Monthly Archives: September 2008

Solar tie – mobile phone charger (you can’t make this stuff up)

A colleague sent me this while I was on holiday in August and I have been meaning to blog it ever since but the catch up from holiday is only just reaching a conclusion. You really can’t make this stuff up and I simply love the photo that goes with the story.

Image of solar powered tie mobile battery charger
Image of solar powered tie mobile battery charger

Basically a bunch of engineers have designed a tie that contains a solar panel that charges your mobile phone. As you can see from the photo this is a very stylish piece of clothing that would not look good on anyone.

The link I was sent that covered the story was www.engadget.com. What I like most is that if you didn’t know the url and just read the story you would know that this is a gadget website, written by IT guys. The first time you are alerted to this possibility is when you read that researchers have made wearable technology “slightly more discreet”. I am not sure Armani would agree but lets go with it. However, if you are still willing to believe this is a possible fashion item then the researchers solution to the problem of tieing the knot caused by the solar stitching process will finally convince you of the target audience for this particular garment. Apparently “a clip on tie would solve the problem”.

Finally they conclude that combining the clip on tie with “a special pouch for carrying your cellphone, and you’ve got a combo that can’t be beat”. I suspect it will be.

Multi-channel customer experience: new research

In my day job, working for Foviance, I have just completed and presented some research with Call Centre Consultancy RXP‘s Managing Director Paul Weald. Together we researched the Travel industry to establish how well the delivered a multi-channel customer or user-experience. The research followed a similar piece late last year / early this that focussed on the performance of 25 retailers. We presented the findings from both sets of research at the CCF/Customer Strategy Conference earlier this week. I found both sets of research really eye-opening.

Foviance has already conducted a range of multi-channel research, much of which we cannot discuss, but this was the first work we have carried out with a call centre consultancy. RXP is interesting because it focusses on the experience the call centre provides rather than just the performance metrics. This was the primary reason for us engaging with them but in itself I found that surprising given the loathing the vast majority of consumers have for call centres.

Most call centre consultancies appear to provide expertise in the areas of throughput, call centre staff motivation and operational infrastructure and management. These are all worthy causes but but are all supply side and perhaps explain why the service in call centres is so shoddy. This was somewhat supported anecdotally when I availed of the free massage being provided to speakers at the conference. The lovely young lady who took on the challenge of un-knotting my shoulders revealed that she finds the call centre work fascinating – mainly because she can now see what goes on from both sides of the call. That moment when you are put on hold for some inexplicable reason becomes clear when you see the call centre operative using the self same moment to gather their thoughts and use the stress relief of a quick curse!

What staggered me most about the research was how utterly incompetent 90% of the companies we looked at were. Before we even got in to whether the multi-channel experience worked – i.e. was the experience joined up, did the call centre operative have the same view that the online customer did and all that sort of good stuff, we had to get over the basics.

The usability issues were amazing. We found architectural and navigational issues that 7 years ago I would not have been surprised at but today, after so much education and such improvements in understanding, they beggar belief. Some of the functionality failings were also staggering. Instant messaging functionality that never got answered, call back technology where no call ever came and email facilities that in one case, nearly nine months later, I am, still waiting for a reply  (A major high-street supermarket before you ask).

Once we got our teeth in to the call centre it was even worse. In quite a few cases I wondered why the organisation was providing a call centre at all. It must have been on someone’s list: “website, check, call centre, check, OK we’re done here”. The service offered no value add to the customer at all – they had less access to information that the customer, were not trained to up-sell, cross-sell or handle difficult calls. What purpose do they server?

The nightmare that the research did reveal is that organisationally, the call centre and the website, and any other channels for that matter, are on the whole, managed by entirely separate functions. In many cases the channels actually compete with each other and the customer is in no way the centre of attention. If you want to find out more you can download the white papers from either the RXP or the Foviance websites.

There is money in them there multi-channel hills, but I suspect consultancies like Foviance will get their hands on it before companies with supposed mutli-channel strategies!