Wednesday, December 31, 2008
I really just wanted to wish all clients, partners, friends & staff of Ideal Interface a fantastic & successful 2009.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
And suprisingly, blogs have more impact on purchasing decisions than social networks because blogs are more trusted!
Well it seems that for a certain segment of the population that answer is "yes", as blogs now rival search as a means of navigating to information that influences their decisions.
Unsuprisingly, face-to-face (F2F) contact appears at 'Position E' in the top right corner. This channel of customer interaction is the most costly, involving premises or travel and a lot preparation. It may also need the customer service individual / account manager / client contact / handler, etc. having all necessary information and support materials to-hand.
Costs can potentially increase further depending upon the demands of the interaction. For example: you may have a complex product that needs explaining / configuring or possibly a prestige client-base who is used to the "Low Tech / High Touch" approach. Try managing these people to a lower interaction channel and you could instantly see them quickly migrate to your competitors.
Monday, December 29, 2008
The main question we eventually distilled the issue down to was:
"If wisdom is the application of knowledge and if there are ways of measuring knowledge, why is there no easy way of measuring wisdom?"Taking this thought further, I would like to state that we don't give wisdom (and really I mean those that have it) enough credit.
Perhaps because we haven't been able to apply a metric to it yet?
Sunday, December 28, 2008
A recession it may be, but its not technically a 'depression'. I think the best desciption of both has to be Ronald Regan from his 1980 presidential nominee speech:
"A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours. And recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his."
Economists now generally agree that the downturn will last at least about two years. First becoming worst in 2009, it will eventually tail off around 2011.
To so this, they will consider a number of questions:
- How can you gain competitive advantage/market share without significant expenditure?
- Can you restrict your customer strategies, especially if there is not tangible/obvious Return on Investment (ROI)?
- At what point do you forget the ‘customer experience’ and cut costs?
- If customers are increasing their usage of different channels (e.g. mobile, internet/media devices, etc.) how do you faciliate these on the same/less budget?
Friday, December 19, 2008
Thursday, December 18, 2008
A new Econsultancy Online PR Industry Benchmarking report, based on a survey of 300+ marketers & PR folks in the UK states that:
Online PR is still clearly viewed as a specialist and technical PR function by many respondents.
If companies outsource their Online PR to agencies or specialists, the breakdown is as follows:
- 51% use PR agencies
- 29% search marketing agencies
- 22% web development agencies
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
... that I'd share this article from yesterday's Internet Retailing site. A news article stated that "Customer loyalty does still exist — but free delivery and special offers are now the key retailer deciders".
The report from GSI Commerce, ( and I still find their website a little confusing) says that:
"pushing free delivery and special last-minute offers needs to be a priority in the final few days of online Christmas shopping,"It seems that given the same product at the same price from 2 different eTailers, 68% of customers would opt for the one that offered free delivery. Although that's hardly a shocking fact, you do have to worry what the other 32% based their decision on.
However, more shocking was the news that Amazon is apparently mis-treating its warehouse staff to reach its incredible near-perfect delivery rate. It seems that free delivery may come at a cost in the end!
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Its possible to create a frustrating multi-channel experience when dealing with a company via just two different channels, let alone 3 or 4! This is especially true in the digital world where customers are only one click away from abandoning a company if their expectations are not instantly met. Lets be a little clearer...
1. Optimising your channels is not necessarily all about the lowest cost-to-serve (The average cost required to deliver a service to a customer), its about maintaining the right revenue streams and quality.
2. Consistency across channels (call centre, website, in-store kiosk, customer interaction technologies, etc.) reduces customer frustration. Or put another way: a report by BT back in early 2008 showed that:
"ninety-seven per cent of customers expect their interactions with companies to be consistent and seamless"
Be careful how you plan and implement your multi-channel strategy for 2009.
Monday, December 15, 2008
In less-certain economic times, companies come under increasing pressure to reduce costs and as I mentioned last week, this can mean managing your customers down to lower cost-to-serve channels (e.g. moving them from positon 'B' to position 'A' in the diagram)
For those who've read my previous post, you will know I believe you need to provide the right amount of customer interaction that a customer needs (but perhaps just not the level they want). This is where the web becomes incredibly useful.
But building a website to interface with customers is no-longer just a case of building a static content-fulled site, its about creating another interaction channel. And sometimes, providing customers with a basic level of interaction (e.g. Position 'A') just goesn't cut it any more. Fear not, a technology solution can be used, it just has to be used more carefully and cleverly.
Providing a rich user experience for your website is something that I've worked with a lot of clients on. Developing an intuitive and often complex site (e.g. Position 'C') obviously adds to your cost-to-serve, but in the longer-term this is a relatively small incremental cost per customer. It should also prevent the customer automatically heading off to to your 'Contact Us' page to phone your call centre. Technologies such as: Silverlight, Flash, and AJAX can help your site provide better interactivity and customer empowerment, and personalisation & other decision-based logic can provide a more individual experience.
