes there is a need to reduce costs, increase customer satisfaction, with fewer available resources and with no capital expenditure, but there is also a need to realise that the actual consumer is changing from a badge wearing object seeker, to a "social customer" that will need to be engaged through social networks, and perhaps with definitions of product/ service that may be significantly different than those we employ today.

Concluding Thought: Wouldn't it be great to see how new web2.0 business models might be applied to "traditional retail" organisations, and informed by areas such as social psychology & behavioural economics?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Foot is In The Other Shoe, Now....

Suidice Perhaps Surreal

Banks Bid For Your Money !

Great little piece from Springwise on a company that allows you to post online how much money you want to save, and find out what the different rates of return would be like with different providers. But you don't have accept the offers, you can leave it there, and have the banks bid on your money. Ah, that sound nice. If only we all thought about money that "rationally".

Language Constructs Reality?

I've always been interested in the way that people say things. By phrasing it one way, everybody co-operates, and plays nice. Same thing phrased another way, hackles are raised, categorical responses loaded, and your diner party derailed. Ribbonfarm has a beautiful post on how:

Your metaphors, not your financial or mathematical acumen, determine the outcome of your dealings with money

For many in the corporate life 80% of the money we make flows through our accounts automatically, unremarkably, unnoticed. The last 20% we do notice, but we notice it in relation to a notional "high water mark" of about $5,000. In normal consumption, the most we spend would be around this amount (we consider it a lot of money!). Yet, say changing our credit card to another provider, "only" saves us $5/month, the price of Cappuccino, and hey that's hardly worth talking about. Interestingly what has happened is that you have categorised the saving and made an object comparison (coffee, cinema, diner out). 

Money As Object

For marketers this is a very handy chart. People don't always make rational choices. The "reward" may be very large, but the probability of getting it very low, yet we still play the lotto. 10 Euro today is inexplicably more attractive than 15 Euro next week.

Entrepreneurs think of money as a goal (Money As Gaol Metaphor). How much money would you need to free from your job for one year in order to build your new freelance business?

Money As Goal

Venkatesh has 13 Money Metaphors That are well worth checking out.

Insurance Company Advise You On Road Conditions

Helping you to stay off the road during icy conditions, a Dutch insurance company will text you a warning. Ok. But not really cutting edge is it, even from a customer experience standpoint. By extending the capability you could "confirm" that there are indeed difficult driving conditions in your location (citizen journalism), or share specifics (hyper-local), perhaps through Twitter, or re-publish this warning to others or online. A phone call that gave you the warning with the option of connecting to a pre-approved, and free taxi service would be an amazing service option. Just state your location, and we will pick you up. Now that's service.

What's with the Picture? That financial cataclysm that surrounds us now must feel a little surreal, like our world is out of control. Perhaps this is a learned response set.

Get your twitter mosaic here.