Next step in customer service?

There are all sorts of ways to deliver on the promise of better customer service but one of the best has to be video calling. The writer, Emily Glazer of the WSJ, discusses the value of using video technologies to deliver such things as guitar lessons over the Internet. Extending that concept, enabling simple face to face communications over the Web between customers and a company’s support representatives will become (I bet) a major, and cheap, force for increasing customer retention.  I think it boils down to one basic tenet, and that is, humans behave better when they look someone else in the eye.

The battle triggered by Google’s position that anonymity should be banished from the Internet (yes, I simplified their stance a bit) has shifted to the back pages.  However, the rampant and depressingly low form of human discourse on the Internet, that motivated Google to attempt to force users to reveal their true identities on Google Circles, still exists. This is a longstanding challenge of human interaction; the effectiveness and tone of communication between two parties are inversely proportional to the physical distance that separates them.  Not being able to see the other person seems to add another exacerbating variable.

I know it’s been attempted in various industries and has met with some success but now that laptops, tablets, and smart-phones are video-enabled, I think we’ll come to expect and accept as the norm  to engage company representatives in a face to face manner. This will likely result in some very positive benefits for society:

  • more civil customer and client communications, with more accountability on both sides
  • less interaction too, since clients might think twice and might actually consider ways to resolve issues themselves before engaging with Support

If only Albert knew

What is one to make of the news that Albert Einstein may have been wrong about the theory of special relativity? Since that theory was developed over a hundred years ago and has been put to the test constantly since, it has become so ingrained in our subconscious that to consider it may be wrong is, well,… wrong.

Researchers at the CERN (you know, that massive underground particle accelerator in the Swiss Alps some people felt would turn the Earth into a black hole) have recorded some sub-atomic particles traveling faster than the speed of light. What? Think of the excitement for the big brains at NASA, MIT, and Fedex.  Lots of possibilities.

Actually, I’m relieved for CERN that they may be on to something big.  So much money poured into that venture from so many nations on such great promise and so little evidence.  For those of us who have been waiting for decades to see some major shift in the universe, this is a red letter day.  Too bad it was announced on the same day Facebook announced its new features, including timeline.

Loading up on all things digital

On the same day that I read about a strangely prolific Digital Hoarder, I also read that Facebook contains 4% of all photos ever taken in history.  I suspect the two are related items.

The hoarder has found she cannot delete things from her digital life. She’s immobile, arrested, overwhelmed, and time-challenged because she can’t get around to tackling her growing collection of emails, photos, videos, and voice mails.  More than half of these things she hasn’t even viewed, opened, or listened to.  We’re not talking about small numbers here.  She has over 112,000 emails in her inbox, of which 91,000 are unread.  Yikes!  They say email is a dying communication medium and this is an example of how that is happening… by reverse suffocation.  People don’t bother and the medium becomes increasingly irrelevant to their lives (although who knows what the senders of all those unread emails think).

It’s incredible too that Facebook is rapidly becoming THE repository for photos.  I used to work with an executive assistant who utilized FB’s platform so much, it would not surprise me to learn she’s responsible for 2 of those 4%.

I don’t know what to think of this behavior, of letting things digitally pile up.  I can’t say it’s bad or good or something in between.  Who knows?  Obviously, the digital storage people aren’t worried about it.  It does make me wonder though about one thing.  What happens when someone emails a friend and gets no response because the friend never reads it?   Do they follow that up with a phone call and leave a message?  At what point do people move on from people who can’t or won’t manage their communication media?

Digital Lego

We were in Copenhagen a couple of months ago and being in the center of Lego universe reminded me how much I enjoyed playing with that toy. Or is it “those toys”?  Is each of those bricks a toy?  Anyway, long ago hours were spent on the living room floor with my assorted nephews (my nieces never seemed to be drawn to it) assembling structures large and small, great and less than great.  The boys are fully grown and likely have their Lego stored in bins buried in their parents’ basements behind discarded computers, decaying hockey gear, and musty backpacks.