But there is a middle ground and it sits somewhere between the slick responses of a video-based interaction and the human-to-human contact we all crave. However its an area that many websites have yet to fully understand and tackle (and it sits at Position 'D').
CIT or Customer Interaction Technologies as they are called, can all help bridge this interaction gap:
Is a way of connecting your call-centre with your customers, who can leave their details and be called back as a time better suited to them or the company (e.g. during any particular quiet periods your customer services representatives have).
Virtual assisitants, provided by people such as Creative Virtual, are still a technology that has yet to break into the mainsteam and its hard to work out why. Perhaps when one passes the Turing Test, we may see a change.
These online knowledge bases can provide dynamic Frequently Asked Questions, that understand context or provide more than just the standard content-managed answers. Link these into your personalisation functionality, track their usage and you get a rich set of data on what people are looking for (and what they don't know about).
In essence a business version of Instant Messaging, this technology has been used on websites for serval years now and provides a customer with text access to your call centre. Yes, I know this may seem like a slower (and therefore more costly way) way of interacting, but done cleverly it can reduce the cost-to-serve or even allow your operative to have more than one conversation at the same time.
E.g. pre-typed or 'hotkey' responses to produce instant answers to familiar questions, such as specific issue information or company contact details
Although these Customer Interaction Technologies haven't gained significant ground on many websites, its possible that as times get leaner andcompanies put more pressure on their websites to increase conversion and customer satisfaction, they they become a cost-effective toolset for the digital channel.
Friday, December 12, 2008
- The economic crunch is here
- Company revenues decline
- You get told to reduce service levels
- You reduce staff and/or cut the hours of cover
- There's a dilution in the customer experience
- This causes an erosion in customer loyalty
But this need-not be the outcome, as a recent McKinsey article highlights. This report covers the possibility of finding your customer 'Break Points' and carefully tracking this to avoid a complete drop in customer satisfaction.
One alternative to this is managing your customers down to lower cost-to-serve channels such as online, without a drop in quality of service. As I mentioned in a previous post, this can also be difficulty to pull-off correctly, but then this is a recesssion... and you don't just judge the person during the good times do you?
Thursday, December 11, 2008
But hang on, I thought a principle media these days was the Internet in all its flavours? (Google search, content sites , Blogs, Social Networks and everything else). Its in the top 3 of all media consumed and advertising money spent, as well as the main method a lot of us choose to receive our news and information by.
Surely now there's a justified case for saying that the Internet is now a member of the mainstream media?
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
I've previously put together my thoughts on cost to serve vs interaction models, but have been sent various examples recently where companies have obviously decided that low cost to serve means low quality of service. From examples of bad IVR, through to the refusal of some large companies to stick their customer services telephone number on their website.
This does not need to be the case. Just because you are using a lower cost-to-serve channel to service customers, doesn't mean that there has to be a dramatic reduction in the quality.
But delivering a good quality customer service experience does not necessarily mean providing a human voice all the time. Yes there there may still be the expectation among your customers that they will speak to an operative when they phone your billing number; but its how you deal with them when instead they get a voice-recognition system that matters. Also there is often more than one choice of communication channel for the required level of interaction you need at a lower cost-to-serve than a call centre.
Once company that has turned the entire customer service experience on its head is SwiftCover Insurance. The advertising material they've put out over the last few years has made a point of covering the fact that they don't have any Clucking Call Centres:
Clearly aimed at those no-nonsense people who don't like dealing with low quality call centres, they obviously have eliminated a higher cost-to-serve channel straight away. Its not suprising that they've managed to gain a share of a market given some of the incredibly bad practices apparently being used by some call centres such as using fake names and hanging up when things get difficult (This article in The Times is a real eye-openner if you have the time).
Actually, are you aware that there is a British Standard for Customer Service?
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
However, what if your employee is trying to cultivate their own personal brand? What if they are trying to own the conversation? (Well Jeremiah has a very similar blog post today, with some suggestions on how companies may try to manage this issue.)
One thing is for sure, personal brands are here to stay and some companies actively encourage the employment of them. Rather like an actor for a film, they are hiring an individual to play the lead role. But well known actors expect to make their own changes to the script and of course they have their nuances and traits that make them popular and therefore social. This is very different to giving an unknown some specific lines to say verbatim and its something that film studios have lived with for years...
I'm just not sure that the digital communication space is any different.
Monday, December 8, 2008
I was therefore suprised today to receive an email from them with the subject line
'New Tall Mens Clothing website launching in 2009'.
I did therefore have some obvious questions:
- Why send me an email on the busiest online shopping day of the year, telling me that your new site is coming next year?
- Why start your email copy....
'New clothing website coming in 2009.
The all-new Alto Clothing website is coming in 2009. We have been busy working through all your customer survey returns and suggestions that will help us bring you the clothing you want.' ?
