Monthly Archives: August 2009

The World is Flat (ish)

I am on holiday this week and right now I am sat pool side in the beautiful Tenerife resort of Los Gigantes. As usual I am trying to read a book, a page at a time, as I juggle the (not entirely unreasonable) demands of my three children with my own needs. The book I am reading is by three time Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas L. Friedman titled “The World is Flat”.

It is an excellent book and even though I am only half way through I have found it thought provoking and informative. It is a must read for anyone in business now, whether large or small. My only reservation is that in many ways the book is ahead of its time – despite the various current and historical examples and case studies.

As I write, the third day of the fifth Ashes test is about to get under way. Last night England bowled Australia out for 160. In an ideal world, I’d like to log in to my Sky Player and watch the 3rd day unfold – but I can’t. The licensing laws apparently won’t allow it so despite paying my monthly subscription, Sky is getting two weeks of my money for very little service delivery. In a truly flat world I would be able to access any of my entertainment services wherever I am and when ever I want to.

One of the stories in the book is about Friedman’s daughter searching addresses through Google by using phone numbers and considering her Mum to be almost backward when she asks if she has brought an address book. That was 2004 and I wonder now what would be the expectations of her and other teenagers like her?

I am far from being a teenager and I am already impatient for a flatter world. I am having to type this blog post in open office writer and then copy and paste it in to the blog because the Internet connection is so unstable. Even if it were stable I still couldn’t do what I want to and access my paid for entertainment.

The world may well be flat if you are UPS, Google or Infosys, but if you are an individual there are still quite a few bumps in the road. Having said that, the fact I can sit here, pool side on my laptop and access the Internet at all, is a world away from just a few years ago. In another 5 years I would expect the connections issues to be a thing of the past. Licensing however, is a political issue that won’t go away any time soon.

Arsenal FC podcast interview

Hi just interviewed Paul Weald of RXP and Penny Downs, Customer Service Manager at Arsenal FC about multi-media contact centres. Full version will be available at Foviance website soon but an area we explored a little during the interview and more afterwards was “change”.

Arsenal has introduced some funky new web technologies and call centre systems to enable them to provide a joined up customer experience and it seems they have the same passion for being the best off the pitch as they do on it (opinions will vary on this). Interestingly Penny felt that the people change was the most important factor in the entire programme and one area they were yet to cover off was that of the Stewards on match day.

Penny explained that the Stewards are employed by the facilities and security department but have a major impact on customer satisfaction at the ground. The priorities however are not aligned with those of the customer satisfaction team and so this is a new area of focus her.

At another club Paul was able to refer to a similar programme just beginning where they have engaged with the head of security from the outset – something Penny on reflection, would have liked to do. Although it has taken significant time and effort they have managed to turn and major detractor in to a major advocate. The results are starting to be seen on match days with Stewards extending their role from purely security and safety to customer satisfaction.

The start point for the change programme was addressing an organisation that was silo’d and completely lacking in a joined up approach to customer experience. Arsenal has managed to address this and the improvements are impressive, particularly in the area of productivity and cost saving which in these tough times many will be interested in.

What concerns me is how difficult it is to scale this type of programme up. Arsenal FC is relatively small operationally and located in one place. Transfer their challenge to a major retailer or bank and the change programme becomes enormous. As we find in our work, even getting someone to own the overall problem is a challenge and yet the benefits are substantial. I still hope that the recession will force the change that is necessary but time is running out.

Twitter: an application in need of some problems

What's the big problem?
What's the big problem?

I recently interviewed Ashley Friedlein for a Podcast for Foviance and the subject of Twitter came up. Ashley and Econsultancy have found an application for Twitter which fixes a problem that many organisations face when trying to get feedback from event or conference attendees.

Ashley explained that whilst they give out feedback forms at every event the response is often poor. Having filled out a few myself, the timing never quite seems right. You often get the form at the beginning of the day and are reminded to complete it at the end. By then I can barely remember which conference I am at let alone how well the individual speakers have performed.

So the solution Econsultancy have come up with is the provide a Twitter “#” tag at the event and to collect input via Twitter during the conference. It relies of course on the venue providing suitable wi-fi or gps reception and despite popular opinion, not everyone uses Twitter so it may not address the entire audience for every type of conference. But, for EConsultancy and the type of digital marketeers they attract I can see it being a viable solution. Thankfully, they haven’t gone as far as putting the comments up on a big screen behind the speaker which could be the modern equivalent of throwing rotten vegetables at an unpopular performer.

Whether there is a revenue model in it for Twitter is unclear. It could be that #-tags are able to be sold and therefore made unique – a current flaw in the approach is anyone can use the same #-tag. One thing I feel certain about is that 140 characters is more than sufficient to provide meaningful feedback about the conference experience.