Category Archives: User Experience

James Bond: 6 seconds premature

I can’t remember seeing James Bond wearing two timepieces but presumably he has too since being equipped with an Omega Seamaster. Encouraged as a fan of the films and in the market for a ‘watch for life’ type purchase I succumbed and invested most of my savings in a shiny new James Bond Seamaster Omega watch. I am not proud of being so easily swayed by the marketing people but as they say, I am what I am.

However, my suspicions about the Omega Seamaster’s timekeeping ability were first raised when I was popping champagne corks at a New Year’s even party nearly 5 minutes ahead of everyone else. That has its advantages of course, but was slightly concerning considering the size of my recent investment. I reset the watch and checked it regularly through January but it was gaining time at an alarming rate (would be funnier if it had an alarm) so I took it back to the shop.

The watch was sent back to Omega who kept it ‘extra long’ to make sure it worked perfectly, or at least that is how the 9 and not 6 week turnaround time was explained and I picked it back up in April. The watch continued to gain time and so I wrote to Omega and shared my disappointment and my concern that I didn’t know what to do next. Here is the letter they sent back:

first page of letter received from Omega
Omega, at least the arrival of the letter was timely

The letter goes on to page 2:page 2 of letter from Omega

As it happens, I haven’t been contacted in ‘short’ by Mr Mike Webb but no matter. I can’t see how any explanation that an Omega watch is ‘OK’ if it has a tolerance of -1 to +6 seconds is going to help me. However, if he does call I will suggest he gives James a ring. For him it could be the difference between life and death.

Mashable offers favourable view on JockTalk

With JockTalk appearing at Demo12 at the same time as Beta launch there is an opportunity for the great and the good of the digerati to get their hands on the concept and offer some feedback.
First out of the blocks is Mashable with an insightful and very positive review of the platform. Their analysis is spot on and it is comforting to know that the simplicity and power of JockTalk can be communicated so effectively in a world that is becoming increasingly complex as a result of digital explosion. I am now really looking forward to the reviews that will follow the presentation later today.

The evolution of Sports Social Media

I was recently invited to get involved with a social media start-up called JockTalk ( I am a bit of a cynic when it comes to new social media ventures because I am the type of person who likes the ones I use and use the ones I like and that keeps the paying field small – mainly LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook (a bit and mainly for the kids). However, the more I heard about JockTalk the more convinced I became that this is the future of sports social media.

Photo of stage at DEMO12

There are a number of social media plays trying to fix the “monetisation of Twitter” problem and JockTalk certainly addresses this opportunity. A revenue share with athletes means that the content created can be monetised through ad revenue. However, what is really great about JockTalk is the level of fan engagement built-in. It is obvious when you get under the hood, that athletes have been involved in scoping it because each feature fulfils a flaw in the way Twitter supports fan:athlete engagement. There is a Q&A section, athletes can rank top fans and the platform publishes to Twitter and Facebook so it doesn’t require a massive behavioural change for athletes and fans to get involved.

What I most like about JockTalk is that it is designed to deal with all sports. As a fan this is crucial because like many fans, I enjoy multiple sports. I don’t want to go to a different social media platform for each set of athletes (soccer, Rugby, Baseball, Cricket etc.) I want to be able to put all my sport in one place. As a Twitter user with two profiles – one work and one social I already have compartmentalised my business Tweeting from my sports Tweeting and so JockTalk allows me to enhance this even further. The site is in Beta but you can take a peek here:

The team is presenting at DEMO12 this week and I can’t wait to see the feedback. It is often said that the simplest things are the most effective and JockTalk’s simplicity and power are sure to be a hit.

The Numbers and Connections

“The success of human beings depends crucially, but precariously, on numbers and connections.” This quotation comes from chapter one titled “The collective brain” in Matt Ridley’s excellent book called “The Rational Optimist“. In this chapter Ridley describes a world that thrived due to the increasing connections between humans and the trade effect that resulted. He also talks about innovation networks and division of labour all enhanced by the increasing connections we have and diminished or even reversed when connections are lost.

With the rise of the Internet human beings have never been more connected and each day, as technology advances, social behaviour adapts and connections increase. This increases our ability to trade goods and ideas and innovation is enhanced. This got me thinking about “Crowd Sourcing” and how genuinely innovated this is.

I noticed that over the summer, First Direct launched the “First Direct Lab” – described as “crowdsourcing platform that will give customers a stake in the online and telephone bank’s digital marketing efforts”. I have a bit of a problem with this definition as I think it gives customers a voice, not a stake. There are no consequences for them offering poor advice. However, I can see it makes sense to engage more with customers and isn’t that just the point?