I was reminded of that memory today (the Lego, not the gear and the backpacks) when I read a Harvard Business Review blog post called Creating customer value on the digital frontier.  The authors gave a number of examples of how companies are being very creative in figuring out what digital delivery models bring the most value to their particular customers.  All of this, of course, in order to differentiate themselves from their competitors.  They mention FedEx, Starbucks, Spotify, and a company called Shareables as doing a good job at revolutionizing in different ways, the customer experience.  The Lego example they cite is one that even my nephews are too old to have experienced and that is, being able to go on their website and using a tool called, Digital Designer, create models, brick by virtual brick. Lego then sends them the exact set of bricks it takes to build the physical model on their family room floor.

That would’ve been handy 10 and 15 years ago, if only because I could have used it to build and order the Princess Castle the nieces dreamt of.

Managing your social media

Social media is a wonderful thing.  It allows us to express ourselves in ways previously reserved for highly paid television personalities and dictators. Like a lab experiment gone wild, it can grow and produce something much greater than you had imagined. I’ve introduced myself to so many people I’ve never even met and I’ve benefited from it by seeing their posts on blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.  Conversely, I hope they’ve benefited in some way from my blog and the various tweets, posts, and comments I make on those same platforms.  I think, to some degree, social media should be seen as a contract between two people.  I connect with you and you connect with me and value is only realized when both sides each feel they get something out of it. If you’re on social media and only watching and listening to others, that’s fine.  As long the other person is okay with having a silent audience then things go along swimmingly. However,  if you do nothing but pump out stuff that is so obtuse that only you can possibly find it interesting or funny and you never comment (constructively) to, or retweet, content posted by others, you risk tipping the balance against you.

I connect with people on LinkedIn either because I send them invitations or they send them to me. I’m judicious about it. I see who they are, decide that they are in a field or role that is interesting to me.  Similarly, I Follow and accept Follows from people on Twitter using the same reasoning.  Here is my tactic for controlling the noise of social media….I prune my lists all the time. I disconnect from people on LinkedIn and Unfollow people on Twitter who seem to offer no value for me.  They produce too much noise about things only they seem to care about.  I realize that sounds harsh but time is precious.  So is my attention span.

Famous and you may have even quoted him

Want to have a serious laugh? Read THIS article from P. J. O’Rourke.  The guy is a genius of wit, poking fun at everything from summer heat waves to middle-aged men in shorts to urbanization to suburbanization to the American economy to golf to the education system to his own family and to himself.  He sprays all equally with his hilarious prose and I bet you can’t dispute any of his commentary.

I’ve read many of Mr. O’Rourke’s articles in The Atlantic, and likely many more than I realize in other journals since the entry on Wikipedia says that, “According to a 60 Minutes profile, he is also the most quoted living man in The Penguin Dictionary of Modern Humorous Quotations.”

Now that’s saying something. In our insanely chatty last half-century where we were privileged to witness such prolific comedic stars as Johnny Carson, David Letterman, Phyllis Diller (look her up), and Robin Williams (yes, I know there are many more so please don’t bother to correct or add),  P.J. O’Rourke takes the prize for saying things a great many of us seem to want to repeat.  No show of his own, just consistently high quality and extremely observant writing.  Interesting.  I wonder if he Tweets too.

Do we need reminders to behave ourselves?

In the September issue of the Harvard Business Review, in one of my favourite sections called Defend Your Research, is an article that concludes this.  Adults behave better when teddy bears are in the room.  What a great headline, don’t you think?  Pretty much sums it up.  I mean, did I really need to read the article after reading that headline?  Actually, the article is a very good interview with the author of the study that drew that conclusion, and yes, it is definitely worth reading.  But, I didn’t really learn anything strikingly new after I read the headline.  Well, I suppose it was a bit of an eye-opener to learn that in their research, they found that if companies have five or more daycares or kindergartens within a 2-mile radius, they contribute significantly more to charity.  Interesting, huh?

I suppose my subconscious already knew that adult behaviour would change when there are reminders to them of their children or their own childhood, or some other signs of purity and innocence.  Think of your own behavior when you’re at a party and your friend’s 3 year-old daughter comes teetering into the room.  It goes without saying that you check your language (if you’re a civilized person), you check your smile (to make sure it’s on and glowing), and you engage the little person with your eyes.  The question now is, why can’t we do this with other adults all the time?