I am sure that most of the people who would have even bothered to have openned up the email would have stopped reading by now.
I will not dwell on the the email itself, which was an appalling mixture of colours, fonts, random bold text and strange layout. Instead I would just advise Alto, that to send such a confusingly worded email in a heavily competitive industry and during such economic times, is perhaps not the best way to generate click-through and sales?
Friday, December 5, 2008
Here was my perspective:
1. The market for online (eCommerce, Marketing and general digital stuff) is still going to see growth in the next 3 or so years. There are various predictions by intelligent and well-regarded people about what this growth will actually be, and most of these have however been lessened in the recent economic climate. However none are fore-telling a short-medium decline in the online space!
Despite Ad Age's recent article announcing a 'crater in online sales', which eventually admits:
holiday e-commerce sales will ultimately match the $29.2 billion spent during November and December of last year2. There is still the view that buying online is: easier, cheaper and providing a greater selection - without the: hassles, petrol usage, parking fees/fines and other burdens that accompany a shopping trip
3. Online Marketing is an accountable science, that shows (almost) instantly what works and sells.... and what doesn't! Showing a Return On Investment is key right now and I don't think this will go away, even when the market picks up in a year or two.
4. London is the home of the UK (and possibly the European) digital comunity. There are lots of networking events still and great people to meet & work with. Although Silicon Valley and SF is the home of the new economy, London is its hard-working cousin over the Atlantic
5. Its still a fun industry to be in now. There is still work in digital (albeit less highly-paid consulting roles) but the full-time market for online people is still OK.
So, for now, it doesn't look like its online's recession.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
There have been almost 25o postings to the blog. These have covered various topics based around company & customer communication methods, whilst still trying to keep up with my per subject of the demise of mainstream media.
So, what have I learned along the way? Well, here's a few thoughts:
1. Blogging (almost) daily is hard work.
Maintaining a reasonably professional blog requires a certain discipline to keep abreast of technological, social & communication practices. It then takes more effort to actually type stuff up into (semi) coherent thoughts and perspectives. This is especially true when you have a full-time consultancy job and a company to run. Several times now I've found myself tapping away in the office gone-midnight in an effort to piece together an article to automatically schedule a publish in the morning. However, that said.... its been a good experience and I'm still enjoying it.
2. Its slightly easier to post about different (but related) topics
I have to admit that I've found it easier to produce postings about multiple subjects on a regular basic. For example: by discussing ecommerce market growth projections on one day and video newspaper initatives on the next, it allows me to investigate different issues that are still inter-linked by my passion for all things digital. Also, I'm sure I've strayed completely off-topic sometimes, but hopefully my readers have enjoyed the occasional tangents taken.
3. Getting comments is a very satisfying experience:
Its nice to know sometimes that not only am I getting visitors (I do track usage via some Google Analytics code inserted into every page), but that they are actually reading what I write. I'm particularly grateful to: Tristan, Ellify & Boudewijn for their feedback - both for their comments via the blog and also separately [thanks chaps].
So... what hasn't worked? Well certain things haven't exactly planned out as I hoped. For one thing, I haven't entirely stayed true to my original aim of treading that line between the 'Press' section & 'About Us' part of the company website and the mainstream media. But then, as my thoughts and understanding have evolved, so has this blog.
Proof perhaps then that life isn't necessarily what you set out to get from it; but it turns out being what you put into it.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
The average cost to serve a customer (e.g. to make a sale or to answer a complaint) depends upon the channel they use to contact you and then how you deal with that contact. Basically, some channels (e.g. face-to-face) cost lots and others cost less. Companies wishing to minimise their costs, should therefore try to 'manage' customers to the lowest relevant cost channel required to provide the level of interaction needed to service the cuctomer.
For example, in the diagram below 'B' shows that a high level of customer interaction (e.g. face-to-face contact to sell a new car) has a higher cost to serve than the lower 'A' which needs lesser levels of interaction (e.g. a web page). Basically, the more complex or 'human' you need the service to be, the more it costs to achieve.
The difficulty comes when a company badly manages their customers down to lower cost to serve channels, especially when the customer will always try to use the one with the highest possible level of Interaction.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
The question for today (and possibly picked-up again in subsequent postings) is:
In plotting this negative sentiment, are you therefore creating your
anti-social graph of corporate influence?
Monday, December 1, 2008
But for those who have never done this before, beware... its a minefield!
And for those who have... well, my sympathies.
As the old joke goes:
When a lost person went up to someone and asked them for directions, the response was... "don't start from here".
Creating your channel approach is a little like being lost. Not only is it a case of where you want to go, but also it is:
- How did you manage to get to where you are right now? (history)
- What do you currently know ? (data)
- How do you want to get there? (tools & technology)
- What's the journey ahead like? (impediments)
If you're planning your multi-channel strategy for 2009, consider starting from an informed and understood place. Oh, and obviously be careful who you ask for directions along the way!