Category Archives: Digital / Ecommerce
I have mixed relationship with corporate technology given my first hand experience of it. It is true that technology is essential and it brings many benefits. It is also true that most corporate technology is complex and expensive to set-up and operate. Last, and perhaps most important is that it does not show up as being usable nor useful to the people on the front lines that have to use the technology. Put differently, from the user perspective the disadvantages outweigh the benefits. A great example of such a technology is enterprise CRM systems. Can Vizolution prove me wrong?
I met up with Marcio Rodrigues, Customer Propositions Director, at Vizolution to learn about this technology. Here is what I learned:
- Vizolution technology is being used by three of the top five UK banks and two of the top 5 insurance companies;
- According to customer surveys, customers (95% of them) like the experience that is generated through Vizolution;
- By using this technology financial services companies have increased sales conversions anywhere from 14% (mortgage conversion) to 93% (life insurance and critical illness); and
- The folks in compliance love Vizolution as it sends/receives files using 128 bit encryption, allows complex issues to be explained properly, and enables a consistent sales process.
Ok, the banks and insurance companies like it because it improves sales conversion and improves compliance. What I was interested in was the customer. Why do customers like it? What does Vizolution bring to the customer experience? This is what I learned:
- By being able to see what the sales agent is talking about customers feel more engaged in the process;
- The on screen visuals make it easier for the customer to understand the financial product being discussed; and
- The process of signing-up for a financial product is so much easier and quicker – there is no waiting for the paperwork to arrive by post, reviewing and signing it, waiting for approval.
By now you might be wondering what is Vizolution and what does it do. As I understand it, Vizolution:
- Is patent pending software that allows businesses to engage their customers in sales conversations through an instant, easy, screen sharing session via the internet;
- Is simple and quick – with just one click the sales agent can initiate a Vizolution session and it is just as easy for the customer; and
- bypasses the typical issues in installing screen sharing software locally and navigating around-through corporate firewalls.
My last question to Marcio was on costs: purchasing, installation, and use. What I can tell you is that the pricing showed up for me as being modest even cheap given the difference that this technology has made to sales conversion rates. At this point I could not help being a ‘strategic consultant’ and so I advised Marcio and his team to rethink the pricing!
If you want to learn more about Vizolution then I suggest that you contact Marcio. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have used this software solution either as a manager, a sales agent or a customer then I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment.
Please note that I am taking a holiday over August and as such I do not expect to be writing any posts until September. I thank you for reading and hope you make August a great month for yourself and all the people you ‘touch’.
Disclosure: I am happy to write about Vizolution as it occurs to me that this is a simple useful technology. I am not being paid, in any way, for writing this post. Please note that I am not promoting Vizolution and with every technology I encourage you to do your research before you buy.
Issue: how do I do this online?
Travel is an essential part of my life as a management consultant and business advisor. Occasionally, whilst I am on my travels I get a call from either my wife or children asking me for help on getting some task done on the web. During these remote conversations I tend to be gripped by a sense of frustration and futility. Why? Because I get that the most effective way to help them, and not get another call, is to be by their sides guiding them through the job they want to get done online.
This week I came across WalkMe and spoke with their Head of Marketing, Boaz Amidor. He tells me that the founder of WalkMe found himself in the same boat – his mother needed the help again and again – and this is what led him to create WalkeMe.
What is WalkMe™? It is an “interactive self-guidance technology that guides prospects, customers, employees or partners through any Web experience.” As I understand it, WalkMe it sits on top of your website and as such does NOT need any integration or changes with the underlying site.
Why use it? If you use it intelligently – focussing on the scenarios/tasks that matter – then WalkMe reduces your customers’ frustration of waiting for assistance, shortens the time it takes for support personnel to handle an incoming request and strengthens your company’s support reputation. It also occurs to me that this technology can improve sales conversion as not all customers who want to buy from you call support when they cannot buy from you – some go elsewhere, I do!