Crowdsourcing is simply another way to engage with customers in the same way that surveys and customer panels can. They facilitate a conversation rather than listen to the results of marketing efforts. There is significant evidence that they work and Gary Hamel, business guru, provided various evidence in his book “The future of management”.

So to my question about how genuinely innovative crowdsourcing is. My conclusion is that the technique is innovative based on the new technology available now and its ability to facilitate wider conversations. But ultimately, the idea is as innovative as the first person who said – “gather round you guys, what do you think about this?”.

I haven’t bought a news paper in years but I buy The Times daily

I am now totally convinced that digital publications will be the salvation of the news print industry. I haven’t paid for a paper in years but now read The Times every day on my iPad and have subscribed to the digital package that offers web access plus The Times and Sunday Times for £2 per week.

The secret to sustainability by consumers comes from a change in habits because of your product or service and The Times iPad addition has definitely achieved that. My morning routine has now been adapted to ensure that my daily “paper” has been downloaded and the pictures are available for my commute.


I thought I should get some value from my UPA (Usability Professionals Association) membership this year so I attended a talk by Andrew Harder (no, the irony wasn’t lost on me) of Nokia. The theme of his talk was the agency / client divide and it was very interesting getting his perspective as someone who has moved from an agency to a global organisation and how he now views the work of researchers. I would have liked to ask how he views Nokia as someone from an agency but the Q and A session was rather sadly monopolised by someone with a monologue or three rather than a question.

I won’t recount the entire session, worthy though it was of being reported, but the bit I really liked was concerned with cutting out the fat and getting to the juicy morsel of key information that the client is looking for. The analogy Andrew used was from Ernest Hemmingway’s book “The old man and the sea” and it worked superbly.

The story is told of the struggle between an old and experienced fisherman and the catch of his life. The fisherman goes further than ever before to end his unproductive spell and eventually catches the largest Marlin he has ever seen. After a 3 day and night struggle he eventually kills the Marlin but cannot bring it aboard his boat so instead lashes it to the side. He heads for home, weak after the long struggle and facing a long voyage, leaving a trail of blood as he goes from the Marlin. A new battle takes place as the old man fends off the attacks of various sharks attracted by the blood but eventually tired and having lost his harpoon he is unable to fight them off and they eat the valuable meat leaving only the head and carcass still strapped to the side of his boat.

Before the sharks had eaten the Marlin the old man was questioning the worthiness of those back at shore that would eat such a magnificent fish following the enormous struggle he and the Marlin had endured. However, after returning with just a carcass to show for his efforts, the old man reflects that he should have simply filleted the Marlin and brought the best meat back to sell.

Is less more when providing research findings? This is the underlying message which I agree with. Thoughts?

Marketing Week: Customer Experience Master Class

On Wednesday I ran a customer experience master class for Marketing Week as part of the Customer Retention conference. With a colleague, we shared some thoughts with just over 10 senior marketeers during the one day workshop about why having a customer experience strategy is critical to services businesses today and introduced some models that they could put into practical use.

Although over ten years old now, I used the concept of progressing economic value introduced by Pine & Gilmore in their book (Experience Economy 1999) to explain why customer experience strategies can help businesses differentiate. For those unfamiliar with the concept it deals with the evolution from commodities to goods to services and then experiences with increased differentiation, premium pricing and closer alignment with customers needs as you move up the progression. The book uses a coffee example to illustrate the progression from commodity (bean) to goods (ground coffee/packaged coffee) to service (Cafe coffee) to experience (Starbucks coffee) and it easy to understand from this the increasing pricing and differentiation associated with each step.

The big challenge of course is getting from a service to an experience – an experience being something memorable for the right reasons; it is easiest to be remembered for delivering a poor service as the image from Passive Aggressive reveals:

We waited...

Most organisations seem to struggle with the balance between mass customisation and commoditisation of services. If you read my blog about Starbucks I alluded to this very problem. In their drive toward lower cost service delivery they have made decisions about the technology they employ that actually damages the customer experience (IMHO). They hoped to increase the interaction time between Barista and customer but in the process devalued some of the theatre.

The nature of the feedback shown in the photo links me nicely to the subject our guest speaker Guy Stephens spoke about which received a great deal of interest: using social media as part of a customer service strategy. Social media is a fairly instant feedback technology and is increasingly used by disgruntled customers to make their feelings known – perhaps not in as interesting a way as with the use of ketchup and mustard.

It was very interesting to hear about the issues big companies were facing when dealing with social media. In one example a member of staff who used social media in their private lives had decided to get involved on the Twitter feed to try and help customers or deal with the issues of disgruntled customers only to be told not to by PR and legal teams. Similarly there were stories of brand conflict and a lack of clarity about how the process would be managed.