How does it work? ”Through a series of interactive tip balloons overlaid on the screen, tasks are broken down into short, step-by-step guided instructions, which help customers act, react and progress during their online experience. As a result, customer support managers can empower their customers to self-task successfully even through the most complex processes.”
You can get an introduction to WalkMe by taking a look at a short demo video: http://vimeo.com/48888010
And , you can learn more about WalkMe and even try it for free. Check out www.walkme.com
What can you expect from the WalkMe team? Boaz Amidor told me that their customer support team is not called the customer support team, nor the customer services team. It is called the Customer Success team. Why? Because “The philosophy here is to make sure that our team is committed to the success of the customer. WalkMe brings the value and our team is here to ensure the success.” I say that this resonates with my idea of service.
WalkMe was founded in 2011, has offices in San Francisco and Tel Aviv. It is funded by Mangrove Capital Partners, Giza Venture Capital and Gemini Funds.
WalkMe recently WON the Red Herring Top 100 Award. Alex Vieux, publisher and CEO of Red Herring, said the following regarding WalkMe’s win: “We looked at hundreds and hundreds of candidates from all across the continent, and after much thought and debate, narrowed the list down to the Top 100 Winners. Each year, the competition gets tougher but we believe WalkMe demonstrates the vision, drive and innovation that define a Red Herring winner.”
WalkMe has been included in the list of “Cool Vendors” in the “Cool Vendors” in the CRM Customer Service and Social 2013″ by Gartner.
You Should Know
I am not a fan of complex technology, I have grappled with it (MIS, ERP, CRM, e-commerce) and it tends to be hard work to implement, and it rarely generates the promised benefits.
I am a fan of simple technologies that are easy to implement, simplify-enrich lives, and create value. This is how WalkMe showed up for me this week and this is why I agreed to write this post.
I am not being paid, in any shape or form, for writing this post. Or any other post that I have written to date. My commitment is to write from a context of service.
As with everything I write, I urge you to “try things out AND do your homework”.
Jeff Bezos and Amazon have been in the news courtesy of Bezos latest letter to shareholders. If you have any interest in what constitutes a customer-centric orientation then I throughly recommend that you print out this letter and read it. If you are up for creating a customer-centric organisation then I recommend that you read this letter every day.
Annette Franz on Jeff Bezos and Customer Experience
Annette Franz over at CX Journey has a written an enthusiastic post referring to Jeff Bezos as a CX dream come true!. I recommend reading it, and I share one particular part of her post with you:
As a leader, Mr. Bezos shows that he’s both the customer and the employee champion. Reading through the 2012 letter again, the following traits and qualities come to mind – all of which are certainly descriptive of a customer-centric culture:
- Best interest of customers
- Not being opportunistic
- Customers ahead of shareholders
Do any of those describe your organization’s values and culture?
Bruce Temkin on Amazon and the customer-centric blueprint
Bruce Temkin says that Bezos letter describes Amazon’s customer-centric blueprint. Bruce picks up on Bezos strategy of making investments and sacrifices today (to benefit customers) knowing that some of these will pay of in the long term. There is one particular paragraph from Bruce’s post that I share with you here as I say it goes to the heart of the customer-centric orientation (bolding is my work):
Bezos understands the value of Amazon’s most critical asset, customer loyalty, which I’ve defined as the willingness to consider, trust, and forgive. That focus is what put Amazon.com on the top of the retail sector in the 2013 Temkin Experience Ratings. Great leaders focus on building that customer loyalty asset with the knowledge that it will generate the best returns for all stakeholders in the long run.
My take on Jeff Bezos, Amazon and the customer-centric orientation
I say that the core of authentic customer-centricity is a relentless ongoing commitment to creating compelling value for customers. What does Jeff Bezos say? Here is an extract from his 1997 letter (highlighting is my work):
From the beginning, our focus has been on offering our customers compelling value….. we set out to offer customers something they simply could not get any other way, and began serving them with books. We brought them much more selection than was possible in a physical store, and presented it in a useful, easy-to-search, and easy-to-browse format in a store open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. We maintained a dogged focus on improving the shopping experience, and in 1997 substantially enhanced our store. We now offer customers gift certificates, 1-ClickSM shopping, and vastly more reviews, content, browsing options, and recommendation features. We dramatically lowered prices, further increasing customer value.
But we are not in 1997 and Amazon is now the gorilla of the online space not an upstart, a revolutionary. So lets take a look at the present situation. I say the real test of authentic customer-centricity is what you do when you have arrived, when you dominate the marketplace. I have worked with many large successful organisations. Again and again I have seen these organisations ‘squeeze’ the customer and take ‘advantage’ of the customer’s trust or the customers weakness to maximise profits. Has Amazon fallen into this trap? Here are two paragraphs from the April 2013 letter:
When you pre-order something from Amazon, we guarantee you the lowest price offered by us between your order time and the end of the day of the release date…….. Most customers are too busy themselves to monitor the price of an item after they pre-order it, and our policy could be to require the customer to contact us and ask for the refund. Doing it proactively is more expensive for us, but it also surprises, delights, and earns trust.
In 2012, AWS [Amazon Web Services] announced 159 new features and services……. AWS Trusted Advisor monitors customer configurations, compares them to known best practices, and then notifies customers where opportunities exist to improve performance, enhance security, or save money. Yes, we are actively telling customers they’re paying us more than they need to. In the last 90 days, customers have saved millions of dollars through Trusted Advisor, and the service is only getting started. All of this progress comes in the context of AWS being the widely recognized leader in its area – a situation where you might worry that external motivation could fail. On the other hand, internal motivation – the drive to get the customer to say “Wow” – keeps the pace of innovation fast.
Why has Amazon bucked the trend here? Why is Amazon not exploiting its dominant position? Why is Amazon not extracting value from its customer relationships to maximise short-term profits and drive up the share price?
My answer is that Bezos is not playing the profit maximisation game. I say that he is playing “maximise service not profits” game and as such he has built a culture and management doctrine that drives the appropriate thinking and behaviour. Here’s what Jeff Bezos say in his l2013 letter:
One advantage – perhaps a somewhat subtle one – of a customer-driven focus is that it aids a certain type of proactivity. When we’re at our best, we don’t wait for external pressures. We are internally driven to improve our services, adding benefits and features, before we have to. We lower prices and increase value for customers before we have to. We invent before we have to. These investments are motivated by customer focus rather than by reaction to competition. We think this approach earns more trust with customers and drives rapid improvements in customer experience – importantly – even in those areas where we are already the leader.
I say there is value in simplicity. I say that there is value in exceeding customer expectations. I say that one of the best ways of exceeding customer expectations is to give customers more than they expect. I say that customers expect companies to play dirty and take advantage. I say a sure route to delighting customers is not to do this and instead treat people right. What does Jeff Bezos say?
To me, trying to dole out improvements in a just-in-time fashion would be too clever by half. It would be risky in a world as fast-moving as the one we all live in. More fundamentally, I think long-term thinking squares the circle. Proactively delighting customers earns trust, which earns more business from those customers, even in new business arenas. Take a long-term view, and the interests of customers and shareholders align.
In amidst all this content it is easy to miss what really matters: the context. So let’s just take a look at the context. Between the 1997 letter and the 2013 letter, a span of 15+ years, there has been consistency:
- Leadership: Jeff Bezos continues to be in charge
- Focus: creating compelling value for customers
- Strategy: take calculated risks, innovate, invest today to create value for customers and look for payoff in terms of customer loyalty and market leadership in the longer run
- Management doctrine: the fundamental pillars of the management doctrine are set-out in the 1997 letter.
What do the failures of three high street chains disclose about Customer Experience?