There is clearly a great deal of confusion from big brands about how to deal with social media and of course the problem is not helped by the fact that most senior managers are (in general) poorly educated about social media not being from the “born digital” generation. Nevertheless, customers are using social media sites in their millions and are commenting and debating their experiences (good and bad) with brands all over the world.

Social Media of course is only one set of touch points that brands have with their customers. We ran an exercise at the event to identify different touch points and see if we could get anywhere near the 100 or more that one of our travel clients claim they have. We managed to get well over 50 before turning our attention to user journey mapping and the connections between the various touch points at our disposal.

Finally we discussed measurement strategy and the common errors that companies make. Once again I found that most organisations don’t have a clear measurement strategy and few of the people at the workshop had clear links between the measures and KPI’s they used on a daily basis and the business plan and objectives. Of course the solution is obvious and everyone knew the answer before I presented it but it is clear that in the cut and thrust of the day to day lives of a marketer it is often hard to address this key issue.

Delivering a differentiated customer experience didn’t feature as a strategic goal of any of the companies we met and yet during the afternoon’s practical sessions more than one described their organisations strategy as being to differentiate (rather than lowest cost or focus for those familiar with Porter) from their competition. All seemed to leave the workshop believing it is important but I worry about their ability to make anything actually happen given the silos that exist within organisations. Perhaps a major competitive shift will be the driving force but I think this is an incremental opportunity given the scale of the task.

It’s getting emotional

Last week we entertained the world’s press in our labs – OK a slight exaggeration, but with the might of CA’s PR department we did have over 40 people from various European media organisations including Portugal’s main TV channel and the UK’s FT. The reason they visited Foviance was to attend CA’s press launch of phase two of their web stress campaign which included the measurement of web stress using EEG – electroencephalography.

In parallel to this going on in our offices, it transpired that UX company Fhios had been acquired by One to One Interactive and would be joining their neurological marketing department. At the Insight show last summer Fhios presented the research they conducted into neuro-marketing and the presentation covered their findings, which like our own, implied a link but really called for more research in the area. Like Foviance, it would seem that they have carried out more work in the area.

It was only two years ago that neuro-marketing firm Neuroco was acquired by Neurofocus and in parallel there has been a number of other neuro-marketing hardware and service solutions entering the market from (mainly) US companies. Some provide a hardware / service solution using headsets that they send out to 100’s of participants at a time. 8 node versus 32 node data capture is a question that is starting to gain followers as well as the need for statistically significant sample sizes vs. qualitative depth studies.

Martin Lindstrom has talked about the cross over between the emotional psychology of why we buy for some time and his most recent book called “Buyology” (the truth and lies about why we buy) has become a best seller. The book describes what was learned through a 3 year project costing millions and using EEG and fMRI data capture to study what happens in peoples brains as they watch commercials and interact with brands. There are some really interesting findings in it and once again it raises the debate about emotional engagement and subconscious reactions to a new level.

I think we are on the cusp of something big and firmly believe that over the next 3 years neuro-marketing will grow in importance and become a recognised and essential tool in the marketers kit bag. To be able to measure emotional engagement and then design experiences or interactions with a mind toward how emotional engagement will be impacted is surely the holy grail of brand engagement. It offers firms like Foviance a potentially very interesting intersection between behavioural psychology, micro-economics (becoming know as behavioural economics), neuroscience and marketing.

Electronic book readers

Sooner or later any, and probably every blogger, will pull out a reference to the Gutenberg press. Now it’s my turn. The Gutenberg press was probably the single most important invention in modern times. It came on to the scene in about 1440 and by 1499 approximately 15 million books had been printed across some 3,000 titles. The development of the world wide web comes close and has had a similar dramatic impact on the distribution of knowledge to the masses. Not so, however the electronic book reader.

Kindle was launched in 2007 and on August 25th, as reported by various publications including the Economist, Sony has launched their latest challenger. In the same article it is also reported that “according to some estimates more people use Apple’s iphone to read digital texts than use Kindle”. To me this is no surprise and is the classic single function product problem.

It is as if electronic book readers have been developed by book lovers rather than technology companies. For the same reason the born digital generation don’t wear watches (their mobile phones provide them with the time as well as a range of other functions) they also won’t buy ebook readers. They may well come to buy a device that reads eBooks in an accessible and pleasurable way but also plays audio and video files, store photos, accesses the internet, tells the time and various other tasks but that appears not to be what eBook reader manufactures are producing.

The Gutenberg press created the opportunity to share all the information in the world in the best format available at the time. It happened to be a single function device – printed material. Today’s information requirements are far broader and the sooner eBook reader manufacturers realise they are competing with mobile phones, mini laptops, internet watches, and a whole host of other wearable and static technologies the sooner the consumer will start parting with their cash.