I say that these retailers disclose that Customer Experience is both an access to business transformation. And at the same time, a source of business disruption. Yes, digital technologies often enable a superior Customer Experience. Yes, someone has to figure out a viable business model. And yet, it is the superior Customer Experience that attracts customers and thus enables business disruption and transformation.
I also say that the demise of these retailers shows something else. What? It shows that most of the companies that are talking about / using Customer Experience are using it as a tactical tool. And that is a mistake. How can I point this out clearly? Let’s take the airline industry. I say that as and when a company invents a ‘teleporter’ (think Star Trek, Blakes 7) it is the end of the airline industry no matter how much money the airlines spend on improving the Customer Experience associated with flying. And even with a ‘teleporter’ the people who go on sea cruises will continue to go on sea cruises. I hope you get that which I am pointing at. Just in case, I have failed to communicate, I am going to take a look at the demise of Blockbuster.
What lesson does Blockbuster disclose?
Why did I turn to Blockbuster? To do a job. What job? The job of entertaining myself and/or my family. What role did Blockbuster play? Blockbuster provided the means for me to get that job done? What was ‘the means’? The video.
What did I have to go through to get the job of entertaining myself and my family done? I had to drive 12 minutes to the nearest Blockbuster store only to find that the car park was full. Then I had to drive around and find somewhere to park – not easy. Once I parked the car, I had to walk to the store. Then hope the right video was in store. Select a video, queue and pay. Then walk back to the car and drive home. Watch the video. Tell myself to remember to take the video back. Next day, drive to the store, find somewhere to park, walk to the store, return the video.
Do you notice something? The Blockbuster Customer Experience imposed costs – time, effort, worry – on me. I did not want to drive. I did not want to find somewhere to park. I did not want to turn up at the store and find Blockbuster had no more copies of the movie I wanted to watch. I did not want to have the threat of late fees hanging over my head. I did not want to go back to the store to return the video. These were the costs imposed on me by the Blockbuster Customer Experience. I put up with them because I did not have a better alternative.
When the better alternative came – a better Customer Experience – I left Blockbuster. With Netflix and/or Lovefilm I select the movie I want to watch and I can watch it instantly on TV, on the PC, on the iPad, on the iPod. And if I don’t like that movie? I stop it and instantly start watching another one. All for a flat monthly fee which is better value than Blockbuster ever was. Actually, it is better than that because I don’t watch many movies, my family does. Now, they do it themselves and I have no work to do!
What are the fundamental insights/lessons here?
It occurs to me that there are two lessons. First, digital is disruptive. Digital technologies, used imaginatively, used courageously, hold the potential and promise of business disruption. Why? Because they enable companies to craft and offer superior customer experiences. How? They collapse time-distance-effort-worry. And thus enable smart companies to come up with value propositions and customer experiences that customers value. Which probably explains why the bulk of my work over the last two years has been concerned with digital strategy and digital customer experience.
Second, the real leverage in Customer Experience is not tinkering with what it is – which is what most companies are doing. The real leverage is using insight and imagination to design fundamentally new and disruptive customer experiences. The ones that enrich the lives of customers (by delivering unexpected benefits) and at the same time take out costs – time, effort, delay, worry - and deliver greater value for money.
It occurs to me that if you want to get strategic value out of Customer Experience then go back and read/study The Experience Economy. The point is not merely to improve the experience associated with a product, service or solution. It is more than that. What it says is that you can choose to compete at a completely different level – the experience level. What are you selling? An experience. What kind of experience? The kind of experience that Build-A-Bear has come up with for bears for children. The kind of music experience that Apple has created through iPods, iTunes, iCloud. Or the membership experience that the MVNO giffgaff has put together for mobile telecommunications. The kind of experience that Netflix and Lovefilm deliver for movies.
Please remember that if your business is open to digital disruption then it will be disrupted. You can choose to do that yourself. Or you can wait for someone else to do it. Blockbuster and HMV could see the disruption, they chose not to act. As for the folks at Jessops, hindsight says that they should have got out of the camera business and into the business of selling smartphones. What do you say?